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Anurman, it was a short chapter. Xiaohu, Lance, you guys are hilarious. You know what, since you have made matchless breakthrough that was hard to describe, you should know the story already, i.e. there is no need for me to continue. Ysabel, HPC, Sky, Jaya, you are welcome. (HPC, you upset the real competitors … ) Patudo, agree. Akolaw, if you put it like that, then this story is actually heavy with bromance.

I am not a diehard fan like you, but your comment made me think: how do you define 'wuxia' anyway? Is 'love story' a genre? Just for giggle, I checked Wikipedia for 'genre', and the literature genres include Comedy, Drama, Epic, Erotic, Nonsense, Lyric, Mythopoeia, Romance, Satire, Tragedy, Tragicomedy. No wuxia or love story. But then again, who decides these categories anyway?

If we go by 'wuxia' itself, 'wu' - martial art/military, in other word, 'fighting' , 'xia' - chivalry, can we say that Tolkien's Lord of the Ring a wuxia? It certainly has fighting and chivalry. You could argue that 'wuxia' is Chinese word. But how about people in China who speak only Chinese? How do they describe Tolkien? Is it not wuxia simply because it's not Chinese? How about Japanese samurai? How about Jin Yong's Deer and Cauldron? The main protagonist definitely does not have martial art skill, and we can barely call him a 'hero'. How about Gu Long's Lu Xiaofeng? IMHO, it is more detective story than 'martial art' or 'chivalry'. How about ancient classic like Three Kingdom or Water Margin or Xie Rengui? Are they wuxia?

Please understand that I am not trying to defend Jin Yong or Shen Diao Xia Lu (notice that the author himself used 'xia' in the title). Personally, I don't care much about the 'love story' part, since in almost every story (for adult consumption, at least), there will be some romantic aspect (granted, some are more than the other), but I wouldn't call it 'love story'. But it's just me. Enough for the musing.

Book 26 Chapter 1 - Grandma Tong Tian

Turning his head around, Xu Ziling looked at the uninvited guest who disturbed his tide of thought.

The man looked to be around thirty-five, thirty-six, tall and thin, with tapered face, and a piece of goatee at the end of his chin. It would appear that his face was like a hybrid between a horse and a goat. While walking up the road, he seemed to be trying hard to straighten his originally hunched back and stick out his chest and belly. Looking at his overall posture, he appeared even more like a Qin [dynasty] itinerant con man, who drifted around everywhere.

The clothes on his body were bright and neat, whether in terms of material or the craftsmanship, it was obviously expensive, fine goods. However, Xu Ziling saw through at first glance that this frivolous-looking gentleman was definitely not as simple as his outside appearance suggested.

His eyes were calm and collected, and nimble too, as if he was continuously looking for other people's weak points. The skin exposed outside his clothes appeared to have some kind of peculiar sheen, which was the outcome of a long-term true qi cultivation from internal school. His hands were slender and neat. Even within his exaggerated movements, there was a strong impression of his power and agility. The little finger of his left hand lacked its last segment, as if someone cut it off.

Without any trace of politeness he sat down beside Xu Ziling, and poured a cup of wine for him. Introducing himself, he said, "Xiao [small/little; I am under the impression there is missing character here] surnamed Lei [thunder]; but everybody calls me Lei Jiuzhi [lit. nine fingers] for so long that I have forgotten the real name that my Die and Niang gave me! LaoGe, may I ask your honorable surname and great given name?"

The passengers sitting on the other table stopped talking; like people who loved to enjoy watching a bustling scene, they watched Xu Ziling's reaction and listened attentively to the two man's conversation.

Remaining tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, "Who made you from having ten fingers to nine?"

Lei Jiuzhi's pair of eyes flashed with mysterious light, which quickly faded. Continuing his exaggerated gestures and expression, he said, "That is the cost I have to pay for playing before my skill was refined."

And then he leaned closer and spoke in low voice, "LaoGe, are you interested in making a large fortune?"

"Not interested!" Xu Ziling coldly replied.

Lei Jiuzhi revealed a 'I understand thoroughly' expression; leaning back to his seat, he raised his cup and said, "Good man! Let Lei Jiuzhi toast LaoGe with a cup!"

Inwardly Xu Ziling praised him as worthy to come out and mingle in Jianghu; he deeply understood the way to see the wind and sail speedily. Asking him to leave, Xu Ziling said, "If Lei Xiong is here just to tell me this, you may go as you wish."

Lei Jiuzhi laughed aloud and said, "Just let Xiaodi speak a few more words." And then he leaned over again and spoke in low voice, "LaoGe must think that I make my living in Jianghu; am I right?"

Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, "Who are you, then?"

With serious expression Lei Jiuzhi replied, "I gamble all over the place north of the Great River, someone who researches all kinds of gambling technique."

Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, "What difference does it have with Jianghu drifters?"

Putting his wine cup down, Lei Jiuzhi putting on an act, saying, "Naturally there is a big difference. Please listen to Xiaodi's detailed explanation."

Xu Ziling groaned inwardly that he had been duped; but it was too late to regret now.

Because the people on the other table could not hear their conversation clearly, they lost interest and continued their own previous endless chat [orig. discussing the heaven speaking about the earth].

Xu Ziling sighed and said, "I have zero interest in gambling. Lei Xiong, just find somebody else to listen to you."

Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, "Even though it is a minor art, it certainly has considerable gain! LaoGe does not have any interest just because you don't understand it. The fact is, gambling can spread for all eternity. Not only there are a thousand schools ten thousand categories, they are wide-ranging and profound. You only need to understand one or two, then you can reap infinite benefit throughout your life."

Sneering, Xu Ziling said, "In the end, doesn't it boil down to two words, win or lose? If I have zero interest in getting rich, why would I want to learn it? Besides, you and I are total strangers, why did Lei Xiong suddenly come to me to give me small advantages?"

Lei Jiuzhi's eyes flashing, he said, "LaoGe is indeed a sensible man. This place has too many people and miscellaneous ears, can we find another place to talk?"

Ever since he came to talked to him, Xu Ziling has not been able to figure out his school or which path he was coming from; this moment his heart was moved, he asked, "Last night, those men who intercepted the ship before we sailed, what dispute or grudges do they have against Lei Xiong?"

Lei Jiuzhi looked at Xu Ziling in astonishment; evidently he wanted to reassess Xu Ziling's expression. "LaoGe is indeed brilliant; your associative power is even more extremely rich," he spoke in heavy voice, "If I, Lei Jiuzhi, still cover up the left and conceal the right, LaoGe would definitely look down on Xiaodi. That's right! Those bunch of men last night were coming for me. They are from Chuan Nan Du Fang [South Sichuan Casino]."

Xu Ziling cheered inwardly. Unexpectedly, quite by accident he resolved the Han family's difficulty; the remaining problem was to let Han Zenan know that the bunch of men were not his enemy, it was just a misunderstanding.

Rising to his full height, he said, "Let's talk in my room!"

It was greatly beyond Lei Jiuzhi's expectation; he had never thought that after he exposed his own identity, the opposite party would become friendly instead. Momentarily he was stunned speechless.

Song Yuzhi threw a tender tantrum; she said, "You speak this kind of frivolous word to me again, I will ignore you forever!"

Kou Zhong laughed and said, "Zhizhi fell into the trap! I just wanted to see your touching appearance like this, hence I deliberately spoke those frivolous words. Hey! Back to the main point, which direction is your mountain city home?"

Song Yuzhi was so angry that her apricot eyes grew even bigger; folding her arms on her chest, she shook her head and said, "Don't even think that I am going to tell you."

Kou Zhong stepped forward and spoke in low voice to calm her down, "Everything ought to be considered in the big picture. Just think, if just because your Die engraved my name on the whetstone I got so scared that I run away to the wilderness while pissing in my pants, and another day I came to propose a marriage, since your Die is an outstanding hero, how could he want to have a good-for-nothing for a son-in-law? Trust me! Your Die just wanted to see the color of my guts. I guarantee that when I climb up the mountain city, he, the Senior, would open the main gate wide to welcome me."

Song Yuzhi nearly wanted to cover up her ears; sighing, she said, "Your boastful words are more unpleasant to hear than your frivolous words."

Kou Zhong proudly said, "This is precisely my, Kou Zhong's most valuable aspect to San Xiaojie; which is to enable San Xiaojie to touch things that you have never dreamed about before."

Song Yuzhi nearly wanted to reach out and pinch and snap his throat. Stomping her feet, she said, "Only ghosts would dream about those things. Whether you are a first class saber expert or ninth class lobbyist, I want you to get lost. I do not want to see you again."

Kou Zhong hastily smiled apologetically and said, "My bad! Zhizhi's genuine kind intention, I understand completely."

Song Yuzhi was taken aback, "What genuine kind intention?" she asked.

Kou Zhong leaned over to her ear and lowered his voice until it could not be lowered anymore. "You are afraid that your Die is going to kill me, hence you pretend to be heartless and told me to get lost! Am I right?"

'Pfft!' Song Yuzhi could not help giggling. Smiling wryly, she said, "I am really helpless against you. Your biggest shortcoming is that you don't have self-knowledge, and your skin is so thick; when you speak, I don't know what you are driving at. Ay! Just consider that I am afraid that you, Kou Shao Shuai, would really go up the mountain city to throw away your life!"

Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, "Is it not clear enough for you? If your Die really want to kill me, he could have made his move that night."

"This is just because you don't understand him!" Song Yuzhi said, "Die's conducts are always in and out of reason and outward appearance, difficult to speculate. There's no harm in telling you: Die one time asked me if I wanted to marry you, I expressed my determination, and then set up an oath in front of successive generation ancestors that I will not marry you. Therefore, Die practically will not regard you as future son-in-law."

Kou Zhong felt as if someone punched him on the stomach. Falling three steps back, with the color draining out of his face, he cried out involuntarily, "What?"

Xu Ziling took Lei Jiuzhi into his cabin. As they were passing Han Zenan, husband and wife's cabin, he intentionally raised his voice, "How did Lei Xiong incur those Chuan Nan Casino men's hatred so that last night they did not spare any effort in trying to stop the boat?"

Lei Jiuzhi cast him a glance, his eyes revealed a singular look, but he did not answer the question.

Xu Ziling praised him inwardly, knowing that this man was worthy to make a living in Jianghu, he was able to obtain clues from the way Xu Ziling raising his voice. But since his goal has been achieved, he did not bother to pursue this matter further.

At the same time, he focused his power into his ears, and was immediately able to hear the woman speaking to Han Zenan, "XiangGong [an old form of address for one's husband]! Did you hear that?"

Han Zenan merely responded with an 'Oh!'

Xu Ziling pushed the door open and said, "Lei Xiong, please sit down."

Without any trace of politeness Lei Jiuzhi sat into one of the two chairs by the window, and put the small wine jar casually on the table. After Xu Ziling sat down in the other chair, he sat up straight, as if he became another person altogether, dignified, exuding his strong presence. The tone of his voice changed from exaggerated to calm and collected. He sighed and said, "I really could not tell that LaoGe is actually a man who's willing to help others so much. A moment ago when I saw your interest in Han Family, husband and wife's affair, I thought you had another purpose, to the extent that I saw the color to determine the heart. But now I know that you are really good toward them."

More and more Xu Ziling felt that this man was really not simple; he was definitely not an ordinary Jianghu drifter. He spoke indifferently, "Since Lei Xiong knew that the Han Family, husband and wife mistakenly thought that Chuan Nan Casino men were their family enemy's pursuing troops, why didn't you point it to them to let them know? Aren't you harboring another evil intention?"

Lei Jiuzhi calmly said, "If I hastily talked to them, would they believe me?"

Nodding his head, Xu Ziling said, "Very well! We won't discuss that aspect anymore. But why does Lei Xiong look upon Ol' Gong?"

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