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Book 26 Chapter 4 - The Heavenly Saber Song Que

The handsome face without the least bit of blemish, the dazzling-like-shiny-precious-stone and in-high-spirits eyes under a clear pair of thick eyebrows, the wide forehead that showed above average intelligent, the melancholy hidden within the gentle facial expression that could move anybody's heart, but could also make people feel that the affection was so deep that it was hard to pin down.

Although frost had started to appear on Song Que's temples, there was not the slightest sign of aging. On the contrary, it actually increased his imposing manner as the lord of a prestigious school, a big clan, his elegance as a Confucian scholar, while also his intimidating power at the first glance, an unattainable impression. Combined with his well-proportioned elegant build and deep-pool-highest-mountain-peak posture, there was an intoxicating charisma of the finest martial art master, who considered himself unexcelled in the world.

He was about a cun taller than Kou Zhong. With his gaze sweeping him, Kou Zhong was overwhelmed with uneasy feeling as if he could not hide anything from this man.

Song Que raised his head to look at the beam of the building, while remaining tranquil and calm, he said, "Since Jin dynasty's Emperor Min was captured by Liu Yao the Huns [orig. Xiongnu], Western Jin dynasty fell, the world also fell into all-split-up-and-in-pieces situation. Since then Hu people [barbarians, non-Han people] wreaked havoc, until the Sui dynasty's Emperor Wen in his ninth year of reign exterminated the Chen, and the world returned to its unified state. During the two hundred and seventy years in between, demonic people held power, putting our Han people's orthodox way into chaos. Although the Sui dynasty reigned for barely thirty-eight years, and it ceased to exist by the time Yuwen Huaji murdered his superior Yang Guang in Yangzhou, such a short period of time opened up the golden opportunity for whoever is able to unify the world to accomplish much."

His gaze again fell on Kou Zhong's face, he let out a cold humph and said, "Shao Shuai evidently know how Yang Jian was able to obtain the world?"

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Kou Zhong said, "Must be the time has come and his luck has arrived?"

Song Que threw his head back in long laughter, "Well said," he said, "At the time the young emperor succeeded to the throne, Yang Jian was in a position of power; since the ancient time, there has never been one like Yang Jian who obtained the world quite easily. From the time Yang Jian started the secondary government until he seized the throne and established the Sui dynasty, from head to tail there were merely ten months. His success came fast, it has never been seen then and now."

And then he smiled and said, "Does Shao Shuai know why Yang Jian was able to accomplish his great undertaking so fast?"

Inwardly Kou Zhong was glad that he had read and reread Lu Miaozi's legacy scroll until he was familiar with it. He replied, "Incompetent opponents, Northern Zhou's [Dynasty (557-581)] monarch had not established power, thereupon Yang Jian was able to seize the momentum and rose up. This is just Xiaozi's [kid] view, Fazhu, please bestow directions."

Song Que nodded and said, "Shao Shuai is right, only you missed the most important point, which was the Han unification is on the rise again."

Finished speaking, his face showed a deep-in-thought expression; still with his hands behind his back, he strolled on Kou Zhong's left side, and stopped and stood motionless when he was about five paces behind Kou Zhong. His eyes emitted profound emotion, as he gazed at the locust tree in the courtyard.

He spoke glibly, "The reason Northern Wei [(386-534), founded by the Tuoba branch of Xianbei] was able to unify the north was simply because the Xianbei [or Xianbi, group of northern nomadic people] barbarians were brave and adept at war, practically Han people were not their match. But since the barbarians wreaked havoc in our Central Earth, our Han people are strong-willed, in the matter of life and death, we knew that if we did not strive for self-improvement, it would be difficult to defend ourselves. We must turn the wind to the esteeming of military skills, and to wash away the crumbling Confucian and literary cultivation that have been revered since the Emperor Wu [of the Han dynasty (141-87BC)]. Before the Northern Zhou was even one year old, the high-ranking military officers as the backbone of the army were all Han people, and Yang Jian was precisely the great general who grasped military leadership for many generations. It is thus clear that the reason Yang Jian was able to ascend the emperor's throne was indeed the inevitable outcome of the restoration and rise of the Han people's power."

Kou Zhong sighed and said, "Fazhu's view is very thorough. I have never thought that deeply about this issue. No wonder presently Central Earth's heroic and mighty men come forth in large numbers, the situation is prosperous and bustling with excitement."

Song Que spoke heavily, "But only two are worthy to be considered in my eyes; one is Li Yuan's second son Shimin, the other is you, Kou Zhong."

Kou Zhong's old face blushed; a bit embarrassed, he said, "Fazhu overpraised me!" But his eyes could not help looking at the whetstone that looked like a spirit tablet enshrined and worshipped at the end of the hall. Searching through more than a dozen names engraved on the stone, surprisingly he found that his name was carved on the highest place on the stone; he could not help feeling frightened.

Song Que's voice turned gentle, he spoke softly, "Since the Han dynasty was defeated and perished, the world continues to be put in the situation where the north and the south are standing opposite to each other, and the reason is simply because of the Chang Jiang acting as the natural barrier. Did Shao Shuai know that the Li Family of Guanzhong has already reached agreement with various hegemons in Bashu? If the Li Family is able to take Luoyang, then Bashu, under Xie Hui's leadership, will align their allegiance to the Li Family. At that time, because Bashu will belong to the Li Family, and Chang Jiang will no longer be natural defense, the south will fall into the Li Family's hands. As long as they have enough warships, the Li Family's main forces can just go west along the river, and then who would have power to resist them?"

Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air; his greatest fear was finally happening.

Shi Feixuan was indeed more formidable than magnificent army with thousands of men and horses; with no blood on the men's sword, she won half of the country for Li Shimin.

Not many people knew better than he about Wang Shichong's real situation. Even a seemingly impenetrable city like Luoyang was still far away from being Li Shimin's match.

Song Que sighed and said, "If a year ago you, Kou Zhong, could have momentum and prestige like today's, I, Song Que, would fully support you, I might even get through to Xie Hui to have Bashu stand on your side. Too bad the current situation has changed. Unless you make an oath in front of the whetstone that you will withdraw from the striving over the world, you can forget about leaving Mo Dao Tang alive today. Although Li Shimin has some barbarian lineage, by chasing the root and tracing the source, Song Que can still consider him a Han, so I'll let him tidy up this all-split-up-and-in-pieces terrible mess! However, were it not for the Li Family drew a clear dividing line with the Tujue, Ol' Song would never had made this decision."

Listening to this, Kou Zhong's scalp went numb. It was only now that he understood why his name was engraved on the whetstone, and why Song Yuzhi, using thousand ways, a hundred plans, was trying to stop him from seeing Song Que; it was definitely something that Kou Zhong had never expected.

Some kind of preposterous feeling bubbled up in his mind, Kou Zhong threw his head back and laughed heartily, saying, "Since that's the case, Kou Zhong would be happy to ask for advice from Fazhu's Heavenly Saber secret art. Please!"

Xu Ziling waited until Lei Jiuzhi regained his composure, and then removing his mask, he said, "I am Xu Ziling. It was not until Lei Xiong revealed your true feeling that I dare to believe Lei Xiong's words."

Lei Jiuzhi focused his attention to look at him. Lowering his voice, he said, "Carefully sailing the boat for ten-thousand years [a quotation from Zhuangzi (369-286 BC), a Daoist author (Baidu Zhidao, in Chinese)]. Xu Xiongdi's attitude is correct. Ay! I should have guessed early on that you must be Xu Ziling. I wonder if Ziling has another Yue Shan mask?"

Xu ZIling nodded to affirm.

After inquiring about Xu Ziling's relationship with Lu Miaozi, Lei Jiuzhi regretfully said, "Based on Ziling's astonishing strength, which is enough to kill the 'Heavenly Lord' Xi Ying, if you could help me, then where water flows, a canal is formed [idiom: when conditions are right, success will follow naturally]. However, of course I understand that Ziling has an even more important matter to attend to. Without any better option, I will have to find a way to resolve my problem."

"There's no harm in Lei Xiong giving me further explanation," Xu Ziling said.

Lei Jiuzhi muttered to himself irresolutely for half a day before saying, "I had a fight with Xiang Gui of Baling Bang. Also, although on the surface the Huo Family, father and son, have no relationship with the Xiang Family, the fact is that they are actually Baling Bang people in charge of their brothel and casino business in Bashu."

Xiang Gui was actually Xiang Yushan's ol' dad. Upon hearing this, Xu Ziling was greatly interested; he asked, "No wonder when Lei Xiong saw Huo Jitong coming to pursue us, you mistakenly thought that they are coming to bring you trouble. Could you tell me a bit more details?"

Lei Jiuzhi said, "This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly. There has always been rumored in Jianghu that not only Baling Bang has been going around both the Central Earth and abroad in search of beautiful women for that dead ghost Yang Guang, they are also secretly engaged in shameful shady business of trafficking those women. But so far nobody has been able to grasp any tangible evidence. It was quite by accident that I encountered this kind of activity at Yunnan's Dali region."

Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, "Wasn't that a thing of the past?"

Snorting disdainfully, Lei Jiuzhi said, "Such a lucrative business, how could their Xiang Family be willing to give up? In my opinion, even Xiao Xian himself is kept inside a drum, so it has become solely their Xiang Family's business. This way, even if in the future Xiao Xian's army is defeated, their Xiang Family could still enjoy glory, splendor, wealth and rank to the fullest. Since ancient times, prostitution and gambling, these two industries have never declined."

Inwardly Xu Ziling thought that whether it was for common good or personal reason, he and Kou Zhong absolutely must not let Xiang Yushan do this kind of devoid-of-conscience evil deeds and get away to enjoy endless riches, honor and peace.

"How could they keep this human trafficking business in secret this long?" Xu Ziling asked.

Lei Jiuzhi replied, "They have two ways to do that: first, they won't let any outsiders know that those brothels and casinos are actually under their banner. Secondly, they specifically go to remote places, by making threats and promises via lowly middlemen to buy young, oftentimes underage women, whom they trained and then supplied to brothels and depraved matchmakers in all parts of the country. Formerly there were corrupt bureaucrats of the Sui dynasty who covered up for them. But now that the whole country is in rebellion, nobody has the time to pay them any attention."

Xu Ziling asked, "What is Lei Xiong's plan to deal with them?"

Revealing a smile full of confidence, Lei Jiuzhi said, "I want to force Xiang Gui to get out and make a big bet against me."

Song Que passed slowly by Kou Zhong's side again. He smiled and said, "In terms of view, appearance and martial art, Shao Shuai is indeed qualified to be my, Song Que's opponent. However, there is one big flaw that will doom you to your death."

Looking at Song Que's imposing, outstanding-like-pine-and-cypress-on-lofty-mountain back was he walked over toward the whetstone, Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, "Fazhu is absolutely right; how could I, Kou Zhong, have any desire to kill my sweetheart's father?"

Song Que suddenly stopped. "In that case," he shouted sternly, "You might as well kill yourself and be done with it! If you don't want to abandon your saber, there is no other choice. Even if you train saber technique for a hundred years, you still cannot reach the pinnacle of the saber technique."

Sneering, Kou Zhong said, "How could there be any pinnacle on earth? If there was limit, wouldn't it represent some kind of stagnation?"

Song Que turned around like a whirlwind. The unusual light on his eyes flared out like the brightest star in the depth of the night, like a sharp arrows his gaze met Kou Zhong's, but his flawless complexion was still like a still water without any ripple, as he coldly said, "That is just the words of the ignorant. Everybody, in a certain time, has his own limit. Like leaping high with all one's strength; no matter how one exerts oneself physically, one could only reach certain height. But if one is carrying heavy object, the height of what one can achieve might be reduced. The rest is just nonsense."

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