Book 24 Chapter 5 - Friend And Foe Difficult To Tell
If he was cooperating with Kou Zhong, Hou Xibai might suspect that after rescuing Cao Yinglong, Kou Zhong might abandon his partner and left on his own. But Hou Xibai believed from the bottom of his heart that Xu Ziling was not that kind of person. Yet this kind of faith practically did not have any reason behind it; it was purely a feeling when someone met someone else, although oftentimes it was not too reliable.
Therefore, Hou Xibai was sure that Xu Ziling must have met some trouble. Secretly raising a mouthful of true qi, he inserted the Fan of Beauty into his belt, and said with a smile, "Going by Long Shu's suspicious character, since you knew that there exist the Eight Moves To Break The Lotus, unexpectedly you are unwilling to obtain clear understanding but want to leave immediately instead. I wonder what could be more pressing than this?"
An Long crossly said, "Xianzhi is acting as if you don't know how to write the word 'dead'. But everything that has been happening tonight is very strange; everything is beyond my expectation. If Xianzhi is willing to tell me where you got the information, perhaps we could strive to have real cooperation."
Hou Xibai was greatly astonished; from what Xu Ziling told him, An Long should not have this much time, he should be rushing back to perform his sorcery on Cao Yinglong. How could he leisurely waste his time by chatting with him now?
On the surface, however, he remained calm and composed. "Surely Long Shu is joking?" he said, "In vain Xiaozhi always showed utmost respect to you. You have secret ties with Yang Xuyan, and are trying in vain to scheme against Shi Shi's beloved daughter, yet now you say you want to cooperate with me; it is indeed the greatest absurdity in the world."
An Long flashed his trademark fake smile across his face, while secretly gathering up his power. He said, "Xianzhi, you surely don't know how to differentiate good from bad; who said I was going to harm Shi Dage's beautiful daughter? Whom did you hear it from?"
Hou Xibai was about to speak to taunt him, to stall for time, when suddenly alarm went off in his heart; turning his head to the left, he saw hidden among the trees in the dark, at the part of the garden where the moonlight did not shine, a big and tall man.
An Long was actually a step ahead of him in term of reaction; when he saw the man, his face revealed a shocked expression. Evidently he recognized the man.
The man walked out of the shadow. He had an overbearing, looking-down-on-the-world - demeanor around him, his expression cold and detached, his forehead high, his nose straight, with a mixture of healthy, robust lines on his rectangular face, giving up the impression that he was a man with extraordinary unswerving determination, as well as subjectively obstinate; an awe-inspiring man.
From his comparatively darker complexion from the average men and his exceptionally good shape, Hou Xibai knew right away that he must be the master of Duzun Bao Xie Hui, whose might shook Bashu.
This martial art master, who shared the same fame as the 'Heavenly Saber' Song Que, only cast a glance toward Hou Xibai, his burning gaze fell on his sworn brother An Long, as he spoke indifferently, "Where is Cao Yinglong?"
Even Hou Xibai could not imagine that Xie Hui would be this blunt and get right to the point [orig. to open the door and see the mountain], without leaving anything.
An Long laughed aloud and said, "Did I not explain clearly just now that Cao Yinglong's affair has nothing to do with me, An Long, at all?"
The murderous aura in Xie Hui's eyes was burning brighter; staring hard at An Long, he said, "If I did not remember the brotherly love between us, I would have made my move before you even finished speaking half a sentence. After the wear and tear and your current loss of power, I guarantee that you won't last long. And now, let me ask you again, remembering our extraordinarily old friendship; An Long, you don't want to force me."
Hou Xibai had never thought that Xie Hui would be this overbearing and tyrannical; he inwardly thought that if he were An Long, he would be at a loss to know what to do as well.
Who would have thought that An Long heaved a deep sigh, nodded his head dejectedly, and said, "I know that Er Di's [second (younger) brother] kindness to Ol' An does not need to be mentioned, but this matter is related to San Di [third (younger) brother]. Moreover, it has direct relationship with the Xie Wang [demonic king] Shi Zhixuan. If Er Di is drawn into this matter because of an outsider, it is really not worth it."
Xie Hui's face showed that he was slightly moved; turning his head around, he looked at Hou Xibai.
Inwardly Hou Xibai thanked the Heaven and thanked the Earth; raising his cupped fist, he spoke respectfully, "Two gentlemen, Qianbei, have important matter to discuss, Wanbei certainly does not dare to remain here to disturb you. Please!"
With that, he slipped away.
Cao Yinglong slowly rose; he finally discovered the Persian Beauty Lian Rou, who was standing against the wall, with a pondering-deeply expression on her face.
Xu Ziling's true qi within his body has circulated to its peak; as fast as lightning he swept Cao Yinglong away.
The standing-against-the-wall Lian Rou spun around, raised her right hand, and shot a streak of white light toward Cao Yinglong, while rushing toward the exit at the same time. Her movements were fluid, as fast as lightning.
If Xu Ziling did not guard against her at all, this moment he would have been caught off guard, and when rescuing Cao Yinglong, he would have been forced to move away from the exit.
However, the attack was exactly what he wanted. Utilizing his ability to take a breath while sweeping high in the air, he produced a possibility amidst this impossible situation, by changing direction from going straight ahead to moving sideway, while sending out a finger energy at the same time to strike the white light.
The most mischievous thing was that while he was soaring out and his right palm was blocking Lian Rou's escape path, his mouth was crying out, "Don't go!"
How could Lian Rou know that he had such ability to take a breath midair and change direction? Relying on her superior qinggong, she was also able to change direction midair, but definitely not like Xu Ziling, who was able not to reveal the slightest sign in his shenfa, who could change just as soon as he wanted to change. In her shock, she could only retreat in a flash.
The white light was hit by the finger wind and was knocked against the wall. Turned out it was the dagger that Lian Rou used just now when she threatened to kill herself. While she was facing the wall, she stealthily pulled it out of its sheath on her thigh, and hid it in her hand.
Cao Yinglong was a Jianghu veteran; as soon as he regained his consciousness, he swept over toward Xu Ziling.
Success or failure would be decided in the blink of an eye.
The lid opened, ready to welcome the escaping Lian Rou.
The tip of Xu Ziling's toes tapped the ground, he moved toward Cao Yinglong, stretched out one arm to grab his thick waist, and sent out a spiraling energy. The two men spun swiftly like a cyclone, and then taking the opportunity while the enemy had not grasped the situation inside the cellar, they flew toward the exit, and suddenly shot out of the wooden chest. Under Zhu Mei and the Tall and Short, two Generals' blank stare, and before they found their voices to shout, they already broke through the roof and disappeared.
The bright moon was hanging high in the sky.
From somewhere in the distance, Hou Xibai flew over and called out, "Follow me!"
Inside an ordinary house at the east side of the city, only after finished listening to Xu Ziling's explanation did Cao Yinglong realize what happened to him. Naturally he shed tears of gratitude, and was even more remorseful of what he had done in the past.
Hou Xibai flew in through the window and said, "There shouldn't be anybody following us." And then he turned toward Cao Yinglong and asked, "Cao Dangjia is all right?"
Evidently Cao Yinglong was still quite wary of him, he hung his head down. While blushing with shame to conceal the contradicting reaction in his heart, he sighed and said, "I am now an ordinary man, Hou Gongzi should not call me that."
Xu Ziling caught everything with his eyes, his heart was moved, recalling that because Cao Yinglong was very familiar with Shi Zhixuan's conduct, he was unable to trust the person Shi Zhixuan selected as his disciple either, so inwardly Xu Ziling was on guard as well. However, without drawing support from Hou Xibai's power, he could forget about rescuing Cao Yinglong this time.
Signaling Xu Ziling with his eyes, Hou Xibai said, "I am going outside to be on the lookout; if we want to slip away, it would be best to do it tonight."
Finished speaking, he flew out the window.
Although Xu Ziling did not trust Hou Xibai, he could not help feeling heartfelt appreciation toward his elegant demeanor and consideration toward other people.
Cao Yinglong started, "This time …"
Xu Ziling cut him off, "The most important thing right now is how Cao Xiong could avoid the enemies and go back to see your wife and daughter for the last time. Cao Xiong, what's your plan?"
Cao Yinglong dejectedly said, "I have lost confidence; I no longer dare to have such a presumptuous wish."
After muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, Xu Ziling took out a mask that he had never used before from his bosom, and handed over to Cao Yinglong. He said, "If you could shed your mortal body and exchange your bones to become another man, get rid of your usual walking gait and mannerism, perhaps you can still accomplish your wish."
Taking the mask in his hands, Cao Yinglong examined it carefully. His body shook severely, while a ray of hope returned to his eyes. With amazement in his voice, he said, "Unexpectedly there is such a fine work of art in the world. I guarantee that after putting it on, even the subtle changes of the muscles on my face will be seen through, so that nobody will doubt it."
Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, "This is Lu Miaozi's refined work."
From the masks he received from Lu Miaozi, he gave one to Ba Fenghan, and now, for righteousness' sake, he gave another one to Cao Yinglong, hence he only had three masks remained: the Yue Shan, the scar face hero, and the dry, yellow-faced one.
Cao Yinglong revealed a turns-out-it-was-from-Lu-Miaozi's-hand, no-wonder-it-is-so-ghostly-crafted-divine-work sudden change in his demeanor; stuffing the mask into his bosom, he said in low voice, "I am saved! But we must never let Hou Xibai know. Don't look at him now assuming an air of complete indifference toward me, I dare to bet my head that after this is over, he will come looking for me, and will use sinister means to get everything out of me."
Xu Ziling nodded and said, "It's always better to be a bit more careful."
After discussing how they were going to get away, Cao Yinglong spoke in low voice, "Not only by nature Shi Zhixuan is sinister, he also has enormous ambition. For example, he painstakingly groomed two disciples to accomplish his two greatest dreams: to unify Jianghu and to unify the demonic way. Therefore, this man Hou Xibai is not simple at all, you must never trust him."
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "Since that's the case, why would Shi Zhixuan pit these two disciples against each other? They might massacre one another, furthermore, they might hinder each other."
Cao Yinglong said, "Shi Zhixuan is someone who is difficult to measure, not many people can really understand him. Just by looking at how he deliberately leave the 'Immortal Print Scroll' in the secluded forest of the small valley instead of giving it directly to his two disciples, we know how unfathomable he is. In my opinion, it may be that he found it difficult to decide whom he should give it to. Thereupon he let them fight until you die, I live, to see who will be eliminated. In their conduct, the people of the demonic schools have never taken human emotions and morality into considerations.
Listening to that, Xu Ziling's heart grew cold. Seizing this opportunity, he asked, "The Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, aside from Zhu Yuyan, Shi Zhixuan, An Long, Pi Chen, Zuo Youxian and You Niaojuan, six persons, who are the other two?"
Cao Yinglong replied, "There's one that I know, which is the Eastern Tujue Xieli Khan's Junshi Zhao Deyan. Within the demonic schools, this man has lofty status; he is revered as the 'Mo Shuai' [Demonic Commander]. His demonic skill is extremely outstanding, barely second only to Zhu Yuyan and Shi Zhixuan. As for the last person, his identity is very mysterious. One time Shi Zhixuan inadvertently leaked out that this person was cultivating some kind of formidable gongfa in secret, but he did not say who."
Finally Xu Ziling was able to ascertain the real identity of Zhao Deyan, whose martial art skill could properly approach Bi Xuan's level. Inwardly he thought that no wonder he was able to make the wind and create the rain, to stir up the peoples from the outside to come into the Central Plains to create havoc.
With a light gust of the wind, Hou Xibai returned through the window. "We don't have much time," he urged, "We still need to go to An Long's old shop to take advantage of the festivities."
And then his countenance changed slightly, "I wonder if gentlemen smell a whiff, which seems to be here but seems to be far away - of fragrance? This is the first time that I caught this kind of fragrance. I already smelled it a while back, but I thought it was Lian Rou's scent that was rubbed onto Cao Xiong. But this one does not disperse even after a while, obviously something is not right, I am afraid it might divulge our whereabouts."