Book 24 Chapter 3 - Eight Moves to Break The Lotus
An Long waited until the edge of the Fan of Beauty, following a graceful angle, sweeping over approximately two cun away from his fat neck before as swift as a leopard cat he launched his extraordinary footwork, like a ghost or a demon he stepped into the blind spot on Hou Xibai's left side, as if he was about to fall, but then suddenly standing erect again like a mountain. A smile appeared across his face as if he was amused with this child play, and said, "I wonder what kind of mischief is Xianzhi's folding fan capable of doing? Shi Dage has never used this kind of feminine thing, perhaps Xianzhi could be considered green surpassing the blue."
Hou Xibai knew that An Long has always been like a dagger hidden within a smile; the more brilliant his smile, the more flourishing his murderous intent. He folded his fan and opened it up again to create a gust of strong wind, and then he withdrew it toward his chest. Lightly flashing away, from attacking he changed his move into defending, and then standing on the roof ridge, he smiled and said, "This is the Fan of Beauty, the fan is made of weaved ice natural silk, unafraid of saber and sword; the skeleton is made of forged refined steel, and put together with glue made of the sap of a thousand years oak, paying particular attention to 'beauty, timely, light, elegance'. Under Shi Shi's order I created She Hua Bai Shi [hundred styles to break flower], so it cannot be considered green surpassing the blue. However, to overcome Long Shu's move, I hope it is more than enough."
The smile on An Long's face was getting bigger, but inwardly he was not without any vigilance. It should be noted that to overcome the limitation of his body type, he paid particular attention to painstakingly trained his footwork, so that he could rely on marvelous footwork, by exploiting the subtle changes of his fat body, by pretending to be falling face up and transforming weak point to his advantage, absolutely unafraid of the opponent using speed to overcome speed.
If Hou Xibai was trying to use swift shenfa and rapid fan moves in continuous wild attack, An Long was confident that he would be able to grasp the opponent's changes within ten moves; then he would used the so-called 'Lotus Step' fantastic footwork, which he had trained to extreme saturation and had reached the pinnacle. Combined with his 'Lotus Ring at the Center of the Sky', he was confident he could send Hou Xibai to the Western Paradise within several moves.
Who would have thought that unexpectedly Hou Xibai suddenly understand clearly the key moment of changing offense into defense? The most formidable part seemed to be his fanning-the-flame-to-cool-it-down technique, with mysterious principle hidden within, in which he continuously amassing qi power, containing defense in the midst of offense. If An Long rushed to attack this moment, he would lose the profound principle of the 'Lotus Step', which put emphasis on 'getting things done relying on others'. The subtlety within was difficult to describe.
Of course, it's not that An Long was falling into the disadvantageous position, it's just that he did not gain any advantage. Inwardly he thought that he had to either give up, or go through to the end. If he failed to kill this kid tonight, all his plans would be like a fetus dying in the womb. Because even if he had gargantuan guts, he did not dare to let Shi Zhixuan find out from Hou Xibai's mouth that An Long has become his personal enemy who killed his daughter, which would not be a laughing matter at all.
Blurting out laughing, he said, "Whatever name you use to call those fancy moves, they are no more than a few strokes of beauty looking at herself in the mirror, of jade maiden bending at the waist; come, let Long Shu have a taste of it."
The fact was that it was because Hou Xibai was unable to grasp his 'Lotus Step' that he changed from offense to defense, but his murderous intent toward An Long also grew, so that his fellow disciple from the same master but different school, Yang Xuyan, would lose this strong backer.
Although Shi Zhixuan was his enshi [benevolent master], he never really understood Shi Zhixuan, and his conduct was really difficult to measure. If the 'Immortal Print Scroll' fell into anybody's hands, it would be just a scroll of scrap paper. But if either he or Yang Xuyan obtained it, it would be like a Buddhist become a Buddha on the spot, it would enable them to make a martial art break through that they yearned for in their dreams. Hence this time he abandoned everything and cooperated sincerely with Xu Ziling.
However, killing An Long was certainly easier said than done. But he had no choice but to try. At least An Long would not be able to intervene tonight, so that he and Xu Ziling could work together to get rid of the fated big enemy Yang Xuyan.
Although on the surface An Long looked unconcerned, and completely without any vigilance, the fact was that he did not show the slightest flaw, to the point of invulnerable, reaching the grand master realm of no-changes-in-response-to-ten-thousand-changes.
Hou Xibai laughed calmly and said, "Lotus Step in harmony with Lotus Ring, the Heaven's origin without the heart, the lotus is without a ring either. Long Shu's Tian Lian Zong's xinfa created something out of nothing. Our Hua Jian Pai actually pursues nothing in the midst of something, brilliant moves paired with creative concept. How about Long Shu try it and take a look?"
No one saw him move, but suddenly he was only about three chi away on An Long's right side, on the roof slope lower than An Long's position, where the open fan happened to sweep across An Long's fat waist.
It was originally an ordinary, nothing-special move, yet executed by Hou Xibai's highly skilled hands, it became another thing altogether. Others lifted something heavy as if it was light, but he lifted something light as if it was heavy, as if the Fan of Beauty weighed a thousand catties, slowly and steadily sweeping toward An Long.
For the first time An Long held his smile back; he was unable to take his eyes off the opponent's fan attack, which was difficult to tell whether it was light or heavy. It was not until the fan was about to arrive when the strong wind blew his clothes against his body that he finally swung his fist out.
'Swish!' the fan closed; from heavy it turned light, floating as if it was weightless it lightly touched An Long's iron fist, which carried a toppling-the-mountains-and-overturning-the-seas momentum.
With a stifled grunt An Long changed his fist into a claw, rapid beyond human comprehension it grabbed the Fan of Beauty, trying to snatch it away.
Hou Xibai laughed leisurely; his folding fan closed and then opened again. If An Long did not change his style, he would only scratch the surface of the fan. But An Long was indeed outstanding; unexpectedly, in that lightning-struck, flint-sparked instant, he changed his claw into a palm and struck the surface of the fan heavily.
Qi power collided.
An Long swayed, but Hou Xibai was jolted so that he flew out toward the edge of the roof slope. It appeared that An Long had gained the upper hand, but his face still did not show the slightest bit of smile. His eyes showed shocked expression, he spoke heavily, "Xianzhi, what kind of trick was that move?"
Remaining calm and composed, Hou Xibai replied indifferently, "Long Shu is willing to be this open-minded to ask, naturally Xiaozhi cannot but to answer it. This was the move 'Qing Zhong Zhao' [light and heavy move] from the 'Po Lian Ba Zhao' [Eight Moves to Break The Lotus], created by Shi Shi; it lifts something heavy as if it was light, and lifts something light as if it was heavy, especially used to break Long Shu's Lotus Step. Has Xuyan Shixiong never mentioned it to Long Shu?"
An Long was so angry that he nearly vomited blood, thinking that his power was clearly more than a notch higher than Hou Xibai's. But because the opponent was using some strange move to control An Long's martial art, although he had the power, he had no way of using it. This anger was so hard to swallow.
Looking at martial art masters of the world, very few would be able to instill fear in An Long's heart. Among those few, only Shi Zhixuan, this demonic school's out-of-this-world, crisscrossing-the-heaven talent, could make him feel deeply afraid. This moment he was even more regretful of being directly drawn into Hou Xibai and Yang Xuyan's struggle over the Immortal Print Scroll, but it was already too late for regret.
Taking a deep breath, once again his face broke into a smile. Nodding his head, he said, "Good! Since Shi Dage created it, how could An Long not experience it?"
He stumbled forward like a drunk, pressing toward Hou Xibai until he was about four chi away from him, before finally took the initiative to attack.
At the end of the stone steps there was a large stone cellar about two zhang square, with about a zhang and a half high ceiling. All four walls were full of Long Life Memorial Tablets, which was quite an ordinary place in a Taoist temple. What was unusual was the passage leading into the room.
Although the air inside the cellar could be considered clean, it also felt damp. But the tablets lining up the wall created a ghostly environment, gloomy atmosphere, which brought a chill to the heart. On one of the corners was a red lantern, bathing the entire room in darkish red color.
A long, rectangular table was placed in the middle of the room, covered in black tablecloth that reached all the way to the floor, with the unconscious Cao Yinglong lay, safe and secured, on the table, but his chest was continuously heaving up and down.
If it were someone else, he would have snatched Cao Yinglong away and brought him upstairs first before thinking about any further plan. But Xu Ziling felt something was really wrong. He had a faint feeling that there was someone else in the room. But the only place that this 'someone' could hide was under the table, inside the black tablecloth.
This moment he suddenly understood why the two Tall and Short Generals did not have one of them guarding the entrance to the cellar, because there was already someone in the cellar. Moreover, this person must be a martial art master with enough ability to guard Cao Yinglong. It was also extremely possible that this person was the one able to deal with Cao Yinglong. Otherwise, how could An Long still have spare time to pay a visit to Xie Hui?
In this way, An Long and Yang Xuyan were actually playing the 'you hoodwink me and I cheat you' game, each one with sinister design in his bosom.
Who could this person be?
All these thought flashed through Xu Ziling's mind in the blink of an eye, but to the hidden enemy, Xu Ziling seemed to be thinking about taking a deep breath, raising a mouthful of qi, before snatching Cao Yinglong and taking him away.
The 'Fat Merchant' An Long was moving around Hou Xibai, leaning to the left and tumbling to the right, sometimes rapid and sudden, sometimes heavy and slow. But whether his steps were as fast as the wind, or perhaps unhurried lotus pace, he was always flashing toward the blind side, which was difficult for Hou Xibai's attack to reach. Therefore, although Hou Xibai was able to use his Fan of Beauty to perfection, opening and closing indeterminately, creating screaming wind, but he was always a tad short of catching up with this Tian Lian Zong's Zongzhu, so that he could not force him to fight hard even for one move.
But Hou Xibai was still putting up his usual confident and at ease, unconstrained appearance. He would suddenly press in and fight in close quarter, and then suddenly send a long distance attack, yet always appear like he was roaming around the edge of the blade with room to spare.
However, An Long was so certain that he was a strong crossbow; because he was a martial art master from Hua Jian Pai, he must never show weakness of appearing to be in difficult situation, even if he was about to be killed.
By this time, the two have fought for more than fifty moves. After thinking it over, he believed he already gained control over the overall situation, hence he laughed aloud and suddenly made his killer move.