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Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling was tired on top of their original weariness; standing up and walking some distance away, Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, “Do you feel that this kid has a fairly good face? I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before.”

Xu Ziling said, “I also feel like I have seen him before. If we wash his face, we’ll know who he is!”

Kou Zhong patted his shoulder and said, “I’ll go fetch our horses, you look at him, don’t let him and his horse run away.”

Xu Ziling mumbled his agreement. After Kou Zhong left, he returned to the man and helped him circulating his blood, transferring his qi.

The man took long, withdrawn breathing, and spoke hoarsely, “Big kindness unspeakable gratitude! Two Engong [benefactor] honorable surname and great given name?”

Xu Ziling did not answer, but asked a question instead, “Sire’s power is quite good, how did you get into such plight?”

The man replied heavily, “I was harmed by a poisonous woman. I can only blame myself for having eyes without the eyeball, and was unwilling to listen to other people’s advice. Ay!”

Xu Ziling was stunned; he originally guessed that this man was a general of the defeated army being ambushed by the Jianghuai Army, who would have thought that his condition was related to some ‘poisonous woman’?

This moment Kou Zhong came leading their horses. Seeing the man was awake, he happily said, “Your complexion looks good; friend, how should we address you?”

The man replied, “Zaixia Bai Wenyuan of Jingjian Zong [lit. clean sword school].”

Kou Zhong stopped abruptly; he and Xu Ziling looked at each other. No wonder the face was quite familiar. A few years ago outside the city of Baling, Bai Wenyuan came with Zhu Can’s daughter, the ‘Poisonous Spider’ Zhu Mei, to plot against them, but they managed to beat him that he dropped into the river and ran away. Because it has been too long, their memory of this matter was very vague; were it not for meeting Bai Wenyuan again, they nearly forgot about it. [See Book 8 Chapter 8]

The two boys were still wearing their mask, naturally Bai Wenyuan did not recognize them. Seeing the two boys’ weird expression, he asked in astonishment, “Have two gentlemen heard Zaixia’s name?”

Xu Ziling stood up, and spoke indifferently, “Just now Bai Xiong mentioned being harmed by ‘poisonous woman’; were you referring to ‘Poisonous Spider’ Zhu Mei?”

Severely shaken, Bai Wenyuan asked, “How could Engong know?”

Kou Zhong tore off his mask and said, “Bai Xiong, how are you? Do you remember me, Kou Zhong?”

Immediately Bai Wenyuan’s countenance changed. After staring blankly for half a day, he smiled wryly and said, “No wonder you can heal my injury that quickly. In any case, two gentlemen snatched my life back for me; you want to kill, you want to cut my flesh, you may do as you wish.”

Xu Ziling also took off his mask, walked over toward Kou Zhong, and said with a sneer, “We are not like Zhu Can, who kills whoever he wishes. Bai Xiong, you’d better leave this dangerous place quickly; if you are late, I am afraid disaster might befall you.”

The two flew up their horses, and were about to leave, Bai Wenyuan struggled hard to stand up and called out, “Wait! It’s a trap, by all means, do not go to the Flying Horse Ranch.”

The two boys could not stop the chill from flitting across their hearts.

After speeding along for more than twenty li, the three men dismounted to get some rest. It was only then did they have the opportunity to listen to Bai Wenyuan’s story.

Bai Wenyuan was still very weak; along the way, the two boys helped him healing his blood circulation.

He sighed in distress and said, “Nobody did not say that after Zhu Mei, the poisonous woman, became fed up with a man, she would devour him and put him to death, lest other women would take possession of him. But in my overconfidence, I felt that I am handsome, my martial art is not inferior to hers, plus I was infatuated by her physique and her flirtatious expressions, unexpectedly I was foolish enough to take a chance, believing that I would be the only exception. In the end I suffered retribution; it serves me right.”

Seeing his heroic aura was cut short, he was full of remorse and was in wretched state, the two boys felt sorry for him. But on the other hand, they also felt that he only had himself to blame, simply because both boys were not the kind of men who would give up everything for a beauty.

The fact was that they still could not figure out how did Bai Wenyuan get seriously injured?

Bai Wenyuan continued, “This time Zhu Mei and I led a thousand men, originally to provide support to An Long; who would have thought that Zhu Mei betrayed us, and managed to deal us total defeat? I really let down my brothers, who had followed me through fire and water for the past many years.”

Stunned, Kou Zhong said, “Turns out the side who was attacked by Fu Gongyou was your men. Where did Zhu Mei go? By doing this, what would be the benefit for her father?”

A strong resentment flashed through Bai Wenyuan’s eyes; he said hatefully, “The poisonous woman already left one step ahead, claiming that after providing support to An Long, she would come back to me, and had me going a certain hill to regroup. By the time I found out that she slipped away with An Long along another trail, we already fell into Jianghuai Army’s pincer attack from front and rear.”

Puzzled, Xu Ziling said, “Aren’t your men Zhu Can, father and daughter’s Garuda Army? By wasting away their team of elite troops, it would bring more harm than good to Zhu Mei.”

Bai Wenyuan spoke heavily, “This time the men were entirely my personal troops; the majority of them were my clansmen and brothers from the same school. Over the years, I have established countless heroic contribution [orig. riding a laboring horse to great deeds] for them, father and daughter. Within the Garuda Army, I was dubbed the Fuma Jiangjun [emperor’s son-in-law general]; my power and influence grew more flourishing by the day, I was more popular than they, father and daughter, so they had already grown jealous of me early on, and now they finally found the opportunity to kill me. Ay! I was really stupid and muddleheaded.”

“But how can you be sure that it was Zhu Mei who harmed you?” Kou Zhong asked.

Bai Wenyuan’s eyes were spouting flame of hatred; he said, “First, she grew a lot colder toward me; how could this kind of feeling between a man and a women deceive me? Moreover, I knew that she had been in contact with An Long [Translator’s note: the text indicates more personal ‘contact’].”

The two boys could only return a blank stare.

“It can’t be!” Kou Zhong doubtfully said, “An Long is fatter than a pig, while Zhu Mei is the type of woman who has voracious desire of good looks … hey! How could Zhu Mei look him in the eye?”

Full of disdain, Bai Wenyuan said, “This poisonous woman, nobody can measure her using common sense; any fresh stimulation will do. I heard that on the bed, An Long has another set of powerful skill, able to make women infatuated with him. This kind of situation, that pair of dog man and woman [a couple engaged in an illicit love affair] ought to know.”

Xu Ziling asked, “Just now you advised us not to go to the Flying Horse Ranch; what exactly happened?”

Bai Wenyuan replied, “I ought to start with An Long. He has always been in close relationship with Cao Yinglong, and has always been enemies with us, no friendly relationship at all. But after Li Mi was defeated by you, the situation on the north changed very fast. Li Yuan might go out the Pass any moment, Liu Wuzhou and Dou Jiande also began to get restless. On the other hand, Wang Shichong’s power greatly flourished. In case he obtained Li Mi’s territory, there is great possibility he might expand to the south. In such an urgent situation like this, An Long took the opportunity to represent Cao Yinglong to establish friendly relations with us, to form an alliance, to prepare to take Sichuan first, and then to attack the Flying Horse Ranch. Later on it will be Jingling and Xiangyang.”

Stunned, Kou Zhong asked, “Isn’t An Long the sworn brother of Sichuan’s Duzun Bao [lit. fort/stronghold holding supremacy; not sure if it is a name] Xie Hui?”

Bai Wenyuan snorted coldly and said, “Early in the year An Long has already broken his relationship with Xie Hui over some unknown matters; potentially they are like fire and water now. I really don’t understand what’s going on in An Long’s head; such a strong backer, yet he broke the relationship.”

Xu Ziling said, “Did Bai Xiong know that An Long is a martial art master with quite a ranking among the demonic schools?”

Bai Wenyuan’s mouth was agape, “Xu Xiong is not joking?” he asked in astonishment.

Kou Zhong gave him a simple explanation; pressing on, he asked, “How did you hook up with Xiao Xian?”

Bai Wenyuan replied, “’How did Xiao Xian hook up with us’ is more correct. Now the situation is clear; one more day Zhu Can, father and daughter, refuses to give him the nod, one more day Xiao Xian cannot cross north of the river.”

Xu Ziling said, “Since that’s the case, how are you going to cooperate in the future?”

Bai Wenyuan replied, “The issue here is that Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong knew their own weight. Several times they attacked Jingling, they were beaten back by Fu Gongyou that they had to retreat. And then there’s lack of food supplies; rather than being decimated by Fong Gongyou, they chose to expand to Sichuan. Other than obtaining large quantities of rations and fodder from Xiao Xian, they could also let Xiao Xian and Fu Gongyou, Du Fuwei, to kill each other. So Xiao Xian put forward the conditions of the cooperation; the first one being eliminating two gentlemen, whom Cao Yinglong and Zhu Can, father and daughter, hate to the bones. Hence the reason they were together from the first beat [idiom: to hit it off, to click together]. Flying Horse Ranch is just the bait.”

Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Cao Yinglong, that fellow, finally realized that it was us who spoiled his good deeds that night!”

With grave expression Bai Wenyuan said, “Now all three parties have selected their elite troops, forming a ten-thousand men powerful army division, with Xiao Xian’s Great General Dong Jingzhen as the Commander-in-Chief. They assembled in a hidden, secluded place near the Flying Horse Ranch, ready to deliver a frontal assault to your weary expeditionary force. No matter which route you are going to take to the Flying Horse Ranch, it’s impossible to evade their eyes and ears. This army division also consists of another squad of more than fifty Wulin’s martial art masters, with specific task to deal with the two gentlemen.”

Kou Zhong smiled and said, “If we did not meet Bai Xiong, we’d surely be in disastrous position [orig. everything bodes ill, no positive signs]; but now since we know ourselves and know our enemies, the situation is diametrically different. Let me ask you first, does Bai Xiong wish to kill that poisonous woman?”

Bai Wenyuan showed a thirst and longing expression; he nodded his head with determination.

Kou Zhong patted his shoulder vigorously, and bared his white teeth thoroughly. Letting out a long laugh, he said, “In that case, we must catch up with An Long first, kill his mother until he is in a sorry state, so that Bai Xiong can vent your goddam anger.”

Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “Wouldn’t it be beating the grass to scare the snake?”

Kou Zhong replied indifferently, “We certainly will take our time in making the decision; but if we can capture An Long and Zhu Mei, then it won’t be beating the grass to scare the snake.”

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