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Book 23 Chapter 3 – The Battle Between Orthodox and Heretic

Letting out a long laugh, Zheng Shiru said, “Knowing someone by their reputation can’t compare to meeting them in person. This time I am able to pay an official visit to Xu Xiong, it is indeed a joy of life. Zaixia Zheng Shiru of Henan.”

Xu Ziling and Zheng Shuming exchanged a glance; they were both a bit embarrassed and were at a loss of what to do. Moreover, from her eyes, Xu Ziling caught a request. Zheng Shuming seemed to be unwilling for Xu Ziling to expose Zheng Shiru’s identity on the spot. But Xu Ziling did not have the intention to do so.

Originally, Yangtze River Alliance wanted to hunt and kill Cao Yinglong out of hatred; plain and simple. But now that Zheng Shiru appeared, this matter immediately became complicated. For the first time Xu Ziling had a feeling that this man’s identity was vague, it was difficult to ascertain, so much so that he seemed to be shrouded by profound mystery.

He helped Yangtze River Alliance to hunt and kill Cao Yinglong; was it at Zhu Yuyan’s behest? They should have been aware of Cao Yinglong’s real identity early on.

To them, what value could Cao Yinglong possibly have?

As this series of questions flitted through Xu Ziling’s mind, a bit demonstratively Zheng Shiru sat down by Zheng Shuming’s side; he even moved his chair a little closer to her, as if to say that this woman was mine. However, speaking about talent and appearance, he did have the qualifications to make women toppling over him.

Xu Ziling smiled slightly and said, “Zheng Xiong, how are you? I wonder if your trip to the west this time is related to Cao Yinglong.”

Hearing Cao Yinglong’s name, his eyes lit up with a bit of sharp light, so that Xu Ziling was even more convinced that he did not err in his guess.

Zheng Shiru nodded and said, “Shuming’s business is my business. Thief Cao harmed countless people, everybody has the right to punish him. Therefore, Shiru really does not understand why Xu Xiong could let the tiger returned to its mountain? Zaixia does not wish to blame Xu Xiong at all, just wishes to know how did that thief Cao persuade Xu Xiong to spare his dog life?”

Zheng Shuming’s expression looked unnatural; apparently because her relationship with Zheng Shiru was not shallow. Moreover, she had just heard from Xu Ziling’s mouth that Zheng Shiru was a Yin Gui Paidemon. Her mind was churning, her emotion was extremely complex.

Xu Ziling felt that Zheng Shiru was not really seeking answers; he just wanted to destroy his relationship with Zheng Shuming. Thereupon he replied indifferently, “Please forgive Xiaodi for not able to explain the details, all I can reveal to you is: Cao Yinglong has a very deep affinity with a certain secret demonic school. He is not as simple as merely being the head of once rampant roving bandits.”

He suddenly changed his mind and intentionally leaked a little secret.

On one hand he wanted to let Zheng Shiru know without a doubt that he had seen through his real identity; on the other hand, it was necessary to remind Zheng Shuming that the Zheng Shiru’s motivation in helping her dealing with Cao Yinglong was not as simple as what she thought.

Stunned, Zheng Shuming said, “This matter is that serious?” Finished speaking, she could not help casting a glance toward Zheng Shiru.

Xu Ziling indifferently shrugged his shoulders; his movement was free and at ease, and was very pleasing to the eye.

Zheng Shiru spoke in heavy voice, “Since Xu Xiong said so, we will surely be more careful. Please allow Zaixia to ask a question, which is, Xu Xiong made an appearance in here, is it in preparation to enter Sichuan?”

Zheng Shuming’s attention was immediately drawn to this issue, because it was the question she had been asking, but yet to receive any answer.

Xu Ziling laughed calmly and said, “My trip this time is to visit a friend. It has nothing to do with Cao Yinglong. Excuse me!”

Finished speaking, he floated away.

※ ※ ※

Kou Zhong ran after the carriage, while looking for a good opportunity.

Focusing his power to his eyes, instantly he was able to see through the window curtain; he saw Madame Yuling sitting alone inside the carriage, she seemed to be preoccupied.

An ominous feeling rose up in his heart.

The carriage was speeding in the direction of Zhu Hua Bang headquarters. This moment, as it came to a crowded intersection, the carriage slowed down.

Unleashing his footwork, Kou Zhong appeared to be walking slow, but actually he moved fast and reached the intersection point one step ahead of the carriage. Seizing the opportunity while the carriage was turning, fast as lightning he pulled the carriage door open, pulled off the mask, closed the door, and sat next to Madame Yuling.

All movements were like moving clouds and flowing water; everything was completed in the blink of an eye. Although the street was crowded with pedestrians coming and going, no one could clearly see his move. They only felt like a shadow flashing in front of their eyes, so they thought it was due to their own blurry eyes.

Madame Yuling gasped in surprise. But when she looked clearly and recognized him, she appeared to be pleasantly surprised.

Hearing the gasp, the driver asked, “Madame!”

“I’m all right!” Madame Yuling scolded gently, “No need to go to the headquarters, just take me around town for a while.”

And then turning to Kou Zhong she said, “Xiliang and Xiao Rong had an accident!”

Kou Zhong was shocked, “Accident?” he blurted out.

Madame Yuling nodded angrily and said, “I just receive the news; Li Zitong have them sent to the Zongguan Mansion. I was going to see Shao Lingzhou to discuss this matter.”

Kou Zhong pondered for a moment. Suddenly he smiled and said, “This is called flying into a rage out of humiliation. Let me go to Li Zitong to have a word with him!”

“What did you say?” Madame Yuling cried out.

※ ※ ※

Xu Ziling left the city that very night. Traveling by the moonlight he headed toward the Great Mount Ba, but his heart was in turmoil.

Should he care about Cao Yinglong’s affair?

Looking at it from any position and with any point of view, Cao Yinglong’s death should not be pitied. The problem was that when Xu Ziling gained more in-depth understanding of this person, he discovered that inside his violent and tyrannical shell, Cao Yinglong was no more than a pathetic snake without the freedom to act independently. Furthermore, knowing that he would not have long to live, letting him accomplishing his cherished desire before he died seemed to be reasonable and fair.

Under normal circumstances, he should not interfere in this kind of affair, but when Yin Gui Pai was involved, everything became complicated and not normal.

Supposing Cao Yinglong had no value, Zheng Shiru would not have put so much effort. But what else did he have that of any value? Did Cao Yinglong still keep something from him? It was already too late to talk about it.

By the time he was thinking to this point, he has been running on foot for nearly ten li non-stop. Ahead was a row of unbroken rolling mountains extended on both direction, like a giant dragon lying down in the vast plains.

Right this moment, he heard a faint ringing of silver bell like tender laughter coming from the jungle to the southwest, followed by a series of ringing noise of weapons striking against each other.

Even with his level of self-cultivation, Xu Ziling’s heart was severely shaken. Because he recognized the laughter.

※ ※ ※

Striding forward with head high, Kou Zhong came to the Zongguan Mansion where Li Zitong resided. Shouting loudly, he said, “I am Kou Zhong. Tell Li Zitong to come out to meet me.”

None of the guards at the gate was not shocked; furthermore, no one dared to be negligence. Immediately one of them rushed inside to report.

Noticing that all the guards were staring at him as if they were having a face-off with a big enemy, Kou Zhong smiled and said, “If I came here to fight, behind me there should be magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, right?”

What he said was reasonable, but the guards were already intimidated by his presence, how could they feel at ease?

With the sound of clothes fluttering in the wind, a big and tall man in military uniform appeared at the gate. The guards busily saluted him and stepped out of his way.

With blazing eyes the man sized Kou Zhong up and down before speaking coldly, “This general is Qin Wenchao, serving under Wu Wang [the King of Wu]. I received Wu Wang’s special order to welcome you. Shao Shuai, please!”

Kou Zhong sighed inwardly.

If Li Zitong had personally come out to greet him, then there would be implicit intention to exchange weapons of war for gifts of jade and silk [idiom: to turn hostility into friendship], and to work together. But now that he sent someone to meet him, clearly he was scrambling to gather his manpower, with the intention to draw Kou Zhong into the shell without being able to leave alive.

However, Kou Zhong had already anticipated that such thing might happen; therefore, he spoke heartfeltly said ‘Jiu Yang’ [honorific: I've long looked forward to meeting you/It's an honor to meet you at last.] twice, before stepping over the gate. Together with this ‘ultimate martial art master’, whom he once admired when he was a kid, they walked toward the main mansion.

※ ※ ※

Xu Ziling soared and flew toward the sound at full speed.

However, not only the sound of fighting disappeared, he did not even hear anything else.

If it was someone else, by this time he would have been in predicament and would not know where to look. But Xu Ziling was different from ordinary people. Without stopping at all, he flew through the jungle where the sound was coming from, and then crossed over a brook. Relying on his outstandingly sharp intuition, as swift as a flying bird he traversed a grassland between two small hills. When he ran across another hilltop, he saw the most emotionally moving fierce battle after the duel between Fu Junchuo and Yuwen Huaji, and the big battle between Ba Fenghan and Qu Ao.

※ ※ ※

Seeing Kou Zhong was walking in large strides - upright and unafraid, by his side, without saying anything, Qin Wenchao could not help asking, “Shao Shuai has honored us by your presence. I wonder what’s the purpose of your visit?”

Kou Zhong replied indifferently, “I have committed great sin and should not be allowed to live. Therefore, I specifically drop by to give your honorable superior the opportunity to kill me, because I have lent Old Du a helping hand in breaking the city. Ha!”

Being ridiculed by him, Qin Wenchao was dumbstruck and went silent, as if he was pondering over the meaning of his words.

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