Cao Yinglong raised his left sleeve and sniffed, and his right sleeve and sniffed, but due to the great loss of his power, he couldn't smell any odor.
But Xu Ziling was showing dread; he said, "Luckily Hou Xiong is perceptive, otherwise we would fall victim of the yaonu's trick. The scent ought to be coming from the hair. I wonder if Hou Xiong has any good suggestions."
Hou Xibai said, "At least until just now, the enemy has not followed the scent to this place. Actually, Rou yaonu does not need to hurry, she could not have imagined that coincidentally there was someone like me who has great experience with all kinds of fragrance nearby, hence she would carryout her scheme leisurely. There are many ways to get rid of the scent, however, since time is pressing, we could play some tricks on Cao Xiong's hair, I guarantee we will be able to cover the fragrance that the yaonu put in there."
Xu Ziling quietly exchanged a glance with Cao Yinglong, and said, frank and straightforward, "Hou Xiong, please do your trick."
At the same time, he was crying, 'Formidable' inwardly. It should be noted that with the current scent, Xu Ziling had to concentrate his mind before he was able to barely catch a little. To follow a trail relying on such a faint scent in the bustling evening brimming with all kinds of flowery fragrance, the smoke and the fire, was certainly easier said than done. Yet Hou Xibai was able to, justifiably, find a way to put some scent on Cao Yinglong, so that wherever Cao Yinglong went, Hou Xibai could easily follow his trails and catch up with him. At that time, no matter with what kind of method he was going to deal with Cao Yinglong, Xu Ziling would be forever in the dark.
This moment, both Xu Ziling and Cao Yinglong were unclear whether the scent on Cao Yinglong's hair was put there by Lian Rou, or whether it was Hou Xibai himself doing his trick.
From his bosom, Hou Xibai took out a small box. When he opened it, they saw a white powdery fragrant thing, which smelled like some kind of jasmine, with much stronger scent than the previous one, but there was also an indistinct hard-to-describe unusual scent in it.
If he had used this strange fragrance straight from the start, Xu Ziling would definitely be suspicious.
Hou Xibai muttered softly, "If Cao Xiong has a hat, I could put a bit of this onto the hat, then the other scent will be completely covered. As long as you are traveling like this, the enemy would lose the means they are depending on to follow your trail."
Xu Ziling and Cao Yinglong were stunned; they both wondered inwardly whether they were using Xiaoren [little/lowly person] mentality in measuring Hou Xibai's noble belly?
Reaching into his bosom, Cao Yinglong took out a hat, which he then put on his head. Hou Xibai casually took a pinch of the powdery stuff and sprinkled it on his hat. He said with a smile, "I know Cao Xiong has a doubting heart toward Xiaodi, but I swear that I am absolutely not a despicable Xiaoren who take advantage of someone else's precarious situation. For Xiaodi right now, the most important thing is not to let the 'Immortal Print Scroll' fall into Yang Xuyan's hands. Otherwise, the first one to lose his life would be Xiaodi."
Xu Ziling praised him inwardly; it was people like Hou Xibai, who know how to balance the pros and cons and consider the advantages and disadvantages, who could successfully accomplish great undertakings. He was doing his utmost to save Cao Yinglong, it would only be proper for Xu Ziling to do his utmost to help him in return.
He was just hoping that Shi Feixuan did not misjudge him.
In terms of speech and demeanor, Hou Xibai was talented, outstanding, distinguished and accomplished, confident and at ease, and scholarly. Even if he had to fight him in a life and death battle, it would still be difficult to loathe him.
Xu Ziling was about to speak, suddenly he heard an unusual noise.
Hou Xibai and Xu Ziling were alerted at the same time. It was when Cao Yinglong noticed their expression did he begin to understand that something was amiss.
It was not a man-made noise, but some cat-like animal that was good at soaring and leaping; when it landed on the roof, it created a very subtle noise, brimming with a lithe and springy feeling.
Hou Xibai and Xu Ziling had a sudden understanding at the same time; the enemy was relying on this animal with acute sense of smell to follow their trail to this place.
The exotic animal swiftly circled around the roof overhead before leaping out of the courtyard.
Hou Xibai's heart was moved, he said, "It loses the trail."
Looking at the hat on Cao Yinglong's head, Xu Ziling said, "We still have a chance to slip away."
Laughing calmly, Hou Xibai said, "We don't need to slip away. Come with me."
The place they were staying was actually Hou Xibai's study room. Hou Xibai moved one of the bookshelves away to reveal the entrance to yet another room. Unexpectedly it was a hidden sunroom where scrolls of painting were spread everywhere, but it was dry and clean and tidy.
Hou Xibai had just returned the bookcase back to its original place to seal the entrance when there was a sound of rustling sleeves overhead. From the noise, it sounded like - if there were not ten enemies, then there were at least seven or eight enemies.
The three held their breath and quieted their qi, while inwardly were a bit tense.
It was a case of 'he who comes is surely ill-intentioned, no-one well-meaning will come'. The enemy was aware that there were martial art masters such as Xu and Hou, two men, around, yet they still dared to pursue to this place, hence they must have enough confidence that they would be able to deal with them.
Moreover, because Cao Yinglong was involved, the two could not simply break the siege and escape, therefore, if they were discovered, the situation would be difficult to imagine.
Hou Xibai's move was definitely an extremely brilliant one; he was playing a mind game against the opponent.
Anybody who was following the trail to track down a target, if the trail was suddenly cut off, there were only two possibilities. One was that the target was not hiding in the place they ought to hide; two was that the target has gotten rid of the clues being pursued. So now the enemy might search the house inside and outside, and because the scent inside the house has been concealed, the enemy might think that they were only passing through this place, or perhaps they already left.
Hou Xibai and Xu Ziling completely focused their attention to listen attentively, ready to gain the initiative by striking first at any moment, killing the opponent as they were caught unprepared.
A tender, soft, and sweet-sounding female voice on the roof said, "This time Princess Rou's Persian raccoon dog might have lost the trail."
Stunned, Hou Xibai whispered, "That's really strange! Unexpectedly it's Meiji Sina, one of the Four Big Chiefs of Ba Meng [Sichuan Alliance]."
Xu Ziling's heart was moved; he immediately realized why Hou Xibai felt strange.
The three major powers of Sichuan were Duzun Bao, Chuan Bang, and Ba Meng.
Ba Meng was the alliance of local ethnic minorities, which was formed to counter the Han power, with the Qiang, Yao, Miao and Yi, four major ethnic groups as the core. The Four Big Chiefs were the Qiang's Hou Wang [monkey king] Feng Zhen, the Yao's Meiji [lit. beautiful woman/concubine] Sina, the Miao's Da Lao [lit. big old] Jue Luofeng, and the Yi's Feng Jiang [wind general] Chuan Mouxun.
It was not surprising for the Eastern Tujue to have relationship with the Sichuan Alliance, because in Sichuan Bashu, everybody wanted to get fat, and the Eastern Tujue's Tong Xie Hu would not be an exception.
The strange thing was, with the Meiji Sina's status, why would she personally track down Cao Yinglong? Where did his value lie?
Another gloomy, old and decrepit male voice said, "As long as Xu Ziling is still in Bashu, he won't escape our five-finger enclosure. Mengzhu [alliance master/leader] has promised that dead or alive, he will be sent to Guanzhong."
The three looked at each other in astonishment; turned out they did not after Cao Yinglong, but Xu Ziling.
From the tone of this man's voice, they could guess that evidently Ba Meng was leaning toward the Li Clan of Guanzhong, so much so that even the Western Tujue also had the intention of repairing their relationship with the Li Clan. Otherwise, they could not possibly notify the Ba Meng immediately to capture Xu Ziling as soon as they discovered him.
There was no eternal enemy in politics.
In the wake of the Li Clan's continuously growing and changing power, it was difficult for the Li Clan and the Eastern Tujue to rekindle their former good relation.
The Eastern Tujue has always been superior to the Western Tujue. In order to remedy this disadvantageous position, the Western Tujue could only draw support from the most powerful military group in the neighboring area, and the Li Clan was their only choice.
In just these few words, Xu Ziling immediately grasped the tangled and complicated situation of Bashu today; he also knew that he was in a danger zone, and could lose his life any moment.
Laughing tenderly, Lian Rou said, "Da Gong [lit. big duke, or simply 'honorable gentleman'] must be a bit more careful; Xu Ziling is well-known for his craftiness. Da Gong spoke with such confidence, if he is still able to slip away, others might laugh up their sleeve."
Hou Xibai closed his eyes and muttered, "Hearing the voice is just like seeing the person. The Persian beauty is indeed distinct."
Just by looking at his enchanted-like expression, one would know that he was painting a picture of the Persian beauty with the raccoon dog in her arms as he imagined it in his mind.
From what Lian Rou said, Xu Ziling knew that the one boasting shamelessly was the Miao's Da Lao Jue Luofeng; he thought that since there were Lian Rou, Sina and Jue Luofeng, three persons, the two of them could forget about taking Cao Yinglong breaking out through the window.
Sina said, "Strange! How come Xiao Li [little raccoon dog] chased to this place and suddenly could not continue chasing? Whose house is this? Must be a scholar or some elegant people. Were it not for neighboring people are out to enjoy the excitement of the Lantern Festival, we would not be able to get a clear picture in seeking our target."
Lian Rou sighed and said, "Just consider that kid lucky. It's no fun staying here, let's go."
The sound of rustling sleeves went away.
The three persons heaved a sigh of relief at the same time.
Hou Xibai asked Cao Yinglong, "Cao Xiong, where do you want us to take you?"
Cao Yinglong replied, "As long as we can reach the Muxing Street at the north side of the city, I have confidence that I will be able to escape."
Blowing out a mouthful of air, Hou Xibai delightedly said, "Currently, the most difficult thing is leaving the city. If only inside the city, I guarantee we can do it."
Turning toward Xu Ziling, he asked, "After that, should we go to An Long's old shop at the south side of the city to try our luck?"
Xu Ziling smiled, "Of course," he replied.
Hou Xibai sighed and said, "Ziling is indeed a true friend."
Answering the call, Bu Tianzhi came into Kou Zhong's cabin. This 'man of wind and cloud' [idiom: influential figure] whose prestige rose abruptly like a shooting star was staring blankly by the window, silently looking up at the full moon hanging high in the middle of the sky. It appeared that he had a load on his mind, or perhaps the beautiful scenery touched his heart deeply.
His magnificent back, showing his broad shoulder and narrow waist, carried the as-steady-as-the-mountain imposing manner, creating fear and reverence in Bu Tianzhi's heart, so that momentarily he did not dare to speak to disturb the peace, afraid that he might disrupt his train of thought.
After a good while, Kou Zhong murmured quietly, as if he was speaking to himself, "I want to take a trip to the Song Family of LingNan. Zhi Shu, please make the arrangement for me. After eliminating Shen Lun, I will immediately set out on my journey, while the rest may return to Peng Liang."
Bu Tianzhi could feel the determination in his voice, he knew that it would be difficult for him to persuade Kou Zhong otherwise, hence he had no choice but to say, "Let Zhi Shu accompany you then."
Kou Zhong shook his head and said, "I have another important matter I need to entrust to Zhi Shu."
Slowly turning around, he handed the bamboo tube containing the treasure map that Cao Yinglong handed over to Xu Ziling, and then Xu Ziling passed on to him - to Bu Tianzhi's hands. After explaining everything clearly, he said, "Zhi Shu must retrieve everything as quickly as possible, and then keep it in a secret yet convenient place so that it can be used any time. This can be considered an ill-gotten wealth, I do not want to use it to finance our military, I only hope to use it to rebuild the people's homes."
Full of appreciation, Bu Tianzhi said, "Shao Shuai's decision touched me very much."
And then he could not help asking, "Why does Shao Shuai appear to have a heavy load on your mind tonight?"
Kou Zhong looked up at the bright moon in the sky, and slyly said, "My mood is much better now. Having Li Shimin as my adversary, what regret do I have in my life?"