Book 24 Chapter 10 - The Victor
Yang Xuyan, Hou Xibai and An Long all had a terrifying feeling of tripping forward.
Based on their skill, naturally they could not possibly trip and fall down for real because Wanwan was scaring them using the 'Tianmo Jing Chang' [demonic powerful field]; but they had to apply their power to resist it, to withdraw backward.
Both Yang Xuyan and An Long were shrewd men; they had already thought about all kinds of method Wanwan might use to break the stalemate, including the possibility of she giving the Print Scroll to one of them, and thereby executing the 'shifting the misfortune to the Eastern Wu' stratagem. Wanwan then would turn from becoming the target of a multitude of arrows to gaining control over the overall situation from the side.
Now it had become clear that Yang Xuyan and An Long were on one side, while Xu Ziling and Hou Xibai were on the other side. Although in term of power An Long and Yang Xuyan were one line ahead, but because previously An Long had fully used the Tianxin Lianhuan and wasted a lot of energy, the strength between them has more or less balanced out.
Under this kind of circumstances, Wanwan could help either side to defeat the others rapidly. Therefore, just now An Long and Yang Xuyan secretly agreed to - by all means - attack and kill Wanwan first, before dealing with Xu and Hou, two men. Who would have thought that Wanwan's intelligence far surpassed their expectation, that surprisingly she was able to see through their conspiracy, and in this critical juncture launched the Tianmo Da Fa will all her strength, to form a 'vacuum' force field that could absorb and borrow any true qi, so that even if they wanted to attack, there was simply no opening they could exploit.
It was more formidable that any method of using the true qi to protect one's body. Only Xu Ziling saw it as it should be by rights, simply because he had already suffered many times under Wanwan's Tianmo Da Fa.
While pulling himself backward, Yang Xuyan drew the Phantom Sword; instantly its cold rays radiated all around. Abandoning Wanwan, he attacked Xu Ziling, turning the sword rays into a soaring long rainbow, turning the usually-hard-to-fathom-between-the-true-and-the-false phantom sword move into a thousand-catties-thunderbolt, jolting-the-mountain-shaking-the-peak powerful strike, using the-sword-is-the-man, the-man-is-the-sword stance to take the formidable opponent standing on top of the Luohan statue.
This moment Xu Ziling had just caught the Print Scroll. Seeing Yang Xuyan's all-out sword strike, he groaned inwardly, realizing that this time Wanwan was cruel beyond human comprehension, because when catching the scroll, his mind would immediately be distracted, hence it would be difficult to maintain its optimum state. If he was either killed or seriously injured by Yang Xuyan's sword, it would be an extreme injustice.
He was a great expert in martial art study. In just one glance he knew that Yang Xuyan's sword strike this time truly revealed his strength, unlike his namesake as the number one assassin in the world. In a snap of the fingers, the power of the entire body was unleashed in its finest detail, a sword strike that - as soon it was executed - was earth shattering. Before the sword arrived, the murderous aura had already enveloped him completely. Even if he evaded it, he could only delay the moment of death. The opponent's sword strike made him feel like he fell into the mud, his feet went deep into difficult situation; from this, Yang Xuyan's formidability could be clearly seen.
If Yang Xuyan's Phantom Sword before was like a fine carving or delicate cut [on gems] of a small pattern of an insect head, the swordplay this moment was like large river Chang Jiang [Yangtze]; it flowed out swiftly with a thousand li might, joyous like stirring cursive [calligraphy] so that others could not grasp where the brush would move next.
In his quick wit, Xu Ziling tossed the Print Scroll in his hand toward Yang Xuyan; soaring in the air, while roaring in laughter, he said, "How about if I give it to you instead?" Simultaneously he transferred his strength to his feet, while crying inwardly, 'Sorry for the offense', the Luohan statue under his feet disintegrated into cun-sized fragments, so that his entire body sank down to the ground.
This moment Hou Xibai was rushing over as well. Seeing Xu Ziling throwing the Print Scroll away, he called out loudly, "Good throw!" Folding his fan, his handsome eyes radiated powerful beam all around, he rapidly cut across toward Yang Xuyan, who, afraid of damaging the Print Scroll, had his hands and feet flustered.
The moment Yang Xuyan drew his sword, An Long also retreated backward to break away out of the Tianmo Power's range, and his retreating speed was even higher and more urgent than Hou and Yang, two men's, because he felt that Wanwan's concentrated force was aimed at him alone. On top of that, Wanwan previously threatened and warned him by saying that if he did not show fear, that meant he was bluffing. Even if he were at his peak condition, he did not have the confidence of defeating Wanwan, much less after fighting two hard battles one after another.
A white shadow flashed.
Wanwan's floating ribbon flew into the air, producing a sharp noise like a ghost wailing or a god calling, piercing through An Long's eardrums.
If just now An Long could be considered shocked, right now it could be said that his soul flew away and scattered. He was a senior veteran of the demonic schools; naturally he knew what it was.
Naturally floating ribbons could not wail or call; the whistling noise came from the floating ribbon slicing the air and in a bizarre way it vibrated the air around it into sonic wave. It became Tianmo noise simply because his own heart and guts had been scared and his mind was under control of the fear, which caused the demon to grow from his heart. His natural disposition was 'everything for self and selfish profit', so he only knew how to harm others for his own personal benefit. This moment, he no longer cared, nor was he interested in - Yang Xuyan's life or death. Ferociously raising a mouthful of true qi, he summoned back his shaken will to fight simultaneously, while swiftly backing off. Taking advantage of his weight, which surpassed others, his own momentum made him flying backward even faster; leaning left and tumbling right, 'Bang! Bang!' one by one the Luohan statues were knocked over and shattered, meeting with calamity.
All along, Wanwan's floating ribbon was no more than a cun and a few fen away from brushing his fatty flesh.
Wanwan suddenly stood still charmingly, her eyes moved toward Yang Xuyan, three men. Although she did not look completely satisfied, her heart was cheerful.
Among the four men, the one giving her the most headache was An Long. His Tianxin Lian Huan was truly a pinnacle among the demonic schools' skills. When launched at full strength, even her Tianmo Da Fa could not do much against him.
If fighting one on one, she might be able to wait until his momentum exhausted his strength depleted to strike back. But under current circumstances, she might fall into critical situation where it was difficult for her to get out. Therefore, she had used up all kinds of trick and psychological tactics and was finally successful in planting the seed of doubt that he would certainly be defeated, which then led him to be frightened. She was also trying to make An Long believe that she might abandon the Print Scroll and take his life instead, while the fact was that she still wanted to obtain the Print Scroll. This moment, with An Long being 'scared back', she felt that victory was within her grasp.
She was so sure that by giving the scalding-the-hand, heating-up-the-mountain Print Scroll to Xu Ziling, she would lure Yang Xuyan to try to snatch the Scroll with all his strength. Naturally the most ideal situation would be if he were able to inflict heavy damage to Xu Ziling. At that time Hou Xibai would join the fray, and then he would fight a desperate battle with Yang Xuyan until you die, I live.
At this time she could take advantage of the one-in-a-thousand-year golden opportunity of An Long running away in difficult situation to execute her scheme; not only to single-handedly obtain the Print Scroll, but perhaps she could even strike the four men one by one, eliminating these bunch of formidable opponents. Who would have thought that Xu Ziling unexpectedly passed on the Print Scroll to others, and thus forcing her to change the plan?
With a tender shout Wanwan moved forward at lightning speed. Her floating ribbon shot out, starting later but arriving sooner, it accurately threatened the major acupoint on Hou Xibai's back.
On the other side, Yang Xuyan plainly saw that the Print Scroll was flying straight toward his sword, but he did not dare to receive it, because in front of him was Xu Ziling, staying close to the ground to attack, while on his left was Hou Xibai, coming from the air to kill him. Under these two major martial art masters' pincer attack, if he withdrew the sword momentum and stretched out his hand to fetch the scroll, he would only end up dying violently on the spot.
Although Xu Ziling seemed to be tossing the scroll casually, the fact was that he was using an extremely crafty trick; he imbued the Print Scroll full of his true energy, which was a lot stronger than Yang Xuyan's sword momentum.
With no other choice, Yang Xuyan ferociously clenched his teeth; the sword turned at will, it changed direction from attacking upward to pouncing downward, without changing the original style - to stab Xu Ziling, letting the Print Scroll whizzed past overhead. His only wish right now was that Hou Xibai would chase after the Print Scroll and ignore him.
Hou Xibai was able to see very clearly the two men's intense, no-one-wants-to-yield battle; inwardly he was greatly shocked, because as the Print Scroll was filled with Xu Ziling's power, any object it would fall onto would be smashed up into pulp. Yang Xuyan deliberately avoiding the scroll was to force Hou Xibai to care more about the Print Scroll remaining intact, and thus would be too busy to join Xu Ziling in pincer attack against him. While he was groaning inwardly, a qi power attacked his back.
Hou Xibai sighed inwardly. Without even looking, he swung the Fan of Beauty backhandedly to block the brushing away floating ribbon. Borrowing the reaction force of the collision, he changed direction from the battlefield between Yang and Xu, two men, to the Print Scroll shooting toward the western wall.
Chapter title, The Victor - orig. to whom the deer falls, usually refers to who seizes the empire. See Jin Yong's Deer and Cauldron, translated by yours truly, for more info on this idiom.