Xu Ziling smiled bitterly again and said, "It's not that I don't want to know, it's just that with Miss' nature that can see beyond the façade, your clear and cold temperament that can drive people a thousand li away, I was so afraid of meeting with a rebuff, so I might as well maintain a little bit of self-esteem, and hence took the not to hear, not to question attitude. Ha! Do I sound ridiculous?"
Stunned, Shi Qingxuan was unable to help laughing; her eyes turned back to the reflection on the water, she nodded and said, "That is indeed the best strategy to deal with me, to wear me out that I fall into the trap, and turn to you and ask you questions instead. How repulsive!"
Xu Ziling stretched his limbs and lay down on his back, looking at the white clouds in the blue sky and spoke glibly, "Miss' fake nose, and last night's dilapidated temple and the cave labyrinth, did all of those come from Mr. Lu's design?"
Shi Qingxuan cast a glance full of interest at him and said, "Correct on all accounts. If not for that bat cave maze, I'm afraid you and I would not be relaxing in here, talking endlessly. Those four are Xie Di's [demonic emperor] direct disciple. If not for falling under the curse and making an oath so that these past twenty years he did not dare to come out to do evil, I don't know how many people in this world would die under their hands."
Thinking about You Niaojuan, four people's cruelty and viciousness, Xu Ziling shuddered from the lingering fear.
Supposing those four people were willing to work together, Xu Ziling would have been dead by now, and at best Shi Qingxuan would have accomplished her objective of perishing together with them.
"What kind of 'thing' is Xie Di anyway?"
Shi Qingxuan's attitude toward him was greatly improved, 'Pfft!' she giggled and said, "Xie Di is not a 'thing' at all, but an outstanding figure of a demonic sect. Several decades ago he shared the same fame as Yin Hou Zhu Yuyan, on par with 'San Ren' Ning Daoqi; the only difference is righteous versus evil."
Xu Ziling suddenly sat up and said in horror, "How come I have never heard anybody mentioning him?"
※ ※ ※
After sitting properly inside the room, Luo Qifei respectfully said, "We have obtained definite information: Du Ren of Luoma Bang has formed alliance with Ku Ge, ready to launch counterattack against us."
Frowning, Xuan Yong said, "This is quite a tricky problem. If we fight face to face, I am afraid we are not their match."
Luo Qifei said, "We already dispatch people to infiltrate Xiapi, to spy on Luoma Bang's activity."
After hesitating for a moment, Kou Zhong asked, "In your opinion, would they be foolish enough to attack Liangdu openly?"
Shaking his head, Luo Qifei said, "Du Ren is not a fool; if even Yuwen Huaji was beaten and had to retreat under your hands, how could he act blindly without thinking? This time, the reason he is willing to ally himself with Ku Ge is more about protecting himself rather than other reasons."
Kou Zhong heaved a sigh and said, "That is troublesome. Ay! Isn't Ku Ge's Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits detested by the gods and loathed by the ghosts? How could there be anybody willing to form an alliance with him?"
Luo Qifei said, "Inside Luoma Bang itself, there are many people opposing this move, but Du Ren obstinately clings to his course, others can't do anything about it."
Immediately Kou Zhong's pair of tiger-eyes lit up; he laughed aloud and said, "We are saved then. Let Xiaodi become Yang Xuyan this one time!"
※ ※ ※
Shi Qingxuan spoke indifferently, "Other than people from demonic sects, very few people knew about Xie Di. Those who have seen him are even more rare. The reason is very simple: thirty years ago he went into hiding to train the demonic school's most secret, unfathomable skill, that nobody else dared to train. Since then he has not stepped outside the temple's gate even for half a step."
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, "Is it that broken temple of last night?"
Shi Qingxuan nodded and said, "It was built by Lu Dashi's [great master] skillful hands for him. The mysterious mechanism hidden inside, the bat cave, are part of it."
Hearing that, Xu Ziling was confused even more. "How is it possible?" he muttered to himself.
Shi Qingxuan spoke softly, "If I did not consider your relationship with Lu Dashi, Qingxuan would never reveal the whole sequence of the events in this matter to you. Lu Dashi had a very high opinion of you and Kou Zhong; he believed in the future this world will become your, two men's world. And now, since the ghosts shove and the gods push you into this matter, naturally Qingxuan will candidly tell you everything. It would be best if I can transfer this heavy burden that I cannot penetrate completely to your shoulders."
For the third time Xu Ziling smiled bitterly and said sarcastically, "What a noble idea!"
Shi Qingxuan laughed to her heart's content and said, "No wonder in his letter to Qingxuan, Lu Dashi indicated that the two of you are not like ordinary scholar who, on the surface, strictly hold righteousness, assume the common people in the whole world as his personal responsibility, and defend traditional values. At that time I did not understand it, but now naturally I am very clear about it!"
Xu Ziling laughed and said, "Kou Zhong and I are just two lucky little rascals. At first, our ambition was just how to stand out among our peers, to obtain part-time work as government officials, taking advantage while the world is in chaos to win scholarly honor, riches and glory. Afterwards we mastered the amazing skill of the 'Secret to Long Life', only then did our thinking begin to change. Although from time to time our mouth said that we want to be chivalrous, the fact is that we think about ourselves the most. Miss Shi must not misunderstand us as any hero or warrior."
Staring at him, Shi Qingxuan said, "Since that's the case, why did you disregard your own safety to help me last night? I am neither a relative nor a friend of yours, plus there was no loveliness that you can covet. At that time you shouldn't be able to see that my nose is fake?"
Xu Ziling awkwardly replied, "I wasn't thinking of any reason to do that? It was because those four crafty and evil people are unpleasant to the eye. Isn't that still doing something for myself?"
With a smile on her face, Shi Qingxuan said, "In a fair duel, how much confidence do you have that you will be able to take care of You Niaojuan?"
"Not even ten percent," Xu Ziling replied calmly, "Most likely I will suffer a defeat. That man is indeed too formidable."
Shi Qingxuan said, "Fully aware that you are going to be defeated without any chance of victory, you are still willing to take the risk to be drawn into this matter, would you call that doing it for yourself? Unless you are determined to die?"
Xu Ziling was speechless.
Shi Qingxuan spoke softly, "Don't push to the left and shove to the right! You are going to carry this burden."
Xu Ziling sighed and said, "Miss, please bestow your instruction!"
Shi Qingxuan was silent for a moment, and then she spoke heavily, "Not only this matter is exceptionally mysterious, it also involves tangled and complicated gratitude and grudges, passion and enmity of people of several generations. Right now Qingxuan can only give you brief, general explanation, as for the details, we'll have to wait for a good opportunity to talk about it."
Xu Ziling was eager to hasten to Baling, he nodded his head in agreement.
Shi Qingxuan took her pretty feet off the water, shifted her tender body around to sit facing him while hugging her knees; her posture was relaxed and carefree. Her beautiful eyes looked deep into his, she said, "Concerning Xie Di Xiang Yutian going back to his native place and live in seclusion to train the demonic school's most secret skill called the 'Dao Xin Zhong Mo Da Fa' [lit. great demonic cultivation method of the heart of the way], it is a true story, but no one knows. They only knew that although since ancient times within the demonic school talented people come forth in large number, there has never been one person capable to master it, in the end they suffered fire deviation and the miserable fate of having their body burned."
Aghast, Xu Ziling said, "Such a terrifying skill, who created it? If even the person creating this great method was unable to master it, yet other people still wanted to train, won't it be extremely ridiculous?"
Knitting her brows, Shi Qingxuan said, "It's a bit like your 'Secret to Long Life'; nobody knows how it came to be, and nobody was able to master it, until you two. What's so ridiculous about that?"
Xu Ziling's handsome face slightly blushed, he said, "Absolutely nothing is ridiculous about that, it's just that I am accustomed to talk like that with Kou Zhong. Miss, please forgive me."
Shi Qingxuan's eyes turned gentle; she spoke softly, "It's Qingxuan who took it too seriously! Getting back to the main point, Xie Di Xiang Yutian had four disciples; they are You Niaojuan, Ding Jiuzhong, Zhou Laotan, and Jin Huanzhen."
Xu Ziling was stunned, "It's really hard to conceive," he said, "Since they have the brotherhood of the same school, why so much disagreement like fire and water, as soon as there is opportunity they tried to harm each other?"
Shi Qingxuan sighed slightly and said, "Main reason has something to do with the past and future [or 'innate' versus 'acquired']; the dispute was aroused over one yellow crystal ball called the 'Demonic Emperor Relic'. Ay! This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly."
Curious, Xu Ziling asked, "Is this thing still in Miss' hands?"
Shaking her head, Shi Qingxuan replied, "I've never seen that thing."
"What?" Xu Ziling blurted out.
Shi Qingxuan went on, "After the 'Demonic Emperor Relic' fell into Lu Dashi's hands, no one has ever seen it since. It was also because of this thing that Lu Dashi broke off relationship with Zhu Yuyan, and had to flee to the Flying Horse Ranch."
Thinking deeply, Xu Ziling said, "In Mr. Lu's residence at the Flying Horse Ranch, I did not see anything like that, perhaps it accompanied him buried deep at the bottom of the abyss."
Shi Qingxuan shook her head and said, "Demonic Emperor Relic is not with him at all; as for where it is hidden, currently I am afraid only a genius would know. Come! Let me take you some place. It's very close!"