Book 25 Chapter 11 - Touring the Three Gorges
By daybreak, the villagers fleeing the disaster gradually returned. Seeing their village was safe and sound, everybody was elated.
The Li ethnic young girl peeked through the window and saw Kou Zhong was having a good dream; she did not disturb him and let him stay in the dreamland.
Kou Zhong was actually awake; he was happy to enjoy the peaceful and quiet thatched hut, pondering over who might the martial art master who killed Cui Jixiu and the others be?
There was a commotion outside. Kou Zhong was startled; he sprang up and rushed out with the saber in his hand, and saw that everybody was starting to flee in confusion.
With a frightened expression on her face, the young girl was running along with the other villagers toward the mountain area, while shouting at him, "The pirates are back!"
While Kou Zhong was still bewildered over what was happening, the villagers have left until not a single one remaining.
Kou Zhong wondered if they were Cui Jixiu's reinforcement coming to invade the area. But then he thought that Ouyang Qian's Li Liao warriors were still in the neighboring village; they could not possibly let Lin Shihong's thief army get away with it. Thereupon he decided to go to the beach to take a look.
Passing through a forest, the ocean ahead extended as far as the eye could see, under the bright sunlight filling the whole sky. Sure enough, he saw a ship cruising along the coastal area.
Focusing his attention to look, Kou Zhong let out a shriek, and threw himself toward the beach, while at the same time letting out a long whistle.
Surprisingly, it was Bu Tianzhi's modified warship.
By the time Kou Zhong jumped onto the deck, Bu Tianzhi hugged him fiercely, while the rest of their men surrounded the two with thunderous cheers.
Laughing heartily, Kou Zhong asked, "Are you all right?"
Everybody replied in chorus, "We are all right!"
Grabbing his shoulder, Bu Tianzhi chuckled and said, "Although we know those Gaoli people could not do something to Shao Shuai, we were anxious for two days and two nights."
Kou Zhong laughed and said, "This is called the Heaven helped me. Were it not for that storm, which came just in time, to whom the deer falls [i.e. the victor] was yet to be seen. But now that Jin Zhengzong's multi-decked ship has turned to, at least, half dead deer, they must have been praying that Haishen Yeye [grandfather Emperor of the Sea] would bless and protect them."
Everybody howled in laughter; the atmosphere was blazing.
Kou Zhong raised his arm and shouted loudly, "Brothers! We immediately depart for Lingnan."
The crowd erupted in thunderous cheer.
When Xu Ziling awoke, the morning sun was already three poles high.
After going through full four sichen of regulating his breathing, the injury due to the battle against Xi Ying has disappeared without any trace. His heart was overwhelmed with emotion.
Since leaving Yangzhou and living a life as fugitives to the other end of the world, from two noisy, nameless kids, he and Kou Zhong have joined forces to assassinate Ren Shaoming, revealing their outstanding talent in the process, to the present day, where, in one-on-one duel, he made one of the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, the 'Heavenly Lord' Xi Ying give up his soul while nursing a grievance. As for the bizarre twists and turns in this matter, perhaps ten days and ten nights would not be enough to tell everything, not to mention it was difficult to explain.
Last night, under pressure from Xi Ying, he fused and linked up all gongfa, especially during the final hand-to-hand close combat, he started with the Bloody Battle Ten Styles taught by Li Jing, and alternately used Tu Shufang's Severing Meridian Technique and Zhen Yan's Handprints, to create strange moves. By the time the battle reached its peak, all the moves melted into one; where his mind went, his hand followed. This kind of carefree, pleasing and beautiful feeling, was extremely touching.
This incomparably hard-to-defeat opponent has enabled him to make an important breakthrough in the cultivation of the martial way.
Suddenly remembering his appointment with Hou Xibai, he hastily took off his Yue Shan mask, put on his long robe, and incarnated into the 'Scar Face Guest' Gong Chenchun. Leaving the rear courtyard of someone's house where he had been hiding, he went to the appointed meeting place at a restaurant on the Lower Lotus Pond Street. Most of the traveling merchants and tourists who came to Chengdu for the Mid-Autumn Festival have not left town, hence the city was still unusually flourishing.
If Luoyang was called the melting pot city and county where the Han and non-Han people coexist, then Chengdu was the commerce center where the Han people deal with all different ethnic groups. It was brimming with variety of ethnic groups' local conditions and customs and distinguishing features, which increased the brisk vitality and the atmosphere of Chengdu.
Hidden behind the scar-faced mask, naturally Xu Ziling's sex appeal was reduced substantially, but due to his proud, tall and straight elegant body shape, he still attracted a few coquettish glances.
But Xu Ziling's mind was only on the thought about his immediate departure; after meeting his appointment with Hou Xibai, he already made up his mind to leave Sichuan immediately, and then let the events of these last few days grow into an increasingly distant past. Shi Qingxuan's seemingly passionate yet heartless toward him has rendered a big blow on his heart.
When he was under pressure and facing threats, he was able to cast her aside and not think about her. But like right now, when his heart was not occupied with other matters, inevitably it drifted to the scenes that recalled past memories, so much so that he was afraid he could not hold back from looking for her again, miserably trying to see if there might be a turn for the better.
Shi Qingxuan was unlike Shi Feixuan, who, from the very beginning has already raised her banner of not setting foot into the passion between a man and a woman. Presently, the most moving moment for him was the breathtaking sensation when he had just arrived at Chengdu, where he caught a glimpse of her graceful figure under the lantern light, the scene that was still lingering on his mind until now.
He did not wish to be bothered by man-woman feeling anymore, and the only way was to go far away as quickly as possible.
In Chengdu, there were many streets named after rivers, lakes and bridges, like the one he was currently walking along, the Lower Lotus Pond Street. And then there was the one he passed through just now, the Princely Dyke Street, Bluestone Bridge Street, Arching-Back Bridge Street, King's Belt Bridge Street, and so on. Upon reaching the street, one would know that very soon one would cross over the bridge with the same name; it was a very fascinating feeling.
When the destination was in sight, Hou Xibai's voice calling out from a small alley, "Gong Xiong, over here!"
Following the voice, Xu Ziling entered the alley, and saw Hou Xibai looking like he had spring breeze across his face. Astonished, he asked, "Has Hou Xiong made a breakthrough in the Bu Si Yin Fa?"
Hou Xibai warmly pulled his elbow to take him to the other side of the alley, saying, "You could say that. Last night Xiaodi saw Feixuan; we chatted for the whole sichen, I benefited a lot, naturally my mood could not go wrong.
Xu Ziling thought, 'So that's what happened', it looked like Shi Feixuan was pretty good to him. Smiling, he said, "In that case, I should congratulate Hou Xiong. Aren't we going into the building [orig. lou, multi-story building; perhaps he was referring to San Hua Lou]?"
Frowning deeply, Hou Xibai said, "Xiaodi was entangled by that crafty and unruly woman Fan Caiqi until I nearly lose my life; I will absolutely not show my face in public place. Did Ziling know that Xi Ying is dead?"
Putting on an act, Xu Ziling blurted out, "What?"
Exhaling slowly, Hou Xibai said, "This could be the most sensational affair in Wulin for the past few years. Last night, the returning-to-the-fray-after-period-of-inactivity 'Overbearing Saber' Yue Shan, under escort of An Long and You Niaojuan, broke Xi Ying's Ziqi Tian Luo, and killed Xi Ying on the spot. According to eyewitness, Yue Shan's Huan Ri Da Fa was extremely brilliant; without moving a blade he managed to take care Xi Ying, who considered himself unexcelled in the world. Ziling no longer need to have a headache in dealing with Xi Ying!"
Even with his simple character, hearing that, inwardly he was proud of his achievement. However, naturally on the surface he still put an act and did not show his bursting breast; on the contrary, he repeatedly inquired on what happened, until finally he took the opportunity to say, "Xiaodi has nothing else to do in Chengdu, I want to leave immediately. Someday, if we are brought together by fate, I will drink and chat with Hou Xiong again."
Stunned, Hou Xibai asked, "Why does Ziling look like you are so anxious to leave? Why not stay a day or half a day longer? It's rare that I don't have anything important to do, let Xiaodi act as a guide to take Ziling to tour the Cong Hua Xi [lit. gurgling flower creek] in the western suburbs, to leave a beautiful memory before you go."
Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, "I am anxious to leave because of my appointment with Kou Zhong."
Cutting him off, Hou Xibai laughed freely and easily, "Since Ziling insist on leaving, let Xiaodi send you off then. You were entering Sichuan via the plank walkway going around the mountain, why not leaving Sichuan via the Three Gorges [of Yangtze River: Qutang, Wuxia, and Xiling Gorges]? Xiaodi will arrange everything."
Xu Ziling's heart was moved; the beauty of nature attracted him more than any other things, naturally he nodded his agreement.
At dusk, the sailboat caught a tail wind, their speed doubled as they cross the South China Sea.
Coming to Kou Zhong's side, who was standing on the bow, Bu Tianzhi said, "The land on the far right is Hepu County; the big island on the left is Zhuya County, which is also Nanhai Pai's [South (China) Sea Sect] base camp."
Kou Zhong cheerfully said, "No wonder people say that reading ten thousand scrolls of book is not as good as traveling ten thousand li of road; they also say that seeing something for oneself is better than hearing about it from others. It does not matter how well you guys described the scenery of Lingnan, it was not as good as the scene before my eyes right now. Hey! That kind of five-zhang tall trees, what are they called? The shape is very strange."
Bu Tianzhi replied, "Those are coconut trees, Zhuya's regional specialty. Evergreen across the four seasons, and the whole tree is a treasure. The trunk can be used to build houses, the fruits have abundant meat and plenty of juice, the shells can be made into various kinds of household utensils, they can even be used to resist the sea breeze."
Gazing into the distance, Kou Zhong could only see coconut trees densely lining up the island shore, tree shadows swaying in the wind, an expanse of thick green scenery, producing rustling noise from the breeze, in cadence with the sound of the waves lapping the shore. Under the twilight sun, a few would doubt that it was the celestial scenery in the human world, an out-of-the-world peach garden of immortality.