Wang Xuanying struck the Moon in the Well with all his strength, but instead of clear ring of metal striking against each other, the sound was as dull as if he was striking leather; without producing reaction force at all.
Immediately Wang Xuanying's soul flew away and scattered. No matter how he looked at it, Kou Zhong's saber was full of strength; who would have thought that it looked impressive but actually worthless? The chop was floating and fluttering without any strength at all.
This feeling of using the wrong force was as uncomfortable as exerting one's strength trying to lift a heavy-looking object, only to find that it was as light as a feather.
Wang Xuanying groaned miserably as he forcefully held his sword back, and nearly threw up blood.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "Xuanying Xiong has fallen into the trap!"
The Moon in the Well immediately changed from being powerless to be powerful, as it violently struck Wang Xuanying's sword on its way of being withdrawn.
Finally Wang Xuanying could not stop spraying out a mouthful of fresh blood, his long sword flew out of his hand, and he dropped down on the ground with a loud thump.
Kou Zhong quickly pressed his palm on the top of Wang Xuanying's head, and shouted, "Everybody back off!"
Overwhelmed with shock, the guards halted.
Xu Ziling landed by Kou Zhong's side.
Kou Zhong could hear fluttering noise suddenly rang out from the direction of the main hall; he knew that Rong Fengxiang and the others were heading this way at full speed. Quickly he picked up Wang Xuanying, whose acupoint has been sealed, in his arms and together with Xu Ziling he soared into the air while shouting, "Tonight, third watch of the night, tell Wang Shichong to bring Xu Xingzi to the Tianjian Bridge for an exchange! You dare to pursue me, I'll kill his treasured son. Ha!"
Amidst his laughter, Kou Zhong, with Wang Xuanying in his arms, and Xu Ziling disappeared into the distance.
※ ※ ※
On top of the bell tower.
Kou Zhong slapped Wang Xuanying's acupoint, and said cheerfully, "Xuanying Gongzi, how are you?"
It was half a day later that Wang Xuanying regained his composure. "What do you want?" he said hatefully.
Kou Zhong responded indifferently, "If Gongzi does not wish to suffer, it would be best if you answer my questions. Ay! I am a highly suspicious person; if I catch slight hesitation in your answer, I will consider you are babbling nonsense, perhaps for every nonsense I will take away one emperor offspring's finger? After ten lies, Gongzi will only able to caress a woman with your toes! After twenty times, even your toes will be gone."
His countenance changed, Wang Xuanying said, "How could you do that? Die will never let you off."
This kind of showing-strength-while-weak-inside nonsense only put his mediocre and cowardly character in full display. Even Xu Ziling, who was sitting with his back against the wall on the other side, showed disdain. Inwardly he cursed, 'How could there be such a useless character?'.
Kou Zhong spoke with astonishment, "Who do you think your Die is? If I was scared of him, you, this kid would not have to sit here with face alternating between blue and white. Enough chitchat. Remember, there must be an answer for every question. One slow answer, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Have you ever heard of me being a man who go back on my word like your Die?"
"Just kill me!" Wang Xuanying dejectedly said.
Kou Zhong drew his dagger. Pressing the tip against Wang Xuanying's chin, he said, "You want to say anything else?"
Wang Xuanying's entire body trembled; in the end he broke down and surrender, "Ask away!" he hurriedly said.
Xu Ziling did not want to watch; he moved over to the other side of the bell tower.
The moon and the stars displayed their splendor in the sky, the night breeze was gently blowing.
Luoyang was calm, most people were already sleeping peacefully, only sparse dots of lanterns remained.
It was quite a while later that Kou Zhong came to his side and, copying Xu Ziling, also sat with his back against the wall. He said, "Both father and son are worthless nobodies, only Wang Xuanshu is a decent individual."
"Did you learn anything about Mr. Xu?" Xu Ziling asked.
Kou Zhong nodded and said, "He is really locked up by his dad. Li kid guessed that we would return to Luoyang for Xu Xingzhi, hence he deduced his importance to us. Xu Xingzhi made the mistake of revealing his intelligence, we made the mistake of failing to guess that Wang Shichong would act so quickly."
"What else did you get from him?" Xu Ziling asked.
Kou Zhong said, "After his mission accomplished Yi Lao [i.e. Ouyang Xiyi] retired and returned to the south. Chen Changlin was transferred to the city of Jinyong. His mother! I really want to kill this kid with a stab of my knife."
Xu Ziling mused, "Later on leave this matter to me. Even if they want to play tricks on me, I am not afraid."
Kou Zhong understood that Xu Ziling was worried that his injury might recur; he laughed and said, "How could I let you do that? If Li kid and Wang Shichong captured you and forced me to exchange, wouldn't I have to submit obediently? As long as we have Wang Xuanying, this kid in our hands, I am not afraid Wang Shichong will not surrender. We are going together! I really wish I could see Wang Shichong's expression right now."
Without any choice Xu Ziling had to agree.
※ ※ ※
The two boys sat on a stolen boat. With Wang Xuanying in custody, they sped toward the Tianjin Bridge.
Wang Xuanying was lying on his back at the bottom of the boat, unconscious.
Xu Ziling sat at the stern, single-handedly sculling the boat. The water of the river responded with gentle rustling sound.
Both banks of the river were pitch black without a single speck of fire. Not a single boat was moored on the usually full of boats, big and small, river dikes. But the Tianjin Bridge was brightly lit, with shadows of people going back and forth.
Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, "Power takes its toll; we must take advantage of it. Ay! We are not used to be a thief; otherwise, after capturing people, how could we forget to extort some ransom? Or perhaps took the opportunity to strike Wang Shichong a big blow, let him suffer a little bit. If we raised the issue only now, it will make us appear lacking in poise too much. Ay!"
Xu Ziling laughed and said, "This is the same as destitute heart has not been exhausted, greedy heart already arises. If we could leave this place safely with Mr. Xu, we ought to thank the Heaven and thank the Earth, yet you are still delusional."
Looking at the Tianjin Bridge in the distance, Kou Zhong looked pensive; he said, "When I interrogated that kid Wang Xuanying, his eyes would roll two or three times with each answer; don't you agree that something is not right? But I can't find any flaws. If I had to torture him cruelly for no reason, Xiaodi simply cannot do that."
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, "I don't care if he is telling the truth or if he is lying, we'll exchange a man for a man. If something is not right, we'll kill him and escape. If we are separated then we need to agree on where to meet. But where would be a good place to meet?"
Kou Zhong proposed, "If inside the city, we'll meet at the fishpond of Tingliu Pavilion. If outside the city, we'll meet at the small hill where the Jade Annulus of He Clan was done for!"
The two no longer spoke, they gathered their energy and circulated their qi.
The boat suddenly accelerated, it rapidly approached the Tianjin Bridge.