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Ysabel, HPC, Jaya, Anh, Sky, you are welcome. Xiaohu, good one! I was thinking of porcupine, but Durian will work too. Wonderer, welcome, I noticed this was your first post. Hope you enjoy your visit. Xu Xiong, Toasted, with all due respect, this is where we disagree. My authority,, gives this definition: repulsive / vile / hateful / abominable. It was precisely because 'I can feel the love (tonight)' that I chose that word. To me, repulsive is still the best choice, because the other options (including your suggestions) are too negative. Akolaw, thanks, but I am too lazy to try to understand that. Could you provide English translation, please? DongBin, you want to try translating that story? Hungry, afraid so … I was also expecting a rather strong resistant from him.

Folks, if I may, I'd like to share my 'musing' in translating wuxia. Please understand, it's not that I refuse to take your valuable advice. As I repeatedly said, I am not a professional translator, my formal training is at the opposite spectrum of language study. I know my own limitation, and I never claimed that my translation is of the best quality. A few people have contacted me, privately or publicly, to 'commercialize' my work. But I cannot, with clear conscience, receive payment for what I know to be a subpar translation work. It was you, dear readers, who give me accolades, for which I am deeply grateful.

During my more than ten years translating wuxia, I received countless help and advice from you guys. And I appreciate that very, very much. But please give me your help, tell me something that I did not know. A couple of examples came to mind: Akolaw's input on Zi Wu and Ren Bing, which I will include in the unabridged thread. Or Xu Xiong helping me checking that gibberish part. Or Kowloon pointing to me the typos. These are more tangible than, 'are you sure you did not miss anything?' (as in when Ba Fenghan confronted Tuli); I would appreciate it if you research the text and point out to me the missing text. Or when I said I did not know certain word, and you gave me the definition in Chinese … no offense, but I can always copy and paste those characters into baike baidu, and I get the same thing. It's the English definition that I need.

But this serious debate about the word 'repulsive', to me, is more about 'style' than 'substance'. It is more about 'preference', or 'different interpretation'. You said because she was actually attracted to him, 'repulsive' absolutely cannot be used here; I disagree. I do not share your repulsion of the word 'repulsive'.

Anyway, I feel like we are not going anywhere. Just skip that part, pretend it was never there … I am sure you won't miss much. Heck, there are several places I skipped due to gibberish text, yet no one voiced any concern …

Sorry the musing is running long ...

Book 21 Chapter 3 - Right Place, Right Time

After hastening on his journey for two days and nights, Xu Ziling finally reached the Great River.

On the vast surface of the river, surprisingly there was not even half a sail of boat, but the water was surging, from west to east, the torrent flowed endlessly. Although the Yangtze River was like this, it did not pose any problem to Xu Ziling at all. It's just that he was in no hurry to cross the river; therefore, he simply followed the river upstream, hoping to find a narrower section of the river, so that he could save a bit of energy.

When the sun set over the western hills, the twilight glow made the river resplendent with bright, multicolored light, bringing about some kind of melancholy, yet colorful and beautiful feeling.

After turning a bend, four, five li upstream, surprisingly he saw a crossing, and nine medium-sized boats moored along the coast. The banner fluttering in the air indicated that they belonged to the 'Chang Jiang Lian' [Yangtze River Alliance].

Xu Ziling's curiosity was piqued, thinking that didn't Yangtze River Alliance under the leadership of Zheng Shuming? It consisted of Qingjiang, Cangwu, and Tiandong, three Pai [Sects], plus Jiangnan Hui, Mingyang Bang, and the others as the backbone of the Alliance. Why were they gathered here today?

His mind churned at the speed of light, he ran two more li, through a sparse forest and an open prairie dotted with trees, climbed to the top of a small hill, and down below he had a panoramic view of the Yangtze River Alliance around the dock and on the surface of the river.

The earth gradually sank into darkness. The nine sailboats did not have any light, so that they appeared ghostly and mysterious.

Suddenly a big ship appeared from the bend upstream, coming down at full speed.

Xu Ziling focused his attention to look, suddenly his heart jumped, because this ship was not unfamiliar to him at all, he and Kou Zhong even spent some time aboard this ship: the Jukun Bang's flagship, where the Bangzhu herself, Yun Yuzhen rode on.

In his heart he felt that something was really out of place.

※ ※ ※

Kou Zhong sat straight on the horseback. From his high vantage point, he cast his gaze onto the barren plains and woodlands, undulating hills, under the night sky studded with stars and the moon.

Xuan Yong and Jiao Hongjin were standing on his left and right, respectively. Behind them were a dozen high-ranking military officers under their command, more than half were Luoma Bang men.

As soon as the news about the Xiao Chun Guang incident and Du Ren's death reached Ku Ge, he promptly ran away in the direction of the ocean, hoping that relying on their fast horse, he would be able to reach the sea before Kou Zhong could catch up with him.

Who would have thought that Kou Zhong already planned in advance? He assigned Luo Qifei, an expert in spying and reconnaissance, to keep watch along the way, and accurately ascertain the route of his withdrawal, letting him to escape for two days and two night, and then concentrating the military power, poised to wait at the road where the lone troops must follow.

Amidst the sound of hoof beats, Luo Qifei urged his horse passing through the sparse forest at the foot of the hill, came to Kou Zhong's presence, and reported, "The enemy finally can't endure anymore, they stopped to take a rest at the small hill about ten li from here, to let their warhorses to rest and have water and grass."

Kou Zhong's eyes shone with cold, sharp lightning flashes, he spoke in heavy voice, "In Qifei's estimate, does this bunch of Khitan dog thieves still have any strength left for battle?"

Luo Qifei replied, "Although the Khitan dog thieves have become a bird that startled by mere twang of a bow, they have always been able to subdue pain and resist hardship. Even if they are fleeing in fright and panic, they are scattering but not in confusion, their battle array is still intact, plus they selected the wilderness of the plains as their escape route, so that in case they are intercepted, they can still rely on their horses to break away from the siege."

Kou Zhong nodded his head in praise, "Qifei is absolutely right. Although this time we are more familiar with the terrain, we are holding advantage both in terms of morale and the number of people, and thus victory is within our grasp, we must figure out how to maximize the outcome of the war while minimizing our casualties."

Using his horsewhip, Jiao Hongjin pointed at the continuous high mountain about ten li behind them, saying, "Flying Eagle Gorge lies within the route they have to take if they are heading toward the ocean. If we setup an ambush over there, Ku Ge's complete wipeout is guaranteed."

Kou Zhong laughed and said, "Although Ku Ge cannot be considered intelligent, but he is definitely not stupid either, plus he is experienced in marching the troops, naturally he knew where the dangers are."

Luo Qifei nodded and said, "As Shao Shuai noted it clearly, Ku Ge and his troops have more than enough strength to travel more than ten li, yet they decided to stop in the middle to rest; clearly they wanted to explore the terrain before deciding whether they ought to enter the gorge, or take a detour via different route."

Frowning, Xuan Yong said, "If they take a detour, due to their fast horses, they can easily leave us far behind. If that happened, the towns and villages around the coastal region would suffer a calamity."

Kou Zhong shook his head and said, "They won't take the detour, because if they could travel faster, they can't possibly waste time. We are going to take a two-pronged approach [orig. to paint holding two brushes]; we are not going to place a single man, a single troop at the Flying Eagle Gorge, but we will bluff from the rear, creating the illusion that we are pursuing to kill them, so that they won't have enough time for a full rest, and will have to escape in poor condition."

Stunned, Jiao Hongjin asked, "Where are we going to intercept them then?"

Kou Zhong replied resolutely, "Outside the mouth of the gorge. At that time, Ku Ge would start to feel relaxed, his men and horses are also full of energy, we are going to deliver a frontal assault, as well as left and right pincer attack. If we manage to drive them into the gorge, that will be considered a total victory."

And then he smiled and said, "If I cannot capture Ku Ge alive, how could I display my, Kou Zhong's, ability?"

※ ※ ※

The Jukun flagship extinguished their lanterns as they slowly approached the coast.

When Yun Yuzhen's ship pressed close to one of the Yangtze River Alliance's warships, and the distance between the two ships was only about three zhang, more than a dozen men soared from the warship and landed on Yun Yuzhen's ship.

By this time, Xu Ziling had just had his head out of the water; he reached out to grab the hull, his five fingers firmly embedded into the solid wooden wall, and thus he attached himself there.

The Jukun Flagship moved away from the riverbank and turned around, one after another the other warships followed.

The deck was heavily guarded. Even with Xu Ziling's skill, he had no confidence that he would be able to sneak into the ship's hold without their eyes and ears detecting it, so he did not want to take the risk.

Pasting his ear to the ship's wall, he focused his power into the ear, and his sense of hearing immediately multiplied several times over; he was able to hear footsteps and voices inside the ship, even the rough and heavy breathing of the people inside, amidst the different noise of the ship breaking the waves, like the sound of a battle. Not a trace of noise escaped his ear.

Xu Ziling closed his eyes; in this world that was purely composed of sounds, his heart and mind search for the target. When he heard Zheng Shuming and Yun Yuzhen's familiar voices, automatically all other noises were filtered out. Just like when the eyes are focused on certain objects, other things will automatically become indistinct.

They must be inside the cabin. Due to Xu Ziling's familiarity with the layout of the ship, he had no difficulty in visualizing in his mind that in the cabin, the two were sitting as the host and the guest, and Yun Yuzhen's trusted aide, the pretty maid Yun Zhi, was serving the guest a cup of fragrant tea. In his mind he saw everything so clearly, as if he was witnessing it with his own eyes.

After some pleasantries, Yun Yuzhen went straight into business, "This time your honorable Alliance and our Great Liang become allies, join hands to work together, the time that Zhu Can and Zhu Mei, father and daughter, meet their ends will not be far."

Xu Ziling suddenly understood. Relying on their power, Zhu Can, who was calling himself the 'Garuda King', and his daughter, the 'Venomous Spider' Zhu Mei, have always run amuck, without shrinking from any crime. Inevitably they posed a threat to the existence of the Yangtze River Alliance; therefore, they had no choice but to rely on help and attach themselves to Xiao Xian, whose influence gradually expanding from the south of Yangtze River to the north of the river, to resist Zhu Can, father and daughter's Garuda Nation. And Yun Yuzhen was the go-between person. Perhaps they even started talking in Luoyang.

Xu Ziling thought that listening to this matter would not do him any good, but as he was thinking of leaving, Zheng Shuming suddenly said, "Yun Bangzhu said that you wanted to borrow out humble alliance's power to clear away the traitor within your Gang. Naturally this matter is very serious. I was wondering if you could give us clear instruction, to enable us to efficiently dispatch our dogs and horses to deal with this matter."

Inwardly Xu Ziling was severely shaken. Immediately he understood that in his struggle against Yun Yuzhen, Bu Tianzhi had fallen into disadvantageous position and was in a very dangerous place.

※ ※ ※

The sound of hoof beats rumbled over the canyon, growing louder and louder by the minute, making the already tense atmosphere even graver.

However, Kou Zhong, hiding in the forest along the hillside, was unusually calm, because the entire battlefield was in his grasp. Everything would proceed and happen just like he planned; no exception.

Although he has had discussion with Xu Ziling about 'battlefield as a game' with assurance and composure, it was not until tonight he experienced exactly the fantastic perception of that kind of 'game'.

From the appointment of the Commander-in-Chief, to the conscripting of a troop to be in a squad of five soldiers, to the selection and structuring the squads, the training, the banner and drum assignment, reconnaissance, communications, equipment, battle array, marching, setting up camp, defending a city, besieging a city, tactics and implementation, everything has given him the real feeling of 'game' against others.

The goal was to be the ultimate victor.

Standing on his side, Luo Qifei called out in low voice, "They are here!"

Kou Zhong gazed coldly as the Khitan group of horse-mounted bandits appeared at the mouth of the gorge, fast as lightning galloping toward the ancient road outside the mouth of the gorge.

Just like Kou Zhong expected, after rushing through the nearly ten li distance anxiously like stray dogs, and then passing through the strategically situated and easily defended canyon, the enemy was already like an arrow at the end of its flight; their acute spirit wasted away, their speed obviously slowed down.

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