Book 25 Chapter 8 - Discussing With The Tiger While Scheming To Peel Its Skin
Xu Ziling continued, "It's very likely that Yin Gui Pai people will participate in this matter, so I absolutely will not confront Xi Ying face to face. Hou Xiong may set your heart at ease."
Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai said, "How can I set my heart at ease? Xi Ying has always been ranked above An Long. This time he returned to the Central Plains, clearly he has made a breakthrough in his demonic skill and does not fear Song Que anymore. Chasing away the Da Shi Temple monks is the same as publicly provoking Song Que for battle. Ziling, although you are extraordinarily brilliant, but to be frank with you, you are still a notch or two below An Long; forget about directly dealing with the 'Heavenly Lord' Xi Ying."
Xu Ziling smiled and said, "Thank you for Hou Xiong's concern, I have my own discretion. It would be a big help to me if Hou Xiong could understand the Immortal Image Method quicker than Yang Xuyan."
Hou Xibai acted as if he did not hear him at all; muttering to himself irresolutely, he said, "Xi Ying and Zhu Yuyan's relationship has always been extremely distant, why would Yin Gui Pai dare to take the risk of offending Song Que by standing on Xi Ying's side? Maybe Ziling misunderstood?"
Xu Ziling has never thought about this aspect, he only thought that all demonic school people were naturally on the same side. But now that Hou Xibai brought it up to his attention, his heart was moved, he said, "Let's make a hypothesis first: supposing Lin Shihong is a Yin Gui Pai man, under his current situation, what would Lin Shihong's most brilliant strategy be?"
Shaken, Hou Xibai said, "Naturally he wants to pacify the south, to seize control the cities north and south sides of the Yangtze River. At that time, even if the north is unified by some other power, he could expect to stand in north-south confrontation, each side occupying half of the country."
Xu Ziling sighed and said, "Now I dare say with ninety-percent confidence that Lin Shihong is a Yin Gui Pai man. If he could kill Song Que via Xi Ying's hands, Lin Shihong could extend his evil clutches toward Lingnan. After seizing control over Song Family's wealth and resources, he could rapidly expand, taking advantage while everybody is preoccupied in going north, he would consolidate his power in the south. This is precisely the reason Yin Gui Pai cooperates with Xi Ying. Otherwise, why would they want to trouble-the-troops-dispatch-the-crowd by sending the Four Great Elders to come here?"
Hou Xibai nodded and said, "Ziling's analysis is very convincing. If Bian Bufu is one of the Four Great Elders, we might call on An Long for help."
"An Long?" Xu Ziling blurted out.
Hou Xibai said, "Due to an old grudge of many years ago, those two cannot exist together. Bian Bufu created the 'Mo Xin Lianhuan' [Demonic Heart/Center Chain (lit. connecting rings)]. The name is precisely in response to An Long's 'Tian Xin Lian Huan' [Lotus Ring at the Center of the Sky (different 'Lian')]. If An Long did not have any misgivings toward Zhu Yuyan, he would have killed Bian Bufu early on. Therefore, as long as he is dealing with Bian Bufu, An Long would forget everything else. Ha! I am just speaking casually, Ziling must not take it seriously."
Xu Ziling said, "I don't want to look for any helper."
Hou Xibai turned serious as he cut him off, "Even if Xi Ying dropped in on his own accord, I am afraid Ziling still do not have enough capability to kill him; therefore, this time I am not to be shirked without dishonor. Ziling, please tell me, what kind of brilliant plan are you going to resort to lure him out?"
Xu Ziling hesitated inwardly. Yue Shan's identity was his secret; letting Hou Xibai find out about it did not seem to be too appropriate. But looking at his earnest enthusiasm, he had a bit of cannot-bear-to-refuse feeling. Without any better option, he said, "Originally I wanted to find out Yin Gui Pai's elders' whereabouts from Zheng Shiru, but this is just one way out of no-way. How about we'll meet again tomorrow to exchange information, and then we'll decide what our next action be?"
Frowning, Hou Xibai asked, "What is the relationship between Zheng Shiru and Yin Gui Pai?"
Xu Ziling replied in low voice, "There is a hopelessly muddled relationship between Zheng Shiru and Yin Gui Pai, but as for the details, please forgive me since it is inconvenient for me to say."
Hou Xibai revealed a hint of bitter smile, but he did not pursue. After agreeing on the time and place to meet, he quizzically asked, "Ziling looks like you are hurrying someplace; do you have an appointment?"
Xu Ziling suddenly remembered something; instead of answering, he asked, "Do you have any information about You Niaojuan?"
Hou Xibai said, "Other than me, I am afraid nobody can answer your question. He entered the city earlier than you did by no more than two sichen. Originally I did not know it was him either, but because all along I was watching An Long, I was guessing that it was him, the 'Going Against The Tide' You Niaojuan."
Xu Ziling suddenly understood. No wonder Hou Xibai knew An Long's situation like the back of his hand; turned out he had been monitoring An Long's movement, so that they were fortunate enough to save Cao Yinglong's life.
"Where could You Niaojuan be?" he asked; while thinking that were it not because You Niaojuan's injury has not healed, he might stand on An Long and Yang Xuyan's side, and then perhaps Hou Xibai might not necessarily be able to obtain half of the 'Immortal Image Scroll'.
Hou Xibai said, "You Niaojuan's hiding place is so secret that even An Long himself does not know. But he and An Long definitely will meet again; Ziling might be able to find him from An Long."
After a short pause, he laughed and said, "Do you need Xiaodi to guide you?"
Xu Ziling blurted out laughing and said, "How could I dare to inconvenience Hou Xiong? As long as Hou Xiong tell me where I can find An Long, I am already extremely grateful."
Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai said, "I really don't understand why you always refuse my help? This moment, An Long might hide in Bie Yuan [lit. other courtyard] at the Jin Ma [golden horse] Lane in the northern part of the city to recuperate. That is one of An Long's secret nests. It was because I was following Zhu Mei's tracks that I found out about that place."
And then he explained in details how to find Bie Yuan, and only then did Xu Ziling leave.
Xu Ziling put on long robe, wore the Yue Shan mask, and after making sure that there was no flaw, he jumped down from the roof and strode forward with head high toward An Long's courtyard house and struck the ring doorknocker.
The long robe was authentic Yue Shan's garment given to him by Shi Qingxuan. Other than it could hide the difference in body shape between Yue Shan's and his, it was also Yue Shan's signature attire, which made it easier for people like An Long, who knew Yue Shan - to be convinced.
In the scroll that Yue Shan left behind, he recounted his association with the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way. Apart from Zhu Yuyan and Xi Ying, who had particularly profound gratitude and grudges with him, the others were just people that he only met a few times, with whom he only exchanged no more than a few words. This situation was naturally very beneficial to Xu Ziling in impersonating Yue Shan.
In fact, during his life, Yue Shan was a very lonely and quiet person who did not like to talk.
The courtyard door opened a little; a senile, thin and short old man with grey head and squinty eyes asked in astonishment, "Who is Daye looking for?"
Letting out a cold humph, Xu Ziling reached out and pushed his palm against the man's face. Immediately the old man's eyes opened wide. While he was stepping back in shock, Xu Ziling stepped over the threshold, while also closing the door in passing.
"Laofu Yue Shan," he growled, "Where is An Long hiding?"
Hearing Yue Shan's name, the short old man's countenance changed. But before he had the opportunity to speak, An Long's voice came from the direction of the eastern wing, "It is indeed Old Yue. Please come in!"
The short old man stepped aside with his hands hanging by his side. Without even looking at him with the corner of his eyes, Xu Ziling walked over, upright and unafraid, toward the east wing in large strides. He said with a laugh, "Is An Pangzi [Fat An] wondering how Ol' Yue could find you here?"
An Long's voice, neither warm nor fiery, replied from the east wing, "What's so strange about it? As long as you are not dead, I have no doubt that you would come to Chengdu to enjoy the festivities; and once you are in Chengdu, how could you not look for me, An Pangzi? I also have your other old friend here. He had just told me that you helped Shi Qingxuan in dealing with him!"
Xu Ziling cried inwardly, 'What a close call!' In the scroll he left behind, Yue Shan referred to An Long as Fat An, but Xu Ziling was not sure if in the olden days Yue Shan really called An Long with this name, but now he knew had hit the nail on its head.
The east wing was pitch-black. By the time Xu Ziling entered the wing's living room, two pairs of penetrating gaze fell on his face at the same time.
"What a coincidence!" Xu Ziling nonchalantly said, "Which wind blew You Xiong to this place?"
In the dark hall, the other person besides An Long was surprisingly the 'Going Against The Tide' You Niaojuan.
You Niaojuan laughed eerily and said, "Why does Yue Dao Ba's [saber overbearing] voice become so hoarse and unpleasant to hear like this? Was it because during 'Huan Ri Da Fa' training you suffered a setback? And where did your Ba Dao [overbearing saber] go? The other day I did not believe it was you. Were it not for An Pangzi told me that all along you were secretly in love with Bi Xiuxin, I would not have understood."
Remaining calm, Xu Ziling sat down without any care in the chair by the window, opposite the two men; he said coldly, "Old You, are you still holding grudges because Ol' Yue wounded you the other day? Looking at how you did not make much progress, I'll say Zhu Yaofu [witch] is superior to you. That day in Luoyang, with just one look she knew that I have already abandoned my saber because I have mastered the 'Huan Ri Da Fa'. As for why the tone of my voice changes, it would be best if Song Que answer this question."
Chapter title: idiom, meaning harmful to each other's immediate interests and is difficult to achieve the goal (Baike Baidu)