Book 20 Chapter 6 - Recruiting Soldiers and Buying Horses
With Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong waiting in fear and trepidation, Kou Zhong muttered to himself irresolutely, "Xiliang, have you and Shao Lingzhou's daughter officially knelt to heaven and earth to be wedded?"
A bit embarrassed, Gui Xiliang stammered, "Just verbal agreement. Hey! You must not be oversensitive; Shao Junshi said that after I master the 'Taixu Jin' [Great Emptiness (or Cosmic) Power] that he is going to impart to me, I will be married to Miss Lanfang, because female charms are the most taboo for this kind of internal martial art. Shao Junshi only has good intention toward me."
Kou Zhong squinted at him; it was only after seeing him feeling uncomfortable from head to toes did he start to laugh hoarsely and said, "You look like someone who had just stepped your foot into the Jianghu, who is easily fooled by others like an idiot, yet you are still immeasurably self-satisfied, thinking that this is all for your benefit. Can't you use your tiny brains to think? He intentionally gives his darling baby girl to marry you, why would he teach you this his mother's Taixu Gong, which will prevent you from going into the bridal chamber?"
Gui Xiliang was ashamed and angered at the same time. "Don't talk nonsense!" he said, "Otherwise forget about us being brothers."
Xing Rong also 'pulled his saber' to come to his aid, "Shao Junshi has been good to Xiliang this whole time, I need not mention it, but speaking about seniority, although Liang Ge [big brother] was late Bangzhu's disciple, he is still at least half a rank before he is eligible to be the Tangzhu [hall master] of the Dew Bamboo Hall."
Gui Xiliang also spoke up ruthlessly, "You, this kid, always love to use lowly man's heart to gage other people's gentleman's belly. If Shao Junshi were that kind of despicable lowly man, he would not be willing to let the Bangzhu position empty, he would have ascended to that position himself! Am I right?"
Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, "If I was as naïve as the two of you, I would have been swallowed and become the sacrificial offering in the Five Viscera [i.e. heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys] Temple inside Li Mi, Wang Shichong, those wily old foxes' belly. How could I sit here and talk to you then? Tell me, does Shao Lingzhou know that I have sent someone to Jiangdu, asking for help?"
Stunned, the two looked at each other. It was Gui Xiliang who responded, "Maybe not? If he did, he would have told me."
Kou Zhong spoke indifferently, "You are at most his prospective son-in-law. If unexpected misfortune happens to you, the engagement will be automatically annulled. Ay! If I didn't guess incorrectly, Dew Bamboo Hall must be the Hall with weakest manpower, and that scoundrel Mai Yunfei must be either Clear Bamboo Hall or Rain Bamboo Hall's Tangzhu. Shao Lingzhou's gentleman's belly must be particularly small; he loves to appoint people for his personal gain."
The two were dumbstruck and unable to reply. Evidently Kou Zhong has guessed correctly.
It was quite a while later that Xing Rong finally spoke dejectedly, "Mai Yunfei is indeed the Clear Bamboo Hall's Tangzhu."
Kou Zhong spoke in disdain, "That guy's [note: original word 'jiahuo' can also mean 'domestic animal', so it is more vulgar than just a 'guy'] only strong point is that he is arrogant and conceited. Just think! If Mai Yunfei did not know that is just a temporary plan of convenience, how could he be willing to let it go? Besides, Shao Lanfang has always been his girlfriend, how could she suddenly be willing to marry you? Girls love good-looking guys. Although you, Liang Ge, are not bad, but Mai Yunfei ought to be a bit more handsome than you are?"
Xing Rong could not help nodding; he said, "Xiao Zhong is not without any sense! As a matter of fact, at that time I had a feeling that this is all too sudden; it's just that seeing Liang Ge was so happy and was head over heels, I did not dare to speak up."
Gui Xiliang's countenance turned from red to white and back to red again; shaking his head, he said, "It can't be like that, why would Shao Lingzhou want to harm me? Even if he did not give his daughter to marry me, I cannot do anything that will be disadvantageous to him."
Kou Zhong reached out to pat his shoulder and said, "A real man can suffer to be without a wife. He is not trying to win over you, instead, he is trying to win over the Song Clan, and the next best thing, because I was the one asking the Song Clan to support you as the Bangzhu. Shao Lingzhou is afraid of the 'Heavenly Saber' Song Que, next in line would be Xiaodi. But now he has Li Zitong as his backer, the situation is definitely different."
After a short pause, he emphasized, "Just think: why would he want to move the headquarter to Yangzhou? It's because he is in collusion with Li Zitong, so now they sent you here to get me back to Yangzhou to receive my death. One lifetime, how many brothers can we have? Even if you don't believe me, your little brother, there is nothing you can do."
After staring blankly for a moment, Gui Xiliang hung his head like a defeated cock and said, "You have made my heart so confused!"
Xing Rong said, "But the more I think, the more I feel Xiao Zhong's words make a lot of sense. Just think: why didn't Shao Lanfang come with her Die to Yangzhou, but wanted to stay at Jiangyin instead?"
Kou Zhong joined in, "She disdains to show even a fake affection to you!"
"Shut up!" Gui Xiliang angrily said.
Kou Zhong was stunned. After looking at him for half a day, he suddenly doubled in laughter and said, "Good kid, you finally figure it out!"
Smiling bitterly, Gui Xiliang said, "You, this kid, are really cruel; you shattered my sweet dream. Ay! What can we do now?"
Kou Zhong asked Xing Rong, "Wind Bamboo Hall's Tangzhu is Shen Beichang, but who is in charge of the Rain Bamboo Hall?"
Xing Rong replied, "Naturally the former Fu Tangzhu [vice/deputy hall master] of Wind Bamboo Hall, Luo Feng. No one is more qualified than him."
Kou Zhong said, "Those two are my old friends, I wonder if Shao Lingzhou has made up some preposterous excuse to have them transferred elsewhere, so that it would be more convenient to deal with me?"
Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong looked at each other. It was quite a while later than the former said, "This time I really surrender to you. At this time both of them are not in Yangzhou. His mother! Shao Lingzhou has the guts to harm me. This hatred cannot be left un-avenged."
Kou Zhong laughed and said, "You want to take revenge and wipe out a grudge? Very easy! But you have to be a bit more patient."
And then his eyes shone with sharp flashes as he spoke heavily, "I have the ability to make Li Mi never be able to free himself, naturally I have a way to support you as the Bangzhu. Just put old man Shao in the distance so that you can see him clearly!"
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling's shock was justified.
It should be noted that when one was rushing at full speed, the blood and qi, the circulation of the true power within one's body, were all at their peak. If he raised his voice to speak at the same time, his words would be automatically rushed and hurried, because the outward expression matched the inner flow of the breathing.
Those who had reached the first-class master level had the ability to maintain the evenness of the tone. The way the newcomer talked and the speed at which he was coming were completely opposite to each other. Not only he spoke slowly and calmly, it was also soft and gentle, a clear display that he was able to defy the natural law, and had reach the excellence of being able to completely control the qi power and the distribution of air as he spoke.
This 'Dao Xing Ni Shi' You Niaojuan's martial art skill has definitely reached the grand master level.
Looking down through the branches and the leaves, from Xu Ziling's angle, this moment he could only see the 'Charming Lady' Jin Huanzhen, standing at the edge of the cliff. By the time You Niaojuan's voice came, at first her jade countenance changed slightly, and then she broke into an enchanting smile. Evidently, just like Xu Ziling, she came to the same conclusion and was shocked.
Suddenly there was a flash of shadow, followed by the fierce noise of strong gust of wind. Someone appeared about five zhang high in the air, and then, like he was falling from the sky, he dropped straight down and landed by Jin Huanzhen's side without making any noise, as if his body was lighter than a feather.
Xu Ziling held his breath and stopped his qi; he did not make the slightest movement, and even applied his internal energy to close up his pores. If he was the slightest bit careless, he would rouse these people's alertness.
The 'Dao Xing Ni Shi' You Niaojuan's face was like yellow wax, scrawny, like someone with one foot in the grave. The tip of his brows and his forehead were full of miserable-looking deep wrinkles. But he was really tall; compared to Jin Huanzhen's jade stature standing beside him, he was a full head taller.
His nose was even higher and more crooked than Ding Jiuzhong, his lips were thicker than Zhou Laotan's. His eyebrows were unusually thick and jet-black; below the eyebrows, his bright and spirited eyes were in total contrast with his bleak, miserable countenance. The eyes were shining and limpid like those of a child's; however, in the depth of the eyes, there was faint coldness and hatred that could not possibly be in a child's eyes, so that those who looked at him shivered all over not from the cold.
He wore an unusually big and loose black robe, which looked extremely ill fitting on his emaciated body. On his back was a huge, glimmering copper mace in the shape of a one-legged man, it looked to be at least several hundred catties, but hanging in his back, it appeared as light as a feather, as if he did not feel the load at all.
Jin Huanzhen unwittingly moved away a little in full alert.
With his hands behind his back, You Niaojuan swept his gaze across, and then threw his head backward and burst into an owl-like screeching laughter that sounded as unpleasant as a sharp awl scratching against a porcelain dish. Narrowing his eyes, he spoke in his peculiar soft and gentle voice, "Twenty years! It is rare that the direct disciples of Nixing Pai [lit. going the wrong way, 'Pai' is usually translated as 'Sect'], Bawang Gu [lit. hegemon valley], Chishou Jiao [lit. scarlet hands, 'Jiao' is usually translated as 'Cult'] and Meihuo Zong [lit. bewitching school], these four major demonic schools of heretical skill and strange technique meet together in one place. The person is mine; as for the 'Xie Di Sheli' [lit. ashes (after cremation) or relic of the demonic emperor], if you'd like to strive for it until you are badly burned about the head [from trying to put out a fire], the three of you can do as you wish, Ol' You will not interfere."
Ding Jiuzhong's cold, trickling voice came out from inside the pavilion, "You are certainly counting your chicken before they are hatched; you want to enjoy the person first, and then after we fight desperately for the Relic until several defeats and all are injured, you'd come to reap the benefit. How could there be such a convenient thing in the world?"
You Niaojuan's eyes flickered with cruel, malicious strange flashed, as he let out a weird-sounding laugh and said, "Ding Jiuzhong, it must be that you have not woken up from your dream of becoming the demonic emperor. It looks like Ol' You will have to personally wake you up."
Zhou Laotan, who previously looked like he could not exist together with Ding Jiuzhong like water and fire, joined in, "You Niaojuan, you happen to be wrong! Not only Ding Da Di is not still dreaming about becoming the emperor, it is because he is very clear-headed that he can see it clearly that you are harboring unfathomable motives. Zhen Meizi [younger sister, term of endearment], what do you say?"
Jin Huanzhen replied with an enchanting smile, "What Zhou Xiaodi said, of course Jiejie agrees!"
Suddenly, these tree people decided to form a united front to resist You Niaojuan, the strongest big devil head.