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The Vast Desert Chapter 10

Chapter 10 – The King of Qiuci

But the King of Qiuci laughed and said, “This is our humble group’s boor, Kun Mi. Although he also has a few catties of clumsy muscles, but his natural disposition is inept. I just hope that you would start off leniently, and yield to him somewhat.”

Hu Tiehua looked at the giant Kun Mi’s body, which seemed to be covered all over with iron muscles; exhaling a mouthful of cold air, he loudly asked, “Could it be that Wangye wants me to compare strength against him?”

The King of Qiuci smiled and nodded; he then mumbled something in foreign language to Kun Mi. The giant smiled and spoke something to the King of Qiuci before swaggering over.

Hu Tiehua sighed, and then he turned to Chu Liuxiang and spoke with a wry smile, “If I had known this, I would not have drunk the wine.”

Before he even finished talking, the giant’s hand, which was bigger than a cattail leaf fan – was already reaching over toward him.

Sitting on the side, Du Huan did not stop chuckling loudly. As long as others suffered, he would feel incomparably happy. The Wu Family brothers and the others also felt that this was very interesting. Only Ji Bingyan continued to eat; he did not even look up – although the way he ate was very refined, very slow, but from start to finish his mouth never stopped chewing.

They saw the giant snatched Hu Tiehua from his seat like an eagle catching a chick. Hu Tiehua’s hand still did not stop pouring wine into his mouth, while muttering to himself, “Since you want me to make a fool of myself, I might as well drink to recover my capital back!”

By this moment Kun Mi already grabbed both sides of his shoulders and pushed him down. The others only knew that at this point, even if Hu Tiehua’s bones were not crushed, he would be, at least, pressed down to half his height.

They heard ‘Bang!’ followed by ‘Crash!’ – the ‘bang!’ was the sound somebody falling down to the ground, the ‘crash!’ was the sound the bowls and cups shattering on the ground.

But the one falling down was not Hu Tiehua; unexpectedly it was the giant instead.

Turned out when his hands were pressing down, he felt that he was pressing on an empty space, Hu Tiehua’s body already slipped behind him like a swimming fish, and then reaching out with one hand to push.

It looked like a merely light push, but the giant’s three hundred catties body already tumbled down, so that even the cup and chopsticks on the King of Qiuci’s table were shaken and jumped.

It was certainly not Hu Tiehua who pushed him down, rather, his own strength had pushed himself down. Hu Tiehua was just helping him with a small favor.

This kind of ‘four taels pushing a thousand catties’ ingenious skill of force application sounded easy, but the shenfa [pose or motion of one’s body in martial arts] within it was not something that a dimwitted could obtain the slightest bit, the timing could not have the slightest mistake.

It should be noted that if Hu Tiehua dodged a bit faster, the giant’s force could not press down, then Hu Tiehua would have no way of overthrowing him from behind.

The King of Qiuci’s eyes narrowed, he pulled his daughter over and quietly asked, “Is this also true martial art skill?”

Princess Pipa laughed sweetly and said, “Something that can bring Kun Mi down, how could it not be a true martial art skill?”

The King of Qiuci immediately clapped his hands with big laughter, saying, “A hero! Indeed a hero! Let Xiao Wang salute you with a cup.” [Translator’s note: the word ‘hero’ here could also mean ‘fighter/brave strong man/warrior in armor.]

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “A cup? It was not worth three cups?”

Smiling, he walked over. Unexpectedly it was as if he did not see the giant was already crawling up, hiding behind him. Hu Tiehua had just taking the wine cup from the King of Qiuci’s hand, Kun Mi already grabbed his belt and lifted his entire body off the ground, and heaved him up in the air.

The King of Qiuci’s eyes narrowed again, he shouted, “This wine is not bad, drink it first and talk later!”

Being held in someone’s hands, unexpectedly Hu Tiehua’s face was still grinning; he said with a laugh, “Big man, did you hear that? This is the good wine that Wangye bestowed. You drop and break me, it does not matter, but you must never spill this cup of wine.”

The giant was immensely pleased with himself as he carried Hu Tiehua while walking half a circle, but not only Hu Tiehua was not anxious, Chu Liuxiang, Ji Bingyan unexpectedly did not appear to be anxious at all.

The ‘Merciless Killer’ Du Huan’s eyes were flashing with light; gasping, he said, “Throw him! Throw him hard! It doesn’t matter if you throw him to pieces.”

This man, not only he himself was bloodthirsty, watching others killing people, unexpectedly he was also extremely excited.

The giant walked over to the King of Qiuci’s presence. Suddenly he roared and hurled Hu Tiehua’s entire body onto the ground. The King of Qiuci hurriedly covered his ears and closed his eyes, while crying out, “Not so hard! Don’t scare me.”

He thought that this time, even if Hu Tiehua was not smashed to pieces, it would be hard to avoid having the bones in his entire body broken, perhaps even his brains would be thrown down into his crotch.

But it was the giant who fell down again, and this time he was unable to crawl back up.

Hu Tiehua acted as if nothing had happened, he did not even look at him; giggling, he said, “Now, at last, I should be able to drink this cup of wine!”

He raised the cup in salute and drank it all; and then he sighed and said, “It is indeed a good wine, pity that it’s too little.”

The King of Qiuci’s eyes opened wide, he quietly said, “What’s going on here? Could it be that this kid knew magic?”

Princess Pipa giggled and said, “This is not magic, it is also real martial art skill.”

“What kind of martial art skill is that?” the King of Qiuci asked.

Princess Pipa replied, “Just now, when Kun Mi exerted his strength to throw him down, this hero [see note above] also exerted his strength to lightly scratch his wrist. Immediately his strength could not be exerted anymore, and then the hero lightly jumped down, jumping behind his back, and lightly pushed – it’s just that the hero’s movement was terrifyingly fast that others practically could not see how Kun Mi fell down.”

Her voice was very soft, and she spoke very fast, but Chu Liuxiang, Ji Bingyan, already had their full attention on her. Hu Tiehua also came over to her, saluted, and said with a smile, “Surprised by Gongzhu’s praise; Gongzhu has good eyesight!”

The King of Qiuci pulled Princess Pipa’s hand, laughing aloud, he said, “Since you have figured out that he is such a hero [yingxiong, different word], why haven’t you honored him with a cup?”

Pursing her lips, Princess Pipa laughed, and then she poured a cup of wine and presented it to Hu Tiehua with both hands.

Hu Tiehua practically could not close his mouth; laughing heartily, he said, “The wine that Gongzhu’s bestow, forget about a cup, even a barrel I will drink it down.”

He just wanted to receive the cup, suddenly he heard someone spoke coldly, “This cup of wine, Zaixia wants to drink it as well.”

Amidst the voice, a man walked slowly over. Unexpectedly it was the ‘Merciless Killer’ Du Huan.

Hu Tiehua looked at him and said with a laugh, “If you want to drink, there are still plenty over there.”

Du Huan spoke with a cold laugh, “The one Zaixia wants to drink is precisely this cup.”

Stunned, Hu Tiehua asked, “I wonder if this cup of wine particularly fragrant?”

“Exactly,” Du Huan replied, “The cup that Gongzhu personally poured, naturally it is particularly fragrant.”

Hu Tiehua stared at him for half a day; he laughed in spite of himself and said, “I get it. You don’t want to drink wine, you simply want to bully others.”

Du Huan stared coldly at him, unexpectedly he agreed tacitly.

Hu Tiehua said, “Since both you and I want to drink this cup of wine, what do you think we should do?”

Du Huan coldly said, “If you could also throw me tumbling down, not only will I let you drink this cup, I will also kneel down and call you my ancestor three times. Otherwise, you have to call me Yeye [paternal grandfather] three times.”

Hu Tiehua sighed; he muttered, “Why is it very easy and comfortable for others to drink wine, but it is so difficult for me to drink just a cup of wine? All right! Let’s try it. But you are such an adult and you want to call me your ancestor, it will be a bit embarrassing for me.”

The atmosphere in the tent suddenly tensed up. It was totally different from Hu Tiehua against Kun Mi a moment ago, only because anybody could see the murderous intent between Du Huan’s eyebrows. Everybody knew that this fight was not as fun as the previous one.

Ji Bingyan quietly said to Chu Liuxiang, “I have long heard about this ‘Merciless Killer’ Du Huan, not only his hands are very vicious, his personal character is also very treacherous. You’d better take care of this matter for Hu Tiehua.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “No problem; although for the past few years this drunkard was steeped in wine jar all day long, his martial art skill has nothing to worry.”

They saw Du Huan had his hands behind his back, as he stood perfectly straight in place. Under the illumination of the lantern light, his face appeared even greener than the iron, the ominous glint in his eyes flickered, staring at Hu Tiehua, he said with a cold laugh, “I am going to stand here unmoving, I wonder if Gexia does not dare to come over?”

Giggling, Hu Tiehua said, “How do you want me to throw you tumbling down? Would you prefer tumbling forward, or falling backward?”

Du Huan angrily said, “As long as you can bend my body down, you can be considered winning.”

“Are you saying you won’t hit back?” Hu Tiehua asked.

Du Huan coldly said, “Just see if you can pull me down? I do not want to pull you down at all.”

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “All right! You said it!”

He walked over step by step.

‘Longyou Sword’ Brothers of the Wu Family, Situ Liuxing, and the others seemed to show regret on their faces. They seemed to think that as soon as Hu Tiehua walked over, he was going to suffer Du Huan’s deadly blow. Only Wang Chong still looked dispirited as before; he looked disinclined to even open his eyes.

While walking, Hu Tiehua’s mouth was grumbling; he muttered, “Himself standing there unmoving, waiting for others to pull him down; such a good thing, it is really rare in the world. It looks like my drinking this cup of wine is already decided.”

He rolled up his sleeve, and reached out to pull Du Huan’s shoulders. Unexpectedly it was the exact same move that Kun Mi was using to pull him, except that he was a lot shorter than Kun Mi, so that there was no way for his two hands to press down, hence he only pushed backwards.

As a result, he revealed a very big opening in front of his chest.

A hint of evil grin suddenly appeared on Du Huan’s mouth, he said, “Laozi is not moving and simply letting you push; how could there be such a good thing in the world? Aren’t you …”

When he uttered the first word, his right palm already shot out from behind his back like a viper, going straight toward the opening on Hu Tiehua’s chest. Under the illumination of the lantern light, they saw black light on his hand flashed.

Unexpectedly his pair of hands was wearing five pairs of black, dark green ring of light; looking at the ugly gloss, undoubtedly the steel rings must have been quenched in seeing-blood-sealing-the-throat highly toxic poison.

This move was indeed very malicious and fast; not only Hu Tiehua’s chest was widely open, it was as if his entire body was nestled in his bosom, waiting to be beaten.

Longyou Sword, Situ Liuxing, all were renowned experts in Wulin, their hand-to-hand combat experience was not a few. This time everybody thought that Hu Tiehua definitely could not escape. Even Chu Liuxiang could not help blurted out in alarm, “Watch out for his hands!”

In the time to speak this sentence, he saw Hu Tiehua’s hands, which were originally pulling Du Huan’s shoulders, suddenly, fast as lightning, slapped toward the middle.

This slap was like swatting a housefly. Du Huan’s wrist was just like the fly. Unexpectedly it was clasped between the two hands, and unexpectedly he was unable to move a single step.

The word that Du Huan’s mouth was going to say was, “Aren’t you dreaming?” But the word ‘dreaming’ had not yet spoken, they heard ‘crack!’ sound, his wrist had been clamped broken,

Hu Tiehua’s body already floated out, he said with a laugh, “Perhaps your hand is tired of killing people, giving it a rest may be good.”

Du Huan clenched his teeth; unexpectedly he did not scream in pain, but his face went pale without the slightest sign of blood, his body swayed, finally he fainted and fell to the ground.

At this moment everybody inside the tent’s countenance changed from the shock; it was only then did all of them know how high Hu Tiehua’s martial art skill really was, but how many were able to see clearly how he made his move?

Although the Wu Family brothers and the others could see his move, unexpectedly they were still unable to tell which school this move belonged to, which sect’s style – that unexpectedly the move was this ingenious?

Wang Chong, who always looked dispirited, suddenly rose up to his full height; emotionally moved, he said, “Good ‘Butterfly Flying In Pairs’ move! Could it be that Gexia is unexpectedly the one who, ten years ago, together with the equally famous ‘Dao Shuai’ [bandit chief/commander], were known as the ‘Xiaoxiang [other name of the Xiangjiang River in Hunan province] Xia [hero/knight] Dao [thief/bandit]’ colorful wings filling the flowers, Hua Hudie [butterfly]?” [Translator’s note: Hu Tiehua’s surname, ‘hua’ literally means flower, hence his nickname could mean ‘flower and butterfly’.]

Hu Tiehua was startled. He stared at him for half a day, before laughing and saying, “Only this Hua Hudie has been soaking inside the wine jar for ten years, unexpectedly Gexia still did not forget him.”

As soon as this sentence was out, the Wu Family brothers, Situ Liuxing, all could not help but were excited and emotionally moved.

Wang Chong heaved a deep, deep sigh, and said with a wry smile, “Hu Tiehua, Hu Tiehua … Zaixia should have recognized Gexia early on.”

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “But until now Zaixia has not recognized who Gexia is?”

Wang Chong chuckled; unexpectedly his laugh seemed to be somewhat mournful. He laughed indifferently and said, “Lowly name is not worth mentioning; however …”

His eyes suddenly looked at Chu Liuxiang intently, and then he said, “If this gentleman is not Chu Liuxiang, whose name shook the land under heaven, then Zaixia is as blind as a bat even more.”

The crowd went abuzz again, and this time naturally the commotion was even bigger.

Chu Liuxiang also laughed indifferently and said, “The one by Hua Hudie’s side, it may not necessarily be Chu Liuxiang, is it?”

Wang Chong’s eyes flickered, he said, “Although Zaixia is short-sighted and lowly, I also know ‘wild goose [yan from Ji Bingyan] and butterfly [hudie] as the pair of wings, the fragrance of flowers [hua xiang from Hu Tiehua and Chu Liuxiang’s names] filled the earth’. In the former years Chu Xiang Shuai [fragrant commander] had flying wild goose on the left, and colorful butterfly on the right, laughing across the Jianghu, crisscrossing the world.”

He suddenly laughed; changing his tune, he said, “But what Gexia said was not wrong either. These three gentlemen for the past few years have each been to the east and west, naturally Gexia may not necessarily be Chu Liuxiang, while this gentleman may not necessarily be Ji Xiansheng [Mr. Ji], Ji Bingyan.”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “I can’t believe Gexia is very familiar with their, three men’s situation. I wonder if Gexia knew either one of the three personally?”

Wang Chong heaved a deep sigh, and said with a wry smile, “A Jianghu refugee, how could I have the predestined affinity to claim connections with dragon and phoenix?”

All along the King of Qiuci’s eyeballs did not stop moving from one person to the next among them, his ears also did not stop listening to their exchange. This moment he suddenly laughed heartily and said, “No matter who gentlemen really are, gentlemen’s martial art skill and talent already toppled over Xiao Wang endlessly. Today Xiao Wang could gather happily under one roof with gentlemen, let Xiao Wang dry three cups for respect first.”

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “But Gongzhu’s cup of wine, Zaixia must drink first, otherwise I won’t feel comfortable.”

Princess Pipa smiled sweetly. But before she could talk, suddenly they saw a golden-armored warrior rushing inside the tent, and hurriedly coming to the King of Qiuci and spoke something in low voice.

Not only this warrior appeared to be in panic, he did not even give careful consideration to court etiquette, not even to his own king. When the King of Qiuci heard him, his countenance immediately changed as well.

Ji Bingyan cleared his throat and suddenly stood up and said, “Zaixia and my companions had been in difficulty for many days, wine and meat entered our belly, our eyes do not want to open anymore. I wonder if Wangye would allow us to leave the banquet and let us sleep first?”

The King of Qiuci immediately laughed and said, “Of course you can. Even if three gentlemen wanted to leave, Xiao Wang will exhaust everything to try to ask three gentlemen to stay.”

Not only his laughter was forced, his words appeared to have deep meaning behind it.

It was a very exquisite tent. With a cup of wine in his hand, all four limbs of his body relaxed, Hu Tiehua was lying on a soft fur, heaving a long sigh, and said with a laugh, “The things of the world are indeed strange; last night we curled up like a dog in that wet and cold sand, tonight unexpectedly we become like immortals.”

“You think this place is very comfortable?” Ji Bingyan asked coldly.

Hu Tiehua laughed and said, “If you could find a more comfortable place than this, I admire you.”

Ji Bingyan said, “In my opinion, not only this place is not comfortable, it is also brimming with trouble.”

Twisting his waist, Hu Tiehua sat up straight and asked, wide-eyed, “What trouble?”

Ji Bingyan replied, “Let me ask you first; this King of Qiuci, why isn’t he in his own country’s territory, living comfortably in his own palace, but taking a large contingent to run away to this desolate place where you can’t see any sign of human habitation for hundreds of li?”

Hu Tiehua was stumped. “Perhaps they came here to play,” he replied.

Ji Bingyan said, “In his capacity as the lord of a country, how could he do things as he pleases like this?”

Stroking his nose, Hu Tiehua smiled wryly and said, “Even if there’s something strange in this, what does it have to do with us?”

Ji Bingyan said, “Let me ask you again, although Qiuci is a small country, but as the ruler of a country, he is a nobility, his position is still high above common people, why would this King of Qiuci want to make friends with Jianghu characters?”

Hu Tiehua mumbled, “That’s right! This is indeed a bit strange. With a thousand ways, a hundred plans he sought out those Jianghu friends and had them come here; moreover, he did not ask their identity and history, as well as he did not care whether they are from the black way or white way, as long as their martial art skill is all right. What exactly is happening here? What exactly is his idea in getting all these people?”

Chuckling, Chu Liuxiang said, “The reason is very clear: this King of Qiuci must be caught in trials and tribulations; his difficulty, perhaps only Wulin people can solve.”

Hu Tiehua said, “He made friends with us, because he wanted to ask us for help, is that right?”

Chu Liuxiang laughed and said, “Exactly. This cup of wine of yours is not good to drink at all.”

“What does it have to do with it?” Hu Tiehua asked, “I’ll say that they are not bad, he did not flaunt his air as the king of a country either. If he has difficulty, we could do him a favor, what’s wrong with that?”

Ji Bingyan coldly said, “It seems that you are really a hero who sees what is right and act courageously. Too bad that right now we don’t even have time to mind our own business, how could we have the strength to meddle into other people’s business?”

Hu Tiehua said, “But we cannot drink other people’s wine in vain either!”

Laughing coldly, Ji Bingyan said, “Don’t you forget, that Stone Guanyin also invited us to drink a pot of soup.”

At the mention of ‘Stone Guanyin’, three characters, Hu Tiehua’s thought of wine diminished more than half, his body started to get cold as well.

After staring blankly for half a day, he could not help asking, “In your opinion, what should we do?”

Ji Bingyan slowly said, “You and I will rest in here about a sichen and then we’ll leave. Before leaving, naturally there’s no harm in getting several pots full of water and wine. Even those pleasant-to-the-eye but not pleasant-to-be-eaten warriors will be helpless in stopping us.”

Hu Tiehua cried out, “Good kid! Others treat us as honored guests, but you want to be little thief.”

Ji Bingyan coldly said, “Living thief is always better than dead honored guest.”

Hu Tiehua was speechless again. He stared blankly for another half a day, before sighing, and said with a wry smile, “I can’t argue with you. It was not like we came here to be other people’s honored guests anyway.”

Chu Liuxiang suddenly said, “But we can’t leave.”

Hu Tiehua was immediately grinning from ear to ear. But Ji Bingyan puckered up his eyebrows. “Why?” he asked.

Chu Liuxiang slowly said, “If we want to find Stone Guanyin, we have to obtain her whereabouts in here.”

Chu Liuxiang was not the kind of person who talked randomly; as soon as he said that, Ji Bingyan was immediately shocked and turned pale. Hu Tiehua was unable to laugh as well. “Are you saying that Stone Guanyin is here?” he blurted out.

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Although she herself is not here, but from among her men, I have no doubt that some has infiltrated this place.”

Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Hu Tiehua asked, “How do you know?”

Chu Liuxiang slowly said, “Do you know where those Peng Family brothers supposed to deliver the ‘Star of Happiness’ to?”

Hu Tiehua blurted out, “Are you saying that they were going to deliver it here?”

“Precisely!” Chu Liuxiang replied.

“How do you know?” Ji Bingyan asked.

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Just now when that golden-armored warrior was rushing into the tent to report, although his voice was very soft, I was able to hear a few words.”

“What did he say?” Ji Bingyan asked.

Chu Liuxiang said, “Although he was speaking Qiuci language, when it comes to people’s name, he was using Han language. Unexpectedly he was mentioning ‘Peng Yihu … Stone Guanyin … Star of Happiness …’ When the King of Qiuci heard it, his countenance changed.”

He slowly continued, “Therefore, I think that this ‘Star of Happiness’ must be closely related to the King of Qiuci. Perhaps the King of Qiuci’s adversary is Stone Guanyin.”

Slapping his thigh, Hu Tiehua said, “Great! If he is also Stone Guanyin’s adversary, if we help him, it would be the same as helping ourselves. One move, two gains; what can you have against it?”

Chu Liuxiang said, “Besides, by staying here, we have a lot of advantages. Not only we could wait at our ease for the exhausted enemy, waiting for the Stone Guanyin to come here, but also during this period, we will not be hard-pressed due to lacking food and water.”

Ji Bingyan was deep in thought for half a day; he slowly said, “If the Stone Guanyin really want to give the King of Qiuci trouble, naturally she had to send her people to sneak in here. But I am so sure that it cannot be the Wu Family brothers or Situ Liuxing and the like.”

“Why?” Hu Tiehua asked.

Chu Liuxiang replied, “Only because foreigners will attract attention, while the mole must not be easy for other people to detect. Besides, Situ Liuxing and those people were invited by the King of Qiuci from the Central Plains.”

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