Chapter 7 - The Wind and the Rain in Nanyang
The four men stepped out to the street. Noticing that the Tian Kui Pai disciple Xie Xianting's condition was much better, Xu Ziling let go of his hand and said, "Xiao Xiongdi, why don't you go back?"
Tuli added, "It's very easy for those ladies of the pleasure house to stir up argument and jealousy; it would be best if Xie Xiaodi don't go there too often."
Xie Xianting's delicate face blushed; hanging his head down, he said, "Thank you three Daxia [great hero] for helping me, but Xiao Wan and I did not know each other from the pleasure house; we really love each other. Ay!"
Kou Zhong lightly patted his shoulder and said with a laugh, "If you don't have any romance, then you are being a young man in vain. But the most important thing is to preserve your life; if you lose your life, you can't have any romance. Do you want us to walk you back?"
Xie Xianting's handsome face turned cloudy and clear indeterminately. It was only a while later that he made up his mind and said, "I was wondering if three Daxia would do this kid a very big favor: you must never tell Da Shixiong about this matter."
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "How could paper contain fire? We inflicted heavy losses to Luo Rongtai; he will not let this matter drop. You ought to immediately tell your Da Shixiong everything, so that you and he can make adequate preparation."
Tuli asked, "Is Lu Zhong Laoshi not in Nanyang?"
Immediately Xie Xianting's eyes turned red, with tears in his eyes, he hung his head low and spoke in distress, "Somebody injured Shifu."
Hearing that, the three looked at each other. Somebody with an old name in Jianghu like Lu Zhong, people usually did not talk about the level of his martial art skill, rather, they would talk about his rank and status. Even somebody whose martial art skill was stronger than his would not dare to provoke him unnecessarily, yet now somebody did come to provoke him. From this, it could clearly be seen that Nanyang, which on the surface looked tranquil, the internal struggle within it has actually reached a white-hot level. No wonder Luo Rongtai dared to publicly bully Tian Kui Pai disciple.
Wrapping his arm around Xie Xianting's shoulders, Kou Zhong pulled him into a side alley to talk. "Who might be that audacious?" he asked.
Wiping his tears with his sleeve, Xie Xianting spoke with indescribable grief and indignation, "It's that traitor Ji Yinong."
The three were stunned, "Who's Ji Yinong?" they asked.
Xie Xianting could not help asking, "Three Daxia are new here? Ji Yinong is the Hui Zhu [society master] of Yang Xing Hui of the three sects, four sects and one society. For the past few years, he colluded with Tuan Jiang Pai, Chao Shui Bang [River Chao gang], and Hui Yi Bang [grey clothes gang], conspiring to replace Yang Zhen, the Senior's Da Longtou position. Jia Shi [lit. family master, i.e. his own school's master] made a supreme effort to oppose, hence they regard him as a thorn in their side. The most hateful thing was that he invited outsiders to do the deeds for them. On the surface, it looked like it has nothing to do with this matter, but those with discerning eyes could immediately tell that Ji Yinong is the mastermind behind this."
"Who actually injured him?" Xu Ziling asked.
Xie Xianting angrily said, "That man said that his surname is Yun, but nobody knew which school or sect he came from."
After pondering deeply for half a day, Kou Zhong said, "You'd better go back to your school before talking about this more. In my opinion, you shouldn't conceal what has just happened. Otherwise, when Luo Rongtai's men come for revenge, your martial brothers might be caught unprepared."
Hanging his head, Xie Xianting said, "Daxia's lesson, I will obey."
And then, looking at the three, he said, "May I know three Daxia's honorable surname and great given name, so that Xiaodi could report it when I get back?"
Xu Ziling smiled and said, "About how we met Ying Xiong, it is really not convenient to discuss randomly. When you go back, just describe what we look like, Ying Xiong would immediately know who we are."
The three returned to the inn and crowded inside the small, narrow room. They were all amused.
Sitting on the couch, Kou Zhong pulled his mask and casually tossed it to the side. Lying down on his back, he sighed and said, "I don't care his mother's whether our track is exposed, we'd better hurry to Guanjun immediately, to see whether Li Yuanji would dare to follow us."
Xu Ziling collapsed on his left side. Thinking deeply, he said, "This is called a thief lacking in confidence. This place is not Li Family's territory at all, how do you think they obtain the information? Supposing they come in contact with Huo Qiu, and supposing Huo Qiu really possesses great magical power, able to know everything that is going on in Nanyang, he will still need some time to speculate who'd taught Luo Rongtai some lesson. We have plenty of time to deploy our troops."
Tuli, who was sitting on the only chair in the room, nodded and said, "Ling Shao is right. Tonight we need to get a feel of Huo Qiu's foundation first, and tomorrow morning we'll make our moves separately, to see whether Li Yuanji and Yun Shuai's men really enter the city, and then we can leisurely decide what we are going to do."
Raising both hands, Kou Zhong groaned, "Out of three sects, four sects and one society, we know Tian Kui Pai, Luo Rongtai's Tuan Jiang Pai, Ji Yinong's Yang Xing Hui, and then there are Chao Shui Bang, Hui Yi Bang, as well as Da Longtou Yang Zhen's Nanyang Bang. What are the other one sect and one gang?"
Tuli replied, "It's Jing Shan Pai [Mount Jing Sect] and Zhen Yang Bang. Shao Shuai's memory is indeed not bad; you only heard it once and you'd remember."
Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, "I remember it until my head spins. I really don't understand what they are fighting about? If Nanyang's gangs and sects are all split up and in pieces, the happiest person would be Zhu Can."
"Someone's coming!" Xu Ziling suddenly said.
They heard someone was coming their direction; the footsteps were light and even, a sign that whoever was coming, his foundation was quite good, hence the reason it triggered Xu Ziling's alertness.
The footsteps stopped in front of their door, followed by a knock on the door, and Ying Yu's voice came from the outside, "Ying Yu's requesting an audience!"
Tuli sprang up and pulled the door open to let Ying Yu into the room. Xu Ziling amiably patted the space at the edge of the bed between he and Kou Zhong, telling him to sit down.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by favor from superior, Ying Yu sat up straight before saying, "Xianting really did not make any progress, unexpectedly he followed others' example to have fun with pleasure house's ladies. Fortunately three gentlemen pulled your saber to render assistance; otherwise I do not dare to imagine the outcome."
Twisting his waist to sit up, Kou Zhong said with a laugh, "Gentlemen are fond of sweet, fair, and graceful wise and virtuous lady; love does not have established rules or social class boundary. In my opinion, Xianting and Xiao Wan genuinely love each other, otherwise Luo Rongtai did not need to resort to force to break them up."
Ying Yu was slightly stunned; a bit hard to accept, he merely shook his head. If it were not Kou Zhong, whose name shook the land under the heaven, perhaps he would have refuted it early on.
Kou Zhong warmly wrapped his arm around his shoulders; in all seriousness, he presented his analysis, "There are only three things that pleasure house ladies love. Tell me, does Xianting have gold?"
Ying Yu shook his head.
Ignoring Xu Ziling and Tuli's expression and quizzical gaze, Kou Zhong continued asking, "Is his martial art skill high? Does he have any other special skill?"
Ying Yu did not understand why Kou Zhong asked him this string of questions; he continued shaking his head with a blank stare.
Kou Zhong laughed and said, "This is called: since Xianting lacks gold, and he also lacks skill, the one that Xiao Wan loves must be his person. Since they are affectionate and true to each other, if you, as the Da Shixiong try to break them up, won't it mean you are cruel and heartless? I want you to think calmly: if someone is trying to break up Ying Xiong and your honorable Shimei, how would you feel?"
Ying Yu's face immediately turned beet red. "But there is practically nothing between me and Xia Shimei," he stammered, "Ay! What should I say?"
Kou Zhong seriously said, "We are all brothers, Ying Xiong must tell me honestly, do you like your Xia Shimei?"
Tuli and Xu Ziling did not know whether to laugh or cry. This moment, there were headaches, anxieties and troubles everywhere, yet unexpectedly Kou Zhong was interested to get to the bottom of this love affair between men and women. They really did not know what he was trying to get to.
As expected, Ying Yu said, "Currently our Jia Shi is suffering disgrace by being injured, Tian Kui Pai's fall is imminent, I … ay!"
Kou Zhong smiled and said, "The School of the Military has the so-called 'discussing laughter in using troops'. We can help Ying Xiong in 'discussing feeling in using troops'. With this move, we will accomplish three things: both to heal your honorable master's injury and to revitalize Tian Kui Pai's reputation, plus to win the beauty's heart. Moreover, we could use your honorable sect's assistance to obtain intelligence on what's going on inside the city, big and small. Ying Xiong, what do you think about this proposal?"
It was only then did Xu Ziling and Tuli understand; presently, their most urgent matter was how to obtain intelligence on the enemy's activities, because even if the three of them moved at the same time, they could not cover all four city gates.
Severely shaken, Ying Yu said, "Why is Shao Shuai this good to me? Love affair between a man and a woman is a trivial matter, if Jia Shi could get well soon, and our humble sect could avoid the disaster of being destroyed, Ying Yu …"
Kou Zhong cut him off, "This is called predestined affinity between people. Only there is one thing that Ying Xiong said it wrong! Love affair between a man and a woman is anything but trivial! Hey, it is a major event in one's life. Only by sincerity would you be able to win your honorable Shimei's fragrant heart. Let's talk less nonsense; let us take a look at Lu Laoshi's condition first. When it comes to treating internal injury, nobody is more adept than Ling Shao and me."
Ying Yu's grateful gaze moved toward Xu Ziling, and then he turned to look at Tuli. The latter slowly tore off his mask, and said with a smile, "Xiaodi Tuli of the Eastern Tujue."
Kou Zhong pulled back his hand, which he had pressed on Lu Zhong's back. Under Xu Ziling, Tuli, Ying Yu, and Lu Wuxia's inquiring gaze, he showed a grave expression, so that the four persons' heart sank.
Lu Zhong struggled hard to open his eyes. "How's Laofu's injury?" he spoke with difficulty, "Shao Shuai, please speak bluntly without any reservation, Laofu is prepared for the worst."
Kou Zhong said, "Lu Laoshi's injury is quite heavy. Fortunately Laoshi's foundation is deep, when you were hit by the palm, you tightly protected your heart and meridians. Otherwise, you would have lost your life early on."
Lu Wuxia's hot tears gushed forth, she cried in grief, "Can Shao Shuai cure Die's injury?"
Kou Zhong smiled and said, "Miss Lu, please set your heart at ease. Ying Xiong is a good friend that we admire. If we cannot help your honorable father restoring his energy in one night, how could we live up to Ying Xiong's expectation?"
This is called everyone on the street knows what’s in Sima Zhao’s mind. The way Kou Zhong was 'campaigning' for Ying Yu was indeed too blatant.
Ying Yu was both delighted and embarrassed. Xu Ziling and Tuli felt the hair on their body was standing on its end. But as Lu Wuxia heard that her father could be saved, naturally she accepted it without question; gratefully she cast Ying Yu a glance. Half believing, half doubting, she asked, "Only one night?"
Lu Zhong sighed and said, "Shao Shuai need not console Laofu. Laofu is aware of the seriousness of my injury. Six meridians are being sealed off by yin, cold qi. Even if I can survive, albeit with difficulty, within a year or a half, it would be difficult to move about freely."
Kou Zhong respectfully said, "How could I, Kou Zhong, dare to babble nonsense to Lu Laoshi? Our innate true qi came from the Taoist School's 'Secret to Long Life'; its natural property can control this kind of demonic power, peculiar method. Moreover, we do have ample experience in this. Ling Shao, why don't you try? Speaking about healing internal injury, naturally you are more superior than I am. In other things, it's hard to say!"
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, "What demonic power, peculiar method?" While saying that, he kicked off his shoes and stepped onto the narrow bed and sat cross-legged behind Lu Zhong.
As he pressed both palms on the center of Lu Zhong's back, Xu Ziling's tiger body immediately shook. He looked at Kou Zhong. The latter said, "Do you get it?"
A flash of shocked expression flitted across Xu Ziling's face, but it faded almost instantly. He nodded his head to indicate that he understood.
The other three were baffled. Her fragrant heart in great turmoil, Lu Wuxia asked, "What is it?"
Xu Ziling continuously circulated his true qi into Lu Zhong's body. He calmly affirmed, "In less than three sichen, your esteemed father will completely recover, and there won't be any side effect later."
Obviously Lu Wuxia and Ying Yu had more confidence in the habitually silent Xu Ziling; they were finally able put down the burden that has been in their heart for half a day. They even noticed that Lu Zhong's countenance immediately turned better, even his sitting-cross-legged posture seemed to be more relaxed. There was a haze-scattered, the-sky-clears-after-the-rain feeling.
Kou Zhong said, "Let's go out to talk."
When they got to the side hall adjacent to the bedroom, Kou Zhong asked about the appearance of the man attacking and injuring Lu Zhong. After Lu Wuxia carefully described the man, Kou Zhong nodded and said, "If I don't guess incorrectly, this man ought to be Yin Gui Pai martial art master of elder level, 'Yunyu Shuang Xiu' [cloud and rain double cultivation] Pi Shouxuan [see Book 25 Chapter 8]."
Stunned, Lu Wuxia and Ying Yu asked, "What kind of sect is Yin Gui Pai? How come we have never heard about it?"
But Tuli suddenly saw the light. Yin Gui Pai's demon hand has finally reached into Zhu Can's territory; it was just a natural progression. North of the Great River, Yin Gui Pai only had Xiangyang, one stronghold. If they wanted to expand from there, they must choose the comparably weaker Garuda state to be singled out as a point of attack, as the most logical choice.
Perhaps even Yang Xing Hui's Ji Yinong himself was a Yin Gui Pai man. If he could occupy Yang Zhen's position, then it would be akin to Nanyang falling into Yin Gui Pai's hands.
Kou Zhong explained, "They are Jianghu's most secretive and most demonical sect. I am sure Lu Laoshi knows about them, it's just that he has not told you. Looking at the current situation, the smartest course of action that we need to take is: wait until Lu Laoshi is fully recovered tomorrow, and then immediately withdraw from Nanyang. I hear that your Tian Kui Pai has dojos in a lot of places, is that right?"
Ying Yu revealed a difficult expression; he replied in distress, "From Shao Shuai's proposal, it is clear that Yin Gui Pai is a sect that we cannot afford to offend. However, Jia Shi and Yang Zhen Bangzhu have a life and death relationship; he will never agree to abandon him."
"Where is Yang Zhen now?" Tuli asked.
Lu Wuxia replied, "Yang Shibo [uncle (affectionate name for a friend older than
one’s father)] went to Guanjun the day before yesterday and has not returned yet; otherwise, he would help us making decisions."
Kou Zhong and Tuli exchange glances. They both knew that Ji Yinong was taking this opportunity to launch his offensive to weaken any power in Nanyang who supported Yang Zhen.
Kou Zhong decisively said, "Success or failure will be decided tonight. The first to act will gain control, the last to act will be under other people's control. We need to play a hand against Ji Yinong, I want to see what trick he is going to play next."
He had not finished speaking, a disciple came in a flurry to report, "Tuan Jiang Bang people are coming!"
On the corridor leading to the main hall, Kou Zhong pulled Ying Yu aside and whispered in his ear, "With your manner right now, how could you win Xia Shimei's admiration? We are behind you a hundred-percent, it is critical that you assume the air of Lu Laoshi's successor. Since we know this won't end up good anyway, what damn thing are you afraid of?"
Ying Yu nodded slightly. Immediately straightening up his chest, he entered the main hall in big strides. Tuli and Kou Zhong, who by this time have put their mask back on, followed closely behind, followed by Lu Wuxia, Xie Xianting, and four most senior disciples under Ying Yu's leadership.
The Sect Leader of Tuan Jiang Bang, Luo Changshou was sitting in everything-steady-and-stable manner on an imperial tutor chair leaning against the western wall. His lightning-like gaze swept pass Ying Yu and fell onto Tuli and Kou Zhong, two men. Standing behind him were a dozen men, tall and short; each man's eyes revealed ominous glint, with vicious appearance and evil countenance that showed that they were here on a punitive expedition.
On each of the imperial tutor chairs to Luo Changshou's right and left also sat a man. On the left was a big man in grey clothes, which was the Hui Yi Bang's [grey clothes gang] Gang Leader 'Evil Lord' Xia Zhiping. On the right was one of the five Tangzhu [hall master] of Chao Shui Bang's five Tangzong [hall chief], the 'Iron Ruler' Qi San. [Translator's note: there are some missing characters here, I could not make any sense of what the sentence is saying.]
Ying Yu's stuck-out chest immediately caved in. He bowed to pay his respect to the three men, in accordance to the etiquette of a disciple or younger generation greeting his superior.
Letting out a cold humph, Luo Changshou said, "Where's Lu Zhong?"
None of the Tian Kui Pai side did not have his countenance changed. Luo Changshou simply called Lu Zhong by name, he did not show any deference at all.
Prompted by Kou Zhong's light push, Ying Yu led everybody to sit on the chairs on the other side of the main hall. Ying Yu sat in the middle, with Kou Zhong and Tuli sat on his left and right. Just like the other party's disciples, Lu Wuxia and the others also stood behind Ying Yu's chair, so that both sides were standing in a face-off situation.
The Hui Yi Bang's Gang Leader Xia Zhiping displayed his 'Evil Lord' true nature; he slapped the small table by his chair, shaking the table so that the teacups on it produced 'ding, ding, dong' noise. "Ying Yu, are you mute?" he roared angrily, "Where the hell is Lu Zhong? Could it be that he feels it beneath his dignity to see us?"
The 'Iron Ruler' Qi San let out a chilling laugh and said, "Xia Bangzhu must not get angry, perhaps Lu Changzhu [dojo master] has no face to see us!"
Inwardly Kou Zhong and Tuli knew that the other party were most afraid of Lu Zhong, hence they were using words to get a feel of his condition. Moreover, if Lu Zhong were not injured, they may not necessarily have the guts to come here.
Finally Ying Yu was angry; he spoke heavily, "Jia Shi is out on a business trip. If three gentlemen prefer to see our humble master, please come back tomorrow."
Throwing his head back, Luo Changshou let out a long laugh. His gaze flitted across Kou Zhong and Tuli, before returning back to Ying Yu. He spoke coldly, "Very well! Lu Zhong is not here, then we'll deal with you. Your honorable Shidi, employing outsiders' help, injured Ol' Luo's son. How are we going to settle this account?"
Kou Zhong nearly could not help making fun of him; fortunately at the last moment he was able to restrain himself and simply cast an encouraging glance toward Ying Yu.
Inwardly, Ying Yu was angry as well. Putting on a calm and collected appearance, he replied in a neither-haughty-nor-humble tone, "Luo Bangzhu is exaggerating. Your esteemed son Rongtai Gongzi went on the rampage relying on strength, he committed a violent act against our humble Shidi in public place. Fortunately Ying Yu's sworn brothers acted to uphold justice. Even if Xianting did something wrong, Rongtai Gongzi could have spoken directly to me. By doing what he did, he did not show too much respect toward our Tian Kui Pai."
The 'sworn brothers' identity was decided before they came into the main hall, because since the Three Sects, Four Gangs and One Society were forming an alliance, according to Jianghu rules, outsiders did not have any ground to offer an opinion.
Luo Changshou was immediately at a loss. He never expected that the always-trembling-with-fear, wishy-washy Ying Yu would become this decisive and sharp.
The 'Evil Lord' Xia Zhiping scolded sternly, "Ying Yu, you have the impertinence to disrespect your elder, to offend Bangzhu. Have you eaten a bear's heart and leopard's gall?"
Lu Wuxia finally could not bear any longer; she scolded tenderly, "We respect those who's worthy to receive respect. Bangzhu did not speak reasonably."
While the ominous glint in Xia Zhiping's eyes was flaring out, Qi San laughed and said, "Tiger father will not beget a dog daughter, you are worthy to be the 'Huan Shou Dao' Lu Zhong's daughter. Just let your Qi Shushu [uncle] talk reason with you. Your Da Shixiong suddenly bring up his sworn brothers. What are their honorable surnames and great given names? Which family, which sect do they belong to? This time coming to Nanyang, for what noble errand?"
Inwardly Kou Zhong cried, 'About time!' Among the three big bosses of the opposite side, this Qi San was the most calm and collected, and showed a lot of wisdom. He raised his teacup and took a sip first, before remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos he said, "I am Hu San, and he is Hu Si. We belong to the same school as Ji Yinong. If you don't believe me, go ask Old Ji about his true origin. This time we are passing through your honorable border, simply because our specific duty is to kill the wicked. After the area is clean of wicked people, we move somewhere else to look for wicked people. Ay! Wicked people are hard to find, it's getting harder and harder for us to do our business."
While everybody from the other side exploded in anger, Tuli, who already could not endure anymore, stood up abruptly and shouted, "Less nonsense! Let's talk reason with Laozi, will we fight like a swarm of bees, or one-on-one?"
With a wave of his hand, the Subduing Eagle Spear immediately exuded a biting cold, pressing qi power; mighty without equal.
Although Luo Changshou, Xia Zhiping, and Qi San's martial art skill was far below Tuli's, they were, after all, Jianghu veterans who had been rolling about for many years; their eyesight was superior. Just by looking at the pressing qi momentum of Tuli, this 'Hu Si', who was standing proudly holding the spear across his chest, they knew that the opponent has reached the realm of first-class martial art master. Inwardly they were shivering in fear.
As the most cunning, Qi San chuckled and said, "If Ying Xianzhi [virtuous nephew] wants to settle this matter using martial force, and thus destroying the friendship in Nanyang, naturally we, one sect two gangs, will have to deal with your honorable sect to protect this friendship. I was just wondering if this is Lu Xiong's intention?"
This time it was Ying Yu's turn to be at a loss for words.
With one hand returning the spear onto his back, Tuli laughed involuntarily and said, "Qi Zong Tangzhu [chief hall master] said it well. Turns out it was just a small misunderstanding. However, Luo Bangzhu is wrong, in that he should not have come here with Qi Zong Tangzhu and Xia Bangzhu to lodge accusation. It shows clearly that you want to make a small matter big, definitely not to protect any friendship. Previously, if I, Hu Si, did not show leniency with my spear, it is quite possible that Luo Bangzhu's fragrant lantern would not continue. And now, whether it will be a battle or an agreement, would Luo Bangzhu please bestow Tian Kui Pai your words."
He was a figure who sat on the second chair of the Eastern Tujue, his power overflowed to the area beyond his own. This moment as he made a torrential speech, it was with a wave of awe-inspiring bearing.
Qi San immediately closed his mouth to let Luo Changshou make the decision.
Xia Zhiping also wanted to speak up, but in the end he hesitated.
Luo Changshou's countenance became quite unsightly, it alternated between cloudy and clear indeterminately.
It was quite a while later that he finally brushed his sleeve and shouted coldly, "We'll come back tomorrow morning. I want to personally reason with Lu Zhong."
 Sima Zhao (211-265), military general and statesman of Cao Wei. The idiom means that a person’s supposed hidden intention (in this case, usurping the throne) is so well known that it is not really hidden.
 Imperial tutor chair
 Huan Shou Dao - Ring head saber; the 'shou' (hand) in Chapter 3 was a typo (Courtesy of Akolaw)
 Hu San and Hu Si. The surname Kou Zhong selected could also mean 'barbarian/non-Han people'. San and Si mean 'three' and 'four' respectively.