The two sides resumed their initial position of standing face-to-face against each other. Naturally Xu Ziling was unwilling to push others too far; thereupon he cupped his fist and said, "Both in terms of theory and practice, Ol' Gong basically did not have any confidence to surpass Sina Dangjia in three moves; I was merely utilizing my comprehension of the little plaything of troops deployment to dangerous situation, which I had hidden for many years. Whether we still want to continue, I'll ask Laolao to decide."
This remark could be considered giving the other side some face. After exchanging a glance with Sina, Xia Miaoying abruptly stomped her foot and said, "Defeat is defeat; there's no need for you to flatter us. We're leaving."
Behind the door was a long corridor zigzagging across the pond and flowerbed. He continued walking forward along the corridor, turning left and rounding right, while absorbing everything with his eyes. Green garden was everywhere; each step brought him to a different scenery, as well as unusual artistic concept.
At the end of zigzagging corridor was a hexagonal stone pavilion, located just in the dead center of a pond, which was connected to the winding corridor of the surrounding courtyard by a stone bridge.
The stone bridge was pointing at another entrance. Hidden from view was another open space, with an ancient tree towering to the sky, lush, big and sturdy, full of vitality.
Kou Zhong walked pass the stone pavilion, over the bridge and across the corridor, through the second layer of courtyard gate, where wide-open space suddenly appeared before his eyes. At the end was a magnificent five-bay wooden structure, with a locust tree, more than a dozen zhang tall, standing proudly in the middle of the courtyard, creating myriad of ambience, like a gauzed umbrella hiding the structure and the courtyard in its shade. Under the bright sun, the tree shade seemed to blend with the main structure into one entity, mutually enhancing each other's jagged silhouette to form a brimming-with-poetic-feeling still picture.
Kou Zhong felt a great sense of freedom. He walked slowly around the locust tree to fully enjoy the scenery before slowly climbing the white stone steps of the building, underneath a horizontal board with three characters 'Mo Dao Tang' [grinding saber hall] engraved on it.
On the vast open space inside the 'Mo Dao Tang', a man was standing in the middle of the hall with his back facing the door. There was no visible weapon on him. His build was straight like a javelin, with dark green and blue long gown draped over his body, high and steep, majestic like a mountain. His jet-black hair was tied into a bun on top of his head with a red ribbon. And he had his hands behind his back. Although Kou Zhong had not seen the outline of his five sense organs, he already felt the consider-oneself-unexcelled-in-the-world, the look-at-the-world-disdainfully-out-of-the-corner-of-his-eyes lofty spirit.
On the walls on either side of him hung more than a dozen treasured sabers in all different shapes and sizes. On the far side wall opposite the door, there was a huge rock, about a person's height - that looked like a stalagmite, dark and glossy, making the already peculiar atmosphere of the Mo Dao Tang even more hard to describe.
Kou Zhong was a man who did not follow conventions and was extremely daring, yet when he was in the presence of this outstanding personality, who was hailed as the number one saber expert in the world, he could not help trembling a little with fear. He sincerely saluted toward his back, saying, "Houbei [younger/later generation] Kou Zhong paying my respect to Fazhu!"
A gentle and pleasant to hear voice replied, "You are late!"
Stunned, Kou Zhong echoed, "I am late?"
Like a whirlwind Song Que turned around and coldly said, "You are at least one year late."
Kou Zhong finally came face to face with the 'Heavenly Saber' Song Que, whose name shook the heaven, who, since his debut, has never met his rival, the father of Kou Zhong's beloved.
Lei Jiuzhi pursued behind him into the cabin. Displeased, Xu Ziling said, "Why are you following me?"
Lei Jiuzhi closed the door to cut off other people's vision. Drawing close to Xu Ziling's back, he said in low voice, "Naturally I have an important matter I need to discuss with you."
Letting out a cold snort, Xu Ziling said, "You and I had no relation before, and will never have any in the future. If you are sensible, you would get out of my way; otherwise, don't blame Ol' Gong for being rude to you."
Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, "Gong Xiong, please do not scare me. You, this person, are cold on the outside, but hot on the inside. Moreover, you are not one who uses your strength to mistreat people. As long as you are willing to listen to a few words of mine, I guarantee that you will revise your point of view toward Xiaodi."
Xu Ziling turned around to face him. Nodding, he said, "You answer me first; just now, why were you so eager to stick out your head like that?"
Lei Jiuzhi's pair of eyes flickered with lively light, he spoke in heavy voice, "Because you are wearing the mask that my Enshi [benevolent master] crafted with his own hands."
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "Lei Xiong's eyesight is surely brilliant, but I wonder what's the honorable surname and great given name of your so-called Enshi?"
Revealing a hint of pained smile, Lei Jiuzhi dejectedly replied, "Although I regard Lu Miaozi Dashi [great master] as my Master, but he was never willing to acknowledge me as his disciple. Yet the reason of my, Lei Jiuzhi, accomplishment today is all thanks to him."
Xu Ziling was not moved emotionally at all; he calmly asked, "When did you see through that I am wearing a mask?"
"I was only guessing," Lei Jiuzhi replied, "My pair of ears have received special training. Not only they can hear the subtle difference of the dice rolling around inside the bowl, they can even eavesdrop someone else's word from a distance. When I found out that unexpectedly you did not know that Xia Miaoying was rushing over for you, I then guessed that you are not the real Gong Chenchun. As a matter of fact, you are a hundred times more superior to Gong Chenchun. Therefore, I deliberately walked behind your back to scrutinize the difference in skin tone between your neck and your face. Only then was I certain that you are wearing a mask. Also, only masks that came from Lu Shi's [master] miraculous hands could be without any flaw like this."
Xu Ziling sat down on the chair by the window. He spoke indifferently, "Since Mr. Lu had never acknowledged you as his disciple, what is your relationship with Mr. Lu then?"
Lei Jiuzhi sat down on the other chair. His face revealed a reminiscing look, he spoke slowly, "It happened more than thirty years ago. At that time I was only fifteen, I ran errands in one of the casinos in Guanzhong. One day Lu Miaozi came to gamble. Using an incomparable gambling technique he ferociously won a sum of money. When he was leaving, I ran behind him and begged him to teach me his technique to win money. Ay! At that time I thought he was just a gambler whose skill was more superior to others."
Xu Ziling could imagine Lu Miaozi's reaction. Smiling, he asked, "What did he say?"
Stroking his cheek, Lei Jiuzhi said, "He bestowed me a slap on my face, and then he roared in laughter and said, 'Those who seek instant benefit, like cheating and scheming to become rich, will forever be Dulin masters [play of words: Wulin - martial art forest, Dulin - gambling forest]. Since I have slapped you, let me pass on to you a two-word secret [of an art] method!'"
By this time Xu Ziling already believed Lei Jiuzhi at least seventy-, eighty-percent, because it was precisely the arrogant Lu Miaozi's style of speaking. Greatly interested, he asked, "What two words?"
Lei Jiuzhi sighed and said, "Precisely the 'quit greed', two words."
Xu Ziling burst in laughter. "Mr. Lu is absolutely right," he said, "What else can you tell me?"
Lei Jiuzhi said, "At that time I was dumbstruck and unable to reply, but Lu Shi continued, 'Relying on my gambling technique, I could easily win over a casino like this. But I only won fifty taels and left; this is precisely 'quit greed'. Only those who can completely put their greed under control will have the qualifications to win other people's money, so it was not a random talk at all.'"
In his mind, Xu Ziling drew the picture of Lu Miaozi's facial expression and his demeanor when he talked like that; thinking about the distant separation between Man and Heaven, a pang of pain appeared in his heart.
When it happened, Lu Miaozi's death did not bring him much grief; but afterwards, each time he recalled Lu Miaozi's voice and features and his smiling face, his grief, admiration, as well as the feeling of missing him, grew with each passing day.
On Susu, he did not even dare to think about her, because it was simply too heavy and painful!
Lei Jiuzhi's voice entered his ears, "When I thought that Lu Shi was abandoning me and was leaving, suddenly he came back and stroked my head. Muttering to himself, he said, 'You, this kid, have a very good skull; your are quite spirited as well. Since I am looking for a helper, how about you come with me for a period of time?' And that's how it started. Those were the happiest days of my life. He never taught me anything, but he never stopped me from watching and learning from the side. Too bad it was only for a short half-year period. Is he, the Senior, well?"
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, "Mr. Lu has become an immortal early on."
Lei Jiuzhi's entire body shook severely; tears flowed down his face.