'Swish!' Hou Xibai opened up his Fan of Beauty, which he waved slowly in his hand. Laughing suavely, he said, "Long Shu [uncle] always has admirable suggestion. Last time you introduced Gucheng Da Qu [lit. Big Yeast of the Ancient City], sparkling and translucent, clear, rich and mellow, fragrant and pure, silky like fat; I wonder what ingredients you were using?"
An Long's countenance slightly changed, but in the blink of an eye it became nonchalant, as he spoke indifferently, "The ingredients are no more than mainly corn and sorghum, and then a little bit of wheat, qingke barley, peas, and fermented in clear spring water. But the process must comply with the six main key tricks to brew the wine, which are the water must be good and clean, the ingredients must be good and genuine, the work must be good and refined, the utensils must be good and clean, the yeast must be good and fresh, and the cellar must be good and moist; otherwise, you can only obtain the look but lose the essence. Ha! Xianzhi stopped me and blocked my way, was it just so you could learn a couple of wine making skill from your Long Shu?"
Hou Xibai laughed aloud and said, "Xiaozhi [little/young nephew] only asked casually about the subject that Long Shu understand and enjoy the most. Such an auspicious time of the holiday, you didn't hide in the public bath soaking yourself in the warm spring water, but rushing to the left and running around to the right on the rooftop, tiring yourself for an unknown reason, I wonder if Xiaozhi can share your tribulations?"
An Long's eyes were flashing with murderous intent, but he put it under control. His voice turned heavy, showing the displeasure deep in his heart, as he said, "I, An Long, will do whatever I please, no need for Xianzhi to share my tribulations; don't Xianzhi think so?"
Hou Xibai's eyes also shot sharp look; fixing his gaze on An Long, he spoke softly, "Long Shu should be aware that Xiaozhi has never liked to meddle in other people's business. But if it has something to do with Shi Qingxuan, it is a totally different matter. Long Shu ought to understand this."
Finally An Long's countenance changed, "What are you talking about?" he said angrily.
The rhythm of Hou Xibai's fan slowed down, but the shine in his eyes grew without letup, a clear sign that he was accumulating his power, although the tone of his voice was still as calm as before. "Whether Xiaozhi is talking rubbish, Long Shu should be well aware of it," he spoke slowly, "Before asking for advice in Long Shu's 'Tianxin Lian Huan', Xiaozhi wants to ask for your guidance in one more matter: how did Long Shui's guts suddenly become so big that unexpectedly you are not afraid that Shi Shi [master] may find out that you have the intention of harming his daughter?"
Instead of getting angry, An Long laughed; but his countenance sank down, he even uttered, "Good!" twice, before speaking coldly, "It's your guts that is big enough; you have the cheek to disregard your elder and offend your superior. Where did you get such ridiculous thing from?"
Hou Xibai knew that An Long's murderous intent has been provoked, but he was not the slightest bit afraid. "Other than Yang Xuyan, who else?" he responded with a smile, "An Long, you have fallen into the trap!"
While An Long was shaken from what he heard, Hou Xibai's folded fan, like a sharp knife, slashed toward his throat, in a movement as pleasant to look at as one picking up the brush to write or to draw.
Flipping over the rear wall Xu Ziling entered the Qingyang Si. This famous Taoist site did not occupy a large tract of land, other than the main building, there were only several cottages at the rear courtyard, supposedly being used as sheds where they stored some junks.
This kind of clandestine operation was like an easy drive on a familiar path to Xu Ziling. With several leaps, up and down, he already crossed over the rear court, and noiselessly sneaked into the rear section of the Qingyang Si, which did not have the least bit of light in it.
At the same time, the sound of Cao Yinglong's familiar but feeble breathing entered his eardrums, followed by the sound of rustling clothes.
Borrowing the golden moonlight from the outside, coupled with focusing his power into his ears, via his elevated audio-visual senses, he was able to instantly grasp the layout of this place, even if he entered it only for the first time. Qingyang Si was divided into two sections, front and rear, linked together by an open-air atrium in between. The rear section was furnished with simple and crude beds; evidently people were using to section to go to sleep and stay for a while, as well as to store miscellaneous items such as joss stick and candle, tree-legged incense burning stove, Taoist idol, and other religious articles.
The most eye-catching were more than a dozen large wooden chests. He imagined that stored inside the chests must be the robes and sacrificial vessels that the Taoist priests were using in their rituals. At this time, there was not even half a person in the spacious rear section, yet the sound of rustling clothes clearly showed that there was someone walking toward the rear section from the Taoist Hall at the front section; furthermore, it did not sound like it was only one person.
He had no time to ponder about the relationship between An Long and the manager of this Qingyang Si. Were it not for hearing Cao Yinglong's breathing, which came from some secret underground room under his feet, he would have already made his move with all his strength, trying to rescue Cao Yinglong using the thunderbolt-failed-to-reach-the-ears method. But now he had no choice but to find a place to hide, and then made his move only after ascertaining the situation.
His heart was moved, he slid toward one of the large wooden chests leaning against the wall in the corner, which was also the only one that was not locked. Raising the lid, to his surprise he discovered a flight of stone steps at the bottom of the chest, and the sound of Cao Yinglong's breathing was getting clearer.
Time did not allow him to make another choice; like a wisp of smoke he disappeared into the chest, leaving only a crack between the lid and the chest. Right this moment three men and one woman stepped in.
The woman was as beautiful as a flower but was as poisonous as a viper or a scorpion - Zhu Can's daughter, the 'Venomous Spider' Zhu Mei. Out of the other three, two were wearing nightwalker clothes; one tall, the other short. Naturally they were the two martial art masters under An Long, the Tall and Short Generals. Both were around forty years old, and in just one glance he knew that these men were not of the benevolent-type. The last one was an old Taoist priest. Just by looking at his floating footsteps, he knew that this man did not know martial art. However, since the other three were first-class martial art masters, if he had a direct confrontation against them, while Xu Ziling had full confidence that he would be able to defend himself, if he had to look after Cao Yinglong at the same time, it would be a case of 'everything bodes ill, no positive signs' [i.e. everything points to disaster]. Therefore, he could only try to outsmart them. At present, his only hope was that Hou Xibai could drag An Long as far away as possible, so that he would have enough time to rescue Cao Yinglong.
There was a sudden burst of light as the old Taoist priest lighted the lampstand by the door, and spoke in low voice, "Will there be trouble?"
The Tall General laughed aloud and said, "Chunyi Daozhang [lit. pure/simple one Taoist priest], please set your heart at ease. Who in Chengdu would not give An Ye a little bit of face? It's just that this is an urgent matter, we have to borrow Daozhang's place here."
Zhu Mei signaled the Short General with her eyes. The latter said, "It would be better if Daozhang go back to the front hall and sit down there. If anybody ask, just say that you know nothing."
Chunyi Daozhang hesitated for half a day before returning to the front hall.
Xu Ziling understood in his heart that due to the sudden development of this matter, An Long was forced to personally make his move, and thus exposing his whereabouts, attracting the attention of Duzun Bao, the biggest power in Chengdu. The dust was stirred, the horses trotted over the field, he had no choice but to borrow Qingyang Si's underground room to carryout his plan. As for why Qingyang Si had such a sneaky cellar hidden underground, it was indeed hard to understand.
Knitting her brows, Zhu Mei said, "This place does not appear to be too secure."
Originally Xu Ziling wanted to go down to check on Cao Yinglong's condition, but then he had another thought: finding Cao Yinglong was easy, but leaving this place would be difficult. It would be better for him to look at the situation in here first before deciding on the next action to take. Hearing Zhu Mei saying so, he guessed that she had just arrived at the Qingyang Si.
The Tall General sighed and said, "At first An Ye did not know that Xie Hui is involved in this matter. But by the time he found out, it was already too late. Right now he went out to deal with Xie Hui. Although this place is not ideal, it's much better than our place. If we wait for another half a sichen, we will find out from Cao Yinglong's mouth where he is hoarding his wealth."
The Short General respectfully asked, "Would Miss like to go down to inspect the goods?"
Xu Ziling was shocked; fortunately Zhu Mei plopped her butts on a chair nearby, and spoke in heavy voice, "What's the use of looking? We don't have much time; when will An Ye be back?"
Xu Ziling cried, 'Thank Heaven and thank the Earth!' inwardly, and then very carefully put the lid down before slipping away downstairs.