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DongBin, Xiaohu, Sky, Ysabel, Jaya, Chua, you are welcome. Akolaw, my point was: you have the benefit of knowing the story, while most of us don’t. I think it’s fun for us to guess. For example, previously I thought that DongMing Princess would be good for Xu Ziling, but subsequent story proves I was wrong. And I am OK with being wrong, as I suppose most of you are too. So what I am asking was: go ahead and tell us what you think, but please don’t just say ‘you are wrong, Huang Yi will reveal it in later chapters’ (I am paraphrasing here …)  Lance, that is precisely the challenge of translating one language to another: you have to pick and choose. Quick example: John Minford (a professional translator, mind you) translated ‘Xiaobao’ as ‘Trinket’, which, actually, was precisely what ‘Xiaobao’ means, ‘little treasure’. But do we, as the readers, really like to read all the Chinese names in their ‘proper’ English translations?  (Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are people out there who love his style.)

Xu Zhongrui, I’ve been trying to ignore your negativity for so long, but as much as I am ashamed to admit, it is starting to get on my nerves. As much as I am trying to ignore it, it is difficult, simply because I am posting my updates in the same thread. I have already explained at length why I chose the word ‘repulsive’, and I am still convinced that it is possible for someone to be ‘repulsed’ by someone else only to fall in love with that same person later (IMHO, still belongs to ‘different interpretation’, ‘substance vs. style’ category). Other readers already accepted that as the translator, I have the privilege of choosing the words I want to use, so why can’t you? I thought we already passed this and moved on, but obviously I was wrong.  If you feel so strongly about this matter, I encourage you to start your own translation and spare us your rants about that one particular word. 

Showing a pained smile on her face, Shi Feixuan said, “For the last hundred years or so, both to us and to the demonic schools, Shi Zhixuan is the bad person who brought the most headache. Just by looking at how this man can use one hand, single fist, with no blood on the men’s sword, to cause the fall of the Great Sui, and make the world all split up and in pieces, we can infer his formidability. Were it not for Xiuxin Shibo moving his true feeling, leading him to fuse the orthodox and heretic schools, as well as to develop and create the ‘Immortal Printed Scroll’ that appears to have no flaw, the world may not be in the situation it’s currently in.”

Taking a deep breath, Xu Ziling said, “What kind of terrifying demonic skill ‘Immortal Printed Scroll’ actually is? Is it because when trained to perfection, the practitioner will not die? How is it compared to Tian Mo Da Fa [demonic great method] and Dao Xin Zhong Mo [the heart of ‘Dao’ (the Way) kind of devil]?”

Shi Feixuan calmly replied, “In this world, there is no such thing as skill and technique that can make people live forever and won’t die; keeping this mortal flesh forever is not a sensible act at all. Has Ziling Xiong heard about the Four Holy Monks of Buddhism?”

Xu Ziling did not understand why she suddenly changed direction; he nodded and said, “I heard Cao Yinglong mentioning this. I think they are Tiantai, Sanlun, Huayan, and Chan Zong. Shi Zhixuan stealthily studied Sanlun Zong’s Jiaxiang Dashi and Chan Zong Four Ancestors’ secret arts [see Chapter 1].”

Muttering to herself irresolutely, Shi Feixuan said, “It seems that Cao Yinglong really had a change of heart; what he said was not a wild babble at all, because this is the secret that the Four Ancestors have never revealed to outsiders. Shi Zhixuan is an exceptional genius in martial art study. As soon as any strange skill or secret manual fell into his hands, he could always fuse and link them up together, and then produce another pivotal skill out of it, which is of an even higher level than the original. In Wulin history, I am afraid only you and Kou Zhong are qualified to be mentioned on equal terms with him.”

First, Xu Ziling was stunned; he really never expected that Shi Feixuan had such a high evaluation on Kou Zhong and him. And then, his old face blushed. Embarrassed, he said, “Miss Shi praised me too much!”

Shi Feixuan smiled and said, “No need to stand on ceremony. You and Kou Zhong are the marvels of the Wulin world that people still find it difficult to believe even until now. How formidable ‘Immortal Printed Scroll’ really is, let’s not talk about it yet. Just know that the Four Holy Monks had joined forces to hunt and kill Shi Zhixuan, wanting to take his martial art skill away. Three times they surrounded him, yet he still managed to escape albeit being wounded. From this you can infer how terrifying Shi Zhixuan is.”

Noticing Xu Ziling’s expression, Shi Feixuan sighed and said, “If Ziling Xiong assumes that the Four Holy Monks’ martial art skill is just so-so, then you are gravely mistaken. The reason their name does not appear in Jianghu was simply because they are really men who are outside this world; they had never been involved in Jianghu’s ordinary affairs, unlike Ning Daoqi, whose name shakes the heavens. In the past, Jiaxiang and Four Ancestors joined forces with Tiantai Zong’s Zhihui [lit. wisdom/intelligence] Dashi, and Huayan Zhong’s Dixin [lit. emperor’s heart] Zunzhe [lit. honored sir], to hunt down Shi Zhixuan. Even Yin Gui Pai kept quiet out of fear; nobody dared to interfere or to attract troubles. From this you can infer how formidable the Four Holy Monks are. Speaking about power, you would find it difficult to compare any one of the Four Holy Monks with Ning Daoqi.”

Sucking a mouthful of cold air, Xu Ziling said, “In that case, wouldn’t Shi Zhixuan be more formidable than Zhu Yuyan and Xiang Yutian?”

“You can’t compare them like that either,” Shi Feixuan replied, “I can only say that they are figures of equal rank. As for who is superior and who is inferior, it would be difficult to tell unless they are having a show-down.”

Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, “Just now Miss mentioned that to the demonic schools, Shi Zhixuan is also a big bad person; what do you mean by that?”

Shi Feixuan replied, “Because Shi Zhixuan has the intention of unifying the demonic schools, he is definitely a threat to the leaders of various demonic schools. Zhu Yuyan is extremely afraid of the consequences if this is really happening. Were it not for Xiuxin Shibo breaking his ‘Immortal Printed Scroll’, I’m afraid Zhu Yuyan would have lost her most-revered-within-the-demonic-schools status early on.”

Xu Ziling could only stare blankly in silence. In Luoyang that day, Zhu Yuyan snatched Shangguan Long back from him, Kou Zhong and Ba Fenghan, as easily as blowing off an air from her mouth. Remembering this, he still had a lingering fear. From this, he could imagine to what extent Shi Zhixuan’s martial art prowess was.

Cast her eyes to the night sky, which would become dawn very soon, Shi Feixuan spoke softly, “Now, the only flaw in Shi Zhixuan’s ‘Immortal Printed Scroll’ is his daughter, whose resemblance to Xiuxin Shibo is striking. She is also the only person who can make Shi Zhixuan cannot be unmoved. Cao Yinglong has a very deep understanding of this aspect of Shi Zhixuan’s. If Shi Qingxuan suffered any mishap, Shi Zhixuan might revert to his Xie Wang [demonic king] innate character without any worries. Therefore, we must do everything we can to stop Yang Xuyan’s evil scheme to prevail. Otherwise, an unknown variable would appear in this world, which is chaotic enough as it is.”

Looking at the first streak of dawn across plains on the eastern horizon, Xu Ziling asked, “Would Miss Shi like to hasten toward the small valley in the hidden forest with Zaixia?”

Shi Feixuan apologetically said, “Feixuan is accustomed to coming and going alone. If Ziling Xiong check in at the Yue Lai [lit. pleased to come] Inn at the south market of Chengdu’s Shaocheng district, Feixun will look for you there.”

“Let’s just wait and see,” Xu Ziling replied indifferently.

Inwardly he thought that you roamed the Three Gorges together with Hou Xibai, yet now that we are clearly having the same destination, you want to travel separately into Sichuan. From this, his position and importance in her heart could clearly be seen. That being the case, it would be better if he travelled alone, unrestrained and leisurely trying to find Shi Qingxuan without any care; he would be more free and unfettered instead.

Naturally Shi Feixuan was able to hear the tone of his voice, but she did not offer any explanation. After bidding farewell with each other, they went their separate ways. In fact, they were going to enter Sichuan from opposite directions.

Xu Ziling put his feeling under control, threw all the troubles to the back of his mind, and ran toward the Great Mount Ba at full speed.

※ ※ ※

The fishing boat reached the shore.

“Where’s our warship?” Kou Zhong asked in great astonishment.

Bu Tianzhi smiled and said, “To deceive Jianghuai Army spies, naturally we must use a little trick. We used winch and long wooden logs to tow the seven warships ashore, and then covered them with trees and branches to make sure that we don’t reveal any flaw.”

By this time Kou Zhong was following the crowd into the jungle by the shore; after passing through more than a dozen thick bushes, a wide panorama suddenly opened up before his eyes, where the seven boats were laid out in a row, securely nestled on the frame slanting down toward the river. All these were beyond his expectation.

Chen Laomou was directing his men to paint Haisha Bang’s insignia on the hull of the boats using red lacquer; he was busy, yet was full of joy.

Seeing Kou Zhong’s appearance, the warriors’ morale was greatly boosted.

This lot of boats did not have big hull. Just by looking at its shape, one would be able to feel its lightweight and agile characteristics.

Kou Zhong sighed with deep admiration; this tactic of hiding boats inside the forest, he would never have thought about it, not even in his dream.

Offering his expertise, Chen Changlin explained, “These are the smaller size warships that Haisha Bang is most adept in using; they are good for assault and breaking the enemy’s defense. If there’s wind, the sail will be fully opened, if there’s no wind, they will use the oars. Both sides of the ship are reinforced with crenelated parapet walls, which protect half of the body against powerful bows and strong arrows. There are holes below the walls for the oars to go through, while the sailors operating the oars will be completely hidden inside the ship.”

Noticing small holes along the crenelated parapet walls, Kou Zhong praised, “These holes must be for shooting arrows; wouldn’t it be better if the holes are slightly bigger?”

Chen Laomou came over and said, “These are called crossbow window or simply tooth gaps, used especially to shoot arrows from crossbows. Therefore, they don’t need to be too big to take aim and shoot.”

“How much longer?” Bu Tianzhi asked.

Wiping the sweats off his brow, Chen Laomou proudly said, “We only need to cover the hull with raw cowhide to protect against fire. This is the trick that Haisha Bang usually use, it’s known as the Meng Chong Doujian [lit. dashing-against-covering fighting ship]. It could be said that in framing them up this time, we spare no effort.”

Luo Qifei said, “Our operation this time has been through repeated scrutiny and careful thought. We do not dare to keep the warships in the open, precisely because we don’t want Jianghuai Army to grow suspicions. These seven warships came separately from elsewhere, winding around in big circles, hence Du Fuwei would believe firmly without any doubt even more.”

Kou Zhong exclaimed in admiration, “If I were Ol’ Die, I would also fall into the trap. Ha! And now the only thing I ought to do is just to have a good nap?”

Chen Laomou laughed aloud and said, “Shao Shuai, go ahead and sleep in peace! It would be best if you sleep on the boat. When the time comes, Laofu [old man] will wake you up. I’ll also disguise you. Otherwise, how could the ‘Chang Qiang Lang’ Gu Jun brave the Great River to put Chen Sheng to death?”

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