Book 22 Chapter 6 – Coincidental Karma
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling put on their mask. Mingling among the Longyou Bang people, they safely left the city. The streets were crowded to bursting point with people who came to participate in the Bai Ye General Assembly, but were now rushing out ‘to flee’.
Just by looking at the scene of panic, they knew how powerful the rumor was.
Ze Yue laughed and said in low voice, “Two gentlemen are really formidable; without spending a soldier or a pawn, you broke Rong Fengxiang’s wishful thinking.”
With a bit of unbelief, Kou Zhong said, “This is really unexpected.”
Ze Yue said, “The issue here is that all the veterans of various regions north of the River feel that Bai Ye She is coercing the north, taking advantage of the south. Two gentlemen’s fabricated rumor is not entirely unfounded; to say the least, Luoyang Bang’s former Bangzhu Shangguan Long was a thousand-true, ten-thousand-certain, Yin Gui Pai demon. As business people, nobody dares to have any dealings with that kind of people from evil cult, peculiar sect, who disregard reasons and kill people indiscriminately; thereupon we seize the opportunity to disperse in confusion. Nobody could blame anybody.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had a weird sensation, feeling that all these were absurd and laughable.
At this time the crowd was hurrying up the hill.
Ze Yue cheerfully said, “To be able to make friends with two gentlemen is really a rare karma. Now I want to immediately return to Longyou Bang to report to Die; when I have time another day, I will definitely call on two gentlemen.”
The two parties bade farewell in delight.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling spurred their horses to rush toward the place where they were going to rendezvous with Xuan Yong; in one breath they covered more than a dozen li, when heavy rain suddenly poured down, covering the heaven and earth in a vast expanse of whiteness.
The two boys took shelter on the edge of the forest, while giving their horses a bit of rest.
Kou Zhong leaped down from the horse, and squatted down on the ground, just like when they were little, while staring blankly at the heavy rain outside the forest. Light rain still penetrated down through the thick leaves above, sprinkling droplets of water on their bodies.
The heavy rain stopped most travelers. Only those who, for a variety of reasons, were anxious to leave Hefei as far away as possible did not avoid the hardship by braving the rain to hasten on with their journey.
Naturally Xu Ziling squatted by his side, and casually asked, “What are you thinking?”
Kou Zhong replied, “Yin Gui Pai’s demonic power is boundless, only by the mention of their name people are scared and running away like there was a demon-personifying pestilence.”
Xu Ziling wiped the rainwater accumulated on his eyes, but did not say anything.
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “But what I was just thinking was not this matter; I was just feeling that something was not right.”
The last sentence attracted Xu Ziling’s attention; astounded, he asked about it.
Kou Zhong spoke in heavy voice, “It was a feeling of uneasiness. Do you remember Fu Gongyou said that Xiao Xian, Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong are working together with An Long threading the needle [fig. acting as a go-between]? But An Long’s sworn brother Xie Hui is the Song Family’s Miss Yuhua’s father-in-law. Wouldn’t it mean that the Song Family is, more or less, also implicated?”
Xu Ziling said, “It is also possible that they completely have nothing to do with it. As I see it, An Long’s identity is very much a secret, at least to the outsiders he presents himself as a man with mediocre martial art skill. The only thing that worries me is the cooperation between Xiao, Zhu and Cao, three men, which is not as simple as what we thought. We might have fallen into their scheme, and that would be absolutely terrible.”
Shaken, Kou Zhong said, “You are right. Meeting this drenching rain head-on is like being awakened from a big dream. Just like we are leading more than a thousand troops going to the west, but the enemy is waiting for us with heart and soul. One thing went wrong, they would discover our track; the two of us might be able to escape, but the others would certainly meet their end. That would be greatly terrible.”
On the road outside the forest, a caravan of more than thirty carts slowly passed by. The road has been turning into mud, men and horses were unbearably weary.
Xu Ziling said, “I have an idea, which is moving our troops along the route that the enemy would never expect, but we must have someone who is familiar with the route leading us, otherwise, if we get lost, the result will be even worse.”
Kou Zhong shook his head, “No!” he said, “We must get there in the quickest possible way. Ay! It seems like the only way is to hide during the day and travel during the night as was originally planned, and take his mother’s a gamble.”
Suddenly the sound of hoof beats arose.
The two boys jumped in fright. Just by listening to the hoof beats, they knew that there was a large group of riders coming this direction, braving the rain.
They waited in silence. Not too long afterwards, hundreds Jiang Huai troops swept past, galloping to a certain destination in full speed.
Stunned, Kou Zhong said, “Did you see it?”
Nodding, Xu Ziling replied, “Of course I did. I even recognized Rong Fengxiang, Zuo Youxian, among them. This time An Long is facing imminent catastrophe!”
Kou Zhong’s spirit greatly aroused, he sprang up and said, “Since we are heading that direction anyway, how could we miss this excitement?”
The sound of blades clashing against each other was getting closer and closer, by the time the two boys rushed over a small hill, the grassland shrouded by the heavy rain below was already covered in dead bodies. Under the leadership of Fu Gongyou, the Jiang Huai Army, which was reinforced by Rong Fengxiang and Zuo Youxian, two martial art masters, already gained overwhelming superiority. They were pursuing and attacking the enemy scattering in all directions.
Exhaling a mouthful of cold air, Kou Zhong said, “Unexpectedly there are so many people.”
Raising his hand to his forehead to shelter his eyes from the rain, Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Jiang Huai Army numbers at least two thousands, the enemy is between seven, eight hundred men. Looks like Fu Gongyou already setup an ambush here, and then launched a pincer attack from the front and rear, in one move they crushed the enemy’s resistance. Looking at the way they are deploying the troops, surely it was a carefully thought strategy. No wonder Jiang Huai Army is able to move unhindered without suffering any defeat.”
The two boys galloped down to the plain to examine the dead and wounded, one of which had not breathed his last. Kou Zhong jumped down his horse and propped him up, “What happened?” he asked, “Who are you? Who wanted to kill you?”
The man coughed up blood, looked like he would not make it. Kou Zhong transmitted his internal qi, the man’s spirit was suddenly shaken, “It’s Fu Gongyou,” he said in panic, “We have fallen into their trap.”
“Isn’t your master An Long?” Kou Zhong hastily asked.
Shaking his head, the man replied, “No! We are under General Bai’s leadership … Ah …”
“Which side are you on?” Kou Zhong called out, then he slowly put the man down on the ground, wiped his eyes, and then he stood up and raised his arms in a helpless gesture, and said, “Which general is surnamed Bai?”
Xu Ziling knew he was not really asking for an answer. Casting his gaze around to inspect the situation on this side, he said, “These men are dressed as traveling merchants. Obviously they wanted to conceal their original identity, so they were in some kind of conspiracy. If you chase them up to take a look, won’t it be clear?”
Kou Zhong flew up to mount his horse and rode away.
Xu Ziling caught up with him. Riding side by side, he said, “Currently, to Fu Gongyou, nothing is more important than killing An Long. Therefore, although these men were not An Long’s subordinates, they must have a little bit of relationship with An Long. We still have important matter at hand, do you really want to meddle in other people’s business?”
“You are right!” Kou Zhong agreed, “Let’s go.”
Reining in their horses, they turned around, bypassing the plain where the battle was still going on, passing through the forest and climbing over the slope, and then rushing along a ten-li stretch of road running parallel to a stream, before the two boys stopped.
Even with their power, after enduring constant activities without sleeping day and night for several days, the two boys were finally unable to bear it anymore; they stopped on a hillside to rest. The horses ate the grass, the boys ate their dry rations.
After the rain, the air on the open country was particularly fresh and clean. In this verdant and moist world, the mountain forest competed to be the most green-jade, the wild flowers strived for the most colorful.
Sunlight penetrated the black cloud, sprinkling a piece of its light on the east, and a column of ray on the west. Looking at the marvel of an enormous, irregular shadow cast by a clump of clouds rapidly traversing the plains, Kou Zhong was overwhelmed with emotion. He said, “Wind and cloud! The wind blows the clouds move! Perhaps the wind and the cloud mean precisely what we see before our eyes; no matter how awe-inspiring, in the blink of an eye it will pass, without leaving the least bit of trace.”
Xu Ziling took a deep breath and said, “But the embodiment of wind, cloud, man, and object [feng yun ren wu, together mean ‘man/woman of the moment’ (an influential figure)] actually has a deeper layer of meaning, which is no matter how harsh you rebuke the Heaven and the Earth [orig. rebuke angrily the wind and the cloud], one day you will return to the yellow sandy soil. To be born, and to die! What is the purpose of this?”
Astonished, Kou Zhong said, “Buddhist has Buddhist saying, Taoist also has Taoist saying. It is best to ask this question to Shi Feixuan. I am sure Wanwan also have different set of sayings. As for who’s right who’s wrong, I am afraid we can only toss the dice to decide. Ha! Finally I found a way to settle the dispute.”
Blurted out laughing, Xu Ziling said, “You call that a way to settle the dispute?”
Immensely pleased with himself, Kou Zhong said, “This is called a way in the midst of no way.”
Xu Ziling suddenly appeared as if he was listening attentively. “Did you hear that?” he whispered.
Kou Zhong hastily bent his head and pricked his ears; nodding, he said, “It sounds like hoof beats; should be only one horse.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “That’s right! And a wounded man crouching on it.”
Speechless, Kou Zhong said, “How could your ears be so formidable? Unexpectedly you can listen to such a small detail, as if you are witnessing it yourself.”
Displeased, Xu Ziling said, “I practically use my eyes to see.”
Kou Zhong suddenly looked up, and saw far away on the prairie, a horse, carrying a man on its back, was running toward them.
Xu Ziling sprang up and said, “Let’s see if we can help.”
Kou Zhong intercepted the horse, Xu Ziling took the man down and helped him sit on the ground.
The man has sank into a half comatose condition; his face was full of blood, many places on his body had stab wounds, the most deadly was a punch on his back, leaving a patch of scarlet fist print.
The two transmitted their internal qi, and beginning to feel the man’s deep foundation; he entirely depended on a mouthful of true qi to protect his heart and meridians, while fleeing to this place.
The man suddenly vomited a mouthful of clotted blood, and regained his consciousness. Realizing these two must be helping him healing his injury, he hastily circulating his own internal power according to his own cultivating method. After thirty-six cycles, the man’s injury immediately saw a big improvement, not only his wound, big and small, stopped bleeding, he was also able to apply his own qi to heal his internal injury.