The fight and the shouting have alarmed the people nearby; sound of men and footsteps came from all around.
Fast like lightning Yang Xuyan withdrew from the room. Letting out a cold snort he said, "Just consider yourself lucky today!"
By the time Kou Zhong pursued him out of the door, he had already soared, first to the top of the building opposite the study room, and then disappeared into the darkness.
Kou Zhong just stood there, staring blankly for half a day, and then 'Wah!' he spurted out a mouthful of blood. Shaking his head, he smiled ruefully and said, "Good kid, you almost succeeded this time."
※ ※ ※
The wind lantern in Shi Qingxuan's hand was like a fairy, brimming with life, in the dark tunnel, swiftly dashing, flashing, leaping, ahead of Xu Ziling, turning to the left and rounding to the right, but continuously going down.
More than a hundred stone steps passed under their feet in the blink of an eye.
Shi Qingxuan stopped in a circular cave that evidently has been dug by human. Raising her wind lantern to illuminate Xu Ziling running after her, she said, "Welcome to Fu Mo Dong [Subduing Demon Cave]!"
Xu Ziling looked at the entrance to the cave. Under the flickering light of the lantern, to his surprise he found characters carved into the stone on both sides of the cave mouth. On the left, it said, 'Spirited and Elegant As If Made By Heaven', on the right it said, 'Opened By Divine Skill Cave Dwelling'. Unable to restrain his surprise, he asked, "What is this?"
Shi Qingxuan smiled and said, "Originally I was thinking of taking care those four vicious demons relying on my own strength. But now with you helping me, naturally I have more confidence. Are you Xu Ziling or Kou Zhong?"
"What?" Xu Ziling blurted out.
Shrugging her shoulders, Shi Qingxuan said, "If I had not guessed who you are by the Yue Shan mask you are wearing, I would not have taken you here."
Hundreds of questions filling his mind, Xu Ziling asked, "Even if you could see that this is Yue Shan mask, how did you guess that I am Xu Ziling?"
Remaining tranquil and calm, Shi Qingxuan replied, "Very simple. Because I received the secret letter Mr. Lu sent to me before he became an immortal [fig. to die], so I know your relationship with Mr. Lu. Moreover, I have witnessed Yue Shan's death with my own eyes; therefore, I can't possibly believe that you are the real Yue Shan, and thus I know that if you are not Xu, then you must be Kou."
Xu Ziling reached up to take off his mask and put it inside his pocket. Smiling wryly, he said, "Turns out being unmasked by other people can make you feel so embarrassed and helpless."
Without showing any emotion on her face, Shi Qingxuan scrutinized him for half a day, before nodding her head and said, "Now I am totally relieved!"
The more Xu Ziling tried to understand her, the more he felt that she was unfathomable. Stunned, he said, "You have never seen me before, why do you feel totally relieved just by looking at me a few glances. It is still possible that I am not Xu Ziling."
Shi Qingxuan seemed to listen carefully to any movement at the entrance upstairs; she replied casually, "I am an expert in reading people's face, hence I know you are not a wicked or presumptuous man, you can be assured of that. Even if you are not Xu Ziling, you are absolutely not a bad person."
Suddenly You Niaojuan's loathsome voice came down from the entrance, "Miss Shi, great aunt, little s1ut, if you don't come out here but trouble me to come down for you, I will make you unable to seek life, and cannot beg for death."
And then Zhou Laotan's voice roared, "Little s1ut has the impertinence to deceive us using fake Relic. Where is the real Relic?"
His roar reverberated throughout the cave, the momentum was terrifying.
Shi Qingxuan's soft voice replied, "The real Demonic Emperor Relic is naturally with me here. If you have the ability, come and get it! I am leaving!"
Beckoning Xu Ziling, she floated into the more unfathomable empty space inside the cave.
※ ※ ※
The crowd rushed toward Kou Zhong, who was standing quietly, regulating his breathing in silence.
Seeing him coming out unscathed, Ren Meimei breathed a sigh of relief and asked, "Who was it?"
It was quite a while later, after taking deep breath three times in succession, that Kou Zhong replied nonchalantly, "It's that kid Yang Xuyan!"
Everybody gasped in horror.
Xuan Yong, who had been leading his men in wild goose chase, hurried back. After finding out the identity of the assassin, he said, "We must reinforce the defense of the Zongguan Mansion."
Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, "This man has endless assassination approach, plus he is able to carry out his mission anywhere. There is no need to waste our mind and manpower just for him, one man, alone."
Chen Jiafeng anxiously asked, "What should we do then?"
Kou Zhong smiled and replied, "I am not scared of him at all; what I am afraid of is that after having a clear understanding of our foundation, he would shift the assassination target to you, in order to strike our morale and confidence, and to weaken our strength."
Xuan Yong said, "This is indeed a very tricky problem, the only way is to try to find him out, at least to drive him out of Liangdu. Otherwise, it will be difficult for everybody to get a good night sleep."
Kou Zhong nodded and said, "Although this is not an easy matter, it is not impossible to achieve; because of his special build, he is easy to recognize. Therefore, if we announce it to the army and citizens of the whole city, telling everybody to pay particular attention to such figure, it will be difficult for him to hide."
Ren Meimei said, "Could it be that he is still inside the Zongguan Mansion, waiting for the opportunity?"
Being reminded by her, Kou Zhong spoke in agreement, "Let's spend a little bit of effort to search the Zongguan Mansion. After we are certain that he is not in here, we'll set up secret alarm inside the Mansion, and formulate an effective warning method. At least the enemy cannot go in and out as if this was an uninhabited place."
Lowering his voice, Xuan Yong said, "Supposing he is indeed still in the Mansion, we …"
Kou Zhong's heart was moved; he cut him off by saying, "If that is the case, it is my turn to assassinate him! Ha!"
Everybody was stunned.
※ ※ ※
Under the illumination of the wind lantern, Xu Ziling felt as if he had been transported into a fantastic world that looked like a beehive magnified ten million times. In front of this giant cave, there were seven cave mouths at random intervals. The main branch of each cave was linked together. In between, each cave extended deep down, bending to the left and turning to the right, winding in a bizarre way. There were caves within the caves, big caves enveloped smaller caves, the caves were interlinked, as if one was entering a labyrinth.
Following behind Shi Qingxuan, Xu Ziling entered a cave that was about a zhang wide. He was about to speak, but Shi Qingxuan whispered in his ear, "Don't speak loudly, below live tens of millions bats. Once they are alarmed, the scene might frighten people to their death."
Hearing that, all the hair on Xu Ziling's body stood up, thinking that since that was the case, why would she want to go down?"
This moment nearly half of Shi Qingxuan's tender body was leaning into his bosom; as if she was able to see the load on his mind, she said, "Do you know why the path we took just now did not have any bat in it?"
Xu Ziling shook his head with a blank stare, while his nose was full of the sweet, faint fragrant emanating from her body.
With breath smelling like orchid, Shi Qingxuan whispered in his ear, "Because there are some kind of strange rock that is the bane of the bats. Therefore, they do not dare to go there."
Strange noises came from the direction of the entrance; apparently You Niaojuan and the others were groping their way down the cave, but they were walking very slowly, cautiously and solemnly.
Shi Qingxuan suddenly turned around and pulled his neck down.
Xu Ziling jumped in fright, thinking that this was not the fortunate timing for her to throw herself into his arms.
Shi Qingxuan still maintained a cun or so distance between her body and his, her right hand groped his hair, and she spoke in low voice, "I ground some of those rocks into powder and apply it onto your hair, so that the bats won't dare to come within three chi from you. It will be greatly advantageous when we fight later."
Xu Ziling began to get a bit of understanding, while at the same time he was somewhat embarrassed for misunderstanding her.
Shi Qingxuan continued, "We are going to lure them into the cave where the bat concentration is the highest. That will be the time of their death. You are going to fight them, I am going to provoke the bats using the undulation of the flute sound. Do you understand?"
Regaining his composure, Xu Ziling said, "Everything will be done according to your instruction."
"I am going to blow out the light!" Shi Qingxuan said.
Before she even finished speaking, the light was already out.
At first Xu Ziling's vision went black, and then the ground in front of him gradually brightened; not only that, it was multi-colored too. The color white was dominant, followed by light yellow, pale brown, desert tan, rocky green, and much more variety of colors. Although the luster was murky, but when he focused his inner power into his eyes, he was able to see everything clearly, which made him feel relieved immediately.
Shi Qingxuan led the way forward, toward the place where the bats were indeed startled by their presence, but not even half a bat dared to fly near them.
They went through layer upon layer of caves, going deeper and deeper; the cave wall was full of milky-colored rock domes, stalagmites and stalactites, stone pillars, flower rocks. Some were hanging from the roof down, some grew up from the cave bed, some were leaning against the cave wall, in endless variation, thousands of shapes and sizes, glittering and shiny, glistening and dazzling.
Xu Ziling felt as if he was entering the monstrous and multicolored, sumptuous mansion, imaginary Temple in Heaven, the world of mythology.
The most amazing thing was that the cave did not feel especially stuffy; obviously there were ventilation holes to the outside, this cave was not a sealed, dead cave.
You Niaojuan's strange cries was heard from above; Shi Qingxuan seemed to be acting presumptuously, she went deeper in. Because of the noise the bats were making as they flew about, they need not worry that the enemy would pursue in the wrong direction.
The two stooped down to enter a small cave. They suddenly came to a wide clearing; an open space as spacious as the temple hall upstairs. The roof was dark and fuzzy, but upon closer look, it was actually full of bats hanging upside down. Seeing this, Xu Ziling's scalp went numb.
Everything in this cave was proportionately bigger than the other caves; the thick stone pillars, hundreds of bamboo shoots [?], stone curtain [?], composing a tangled and complicated terrain.
The walls all around were densely covered in hundreds of different shapes and sizes texture, from needle-shaped to round, in bunches and clusters, randomly scattered along the stone walls, flowery like embroidered work, magnificent and multifarious.
Shi Qingxuan leaned over and whispered in his ear, "You may choose the location of the ambush yourself; those four people are treacherous villains whose death cannot wipe out their crimes. If you manage to kill one, the people around the world will be able to live a bit more peaceful and happy. When you fight, you must not show any mercy. If you are unfortunate and die in battle, I will activate the secret mechanism to seal all the exits, and die together with them to avenge you. Remember, I will try to create a chance for you to launch sneak attack."
Xu Ziling shivered inwardly, and turned his eyes on her.
Shi Qingxuan's beautiful eyes twinkled with unusual rays, emitting divine light that made people feel deep veneration toward her.
In that moment, Xu Ziling suddenly completely forgot about her grotesque nose; he said in low voice, "Miss is really beautiful, Zaixia will definitely not turn my back on what you are entrusting to me."
Hearing these two sentences, which appeared unrelated to each other, Shi Qingxuan showed a slightly startled look. After gazing deeply into his eyes, she turned around and floated toward another cave.
Xu Ziling did not have time to ponder the rich meaning in her eyes; focusing his attention, he hid behind a giant stone pillar growing up from the bed of the cave.
The sound of bats flapping their wings as they glided was heard from afar, but it was coming nearer and nearer, clearly indicating the path and the speed at which the enemy was coming.
Xu Ziling took a deep breath, his true qi immediately circulated through the meridians in his whole body. His spirit and mind became one. He quietly waited for the optimum opportunity to mount a sneak attack.