Book 26 Chapter 5 - Keep on Fighting Despite Continual Setbacks
His eyes lit up, Lei Jiuzhi spoke in heavy voice, "Not concealing anything from Ziling Xiong, for the last dozen of years or so, it could be said that LaoGe has been gambling in casinos all across the country, big and small. When people say 'Bei Lei Nan Xiang' [lit. northern thunder southern fragrance], the 'northern thunder' is referring to me, Lei Jiuzhi [reminder: his surname literally means thunder], and the 'southern fragrance' is naturally Xiang Gui [his surname literally means, you guess it, fragrance]. Even without this human trafficking affair, I have always wanted to have a showdown on the gambling table against Xiang Gui."
Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, "Even if you could defeat him on the gambling table, what does it have to do with his human trafficking business?"
Lei Jiuzhi explained, "Two years ago Xiang Gui publicly performed the washing hand in golden bowl ceremony [i.e. retiring]; he would no longer pay attention to the affairs in Jianghu. He also put on an act of closing many casinos and brothels, which everybody knew to be operating under his banner. But actually he was pulling wool over people's eyes, so that those who intend to seek him would lose the trail. And now nobody knows where Xiang Gui lives. But if I could lure him out, perhaps we could find clues from him. With such a big business, there must be small-hill-like piles of account books, roster, and so on, recording all settlements and transaction. As long as we can make it public, Xiang Gui's evil empire will crumble immediately, and he will be a contempt of the world."
Xu Ziling was still confused, "Since he has washed his hand in golden bowl, how could he eat his own words and come out to have a showdown against Lei Xiong on the gambling table?"
Lei Jiuzhi said, "His washing hand in golden bowl is merely a pretense; the fact is that within the Xiang Family, the one with most ambitions is his son, Xiang Yushan. I hear that recently he left Xiao Xian and turned his effort to expand the family business. As for the real reason, opinions differ. One of those opinions says that he had offended some opponent whom nobody dares to provoke, hence he needs to conceal his track. Ha! If even Xiao Xian is helpless to protect him, the disaster he invited upon himself must not be a small matter."
"Let's talk about that later," Xu Ziling said, "Could Lei Xiong tell me how you are going to lure Xiang Gui, father and son, out of their hiding?"
Lei Jiuzhi thought deeply for half a day before answering, "Only by winning big over Xiang Gui until he loses his cool will he be willing to come out to bet against me."
Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling said, "How would you know that the casino is operated by him?"
Lei Jiuzhi smiled and said, "Every casino has its own many taboos, layout and tricks. As soon as I enter the casino and make a round, I will know which family or which Sect presided over the plan, you can forget about deceiving me. Right now I already win big in Xiang Family's casinos one by one, and each time I appear in different disguise; I must have already provoked Xiang Gui's attention, hence I mistakenly thought that Huo Jitong was coming to settle the score with me. I don't know if it was to deal with you, but in recent years he spends a lot of money to invite and hire martial art experts from various regions in order to increase his strength, but at the same time it also makes my situation very dangerous."
"Since that's the case," Xu Ziling said, how would your plan work? Xiang Gui practically does not need to face Lei Xiong on the gambling table; he only needs to send his martial art masters to use force to deal with you. Perhaps he would even be able to recover all the money that you won from him earlier."
With a card up his sleeve, Lei Jiuzhi said, "Naturally it won't be that simple. Currently, I have stirred up the nest enough that the casinos under his banner are jittery [orig. wind sighing and crane calling] and anxious that they are unable to carry on even for a single day. It is critical for him to resolve this situation, and it's not me who is anxious whether he would come out to bet against me or not. I only need him to openly issue a challenge to me. Of course it has to be handled according to Jianghu rules. But before it happens, I have to be exceptionally careful to preserve my life. Hence the reason I previously invited you to work with me."
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, "Whether it's for public or personal interests, both Kou Zhong and I are willing to deal with this matter. How about we wait till we see Kou Zhong before discussing the details?"
Greatly delighted, Lei Jiuzhi said, "With Ziling and Shao Shuai's help, the Xiang Family won't be able to escape this calamity. Let me explain in details the gambling techniques that I learned over the years to Ziling."
Surprised, Xu Ziling said, "It won't be me who's going to gamble, why would you want to teach me?"
Revealing a bit of sly smile, Lei Jiuzhi said, "Since you are my assistant, how could you not understand a word of gambling technique [orig. does not even enter a single aperture of one's head]?"
When he woke up from his deep meditation, he was unable to see the sun anymore, since it has already dropped behind the courtyard wall. A flock of birds was frolicking and twittering noisily inside the dense shade of the locust tree leaves, producing unending 'zi zi cha cha' racket.
Nevertheless, his entire body felt relax and peaceful. After surviving the ocean, this was the second time that he exhausted his true qi, but this time he only needed a little more than two sichen [i.e. 4 hours] to fully recover, and his true qi was surging even faster, more refined and pure; proving that his previous inference was correct.
If his true qi was exhausted, when it recovered, it would grow even more fantastic.
To average people, this kind of situation rarely happened. What usually happened was that when the true qi could no longer continue, for example when one's strength was exhausted during fierce battle, one would end up dead. Only a few people could recover as fast as he did.
Last time, when he was in the ocean, he exhausted his true qi because he was using inner breathing while diving under water. This time, it was due to Song Que's world-shaking, continuous saber technique that made his strength exhausted, his spirit weary, but it also made his true qi grew faster after being scattered and recovered.
In the past, even when facing opponent as powerful as Wanwan, he still had gaps to recover his qi; but Song Que's heavenly saber was just like gigantic waves in the angry ocean, so that even a sliver of time to reconcile his breathing was difficult to seize.
Encountering such an opponent, all he could do was to have desperate contest to see whose qi and meridians would last longer. Yet now, evidently he was far below Song Que.
But this was not possible. He, Kou Zhong, has always been young and vigorous. What he trained was the 'Secret to Long Life' plus the Jade Annulus of He Clan, two great mystery-within-mystery, wonder-on-top-of-wonder - innate true qi. Even if his maturity level could not surpass Song Que's, but it was inconceivable that when the opponent still had abundant, with plenty leftovers - true qi, he would fall down first.
There must be some other crucial point.
Thinking to this point, a divine light flashed in his mind.
Song Que's voice came through, "Shao Shuai, please come in. This time, if you could block eighty saber strikes, Ol' Song would let you think one more night."
Kou Zhong cried out for his Niang inwardly. Just now the battle was just around thirty saber strikes, and he was hacked that he rolled out of the Mo Dao Tang. And now he will have to take eighty more saber strikes, chances are he would not even have the luck to roll out the hall.
But things have come this far, what could he say? Springing up, upright and unafraid he entered the Mo Dao Tang, which looked like a whale opening up its mouth ready to swallow him.
Inside the darkening big hall, Song Que was standing erect, his right hand was grabbing the scabbard, while his left hand slowly pull the long saber out of its sheath.
Focusing his power into his eyes, Kou Zhong looked closer, and saw the saber blade was thin like satin, soft and nimble like feather, while exuding some kind of bluish, gleaming luster. If he had not seen it with his own eyes, he would not have believed that there was such man-made treasure in the world.
Immediately half of Kou Zhong's heart turned cold. The ideas he thought earlier of dealing with Song Que was entirely based on how to cope with his thick-backed saber; who would have thought that unexpectedly Song Que exchanged his weapon with an entirely different treasured blade? It was not difficult to infer that this weapon would use different kind of saber technique, so that the countermeasure he had thought up would completely come to nothing, and definitely could not be used anymore.
Song Que caressed the blade of the saber with his eyes. He spoke softly, "This saber is called Shuixian [lit. water immortal; legendary aquatic immortal]. Based on this saber's characteristic, I created 'Tian Dao Ba Jue' [heavenly saber eight secrets (of an art)]. Each secret consists of ten strikes, for a total of eighty saber strikes. The saber is ruthless, Shao Shuai must be careful!"
Kou Zhong pulled the Moon in the Well. Immediately yellow glow flared out. With neither happiness nor anger showing off of his face, he spoke indifferently, "I wonder if these eight secrets have any pleasant-to-hear names; would Fazhu let me know, so that my ears will be opened?"
Song Que's eyes moved away from the treasured blade Shuixian to look at Kou Zhong, but he laughed involuntarily and said, "What do you mean your ears will be opened? But the way that you don't follow traditional conventions is precisely your strong point. Since my debut, I, the Heavenly Saber Song Que, have never had anybody dared to cross blades with me, without yielding the least bit, able to meet more than thirty saber strikes head on, with the cost of just a mouthful of blood. It was the reason I made an exception by letting you rest before continuing the battle, not that I changed my mind by sparing your life."
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "Surprisingly Heavenly Saber Song Que can speak much superfluous words; when did I ever expect Fazhu's saber to show any leniency? By saying that, could it be because your intention to kill me is not firm enough that you have to say it out loud to convince yourself?"
Song Que was slightly startled. And then he nodded and said, "Your comment is not without any reason. If I say that Yuzhi has no influence in my determination to kill you, I would be lying to you. I wonder if Shao Shuai would be willing to reconsider Ol' Song's advice to you about quitting this vying-for-the-world business?"
Laughing in spite of himself, Kou Zhong said, "Fazhu still cannot figure out what kind of man I, Kou Zhong, am?"
After staring closely at him for half a day, Song Que spoke in astonishment, "If you die in here, what world are you going to strive for? The so-called good death is not as good as ugly living. Even though you are not afraid of death, the fact is that such death is completely meaningless."
Shrugging his shoulders elegantly, Kou Zhong said, "I can only blame Fazhu for not being good. Since you made the agreement about eighty saber strikes, I am not afraid to tell you that Xiaozi [this kid] practically does not believe that Fazhu can slaughter me within eighty saber strikes. With one more night of consideration, perhaps tomorrow I will be able to walk off without a second thought for those I leave behind!"
Song Que casually tossed the scabbard away, his left hand raised the saber high, he threw his head back in laughter and said, "Very well! Since ancient times, hero came from the youth. The first style of 'Tian Dao Ba Jue' is called 'Tian Feng Huan Pei' [heavenly wind ring/hoop girdle ornaments]. The artistic conception is a fairy going back and forth high in the clouds, riding the wind. Although we cannot see her, we can hear the clear heavenly music of her resounding hoop girdle ornaments."
Kou Zhong sighed and said, "Really worthy to be the first style the Heavenly Saber created. Just by hearing the name, I know it is a marvelous move like a divine dragon that we can see the head but not the tail. Fazhu, en garde!"
Having learned a lesson from his previous mistakes, he did not dare to let Song Que gain the initiative by striking first.
Of course, facing such a terrifying enemy, he did not dare to advance rashly either. Presently he raised his saber and pressed forward, but his eyes were fixed on Song Que.
An enormous saber qi immediately burst forth toward Song Que; cold qi permeated the hall.
Astonished expression flashed through Song Que's eyes. Nodding his head in praise, he said, "No wonder Shao Shuai spoke conceited nonsense. Turns out not only your power has recovered completely, you even made outstanding progress. It is indeed extremely rare."
Kou Zhong suddenly rushed forward and swept the saber across, turning it into yellow light, swiftly cutting into the pit of Song Que's stomach; fierce and powerful like lightning flashes.
Standing unmoving like a mountain, Song Que watched until the Moon in the Well was only about a chi away from his chest before swiftly moved backward, while the thin-bladed Water Immortal in his hand turned into thousands of blue gleaming saber light enveloping Kou Zhong, along with his saber, inside. The saber technique was exquisite beyond compare, and was incredibly difficult to believe.
Inwardly Kou Zhong knew that the turn of events was not too encouraging; he also knew that the fast, erratic saber technique was practically unfathomable, and was beyond his ability to understand it well.
The saber wind screamed all around him. Kou Zhong fiercely gnashed his teeth. In this critical moment where his life was hanging on a thread, he was relying purely on his intuition to guess where Song Que's murderous aura was, where the murderous aura was the strongest, and then, turning the complicated into simplicity, his body following his saber, he launched one saber strike.
After one clear ring, blue light and yellow light clashed continuously.