Book 26 Chapter 9 - Meeting Again at Different Place
This would be Kou Zhong's third visit to Jiujiang.
The first time was the trip to assassinate Ren Shaoming, which propelled his and Xu Ziling's fame of fighting prowess, which inspired awe throughout the empire.
The second time was on their way to break the siege on the Flying Horse Ranch, where they had to pass through this city, and accidentally rescued back Luo Fang.
Because this place was within Xiao Xian's sphere of influence, Kou Zhong had to be extra careful. Not only he put on the mask that transformed him into a full-bearded man with aquiline nose, he also wrapped a piece of cloth around the Moon in the Well's scabbard, which was a common practice at that time, hence it did not look so out of place.
Although the Song Family had good relationship with Xiao Xian, but during this time, Kou Zhong did not dare to disembark at the dock; he instructed the Song Family disciples who took him there to go about a li downstream from Jiujiang before letting him off, and then he rushed along the coast toward Jiujiang.
His plan was that after reaching Jiujiang, he would look for a passenger ship going along the Chang Jiang to the north toward the Han River and continued on to Xiangyang. Not only it would save him energy, he was hoping, relying on his quick mouth, to get familiar with the other passengers on board, and then enter the city together, so that he would not attract any attention.
Very soon he was already outside the city wall of Jiu Jiang.
Jiujiang was an important city along the water way of Yangtze River; it was prosperous and bustling with activities. On the coastal area moored nearly a thousand ships and boats, big and small, connected by sampan [flat-bottomed wooden boat]; their sail and banner filled the sky. On the shore, mule carts and horse carriages going back and forth in unending stream.
Xiao Xian's Great Liang Dynasty's army were setting up checkpoints in strategic places and intersections, the security was very tight, the situation was quite intimidating.
Jiujiang City was the focal point of the struggle between Xiao Xian's Liang Army and Lin Shihong's Chu Army. Whoever could control this highly strategic city would be equal to having the ability to choke the throat of the Great River and the waterway west of Lake Poyang.
Currently it had fallen into the Liang Army's hands. Even if Lin Shihong could control Poyang and the waterways of the south, he could advance neither to the west nor the north; hence he was unable to move a single step.
To the east there were Du Fuwei, Li Zitong, and Shen Faxing, which made it even more difficult for Lin Shihong to advance even for a cun. However, since Zhu Jiang [sic] and Xiao Xian became enemies, after many battles, both sides' strength suffered considerable injury, hence the Chu Army, who, all along, had been under pressure from Xiao Xian that they could not breathe, was beginning to get restless.
According to the Song Family's intelligence, Lin Shihong was building up his navy in Lake Poyang, with the intention of invading Jiujiang.
Kou Zhong carried a pass of safe conduct issued by the Song Family, so he entered Jiujiang without any difficulty at all. As he was going down the memory lane, unconsciously his thoughts and feelings were stirred.
After seven days of cultivation in hiding, not only he was able to fuse and thread together the saber technique he learned from Song Que, taking advantage of the rarely-found leisure time among his busyness these days, he even went one step further by assimilating it with the real combat experience he gained for the past few years, into a comprehensive and systematic thought.
By the time he left the boat, he felt completely brand new, as if in the cultivation of the saber way, it was only this moment that he could consider to be great achievement.
He was about to find an inn to stay for the night, when a horse-drawn carriage, which had just entered the city, passed by his side. He heard a faint female voice speaking inside the carriage, and Kou Zhong's heart shivered slightly. The voice sounded familiar, but momentarily he was unable to recall to whom the voice belonged to.
Even more baffling was, why, on this noisy big street, crowded with people and vehicles to bursting point, he was able to distinctly hear the voice inside a carriage speeding past? In the past, this was practically an impossibility.
His heart was moved, he decided to follow the carriage closely.
From the north gate, the target carriage was traveling southbound along the main street, and then turned into another big street heading east.
Focusing his power into his ears, Kou Zhong was able to hear two women talking inside the carriage. He heard that quite familiar female voice saying, "We have investigated Gong Chenchun's background; he must be the martial art master who many years ago ran amuck for a period of time around YunGui region. Afterwards, for some unknown reason he offended many people, and disappeared without any trace. Unexpectedly this time he returned to Jianghu and has become that formidable. From the saber scar on his face, he earned the nickname 'Dao Ba Ke' [saber scar guest]."
Kou Zhong's heart was shaken; could it be that she was talking about Xu Ziling's disguise of the Scar-faced Hero?
Another female voice coldly said, "Facing Fa Nan and Chang Zhen, he was able to inflict heavy injury on Fa Nan in just one move, so his martial art skill has reached the universally-shocking level. How could such person suddenly appear in Jianghu without any rhyme or reason? I wonder if he is Xu Ziling in disguise? Both he and Kou kid have the ability to change their appearance."
'Wonderful!' Kou Zhong cried inwardly. Not only he was able to confirm that this Gong Chenchun was indeed Xu Ziling, but also because of the mention of Fa Nan and Chang Zhen's names, he was able to guess that the woman must be Bai Qing'er; and the other was a Yin Gui Pai elder, with whom he has had predestined affinity to battle in Luoyang, Wen Caiting.
How could there be such a coincidence?
Bai Qing'er said, "At first I also had the same suspicion, because the time and the place were quite fitting. But according to the latest intelligence, this Gong Chenchun is a hundred percent gambling ghost; wherever the boat stop, there he would go gambling, and his gambling method is quite ruthless. Do you think Xu Ziling could be this kind of man? In any case, when his ship arrives tonight, we can ascertain his foundation."
Hearing that, Kou Zhong's confidence was immediately shaken. Nobody knew Xu Ziling better than he. Not only Xu Ziling was not good at gambling, he did not even understand gambling.
Apparently Wen Caiting was also persuaded by Bai Qing'er; she said, "According to what you said, he can't be Xu Ziling. But no matter who he is, capturing Xiaochang back is secondary; Zhangmen Shijie issued strict order to eliminate this man at all cost. Do you have any information on your Bian Shishu [martial uncle]? I haven't seen him since we parted in Chengdu."
Bai Qing'er sighed and said, "Under An Long and You Niaojuan's joint attack, Bian Shishu received serious internal injury; fortunately Shijie came in time to rescue him and sent him to a secret place to recuperate. Wen Shishu may set your heart at ease."
This moment the carriage turned into a mansion. Kou Zhong did not dare to recklessly charge inside, so he quietly left. At the same time, he was inwardly happy. Yin Gui Pai assembled their manpower here to deal with this gambler called Gong Chenchun. This guy must be very formidable that he could alert Zhu Yuyan to send martial art master of elder level to deal with him. Could it be that he had three heads and six arms?
By this time, just like Wen Caiting, he did not believe that 'Ba Lian Ke' [scar-faced guest] was Xu Ziling's 'ba lian daxia' [Scar-faced Hero]. He figured that he would stay one night in Jiujiang. If this Gong Chenchun did not come tonight, he might try to find Yin Gui Pai's lair and strike them [feminine] and put them in a sorry state. The most important thing was naturally to test the saber technique that Song Que imbued on him.
Thinking to this point, his mood was improving tremendously.
He had just entered the main street leading to the north gate when a group of riders galloped into the city. The leader was unexpectedly the Gang Leader of Jukun Bang, with whom he has had endless gratitude and grudges entanglement, Yun Yuzhen.
Kou Zhong had thought of the possibility of coming across her here, but he never expected that he would see her as soon as he entered the city. New animosity and old hatred rushed forth in his heart, he quietly ran after them.
Xu Ziling was still deep in thought while facing the beautiful scenery of the Three Gorges when Lei Jiuzhi pushed the door and entered in. Sitting down next to him, he said, "There's still one sichen before we arrive in Jiujiang. Lin Lang might make arrangement for us to stay in an inn that have some connection with them. Tonight we are going to kick the gambling ghost Zha Hai's gathering place."
"How do you feel about Gongliang Ji's character?" Xu Ziling asked.
Gongliang Ji was the medicinal ingredient businessman who was cheated by the con-artist Lai Chaogui until he lost his family fortune.
Lei Jiuzhi said, "I asked Lin Lang, Gongliang Ji was telling the truth. Gongliang Family is big philanthropist, famous in Qinghua region; they give away medicine to poor people. Therefore, although their medicinal ingredient business is very big, their family property is not so much. Wu Jiang Bang's Sha Laoda [big boss] is sending him to Jiujiang without charging a single cent. Not only that, he also instructed Lin Lang to plead with people who have some face within the gangs and societies in Jiujiang to help, but naturally they won't be as good as our Gong Ye's rough hand and strong fist."
After hanging around each other for many days, the two men got along so well that they did not stand on ceremony anymore.
Xu Ziling said, "I want to take care of Gongliang Ji's rotten account first before going to the casino."
Lei Jiuzhi said, "This is called 'the money is in the bandit's hand, once we go, there is no turning back'. Killing him is not going to make any sense. It would be better if we could win Gongliang Ji's money back on the gambling table."
"Aren't you contradicting yourself?" Xu Ziling crossly said, "If he already squandered away the money he cheated from him, then what's the difference between using blade or using gambling table? In the end we won't get the money back."