Who could have thought that Xu Ziling actually was luring them to think and do exactly that? If the two were not fighting together, either one of them was more or less of the same level with 'Mei Ji' Sina. But working together, they were more formidable than Sina.
And because more and more demonic skill was emerging, if the real hand-to-hand fight continued, there was a possibility that Xu Ziling might have to use the skill that he kept deep at the bottom of his trunk to score victory. But then, there would be great possibility that Fa Nan and Chang Zhen, who had fought with him twice, would 'sense' that he was Xu Ziling, and that would be extremely worrisome.
It could be said that Xu Ziling's previous skill has been used out in fighting, and now he had to fight 'another' fight. In order to conceal his 'Xu Ziling' identity, he had to rack his brains to create new strokes, to use some kind of different style, so that others would not associate him with Xu Ziling. Inadvertently it had forced him to make another breakthrough and try to think from different angle.
As for the use of true qi within his body, he had become a master of many arts and crafts, and was able to transform all kinds of unimaginable magic tricks.
This time, naturally he must not use more than 50-percent of Tianmo Dafa; instead, he had to use the circulating qi method that he drew from the Jade Annulus of He Clan.
The sword swooped at the 'melting soul colored clothes' first, and then the left palm hit the head of Fa Nan's heavy steel staff.
It was precisely this split-second difference that determined who won and who lost.
In term of grasping the time, Xu Ziling was accurate and did not miss a hairsbreadth; otherwise, the one suffering the lost would be him.
Using soft to subdue soft, using hard to control hard.
The moment Chang Zhen's xiaohun caiyi was pricked by the long sword, unexpectedly her energy had nowhere to go; it was a terrifying feeling just like she was throwing a stone into the sea and saw it sank without any trace. Just as she was about to fly back, the long sword already turned into many sword flowers, like a violent storm coming to envelope her. Because practically there was no reaction force she could borrow, while her body was soaring high in the air, Chang Zhen violently clenched her teeth and unleashed the consummate skill of her school. The colored clothes rolled toward the enemy's sword at full force.
Xu Ziling's left palm chopped heavily on the steel staff, while at the same time he secretly performed Great Vajra Chakra Print.
Chang Zhen saw him dealing with Fa Nan with all his might, inwardly she was greatly delighted. Suddenly the sword flowers subsided. The enemy's sword has been wrapped tight by her colored clothes; hastily she applied her power to pull, thinking that as soon as the opponent divided half of his strength to deal with her, then Fa Nan's heavy staff strike would certainly inflict internal injury.
Who would have thought that when the long sword met the clothes, unexpectedly it felt as light as a feather without the least bit of strength? Inwardly she knew that she had fallen into a trap, but it was just too late.
Abundant, unfathomable innate true qi penetrated the staff and burst in, so that not only Fa Nan's attacking qi power was repelled back into his body, it also carried an additional gift.
Fa Nan let out a miserable grunt and staggered backward, and then he spurted two mouthfuls of blood. 'Thump!' By the time he fell on his butt on the deck, his countenance was so pale that he looked like a dead person.
Chang Zhen, who still had the long sword rolled inside her clothes, was still soaring in the air, but she felt unbearable discomfort that she nearly vomited blood. However, she was outstanding as well. Seeing Fa Nan met a disaster, her colored clothes brushing away, the long sword turned into a long rainbow, and shot back toward Xu Ziling, while she herself made a somersault midair and landed in front of Fa Nan.
Watching this, all the spectators on the ship were dumbstruck; nobody would have guessed that Evil Monk and Amorous Nun, whose name shook the Chang Jiang river basin, who ran amuck unscrupulously, would suffer big defeat in just one meeting.
Natural and unrestrained, Xu Ziling spun his body around, waiting for the long sword to flit near him, and grabbed the hilt of the sword with ease, before facing the two again and pointed his long sword toward them. Letting out a cold laugh, he said, "Get the hell out of here, as far away as possible. Otherwise, don't blame me for opening up the oath against taking lives."
'Opening up the oath against taking lives' was precisely the words that Fa Nan spoke just now, which Xu Ziling repeated verbatim. Secretly all the spectators were delighted.
Chang Zhen's eyes shot bitter resentment and hatred. Nodding her head, she said, "Very well! You win today! But you already provoked gargantuan trouble. Very soon you will know what regret is."
Wrapping her jade arm around Fa Nan's left flank, she propped his huge body up, and then with a tender shout she flew toward the dock, and in the blink of an eye disappeared into the distance.
Xu Ziling sighed inwardly. Yin Gui Pai was well known for 'the soul of a deceased has not yet dispersed' [idiom: the influence still lingers on] and was extremely difficult to deal with. Although in this battle he gained the victory effortlessly and easily, but if he provoked the opponent's elder-level martial art masters, while he had to protect Han Zenan's family of three, the situation would not be so optimistic.
Kou Zhong sat quietly by the window. The undulating tide of thought moved from the cherished memory of Song Yuzhi toward the two nights of struggle where he staked everything against Song Que.
He drew the Moon in the Well out of its scabbard. Under the slanting column of sunlight through the window, the blade flickered brilliantly.
All of a sudden he knew clearly that under Song Que's without-any-reservation, breaking-new-ground enlightenment, his cultivation in the saber way has taken an incomparable step forward.
The Kou Zhong who stepped into the Song Family's mountain city and the Kou Zhong who left the mountain city were as different as raw rock and precious jade. Although in term of size, outwardly these two are completely identical, but the contents being held inside were vastly different.
His essence, qi and spirit, and the precious blade in his hand integrated into one, being fused into one entity, reaching the marvelous realm of 'intention approaches the saber, the saber approaches intention'.
Although there was no master/disciple relationship between Song Que and him in name, there was master/disciple relationship between them in reality.
If Song Que had used the Heavenly Saber from the beginning, perhaps he would have been defeated and died violently early on.
Song Que put Kou Zhong in the danger spot where he was sure to be defeated first, and then, using life and death threat and pressure, he systematically enlightened him to coax his potential and inspire his spirit and wisdom, so that from a stone, he shed his old body and became jade.
This kind of hell-style training has made him fully improve his saber technique and his internal energy.
Upon reaching Jiujiang, he would go ashore and continue north to Xiangyang, to rendezvous with Xu Ziling. Originally he was going to take the boat up north, along the Great River and turn into Han River and continue on to Xiangyang. But this route would expose him too much. Right now, it was most important for him to keep his whereabouts a secret.
Taking advantage of these few days of peace and happiness on the boat, he would forge ahead vigorously to spur his advancement, to study the exceptional saber technique from Song Que, and fuse it thoroughly, to prepare himself well for the treasure hunt in Guanzhong later on.
In this instant, he completely forgot everything else. Apart from the Moon in the Well, there was nothing else in his mind.
Only after listening to everybody singing his praises did Xu Ziling manage to extract himself with difficulty and return to the cabin with Lei Jiuzhi in tow. Who would have thought that Han Family husband and wife's room was already empty?
Speechless, the two looked at each other.
Lei Jiuzhi spread out his arms and said with a wry smile, "They are good people; chances are they do not want to incriminate us, hence they just go away!"
Xu Ziling helplessly said, "We are already implicated; I just hope that the Heaven will help the worthy."
From behind, Lin Lang stuck his head in to take a glance, and said, "Somebody saw them sneakily disembarked from the bow, and fled along the river. But that route is very unsafe. They are so stupid; there is Gong Ye here looking after them, what are they afraid of?"
Rolling his eyes, Lei Jiuzhi asked Lin Lang, "Is there any decent casino in Badong?"
Lin Lang replied, "If you want to gamble, naturally the best is Yin Ru Ge ['just because' pavilion, see Chapter 6] in Jiujiang. Let's not mention the gamblers north and south sides of the Great River who are flocking in as if they are greedy, even people who do not like to gamble must experience it once. Furthermore, this is the time where Yin Ru Ge is holding their annual gambling meet."
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "We only have about a sichen here; how could there be enough time to gamble?"
Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, "I was just casually asking. If there is enough time, wherever we cast anchor, we might want to gamble there. Otherwise, you won't have enough opportunity to practice."
Lin Lang's heart was unbearably itchy, he said, "If you want to gamble, that is very easy. We have all kinds of gambling equipment on the boat; how about we play a couple of hands?"
Lei Jiuzhi put his hand on Lin Lang's shoulder and said with a laugh, "How could we have the nerve to win Lin Xiangzhu's hard-earned money? When we get to Zheng County, let the three of us form a partnership and gamble together until the sky faint and the earth dark. No matter how much we win, we will split it evenly three ways. I guarantee that when Lin Xiangzhu return to Wu Jiang [River Wu], you can bring a beautiful concubine into your big house."
Skeptical, Lin Lang said, "If it is that easy to win money, why do LaoGe still rush about painstakingly?"
Xu Ziling was not interested to listen to their groundless entanglement. He was about to return to his cabin when someone cut him off, saying, "Gong Ye, could you spare a moment to talk?"
Xu Ziling recognized him as one of the passengers on the ship; about thirty years old, looking a bit scholarly, handsome, educated and feeble, medium build, and wore traveling merchant attire. Nodding his head, he said, "Let's get in and talk inside."
The man followed him into the cabin, and then he introduced himself, "Xiaoren's [the lowly one] two-character surname is Gongliang, my lowly name is Ji, of Qinghua County. This time going to Jiujiang is to collect a sum of overdue debt. If Gong Ye is willing to help, I am willing to give half to Gong Ye. Ay! If I fail to collect this debt, I don't know what to do."
Inwardly, Xu Ziling was smiling ruefully; but listening to his sincerity, and looking at his upright-eyes-and-straight-nose honest appearance, he did not have the heart to flatly refuse. Without any choice, he asked, "What exactly is going on? Would Gongliang Xiong please tell me the detail? But you must not hide anything from me."
Gongliang Jie sighed and said, "This is what happened: for generations, our Gongliang family has been engaged in medicinal ingredient business. Five months ago, someone called Jia Chong came to order a large quantity of famous and valuable medicinal ingredients, saying that he would pay in gold. Thereupon we went all over the place to collect the goods. Once that's done, we delivered the goods, while receiving the gold. Who would have thought that although at that time it was clearly gold ingots, but when we got back, everything became rocks, so we knew we have been cheated. Jia Chong was actually jia chong [an impostor (play of words, different 'jia' characters)]. In order to pay for our debts of the medicinal ingredients, I already lost my family fortune, and have nothing at all."
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "Since he is a swindler, how could he let you know that he lives in Jiujiang?"
With worries splashed all over his face, Gongliang Ji said, "I am not sure whether it was good luck or bad luck coming right into my face, but a Jianghu friend told me that this man is Jiujiang's famous con-artist [orig. cheating stick] nicknamed 'dian shi cheng jin' [lit. touching stone and turn it into gold] Lai Chaogui. Gong Ye, please help Xiaoren administer justice."
Xu Ziling was about to reply, Lei Jiuzhi pushed the door and entered, saying, "Lai Chaogui is not just a big cheating stick, he is also a crook doing prostitution, gambling, drinking, bragging, and all kinds of immoral behaviors. When we get to Jiujiang, we'll fix him up!"