Book 24 Chapter 8 - Battle for the Print Scroll
The moment Xu Ziling was about to take the collected works of demonic way's two sects' great accomplishment, recording the pinnacle skill of the present age, the 'Immortal Print Scroll', from Shi Qingxuan's hand, a beam of yin, incomparably cold, brimming with sinister, damaging yin flavor - qi energy was striking down on the vital part of his back like an iron rod. If he evaded it by moving to the side, Shi Qingxuan would bear the brunt. Left with no choice, Xu Ziling was forced to hunch his back, ready to receive the strike.
At the same time, from behind the statue of Buddha on the left, a large beam of glittering light rolled up; it poured down like a shower on the two, in concert with the sneak attack on Xu Ziling's back, like a seamless heavenly clothes.
If not for unusual situation where Xu Ziling's mind was enraptured by the idols inside the temple, no matter how brilliant the enemies were, he would not be this distracted that he only sensed the attack when it nearly arrived. The other reason was that he was relying on Hou Xibai to be on guard outside, hence his vigilance was naturally reduced. However, this moment it was already too late to be sorry, hence he could only give it his all to receive the arriving tidal wave.
In this moment of life and death, divine light suddenly flashed in Xu Ziling's mind; a Luohan statue that left a particularly deep impression on him appeared in his mind.
That Luohan, remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, was stretching out his muscles and bones, in a wonderful pose of lowering and raising his head, and bending and stretching to the greatest extent; at that time he was wondering if it was some kind of a stance in the martial art training. This moment, where life and death was hanging on a thread, he suddenly had a flash of understanding. Laughing aloud, he continued stooping over, but the instant the enemy's qi was about to reach his body, he suddenly flung everything aside, and stretched out his limbs just like the pose of that statue. Wonderful thing happened.
The true qi invading his body could no longer seek certain vital acupoint to be attacked, but dispersed throughout his entire body instead, and then it was distributed into the four limbs of his body. Just like the flood, although it was intense, but because there are enough river courses to clear the way, it will not overrun. Of course, if the opponent's punch exploded solidly on the back, naturally it would be difficult to avoid injury. But now the opponent was simply sending a punch power across empty air, plus the fist was at least two zhang away, with the intention of catching Xu Ziling off guard. Unexpectedly, the amazing move that he comprehended at the last moment was more than enough to deal with it.
The entire course of events happened in just the blink of an eye. By this time Yang Xuyan's signature Phantom Sword has started to rain down on him.
From behind came An Long's surprise cry; obviously he never expected that Xu Ziling did not flee, did not evade, but received his attack head on, so that he was at a loss.
If Xu Ziling dodged the attack by moving sideways, then Shi Qingxuan would at least receive a little bit of injury, giving Yang Xuyan the opportunity to snatch the 'Immortal Print Scroll' away.
Just with a slight difference like that, the two men's counting-their-chickens-before-they-are-hatched plot has fallen apart.
But Xu Ziling and Shi Qingxuan have not escaped danger yet. Although using skillful hands of extraordinary stroke the former managed to withstand An Long's fierce attack, yet in order to neutralize the opponent's true qi invading his body, momentarily his entire body was paralyzed, his meridians felt like bursting, and he was powerless to help Shi Qingxuan countering Yang Xuyan's terrifying sword strike.
But Shi Qingxuan appeared to have already anticipated that Yang Xuyan would come out like that. The instant the sword light reached her body, she spun around and using the scroll as a flute, she thrust it up to meet the sharp light of the sword, which appeared like an exploding fireworks, head on.
Xu Ziling abruptly raised a mouthful of true qi, and instantaneously the qi power was restored. At this time, An Long already launched the lotus steps. Scrambling to the blind spot on his right side, he used two fingers like a fork to pierce his eyes, while down below, his right leg silently kicked to attack his groin; it was sinister to the extreme point.
It was the first time that Xu Ziling encountered such a crafty and mysterious footwork. The originally ordinary attack, feign on the top and real on the bottom, immediately shed its mortal body and exchanged its bones to become difficult to ward off. If it were Kou Zhong in Xu Ziling's place, quite possibly when his saber technique could not be unleashed, he would dodge the attack first, and then An Long could leisurely help Yang Xuyan to deal with Shi Qingxuan. Luckily Xu Ziling was quite adept in close, hand-to-hand combat, so that although he was fully aware that the opponent's skill was above his, he still clenched his teeth and executed his marvelous footwork; first, he staggered a little, and then he blocked the top and sealed the bottom.
The fantastical sword dispersed, Yang Xuyan recoiled awkwardly, revealing his back-of-a-tiger-and-waist-of-a-bear, the white-horse-heroic body tightly wrapped inside black cloak, black clothes. If he did not pull back, it could be guaranteed that the sheepskin scroll, along with Shi Qingxuan's jade hand, would be twisted and broken at the same time. If that happened, not only he could not get the 'Immortal Print Scroll', in the future it would be difficult for him to escape Shi Zhixuan's revenge.
Although he was the unequalled assassin that everybody in the world was scared of, he had some kind of innate and heartfelt reverence toward Shi Zhixuan. Since he knew that Cao Yinglong was rescued, even if he had gargantuan guts, he would not dare to touch even half a strand of Shi Qingxuan's hair.
Only by obtaining the 'Immortal Print Scroll' would he have the hope of breaking away from Shi Zhixuan's clutch.
An Long withdrew his right hand attacking the enemy's two eyes, but down below his kick solidly hit the edge of Xu Ziling's sealing-the-bottom palm.
His heart filled with murderous intent, this kick was launched in full strength; nearly sixty-year cultivated demonic power, without the slightest bit of reservation, was sent out with the intention of killing the enemy once and for all.
Suddenly he felt as if the sole of his foot was heavily stabbed by a sharp awl, followed by a vortex of strange, strong and swift energy rushing in, digging into his vigorous demonic power directly, so that at the point of contact with the edge of the opponent's palm, it splashed and discharged to all directions, and the true qi - able to invade the enemy's system, was severely diminished by half. It was only now did he know that the marvelous power from the 'Secret to Long Life' did not become a legend in vain.
An Long grunted in pain; unexpectedly he could not even borrow a fraction of strength to continue executing the lotus steps. Without being able to continue, he had no choice but to evade sideways. Seeing Xu Ziling was jolted so that he flew backward, he could only sigh for the lost opportunity.
This moment Yang Xuyan was about to reorganize his offensive; while rushing to grab the 'Immortal Print Scroll', the sound of cutting fan came from behind, hence he knew that his martial brother of the same master but different school has arrived to attack. Anger welling up in his heart, he launched the Phantom Sword Technique with all his strength to meet the enemy behind him.
Shi Qingxuan pulled the jade flute with her left hand, producing the illusion of a puff by a puff, appearing there but not really there, what is true and what is false is difficult to distinguish - dark green shadows, rolling toward An Long, whose footings were still slightly chaotic. At the same time, she threw the 'Immortal Print Scroll' in her right hand to the air, toward the successfully somersaulting Xu Ziling, while shouting tenderly, "Catch! Quickly go!"
An Long crash hard onto the sitting down Buddha image with benevolent look, concentrated eyes, which immediately exploded into powder. But the collision enabled him to borrow a little bit of reaction force to sidestep Shi Qingxuan's flute shadows entangling him. Curling his body into a ball, he shot out, swift like shooting star - toward Xu Ziling, who was still flying about two zhang off the ground, and was trying to snatch the 'Immortal Print Scroll'. If he could shoot his internal energy out of his five fingers to chase after the scroll across the empty air, it would really be not much different than if he snatched it using his hand.
From his high elevation looking down, Xu Ziling was able to see everything clearly. He saw the 'Immortal Print Scroll' being thrown toward him was slowing down suddenly, as if it was being pulled back by an invisible thread. Finally he focused his attention to the air, and cried inwardly, 'Bad!' Being able to think fast in an emergency, he turned his hand over to push upward, his qi power knocked against the beam, and he dropped down fast. But he was still a hair too late.
An Long's demonic skill was really brilliant, indeed it greatly exceeded his expectation; he was really worthy to be ranked among the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way.
An Long pulled back his five fingers, the 'Immortal Print Scroll' flew toward him, closing in rapidly toward his fat body, which was flying up to meet it. He could not help but was greatly delighted.
While success was within his grasp, suddenly the flute made a sound. It was not that Shi Qingxuan's refined and elegant attitude of mind suddenly opened up and she played a tune; rather, she sent her true qi through the pipe that it resonated and produced a tone. The jade flute's true energy stabbed from below and went straight up, ferociously knocking the 'Immortal Print Scroll' over.
And thus, with such a fraction of hairbreadths difference, the 'Immortal Print Scroll' was knocked sideways, and was thrown into the middle of the surrounding Luohan troops disposition.
Xu Ziling used his unique school's ability of taking a breath in the air to the fullest; he changed direction from dropping vertically down to moving horizontally sideways, to chase after the 'Immortal Print Scroll'.
Letting out an angry snort, An Long made a somersault, but the very moment he was about to chase after with all his strength, he was already rolled into the phoenix-dancing-in-the-sky, the elegant-and-amazing-without-equal dense flute shadows from Shi Qingxuan's hand.
This moment, Yang Xuyan was barely able to withstand Hou Xibai's main assault, which came with Yangtze River's momentum, whose folding fan's offensive came round after round like the unceasing torrent of the Great River, while he still could not find any loophole or any gap that he could exploit.
The Phantom Sword Style's most formidable aspect was in fusing the true and the false together, a technique relying on deceiving the eyes of the opponent, forcing the enemy to reveal the gap; hence victory could be determined in every moment.
Who would have thought that Hou Xibai's folding fan was opening and closing swiftly in myriad changes? Moreover, the way he exerted his strength was very peculiar; whether it was pushing, sweeping, tapping, or striking, the timing and the angle of attack were as accurate and as precise as plucking the guzheng [long zither], while accumulating countless strange-move, wonderful-stance in secret - at the same time, so that even with Yang Xuyan's skill level, he was put into the situation where he lost the initiative and could only counter every move. Momentarily it was difficult for him to counterattack.
Hou Xibai's Fan of Beauty has already reached the transforming-the-rotten-into-magical realm. It was brimming with creativity overtone of changes born of his heart's desire, like-a-heavenly-steed, soaring-across-the-skies [i.e. unconstrained style], while also carrying some kind of confident and at ease style, which differed greatly from his own ruthless, strict sword move. Even though Yang Xuyan really wished to decide this opponent's fate by the blade of his sword, inwardly he could not help applauding and admiring Hou Xibai's skill. He thought that under different circumstances, this battle would definitely be a delightful occasion.
Yang Xuyan launched the skill that was usually hidden at the bottom of his trunk; his sword fantastically shook, producing three sword-flowers in triangular formation [orig. 品 character], forcing Hou Xibai to raise his fan horizontally to block.