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Thread: Legend of the Tang Dynasty Two Dragons [大唐双龙传] - Unabridged

  1. #201
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 17 Chapter 8

    Book 17 Chapter 8 Beating Someone at His Own Game

    After the two boys finished discussing and making proper arrangement with Bu Tianzhi, Bu Tianzhi left first, while the two boys stayed at the wine shop.

    In the shop, only three tables were occupied, but because the patrons were playing finger-guessing or other drinking games, and the losers were still shouting and yelling, or even singing at the top of their lungs; the clamor was enough to shook the rafter beams.

    This kind of noisy environment provided a perfect screen for the boys to talk about secret matters.

    Kou Zhong muttered to himself, Bu Tianzhi and a bunch of Jukun Bang [giant leviathan gang, first mention Book 2 Chapter 7] Xiongdi think very highly of Xiaodi, and want to follow me, Kou Zhong, to conquer the world. This is actually something I seek but failed to get, but in my heart I have a feeling that I am letting Beautiful Shifu down.

    Xu Ziling let out a cold snort and said, You are only afraid that I might oppose it! Dont worry, I wont stop you this time.

    Shaken, Kou Zhong said, Whats going on? This does not look like your, Ling Shaos style.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Earlier Bu Tianzhi told me a lot of things, including Su Jies marriage. It was indeed fixed up by Xiang Yushan, Xiao Huan and Yun Yuzhen with their deep plans and distant thoughts; they are aiming at our Duke of Yangs Treasure.

    What? Kou Zhong blurted out.

    Xu Ziling smiled bitterly and said, We were really too nave to believe others easily. And now the damage is done, we are forfeiting Su Jies lifetime happiness in a crafty and evil mans hands.

    Kou Zhong stood up abruptly and bolted out the door.

    Shocked, Xu Ziling tossed some money down and chased out at full speed.

    Kou Zhong stood by the roadside, with his back to him, staring blankly into the distance. Although the street was full of people coming and going, his magnificent figure appeared incomparably lonely.

    Xu Ziling caught up with him, and was surprised to find Kou Zhongs face was wet with tears, which flowed down from his tiger-eyes, but he remained silent.

    Xu Ziling was extremely grieved as well, but remembering Shi Feixuans story about the elderly immortal concocting pills of immortality, he held back his tears and said, Dont cry!

    Heroes dont cry easily, just because they havent felt deeply hurt!

    After Fu Junchuos death [orig. fragrance disappeared, jade perished], Susu has become their only family. To a certain degree, she was taking Fu Junchuos place. No matter how much they have become influential figure [orig. the man of the moment] who scold the world, in Susus eyes, they were always big boys without scheming heart. There was a heartfelt sincerity between them that outsiders could hardly understand.

    Kou Zhong wiped the tears with his sleeve and spoke heavily, I am going to kill Yun Yuzhen; nobody can stop me.

    Xu Ziling felt a stabbing pain at the pit of his stomach; he shook his head violently and said, This is not what a sage would do. Right now its like we have a hostage in Xiang Yushans hands; we must refrain from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vases. We will act only after careful planning; or else Su Jies experience will be even more unbearable.

    Kou Zhongs eyes alternated between clear and dark; it was quite a while before he said meekly, Xiao Ling! Tell me what to do! Right now not only I hate them, I also hate myself. If it werent for us cooperating with that little traitor Xiang Yushan because we wanted to deal with Yuwen Huaji, Su Jie would not be harmed like this.

    Right now we need to deal with the problem at hand, Xu Ziling said, And then well go get the Duke of Yangs Treasure, and after everything is settled, I am going back to Baling, to get Su Jie, mother and son, out of there. In the meantime, you can focus on your aspiration, the great undertaking of vying over the world.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, How could I not worry? Xiao Xian is an old fox, Xiang Yushan is a little fox; considering their sphere of influence, I

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Even if you lead magnificent army without thousands of men and horses to find them, what good would it bring? I already have a plan, and I am confident I will be able to pull it properly and satisfactorily.

    Kou Zhong dejectedly said, This moment I feel so helpless [orig. every hope turned to dust]; I really want to give up everything, and then

    Dont let your imagination run wild! Xu Ziling cut him off, First of all, Ren Bangzhus enmity, we cannot but avenge it. Secondly, Zhai Jiao is waiting for your good news. And then a group of our Shuanglong Bang [twin-dragon gang, see Book 6 Chapter 12] Xiongdi is waiting for you at Guanzhong to get the Duke Yang Treasure out. Am I missing anybody? This kind of matter, once you started, you cant stop even if you wanted to. The only thing you need to do right now is to raise your own spirit and be brave to meet the enemy. There is no other way.

    Kou Zhong hyperventilated; it was quite half a day later that he gradually calmed down. Do we need to see Wang Shichong now? he asked.

    Xu Ziling pulled his elbow and took him walking down the street; he said in low voice, If you tell Wang Shichong about the mole, what would his reaction be?

    Kou Zhong came to his senses; emotionally moved, he said, It may be assumed that there wont be any benefit at all. First of all, he is unwilling to use his own self to brave danger, and then he is already suspicious of everybody around him. It will be just like exposing our own trail to the enemy for no reason.

    Who else knows about Zhai Jiao? Xu Ziling asked.

    Kou Zhong said, Those who are able to participate in Wang Shichongs secret meetings, besides his sons and two emperor relatives [idiom: person with powerful connections], there are his trusted aides Zhang Zhenzhou, Yang Gongqing, Lang Feng, and Song Mengqiu, four people. Other than that, there are several renowned martial art masters who act as his personal bodyguards. In my opinion, Song Mengqiu is the most unreliable.

    Xu Ziling said, Its one thing if you dont like him personally, but whether he can betray Wang Shichong or not, its another matter altogether. Putting future development aside, currently Wang Shichong is comparatively strong. If Song Mengqiu colluded with outsiders, it means he is smashing his own rice bowl [fig. livelihood]; what good would it be for him? Would Dugu Feng and Yang Dong be able to put a traitor general in an important position?

    Kou Zhong was silenced immediately; embarrassed, he said, This moment my heart is like a knocked-out deer, I am out of my wits; you are more clear-headed.

    Xu Ziling revealed a mixture hard-to-distinguish laughing and crying expression on his face; he cursed, Its lucky that in this kind of situation you still want to make me happy. Heart like a knocked-out deer generally describes a woman having her heart moved by a man; how could it be applied to you? Tell me, who are those martial art masters?

    Kou Zhong said, Naturally there are a bunch of them who are there just to eat, but those who are privy to the secrets include Ouyang Xiyi, Ke Feng Daoren [Taoist priest], one who is called the Iron Hook, that kid Chen Changlin, and the beauty Linglong Jiao, who came from Qiuci, world famous for their music and dancing skills. This woman has always been not very friendly to me, so I dont think she is the spy. Ouyang Xiyi dont have any problem even more, and Ke Feng Daoren takes a very good care of me. Hey!

    The two boys four eyes met immediately.

    Because according to Kou Zhongs reasoning, those who are especially friendly to him have a greater chance to be the mole.

    But Kou Zhong shook his head and said, Arent we looking for a hidden ghost here? This man appears to have immortal style and Tao [the way] bones, a man outside secular world, who regards fame and wealth as dirt; how could he be a traitor? On the contrary that Chen Changlin is young and vigorous; if either Shen Luoyan or Dugu Feng [phoenix] lured him with sex, he would crawl in front of the beautys bed and perhaps wont even care if his ancestors are being sold!

    Xu Ziling sneered and said, In term of having immortal style and Tao bones, wont Ke Feng match Pi Chen [see Book 14 Chapter 11]?

    Kou Zhong was shaken. He said, Of course he is still a notch below. I dont know what kind of demonic skill Pi Chen trained; so demonic that he appears like immortal descending into the mortal world.

    Xu Ziling said, If Lang Feng, or perhaps Song Mengqiu, surrendered to the enemy, perhaps Wang Shichong would not be able to even enter the city gate; therefore, I am sure they are not the problem. On the contrary, Zhang Zhenzhou and Yang Gongqing have been stationed outside for a long time; perhaps when they saw Li Mis increasing power, it is very reasonable to guess that they threw their lot with him.

    Kou Zhong suddenly pulled Xu Ziling into a side lane; he spoke in a low voice, I think it is quite possible that Ke Feng is the spy. Last night, when we were besieged on the Tianjin Bridge, he strongly advocated to send the troops to help us, unlike the absolutely-not-the-spy Ouyang Xiyi who was strongly opposing it.

    Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, Problem is that we cannot prove it based on that matter alone. What kind of fellow is he? Why did Wang Shichong trust him so much?

    Kou Zhong said, He seems to be from a Taoist sect near Luoyang somewhere. Ouyang Xiyi even said that the people from this Taoist sect rarely interfere with Jiangju matters, so this time Wang Shichong gained a considerable face. That was the reason I said he cant be the spy. I think wed better focus our attention on that kid Chen Changlin; lets see if he is going out to have a tryst with Shen Luoyan.

    Suddenly Xu Ziling was jolted; he said, Did he come from the Laojun Guan [Taoist monastery] on the summit of Cuiyun Peak of Mount Mang [See Book 16 Chapter 11]?

    Kou Zhong was dumbstruck. How did you know that? he asked.

    Xu Ziling spoke decisively, We must see Wang Shichong immediately. I am positive the spy is demon Taoist Ke Feng. There is not much time, Ill explain it to you on the way.

    ※ ※ ※

    Inside the secret chamber.

    Finished listening, Wang Shichongs countenance changed; he said, Is there such thing? Laojun Temples Zhuchi [manager, see my earlier note, Book 16 Chapter 11] Bi Chen Xianzhang [I translated this as immortal elder earlier, must be a term of respect to address Taoist Priest] is a friend of mine for many years; how could Ke Feng harm me?

    This time it was Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings turn to have their countenance changed. Pi Chen? they blurted out.

    Wang Shichong was surprised, Whats wrong? he asked.

    Kou Zhong said, Bi Chens real name is Pi Chen, the Jiaozhu [Cult Leader] of the other demonic sect outside Yin Gui Pai; as for what kind of demonic method they are using, I, myself, am not too clear. But Liao Kong has personally told Xiao Ling that Liaojun Temple has fallen under some crafty scoundrels control, and we do know Pi Chens background. Ke Feng is the spy, I no longer have any doubt. Dont forget that last night he was the one who suggested we go to war.

    Evidently Wang Shichongs mind was in chaos; he asked, How could Liao Kong reveal this information to Ziling for no reason?

    So Xu Ziling told him about his visit to see Shi Feixuan that morning. Naturally he did not say anything about the Jade Annulus of He Clan being stolen by them.

    Finally Wang Shichong was convinced. What do we do now? he asked.

    Kou Zhong excitedly said, Right now only you, me and Xiao Ling know about this matter. Later on we will use a scheme within a scheme, I guarantee Shen Luoyan will fail miserably [orig. capsize in the ditch], and will suffer a great loss.

    ※ ※ ※

    When the two boys stepped out of the Shangshu Mansion, their mood was greatly different; at least their objective was clear before their eyes, so that they had the direction on what they were fighting for.

    The guards brought their horses out.

    The two were just about to mount their horses, when Ke Fengs voice rang out from behind, Two Xiao Xiong, please wait for me.

    Kou Zhong turned around and saluted, Does Daozhang [Taoist Priest] have any urgent matter to discuss? I am in a hurry to send my humble friend out of the city.

    Ke Feng caught up with them and said with a smile, This must be Kou Xiao Xiongs good partner Ziling Xiao Xiong. Pindao [impoverished Taoist] just want to say hello!

    And then he casually asked, Where is Xu Xiao Xiong going?

    Pretending to be not in the mood to chitchat, Xu Ziling replied without thinking, To Huaiyang.

    Kou Zhongs countenance immediately became very unnatural; pretending to be very much in earnestness, he lowered his voice and said, Even Wanggong only has partial information [orig. to know the first, but not know the second; Daozhang, please do us a big favor, you must not breathe a word.

    Ke Feng solemnly said, What is it? Why is it so serious that Xu Xiao Xiong must leave town immediately? Is there anything Pindao can do to help?

    Xu Ziling put on an awkward expression as if he had just said something that he should not say; he stammered, Because this matter involves the safety of some friends, we would appreciate it very much if Daozhang could keep it strictly confidential.

    Frowning, Ke Feng asked, Does that mean Xu Xiao Xiong is not going to participate in our operation tomorrow?

    Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong replied, It came up very suddenly, Xiao Ling has no choice but to rush to that place.

    Ke Feng nodded and said, In that case, Pindao is not going to waste Xu Xiao Xiongs time anymore. As long as you are careful in everything, your esteemed friend will be able to turn misfortune into blessing.

    The two urged their horses to gallop out of the Imperial City via the eastern gate. When they reached the city gate, they handed over the command tablet issued by Wang Shichong himself, plus the captain of the guards recognized Kou Zhong, so they were able to leave the city without any trouble.

    Outside the city, the two made an act of galloping over the mountains and fields for about ten li before stopping on a hilltop to rest and let the horses have a breather.

    After gazing into the distance from the top of the hill for half a day, Kou Zhong said, There shouldnt be anybody dare to tail us, right?

    Facing the cool night breeze, Xu Ziling took a deep breath. Not in a good mood, he said, The enemy surely can send information via flying pigeon or something like that to notify their cronies in Huaiyang, and spread out the net to wait for me. When I meet with Zhai Jiao, with a momentum of ten-thousand-catty thunderbolt they would swoop us in one go to get rid of any problem later on. Why would they spend so much energy to trail me?

    Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, My brain is still not quite working yet. Ay! Thinking about Su Jie, I just want to cry.

    Xu Ziling coldly said, Go ahead and cry. Afterwards, dont cry anymore. The only thing we must do right now is to be strong enough to face all the unfortunate things that already happened, and then do our best to deal with the crisis before our eyes. I think Ke Feng has been fooled. Now its Shen Luoyans turn, and later on, Li Mi. Its almost time! Youd better go back to town to avoid any suspicion.

    Please be careful! Kou Zhong said.

    Xu Ziling nodded, So must you! he said.

    ※ ※ ※

    The door opened. The Song Clans martial art master guarding the door was stunned. Turns out its Kou Ye. May I ask if you are looking for Qi Shu [seventh uncle], or San Xiaojie [third miss]?

    Stepping over the courtyard gate, Kou Zhong replied, If San Xiaojie had not gone to bed, Id like to ask her a couple of questions.

    The man led him toward the main residential building, while another man took his horse away. Naturally there ought to be another man flying toward the inner courtyard to notify Song Yuzhi. Nobody did not act deferential and proud to have the honor to serve him.

    When they reached the main hall and Kou Zhong sat down, the young man taking him inside, whose name was Song Jie, personally served him fragrant tea and apologetically said, All the maids have retreated to the rear courtyard to rest; who would have thought that Kou Ye would suddenly arrive to grace us with your presence?

    Kou Zhong thought that the Song Clan was worthy to be counted as the number one big clan in the south; any random captain of the gatekeepers, not only his martial art skill was not bad, his speech and demeanor were decent and appropriate to the occasion. Smiling, he said, I dont dare! Theres no need for Song Xiong to be overly courteous.

    Taking the offered tea, he took a sip and said, Why dont Song Xiong sit down and talk?

    Song Jie smiled and said, Its against the rules, Kou Ye please fell free to ask. Fortunately the one Kou Ye wanted to see is San Xiaojie, because Qi Shu still attended a banquet and has not returned.

    Kou Zhong took another sip of the hot tea; emotionally moved, he said, What kind of tea is this? Its so fragrant!

    Song Yuzhis voice responded, That is West Lakes Longjing Tea. If it were brewed using local Hupau [lit. tiger paw] spring water, it would give out even more sweet smelling and clear taste, mouthwatering and thirst quenching; it is known as double-ultimates.

    Kou Zhong turned his head to look at her; his eyes immediately brightened.

    She was wearing silk woven pure white dress, with the collar, breast, sleeves, skirt, and other places adorned with perfectly matched plum colored embroidery. The flowers shape lucid and elegant, the color and luster pleasing to the eye, what is true and what is false in stark contrast, the gradation distinct. Plus the upper outer garment soft and elegant, light and smooth. Worn by this beauty, it was so touching, so moving.

    Song Jie quickly asked to be excused.

    Without the slightest bit of emotion on her face, Song Yuzhi sat down on a chair by the window opposite him, so the two of them were separated by the entire hall, which was nearly two and a half zhang wide.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, To be quite honest, when I saw San Xiaojie just now, I nearly wanted to flee absent-mindedly. Because looking at San Xiaojies brilliant splendor, which is like the bright moon in the sky, I was suddenly overwhelmed with an intense feeling of shame of my own inferiority.

    Song Yuzhi crossly said, You are the best in coaxing a child, the best at talking insincere words. Do you know what time is it now?

    Giggling, Kou Zhong said, That was exactly what I wanted to ask: what time is it now? How come San Xiaojie is not in bed yet?

    Evidently Song Yuzhi was helpless dealing with him; she angrily said, I dont want to blather with you; if you are not going to tell me the reason of your visit this late at night, I am going to ignore you.

    In deadly earnest, Kou Zhong said, I was hoping I could spend the night here.

    Song Yuzhis almond eyes grew big. What? she blurted.

    Kou Zhong crossed his legs, assuming a rogue, rascally demeanor, and then calmly and nonchalantly said, Tonight Xiaodi remains to be the one who is cut off from others [idiom: one who has chosen to follow a solitary path], no more me and Xiao Ling take turns on night vigil while sleeping on the street. I want to get a good night sleep, so I came to implore San Xiaojie to offer shelter. Ay! Tender village is the heros burial mound; to the other end of the world, where is my home?

    Listening to his last two sentences, which were incongruous nonsense, although fully aware that this kid was casually making fun of her, Song Yuzhi was still unable to refrain from smiling; she had to struggle not to laugh as she said, Get lost! Go to Wang Shichong and ask him to offer shelter to you, the tramp!

    Kou Zhong stood up to his full height, stretched his limbs, and said, Where is San Xiaojies boudoir? If I have no place to stay, I will have to borrow San Xiaojies fragrant room, ha! San Xiaojies fragrant room must be particularly savory.

    Just like that, and he walked toward the inner hall.

    Song Yuzhi jumped out of her skin; angered and annoyed, she ran after him, stretching out her finger to seal the vital acupoint on his back.

    This finger attack carried hatred in it, naturally it was quite different from an ordinary move.

    Who would have thought that Kou Zhong took the attack and collapsed.

    Song Yuzhi had never imagined that Kou Zhong did not even dodge or run; quickly she dashed forward to hold him up.

    Paralyzed, Kou Zhong seemed to be falling into her fragrant bosom, while producing a loud snoring noise.

    It was only then did Song Yuzhi realize that she had fallen into a crafty scoundrels trap.

  2. #202
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 17 Chapter 9

    Book 17 Chapter 9 Overbearing Saber Yue Shan

    The sky was overcast.

    The city gate has just been opened. Xu Ziling wore his mask and changed into blue robes, immediately turned into the man who stole the Jade Annulus of He Clan. Using an official pass, he leisurely stepped into the city.

    He did not intentionally stoop his back, but stood erect instead. With his slightly disheveled greying hair, combined with clear, commanding and awe-inspiring countenance, his image as an elderly man was quite eye-catching.

    He had a long saber hanging on his waist, giving him an air of an old Jianghu veteran who had been through the vicissitudes of life.

    The appointed time that he and Kou Zhong agreed upon before they parted was still two sichen away. He strolled leisurely in the city, and subconsciously his feet brought him to the familiar Tianjin Bridge.

    As always, the Bridge was full of pedestrians and carriages. Recalling the scene where Shi Feixuan told him a story last night, a hard-to-describe emotion mixed with slight melancholy welled up in his heart.

    Why did she suddenly leave the quiet cultivation of the Chanyuan [Buddhist Hall] and come looking for him here? Maybe she was on different errand and coincidentally run into him. Oftentimes the way she handled matters was beyond expectations anyway, bordering to mystery, so that nobody was able to predict.

    His feet stepped on the Tianjian Bridge, his heart turned toward Ba Fenghan.

    This outstanding Tujue swordsman, who has undergone life and death together with him, was really not as heartless as the image he projected outside; to say the least, there was remorse in his heart concerning Ba Daier, and was using thousand ways, a hundred plans to avoid seeing her.

    Just then, he saw two acquaintances.

    Dark clouds raced in the sky, rainstorm was coming.

    ※ ※ ※

    Raindrops were falling onto the roof and the windowsills. Sparse at first, but quickly became heavy. In the blink of an eye, the world outside the room was filled with the patter of rain, beautiful like natures hands were playing music with the most graceful movement.

    Kou Zhong, lying down on dragon-head couch, hugging the fragrant and clean quilt, remembered Xu Ziling, who was sleeping in the wilderness, first. And then his mind wandered to Shang Xiufangs moving singing voice, which worth listening a hundred times over, and finally recalled the enthralling feeling of leaning in Song Yuzhis tender bosom, which was able to melt him. His nostrils were still smelling the orchid scent coming out of her body.

    Surprisingly, this beauty, who had a love-hate relationship with him, did not throw him to the ground when they were outside earlier. Unexpectedly she carried him and tossed him to the bench, before ordering her men to take him to the guest room. Kou Zhong really felt overwhelmed by the favor shown by her.

    If he said that he did not have good impression or feeling of love toward her, then he deceived himself. At least when she was near, he never felt lonely, time seemed to slip away a lot faster.

    Ever since the defeat of Jingling, he had never experienced such a sweet and sound sleep.

    The sound of rain outside was enhancing the safety and comfort inside the room even more.

    Suddenly Li Xiunings image in his mind turned blurry, replaced by Song Yuzhis touching charm, which carried a mixture of delight and anger.

    Sound of footsteps approached.

    Bang! the door opened.

    Followed by the sound of window being closed.

    Without even looking Kou Zhong already smelled Song Yuzhis scent; inwardly he was astounded. A maid or a servant ought to come to wait on him rinsing his mouth and washing his face, why would she inconvenience the Third Miss pair of delicate lily-white hands?

    This thought was still hovering in his mind when Song Yuzhi came over and stopped in front of the bed curtain. Do you have enough sleep? she shouted tenderly, Why havent you gotten lost?

    Kou Zhong stretched and put his hand out of the curtain and said, Could San Xiaojie help me up?


    Song Yuzhi ruthlessly bestowed a heavy slap on his outstretched palm and said angrily, If you act willfully and make a scene again, I am going to throw you out of the door.

    Stroking his painful hand, Kou Zhong sat up and grumbled, Cant you hit a bit lighter?

    Song Yuzhi turned her tender body around in rage, Scoundrel! she angrily said.

    Kou Zhong pushed both legs out of the curtain, got out of bed and just stood behind her silky back. Giggling, he said, San Xiaojies great kindness and great virtue in upholding justice and offering shelter last night, I, Kou Zhong will almost never forget.

    Song Yuzhi stared blankly, Why almost? she asked.

    Kou Zhong leaned over her fragrant shoulder toward her small ear and spoke tenderly, If San Xiaojie was willing to receive me in your own fragrant room, then I would really never forget.

    Song Yuzhi took a step forward, turned around and slapped.


    Five streaks of red blood finger lines immediately appeared on Kou Zhongs face, but disappeared in the blink of an eye.

    Song Yuzhi was stunned, Why didnt you evade?

    Wiping the saliva from his mouth Kou Zhong said with a smile, I made San Xiaojie so angry, ought to be punished.

    A complicated emotion flashed through Song Yuzhis eyes; she sighed and said, Kou Zhong, who are the real you?

    Kou Zhong sat down on the bed, Susus matter welled up in his heart; with a painful look on his eyes, he spoke in low voice, Unless San Xiaojie is willing to marry me, I will never force you.

    Song Yuzhis jade countenance calmed down; she slowly walked over toward the window overlooking the garden, and softly said, That being the case, it would be best if you never appear in front of Yuzhi anymore.

    Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, If that is San Xiaojies wish, I, Kou Zhong, will definitely obey. Ay! I had never thought that I would suffer an unrequited love. Its really amusing!

    Like a whirlwind Song Yuzhi turned around and hatefully stared at him, saying, You practically dont have me in your heart, and you still said unrequited love. If you say it one more time, I am going to kill you.

    Kou Zhong was stunned, How can I not have you in my heart? he said, Last night I dreamt about being with San Xiaojie in San Xiaojies fragrant room. Hey! It was a beautiful dream that Xiaodi will remember the rest of my life.

    Song Yuzhis pretty face blushed; she nearly wanted to pull the sword hanging on her waist. Losing her temper, she stomped her feet and said furiously, Big scoundrels dog mouth will never grow ivory; is it not enough that you took advantage of me?

    In all earnestness Kou Zhong nodded and said, Indeed last night I took quite an advantage of San Xiaojie, but that was the most fragrant and sweetest sleep in the world.

    Song Yuzhi was at loss; she angrily sat down on a chair next to the window. Momentarily she did not know what to say.

    Barefooted, Kou Zhong came over to chair, got down on one knee, and held the arm of the chair with both hands. Looking up at this beauty with puffed up fragrant cheeks, he spoke tenderly, I dare to swear by the Heaven, there is definitely Song Yuzhi in Kou Zhongs heart.

    Song Yuzhi met his gaze and said with a sneer, Of course you do! Because I am one of the stepping stones you use to conquer the world.

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said, At the beginning I did have the idea of using you. But it was only last night that I became aware that its difficult for me not to think about you, Yuzhi.

    When he returned to the city last night, because of Ren En and the others tragic death and hearing Susus misfortune, his heartache was difficult to endure; for some reason he really wanted to see Song Yuzhi, hence the reason he came looking for her.

    Song Yuzhis countenance was eerily as calm as the still water; she spoke slowly, Kou Zhong, you must have remembered that a real mans words are like mountain. Just now you promised that you wont come bothering Yuzhi anymore, but now you want to go back on your words? I dont care whether you are sincere or hypocritical, in short, my heart cannot tolerate you anymore. Our discussion is over, please leave!

    Kou Zhong felt as if his heart had just received a ten-thousand-catty big-iron-hammers blow; the pain nearly threw him back on the floor.

    Suddenly he gained clear understanding that due to his bad attitude from the start, he had deeply angered Song Yuzhi, so that she was incapable of accepting him.

    He was certain that she had deep love toward him, Kou Zhong, but the bitterness in her heart was just as deep.

    And now the hatred has reached the point of no return.

    Other than his face turned deathly pale, on the surface there was no sign of his inner feelings.

    Rising to his full height, he gazed deeply into her eyes, and said dejectedly, Yuzhi, please take good care of yourself!

    And then, still barefooted, he walked to the wind and the rain outdoors.

    ※ ※ ※

    Opening the umbrella he just bought, Xu Ziling walked quietly behind Zheng Shuming and Bai Qinger, two women.

    Zheng Shuming was the female chief [dangjia] of the Yangtze River Alliance. Because her husband died under Ba Fenghans hands, outside Jingling she led the Qingjiang Pai, Cangwu Pai, Jiangnan Hui, Mingyang Bang, Tiandong Pai, and others under the Alliance Banner to besiege Ba Fenghan, but luckily he and Kou Zhong happened to come by and disrupt their plan [see Book 11 Chapter 7]. Later on, harboring grudges, Zheng Shuming joined hands with Qian Duguan, Evil Monk, Amorous Nun, and the others, ambushed them inside the city. After the two boys escaped from the siege, they managed to cast away Zheng Shuming. Surprisingly she now came to Luoyang.

    This new widow was as refined, beautiful and alluring as ever. She walked together with Bai Qinger under one umbrella, quietly talking and laughing, loitering and coming in and out of the cosmetic and perfume shops along the Heavenly Street, seemingly forgetting the sorrow of her husbands demise.

    Since Xu Ziling had nothing to do anyway, plus he wanted to find a clue about Yin Gui Pai from Bai Qinger, he followed them as they entered another street.

    Under cover of the heavy rain, it was so easy to conceal his presence as he followed their tracks.

    Just then, someone came closer and said in a low voice, Laozhang [Sir (formal)], can I have a word with you?

    Xu Ziling was sure that he had never heard this mans voice before; without even looking at him, he laughed coldly and spoke in hoarse voice, Laofu [old man] is not interested in talking with anybody. Get out of here.

    The man snorted angrily and said, This is called a toast you refuse to drink, forfeit wine you want to drink. Let Ol Zheng see how much skill you have.

    The sound of finger wind arrived.

    Xu Ziling unleashed his shifting-shape, exchanging-position skill; just with a flash he was already at different position, separated from the attacker by two groups of people, seven or eight in total, who were standing under the eaves to take shelter from the rain.

    Huh? the man exclaimed in surprise; evidently because Xu Zilings brilliance was far beyond his expectation.

    Xu Ziling guessed that the other party must be the Henan Mad Scholar Zheng Shiru, aware that his trailing the two women had been found out, so he closed his umbrella and quickly dashed into a small alley.

    By this time rain water was amassed in puddles on ground, while raindrop did not stop falling, splashing on the roof and on the ground, each splash created amazing pattern, different from each other, painting this great city in a wonderful rain scenery.

    Zheng Shiru ran after him from behind. Stop! he bellowed.

    Xu Ziling stood still with his hand on the hilt of his saber; he spoke coldly, Laofu has not moved my saber to kill for several decades, youd better not force Laofu to violate my oath.

    Zheng Shiru spoke heavily, Laozhang, may I ask your esteemed surname and great given name?

    Xu Ziling sneered in disdain and said, You are well aware that Laofu will not tell you my name and surname, yet still open your mouth to ask; wouldnt it be extremely superfluous?

    Wearing this mask with different hairstyle, Xu Ziling seemed to adopt different persona, turning into an extremely overbearing and grim old man.

    Zheng Shiru laughed aloud and said, Without you telling me, I, Zheng Shiru, can guess your identity, the Ba Dao [overbearing saber] Yue Shan, whose name shook Shanbei [northern Shaanxi province, including Yulin and Yanan] forty years ago. Since when did you become this faceless [orig. to hide the head and show the tail]?

    Xu Ziling was secretly amused, while thinking that when he had time later, he would like to investigate what kind of man this Overbearing Saber Yue Shan was. Letting out a stifled grunt, he continued walking forward.

    Unexpectedly Zheng Shiru did not dare to pursue; he only shouted, Yue Laoshi [teacher] going down the mountain this time, you must have wanted to wash away the previous disgrace, but now the times are changing, with your own personal power, its hard to spread out your aspiration. Yue Laoshi please think three times, Shiru will pay you a visit later on.

    Without looking back Xu Ziling continued walking this segment of the street, and after making sure nobody was following him, he darted into a corner and put on the Scarface Hero mask.

    He thought that this Overbearing Saber Yue Shan must be a martial art master whose might shook a region at one time, and then because of some setback later, he returned to his native place and lived in seclusion for several decades. Just by looking at how martial art masters like Zheng Shiru was still harboring fear and respect toward him, and doing their utmost to recruit him, Xu Ziling knew that Yue Shans martial art skill must be not small matter.

    But this moment he did not have time to think too much; he must hurry to go back to Kou Zhong.

    ※ ※ ※

    When the dripping wet Kou Zhong stepped over the screen door to prevent water from coming in of the Fucheng Satin Emporium, and set his foot in the vast main hall of this most famous store in Louyang, the big boss of the emporium, Li Fucheng, was showing his goods to Zheng Shuming and Bai Qinger. He said, This is an authentic Lu [Shandong Province] brocade; unique in that it was dyed in advance before being weaved into fabric, so that the color and luster is so much brighter, with tens of thousands pattern variations. From the selection of the cotton, to the twisted core of the cloth, the spinning, the dyeing and the starching, the net threading, the warping [i.e. vertical thread in weaving], the bore through warp forming, the machine weaving, finishing, up to the final rigorous quality control, not one thread was loose [i.e. strictly according to the rules]. And what I have here is known as the Heartthrob [orig. bewildering ten thousand people], like huh?

    It was only this moment that he discovered Bai Qinger and Zheng Shumings two pairs of beautiful eyes were looking elsewhere.

    In fact, inside the shop, all five shop-attendants and the other three customers had their eyes on Kou Zhong and the dripping water forming puddle of water on the floor.

    Kou Zhong appeared to be completely oblivious that he had become the target of a multitude of arrows. Were it not for his heroic physique and the long saber hanging on his back, he would have been kicked out of the door early on.

    While taking out the carefully wrapped in waterproof thin, tough silk fabric, bundle containing the treasured books, his purse and other things from his pocket, he called out, I dont want the Heartthrob that the women wear, just a set of ready-made mens clothes, plus a pair of riding boots. If you dont have it here, get it for me elsewhere, I will pay double the price. Ay! So unbearable!

    Zheng Shumings beautiful eyes shot a deep, cold murderous aura, her voice was like ice and snow as she spit it out from between her rows of jade teeth, Kou Zhong, its you!

    As soon as the two characters Kou Zhong came out, Li Fucheng and the shop attendants immediately showed reverence on their faces.

    Li Fucheng readily cast the Lu brocade, which he praised as there-is-no-other-under-the-heavens, aside, and bowed and said, Turns out its Kou Ye; forgive me for failing to salute. Shangshu Daren is an old friend of Fucheng, please come in to enjoy a cup of hot tea first, everything will be taken care of to Kou Yes satisfaction.

    Kou Zhong mused inwardly that not only Luoyang was the transportation hub and the melting pot of people from all over the world, it was also a metropolitan where news travelled really fast. Delighted, he said, In that case I will definitely say a few words to the old friend on your behalf. Laoban [boss], do you need to measure me? Xiaodi prefers a slightly loose fitting clothes. Ha!

    Li Fucheng seemed to have forgotten the two ladies, he promptly took the measuring tape handed over by one of the shop attendants, and despite the dripping wet Kou Zhong, he started to get busy in front of him.

    Kou Zhong winked at the standing-in-front-of-him-and-was-glowering-at-him Zheng Shuming, and said with a laugh, Xiaodi is not Ba Fenghan at all, why are you staring at me like that? A wise and virtuous woman is of the same standing as a man of noble character; therefore, when the gentleman uses his mouth to speak, the lady must not use her hand to fight. A bit later I will book a banquet to apologize to Nu Dangjia [female chief], is that all right?

    Pfft! Bai Qinger giggled tenderly, pulled Zheng Shumings elbow and said, Jiejie dont pay attention to him, lets go elsewhere to have fun; what the eye doesnt see, the heart doesnt grieve over.

    How could Kou Zhong miss the opportunity to get to her? He smiled and said, No better or worse than each other. Dont forget to notify Female Demon Wan, sooner or later I will definitely settle old hatred and new enmity with her.

    Bai Qinger pouted her bright red beautiful small mouth; as if nothing had happened she said, I have no idea what you are talking about. Lets go.

    But Zheng Shuming was puzzled, What Female Demon Wan? she asked.

    Before she finished speaking, Bai Qinger already pulled her out to the street.

    Kou Zhong called out, Other than Yin Gui Pai female demon, is there any other female demon? Ha! Ay!

    Remembering Song Yuzhi, his happy mood disappeared immediately.

    ※ ※ ※

    The Scarface Hero Xu Ziling strolled slowly along the street under his umbrella.

    Taking off his robe, he only wore tight warrior outfit, and shed the previously Overbearing Saber Yue Shans image.

    Even without his encounter with Zheng Shiru happening, he was already prepared to change his appearance, so the elderly man entering the city earlier disappeared completely, without leaving any traces for other people to follow.

    The irrigation ditch between the pedestrian path and the vehicle and horses street have become two streams of small river, plus the continuous rain pouring down from the roofs on either side of the street became curtains of water, giving the impression of powerful armies unceasingly charging down onto the street, carrying with them strong rushing momentum. Fortunately Luoyangs drainage system was doing its job; otherwise the city would become a flood plain.

    There were splashes of water [orig. rain flower] everywhere, far and near the vision blurred, street traffic was sparse, Xu Ziling could not help feeling that between the heaven and the earth, there was only me, alone; it was such a strange feeling.

    If Shi Feixuan was with him, walking together in the rain, and he was listening to her fascinating and moving stories, smelling the fragrance coming from her body, what kind of feeling would that be?

    He recalled the side profile of this simple and elegant, immortal-like beauty, as she fixed her eyes on the Luo River down below from the bridge railing; her expression seemed so focused on that place, so that she was completely oblivious to his stare, that she was only immersed in some magical space of thinking, and she and he seemed to live in two different worlds.

    The meeting with Shi Feixuan, which exceeded all expectations, not only stayed forever in his mind, it also made him to think it over endlessly.

    He had never personally experienced the shock and the feeling Shi Feixuan was giving him, which was similar to a strand of nameless force pulling him into a place he had never set foot on, but until this moment he still found it hard to believe that it was dreamlike realm that actually happened.

    This stunning beauty, what exactly was in the deepest part of her heart?

    Supposing Xu Ziling strong-armed her and held her in his bosom, how would her pair of pure beauty, otherworldly [orig. not eating the food of common mortals], hidden-in-depth, pretty eyes, change?

    A rueful smile seemed to float out of the corner of Xu Zilings mouth.

    Ever since he mastered the Secret to Long Life, he grew increasingly indifferent toward the love between men and women. In the past, he had never had this kind of desire. Perhaps it was thin sudden heavy rain that caused a dim, depressing high-speed thought to appear in his mind.

    After all, she was a person outside of this world, plus her cultivation was really deep, her pursuit was of sublime ideal, and not the desire between man and woman at all. In the end any wishful thinking toward her would turn to be simply an illusion [orig. flowers in the mirror and the moon reflected in the lake], leaving an empty and ruined resentment.

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath; myriads of thought flashing through his mind, one thought turned into no thought at all.

    All disturbing thoughts immediately became empty; tranquil and even-tempered, he walked toward his destination.

  3. #203
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 17 Chapter 10

    Book 17 Chapter 10 Join Forces in the Central Plains

    Song Jingang welcomed Kou Zhong into the inner hall; he laughed and said, Kou Xiong is willing to come, that means you are a trustworthy man, why should anything else need to be explained?

    Kou Zhong sat down and accepted the fragrant tea offered by Song Jingangs subordinate. Looking out the window, he said pensively, The rain stopped!

    Song Jingang leaned back in his chair; together with Kou Zhong he cast his eyes out the window and said, Usually, you can see this kind of heavy rain in Luoyang during summer months. This was early!

    Kou Zhong put the cup on the small table between the two; looking extremely vigilant, he fixed his eyes at Song Jingang and asked, Song Xiong, which side do you think Xiaodi should work with?

    But Song Jingang looked unconcerned; he said, I think you should help Li Zitong.

    Only after finishing his remark did he turn to see the opposite side.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, You really didnt want me to assassinate Du Fuwei?

    Inwardly he thought that if the answer was yes, he would flatly refuse. If he really wanted to assassinate Du Fuwei, it must be in the midst of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, with open saber and open spear, not with some plotting and scheming in the dark. Toward Du Fuwei, he did not have the slightest bit of ill will, on the contrary, he really had a bit of admiration and respect of a son toward his father.

    Song Jingang laughed calmly and said, That is just a lowly strategy, plus it is difficult to accomplish. I was only thinking of inviting Kou Xiong to defend and stabilize Jiangdu on Li Zitongs behalf, while the other two factions attack Jingling, to force Du Fuwei to retreat, then it will be difficult for Shen Faxing to act. At the same time, Xiao Xian will be able to act as if he was going to cross over the Great River, so that Du Fuwei will not dare to rush indiscriminately into action.

    Now Kou Zhong understood why Yun Yuzhen was willing to be Song Jingangs go-between.

    Song Jingang was certainly a person with great skill and strategy; in the middle of planning an attack to the Li Clan, he did not overlook military situation all over the world at all.

    If Li Mi and Wang Shichong fought until both sides suffered, Du Fuwei was defeated as he attacked to the north, and Song Jingang was able to attack Taiyuan, then Liu Wuzhous power could be easily extended to the key areas north and south of the Yellow River, and would become the most powerful overlord.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, But whats in it for me?

    Song Jingang replied, Only by protecting Li Zitong would Du Fuwei only be able to hold back and would not dare to attack the Flying Horse Ranch and the two big cities under its protection. At that time, when Kou Xiong attacks Jingling and Xiangyang, we will join forces at Luoyang. When that happens, friend of foe, or diving the world evenly, will become the matter of only two powers, then we can take our time in making the decision.

    Kou Zhong laughed involuntarily; he said, After a long time talking it over whether one is friend or foe, this is the first time that Xiaodi heard something like this. And it seems that Song Xiong is overestimating Xiaodi too much! Li Zitong may not necessarily be willing to listen to what I have to say.

    Indifferent, Song Jingang said, Since Kou Xiong is able to persuade Wang Shichong, that old fox, what is a trivial Li Zitong to you? Besides, all along my masters relationship with Li Zitong hasnt been too bad. Based only on your brilliant record of being able to defend Jingling for ten days with what can be considered only a remnant of the main army, while Li Zitong himself stood at an impasse, that will easily give him something to consider.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, Quite possibly Song Xiong is the best lobbyist after Su Qin and Zhang Yi[1]. However, in this kind of troublesome matter, I must discuss it with my Xiongdi before I can make a decision. Can you wait a few days?

    Song Jingang said, I am going to leave immediately, but I might leave behind a contact person. As soon as Kou Xiong gives us a nod, we will arrange everything for you.

    Kou Zhong and Song Jingang discussed the means of communication between them, as well as talking about the current situation related to Jiangdu. Only then did he take his leave.

    ※ ※ ※

    Inside a compact second-floor apartment built along the Tianjin Canal on Xuanfeng Lane at the west side of the city Xu Ziling sat alone in the inner hall, waiting for Kou Zhong.

    It was a safe house provided by Wang Shichong for them to use, so that they could avoid peoples eyes and ears.

    This moment Kou Zhong arrived; he dejectedly slumped down in the chair to Xu Zilings left. Quite out of character, he did not blabber like a torrent as his usual self.

    What happened? Xu Ziling asked indifferently.

    Depressed, Kou Zhong replied, I officially broke up with Yuzhi, with no hope of restoration.

    Xu Ziling asked in surprise, How could that happen? With your, Zhong Shaos silver tongue, white can turn to black, deer can turn into horse, what cant possibly be redeemed?

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, You still call yourself Xiongdi? Right now I am so miserable, you are still teasing me? Ay! My problem is that this moment I really grew to love her, hence I am in no favorable position to use my silver tongue skill.

    Stunned, Xu Ziling said, So you are not joking.

    Joking? Kou Zhong blurted out.

    And then his expression turned bitter as with a rueful smile he looked at the pair of new boots he had just purchased, After giving her my word that I wont appear before her again, in anguish I walked barefooted in the wind and the rain. At that time my entire being was empty and devoid of any strength, my breathing impeded, my vision indistinct, my heart was pounding inside me as if the pounding of the blacksmiths sledgehammer on the anvil, getting heavier and heavier, my brains was swelling like the rumbling of the rolling thunder, I nearly fire deviated.

    Incredulously Xu Ziling stared dumbly for quite a while before asking, Have you forgotten Li Xiuning?

    In distressed, Kou Zhong said, When I woke up this morning, I have really forgotten her, there was only Song Yuzhi in my heart. Ay! This time is more miserable than the last time I lost my love, my entire being felt like being drowned into the abyss of the sea, the pain at the pit of my stomach was so great from the pressure.

    Do you want me to go talk to San Xiaojie? Xu Ziling asked.

    Absolutely not! Kou Zhong resolutely replied, We, brothers, must let it pass. I, Kou Zhong, want to obtain the world, why must I rely on my in-laws? Humph! I wish Yuzhi will still find happiness without me.

    Smiling bitterly, Xu Ziling said, Dont ever think that she wont be happy without you. This is all right, otherwise, how could we justify ourselves in front of Song Shidao?

    Kou Zhong flew into rage, You still dont believe that my feeling toward San Xiaojie is real? he asked.

    Xu Ziling reached out to grab his shoulders and shook him twice; he sighed and said, If you could forget Li Xiuning, then you can also forget Song Yuzhi. Just leave a little bit of your mind for other things!

    Kou Zhong was silent for a moment. He did feel Xu Zilings trying to comfort and care for him; nodding his head, he said, I have an important matter to discuss with you.

    ※ ※ ※

    Finished listening, Xu Ziling spoke heavily, Xiao Xian is finally going up north!

    Kou Zhong was shaken. Good point! he said, Not only that, this is a one-stone, three-bird stratagem. Xiao Xian and Xiang Yushan worthy to be called conspiracy masters.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Fancy that they thought about it. It can clearly be seen that the one Liu Wuzhou wanted to join forces with is not you, the kid without any qualifications; rather, it is Xiao Xian. By the time they join forces outside the Pass, they can capture Luoyang first, and then attack Guanzhong. Two old kids, one goes southerly, the other northerly. Only by joining forces like this will they have the opportunity to divide the world evenly.

    Actually, Kou Zhong has already been considering this issue.

    It should be noted that currently Kou Zhong had no officers, no troops; the Flying Horse Ranch was not his underlings. How could Liu Wuzhou, this kind of powerful and overbearing hegemon, who had the Tujues as his supporting force, have any regard on him? At best, in his eyes Kou Zhong was a very useful chess piece. Because Xiao Xian and the others had a comparably deep understanding of him, this carefully conceived evil plan must be coming from Xiao Xian and the others.

    If he fell into the trap, he would use his influence on the Flying Horse Ranch and his former subordinates at Jingling city to help him on an all-out effort to attack Jingling. When that happened, Xiao Xian would be able to enter by exploiting a weak spot, by attacking the Flying Horse Ranch and the two big cities nearby. The most formidable part of this plan was that even if Shang Xiuxun and the others were fully aware that the Baling troops were crossing the River and coming to the north, they would still mistakenly believe that it was only part of the joint military operations. By the time they became helpless, isolated troops, there would be no other choices but to surrender.

    At that time Xiao Xian would acquire a wide expanse of territory north of the Great River, while Du Fuwei was deep in mire at Jiangdu, he could only sit and watch Xiao Xian nibbling away his territory in the west.

    This moment Xiao Xian might be brandishing his troops going up north to Luoyang, to meet with Liu Wuzhou and together they would accomplish this beautiful dream.

    Xiao Ling, Kou Zhong said, Tell me, what should I do?

    Xu Ziling resolutely said, Because Su Jie is in Xiao Xians hands, right now we refrain from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vases. Plus any military operation must have a definite target. But we cant have a fall out with Xiao Xian openly, and yet we must preserve the Flying Horse Ranch, plus we cant let Old Die prevail. There are so many contradictory and hard-to-reconcile-together situations tangled together, and you ask me to tell you what to do?

    Kou Zhongs eyes lit up; he said, We must soldier on. As long as we can defend Jiangdu, and not causing the Old Die too much damage, and Shang beauty can put an act, pretending to attack Jingling, we can secretly deal with Xiao Xian, and resolve the immediate crisis at the same time.

    But then he turned dejected again and said, But how can we preserve Jiangdu without causing Old Die too much damage? This is simply not possible.

    Well find a way, Xu Ziling said, But we must go to Jiangdu to have a good grasp of the situation first, only then will we be able to change according to the situation. And now, wed better think about tonight first.

    Kou Zhong was silent for half a day. Finally he looked at Xu Zilings scarred face, and said with a laugh, The carriage has been waiting for a long time, may I ask Scarface General if we could set out now?

    ※ ※ ※

    When Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, along with Wang Shichong and the others, arrived at the Rong Mansions main gate, they were greatly surprised at the lively atmosphere.

    Rong Fengxiangs, the richest individual in Luoyang, mansion was built atop a knoll at the northeast side of the city, occupying a vast land; the scale was really grand. At the first glance, the buildings were scattered about the forest like stars in the sky; a spectacular scene.

    Right in the middle of the square outside the main gate, there was a huge mythological sea turtle mountain [鳌山]. The high fence was festooned wonderful, skillfully-crafted, colored lanterns their estimate was that there were no less than ten thousand lanterns, glorious and dazzling, illuminating the surrounding area, inside and outside, as bright as daylight.

    There was a steady stream of well-wishers carriages and horses; everywhere they looked, the area was packed with ladies in silk embroidered dress. With the continuous ear-splitting firecrackers, their smoke filled the air, the hubbub of peoples laughing and jesting, the atmosphere surpassed New Years celebration.

    Inside, the Mansion was decorated with lanterns and colored banners, maids and servants moving everywhere, greeting and ushering the guests.

    Wang Shichongs group was at its peak condition as well, with close to a hundred carefully chosen bodyguards, protecting eight horse-drawn carriage, slowly entering the Rong Mansion.

    Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong and Ouyang Xiyi shared a carriage. Seeing the two boys curiously looking at the crowd outside, the latter smiled and said, When Laofu was young, I was just like you, loved to join in the fun. But now I avoid crowded places like an ominous place.

    Xu Ziling had changed into another mask, he was now an ordinary-looking man, nothing out of the ordinary. Hearing Ouyang Xiyi, his heart was moved; he asked, Has Qianbei [senior] ever heard of the Overbearing Saber Yue Shan?

    Kou Zhong asked in surprise, Just by hearing his name, I get the impression that this man is extremely overbearing; where did you meet him?

    Ouyang Xiyi was the only one, outside Wang Shichong, who was privy of Xu Zilings real identity, in order to conceal his presence as much as possible. Hearing the question, a nervous expression appeared on his face; he said, Did Xu Xiaodi really meet him?

    Xu Ziling replied, Wanbei [junior] only heard someone mentioning his name, so I was very curious!

    Ouyang Xiyi breathed an obvious sigh of relief, So thats what happened, he said, Yue Shan was a heretical sects martial art master of our generation who ran amuck for some time in the past; vicious and merciless, he killed people like scything flax. At that time his reputation was even above Zhu Yuyans. Later on he was defeated by the Heavenly Saber Song Que, and then he disappeared. At that time Song Que was only in his twenties. This was the battle that actually established his reputation as the number one saber master in the world.

    Meanwhile the carriage stopped. Obviously Ouyang Xiyi did not want to talk about this man much longer; he urged the two boys to get off the carriage.

    Kou Zhong had just stepped off the carriage, a whiff of fragrance assaulted his nostrils immediately, followed by Cuier, dressed like the lovely scene of blossoming flower swaying in the breeze, stepping forward to greet him, Welcome, welcome. Kou Gongzi honors us by your presence; this is indeed to the Rong Mansions glory.

    Kou Zhong was stunned, So Man Qing Yuan is not doing any business today? he asked, How come you, Cuier, are here as a greeter?

    Cuier affectionately came closer to pull his arm away; with an enchanting smile she said, Rong Da Laobans [big boss] order; cant we take a day off? Besides, all guests are coming here, we, Man Qing Yuans ladies have no choice but to come here as well! Such a simple logic, yet the intelligent Kou Gongzi still has to ask nujia?

    While his hand was busy touching and squeezing her silky breasts, Kou Zhongs eyes were scanning the surrounding area for any movement.

    The parking of the carriage has obviously been arranged beforehand, because he did not see any other carriage.

    One after another Wang Shichong and the others got off their carriages, and were greeted personally by Rong Fengxiang.

    As soon as Ouyang Xiyi and Xu Ziling were out of their carriage, they positioned themselves close to Wang Shichong, along with the other martial art masters, including the mole Ke Feng, and the officers and soldiers responsible to protect their master.

    Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu and Yang Gongqing, three men, did not attend this event. The first two were responsible for city defense and keeping a close watch over Yang Dongs camps movement, while Yang Gongqing was in charge of the main force stationed within the Imperial City.

    As for Dong Shuni, because of her relationship with Rong Jiaojiao, had been inside the Rong Mansion since before noon to join in the fun.

    This moment, as Rong Fengxiang and Wang Shichong were exchanging greetings, wishing each other peace and good fortune, Cuier leaned toward Kou Zhongs ear and pouted, Gongzi made nujia miserable! How are you going to compensate me?

    Several guests accidentally walked this way, but Wang Shichongs bodyguards kindly and courteously asked them to turn around and take another way.

    Kou Zhong saw Ke Feng was walking over to Xu Ziling; apparently he wanted to get a feel for this strangers, who had appeared suddenly, foundation. He responded without thinking, What did I do to make Cuier so miserable?

    Cuier was practically nibbling on his ear; she said, Last night you clearly promised to have Qing Ju, Qing Lian and Qing Ping to accompany you, but you slipped away without telling us; they blamed to nujia to the death.

    Cuiers soft, nagging voice, firecrackers and clamorous noise all around, splendid and dazzling lanterns, Wang Shichong and Rong Fengxiangs chitchat, Ke Fengs inquiry on Xu Ziling, the bodyguards who acted like they were about to fight their archenemy, which reminded him that they were in the face of the imminent assassination attempt, all these things were flowing like myriads of small streams converging into a big river into Kou Zhongs consciousness, giving him an extremely strange feeling.

    It was like he was in the middle of a dream, from which he would forever never awake, the noise dissolved into the background so that he could see all the movement, but did not hear any sound. Perhaps because he had been anticipating this moment for several days that everything before his eyes seemed to be a very strange experience, which made all the hair on his body stood on its end.

    Everything seemed to move in slow motion. By the time he saw Ke Feng was near Xu Ziling, while he, consistent with his amiable, elderly attitude, opened his mouth to talk, Kou Zhong seemed to know exactly the moment the lips started to move, the buzz of the voice seemed to cause a subtle change to the muscle on his body.

    And then he saw Ouyang Xiyi came over to rescue Xu Ziling from the trouble, followed by Wang Shichong and Rong Fengxiang, under the throng of maids, servants and bodyguards escort, walked side by side toward the main gate, while the other guests had to move aside to make way for them.

    Cuiers voice seemed to come from far away place through ten thousand crags and torrents, and lingered on inside his ears.

    Tell me! How are you going to compensate me?

    The Qiuci beauty Linglong Jiao, who was walking by his side, shot him a fierce look; she was rebuking him with her eyes.

    Kou Zhong suddenly came to his senses; he gave her a cursory response, In two days Xiaodi will set aside some time to come to the Man Qing Yuan to compensate you well.

    But inwardly he was quite shaken.

    After going through hard battles for many days in succession, he finally made a breakthrough in the martial art study, stepping into the realm one step higher.

    And then he gently freed himself away from Cuiers passionate, fiery entanglement, and caught up with Wang Xuanying and Wang Xuanshu, following behind the two men into the main lobby, where the sound of drums and joyous music shook the heavens.

    ※ ※ ※

    Rong Fengxiang was worthy to be the richest man in Luoyang; the luxurious three-section main residential building clearly displayed the level of his riches and honor.

    The front hall was not only spacious with high ceiling, the decoration was gorgeous; in term of grandeur, it surpassed the halls of the Imperial Palace. In the middle there were six main pillars decorated with carved golden dragons towering toward the roof, the ceiling was engraved with magnificent pattern, with the ceiling of the center atrium decorated with three-dimensional relief sculpture of two dragons fighting over a pearl. The other furnishing, the hanging ornaments, everything was extremely exquisite.

    This moment approximately twenty banquet tables were set up in the main hall, with more than a hundred guests congregating around them, but it did not feel crowded at all.

    Only eight people followed Wang Shichong inside, the rest stayed outside. Even so, with Kou Zhong and the others, this party still showed massive strength.

    One was the politician who wields power in Luoyang; the other was the richest man in Luoyang who was celebrating his birthday, naturally there would be unending sound of people congratulating them.

    With Wang Shichong and Rong Fengxiang leading the way, they did not remain in the front hall; instead, they went through the hall onto the corridor, and straight toward the inner hall where the most distinguished guests were usually received.

    The hall was nearly as spacious as the front hall, but there were only ten banquet tables, with four tables in the middle, and the remaining six were spread evenly on both sides, highlighting the four most respectable tables in the hall.

    The guests who could enter this inner hall must be either Luoyangs most distinguished figures, or outside visitors with distinguished status like Li Shimin, Tuli, and the others. Those with not enough weigh could only sit in the other two banquet halls.

    Kou Zhong scanned the room with his eyes. The first one catching his eyes was the magician-eyed Dong Shuni, dressed like a bright-colored small bird, who was sitting together with another beautiful young girl, whose good look was hard to distinguished with Dong Shunis, yet having a distinctive style, in a group of seven or eight exquisitely dressed young masters, who were crowded around them, talking and laughing in a very joyful setting.

    This woman was, of course, Rong Jiaojiao, who shared the title Luoyang Twin Beauties with Dong Shuni. Indeed she possessed natural beauty; good-looking and captivating. Her bright eyes seemed to be always on the move, seizing the soul and hooking the spirit, yet also affectionate and full of passion, while appeared bashful. Her demeanor was even more tender, straightforward and sharp-witted, with multifarious subtlety. Compared to Dong Shuni, she was slightly taller, more slender and elegant, with icy flesh and snowy skin, nobody would be able to stop his spirit from being snatched away.

    Dong Shuni shot them a glance, and immediately puckered her lips in disdain, and no longer looked their direction. It was as if because of Kou Zhong, she was also angry at Wang Shichong.

    On the contrary, Rong Jiaojiaos eyes lingered on Kou Zhong for a few moments, before she pursed her lips and giggled tenderly, while hanging her small cicada head down. Looking at her touching appearance, Kou Zhongs heart beat a little faster.

    To the left of the main entrance, there was a group of eighteen courtesans, their hair was combed low in a spiral bun, their upper outer garment had narrow sleeves, their skirt tight on the waist, with shawl, and was standing in three rows, playing their instruments.

    From konghou [Chinese harp], pipa [Chinese lute], transverse flute, waist drum, wooden block, and other musical instruments, delivering joyous, melodious tune, which reverberated over the entire hall.

    More than a dozen clusters of people congregated among the tables. Kou Zhong recognized some of them, for example Tuli, Li Shimin, Wang Bo, Fu Qian, and the others, along with their trusted aides.

    Song Lu was also there, chatting and laughing with Wang Bo and seven, eight other guests. But he did not see Song Yuzhi. Perhaps it was because she wanted to avoid Kou Zhong that she did not come to join the banquet.

    As soon as they entered the Hall, the bodyguards spread out to the left and right, leaving only Ouyang Xiyi, Ke Feng, Chen Changlin and Xu Ziling staying by Wang Shichongs side. Led by Rong Fengxiang, they greeted the other guests one by one.

    It was unclear whether it was intentional, but Kou Zhong noticed that Wang Xuanying, two brothers, immediately headed toward the noisy group around Dong Shuni and Rong Jiaojiao, leaving Kou Zhong alone with Linglong Jiao.

    Linglong Jiaos eyes were fixed on Xu Zilings natural and unrestrained back; she spoke heavily, This man is a first-class martial art master, I wonder from where did Yi Gong [referring to Ouyang Xiyi] invite him to come? How come I have never heard him mentioning anything?

    In order to put up with her tender, skillful and nimble figure, Kou Zhong stooped down and whispered in her ear, He is my Xiongdi Xu Ziling in disguise; he is our formidable chess piece; later on Miss will understand.

    Perhaps it was because Kou Zhongs forthcoming and did not conceal anything to her that surprisingly Linglong Jiao did not move away; on the contrary, she met his eyes and asked, Such an important matter, why hide it from us?

    While fully enjoying her beauty in close range, Kou Zhong said, Because we suspected that among the people close to Shangshu Daren, one is a spy; Miss understand?

    Linglong Jiao looked shaken; and then she looked down and spoke softly, You are convinced I am not the spy?

    Kou Zhong replied tenderly, Of course. Miss is good-looking and intelligent, broad-minded and bold; the type of person who would never commit contemptible shady business.

    Linglong Jiaos pretty face blushed slightly, with a mosquito-like whisper she said, I am starting to like you a little! If you could go to Man Qing Yuan less often, I would have an even better opinion on you.

    Finished speaking, she cast him a sidelong glance, before walking over toward Wang Shichong.

    [1] Su Qin (340-284 BC) and Zhang Yi (-309 BC) are both political strategists of the School of Diplomacy during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).

  4. #204
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 17 Chapter 11

    Book 17 Chapter 11 Birthday Party at the Rong Mansion

    Following Chen Changlin, Xu Ziling stood some ways away, always mindful of any changes around Wang Shichong. Although he was unable to change his height, he meticulously tied a red warrior band on his head, and the warrior clothing he wore also made him appeared swollen. Unless it was one was deliberately scrutinizing him, there was no flaw at all, particularly because everybody thought he had left the city early on.

    However, it was not until after Li Shimin and Tuli came over and exchanged greetings with Wang Shichong that he was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, because even Li Jing, who was always by Li Shimins side, only cast him a glance and then no longer paid any attention to him.

    He did not pay attention to what everybody was talking about; he also did not worry that Shen Luoyan might attack at this time. Lang Feng was in charge of setting up checkpoints and sentry stations along the way toward the Rong Mansion; only if the enemy launched a large-scale attack would they meet them head-on.

    Due to Ke Fengs intelligence, Shen Luoyan would definitely take this opportunity to beat them at their own game, and would carry out the assassination when Wang Shichong was on his way back to the Imperial City. Therefore, this banquet hall was the safest place instead.

    Soon after they started chatting, this group of politicians, military experts, and millionaires, who held the life and death of millions of people, immediately talked shop about monetary problems. It is thus clear that this was the most important matter concerning the economics and people all over the worlds livelihood.

    Someone was saying, Currently everybody is minting new money to replace the old dynastys Five-Zhu currency [1 zhu = 1/24 of a tael]. But the new coins are inferior; one by one the price of rice, cloth, and other daily necessities is rising, making one feel to have ones hands bound and is unable to do anything about it.

    Wang Shichong said, If the money came from official minting, there is no problem quality-wise; the problem is on money from private minting. On these inferior coins, even the inscribing is indistinct; practically it looks like just a silhouette.

    Zhangsun Wuji, by Li Shimins side, sighed and said, Money from official mint creates another problem: since the Han dynasty, gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, mercury, and other minerals are gradually returned to the government to manage. But in order to ensure that there is sufficient Zhu money circulated in the market, while maintaining the quality, the old dynasty must mine these minerals in large quantity. At one time Yang Guang opened up more than twenty gold mines at Wuling and the others, twelve counties, with forced labor reaching six hundred thousands; the dead and the injured were countless, but they only produced fifty something tael of gold, while wasting hundreds of li of land. The mining officials became thieves who killed the people. Before any benefit was seen, the damage has already been realized.

    Listening to this, Xu Ziling had a deep frown on his face; he was certain that Kou Zhong had never thought about this aspect. Only people like Wang Shichong, Li Shimin, and the others, long-term politicians, would think about this problem. This Zhangsun Wuji was worthy to be called an intellectual scholar; his words were indeed thought provoking.

    At the same time he also noticed that Tuli was listening very attentively; his mind was churning, suddenly he realized why Tuli people wanted to carry out their invasion via the Central Earth people under his control, because to govern such a vast territory was simply not something that nomadic people was qualified to do. Therefore, while on one hand the Tujue people plundered the Central Plains property and sons and daughters, on the other hand they also supported militias.

    Li Shimin joined in, The so-called new currency now is nothing more than the old dynastys Five-Zhu money smelted into new ones. And the peoples inferior money is just the Five-Zhu coins plus other iron and various bits and bobs, hence one wen could become several wen. Since it is so profitable, the process continues. The only solution is if the world goes back to be unified; by means of one powerful central authorities, this custom can be put to an end. Under current situation, there is nothing we can do.

    Listening to him, Xu Zilings heart was full of admiration; if Kou Zhong were not his brother, and he had to select one person, perhaps he would also choose Li Shimin to be the future monarch to govern all the people.

    This thought made him feel so uncomfortable.

    Between Li and Kou, regardless of who won and who lost, the other side would have only one destiny left: to be killed. What would be the best solution to this matter?

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong still wanted to tease this Qiuci beauty, who usually was as cold as ice and frost toward him, a bit longer, who would have thought that she quickly flew away? Fu Qian, Xing Mofei and two Tuyuhun beauties were heading his direction; it was unclear whether Linglong Jiaos abrupt departure was to avoid them. Under Fu Qians introduction, he learned that the taller beautys fragrant name was Li An, the other was called Hua Na [Leanne and Hannah?]. Both were brimming with exotic gracefulness, with wild and daring characters, which were rarely found on Central Earth beauties. When they were looking at Kou Zhong, their gaze was more absolutely unrestrained than his.

    Especially Hua Na; her beautiful wavy maroon hair hung naturally across her shoulders, her pink fragrant lips, her beautiful brown eyes, the corners of her eyes slightly slanting upward, matching beautifully with her high and grand cheekbones, her thin, silky eyebrows, her warm and soft, as well as richly elastic skin, plus the attractive bearing of her forehead, the more he looked at her, the more he felt she had real character. Indeed she was not inferior to Shen Luoyan, Song Yuzhi, that kind of beauty.

    Unsure of the relationship between Fu Qian and the two beauties, he avoided the two womens provocative gaze, and turned toward Fu Qian and said with a laugh, It does not seem appropriate to fight tonight!

    Fu Qian swept the hall with his gaze; finally he fixed his gaze on Li Shimin, Tuli, Wang Shichong, and Rong Fengxiangs group. He responded casually, Fighting can be done anytime, anywhere; I am sure Rong Laoban wont mind. But this is the first time I am attending your Han peoples feast; I dont want to ruin the lively and peaceful atmosphere here.

    Kou Zhong felt that his casual remark seemed to suggest something, some mysterious intention. He laughed and replied, Therefore, if it were in the ring [orig. leitai elevated stage on which martial competitions or duels were held] or on the battleground, Wangzi would unleash your expertise. Is that right?

    Fu Qian smiled and changed the subject, So whos that man by Li Shimin who keeps looking at you?

    Kou Zhong looked; he smiled wryly and said, He is Li Jing, Hong Funus husband.

    Fu Qian nodded and said, This man is indeed remarkable; no wonder he was able to catch Hong Funus eyes. I wonder why Hong Funu is not here tonight?

    Hua Na laughed tenderly and said, Why dont Wangzi ask the question directly to him? Nujia guesses that hes coming this way!

    Her accent was not pure; she pronounced bu [not/dont] as bo and jie [answer] as ze; but it did not sound so comical. [As you can guess, its difficult to translate word for word, so I altered the sentence as above. In case you are curious, the original is like this: Wangzi why bo straight ze ask him?]

    Sure enough, Li Jing was slowly walking toward them. His gait was stable and powerful, carrying some kind of intimidating momentum.

    Fu Qian praised, This man is indeed a general or a minister material.

    Kou Zhong was stunned, Wangzi can tell just by looking at him? What do you think of Li Shimin?

    Fu Qian replied indifferently, I am an expert in the profound method of looking at people. He saw that we were talking about him, not only he did not show the slightest bit of uneasiness, he took the initiative to come instead. Plus his steps are full of confidence; evidently he is a courageous and promising scholar, definitely not an ordinary man.

    Xing Mofei joined in, The man that Li Shimin is willing to employ cant be an inferior one.

    This moment Li Jing arrived in front of the five; he saluted and said, Li Jing pays his respect to Fu Qian Wangzi.

    And then, turning to Kou Zhong, he said, Is it possible for you to step aside to talk a little bit?

    Fu Qian laughed aloud and said, Is it possible for Li Xiong to answer a question of mine first?

    Without any sideways glance Li Jing met Fu Jians sharp-as-an-arrow gaze, and calmly replied, Wangzi, please ask the question.

    Fu Qian threw his head back in loud laughter, which immediately attracted the attention of everybody in the hall, and only then did he speak in loud and clear voice, If your esteemed master is fortunate to obtain the world, would he, like Yang Guang, strive to achieve extraordinary things by flaunting his military prowess to the Western Region to expand his territory?

    The hall immediately grew quiet; even the maids and servants waiting on the guests stopped whatever they were doing, only the sound of music lingered on. Apparently this question had a subduing, intimidating power.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong cried, Formidable!. Even Tuli and Wang Shichong also listened respectfully, they wanted to hear how Li Jing would answer this question.

    This question ought to be answered personally by Li Shimin. The problem was that Li Shimin was not the crown prince at all. If he rushed to answer, it would be clear that he was competing against his elder brother Li Jiancheng in the succession right to the throne.

    Furthermore, it involved Li Shimins aspiration, so whether Li Jing answered it or not, it would be equally inappropriate. If he responded with evasive words, Fu Qian would only look down on him.

    Fu Qian finally made his move to probe.

    Li Jing laughed calmly and said, It doesnt matter who obtain the world, he must understand the Han-Hu [Han and non-Han] differences in territory, culture, natural conditions and local social customs. These differences are real. Dwelling primarily on these differences will only make us suffer lack of virtue and beneficence; there is no need to be suspicious. Concealing virtue and beneficence, these four tribes can be likened to a family, where suspicions and jealousy abound, blood relation would inevitably become animosity. Wont Fu Wangzi think so?

    This answer skirted the issue but struck at the heart of the matter; listening to this, everybody uttered sincere praises.

    Fu Qian let out another long laugh; he even cried out Good! three times, before lowering his voice to cheerfully address Li and Kou, two men, Gentlemen, feel free to do as you please!

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong and Li Jing walked around the banquet area to get out of the hall via a side door, toward a corridor winding along the Halls wall, lined with stone fence.

    Although this mornings heavy rain has stopped, the weather has not improved, the moon and the stars did not show their light. Beyond the fence was a fishpond dotted with rockeries. Rows of tree peonies were planted along the edge of the pond, but due to the heavy rain, not much flowers left; petals floated on the surface of the pond, drifting away following the flow of the water.

    Li Jing spoke heavily, Xiao Ling left town last night; where did he go?

    Kou Zhong was dying to mock him by asking whether he posted sentries to monitor the city gate twelve sichen a day, but recalling their brotherhood in the past, he held his temper and replied, He has a pressing business to find a friend.

    Li Jing sighed and said, Ay! Why did things deteriorate to this hard-to-fix stage?

    Kou Zhong had his gazed on the fish swimming in the pond. Well said! he replied indifferently, Yesterday I tasted Saozis [sister-in-law] red whisk that even my little life was nearly gone.

    Shaken, Li Jing turned his eyes toward Kou Zhong. What? he blurted.

    Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders, It was nothing, he replied, I cant blame her; isnt it called loving husband unconditionally?

    Li Jing was quiet for a long time. Finally he spoke with strained voice, When are you going back to the south?

    Kou Zhong revealed a pained and miserable expression. Every time he remembered his unfortunate sister Su, he felt that all his achievements became empty and unreal, with nothing to show. Filled with helplessness with nowhere-to-complain feeling, he said, Please dont mind Su Jies matter, all right? Right now we dont even have any strength left to put the blame on you.

    His countenance changed, Li Jing said, What actually happened? Tonight you look somewhat downcast and dispirited.

    Thinking about past cause and future effect, Kou Zhong nearly wanted to cry aloud, but he clenched his teeth, waved his hand and walked away.

    Li Jing reached out to grab his arm, What actually happened? he shouted.

    Kou Zhong whimpered, The biggest mistake Su Jie ever committed in all her life was knowing the three of us. Is that enough? Flinging Li Jings hand, he staggered back into the Hall.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong was rushing in when he bumped into someone coming out of the Hall. This other person pulled his arm and said, I was just looking for you!

    Naturally Kou Zhong was not in the mood to chat with anybody, Hou Xiong, what noble errands brought you here? he spoke crossly.

    Surprisingly it was the Passionate Prince Hou Xibai.

    Seeing him talking with someone else, Li Jing, who was running after him, sighed and walked away, disappointed and frustrated.

    The other guests started to take their seat, while Li Shimin, Wang Shichong, and their men, several groups of people, remained standing, laughing, joking and making small talk. Rong Fengxiang and Fu Qian were exchanging conventional greetings. In short, it was a lively and jubilant atmosphere.

    Yun Yuzhen also came. She visited with Song Lu and Liu Jing, the three of them chatted in low voice; nobody knew what they were talking about. Other new arrivals included Bai Qinger, Zheng Shuming, and Zheng Shiru.

    The ensemble stopped playing. Outside the firecrackers continued loudly, the sound of people urging each other to drink, the banters, young men and women having fun, shouting and calling each other, continuously coming from the two front halls and the rear courtyard. Comparatively speaking, the inner halls atmosphere was a lot more subdued.

    Hou Xibai pulled Kou Zhong to a corner and said in low voice, Where is Ziling Xiong? Why didnt he come to join the fun? I saw Feixuan yesterday, she said that the dispute concerning the Jade of Annulus has been resolved.

    Xiao Ling has to do something; he cant come, Kou Zhong replied, What do you want?

    Hou Xibais handsome eyes lingered on Dong Shuni and Rong Jiaojiao, who were sitting side by side, for a moment. Their banquet table was one of four tables in the middle, and it was quite full. Including Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, two brothers, they were all of younger generation, and everybody was scrambling to fawn upon the two ladies.

    But from time to time the two ladies eyes were floating toward Kou Zhong and Hou Xibai; clearly they were very interested in the two men.

    Hou Xibai said, Did Fenghan Xiong and Ziling Xiong mentioned that I was tracking a Yin Gui Pai female demon?

    It was only then did Kou Zhong remember that Xu Ziling indeed told him about this matter. Forcing himself to rouse his spirit, he asked, How was it? Who was she?

    Hou Xibai leaned closer and replied, Its precisely the peerless beauty wearing Yunnan batik [color printing on cloth using wax]. Among everybody here, she is the only one wearing that kind of clothes; obviously she loves to be in the limelight very much.

    Kou Zhong has never paid much attention to what kind of clothes a girl was wearing, he was only interested in finding out if she was good-looking or not. Frowning, he said, You are the expert in girls, while I dont know anything about their clothes. Cant you not talk such profound mystery?

    Hou Xibai laughed involuntarily and said, Its inconvenient for me to point at her, because all women in this room are glaring at us like a tiger watching its prey. Batiks distinguishing feature is the dyeing process, where the dye permeates the cloth through the crack of wax previously applied, creating thousands of lines and tens of thousands of patterns like exploding ice. The changes are natural, not fixed in the least, the hue simple yet elegant, the variations are limitless.

    It was only then that Kou Zhong realized Dong Shunis clothes looked like his description. Shaken, he said, You dont mean that crafty and unruly girl wearing alternating blue and red colors clothes, do you?

    Delighted, Hou Xibai said, Kou Xiong indeed understood with just a bit of clue. Precisely that woman, I am 100% sure. Who is she?

    Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air, then said, Really not Rong Jiaojiao but she? This is really unexpected. But her lightness skill is indeed extremely good, I just did not know if she is also well versed in martial arts.

    Who is she? Hou Xibai pressed on.

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and replied, She is Wang Shichongs niece [sisters daughter], but I dont think she is a Yin Gui Pai female demon.

    Inwardly he added that I have had fiery, passionate relationship with her. This girls brilliance was in her exceptional qinggong, but her wugong [martial art skill] was ordinary. And they had never doubted her, because she really had no reason to lie.

    Hou Xibai was stunned, Are you sure? he asked.

    Kou Zhong replied, If she is really a Yin Gui Pai female demon, Xiao Ling and I would have been finished by now! How could I speak with you here?

    Rong Fengxiangs laughter interrupted everybodys conversation, and then he politely asked everybody to take their seat.

  5. #205
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 17 Chapter 12

    Book 17 Chapter 12 The Whip Way to Contend for Supremacy

    In his current role, Xu Ziling had no choice but to sit on one of the three tables on the east; fortunately he did not share the table with Li Jing, otherwise it would be very easy to reveal the cloven foot [i.e. to unmask ones true nature].

    He and Chen Changlin sat to the left and right of Linglong Jiao, opposite Xing Mofei and the two Tuyuhun beauties, whose eyes seemed to be able to talk. After self-introduction to each other, they found out that the rest of the people sitting around them were either sons and daughters or trusted aides of the people sitting on the main tables.

    Those able to share table with Rong Fengxiang were, naturally, people with enough weight, such as Li Shimin, Tuli, Wang Shichong, Song Lu, Liu Jing, Fu Qian, Ouyang Xiyi, Priest Ke Feng, and three others, Luoyangs celebrities with enough face, but Madam Rong Fengxiang was nowhere to be seen.

    Kou Zhong was seated with Yun Yuzhen and Hou Xibai. Fortunately he and Yun Yuzhen was separated by Zheng Shiru, so it was inconvenient to talk to her; otherwise he might not be able to hide his anger and might bicker with her at the banquet table.

    Bai Qinger and Zheng Shuming sat across the table from him. It was a case of enemies meeting face to face; they should have been infuriated with each other. But surprisingly Zheng Shuming acted as if he did not exist; she merely chatting and joking with Bai Qinger in low voices.

    By the time all guests have been seated, Kou Zhong found out that the seat on his right was empty. He asked the maid serving him, and the maid simply said that she was just following the Housekeepers order, while other people did not have any idea either, so that he was unable to make any sense of it.

    After Zheng Shiru greeted him perfunctorily, he then talked to Hou Xibai and Yun Yuzhen, no longer paying attention to Kou Zhong, and Kou Zhong was only too happy to have his ears pure and peaceful, and took this opportunity to look around.

    This moment Rong Fengxiang stood up straight and toasted everybody with delight, saying, Today Ol Rong has passed fifty lowly years, it is rare that all distinguished guests honored me with your presence, including good friends who have come from thousands of li, making Ol Rong fully experiencing being honored and pampered. I sincerely offer this cup of wine water as a small token of respect and gratitude for everybodys kind intention.

    Everybody rose up to return the propriety, the atmosphere warmed up immediately, the sound of praise and wine cup clinking against each other lingered on.

    It was quite a while later that everybody returned to their seats.

    Smiling mysteriously, Rong Fengxiang said, Before the vegetable and meat dishes are served on the table, Ol Rong wants to give honored guests a little nice surprise. Please welcome Miss Shang Xiufang.

    Amidst the roar of the guests cheering and clapping, the ensemble played an upbeat music, bringing a joyful atmosphere to the Hall.

    Hou Xibais eyes gleamed with a strange light, as he attentively waiting for this famous courtesan to appear on stage and offer up her art.

    Shang Xiufang had just appeared on the stage, immediately Dong Shuni, Rong Jiaojiao, Yun Yuzhen, and the other beauties lose some color.

    In term of the brightness of the countenance and the glamor of appearance, each one of these beauties had her unique distinguishing feature; it was difficult to differentiate their relative superiority. But Shang Xiufangs charm and bearing had some kind of distinctive style, which made the other ladies appeared inferior in comparison.

    Apparently she was quite good at sorrowful, touching Xiaodiao [Chinese folk song genre]; therefore, this time she sang a joyful, congratulatory song to wish the host a happy birthday, although it was still exceptionally good, Kou Zhong had a feeling that her performance this time was slightly inferior to the previous days performance at the Shangshu Mansion.

    However, as soon as she began singing, nearly everybody in the hall listened as if they were intoxicated. Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were the only two exceptions.

    Currently, the two boys mood was opposite to the joyful tune.

    Xu Ziling took this opportunity to calmly observing the reaction of everybody on the four main tables. The one with most engrossed expression was Hou Xibai; he looked as if as soon as he heard the music, he wanted to dance. Although Li Shimin and Fu Qian were listening attentively, their manner appeared calm and collected. Others reaction varied, but in general they all looked captivated by Shang Xiufangs musical skill, which sounded like celestial sound of the immortals, and the elegance and beauty of her dances posture and movements. Tulis eyes looked even stranger; he looked as if he wanted to swallow this glamorous and delicious popular artist alive in one gulp.

    Shang Xiufangs pair of hooking-the-spirit, absorbing-the-soul limpid-water eyes, combined with her posture and her expression, while she was spinning around and around on the stage, continuously sweeping the banquet tables, so that the younger generations with comparatively weak self-control had their spirit and soul turned upside down.

    As soon as the song ended, the applause was thunderous and ear splitting.

    Even before the applause ended, Rong Fengxiang already left his seat to personally meet her and brought Shang Xiufang to the empty seat right next to Kou Zhong. While all the men stood up to welcome her, Rong Fengxiang vaguely winked at Kou Zhong; he said with a laugh, Kou Xiongdi, please take a good care of Miss Fang for Laofu.

    And so everybody knew that Shang Xiufang sitting by Kou Zhongs side was not his own arrangement.

    After the introduction, Shang Xiufang sat down, and only then did Rong Fengxiang leave the table. Before he even sat down, Zheng Shiru already showered Shang Xiufang with endless praise, as if Kou Zhong was not there at all.

    Although Hou Xibai was looking at Shang Xiufang with a hint of smile on his face, he did not look anxious to strike a conversation at all; he was extremely poised.

    It was unclear whether it was deliberate arrangement, but on this banquet table, more than half were women; only Kou Zhong, Zheng Shiru, Hou Xibai and two pampered young masters of Luoyang influential families had the honor to accompany the ladies.

    Meanwhile the vegetable and meat dishes were being served. There was also an unending stream of guests from the front and middle, two halls, coming in to toast the host, pushing the banquet atmosphere to its peak.

    Rong Fengxiangs alcohol capacity was quite excellent; he never refuse anybody. Once in a while he would ask various guests around his table to drink on his behalf. The one took the most toasts was, quite naturally, Wang Shichong, who sat by his side.

    All these things did not escape Xu Zilings eyes; he wondered whether Rong Fengxiang was intentional or not, but it appeared that he wanted to make Wang Shichong drunk. However, Wang Shichongs inner power was quite profound, plus he was a Jianghu veteran, so he knew how much he was able to take.

    While he was thinking deeply, Linglong Jiao leaned over and asked, Why did you look indifferent toward Shang Xiufangs singing just now? Is it because she did not sing well, or because you dont like the music?

    Xu Ziling was taken aback; only then did he realize that she had been paying him attention. A bit embarrassed, he said, I just love to hear comparably sad songs.

    In his heart he could not help remembering Shi Qingxuans flute, which touched him deeply.

    Looking pensive, Linglong Jiao said, As the moon is about to sink south of the Kunlun Mountain range, shepherds play sad song on their Hujia. Hujia is Qiang flute; they produce the most mournful sound. When Gongzi has the opportunity, you should listen to them.

    Over there, Shang Xiufang finally found the opportunity to talk to Kou Zhong; she spoke in low voice, Qie [I, your servant] stays at Man Qing Yuan, if you have time tomorrow, could you find an opportunity to see qie? The day after tomorrow Xiufang is leaving for Guanzhong!

    Kou Zhong has never thought that she would have such a high opinion on him; he nodded slightly to say that he promised.

    And then he found that Zheng Shuming, Bai Qinger and Yun Yuzhen were staring at the two of them. He could only hope that because of the clamor, the three women did not hear Shang Xiufangs invitation to him. Even he himself did not understand this kind of fear; a fear of people knowing whats in his heart.

    Right this moment, the herald at the door announced loudly, Imperial Bodyguard Commander, Right Wuhou [martial/military marquis] Great General Dugu Feng has arrived!

    Everybody was taken by surprise.

    ※ ※ ※

    Dugu Feng, wearing full government official attire, under escort of four internal ministers, pompously entered the hall, and loudly said, Dugu Feng, under Huang Taizus imperial order, came with specific purpose of congratulating Rong Laoban on his birthday, and to act on Huang Taizus behalf to bestow this jade tree.

    He acted as if he did not see Wang Shichong; his eyes seemed to focus on Rong Fengxiang, one person.

    In such an award-given time, following the custom, Li Shimin and the other outsiders stepped aside, while all Yang Dongs subjects, including Rong Fengxiang, had to kneel to receive the gift that Yang Dong bestowed. There remained only Wang Shichong and his men, who werent sure of what to do.

    It should be noted that technically, Wang Shichong was still accepting orders from Yang Dong as his master; even when mobilizing his troops to pressurized the Imperial Palace, their claim was to capture two treacherous court officials Yuan Wendu and Lu Da, rather than blatant rebellion.

    This was the critical, life and death, time where they had to confront Li Mi, if he made his real position public, in which his power was illegitimately conferred, he might lose, albeit partially, Luoyangs civil and military support, and that would bring more harm without any benefit.

    If he wanted to depose Yang Dong, he must make prior arrangement to deploy his troops, which would be implemented only when the time is ripe; but as it stands right now, no matter which scheme he used, he would be subject to humiliation.

    Thinking of this, Wang Shichong rose to his full height, and then knelt beside Rong Fengxiang.

    Wang Xuanying and Wang Xuanshu had no choice but to follow suit.

    Kou Zhong and the others were technically Wang Shichongs guests, so if they merely stepped away from the banquet table, nobody would raise their eyebrows.

    Dugu Feng was very proud of himself; he said loudly, You may rise!

    Wang Shichong stood up full of anger in his belly.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling cried, Formidable!. They knew that it was because Shen Luoyan could see through their showing weakness in front of the enemy stratagem that she used this strategy to frustrate their morale and acute spirit.

    Dugu Feng took a small brocade box from the hand of one of his chamberlains, and put it in the kneeling Rong Fengxiangs open palms, and thus the ceremony is over.

    Rong Fengxiang, with the brocade case in his hands, laughed and said, Dugu Daren must stay and drink a cup of wine.

    With an air of complacency, Dugu Feng laughed aloud and said, Xiaodi is under His Majestys order, its not suitable for me to stay for a long time. Everybody, please!

    Without giving Wang Shichong time to react, he haughtily turned around and walked away. Rong Fengxiang hastily send him off.

    After everybody was seated once again, Wang Bo suddenly burst into laughter and spoke to Li Shimin, Didnt your esteemed subordinate Yuchi Renxiong [my dear friend] want to play with Laofu a moment or two? Why not take this opportunity to let Laofu experience his skill?

    Suddenly the hall grew quiet.

    Nobody expected that Wang Bo would take the initiative to issue a challenge; apparently he was extremely offended by Yuchi Jingdes disrespect earlier.

    Before Li Shimin could respond, Yuchi Jingde, sitting on one of the side tables stood up suddenly, cupped his fist and said, I hope Wanggong will be generous in giving pointers to junior [here the word is houxue, junior scholar]!

    Finished speaking, he strode toward the spacious floor in front of the main banquet tables; his appearance was very bold and powerful.

    Everybody felt deep veneration toward his boldness; they knew Wang Bos resounding reputation, which even surpassed Li Mi, Du Fuwei, and the likes. The Ding Shi Whip[1] in his hand was praised as the number one whip under the heavens. Merely the fact that Yuchi Jingde was not afraid of the opponent, his guts was no ordinary.

    Wang Bo smiled; he calmly left his seat and walked over to where Yuchi Jingde was standing, and spoke in delight, Today is Xiongs happy day, so our competition this time is just to liven things up, well stop upon contact. Yuchi Renxiong, what do you think?

    He spoke those words leisurely, which brought out his air as an expert and increased his exalted status even more.

    Yuchi Jingde saluted and said, Qianbei, please be lenient.

    His response was even more appropriate. Everybody knew that it was merely words of politeness, and not really fear of being injured by the opponent. But it could bring a great deal of pressure to Wang Bo, because it was tantamount to say that if you win, that should be expected, but if you lose, your reputation would be swept to the floor.

    Kou Zhong paid special attention to Li Shimins expression. Noticing that Li Shimin remained calm, without the slightest bit of nervousness, he could not help shivering inwardly.

    Yuchi Jingde had the audacity to incite the battle first, naturally he must have received Li Shimins nod; as for the reason he targeted Wang Bo, there must be a profound meaning behind it.

    Yuchi Jingdes tiger-eyes were blazing like a torch as he fixed his gaze on Wang Bo, who was standing approximately ten paces way. Forgive my offense! he shouted.

    Groping to his left waist, the whip suddenly appeared in his hand.

    Wang Bos eyes fell on his whip; he spoke indifferently, Does this whip have a name?

    Yuchi Jingde raised the coiled whip in his right hand up in the air, like magic the whip suddenly turned straight as a ramrod, hovering at an angle above Wang Bos head. He spoke in a loud and clear voice, This whip is called Gui Zang [return to its storehouse (fig. Buddhist or Taoist scripture)], two zhang and three chi long. Qianbei please be generous in bestowing instruction.

    He did not shake back the whip at all; it was being loosely held just like he was holding a more than two zhang long dark-colored iron stick. It was just hard to believe that that was a long whip. Merely this internal strength, capable of holding the whip in such a way, was enough to make the spectators, where there was no lack of grandmaster-level martial art experts, have a whole new level of respect for him.

    Under the illumination of the lanterns, the body of the whip appeared to be full of scales, which reflected the light as tiny dots; it was weird beyond words.

    Wang Bo laughed aloud, Good whip! he said.

    Then suddenly he made a swift move, like a flowing water or floating cloud, toward the opponent. Flicking his right-hand middle finger, he attacked the center of Yuchi Jingdes face. Surprisingly he did not draw the Ding Shi Whip, the weapon with which he made his name.

    Sudden change occurred.

    The originally-slanting-midair Gui Zang Whip suddenly coiled above Yuchi Jingdes head. It made a few circles, and then moved in front of his chest; circle by circle it met Wang Bos middle finger attack. It was brilliant to the extreme point.

    Everybody had already guessed that his whip skill must be superior, otherwise he would not have dared to challenge Wang Bo; but still, no one expected that his whip technique has reached perfection. Practically it was already at the expert level where the whip could move as his heart desired.

    Kou Zhong could not help exchange glances with Xu Ziling, who, at this moment, was also looking at him. They both were able to tell the amazement in each others heart. No wonder Li Jing advised them to leave.

    Wang Bos expression looked grave. What happened was that when the wind generated by his finger attack met the first circle of Yuchi Jingdes whip, unexpectedly the qi power generated by the whip coil was able to cut it down nearly half; by the time the fourth circle arrived, the finger wind already disappeared without any trace. Even with his deep experience, he could not help being terribly surprised, because he discovered that the opponents foundation was extremely deep; it has already reached the level where it was able to contend against his own power. Although it still could not match his, but the difference was not too far.

    It was entirely outside his expectation.

    Wang Bo let out a loud shout. With a strange footwork, he suddenly flashed to the opponents right side. His right hand pulled back, at the same time a piece of white shadow flew out of his sleeve. With strange wave-like trajectory it stabbed the right side of Yuchi Jingdes neck; fast like a serpent, and looked like it could change direction at any time, full of sly, ruthless fantastical none-can-resist, overbearing prowess.

    Momentarily qi power was pressing in, creating a nip in the air.

    This Whip King, who has been famous for decades, finally revealed the Ding Shi Whip, the weapon with which he made his name.

    The hall exploded with thunderous applause.

    This move certainly came as a surprise; even with Yuchi Jingdes capability, because of this senior martial art masters footwork, technique and astonishing innate qi power, combined together into a swift and severe counterattack, he was momentarily unable to find a good way of blocking this attack. Promptly he flashed sideways, the tip of Gui Zang Whip, as if it had eyes, dove down first, and then as soon as it touched the ground, it lashed at angle upward, aiming at Wang Bos lower abdomen. Indeed it was a fierce, ruthless attack to counter another attack.

    The two combatants have only been exchanging two moved, but everybody already watched with bated breath.

    Wang Bo let out a cold laugh. Like a serpent the Ding Shi Whip returned to his sleeve, while his left hand, with fingers held together like a blade, fiercely and accurately, fast beyond comprehension, chopped down on the tip of the opponents whip coming toward him.

    The explosion of the qi power collided sounded like a muffled thunder.

    Yuchi Jingdes entire body shook; he was forced to take half a step back, his eyes shone with power, his long whip turned into millions whip shadows, like a rainstorm shrouding Wang Bo. It appeared that he wanted to launch offensive at all cost, bold and powerful without equal; even though his strength was slightly affected, it did not dampened his attack.

    Kou Zhong and the others had to nod their approval. Only this kind of offensive would be able to restrain Wang Bos appear-and-disappear-unpredictably [orig. gods disappear and devils vanish], impossible-to-defend-effectively whip technique.

    Wang Bo laughed aloud. Like beads of pearl on a jade tray, using moving-clouds-and-flowing-water shenfa, he moved amidst the opponents crisscrossing, fluttering whip momentum; with an exquisite, profound-mystery finger move, his right hand middle finger continuously jabbing six, seven times, each jab accurately, without missing a bit, hit the opponents whip, each finger jab was stronger than the previous one. Indeed he was a warrior who lived up to his name, not a nobody with undeserved reputation.

    But Yuchi Jingde was able to force Wang Bo to go all out, this would be enough for his name to shake the world.

    Yuchi Jingde roared again, his whip momentum also changed again. His right hand simultaneously held the whip handle and the whip tip tightly, while his inner power pierced through the whip body. On top of that, controlled by his left hand, the whip looked like dancing flexible iron stick of about one zhang long, attacking the opponent using a set of fantastic stick technique, which could be either stiff or flexible.

    Inwardly Wang Bo was astonished and baffled.

    He was an expert in whip technique; no matter how cunning or changing unfathomably the opponents whip moves were, almost instantly he would be able to see through the changes in the opponents follow up move.

    After fighting to this point, he already knew his chance of victory; who would have thought that the opponent suddenly moved the whip as if it was a stick? This change was not common in whip technique, so that he had to grope about once more, and his dream of easy victory was dashed.

    This moment he gained even clearer understanding that his young opponents wisdom and understanding were out of the ordinary; he was absolutely not an easy prey.

    Wang Bo was also forced to adapt himself to these changes. Both his hands moved out, alternating between chopping and palm strike, the strong wind that ensued was ear splitting. Using a powerful and unique palm technique, for the time being he was able to deal with the opponents toppling-the-mountains-and-overturning-the-seas offensive.

    In the meantime, Rong Fengxian has returned to the inner hall; he stood at the entrance with his hands behind his back, watching the battle; he did not look the slightest bit surprised, on the contrary, he seemed to have anticipated this battle to happen.


    Wang Bos palm hacked down on the whip stick, his true power passed through the stick and entered in, shockingly the entire whip stick bent, and Yuchi Jingde tumbled backward.

    While everybody was worried about him, Wang Bos Ding Shi Whip unexpectedly flew out of his left sleeve, aiming toward the opponents throat. A single dot flashed, cry of alarm rose up.

    The tip of Yuchi Jingdes whip shot out of his right hand. A dot pierced the incoming tip of the opponents whip.

    Ever since the battle started, this was the first time the two whips collided with each other.

    [1] Ding Shi Whip: again, this is hard to translate succinctly, basically it means the whip that determine/decide the era; reminder: Wang Bos title was Zhi Shi Lang - the minister/official/youth who understood the world/lifetime/era. See Book 1 Chapter 10.


  6. #206
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 1

    Book 18 Chapter 1 A Remark Startling Four Tables

    The tip of the whips collided, producing a sharp and clear noise.

    In the midst of Wang Bos long laughter, his left sleeve shot a section of long whip, about a zhang or so, which seemed to have been knocked out by the opponents reaction force that it turned into a nine-bend, ten-section long snake, but the fluctuation amplitude defied common sense; because based on the power he demonstrated just now, he ought to be able to defeat Yuchi Jingde quite comfortably.

    But what happened was that this young martial art masters Gui Zang Whip appeared to generate rainbow-like vitality; it coiled back like a vicious dragon biting the opponent.

    Another sudden change.

    Wang Bo swiftly traversed sideways. Delicate like a human finger the Ding Shi Whip moved forward in high speed, which was difficult to see with naked eye, in spiraling motion; like a spark from a flint it wrapped itself around the Gui Zang Whip, and swiftly pulled back. Not only he evaded the attack of the tip of the whip, he was able to pull the opponents whip taut.

    Simultaneously, another piece of Ding Xing [sic] Whip [not sure if this is a typo, or the left and right whips had different names. Ding Xing means determining the nature (of something negative, e.g. error or crime)] bored out of his sleeve, slipped down to the floor first, and then slid toward the opponent, and when it was about five chi away from the enemys feet, like a viper rising its head with tongue sticking out, fast as lightning it jabbed Yuchi Jingdes lower abdomen.

    This kind of finesse, where he was able to control the thin and flexible long whip, as if it were alive, following his hearts desire, indeed made people gasp in amazement. This time even Li Shimin had his countenance changed slightly. Wang Bos skill was really high, his strength powerful, indeed his name was not in vain.

    But Yuchi Jingde remained calm without any fear; lightning fast he slid sideways and backwards, taking advantage of the tension of the whips entangled each other, he made a half circle with Wang Bo as the center of rotation, and then, to everybodys surprise, he charged swiftly toward Wang Bo.

    Due to the whiplash, the two entangled whips immediately moved in a wave-like motion with an ever-increasing amplitude.

    Wang Bo let out a cold humph.

    He had transmitted his inner power via the whip to attack the enemy for more than dozen times, to jolt the enemy so his blood and qi would surge over. But Yuchi Jingdes level of strength exceeded his expectation, so that a murderous intent rose up in his heart.

    Over time, there would come a day where Yuchi Jingde would surpass him to become the Whip King of the new generation.

    The right hand Ding Xing Whip retracted into his sleeve.

    Wang Bo lowered his waist in a horse stance. The Ding Shi Whip trembled again, the qi traveled to the tip of the whip, which Yuchi Jingde immediately pushed back. By the time Wang Bo rushed his power to make a kill, Yuchi Jingdes Gui Zang Whip followed his backward momentum, suddenly it separated from Wang Bos whip, coiled back into a more than a dozen loops, which he held tight in his hand, while he himself happened to withdraw to Rong Fengxiangs side.

    Cupping his fist in salute, he said, Wanggongs whip technique is indeed unrivalled in Jianghu, there is nothing better under the heavens. Jingde reaped not a shallow benefit tonight; his future success is really bestowed by Wanggong.

    Inwardly Wang Bo cried, What a pity! but on the surface he assumed a magnanimous, generous in spirit, appearance. Pulling the whip back into his sleeve, he chuckled and said, The rear waves of the Yangtze River drive on
those before; Ol Wang is getting on in year!

    Amidst the thunderous applause, Rong Fengxiang assumed his status as the host, politely he ushered the two back toward their banquet tables.

    Meanwhile, Hou Xibai took this moment to go to the garden outside.

    Rong Jiaojiao, Dong Shuni, and the other younger generations crowded Rong Fengxiangs table to offer their toast on the elderly gentleman whose birthday was being celebrated today. The jubilant and warm atmosphere replaced the earlier whip wind and palm shadow scene.

    After a round of toasts, Rong Fengxiang, surrounded by the younger generations, walked over to the front two halls to socialize with the other guests.

    ※ ※ ※

    Zheng Shiru, still separated by Kou Zhong, was showing off his talent and passion to Shang Xiufang. But he was indeed an erudite and multi-talented man. From talking about singing, literature, such as bianwen[1], scriptures, classical Chinese poems, poetry, books, poetic essays, to music and dancing, all kinds of theatrical arts, wine-drinking game, craft and art, to musical lyrics creation, the rising of chuanqi [fiction short stories of the Tang and Song dynasties], narrative poems growth, he was able to discuss without extra trouble, to explain in vivid details and insight.

    Although Kou Zhong harbored enmity toward him, for instance, due to his close relationship with Yin Gui Pai, he could not but admit that in terms of knowledge and experience, he was more established than Bai Lao Fuzi [see Book 1 Chapter 1], which was, to Kou Zhong, of the grand professor level.

    Much to his surprise, Shang Xiufangs repartee was not inferior in any sense to the opposite party; evidently her knowledge in all aspects was no less than this Henan Mad Scholar Zheng Shiru, who whether intentionally or otherwise, threw the questions out in the open, and thus letting all the ladies around the table to participate in the discussion. The atmosphere was getting even more blazing.

    Yet Kou Zhong was unable to express himself even for half a sentence.

    He paid particular attention to Bai Qingers response, and found out that not only she was not jealous of Zheng Shiru eagerly fawning on Shang Xiufang, from time to time she even lent a helping hand, so that Kou Zhong was even more baffled at the relationship between these two people.

    Zheng Shuming and Yun Yuzhen did not speak much, they just occasionally threw their pretty gaze onto Kou Zhong, making him feel quite uncomfortable.

    This moment, a young master called Ling Wei, who was sitting on Shang Xiufangs other side, was eloquently discussing the qi luo ren wu hua [painting of a character in beautiful silk dress], which was starting to be popular at that time. This was Ling Mous, the president of the rice business association at the northern district of the city, son. His old man sat in the same table as Rong Fengxiang; from this, it could be seen that this man had quite a status and identify.

    The nature of his business was agriculture, and development of commercial products. Many of the people of the same industry formed agencies or associations, such as brotherhood of the village, trade association, and so on; spontaneous organizations of civil society, with the purpose of expanding their influence, while at the same time setting a uniform price to avoid vicious competition.

    For important commodities such as rice, juan [thin, tough silk fabric], silk, and salt, the organization was even tighter; joining the association required certain qualifications, and going through examination and approval procedure, and once one was admitted into the association, often times they could not easily withdraw, so much so that sometimes there was a provision that when the father died, the son must continue the membership.

    To be able to become the president of such association, other than excellence inside and outside their own business, one must also be getting on well with both ways, black and white, and had vast enough network of friends and acquaintances. Without the support of such business associations, any political power could hardly stand firm. Take Rong Fengxiang, for example, he was the president of gambling industry of the north side of the city; even Luoyang Bang had to seek him out to be the big boss in place of Shangguan Long. It is thus clear that the expectation laid on him was paramount.

    Ling Wei was saying, In previous generations, paintings of beautiful women are mostly of a woman who dies fighting for her honor or follows her husband in death, or perhaps women who show filial piety, implying that there were certain religious commandments or prohibitions to follow. Nowadays paintings of beautiful women do not stick to one pattern: spring outing, actively training, quietly looking at her reflection, leaning against the railing, playing chess, even getting out of the bath; everything can be painted. Xiaodi admires the name Western Sichuans Chuan Yang Meiren [Sichuan Style Beauty], so I personally collect the paintings. I have three as my favorites, every single one of those the strokes are fine and skillful; they were drawn using the qin si miao [zither string tracing] technique, with fine but powerful lines, warm, soft and touching, so that the beauty in the paintings seem ready to appear at the call [i.e. vividly portrayed]. If Miss Xiufang has time tomorrow, you can come to Zaixias humble home to appreciate, Zaixia will definitely welcome with open arms.

    Kou Zhong laughed inwardly; apparently Zheng Shiru has met another suitor.

    This son of the prominent figure in rice industrys appearance was quite handsome and grand, poised and smart, his style of conversation was quite refined. Although he could not be compared to Hou Xibai, he was the type of man who would easily win womens favor.

    Perhaps because she had already made appointment with Kou Zhong, but Shang Xiufang was not tempted by his invitation at all. Her jet-black eyebrows slightly knitted, she said, Aiyo! Ling Gongzi is really giving me the whole courtesy and honor, but it has to wait until my next trip to Luoyang!

    Before Ling Wei had the opportunity to unleash his grinding downstream skill, Zheng Shiru laughed and said, I wonder what wise opinion does Kou Xiong have toward the qi luo ren wu paintings?

    Everybodys eyes were focused on Kou Zhong, simply because since this discussion on literature and art started, it was like he suddenly turned into a mute, did not make half a noise.

    Kou Zhong cursed Zheng Shirus eighteen generations ancestors in his heart; this moment the only thing came to his mind was the beauties painted on Hou Xibais fan. Yet appearing calm and composed, he smiled and said, In term of painting and calligraphy, I am a layman; how could I have any wise opinion or outstanding view? I only know that putting a brush on paper to make paintings is just like using saber; one must make every effort to be accurate, not a bit more, not half a hair less. As the brush is going down, it will draw the lines down to the smallest detail. This is my limited understanding, please forgive a novice making a fool of himself!

    Shang Xiufang was emotionally touched; she said, Kou Gongzis remark has revealed such a profound sentiment, and it was a distinct opinion. How could you say it was a laymans comment?

    Kou Zhong did not have time to be complacent, because Bai Qinger already pursed her lips and laughed, and tenderly and coyly said, Turns out Kou Gongzi is a connoisseur in paintings appreciation. I wonder if Kou Gongzi has any wise opinion on color usage?

    Kou Zhong was well aware that she was lending Zheng Shiru a helping hand, with the purpose of humiliating him in front of Shang Xiufang. Moreover, he had no idea what coloring material or what role it played in paintings. The worst thing was that he only knew about paintings of beauty that came from Hou Xibais highly skilled hands, which was produced entirely using ground-ink, without the slightest bit of coloring. Hence he had nothing to evaluate, he had nothing to say.

    Fortunately, speaking about emergency response, he was a first-class expert. Since he could not block the attack, he had to use diversion tactics. With serious expression, he said, Just by listening to Madame Qingers remark, I know that Madame is an expert in paintings. I wonder if Xiaodi has guessed incorrectly?

    Ba Qinger was slightly stunned. Naturally she had never imagined that Kou Zhong has been to her studio [i.e. artist studio], he had even hid inside the large cabinet among her rolls of paper. She was quite at a loss for a long time before finally found her voice back, Qie has indeed studied painting, but definitely not an expert. How did Kou Gongzi guess?

    Kou Zhong noticed that even Zheng Shuming was staring at him with her black, rippling eyes; inwardly he was amused. First, he turned to Shang Xiufang and Yun Yuzhen to give each lady a flash of his brilliant smile, and then staying calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, he said, The idea is so simple. Just like people who love swordsmanship, they would be interested in how to use the sword and the key secret in using the sword. Frankly speaking, I am no more than an admirer of his mother, oh! Not of his mother, just of paintings. In my humble opinion, only paintings without using any color yet is able to produce all the colors in profusion effect can be called the highest artistic conception. If you dont believe me, just ask Hou Xiong to open his folding fan, and youll see what I mean. Ha! Speaking about Caocao, Caocao thus appear [see Book 8 Chapter 11]!

    Everybody followed his gaze, and sure enough, Hou Xibais confident and at ease figure came into view.

    ※ ※ ※

    Linglong Jiao returned to her seat, leaned close to Xu Ziling, and whispered, Wanggongs order: when Rong Laoban is back from toasting the guests, we will leave immediately.

    Xu Ziling nodded in acknowledgement, and then he passed on this message to Chen Changlin sitting on the other side.

    Xing Mofei, who was sitting across the table, had been watching him attentively. This moment he smiled and said, How come Xiaodi has a feeling that Qin Xiong looks a bit familiar? Have we met somewhere before?

    Currently Xu Ziling was using the name Qin Jieyuan as his alias; although he picked that name at random, but he took Shi Feixuans alias, Qin Chuans surname. Only afterwards, when he thought about it, did he feel somewhat strange.

    The two Tuyuhun beauties, Li An and Hua Nas two pairs of big eyes were also constantly looking at him; it appears to be his one-in-a-hundred heroic, grand physique. Although he lacked a handsome face, he seemed to attract this pair of beauties from different tribes interest.

    Xu Ziling applied his power to change his voice first before smiling and responding, Maybe I did come across Xing Xiong on the street somewhere, but at that time we did not know each other yet, so now we have a sense of dj vu.

    Xing Mofei laughed aloud and said, Qin Xiongs statement contained deep meaning; it is clear that you are not an ordinary person, yet Xiaodi clearly has never heard Qin Xiongs great name. This is strange.

    Linglong Jiao coldly said, There are so many great people in the Central Plains, and this is the first time Xing Xiong steps foot on the Central Plains, so whats so strange about you having never heard Qin Xiongdis name?

    Xing Mofei did not look displeased although she was clearly opposing him with harshness; he calmly said, Before Xiaodi came here, I have painstakingly done quite comprehensive research on Central Earths each sect and famous schools martial art masters, therefore, I was curious about Qin Xiong. I wonder if Qin Xiong is a martial art master belonging to a certain sect?

    Xu Ziling replied indifferently, Please forgive Xiaodi for not betraying my confidence. This is Shangshu Darens order, Xing Xiong please do not blame me.

    Xing Mofei nodded and smile; he no longer questioned closely.

    ※ ※ ※


    Hou Xibai opened up his fan a little bit, exposing a vivid image of a beauty on the fan, along with a clear scent of sweet perfumes [lit. orchids and musk], sleek skin and luxuriant jade flesh. Although it was only painted using black ink, but just as Kou Zhong said: without the slightest bit of color yet producing all the colors in profusion. Rarer still, the beautys light body, snowy curve, gauzed, thin, transparent cosmetics astonishing beautiful appearance was displayed with such extreme saturation. Everything was just perfect.

    Ah! Shang Xiufang exclaimed in astonishment, When did Hou Gongzi paint qie on your fan? I am afraid Xiufangs common cattail and willow appearance might defile Gongzis treasured fan. [Translators note: again, I am not a fan of Huang Yis using flowery language in describing women, so I translate it perhaps too literally. My apology.]

    Anybody could see from Shang Xiufangs expression that she was deeply moved by Hou Xibais painting skill. In fact, everybody around the banquet table, men and women alike, none was not emotionally moved by Hou Xibais wonderful, unparalleled-in-the-world, painting brush.

    Yun Yuzhens pretty eyes shot out a look of envy, but there was obviously nothing she could do about it. From the beginning she was quite clear about Hou Xibais romantic character, which he showed everywhere, and which all women, including Zheng Shuming and Bai Qinger, found it hard to endure.

    Only Kou Zhong had a sense of relief.

    Distant past, it was Li Xiuning, recent past, it was Song Yuzhi; twice in a row, in different time and space, his feeling has taken a big hit. On top of that, there were Yun Yuzhen and Dong Shuni, who have had physical relationship with him, but secretly plotted to harm him, so that toward the so-called romantic love, his heart was extremely dead.

    And now although the national grace, divine fragrance Shang Xiufang seemed to show him extreme favor, he had no interest whatsoever; instead, he felt that it was an unnecessary burden.

    Supposing Shang Xiufang swicthed her target onto Hou Xibai, Kou Zhong would be happy instead of jealous of losing her.

    Because such a strong opponent suddenly appeared and cut his offensive, momentarily Zheng Shiru panicked and was unable to ward it off.

    Hou Xibai folded his fan back and lightly spoke, as if he was reciting a poem, White bosom and embroidered feeling, whose family is this lady? Fragrant stars in spring sky tell the story. Miss Fang has a beauty capable of causing the downfall of a nation, a skill that turns all living things upside down, Xibai falls on his knees in admiration.

    In term of literary talent, this man was distinguished and accomplished, in term of speech, he was graceful; which woman would not be moved by him?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Xiaodis understanding of qi luo hua came from the fragrant beauties in living color on Hou Xiongs fan. Now that Hou Xiong is here, ladies and gentlemen do not need to listen to Xiaodis random talk!

    Shang Xiufang glowered at him. But inwardly she was wondering if this man has reached the vastly broad-minded state that he was completely without any jealousy?

    She has roamed the world, north and south of the Great River, and was accustomed to deal with all kinds of men. Men who had enough qualifications to pursue her like Kou Zhong, have always made every effort to show off in front of her, always attempted to overwhelm the other competitors, like a peacock spreading its tail to win her approval.

    Only a special person like Kou Zhong would act against the norm; he enthusiastically praised other man instead.

    Thinking to this point, since Hou Xibai has given her a shock, she could not help mellowing a little bit.

    In the meantime, Song Lu graced their table with his presence. After greeting everybody, he said to Kou Zhong, Come! I want to talk to you.

    After apologizing to his tablemates, Kou Zhong followed him though the side door to the half corridor outside.

    Bursts of noise coming from the two front halls. Song Lu leaned on the parapet, gazing at the fishpond. Did you offend Zhizhi? he spoke heavily.

    Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and asked, Is she gone?

    Song Lu nodded and said, She didnt even want to listen to me; she just left.

    Kou Zhong took a deep sigh, but was unable to speak.

    It is finished!

    Song Yuzhi and he were completely finished; no hope of restoration. But he could not blame anybody else; he could only blame himself.

    Song Lu suddenly asked, What are you going to do?

    Dejectedly Kou Zhong said, Lu Shu [uncle] is referring to which aspect?

    Song Lu sighed and said, Im a bit unclear myself; I guess any aspect will do. I just want to know what are you thinking of doing next? During the banquet just now, on the surface everybody was polite, but actually the air was filled with hostility, there are more than just the apparent meaning.

    And then he moved his gaze to Kou Zhongs face, and spoke in heavy voice, You have to be careful with Wang Bo. Just now he repeatedly suggested to Wang Shichong that you are a man of great ambition; he is using a despicable method.

    Kou Zhong smiled bitterly without saying anything.

    As soon as he entered the powerful current of this contending-over-the-world affair, thousand-kind and ten-thousand-way of danger and trouble would come his way; it was basically something that he could not guard against.

    Song Lu continued in low voice, How much confidence do you have that you would be able to get the Duke Yang Treasure out? In my opinion, in this particular business, Li Shimin is watching you like a tiger watching its prey; he wont let you succeed, to avoid damaging the current situation, which is to his favor.

    Kou Zhong could only say, I dont have the exact number yet. Ay! When Yuzhi left, did she say anything?

    Song Lu replied, You ought to know her temperament very well, she will hide everything in her heart. But dont worry about her right now, perhaps when she cools down later, she would change her mind.

    And then he patted Kou Zhongs shoulder and said, Do what you need to do! I will speak good words on your behalf. Fortunately, you are a southerner, we are a bit closer to each other.

    Kou Zhong was stunned; he said, Lu Shu is saying

    Song Lus eyes moved to a cluster of tree peony by the fishpond. Letting out a cold snort, he said, Northern barbarian families, various tribes, have always been trying to destroy our southern blood relationship and pure aristocratic culture. Those like Yang Jian, although they strived to practice our southern style, with the intention to restore the orthodoxy of our Han peoples dynasty; beneath the surface, arent they still barbarians? If you can use southern people to govern the north, our Song Family will give you full support. Do you understand me?

    Kou Zhongs spirit was greatly aroused. I understand! he replied.

    The noise from the hall was getting louder.

    Rong Fengxiang has returned from his round of toasting the guests.

    [1] Bianwen - a popular form of narrative literature flourishing in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) with alternate prose and rhymed parts for recitation and singing (often on Buddhist themes)

  7. #207
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 2

    Book 18 Chapter 2 Initial Expectation Hard to Achieve

    The fleet of carriages left the main gate.

    Kou Zhong, along with the group of martial art masters, were riding in horses instead of taking carriages. Together with the more than a hundred imperial bodyguards, they rode in neat formation to protect Wang Shichongs carriage. When they left, the Rong Mansion was still lively with the loud party.

    When they entered another major street, Xu Ziling, who was driving Wang Shichongs carriage, suddenly reined the horses to stop. While everybody was wondering, the curtain rose up, Wang Shichong stuck out his head and called out, Xiyi Xiong, Daozhang [priest], Kou Xiaodi, please come in to talk.

    Other than Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, and Ouyang Xiyi, three men who were aware of actual situation, the rest of the people were baffled.

    Linglong Jiao, Chen Changlin, and a dozen or so martial art masters quickly jumped to the roof of the buildings on both sides of the street, to guard against the enemy seizing this opportunity to ambush.

    Inside the carriage, the real and the fake Wang Shichong were sitting side-by-side.

    After Kou Zhong, three men, settled down on their seats, Wang Shichong spoke in low voice, I want to change course.

    Priest Ke Feng was stunned, Wont that mean a lot of our arrangements cannot be used anymore? he asked.

    Wang Shichong said, I suddenly remember in the past Zhang Liang and Bo Langsha dispatching their strong men to throw huge rocks to the Emperors carriage. If the enemy uses this tactic again, and the people throwing the boulders are Huang Gongcuo, You Chuhong, Dugu Feng, Wang Bodang, and the like, and I am hiding inside the secret compartment, it will be really dangerous.

    Kou Zhong pretended to blurt out, In that case, wont our tactic of showing-the-enemy-our-weakness go down the drain?

    Ke Feng also said, If the enemy uses iron hammer, heavy rocks, and the like to attack us, we must anticipate our way back to the Imperial City first.

    But Ouyang Xiyi said, Spy among us is difficult to guard against, what Shichong Xiong said makes sense; if anything bad should happen to Shichong Xiong, it wont be showing-the-enemy-our-weakness, but it would give the enemy an opportunity to exploit.

    Wang Shichong smiled and said, Our objective is clear; if the enemy wants to assassinate, they will find a way. We ought to take the Heavenly Streets Imperial Road to go back to the Imperial City. Because of the trees separating the road, the enemy can only carry out their assassination using close range method. This is my decision!

    And then he called Xu Ziling, who was sitting on the driver seat, Jieyuan, come inside, I have something to tell you.

    Kou Zhong, three men, left the carriage. Ouyang Xiyi deliberately pulled Ke Feng aside to talk to him, while blocking his line of sight so that he did not see Wang Shichong taking off his outer robe, exposing an attire similar to Xu Zilings, donning on the mask to turn himself to Qin Jieyuan, and climbing onto the driver seat.

    The cavalcade moved again.

    The originally quiet street was suddenly filled with hoof beats and the sound of wheels grinding the pavement. It brought up some kind of pressure-before-the-storm feeling, making everybody breath heavily.

    Dark clouds hang low on the sky, another storm was brewing.

    By this time Xu Ziling has already applied the disguising technique he learned from Zhuge Dewei. With the help of the fake Wang Shichong, he was able to achieve fo, 60% resemblance with the real Wang Shichong; its just that without the hair and the beard, plus with the aid of the darkness of the night, perhaps anybody would be able to see the flaw in just one glance.

    The original fake Wang Shichong whispered in trembling voice, I dont want to die, Daye

    Xu Ziling patted his shoulder and said, Dont worry! I will do my best to protect you.

    Sighing inwardly, he hid inside the secret compartment.

    ※ ※ ※

    The leading riders, a platoon of about twenty men, finally turned onto the Heavenly Street, and slowly entered the Imperial Highway.

    Linglong Jiao urged her horse to catch up with Kou Zhong. Riding alongside him, she spoke in low voice, Is this a wise choice? The assassins can easily hide among the trees.

    Inwardly, Kou Zhong was surprised; this woman seemed to undergo a huge change in her attitude these past couple of days, taking initiative to talk to him like this, it would have been unimaginable in the past. He laughed cheerfully and said, I am most afraid that they wont come!

    After a short pause, he asked, Where is Qiuci anyway?

    Linglong Jiao lightly replied, Why do you want to know?

    A place derives reflected glory from an illustrious son, Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, Qiuci is able to produce matchless music and dance in the world, and beautiful women like Miss; certainly it is a beautiful land, hence the reason I, Kou Zhong, am tempted to inquire.

    He cleverly flattered Qiuci State and Linglong Jiao, and mentioned music and dancing and the people in the same breath; therefore, although it carried a hint of teasing, it was neither blatant nor condescending, so that this as-cold-as-ice-and-frost beauty would have to take it as face value and would not be able to reprimand him.

    Linglong Jiaos pretty face blushed slightly; under the illumination of the lanterns ahead and behind them, she looked even more beautiful and alluring.

    After being quiet for half a day, she spoke in low voice, Do you really think so?

    A tinge of regret grew in Kou Zhongs heart; considering non-Han women were different from Central Plains women they were more forthcoming and direct, if she misunderstood that he was falling in love with her, it might bring unintended consequences. But this moment he was riding a tiger, how could he explain that it was just a random talk and that he was just teasing her?

    Without much choices he hardened his heart and replied, Of course I do.

    Linglong Jiao shot him a coquettish glance. Do you know where eastern Tujue is? she asked.

    Kou Zhong nodded, Isnt that north of the Great Wall?

    Linglong Jiao became like a little girl, she excitedly said, Go figure! West of Eastern Tujue is precisely Western Tujue, Gaochang and Qiuci. From Luoyang, you must pass through Wuwei, Zhangye, Dunhuang, Shanshan. From there you still have to travel for two months to the northwest, across the Great Desert, and that is the grassland where my people live.

    Kou Zhong was dumbstruck, Its that far, he said.

    Suddenly they heard a horse neighing ahead; the cavalcade stopped immediately.

    In the darkness, about twenty zhang ahead, they could vaguely see a tall figure standing in the middle of the road.

    Momentarily everybody was stunned; how could the assassin be this brazen?

    It should be noted that nearly all of the entire force of martial art masters under Wang Shichongs command were concentrated here, not to mention more than a hundred elite guards. Unless the enemy had stronger force, perhaps before they were able to even touch Wang Shichongs carriage, they would have to retreat with broken troops and damaged generals.

    Without waiting for this side to shout the question, the man already let out an earsplitting long laughter and said, Wang Shichong! You are going to die today!

    Surprisingly, it was the Dugu Clans leader, Dugu Fengs voice.

    Before anybody had time to respond, Dugu Feng roared and spun around several times with the speed that was difficult to see with naked eyes; and then he threw a large object that was spinning in the air. Like a black could it flew across the more than twenty zhang distance, cutting toward the vanguard troops.

    A whistling noise, the sound of metal splitting the air, screamed along the Imperial Road. Under the illumination of the lanterns and the torches, they could see that the object thrown by Dugu Feng was actually a large piece of iron disk, about five chi in diameter; its edge was full of sharp teeth. Thrown using his special technique, it created a beautiful arc in the air, as like a spinning top it flew with astonishing speed toward its target.

    Dugu Feng was the leader of a major clan, he has made his name in Jianghu for more than forty years. Being thrown with all his strength, plus the angular momentum amassed by spinning in place, combined with the circular discs rotational property, plus the sharp teeth along its edge, really carried an unbreakable and impossible-to-withstand momentum, which, even if Ning Daoqi personally came, perhaps he would not dare to meet the disc head on.

    After throwing the circular disc, Dugu Feng immediately flew back, simply because he had used up all his strength in this one throw, and his true power suffered a very huge loss.

    Ahead, lanterns were falling to the ground, because the guards jumped down of their horses and scattered away to evade. Panic spread out like a ripple. The rest of the people also jumped down from their horses and scattered in all direction.

    ※ ※ ※

    The light was suddenly swallowed by the darkness. A dreadful feeling, worse than the danger of battlefield, descended upon the people.

    Kou Zhong, Ouyang Xiyi, and the others had never thought that the enemy would gain the upper hand in just one move like this. Momentarily they could only watch in disbelief as the round disc from afar flying near, as it was going to cut the carriage in two.

    By the time the spinning disc was about three zhang away from the horses, the troops were either jumping down to the ground or riding their horses away to evade, while they were utterly defeated, a dark shadow fell down from the sky. With astonishing speed and shocking accuracy it landed on the flying, spinning disc, the tip of the shadows toes was right at the axis of rotation, so that the shadow looked like an immortal soaring across the clouds, riding on the fog, as it flew along the spinning disc; an astonishing scene to behold.

    Assassin! Ke Feng shouted.

    Ouyang Xiyi already soared into the air, hoping to be one step ahead of the enemy to intercept him.

    Kou Zhong was more anxious for Xu Ziling, this assassins martial art skill was really high, it was definitely above Xu Zilings and his. Because he did not know what the enemy was going to do next, and was fully aware that nobody would be able to stop the assassin before he reached the carriage, in his quick-thinking he threw himself down underneath the carriage and shouted, Go down!

    Wang Shichong, sitting on the driver seat, became the main target. Wide-eyed he stared at the enemy approaching fast, riding on the disc, nearly flying over the horses head, while his subordinates while scrambling in all kinds of postures to evade. Looking at the curve of the flight path, he knew that the fast-spinning disc carrying the enemy was about to cut across his face.

    If the enemy was coming at him in straight line, relying on his skill, he could leap into the air to intercept the enemy, without paying attention to the flying disc. But the curving attack path was the most difficult to grasp, plus the incoming enemy was Huang Gongcuo, one of the people with enough qualifications to be Ning Daoqis match. Therefore, at the last second he decided to give up the idea, sprang off the seat, and rolled down on the ground in an extremely sorry condition.


    Under everybodys blank stare, the spinning disc razed through the carriage as if it was made of dried, rotten wood, about half a chi below the roof. The disc carried the roof of the carriage along and dropped it to the ground, leaving the carriage looked like an ugly-shaped, a vicious-looking open cart.

    The four horses pulling the carriage reared on their hind legs first, and then their necks broke and they fell down, died on the spot.

    The assassin sprang up, made a flip in the air, and then with head below and feet above, he dove down into the carriage like a cannonball.

    Without casting even half a glance toward the trembling fake Wang Shichong curling on the floor at the aft of the carriage, both his palms struck toward the secret compartment.

    When Xu Ziling, who was hiding inside the secret compartment in place of Wang Shichong, suddenly heard the horses neighing, he knew something was wrong. He was just about to push the board open and get out when Kou Zhongs warning shout rang in his ears.

    If it were other people, he would have hesitated but for a moment. But he and Kou Zhong have been together since they were little, they lived and died together, so there was a fabulous tacit understanding between them; it could even be said that it was unparalleled in the world.

    Kou Zhongs shout was still ringing in his ears, he immediately used his power to shatter the bottom of the carriage, dropped to the stone slab pavement below, and rolled away from the carriage.


    The entire floor of the vehicle shattered into small pieces, the fake Wang Shichong and the seats dropped down to the ground, but the wall of the compartment remained intact.

    Xu Ziling cried Lucky! inwardly. If he was a split second late, it would be strange indeed if he did not die like a minced meat with all the bones in his body split in pieces.

    Before he had time to spring up, the dreadful assassin, who clearly knew that he had slipped away from the bottom of the carriage, simply crashed through the wall in Xu Zilings direction, and fiercely attacked him.

    In the meantime, even after cutting the carriage in two, the spinning disc has not lost its momentum; it flew across the neck of two startling horses. Immediately their blood splashed, two poor innocent warhorses toppled down tragically, bringing the guards on their back along to the ground.

    Other than scattering in all direction, Wang Shichongs men behind the carriage were helpless against the disc, forget about dealing with the enemy.

    On the direction where Xu Ziling was rolling away, there were Chen Changlin and six, seven other martial art masters. They did not know that Wang Shichong had been substituted by Xu Ziling; they thought it was Wang Shichong who was rolling away from the bottom of the carriage. Seeing the assassin breaking the wall to pursue and attack, they leaped off their horses and charged forward to meet the enemy.

    Who would have thought that when the man was charging forward, he intentionally diffuse the wood fragments and splashed the pieces over at them like a shower, each piece carried powerful qi, no different than shooting secret projectiles.

    Because the lanterns were extinguished, and the night sky was dark without the stars, all the could see was that the enemy was a man wearing black tight-fitting warrior outfit; as for what he looked like, no one could see it clearly, hence increasing his mysterious, unfathomable and terrifying impression.

    Meanwhile Kou Zhong, Ouyang Xiyi, Linglong Jiao, Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, and the other martial art masters were soaring near, but they were still a bit behind. By the time Chen Changlin and the others were blocking the raining wood fragments, the assassin already flew toward the rolling-around-on-the-ground Xu Ziling, with both palms striking down.

    Violent qi power, like a storm, pressed down on Xu Ziling. He felt as if a wall was falling down on him. The momentum was extremely shocking.

    In the blink of an eye, Xu Ziling, who was under heavy attack, was able to detect from the enemys speed, attacking power, and other aspects that he was still at least a level below the opponent.

    Right now, the only counteroffensive he could think of was to face danger with danger, using strange method to control the enemy.

    With a cold shout he flipped half of his body, relying on high-speed true qi rotation, and reversing the direction of his falling down momentum, while fast as lightning both his palms struck out, to meet the enemys palms head on.

    He was finally able to see the opponents appearance and body shape.

    This black assassin was tall and sturdy, bordering to fat; his belly slightly bulging, his head bald, his chin thick, his palms and fingers appeared thicker and more solid than ordinary men. But his supposedly murderous-looking fierce and harsh eyes were weakened by his snow-white, beautiful beard, and his long, grizzled eyebrows drooping down to the corners of his eyes. Were it not for his icy-cold eyes, which were so narrow that they looked like the blade of a knife, this man could be mistaken as an elderly immortal descending to the mortal world.


    Qi power collided.

    Xu Ziling did not use his spiraling qi. He appeared to be using all the natural qi power from the Secret to Long Life and the Jade Annulus of He Clan; however, he actually retained half of his strength in dealing with this senior martial art master of grand master level, whose name shook the southern seas.


    Xu Ziling spurted out a mouthful of fresh blood; he was jolted so hard that the back of his head bumped against the bluestone under his body.

    Huang Gongcuo was also jarred by his reaction force, and was thrown backward. For the first time his face showed an amazed expression.

    But his hands did not stay idle; his left hand repeatedly sent out long distance chops, so that Chen Changlin and the others, who were coming to help, were forced to step back; two of them were even hit and fell down, unable to crawl back up. He indeed possessed an insufferably arrogant attitude due to his overbearing prowess.

    This moment Kou Zhong, Ouyang Xiyi, Ke Feng, Linglong Jiao, Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, and the group of other martial art masters were leaping above the destroyed carriage. But when they were pouncing down, whistling noise was heard overhead, followed by hundreds of leaves, like sharp blades filling the air, shooting down at them, so that all they could do was evading with sigh.

    Faintly they saw four, five dark shadows followed the raining leaves, dropping down from the sky.

    Those with comparably weaker skill had no choice but to form saber net and sword shield to block the attack with everything they had.

    Only Kou Zhong, Ouyang Xiyi, Ke Feng and Linglong Jiao, four people were able to use their true qi to protect their bodies, while increasing their speed to charge toward Huang Gongcuo, well before he had a chance to use his killer hands to intercept them.


    The blue stone shattered.

    Xu Zilings back landed on the ground, and spurted another mouthful of blood.

    Most of his injuries were fake.

    Although Huang Gongcuos palm power was fierce and severe, Xu Ziling was not a weakling at all. When the opponents qi power invaded his meridians and burst in, he used his own true qi to carry the opponents qi power from his elbow, and transmitted it into the bluestone crashing against his back. Not only he neutralized the capable-of-severing-the-meridians, destroying-the-spirit palm power, he also used it to prop his weight so that he would not suffer the calamity of crashing against the stone.

    It was an ingenious, as well as a profound mystery, technique, guaranteed that even Huang Gongcuo would find it hard to understand. Only he and Kou Zhong, who knew the Secret to Long Life had this marvelous skill.

    Huang Gongcuo suddenly floated toward Xu Ziling again.

    The battle occurred in the dark. Under this kind of circumstance, they could not rely on their eyes very well, and was forced to rely on their senses, which, in their status as martial art masters, were keener than those of ordinary people; the level of danger need not be mentioned.

    Only this moment did Wang Shichong, who was dressed as Qin Jieyuan, start to flee while keeping his body close to the ground, as he quietly tiptoed toward the back of Huang Gongcuo. It was only then did he remember his original intention in coming here.


    The flying disc, which had been the main controller of this whole situation, finally fell to the ground.


    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well block a sword stabbing down from above; immediately he groaned inwardly, because the enemys power application was extremely ingenious, there was a twisting and pulling force hidden within the stab, so that he was pulled sideways, but it appeared that he wanted to change direction on his own accord, and thus missed the opportunity to intercept Huang Gongcuo.

    This kind of sword technique was simply too sensational.

    And then he heard loud sword wind; unexpectedly the enemy was able to change momentum high in the air and used the remainder to pursue him.

    Dugu Fengs [phoenix] tender voice rang in his ears, Pay back my Er Shus [second uncle] life!

    Kou Zhong thundered, Dugu Bas killer is Shen Luoyan. Watch the saber!

    Without even looking back, the Moon in the Well struck backhandedly, to hit the back of Dugu Fengs sword stabbing at him. Dang! The impact shook Dugu Feng, sent her floating backward, while he borrowed the same reaction force to accelerate his speed as he shot toward the Imperial Road.

    Xu Ziling had already accomplished his goal in taking Wang Shichongs place to receive the injury. Right now his only target was to protect his own life, in order to prevent the pretense from turning into reality.

    The enemys assassination plan was very thorough. Huang Gongcuo was extremely formidable; although it was not totally unexpected, it has caused them to fall into passive situation and could only react to the enemys movement, even though they had already giving everything had.

    And now, as long as Kou Zhong was able to hold Huang Gongcuo for a moment, to give their side the opportunity to regroup, it could be said that their mission was accomplished.

    Thinking about it, Kou Zhong swung his arm to throw the Moon in the Well that it flew like a streak of lightning toward Huang Gongcuo.

    The moment Dugu Feng [phoenix] intercepted Kou Zhong, Wang Bodangs double-pointed flexible spear and You Chuhongs jasper staff separately intercepted Linglong Jiao and Ouyang Xiyi coming down from the air.

    Everybody knew that if they could kill Xu Ziling, who was impersonating Wang Shichong, then they could put a stop to this melee.

    The Twin-Malevolent of Changbai, Fu Zhen and Fu Yan, two brothers, were charging toward Chen Changlin, so that Huang Gongcuo could focus all his attention to kill Xu Ziling, whom they believed to be Wang Shichong.

    For a period of time, the sound of weapons clashing and battle cry shook the Imperial Road.

    As soon as the guards recovered from shock, one after another they charged courageously with no thought of personal safety in the direction of Huang Gongcuo and Xu Ziling.


    With a muffled explosion-like sound, Ouyang Xiyi, who was always a level below You Chuhong, was swept by her staff and fell backward. And then this number one martial art master of the Dugu Clan flashed around like a ghost or a demon, charging toward the front of the carriage like a shooting star, and each time her jasper staff swept by, one bodyguard had his flesh and blood flying. There was a continuous stream of people flying or falling down.

    Linglong Jiao was unable to withstand Wang Bodangs double-pointed flexible spear, which he moved in perfection; relying on her outstanding qinggong, she turned around and fled far away, giving Wang Bodang the opportunity to leisurely deal with the bodyguards charging at him from the rear of the carriage.

    Ke Feng was the only one with no one giving him any trouble; he easily went over to Xu Ziling, who had just sprung up from the ground.

    In this kind of darkness and chaotic situation, even he could not see clearly that this Wang Shichong was a fake.

    Huang Gongcuo was pressing in to within ten paces from Xu Ziling; his white beard perked up, both his hands turned into palm shadows filling the air, like howling wind and torrential rain attacking Xu Ziling.


    Huang Gongcuo flashed; it was unclear what technique he was using, but the lightning fast Moon in the Well shooting at him not only changed direction, it continued shooting toward the real Wang Shichongs chest, who was trying to ambush him from behind. There was no reduction in the momentum; he was worthy to be acclaimed as one of the top grandmasters of martial art in the world.

    Xu Ziling groaned inwardly. Although currently his side had more men and the enemy had just a few, but he could only fight alone, since no one would be able to help him. To his side was the carriage with the destroyed top, to his other side were the big trees separating the horse path with the Imperial Road, while in front and behind him were enemies blocking his escape route, so that for the time being it was difficult for people from his side to come to his aid.

    Huang Gongcuos violent and powerful palm wind, as cold as ice and snow, was completely enveloping him, practically rendering him unable to evade, thus the only way out was to fight with everything he had.

    If the enemy was only Huang Gongcuo, one person, he would be able to hold his ground for some time; but the worst part was that Ke Feng was waiting on the side. Even if he had enough power, Xu Ziling simply could not strike first and gain the upper hand, because by doing so, he would ruin the enterprise for the sake of one

    Even if his wisdom was higher than the sky, all he could do right now was sighing in frustration.

    But Ke Feng suddenly flashed behind him and shouted loudly, Shichong Xiong, back off!

    Instead of surprised, Xu Ziling was delighted. He swiftly backed off.

  8. #208
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 3

    Book 18 Chapter 3 One Move Behind in the Game

    Wang Shichong was about to launch sneak attack from behind. Who would have thought that Huang Gongcuo flashed away, and Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well was shooting at lightning speed toward him? Not enough time to evade, he let out a cold snort, and raised his sword to block.


    Wang Shichongs entire body was jolted by the heavy, powerful-internal-energy infused Moon in the Well that he staggered three steps back; not only his plan to attack sneakily became an empty dream, he also suffered a sharp pain on his palm. Only then did he understand that not only Huang Gongcuo did not neutralize Kou Zhongs original power, he even added his own true qi into the saber, so that it became like the two men were working together to attack Wang Shichong, rendering him unable to attack the enemy.


    Ke Fengs palm struck Xu Zilings back; he even spoke grimly, Shichong Xiong, you fell into the trap!

    Xu Ziling, like a kite with cut string, immediately staggered toward Huang Gongcuo.

    In term of using the true qi within his body, Xu Ziling has become an expert. Knowing perfectly well that Ke Feng might use this one-in-a-thousand opportunity to plot against him, of course he would not come to him willingly. His only concern was that the opponent might use sharp weapon.

    By the time Ke Fengs destroying-heart, splitting-the-lung palm power entered his back, Xu Ziling already had his true qi condensed onto his back, spiraling continuously. The instant the enemys qi invaded his body, without releasing the least bit of opposing force, he used his true qi to contain the enemys power, and sent it toward his yongquan acupoint, and discharged it to the ground.

    The bluestone bricks paving the road became the silent victims; in the wake of his steps, the stone continuously cracked and shattered to pieces. Luckily under cover of darkness, the two major enemies attention was focused on this fake Wang Shichongs body, so that even Huang Gongcuo did not realize that he was fooling them.

    Xu Ziling suddenly jumped.

    Huang Gongcuo had never imagined that after suffering repeated blows, the opponent still had this kind of strength left. Retracting his left hand, and changed his right hand from palm to fist, he lowered his waist to assume the horse stance, and sent out a punch over the empty air.


    Xu Ziling met the punch head-on; he was thrown up, and this time spurted a mouthful of fresh blood for real, his five viscera turned upside down, his meridian felt like it was going to split.

    As if he suddenly appeared from the dark, Kou Zhong flew over to catch Xu Ziling and held him tight, and then bringing him to the roadside, his toes tapped a big tree, before Huang Gongcuo, who was leaping toward them, arrived, he already flew in the opposite direction.

    Huang Gongcuo thundered, Success!

    All the assassins, including Ke Feng, immediately withdrew.

    The entire assassination process only took several blinks of an eye; fast like a sudden clap of thunder, swift like the storm blowing dry leaves.

    ※ ※ ※

    The lanterns were lit up, the dead and injured, men and horses, scattered everywhere on the ground; it was a field after disaster.

    Holding Xu Ziling in his arms, Kou Zhong landed by the destroyed carriage. Wang Shichong, Ouyang Xiyi, Linglong Jiao, Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, Chen Changlin, and the others came over and crowded around them.

    Xu Ziling was still in Kou Zhongs arms, quietly treating his injury.

    Kou Zhong shouted, Summon help immediately, rescuing people is urgent!

    Emergency fire arrow soared to the sky, and exploded in the air into blood red flower of fire.

    The wind blew and rocked the leaves, heavy rain was imminent, the lanterns swaying, the shadows dancing.

    Squatting by Xu Ziling, Ouyang Xiyi asked in consternation, Hows your injury?

    It was only this moment that Chen Changlin and the others found out that this Wang Shichong was a fake; their confidence returned.

    The other fake Wang Shichong was being helped by two bodyguards from a pile of carriage seats; his legs did not stop shaking.

    Still having lingering fears, Xu Ziling said, Huang Gongcuo is indeed formidable; he nearly took my little life.

    The real Wang Shichong spoke in delight, This is a success! Well go back to the Imperial City immediately.

    Mission accomplished, Kou Zhong stooped down to pick up Xu Ziling; he said, Wanggongs injury is serious, we must go back to the Imperial City immediately, leave the dead and injured here for the time being, other oh

    Everybody else also felt the alarm, but it was already too late to react.

    One of the wounded people, who was originally lying face down on the ground, unexpectedly sprang up and then with a ghost or demon speed shenfa, flashed toward Wang Shichong, who was still wearing a mask, and launched a violent punch on his back.

    Definitely this persons skill could not be inferior to Huang Gongcuo.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong blurted out together, Li Mi!

    Wang Shichong did not even have time to evade; all he could do was to gather his internal energy onto his back.


    Wang Shichong violently spurted fresh blood. By the time his body stumbled forward, Li Mi already let out an ear-splitting wild laughter and soared into the air. With his deep and resounding, yet gentle voice, he said, Shichong Xiong, take a good care of yourself.

    Because this matter happened so suddenly, a fast-change-of-scene-growing-without-restraint kind of thing, plus it was a case of pretense that turned into reality, a change of mood from delight to grief, which was difficult to accept, everybody could only watch Li Mis long hair fluttered in the breeze, his god-like stalwart build entered the dark sky where the lantern light could not reach, as if they were nailed down to the ground, in a nightmare from which they would never wake up.

    Xu Ziling was the first to spring up from Kou Zhongs arms, to grab Wang Shichongs body, which was falling down to the ground, while ignoring the fresh blood spurted out wildly from Wang Shichongs mouth splashing onto his head and face. Using the sacred-healing qi from the Secret to Long Life, first he protected his own heart and meridians, and then transmitted the qi from its source into Wang Shichongs channels, who, by this time, did not have the least bit of color on his face.

    Kou Zhong also reached out to press his hand on Wang Shichongs back; shaken, he said, Ren En and the others were murdered by Li Mi.

    Only Xu Ziling understood what Kou Zhong was saying; from Wang Shichongs current injury from Li Mis punch, he recognized that the fatal injury Ren En and the others suffered came from the hand of the same person.

    Wang Xuanying and Wang Xuanshu were bound with father-son love with Wang Shichong; they threw themselves on him and wailed with a calling-out-to-heaven-and-scrambling-toward-the-earth cry, Die!

    Ouyang Xiyi tried to stop the two, while he himself called out, Shichong Xiong!

    With the two transmitting their true qi into his system, Wang Shichong opened his eyes slightly and spoke with difficulty, I am not dead yet!

    Kou Zhong spoke heavily, We must flee to the Imperial City immediately, and then well go all out to attack the Imperial Palace. Dugu Feng [peak] wont be able to move a single step.


    The heavy rain, which had stopped for a half of the day, started to descend to the mortal world again.

    Wang Xuanying spoke in trembling voice, Die is heavily injured, wed better leave town immediately. Lets flee to Yanshi for some time until Die

    Wang Shichong coughed violently, while spitting out blood constantly. It was quite some time later that he said, Go back to the Imperial City. Listen to Kou Zhongs order.

    Finished speaking, he closed his eyes and no longer said anything.

    Everybody felt as if they had just fallen into an icehouse; their heart sank, they did not eve feel the rain falling down on their bodies.

    Suddenly they heard the sound of hoof beats. Like a bird startled by the mere twang of a bow, everybody jumped in fright, before finding out that it was Yang Gongqing and his troops.

    Carrying Wang Shichong in his arms, he barked at the fake Wang Shichong, Still havent mounted your horse? This time you are really Shangshu Daren!

    With Wang Shichong in his arms, he leaped onto a horse nearby and led the cavalcade galloping toward the Imperial City.

    Nobody has ever imagined that this beating-somebody-at-their-own-game tactic backfired; it failed through lack of a final effort, and fell into a pretense-that-turns-into-reality sad end.

    ※ ※ ※

    Battle cry around the Imperial City and Imperial Palace shook the heavens. The beating of the drums and the whistling of arrows continued all through the night. Wang Shichongs troops braved the rain and gave serious opposition. The battle continued till dawn, with both sides suffered heavy casualties. However, since Wang Shichongs side had the strength advantage, plus they already had sufficient preparation in facing siege tactics, it could be said that Wang Shichongs side still came out better.

    Their body weary, their strength depleted, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Yang Gongqing, three men, returned to the tightly-guarded Shangshu Mansion. Ouyang Xiyi, Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, Linglong Jiao, Wang Honglie, Wang Xingben, Chen Changlin, and the others congregated in the main hall; everybody appeared dispirited, with worried frown on their faces.

    Ouyang Xiyi was the most cool-headed; rising to his full height, he asked, Hows the situation?

    Letting out a cold snort, Yang Gongqing said, I guarantee that within ten days we will be able to break through the Imperial Palace; well kill Yang Dong until not a single chicken and dog remains. And then he asked in low voice, Hows Darens condition?

    Wang Xuanshu replied in low voice, Die is still unconscious, but his life is not in danger.

    Wang Xuanying asked nervously, Why did we stop attacking the city?

    Yang Gongqing shot a glance toward Kou Zhong before responding, This is Kou Xiongdis idea. This moment we need to show our weakness to the enemy, or Li Mi wont fall into the trap by raising his army to attack Luoyang.

    Immediately Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, Wang Honglie, and Wang Xingbens countenance changed.

    Aghast, Wang Xuanying spoke hoarsely, Do we still need to show our weakness to the enemy right now? And then he pointed his finger like a halberd to Kou Zhong and said, Die has gotten into this situation, everything is of your doings. Now we must break through the Imperial Palace immediately and take control over the whole city; otherwise we all will die without burial ground.

    Frowning, Ouyang Xiyi said, Ying Xianzhi [virtuous nephew], calm down a little bit. Victory or defeat is common in military operations. As long as Shichong Xiong is alive, we cant be considered failed and wiped over the floor.

    Wang Xuanshu also told his older brother, Die told us to listen to Kou Dage!

    Yang Gongqing came over to Wang Xuanying and put his arm around his shoulders; he consoled him, Kou Xiongdis tactic is actually in accordance with the Art of Wars strategy of emptiness within solid, and solid within emptiness. The only way we can turn defeat into victory right now is to stabilize the troops morale with that counterfeit goods, while at the same time following our original plan of luring Li Mi to attack; otherwise, there is no other strategy to turn the tide.

    Wang Xuanying was still breathing hard, but he no longer said anything.

    Kou Zhong spoke seriously, Well hand over Luoyang City to Lang Feng and Song Mengqiu, two generals control. Xuanying Xiong and the others stay behind to take care of the Imperial City. As for Wanggongs safety, I will have to trouble Xiyi Gong and Changlin Xiong.

    Stunned, Wang Honglie asked, Where are you, two gentlemen, going?

    Yang Gongqing solemnly said, Tonight well secretly take the impersonator out of town to Yanshi. In the show-down against Li Mi, if we are defeated, you must take Shangshu Daren that far!

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling slipped away into an empty hall and sat down dejectedly.

    Kou Zhong appeared to be both mentally and physically exhausted. Smiling wryly, he said, We are still one move behind in this game; we lost under Li Mi, that crafty ghosts hands. Actually there is already a precedent to this matter; when Li Mi plotted against Zhai Rang in the past, he disguised himself as a corpse. This time he simply repeated this trick!

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Our thorough thought was not precise enough; such an important matter, how could Li Mi not make his move personally? Besides, even if we knew that Li Mi would be personally involved, it doesnt mean that we were going to find his trace. When Shen Luoyan assassinated Dugu Ba that day, I am sure there was another martial art master nearby, ready to provide assistance. And this person must be so superior that Ol Ba and me did not even detect his presence. Perhaps it was Li Mi himself.

    Kou Zhong hatefully punched his chair and blamed himself, Li Mi personally massacred Qingshe Bang people, he actually already exposed a flaw, and we were still stupid enough to think that only Huang Gongcuo would do it. Let me ask you: how could Shen Luoyan be able to move Huang Gongcuo to do this kind of killing-chicken-using-butcher-knife-to-slaughter-a-cow matter? It was because Li Mi hated us to the bones that he troubled himself to be the assassin.

    Xu Ziling coldly said, Ren En Bangzhu and his brothers debt of blood, I will definitely have Li Mi pay for it.

    Kou Zhong sat his tiger-body straight; he nodded and said, Other than Yuwen Huaji, Li Mi has become the crafty scoundrel we, the two brothers, want to eliminate the most. Humph! Although Li Mi could be considered full of schemes, he still underestimated that our sacred healing qi from the Secret to Long Life combined with the Jade Annulus of He Clan unexpectedly could save Wang Shichongs life. As long as he is not dead, but Li Mi believed him to be dead, we still have a chance to turn defeat into victory.

    Xu Ziling smiled ruefully and said, Right now I am afraid the rumors are flying everywhere; if the troops morale is shaken, without even fighting, we will lose this battle in a very bad way.

    Kou Zhong said, Present situation is a bit similar to the battle of Jingling that day, the difference is that Wang Shichong is still alive. Fortunately I still have Zhai Jiao, this strong card up my sleeve. Wang Shichong and his group of great generals know that they must rely on me to gain victory.

    They heard the sound of footsteps; the two boys stopped talking.

    Xu Xingzhi pushed the door and entered in. He sat down by Kou Zhongs side and spoke in a low voice, Just now, Wang Xuanying quarreled with Yang Gongqing, Lang Feng and Ouyang Xiyi, three men; he said that Kou Yes revealing-weakness-to-the-enemy tactic already caused his Die to sustain serious injury; therefore, they must not let you act at will. His proponents were Lang Feng, Wang Honglie and Wang Xingben. Opposing him was Wang Xuanshu, who said that Wang Shichong has personally instructed them to obey Kou Yes order.

    Kou Zhong revealed an I knew it! expression; he said, A fool will always be a fool, they will never change. This matter is not hard to resolve. As soon as Wang Shichong wakes up, this old fox is formidable in considering pros and cons, he will definitely choose the most advantageous choice.

    Xu Xingzhi said, But currently we have a serious crisis that is difficult to resolve.

    The two boys jumped in fright, What crisis? they spoke in chorus.

    Xu Xingzhi appeared to be deep in thought; he said, If I were Dugu Feng, I would spread the news far and wide that Wang Shichong was ambushed and died, while at the same time secretly instructed Luoyangs industry and commerce leaders with connection to them pay their respect and come to inquire Wang Shichongs condition. When that happens, they cant refuse them, but they cant accept them even more; how would they deal with it?

    The two boys had never considered this aspect; both showed deep wrinkled on their foreheads.

    Currently, their best advantage was hoping that Li Mi thought Wang Shichong was dead, and it was his body double that came out to keep up appearances, and led the troops to the west, hence Li Mi would make his move to attack Luoyang City.

    If upon receiving the news, the leaders from all walks of life in Luoyang came over, in less than three sentences, the opponent would have discovered the flaw in this poor-quality counterfeit goods, and then they would be convinced that Wang Shichong had really died. Once the news spread, Wang Shichongs main army and his generals would collapse without a fight; worse yet, they might shift their support to Yang Dong and Dugu Fengs side. Once the Eastern Capital was lost, they would lose their supporting force as well, and would sink deeper into inferior condition where they would have to face the enemy on both fronts. It would be a world-class fantasy indeed if they did not get wiped out completely.

    If they pleaded illness, the consequences would be the same. Dugu Feng would most probably make a big deal about pointing out that the strolling-around Wang Shichong was an impostor. To those with discerning eyes, naturally it would be very easy to tell genuine or fake.

    This was definitely a knotty problem.

    How could they get the best of both worlds, i.e. stabilize the troops morale, but also showed weakness to the enemy?

    The two boys were already weary; this extra problem only increased their headache.

    Xu Xingzhi spoke heavily, If we can accomplish one thing, Xingzhi can think of one-stone-three-birds way.

    The two boys spirit was greatly aroused; one-stone-two-birds was already ideal, much less three birds?

    What do you want us to do? Xu Ziling asked.

    Xu Xingzhi said, If we can make Wang Shichong sit up straight for more than a quarter of an hour, my stratagem will work.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other in disappointment. The former smiled bitterly and said, If I can transfer an endless stream of true qi into his body, I guarantee that he will look like he is completely fine, simply because his eight extraordinary channels will be unimpeded. But I cant press my palm on his back all the time he is receiving guests; it will only be trying to be clever but end up with an egg on our face.

    Greatly delighted, Xu Xingzhi said, That will work; leave it to me. We will divide the guests into three batches. The first batch will be his subordinates of aids and advisors to top official level and above; let them know that this is simply a tactic to lure the enemy, although he is injured, but it was nothing serious. The second batch will be important figures of the City of Luoyang who are coming to pay their respect; let them continue to take a wait-and-see stance. Receiving these two batches should not take more than a quarter of an hour; it would not easily reveal the cloven foot.

    As for the third batch, he went on, This would be other idle people. Let the fake goods pretend injury by receiving the guests simply by waving his hand, nodding, saying something like thank you for your concern. That would be enough.

    The two boys were still baffled, but since they knew that Xu Xingzhis wisdom surpassed ordinary men, they were quite hopeful.

    Xu Ziling said, At most we can only obtain two objectives: stabilizing the troops and the citizens morale. What is the third?

    Full of confidence, Xu Xingzhi said, The so-called empty is solid, solid is empty; Shichong is not hiding in a quiet room recuperating from the injury, but forcing himself to get out and receive the visitors instead, surely he knew returning-the-soul-recovering-the-weary method; hence forcing himself to see the guests will play its role in stabilizing the peoples heart. Furthermore, receiving visitors for a long period of time like this may add injury to injury. It would be strange indeed if Li Mi does not immediately lead his troops to the west.

    The two boys slapped the table and shouted with praise.

    By the time Xu Xingzhi finished explaining the details of this operation clearly, Kou Zhong exerted himself to stand up; he said, We are saved! Even if Wuhou [Marquis of Wu, i.e. Zhuge Liang] came back to life, perhaps he could only come up with similar plan.

  9. #209
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 4

    Book 18 Chapter 4 Harm Born of Grace

    A dash of color started to appear on Wang Shichongs face, and then he slowly opened his eyes, and swept his gaze around at Xu Ziling, Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, Ouyang Xiyi, Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu, Yang Gongqing, Linglong Jiao, and the others. Sighing, he said, I am not dead yet.

    Sitting up on the bed, he leaned his body slightly back, and asked Kou Zhong, whose palm was pressed against his back, Hows the situation now?

    The situation is really good! Kou Zhong replied in low voice.

    Wang Xuanying blurted out, Die is seriously hurt like this, and you said the situation is really good?

    This time, even Ouyang Xiyi thought that Kou Zhongs remark was excessively ironic.

    Who would have thought that after letting out dry cough twice, Wang Shichong nodded and said, Fortunately we have your Long-Life qi that reverses the inauspicious to luck. As long as I have half a month, I will be completely recovered. Ha! If with my injury we can obtain Li Mis realm, this is worth it.

    Hearing Wang Shichongs comment, even Wang Xuanyings unsightly countenance eased up considerably.

    Wang Shichong suddenly asked, Is the plan in place?

    Kou Zhong replied indifferently, As soon as we have the hole in the wall, Wanggong can start receiving the visitors!

    Other than his good brother, everybody looked at each other in astonishment.

    ※ ※ ※

    Chen Changlin came over to Xu Ziling and whispered, Its done!

    The rear hall became a restricted area; not only all doors and windows were closed, they were also guarded by Wang Shichongs trusted aides.

    Xu Ziling already regulated his mind and spirit. He sat cross-legged on a high stool facing the wall, his right hand extended through a small hole, which was barely big enough for his arm to go through, on the wall, and again through a small hole on the back of a chair, and pressed his palm on Wang Shichongs back, who was sitting in the chair leaning against the wall, and slowly transferring his true qi, acting as the bridge to help this most powerful man in Luoyang connecting his meridians, which were blocked out due to his injury, to enable him to have enough strength to deal with the imminent crisis.

    Chen Changlin and Linglong Jiao stood guard outside the screen enclosing Xu Ziling, acting as his protectors.

    This was part of Xu Xingzhis meticulous brilliant scheme to cross the sea by a trick [idiom: to achieve ones aim by underhanded means].

    In the front hall, Wang Shichongs breathing started to be low and sharp, but slowly he straightened his back, and his thin and weak breathing became long and even.

    A short moment later the sound of footsteps approaching, more than thirty people appeared in the front lobby; these were all high-ranking military officers under Wang Shichongs command, who were stationed in the Eastern Capital.

    The sound of people kneeling and paying their respect continued.

    Lang Fengs loud and clear voice was heard next, Gentlemen, please rise!

    Amidst the rustling noise, one after another they all rose.

    Wang Shichong cleared his throat and said, Today this officer summoned gentlemen to come here, there is indeed a very good news to report: victory is in sight. As for the details of the situation, Great General Yang will explain it to you.

    Immediately Yang Gongqings voice rose, The scheme to lure the enemy was highly successful. Currently Li Mi believes Shangshu Daren was ambushed and is suffering serious injury, and that his life is in danger. The fact is that the injured one was someone else. Tonight Shangshu Daren is going to go to Yanshi to oversee the situation and take up the challenge, so that Li Mi may be able to come, but he wont be able to leave.

    Wang Shichong laughed aloud and said, General Lang Feng will be in charge here, with General Song Mengqiu, Wang Xuanying and Wang Xuanshu, three men as his deputies. All of you must maintain strict military order, dont slack off. When in the future this officer return in triumph, after putting down the rebellion and punishing the traitors, I will evaluate everybodys merit and bestow rewards accordingly.

    All the generals roared in agreement; they were all in high spirit.

    By this time Xu Ziling could not keep up already, fortunately after Song Mengqiu ordered the generals to keep Wang Shichongs condition of injury a secret, the generals withdrew immediately.

    Xu Ziling quickly withdraw his right hand, and Kou Zhong, who was standing by Wang Shichongs side, took his place in transmitting his qi to help maintaining Wang Shichongs spirit.

    He heard Ouyang Xiyis voice, Shichong Xiong, how do you feel? After seeing the next group of people, Shichong Xiong may retreat to the rear hall to rest!

    This moment sound of footsteps was heard again. Xu Ziling took a deep breath, and then stretched out his arm through the hole on the wall, through the hole on the chair, and pressed his palm on Wang Shichongs back again.

    ※ ※ ※

    Inside a side room, Xu Ziling sat cross-legged on the bed, breathing in and out deeply. Kou Zhong pushed the door and entered, his face looked extremely tired. Disregarding everything, he just sprawled on the floor, stretching out his limbs and moaned, Do you know what is the most difficult thing to deal with in the world? Its people, always fighting and scheming against each other, all the time, everywhere; harming others for their personal benefit. Whenever there are people, bad things will happen.

    Xu Ziling did not respond. A short while later Kou Zhong was fast asleep.

    The heavy rain has stopped half a sichen ago, but dark clouds were still racing in the sky, giving the impression that the rain might show off its power and wreak havoc again any moment.

    By the time Xu Xingzhi and Ouyang Xiyi came to look for them, Kou Zhong just woke up, sitting up and staring blankly.

    Why did you sleep on the floor? Ouyang Xiyi asked in surprise.

    Kou Zhong stretched out his limbs and said, This is called absorbing the earths qi.

    He sprang up and asked, Hows the situation outside?

    Ouyang Xiyi sat down and said, Yang Dong launched two counterattacks in succession to test our troops morale. Both ended in damaged-troops, broken-generals, and had to retreat. In my opinion, unless they have outside help, their situation is hopeless and could only sit and wait for death.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Xingzhi sat down on his left and right, respectively. The former laughed and said, This is called being enmeshed in a trap of ones own devising [orig. spinning a cocoon around oneself]. Even if Wanggong left, the only one who would come will be Li Mi. I really dont understand what is Dugu Feng thinking?

    Xu Ziling opened his eyes. He greeted Ouyang Xiyi first, and then said, It should be called unexpected instead. Originally they wanted to draw support from Li Mis forces, taking advantage while Wanggong is at Yanshi, they seize control over Luoyang. Would have expected that the confidential matter is not so confidential anymore, plus Wanggong returned promptly, hence their troop disposition is thrown into chaos, and Li Mi entered by exploiting a weak spot.

    Xu Xingzhi joined in, Shen Luoyan, Huang Gongcuo and the others left Luoyang early this morning. In my opinion the Wagang Army is like an arrow that has already left the bow; their momentum must be released.

    Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, Oh, Li Mi! I dont care if you are as crafty as a ghost, you will have to drink the water that I, Kou Zhong, use to wash my feet.

    And then, with lingering fears he said, But last night was extremely dangerous; a bit more, we would never be able to free ourselves.

    Ouyang Xiyi hatefully said, Knowing someones mouth and face is not the same as knowing his heart; I never thought that Ke Feng was that kind of despicable lowly man.

    Xu Xingzhi mused, I wonder if Laojun Guan [Taoist Monastery] is collaborating with Li Mi, or with Dugu Feng? This is an extremely important point to consider.

    Kou Zhong analyzed, They ought to be related to Li Mi. Laojun Guans Zhuchi [abbot, see my previous note] is the old Taoist demon Pi Chen. Perhaps just like Zhu Yuyan, he pledged allegiance to Li Mi. If Li Mi became the Emperor one day, Pi Chens heretical branch of Taoism sect can become the state religion, then they are going to suppress orthodox Buddhism school like Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Jing Nian Chanyuan. Humph! Pi Chen really counted his chicken before they are hatched. But I am going to make him steal the chicken but cannot see a single grain of rice to nibble.

    Ouyang Xiyi sighed in downheartedness, I have never thought that Li Ers [i.e. Lao Zi/Lao Tzu] disciple could be this kind of treacherous villain who bring harm to the world. I really wish we can immediately attack Cui Yun Peak to execute justice on behalf of the Heaven.

    This moment a subordinate came to report that Song Lu came to see Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong was thinking of asking favor from Song Lu. Hearing that, he gladly went.

    ※ ※ ※

    Song Lu and Kou Zhong sat down in a side hall; after the maid withdrew, the former spoke in low voice, Is Wang Shichong really in imminent peril?

    Kou Zhong leaned over and said, Not that serious. But to recover, I am afraid he will need at least ten days.

    Frowning, Song Lu said, How did such an oversight happen?

    Kou Zhong did not dare to conceal it from him; briefly he narrated the entire course of events, and then he said, Li Mis power can destroy the heart, split the meridians; it was extremely overbearing. Fortunately that time Xiao Ling promptly intercepted him. Combined with Wang Shichongs own true qi protecting his body, the punch power was neutralized seventy, eighty percent; otherwise I am afraid Wang Shichong would have breathed his last.

    Song Lu said, Li Mis di sha quan [earth terminator fist] is quite famous in Jianghu; therefore, he is very confident of his own martial art skill. In his kind of mindset, he would never have thought that the true qi you guys trained from the Secret to Long Life unexpectedly has the power to reverse the rotation of the sky. No wonder Shen Luoyan and the others did not have any interest in staying over to watch if there was any change; they took advantage while the people were in panic and large number of citizens from the city rushed out of town to take refuge this morning, they also left the city by boat.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, If I had not let them go, they wouldnt be able to leave even if they wanted to. Tonight I will have to rush to Yanshi; whats Lu Shus plan?

    Song Lu said, Right now the north is still dealing with wars one after another, there is no use for us to stay here. A bit later I am going down south via land route. Do you have any message you want me to pass on?

    Although what he said was an understatement, he obviously wanted Kou Zhong to know clearly the Song Clans position.

    Song Yuzhi came to his mind, Kou Zhong felt a sense of loss. It was quite some time later that he said, Whether I, Kou Zhong, can have the qualifications to fight over the world, it depends entirely on whether I can retrieve the hidden treasure; if I could not, even if I start, I could only be a lowly thief leader. Right now it seems to be just an empty promise, its too early to say anything.

    Song Lu stroked his beard and said with a smile, If everybody is like you, they must find the hidden treasure first before rising in rebellion, Yang Guang would still be sitting on his emperor seat peacefully!

    Kou Zhong smiled bitterly and said, This is called present days are different than the former days. At that time the common peoples complaints reached the heavens, as soon as someone stepped forward to raise his arm, he would be able to muster the crowd and rise up; or perhaps if I were a great general with power from the Sui household, I could have troops whenever I needed troops, I could have money whenever I wanted money. But now fragmentation of power has become reality, if you want someone to throw his life for you, you must have a special characteristic that attracts people. Isnt there a rumor in Jianghu that whoever can acquire the Duke Yang Treasure can obtain the world? This is exactly what the thing that I, a poor ghost, must do the most.

    Song Lu nodded and said, Just by listening to you, I know that you, Xiao Zhong, understand the heart of the people. This is the most important qualification to strive for the world. Rest assured! As long as you are capable to make achievement, our Song Family will give you our full support. Humph! If we let barbarians[1] obtain the world, will we, Han people, have a place we call our home?

    Kou Zhong knew that he was referring to the Li Clan, whose fame and power were rising these days.

    The Li Family was Guanlong aristocrat; they have been actively related by marriage to the nobility of the Xianbei and other tribes, during their invasion of the Northern and Southern Dynasties [420-589 AD], to expand their political and military strength; while southern land-owning class like Song Family, have always married among themselves, without any regards to the royal crown, to preserve their heritage and cultural purity. Thereupon it was inevitable that the north and the south did not trust each other.

    The intermarriage of Han and Hu [see footnote] in the north was a very common thing. People with northern barbarian surnames such as Yuan, Zhangsun, Yuwen, and the others were actively holding power in political and military affairs. Yang Dongs minister Yuan Wendu, whom Wang Shichong wanted to denounce, and one of the upper-rank generals in Li Shimins Heavenly Policy Mansion, Zhangsun Wuji, were not Han men at all. Naturally the Song Clan had misgivings and wanted to repel them.

    Were it not for this kind of delicate situation, Song Que would not have made the promise that if Li Mi could overtake Luoyang, he would give Song Yuzhi away to marry Li Tianfan, and seal their alliance agreement, simply because Wang Shichong was also a barbarian.

    However, Kou Zhong, this new rising star, was clearly a southerner, so compared to Li Mi, he fitted more to the Song Clans ideal.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, This kid has one thing I need support on; I am afraid only Lu Shu will be able to accomplish it properly.

    Song Lu replied happily, Dont hold your hope up too high on me! Looking at you, how you have risen from a lowly, nameless kid to a later generation martial art master whom the Wulin world think highly of; it was like watching my own child grow up to be an adult. Whatever help you need, just tell me.

    Kou Zhong was really touched; it was half a day later that he said, This kid wants Lu Shu to deliver an important message to the Flying Horse Ranch Changzhu [ranch master] Shang Xiuxun.

    And then he explained in details Liu Wuzhou and Xiao Xians evil scheme. He spoke heavily, Lu Shu needs to be very clear in explaining the situation to Shang Changzhu. If you send someone else, if she has doubt, she might hold things up.

    Song Lu nodded and said, I understand! Leave this matter to me.

    Kou Zhong said, If we are lucky and able to defeat Li Mi, Xiao Ling and I might go to Jiangdu to see how we can deal with Du Fuwei and Shen Faxings coalition forces. Lu Shu may tell Shang Changzhu that I will be sending someone called Xu Xingzhi to report to her on the situation. She knew this man.

    Song Lu muttered to himself irresolutely for a moment, and then letting out a cold humph, he said, This fellow Xiao Xian is really despicable; while we were curbing Lin Shihong, he took the opportunity to plunder the strategic cities north of the Great River. But could Zhu Can let him expanding to the north?

    Kou Zhong recalled the self-proclaimed Garuda King Zhu Can [first mention Book 8 Chapter 7], whose daughter, the Venomous Spider Zhu Mei, whose martial art skill was superior to Kou Zhong, had exchanged blows with him by mistake at the second carriage on the dock outside the city of Baling. Without thinking he blurted out, Hows Zhu Cans current situation?

    Song Lu said, This man is so brutal, he did not have popular support at all. But his subordinates and ministers reach a hundred thousand strong, so he cannot be taken lightly. Recently they were involved in fiery battle with the Three Big Bandits; although they gained the upper hand, they were unable to expand their power. If you can make the troops and generals under his command to surrender, and govern his territory with benevolence, combined with Flying Horse Ranchs elite troops and the remnants of Jingling troops, you can accomplish much.

    Listening to that, Kou Zhongs eyes lit up. He nodded and said, Lu Shu is absolutely right. Ginger is indeed the older the spicier.

    Song Lu burst out laughing and said, This matter is easier said than done, but if you can eliminate Zhu Can, this big evil, in itself it will be a gargantuan good thing, it will make your reputation spread out far and wide, win the hearts of the people. At that time you may seize the opportunity to sweep away the Three Big Bandits, who bring intense disaster to the peace of the land. Combined with our Song Familys Lingnan Army, at least one quarter of the world will already be in your bag.

    Kou Zhong excitedly said, As long as I can get the Duke Yang Treasure, everything wont be too difficult to achieve. At that time Lu Shu must lead your troops to help me.

    This moment, a bodyguard came in and reported that a guest has come to seek audience. Kou Zhong was in high spirit, how could he be interested in seeing anybody? I dont have time now! he said impatiently, Ay! Who is he?

    He called himself Qin Chuan, the bodyguard replied, He said Kou Ye would definitely want to see him.

    Its her! Kou Zhong blurted out.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong entered the small hall; Shi Feixuan, disguised as a Confucian scholar, sat silently in the corner, her countenance was peaceful, her clear, limpid eyes watched as Kou Zhong walked in, as if she did not want to miss even the most subtle of his movement.

    Her immortal self appeared to have some kind of strange power that could transform the ordinary place into a sacred fairyland, the ordinary small hall seemed to be infected by her presence that the atmosphere became surpassing-the-dirt, free-from-vulgarity.

    Kou Zhong came over and sat down in the seat by her right, the two of them were separated by a small table; smiling, he said, Did Shi Xianzi [fairy] confuse Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling? Perhaps you were looking for Xiao Ling, but you misspoke by mentioning Xiaodis lowly name instead?

    A strange feeling welled up in Shi Feixuans fragrant heart.

    Ever since she left her schools gate and set foot on this mundane world, this was the first time someone dared to tease and crack jokes with her.

    In front of her exceptional immortal appearance, anybody would be terrified with her out of the ordinary presence, afraid that they might lose their manner and incite her contempt.

    Shi Feixuan spoke indifferently, Kou Xiong must be a person whose natural character loves to joke and trifle without respect. Feixuans purpose this visit is to ask for guidance in a few matters. And Feixuan is definitely not some kind of Xianzi.

    Kou Zhong relaxed and slumped back into his chair, leisurely and glibly he said, If you want answer to your question, Shi Xianzi better go look for that kid Li Shimin; Xiaodi might disappoint Feixuan.

    Shi Feixuans jet-black eyebrows slightly knitted, she asked in surprise, Feixuan has not even stated my question, why do you already tighten your troops and have your heart filled with hostility?

    Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, Because I am afraid you, Xianzi, would give Xiaodi an opportunity that on the surface appears impartial, but actually not impartial at all, to see if I, Kou Zhong, am a talent to govern the world like that Li kid. Once you confirm your opinion, if in the future you help Li kid with all your strength to deal with me, you would do so with clear conscience.

    Shi Feixuan smiled and said, Kou Xiongs imaginative power is quite quick, indeed something that Feixuan seldom see in all my life, no wonder you are able to hoot at the wind and the cloud [i.e. unstable situation] while the world is in chaos like this. But please forgive Feixuan for being dull-witted, how did Kou Xiong decide that in my heart I already have a preconceived idea, and think that Kou Xiong is inferior to Li Shimin?

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, This is basically not preconceived idea, but a fact. Right now Xiaodi has just begun; I still dont have any idea how to cure the nation, if you asked me, I would be dumbstruck and unable to reply. In the end I will be embarrassed. Therefore, Id prefer not to answer, leaving a bit of mystery for you, Xianzi, to think about it. If you have spare time you may hee hee you may think why Xiaodi is so brassy like this.

    Displeased, Shi Feixuan said, You do know yourself; not many people can be like you. But that being the case, why dont Kou Xiong select a brilliant master in your heart, help him unify the world, and alleviate the peoples suffering?

    Kou Zhong let out a cold humph and said, How can I, Kou Zhong, be willing to be someone elses attendant? Contending for supremacy in the chaotic world is one thing, governing the world after it is unified is another thing. If you want to ask, why dont you ask how am I going to obtain the world? Talking about other things is still too early.

    Very interested, Shi Feixuan said, It does not matter to me whether Kou Xiong believe me or not, but Feixuans visit this time is not to talk about how to rule a country. Now that Kou Xiong already took the initiative to raise this issue, Feixuan cant help but be curious, and wants to ask for your guidance: based on your current situation, how would you, in the midst of outstanding heroes already successful in setting up their independent regimes, distinguish yourself?

    Remaining confident and at ease, Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, I am looking at it step by step. If I fail, then Ill return to Yangzhou to open a small restaurant. Hey! Mine and Xiao Lings culinary talent came from an expert. If Xianzi happens to pass by my humble establishment, we will make two small vegetarian dishes for you to try. Ha! I am practically a man who is at home wherever I am. Later on Xianzi will not need to take trouble for Xiaodi. Its all right with me if you want to help that Li kid!

    Pfft! Shi Feixuan burst into a tender giggle. While the dumbstruck Kou Zhong was staring at her lovely appearance and beautiful disposition, she spoke glibly, Jiang Taigong[2] obtained the Emperor by using the Yin Fu [yin negative/feminine (of yinyang), fu talisman/mark/seal] scheme, developing the Six Secret Strategic Teachings, assisting the Wu King to exterminate Shang Dynasty and founded a country. Su Qins[3] crafty millet technique used the Vertical Alliance System to lobby the feudal vassals and obtained six states seals. The Great Hans Zhang Liang[4] studied intensively the Su Shu [lit. plain book], San Lue [Three Strategies (of Huang Shigong)], to help Liu Bang pacify the world. Currently Kou Xiong has acquired the Secret to Long Life. Although it is a treasure of the Taoist School, it can help Kou Xiong joins the ranks of the worlds top martial arts masters, completely unrelated to contending-over-the-world, governing-the-world affairs. That being the case, why not retire early, be the great swordsman of Jianghu[5], gain famous reputation forever; wouldnt it be better than being drawn into politics and a never-ending power struggle?

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, No wonder you appreciate that fellow Xu Ziling, because you last few sentences were the best portrayal of him. Otherwise, if he is willing to help me with all his strength, I definitely will not end up opening a small restaurant.

    Even with Shi Feixuans indifferent-to-fame-or-gain, no-self-no-action self-cultivation, she could not stop her jet-black eyebrows from slightly knitted as she spoke in distress, If you keep mentioning him left and right, Feixuan will have no choice but to take my leave, and will no longer regard you as a friend with whom I can have open discussion.

    Kou Zhong hastily said, Xianzi please calm down; the fact is that I always extremely admire you. Its just that I know in my heart that there will come a day when you and I will have to face each other in the battlefield; so I am struggling to suppress the feeling in my heart. Now Xiaodi understands I am in the wrong, would Xianzi please ask me anything, Xiaodi will not hide anything I know, I wont stop before I have said it through.

    Since making her debut, it was the first time for Shi Feixuan that a young man declared his love openly, yet she was keenly aware that this public declaration of love was spoken without thinking, not based on truth at all. She ought to be displeased, yet for some reason she found it very difficult to be angry or to blame him. And this was precisely Kou Zhongs trait that no one could match; even his enemy found it hard to hate him.

    Ever since Kou Zhong stepped into this small hall, the two of them have been opposing each other with equal harshness. And Kou Zhongs most brilliant feature was that he basically did not give the opponent any opportunity to grasp his vulnerability and flaw. Even with Shi Feixuans intelligence, she could not help feeling that she was unsure where to start.

    The fact was that Kou Zhong himself had his own difficulties.

    In terms of knowledge, experience, and eloquent, he was positive that he could not match this lucid-and-elegant-like-fairy-descending-to-the-world peerless, tender, beauty. And she obviously wanted to persuade him to support the bright master [i.e. rightful emperor]; one, by withdrawing from the power struggle, and two, by selecting one of the candidates.

    Supposing under faulty argument and poor rhetoric he harshly refused her kind intention, plus his previous convictions in the Jade Annulus of He Clan affair, he would only make himself a formidable opponent in this no-one-unwilling-to-provoke beauty. Therefore, he decided to take the heretical school of opinion route by employing marketplace method, combined with blunt and straightforward manner, so that even if she might lose her temper and protest coquettishly, she could not become his real enemy.

    It was a subtle advantage, and certainly it would be hard to refute.

    After staring hard at Kou Zhong with her beautiful eyes for half a day, a hint of barely discernible smile escaped from the corner of Shi Feixuans mouth, as she spoke indifferently, All right! Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, these five aspects, could Kou Xiong explain them all one by one?

    Hearing the question, Kou Zhong was stunned, while inwardly cried, Formidable!

    He originally wanted to make her go away in anger; who would have thought that not only she did not lose her temper, she even presented a vague and abstract subject to test him. Her purpose was obviously to make him expose his own folly.

    With this kind of move, she was forcing him into a corner, while trying to find a hole in his response, and thus swaying his confidence in vying over the world.

    If he decided to proceed with his original plan, he would only incite disdain in her heart.

    Thereupon he smiled wryly again and said, That sounds very much like a subject from the imperial examination. Xianzi, is it possible to ask questions that are related to reality? For example, how to be a good emperor? How to quell the outstanding heroes of the world? How to make common peoples live happy, and so on? Xiaodi was born in the marketplace; upon searching my own soul, I know that I have better understanding to answer the last questions compared to pampered sons of honorable schools and big clans. But if you want me to try imperial examination, I guarantee that you wont find my name even at the bottom of the list of successful examinees.

    Shi Feixuan was startled and emotionally moved. She was an expert at the profound art of observing people; listening to this remark, she knew it came from the bottom of Kou Zhongs heart. She understood even more that he cleverly compared himself to Li Shimin, making her feel that if she chose Li Shimin based on this kind of test, fundamentally she was not being fair. Just like people who passed imperial examination brilliantly, it did not mean that they would make a government official who love and respect the people. Naturally she would not make final conclusion carelessly based on other peoples answer at all; rather, she would make her judgment based on long-term observation.

    Just as this out-of-the-ordinary, free-from-vulgarity beauty thought that Kou Zhong would not be able to answer her question, Kou Zhong spoke up with serious expression, Xianzi actually puts forward Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, these five aspects into one entity. Hee! Did Xiaodi say it incorrectly? Heaven has the Heavens principle, human beings also have human beings principle, so all living things between the heaven and the earth actually abide by certain law: Virtue can only be accomplished after the Principle is established, able to persevere in the right way [in Chinese, the same word dao can mean way or principle] is virtue. Therefore principle and virtue will always be together. Benevolence and righteousness evolve from the conduct of the innermost being; it came from compassion and kindness of the heart. As for propriety? This is actually the foundation of the four previous aspects, from which grew the norm that all mortals must follow, in order to safeguard the ethics, morality, benevolence and righteousness in interpersonal relationship.

    This remark was actually declared at the outset of the preface of the first chapter of Lu Miaozis Art of War, indicating that to govern the troops, one must first understand the way [or principle] of Man and Heaven. It was written, The way of Man and Heaven may not necessarily be used to each other, thus said all the ancient sages. Yao was venerated like the clear sky, Shun simultaneously held seven governments, Yu narrated nine arable fields, King of Wen used Bagua [divinatory trigrams] explaining the heavenly law, Duke of Zhou determined the four seasons to the greatest extend of yin and yang. Confucius wished for nothing, Lao Dan [Lao Tzu] established the perpetual non-entity. Military principle so far involves variation of the supernatural beings, in all cases it does not escape from technique of self, much less from the method of military expedition to contend for supremacy. The principle of observing the heavens is by grasping the heaven to proceed, by carrying on to the end. Releasing the Heaven means benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and confidence, five virtues. Observing these means prosperity, abandoning these means defeat.

    Kou Zhong was exceptionally intelligent; from these ideas, he developed his own theory.

    Shi Feixuan was emotionally moved again; she said, Kou Xiongs profound comment and righteous remark left Feixuan with no choice but to have a whole new level of respect for you. I just want to ask Kou Xiong one more question: Kou Xiong spoke those words, was it for personal gain, or did it come from your holding-on-to-peoples-plea heart?

    Completely at ease, Kou Zhong laughed and said, If I denied that it was for personal gain, then I would be violating principle and virtue; but if I only do it for myself and not for the people, I would lack benevolence and righteousness. Therefore, all Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, are basically one entity!

    For the first time Shi Feixuan felt that she was truly a nobody who could not do anything, because his answer was like saying that it was for the happiness of the people that he vie for the world. Hereby she could begin to persuade him to act in the interest of the people, and do the thing that he must do the most.

    Kou Zhong went on, As for who should be the first, and who should be the last, I am afraid even Li kid cannot tell? Otherwise, he would abandon his personal gain and come to help me, Kou Zhong, to unify the world. Isnt that right?

    Frowning, Shi Feixuan said, Kou Xiongs words is not without a little truth, but it actually is far from reality, and it has made even more difficult for Feixuan to accept. And this is where the problem lies: based on Kou Xiongs current strength, merits and achievements, how would you convince the masses? It would only make the world more chaotic, and thus it would bring Kou Xiong and the people more harm than good.

    Even Kou Zhong himself had to admit that Shi Feixuan was an extremely charming lobbyist [or political adviser]. But in the end she still did not believe that he, Kou Zhong, was capable of doing anything. She was just afraid that he would produce the legendary Duke Yang Treasure and bring to the world more unknown variables!

    Beyond Kou Zhongs expectation, Shi Feixuan stood up gracefully, fixed her beautiful eyes on him, and said, The Heaven emitting murderous aura, the stars are moved, the constellation shifted. The Earth emitting murderous aura, dragons and snakes rise to the land. Mankind emitting murderous aura, heaven and earth are turned upside down. Fire conquers wood, disaster arises must be subdued. Traitor conquers the nation, time in movement must be dispersed. For the living, death is the root; for the dead, living is the root. Grace born from harm, harm born from grace. The words of Feixuan are ended. If fate so dictates, I will see Kou Xiong face to face again!

    Finished speaking, she floated away.

    [1] Barbarians, Hu Ren [hu people] refers to any ethnic groups that are not Han.

    [2] Jiang Taigong/Jiang Ziya -, Jiang Ziya (c. 1100 BC, dates of birth and death unknown), partly mythical sage advisor to King Wen of Zhou and purported author of Six Secret Strategic Teachings one of the Seven Military Classics of ancient China.

    [3] Su Qin -, Su Qin (340-284 BC), political strategist of the School of Diplomacy during the Warring States Period (475-220 BC).

    [4] Zhang Liang -; Su Shu - (this is in Chinese)

    [5] Orig. Xiao Ao Jianghu, but different Xiao from Jin Yongs Xiao Ao Jianghu (Smiling, Proud Wanderer). Xiao hiss/whistle, while Jing Yongs xiao was laugh/smile.

  10. #210
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 5

    Book 18 Chapter 5 Military Intelligence is The Number One Priority

    Wang Shichong sat on the bed, apparently his spirit was a bit better than earlier this morning, but his expression was still depressed. After looking at everybody standing in front of his bed, he said, This time going into battle, it will really affect our success or failure. Laofu cannot participate personally, this will be the biggest regret of my life.

    Daren please dont worry, Yang Gongping hastily said, Chenxia [minister/official, referring to self] obtains Xuanshu Gongzi and Kou Xiongdi as my left and right lieutenants, we will definitely not let Daren down, while at the same time we will inflict Li Mi a crushing defeat, so that he will never recover. After Daren is recovered, you will again lead Chenxia to war on all sides, to unify the world.

    Wang Shichong mused, Although we and Li Yuan, one in Guanxi, the other in Guandong, but our situations are similar. We are being impeded by Li Mi that we are unable to advance to the west; he has to constantly dealing with Xue Ju, father and son, of Longyou. Therefore, right now both sides must race against time, whoever can be one step ahead in consolidating his power and pacify the misfortune at hand, will have the opportunity to accomplish the great undertaking.

    It was the first time that Kou Zhong heard Wang Shichong discussing his own situation. He knew in his heart that this moment Wang Shichong could not afford not to rely on him, hence the reason he let Kou Zhong listening to this kind of secret matter.

    This moment, standing by the couch, other than him there were Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, Yang Gongqing, Lang Feng, and Song Mengqiu, five men; therefore, it was clear that this was not an ordinary meeting.

    Wang Shichong sighed and said, This man Xue Ju was born of a family with riches and honor; he always love making friends, and squander money like dirt. This kind of (exaggerated dressing) [not sure, 衣夸] disciples, other than always following the wind and going with the flow, if they encountered any setback, it would be hard for them to press on. Once they surrendered, Li Yuans strength might increase considerably. Therefore, we must press forward to attack Guanzhong before this happens. Thus in the battle against Li Mi, we must employ a blitzkrieg strategy; otherwise, even if we won, it would be the same as if we lost.

    Kou Zhong could not help having a whole new level of respect for Wang Shichong, because just from this analysis, it was clear that he was very proficient in the art of war, he was a man who stand tall and see far.

    Wang Xuanying said, But Xue Jus son Xue Ren is brave and good at fighting; he does not look like someone who will surrender easily.

    Wang Shichongs breathing became rapid and heavy. After Kou Zhong transferred some true qi into his body, his spirit revived and he spoke in heavy voice, Too bad is opponent is Li Shimin, who is both brave and intelligent. Unless Li Shimin died, they, father and son, eventually cannot escape from the misfortune of defeat and will have to surrender.

    Yang Gongqing nodded and said, Xue Ju was able to raise his troops, he was merely at the right place and the right time, a case of where water flows, a canal is formed [idiom, when conditions are right, success will follow naturally]. Unlike Daren or Li Yuan, who are originally great generals; before the uprising, you have already fought in one place after another all over the world. Or perhaps like Li Mi, Du Fuwei, Dou Jiande, and the others, who won their territory by fighting for it. In the past, due to his familys wealth, he hired petty officers at Jincheng to be his military generals. After thirteen years of great undertaking, Longyous bandits rose up, from Jincheng he ordered Hao Yuan to recruit several thousand soldiers, which he put under his command to suppress the rebellion. Who would have thought that from this event his army started to grow, he opened the granary on account of poor people, and proclaimed himself a King? On top of that, his territory is at the western border, there is no rival nearby. If the place he rose up was either Guandong or Guanxi, I am afraid he would have been annexed by other people early on. Therefore, Daren was absolutely right.

    Wang Shichong said, To night you are heading east to Yanshi, by all means you must not make ostentatious display out of it. Gongqing, you are in charge. You have full power and will carry the tiger tally [a two-piece object made in the shape of a tiger, used in ancient China as proof of authority. One half of a tally could be issued to a military officer and this would be matched with the other half when verification was required] as the Commander-in-Chief of the entire army, with Xuanshu as your Fushi [deputy] and Xiao Zhong as your Junshi [military advisor]. The three of you must work together honestly. By exploiting Li Mis contemptuous heart toward us, deliver a frontal assault on him; if you can achieve victory, you must pursue the retreating enemy. If you could obtain Luokou and Hulao, two towns, Li Mi will lose his momentum, the remainder will only have to ways to take: either die in the battlefield or surrender, and then the world will be in my, Wang Shichongs bag.

    The more he spoke, the more excited he was; in the end he coughed incessantly.

    Lang Feng urged him, Darens instructions, we will definitely carry out earnestly. It would be best if Daren take a rest before talking further!

    Wang Shichong spoke strenuously, The matter of Shuni marrying into Guanxi, you may proceed according to original plan. Xiao Zhong, do you have any objection?

    Noticing that everybody was looking at him, Kou Zhong was greatly embarrassed; he hastily said, Let everything be as Wanggong instructed.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong returned to the main hall. Xu Ziling and Chen Changlin were chatting. Seeing Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling cheerfully said, I just found out that Chen Xiong is actually from Nanhai Jun [South Sea County]; his family has always been in maritime trade. Listening to him is better than taking a journey of ten thousand li, there are a lot of local strange and exotic customs, which I guarantee you have never heard of.

    Kou Zhong felt ashamed inwardly; his conversation with Chen Changlin put together was perhaps less than ten sentences. He quickly made a joke to cover his embarrassment, Chen Xiong must be related to Old Huang, you are both Nanhai people!

    Apparently Chen Changlin was not a casual talker and joker; he replied, Kou Xiong misunderstood! Nanhai refers to the ocean south of our country, the coastal area has more than a dozen counties. Our Nanhai Jun and the Zhuya Jun where Hainan Pai is located are separated by more than twenty days of sea journey.

    Kou Zhong sat down on Chen Changlins other side; he said, So whats beyond the ocean? When we were in Yangzhou, we often saw foreign merchant ships coming along; those peoples appearance and clothing are very strange.

    Chen Changlin said, My family is in food business with the Persians.

    Kou Zhong could not help asking, Why didnt Chen Xiong stay at Nanhai Jun to make money with the foreigners, but crossing ten thousand crags and torrents to come here instead?

    Chen Changlins eyes emitted flames of hatred as he spoke heavily, Were it not for having no alternative, who wants to leave his village and depart from his well? This matter is hard to explain in a few words, Kou Xiong please forgive me.

    Kou Zhongs heart was moved; he said, Does it have something to do with Shen Faxing?

    Chen Changlin was visibly shaken; he said, Kou Xiong is indeed formidable; one guess and you nailed it. Although not directly related, but Shen Lun is his son; he really cannot escape the blame.

    Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong exchanged glances. Lowering his voice, he said, What outrageous act [orig. offending Heaven and reason] did Shen Lun do to Chen Xiong?

    Chen Changlin heaved a deep sigh and said, Shen Lun harmed me that my family bankrupt and the people dead; if I dont avenge this enmity, how could I discharge the hatred in my heart?

    Kou Zhong was about to speak, the bodyguard came to report, Everything is ready; two Daye may start.

    ※ ※ ※

    Twelve warships left the City of Louyang in single file, sailing along the Luo River toward Yanshi, following the current due east, hence they were sailing very fast, in just a short while they had already covered several li.

    On the river course from Luoyang to Yanshi, there were outposts built at high elevation on both sides of the river to supervise the river traffic, hence in term of security, there shouldnt be any problem.

    Besides Yang Gongqing and Wang Xuanshu, traveling with them was Linglong Jiao; her main task was to gather intelligence about the enemy.

    As soon as this Qiuci beauty came on board the ship, she immediately escaped into her cabin; even her dinner had to be delivered to her room.

    Xu Ziling was not in the mood to socialize with Yang Gongqing either; hence he retreated into his cabin to meditate quietly.

    After dinner, Yang Gongqing spoke in consternation, Li Mi is an expert in using deception and decoys; oftentimes it was after the battle started that we realized we have fallen into his trap. Does Kou Xiong have any brilliant scheme on how to deal with him?

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, This time well have to see whose deception is a bit more brilliant. Right now the first order of business is to find the exact location Li Mis main force is stationed, only then will we be able to easily make a plan. I have already arranged to meet Zhai Jiaos man at Yanshi. By that time we will have a clear grasp of Li Mis actual situation. Li Mis demise will actually be in Zhai Rangs daughters hands.

    Wang Xuanshu was puzzled, Since demon priest Ke Feng already knew about Zhai Jiao, naturally he would call this matter to Li Mis attention. Once things dont look good, we might fall into his evil scheme instead, he said.

    Yang Gongqing nodded his agreement.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, The problem is that even Laozi [old man, referring to self] does not even know who among the old generals of the Wagang Army under Li Mis command live in Cao camp but have their hearts in Han camp [idiom from Three Kingdoms]. It would be best if Li Mi is suspicious of every old general and thus put everybody in danger. If thats the case, then once Li Mi suffers defeat, I guarantee that the troops morale will immediately drop. Once the Wagang Army is all split up and in pieces, Li Mi wont have enough capital to regroup and come back even stronger [orig. to return in a swirl of dust].

    After a short pause, he continued resolutely, word by word, Therefore, we only need to win one battle, then Li Mi would never have any chance to recover.

    With an almost worshipful adoration expression in his eyes, Wang Xuanshu said, Kou Dage always have a brilliant way of looking at anything.

    But Yang Gongqing was not completely convinced yet; he said, Our strength is only twenty thousand men in total; although all of them are elite troops from the old Sui dynasty and have undergone long battle exposure, compared to Li Mis main force of several hundred thousand, regardless of how much damage and brokenness from the battle against Yuwen Huaji at Tong Hill they suffered, when all is said and done, they are still much stronger than we are. Perhaps he cannot afford to lose this battle, but compared to him, we cant afford to lose this battle even more. Therefore, we must make him unable to use deceit; only by fighting fair and square would we have a chance of success.

    Remaining calm in the midst of chaos, Kou Zhong said, On this, Great General can be absolutely rest assured. Under Zhai Jiaos command, there is someone called Xuan Yong; this man is proficient in the art of war, plus since he had been with Zhai Rang for a long time, he still has contact with Wagang Armys generals who are still loyal to Zhai Rang, and he knows Wagang Armys activity like the back of his hands. I guarantee no matter how Li Mi is swaying his butts, moving left or moving right, he cant hide it from us. Hee! These past couple of days we have been terribly busy; wed better return to our room and rest earlier tonight. I am afraid by the time we get to Yanshi, there wont be any time to sleep!

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong pushed the door and entered. Dejectedly he lay down on the bed, supporting himself with one arm, and his feet were still touching the ground, next to Xu Ziling, who was sitting in meditation, breathing out a sigh, and said, Didnt you always lie down to cultivate your power? Why do you sit cross-legged like other people now? Is it more comfortable than lying down?

    Xu Ziling opened his eyes a slit and said, Has someone wronged you? Why do you look like you are storing a bellyful of grievances?

    Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, Grievances, that I dont have, just a lot of worry! It was only now that I know that although in the battle of Tong Hill Li Mi suffered substantial damage, his strength is still well above ours. Its possible that this battle would be a repeat of the battle of Jingling against the Ol Die! Yet I have to think of every possible way to maintain highly optimistic attitude that we are going to win, to comfort others; being Junshi is not easy.

    Xu Ziling smiled and said, Didnt the military strategy book mention that honorable troops are refined, but dishonorable are many? After the fierce battle, a lot of valiant generals and acute soldiers under Li Mis command died and injured, their spirit must be low. Yet our army is staking all in one throw, our aspiration is to fight to the death. Their spirit is disappearing ours is growing; as long as we employ proper tactics, avoiding the heavy and striking the light, victory will be in our grasp.

    Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, That is precisely the thing that I am most worried about. Last time, when dealing with the assassins, I was so confident of success; who would have thought that in the end we were still one move behind, and Li Mi was able to exploit it? The tactic of showing our weakness to the enemy has become we are weak against the enemy. Were it not for Xu Xingzhis brilliant scheme, we would not even have to fight this battle.

    Xu Ziling suddenly opened his eyes wide; his eyes gleaming brightly with strange light, he spoke heavily, We are going to win this battle. Because Li Mi thinks Wang Shichongs injury is heavy and it is difficult to recover, our troops morale is in chaos, our warriors are without the will to fight, hence his heart will be contemptuous. Under current circumstances, Du Fuwei and Shen Faxings coalition army may attack Jiangdu any moment, along Yuwen Huagus old route going up north, while Dou Jiandes intention is to go south. In the meantime, the Li Clan has to deal with Xue Ju, father and sons main forces from the west. Whether Li Mi can capture Luoyang in time or not, it will be the crucial point in the fight over the world. Therefore, Li Mis anxiety to obtain Luoyang is more unbearable than that of the ants on the cauldron. This is the Escaping One; do you understand?

    Kou Zhong sat up suddenly, and spoke with a huff, Well said! But supposing Li Mi cut off our return route to the Eastern Capital, while at the same time sending his elite troops moving west along the river to pressure the Eastern Capital, what should we do?

    Tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, How could Li Mi have such patience? If that happens, we only need to defend Yanshi steadily, while holding on to Li Mis hind leg and cut his supply line, combined with the fact that Luoyang is a strong city, well-known throughout the world as easily guarded, hard to attack, under prolonged battle, his tragic victory will only force his army to lose their zeal to continue fighting. Hence the reason I am quite certain that unless he did not come, this battle will establish our prowess and raise our spirit, and then well seize the opportunity to capture the Eastern Capital in one fell swoop.

    Insightful! Kou Zhong exclaimed while slapping the bed.

    Sitting up straight, he mused, I hope Zhai Jiao will not disappoint me; let Li Mis wonder troops[1] become ordinary troops, and then we can avoid the important and dwell on the trivial, and beat the triumphing-in-every-battle Wagang Army.

    Vigorously patting Xu Zilings broad shoulders, he praised, Xiongdi! You are quite all right!

    Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, You just did not have free time, hence you missed the obvious.

    Kou Zhong was staring blankly for half a day; finally he nodded and said, Your statement is a stern warning. Do you remember at the top of the Jingling city wall the other day, when we were facing Ol Dies main forces besieging the city, I gained an understanding of a xinfa [I still have not found a good English equivalent on this; any idea?] that was transcending life and death, success or failure, and simply regarded the entire battlefield as a chessboard? If a chess player wanted to win, he must plan first and move later, leading the opponent by the nose. Right now Li Mi appears to have the first move, but the situation is actually under our control; we only need to see how he is going to enter the playing field.

    Xu Ziling spoke heavily, Shen Luoyan is an expert in snooping military intelligence. Dont forget we stole that roster book from her house; she has eyes and ears everywhere.

    Kou Zhongs countenance changed, What do we do then? he asked.

    Word by word Xu Ziling replied slowly, If you want to use your wonder troops to deal with Li Mis wonder troops, you must not use even one lowly soldier from Wang Shichongs troops. Only Zhai Jiao and the talents under her command can become wonder troops.

    Kou Zhong was severely shaken, Good kid! You are just amazing! he exclaimed, But listening to the tone of Zhai Jiaos voice, the only ones willing to follow her right now are just Xuan Yong and his several hundred men; what can we do against Li Mis main forces?

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, You, this kid, are using all kinds of weird tricks to coax me to speak; I dont believe you dont know what to do.

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, You ought to know that I love listening to your analysis the most. In military strategy, the most critical thing is bluffing; on the battlefield, people panic, they might be too nervous to remember even their Die and Niangs names. If it were direct confrontation, several hundred people probably cant pull even half a hair of the opponent, but to burn their supply at the back of their camp, we may have plenty of capability. Right now everything is ready, all we need is an east wind. Oh Zhai Jiao! Whether you will be able to avenge your father this time, it depends whether you are determined enough not to fall short!

    ※ ※ ※

    The next day the warships arrived at the dock outside the City of Yanshi. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, the two boys donned their mask to disguise themselves as ordinary soldiers, and mingled among the crowd sneaking into the city.

    Once they were inside, they took off their military uniform, exposing the ordinary traveling merchant attire underneath. Immediately they tried to find any marking left by Zhai Jiaos men. Half a sichen later, they met with Xuan Yong at a private house on the east side of the city.

    Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, I didnt expect Xuan Xiong would meet us personally. Hows the situation here?

    Xuan Yong welcomed them inside. After they were seated, he said, Li Mi seems to constantly amassing military power at Jinyong; it appears that he might advance to Yanshi any moment. Kou Yes luring-the-enemy tactic seems to be working.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, This time I want to make sure this old kid can come but cannot leave.

    Xu Ziling spoke heavily, Dont be delighted too soon.

    Xuan Yong nodded and said, Xu Ye is absolutely right. Li Mi is obviously aware that Miss is lying in wait for an opportunity nearby, because not only the citys security is very tight, they dont allow just anybody to enter the city, and set up numerous posts outside the city to prevent spies from lurking around, making the communication between us and our contact inside the city difficult. This is quite a headache.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, Hows Li Mis present situation?

    Xuan Yong replied, After defeating Yuwen Huaji, Li Mi lost a lot of strong soldiers and good horses; his troops are weary and sick, in their heart they loathe to go to war. Therefore, he has to transfer far inferior soldiers from all places. As a result, although there are still around a hundred thousand men, the fact is that good and bad people intermingled; they are strong in appearance but weak in reality.

    Kou Zhong was pleased, That being the case, he said, If we can take advantage while his tired army is moving south, while his track is not hidden yet, we take them by storm, and use our wonder troops to raid their rear, so that there will be enemies on Li Mis belly and back. In this way Li Mi will inevitably collapse in crushing defeat.

    Xuan Yong sighed and said, The problem is that Li Mi is an expert in deceit and decoys. Without definite knowledge of his route, we might miss the main force and mistakenly take his secondary chariot. We might step into the trap he laid, and then it will be our turn to suffer a calamity.

    Xu Ziling said, It seems that after prying the enemys intelligence, Xuan Xiong has not uncovered any definite answer yet!

    Xuan Yong said, After Li Mi found out about Miss, he started to suspect all high-ranking military officers who had close relationship with Da Longtou [big boss, i.e. Zhai Rang], and did not allow them to take part in this military operation; he even transferred them to guard other places instead. Currently, Li Mi can trust only Shen Luoyan, Xu Shiji, Wei Zheng, Pei Renji, Wang Bodang, Shan Xiongzin, Cheng Zhijie, Chen Zhilue, Fan Wenzhao, those kind of people; making us not knowing where to start.

    Kou Zhong swore hatefully, I really want to immediately kill that demon Taoist Ke Feng.

    Is Xuan Xiong saying you dont have any idea at all? Xu Ziling asked.

    Xuan Yong smiled and said, He has Zhang Liangs scheme, I have the ladder to cross over the wall. Li Mi can only guard against several great generals in command of the troops who were related to Da Longtou, but its difficult for him to deal with all Da Longtous former subordinates within the military. Although they dont have any qualifications to participate in Li Mis secret military conference, they are still able to see subtle movement from troop dispatch, and are able to supply us valuable intelligence.

    Xu Ziling was puzzled, Didnt just now Xuan Xiong say that it is difficult to communicate with the city?

    Absolutely correct, Huan Yong replied, We used to use carrier pigeon or hide the letter inside a bottle which we floated along the canal out of the city, but ever since Xu Shiji dispatched his men to closely monitor the traffic, we no longer dare to use the old communication method. But since there are always people going out of town, we can hide the letter in specified location, which we will then retrieve. Otherwise, we wouldnt be able to support two Masters.

    Kou Zhong praised, Xuan Xiong must have spent a lot of mind and energy in this regard.

    Xuan Yong revealed an it was nothing free and easy expression; he said, In the first place, we know that Li Mis main force is divided into four divisions; three are stationed outside the city in three wooden forts, each division consists of roughly twenty thousand men, mostly new army recruit without enough training and elderly and weak people. Only the forty-thousand-man division inside the city is the elite troops who has been with Li Mi fighting all over the world; this division also includes Cheng Zhijie, Xu Shiji and Pei Renjis combined army.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings spirit was greatly aroused. The formers eyes lit up with strange light as he said, Ha! Li Mi wants to repeat his former strategy! Those three divisions of sixty thousand men can only be a shop sign [fig. pretense], the real powerhouse to attack Yanshi is that division with forty thousand men.

    Xuan Yong nodded and said, At the moment, the key to obtain victory is whether we can keep track of these forty thousand mens movement. In the past, each time Li Mi went into war, he always relied on accurate intelligence, and launched surprise attack while the enemy least expected it. Or perhaps using the luring-the-enemy tactic; feigning defeat and retreating someplace else, and then his hidden troops strike back suddenly, while the pretending-to-be-defeated troops also turn around and attack. Zhang Xutuo was devoured by him like that.

    Kou Zhong solemnly said, I must entrust this matter to Miss and Xuan Xiong, but you must by all means be careful, that poniang Shen Luoyan is deceitful in many ways, and must not be trifled with.

    Xuan Yong nodded his agreement. And then he spoke with a wry smile, The other problem is Shen Luoyan seems to know your every move like the back of her hands, making it difficult for the two of you to use deceit. Once direct confrontation happens, the entire victory or defeat situation will be difficult to guess.

    Kou Zhong made eye contact with Xu Ziling; lowering his voice, he said, In this, we will have to rely on Miss and Xuan Xiong; only by your men and horses support will we be able to face Li Mis hard-to-grasp wonder troops movement. If we can make Li Mis side mistakenly think that it was Wang Shichongs other troops providing support in secret, we can shake the enemys confidence and will hasten their downfall.

    Staring blankly, Xuan Yong said, But we are just a crowd of two hundred people. Oh! I understand! Two Masters are really men with guts reaching up to the heavens; Xuan Yong submit in admiration.

    Summing up, Kou Zhong said, Right now the only way to win is by securing accurate military intelligence. We are going to quietly wait Xuan Xiongs good news.

    Xuan Yong said, Can Kou Ye give me the pass [i.e. special authorization through checkpoints]? This way I can go out and come in a bit more conveniently.

    Kou Zhong rose up to his full height and said, Not only I am going to give you the pass, I will also take you to see the general in charge of city defense. If necessary, you can come to see me directly, so as not to delay any military intelligence.

    [1] Wonder troops, this is a literal translation of 奇兵 (qi bing). The correct definition is troops appearing suddenly (in a raid or ambush), but in this case I want to show the contrast between wonder troops and ordinary troops.

  11. #211
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 6

    Book 18 Chapter 6 Military Camp Learning

    Yang Gongqing spread out the map on the table, showing the Luo River cutting across the middle. Above it, near the top of the map area, was the Yellow River, which flows parallel to the Luo River. The Eastern Capital Luoyang was represented by a black square dot, located at the western extremity of the Luo River. To the east of it were, subsequently, Yanshi, Luokou, Hulao, and Yingyang. The latter two were built by the Fan River and Suo River, respectively, where the Yellow River met with Luo, Fan and Suo, three rivers.

    Standing around the table Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Wang Xuanshu, and Linglong Jiao, four people, were studying the map carefully.

    Pressed for time, with the enemys troops might arrive any moment, no one dared to lower their guard.

    Kou Zhong pointed to the fine marking that represented a city a bit north between the Eastern Capital and Yanshi, saying, Li Mis army is concentrated here. Li Mi is certainly a wily old fox, because dispatching troops from Jinyong, either attacking the Eastern Capital or Yanshi, there is not much difference in term of route, so that it would be hard to pin down which target he is going to attack, or maybe he is going to split his troops to attack two targets at the same time.

    Wang Xuanshu said, That was precisely the reason Die set up massive military force at Yanshi. If Li Mi has the impertinence to force his troops into the Eastern Capital, our force in Yanshi can then put him in the predicament of facing enemies in front and behind him, while at the same time we can threaten Hulao, Luokous safety in the east.

    Yang Gongqing said, Therefore, if Yanshi fell, the Eastern Capital would also lose its stronghold on the east, and then Li Mi would not have any misgivings protecting his rear or any supply problem, he could focus all his strength in attacking the Eastern Capital. Therefore, whether we can defend Yanshi or not, it really is the crucial point of success or failure.

    Linglong Jiao raised the same concern as Kou Zhongs speculation, If he split his troops into two, combined with Dugu Clans forces from the inside, with Luoyang being the main target and besieging Yanshi as secondary target, how do we cope?

    Yang Gongqing asserted, If Xuan Yongs intelligence is correct, Li Mi has absolutely no ability to launch military offensive of this scale. Moreover, if the Dugu Clan and Yang Dong can defend the Imperial Palace for more than two days, it could already be considered not bad; if they wanted to coordinate outside and inside offensives, that would be having the heart, not the strength. Let alone all they are hoping for is Shangshu Daren and Li Mi would fight until both sides suffer; how could they be stupid enough to lead the wolf into the house? Therefore, I am not worried about the Eastern Capital at all.

    Pointing to a mountain range extending about a hundred li across north of Jinyong city, Xu Ziling asked, What mountain is this?

    That is Mount Mang, Yang Gongqing replied, Ke Fengs Laojun Guan is located on one of the summits called Cui Yun Peak.

    Kou Zhong said, Li Mi is indeed cunning; Jinyong Citys back is leaning against Mount Mang, so he has no fears of trouble in the rear. If we march to Jinyong, he could hide ambushing troops in the mountain, which would be able to kill us before we even have time to think.

    Yang Gongqing said, Not only that, if he must give up Jinyong, he could pass through Mount Mang, cross over to the great river, retreat and defend Hebeis strategic town Heyang, which is also Li Mis front line force and supporting forces supply lines logistic base. Strategically, this arrangement is invulnerable. Therefore, supposing Li Mi does not take the initiative to attack, we practically have no way of getting to him. If we presumptuously attack Luokou, he could send troops from Jinyong to break through Yanshi, our expeditionary force will only end up in total defeat.

    This moment Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling already had thorough understanding of both sides, theirs and the enemys, situation; they started to understand how geography and surroundings played a decisive role in the war.

    Yang Gongqing sighed and said, That was the reason I was in full support of Kou Xiongdis tactic of showing weakness to the enemy; otherwise, if we let Li Mi pushing toward the Eastern Capital along the west of the river, drawing our forces away from Yanshi, and then he immediately turn back to Jinyong, we could only return to Yanshi. And if this happens several times, we would be led by him by the nose, tired of constantly running for our lives, and it would be a marvel indeed if we dont get beaten.

    Kou Zhong had known that Li Mi already planned this clever tactic, hence he came up with the ruse of showing weakness to the enemy. But even after considering a thousand times, ten thousand times, he had never considered that Wang Shichong nearly lose his life for real.

    Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, If we desperately defend Yanshi, with Li Mis current strength, will he have any way of breaking through the city?

    Yang Gongqing unyieldingly said, How much would Li Mis injured and weary troops be able to accomplish? As long as we have enough rations and fodder inside the city, I can guarantee that we will be able to hold on and will not let a bunch of Wagang thieves to prevail.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Great Generals remark has immediately inspire Xiaodi to come up with a plan, which is the wonderful move of burning their grains.

    Wang Xuanshu had a flash of understanding, That is superior to the tactic of luring the enemy. We could have fake army provisions transported to the army camp by the pontoon bridge on the southern bank, acting as if we are about to march toward Luokou soon. If the enemy believes that they are successful in burning our rations and fodder, they might immediately send their troops to the south. Is that what you think?

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said, Er Gongzi is still missing something; we want them to burn the real army provisions. As long as we have provisions remaining for ten days, that should be enough.

    Other than Xu Ziling, the three people were looking at each other in astonishment.

    Having a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong said, Only by letting them burn the real army provisions would we be able to deceive Li Mi and Shen Luoyan. This is the sinking the boat by a hatchet, fighting the city from its back tactic, let the lower-ranked people lose their hearts, only then will we obtain the rivers and mountains in one battle.

    Yang Gongqing sucked in a deep breath of air, Isnt it too risky? he asked.

    Full of heroic air, Kou Zhong puffed out his breast and said, Without the risky move, how are we going to defeat the Duke of Pushan Li Mi, who always emerge victorious from every battle? It is precisely because no one would guess that we are so audacious that they will fall into our trap. As long as we can defeat Li Mis main force going down south, Shan Xiongxins bunch of old and weak, remnant soldiers, what can they possibly achieve? At that time we will split our force into two, one taking Jinyong, the other pressing on to Luokou, the army provision can be sent from its source at the Eastern Capital, without any worry that someone would cut our supply line!

    Yang Gongqings countenance alternated between bright and dark; it was obvious that he was hesitating and could not make up his mind.

    Xu Ziling spoke heavily, Right now the Eastern Capital is too busy to look after itself; if Li Mi employs cutting-off tactic, we will be left alone; sooner or later, because our provisions will be finished, we will fall. Since that is the case, why not trying to lure Li Mi into coming into battle sooner? Then we will at least have a chance to win.

    All blood drained from his face, Wang Xuanshu reminded everybody, But its just a chance.

    Yang Gongqing raised his eyes to look at the beam of the building; it was quite a while later that he opened his mouth, During the old dynasty, every time Shangshu Daren engaged in battle against Li Mi, he lost not because of military power at all, but because of strategy. This time our military power cannot match the opponents, the only way to victory is to rely on strategy. Very well! Ill bet my money on Kou Zhong against Li Mi, lets see Laotian [lit. old heaven, God] actually stands on which side.

    Wang Xuanshu took a couple of rapid breathing to calm his nervous mind; he asked Kou Zhong, Xuanshu is in charge of protecting the provision and the storehouse; how exactly am I supposed to proceed in this matter? An intentional publicity will be

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, When singing, one must sing the entire song, when dancing, one must perform the entire dance; only then will the audience you are not taking unfair advantage of them. Right?

    The last sentence was addressed to Linglong Jiao, who was staring at him, watching him talking; the latters pretty face blushed slightly, and she hung her head down.

    Ever since expressing her feeling that she liked Kou Zhong a little bit, it was suddenly so easy for her to have red clouds appeared on her jade cheeks because of Kou Zhong.

    Wang Xuanshu nodded and said, Xuanshu understood. Ay! If this scheme did not come from Junshis mouth, Xuanshu would definitely oppose it strongly.

    Xu Ziling said, Not only this matter has to be kept in strict confidence, it also has to be carried out in strict confidence; military order for city defense must be strictly enforced inside the city, no one will be allowed to get in and out of the city gate. Unless with the Great Generals approval, all officers and soldiers must stay inside the camp, waiting for orders; night time must be especially strict.

    Yang Gongqing nodded and said, That should be so. After the foodstuff is removed out of the storehouse, it has to be promptly replaced by counterfeit goods to make up the number. I will redeploy twenty-thousand troops in rotation to the wooden stronghold in Henan, to make it appear that we are going to attack Luokou.

    Kou Zhong added, Well also have to station archers on the city walls on sentry duty; any carrier pigeon or other birds that look like they are going to fly out of the city must be shot down. Also, we must guard the irrigation ditch leading out of the city to prevent anybody sending out information. Only by doing this will we make people believe.

    Yang Gongqing laughed and said, You are not afraid the real information will be cut off?

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong replied, I am afraid that even our surplus grain will be burned by Li Mi; that would be exceedingly bad!

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling removed their masks back to their original appearance. They urged their horses out of the city, and then slowly rode along the Luo River in the direction of the pontoon bridge.

    The sun was setting in the west, on the camp on the opposite bank dots of lights started to appear, smoke from the stoves sprang up everywhere. Although on the surface it looked like a picture of peace and tranquility, in the inside it was actually full of impenetrable, depressing feeling like the stuffy atmosphere on the mountain just before the rain came down.

    Talking and laughing, Kou Zhong said, Yin Gui Pai seems to be suddenly disappear from the surface of the earth; I wonder if they are sitting on the mountain and watching the tigers fight?

    Xu Ziling took a deep breath, sucking in the fresh and clean smell of the river water, while lifting up his eyes to look at the layer upon layer of verdant and luxuriant forest beyond the opposite bank, extending as far as the eye could see into bluish-green lofty mountain range and hills.

    The section of Luo River after Yanshi was winding and twisting downstream, in between rolling green hills, with deep forests filled with blossoming wild flowers adorning both sides of the river. The more than thirty warships moored along the bank looked like decorative objects in a landscape painting.

    Kou Zhong spoke again, I havent heard any news about Qin Shubao for a long time [see Book 3 Chapter 2]; I wonder if he is still working for Li Mi. I dont want to kill him by mistake.

    Finally Xu Ziling produced a response, Shen Luoyan is very clear what kind of man Qin Shubao is, and she is well aware of his relationship with us; therefore, she will never let him participate in this battle. Zhong Shao, you may set your heart at ease.

    Reaching the pontoon bridge, the two boys reined their horses to stop, to let a team of about fifty mule carts crossed over the bridge.

    Due to the load capacity on the pontoon bridge, only one mule cart was able to cross at one time.

    Watchtowers, reaching ten zhang in height, were built on either side of the bridge, with archers serving on sentry duty, to guard and monitor the crossing.

    Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, If Li Mi holds back his troops without moving, and does not send his men to burn our granary, we might as well retain only five thousand men at Yanshi, and send out the rest via land water, two routes, to attack Luokou, taking advantage while Luokous military force is weak, using the before-the-thunderbolt-reaches-the-ears method we seize the city; and then calmly return to Yanshi, holding Li Mis hind legs. If Li Mi retreated, we then strongly defend our position at Luokou. This was precisely the method with which Li Mi defeated Yuwen Huagu last time.

    At that time Yuwen Huaji, using military supply wagon, slipped away again from Huatai, leading his troops north to attack Liyang. Xu Shiji gave up Liyang and went west to defend Cangcheng [lit. storehouse city], while Li Mis twenty thousand strong cavalry was stationed at Qingqi. After occupying Liyang, Yuwen Huaji sent part of his troops to besiege Cangcheng. Xu Shiji and Li Mi communicated over the distance, and agreed to build deep ditch and high rampart, but did not go out to battle. However, if Yuwen Huaji attacked Cangcheng, Li Mi would send his troops from Qingqi to attack his rear, so that Yuwen Huaji would face the battle in two fronts. Lasting until Yuwen Huaji was out of provisions, employing a feigned-attack-first-and-then-strike-from-behind strategy, they defeated Yuwen Huaji at Tong Hill.

    Kou Zhongs strategy would not work the same way; it would require two things to be accomplished: first of all was to wipe out Yang Dongs imperial guards, so that the Eastern Capital would be stabilized, and then he must cut off the supply line between Jinyong and Heyang. From these two, the latter was more difficult to accomplish; at best they would be engaged in open confrontation. But if they waited until Li Mi recovered his strength, the situation would be considerably worse.

    How could Xu Ziling not understand Kou Zhongs frame of mind, which was loaded with gains and losses? Dont worry! he said resolutely, Li Mi will come. And a lot quicker than you expected. Because he thinks he really inflicted serious damage on Wang Shichong, and that the Eastern Capital is in such a great mess. If he did not come now, then when?

    Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, No one knows my mind better than you. Our military service at Jingling was merely due to us were there at the right time; during the battle we practically did not have time to think. But this time we make plans first and act later, moving the vehicles and dispatching generals on the battleground to face off against our adversary. If we lose, even if we are lucky enough to keep our little lives, our confidence will suffer big blow, then in the future we dont have to bother our coming out again. Victory or defeat is commonplace in military operations is just pleasant to hear, but for most armies, once defeated, it would be very difficult to rebound, so this time we really cannot afford to lose. If Li Mi won, the world will become the battlefield of two Lis; other people could only stand on the sideline and watch.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Worrying is just as useful as his mothers fart. Originally we have nothing, at worst we will be beaten back to our original shape. Just like the Old Yang said, planning is with man, accomplishing with heaven [idiom: man proposes, God disposes]. For example, if there was a sudden thunderstorm, perhaps it would complete change the terrain. There are too many factors on the battlefields that are beyond humans control.

    Kou Zhong was silent for a moment. Seeing the mule train has safely crossed the river, together with Xu Ziling they urged their mounts to climb onto the bridge. What do you think of that beauty Shang Xiufang? he suddenly asked.

    Xu Ziling was stunned, In time like this you still have time to think about women? he asked.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, This is called finding balance. Actually, during the banquet she asked me privately to come see her; who would have thought that Wang Shichong was wounded in the assassination attempt that I was so busy that during the dark sky and black earth [idiom: troubled times] unexpectedly I forgot about her.

    Xu Ziling appeared as if he wanted to express his feelings; he said, It would be best to just forget about her. The moment she boarded the boat and started to leave Luoyang, she ought to cast all people and matters that happened in Luoyang to the back of her mind, and became very remote and obscure things. During the time when the battle is imminent, I dare not even think of Su Jie. Ay! How are we going to resolve this problem anyway?

    Reaching the end of the pontoon bridge, the two boys galloped toward the main gate of the wooden stronghold; both sides of the road were jam-packed with soldiers, vehicles and horses. However, under the heavy pressure of the war, not only there was no clamor of people chatting and laughing, they rarely saw smiling face either.

    Kou Zhong asked softly, Even Shi Feixuan is cast away to the back of your mind?

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, Shi Feixuan is indeed an amazing woman that is hard to forget; however, other than trying to forget her, what else can I do?

    Kou Zhong was astonished, Ling Ye rarely spoke so forthrightly. I nearly forget to tell you, she called on me yesterday, advising me to withdraw from the power struggle, and then when my mind was in chaos, she simply left. Ay! She is indeed capable to bewitch any man to his death, but is also an unattainable beauty, making Xiaodi also suffer from the same lonesomeness. This is called misfortune we bear together!

    Xu Ziling burst out laughing, Go to your Niang! he swore.

    Kou Zhong blurted out, Isnt my Niang the same as yours?

    In the meantime, two boys have entered the fort. The security at the gate was very tight, vehicles were not allowed to enter without thorough inspection. When the guards saw the two, they all showed deferential manners, a clear proof of their lofty status in the eyes of these soldiers.

    In the camp, they were met by Yang Gongqing and Wang Xuanshu, since Linglong Jiao was out on intelligence gathering assignment.

    During dinner, Kou Zhong took the opportunity to quiz Yang Gongqing about all kinds of military issues.

    Out of curiosity, Xu Ziling asked, When we were in the south, we witnessed Du Fuwei recruited village peasants into his army by force; it was extremely inhuman. How did the Eastern Capital army come about?

    Sipping his hot tea, Yang Gongqing said, Since the beginning of Qin dynasty [221-207BC] up to the Northern and Southern dynasties [420-589AD], conscription has been the main method of army recruitment, with mercenary system as secondary. The so-called conscription means all adult males were required to enlist; when nothing happened, they were to serve for a number of years, but during the war, they stayed for the duration of the war. However, since the beginning of Western Wei [535-557AD], the government implemented military system in which in peacetime, when home manufacturing and farming were not busy, citizens went into military training. They have to serve one month of every year, either in the capital or borderland garrison. In wartime, they went to the battlefield; the war ended, they returned home. Weapons, equipment, and provision would have to be self-provided.

    Wang Xuanshu sighed and said, Yang Guang sent out military expeditions over many years, making the soldiers stayed at faraway garrisons over a long period of time, which was hard to endure, so either they deserted and became fugitive, or rising in rebellion against him. Therefore, Die adopted the mercenary system. Under current situation, as long as we have adequate army provisions, those with courage and strength can throw their lives in for us. It is far superior to the conscription system. Especially the bodyguard unit; they must regard this as a lifelong career, and willing to live as professional military personnel with high salary, generous remuneration. Otherwise we would be thrown into a many-generals-with-no-accomplishment or large-tail-obstructing-action [i.e. rendered ineffective by subordinates] situation.

    Kou Zhong was puzzled, With Eastern Capitals financial resources, why is the number of army recruits less than Li Mis many men, great force? If we recruit talents that Yang Guang left behind, shouldnt we be able to summon a large number of men and horses?

    Yang Gongqing laughed and said, Havent you heard all troops engaged in fine matters are not engaged in many matters? Li Mis several hundred thousand main forces full of crafty plots and machinations, plus Yuwen Huajis lack of food supplies, still ended up in tragic victory. From this you know the importance of elite troops. Ancient sage once said, the higher the number of troops, the weaker the army is; the higher the soldiers pay, the poorer the country is. Shangshu Daren is well aware of this principle, if he did not stop the recruitment process, it will only result in superfluous soldiers in crowded situation, which only bring out waste and dire poverty.

    After a short pause, he continued, Too many men are useless, it will depend on whether the equipment and army provisions can match it. The recruits must undergo strict selection process, to eliminate redundancies and increase quality. The reason Li Shimin prevails in every battle lies in the team of thousand-plus elite troops through rigorous selection and training to form the Black Armor cavalry, waiting for an opportunity and attacking suddenly, which repeatedly rendering amazing meritorious service, but also receiving extravagant reward. Although the number is small, they do not fear the enemys magnificent army with thousands of men and horses; as soon as the enemys disposition is thrown into chaos, his main force would immediately seize the opportunity to launch violent attack, inside and outside working together, the enemy could only nurse a grievance on the battlefield.

    Listening to him, Kou Zhong was radiant with delight; only then did he realize the importance of the Duke Yang Treasure. No wonder Wang Shichongs twenty thousand men small army was able to make Li Mi so afraid.

    This was definitely the case of listening to the words of a wise man can be superior to studying ten years of books [Chinese proverb].

    Noticing that Yang Gongqings excitement, he asked about the organization within the military.

    Although Lu Miaozis book on military strategy contained exquisite principles, it lacked Yang Gongqings personal hands-on, practical experience in managing the army.

    Twisting his moustache, Yang Gongqing smiled and said, How can an army of numerous men and horses, at least several tens of thousands, at most several hundreds of thousands, be formed into elite squads that can be used in battle? There is only one rule: managing the many just like managing a few. Namely, use a squad of five soldiers [orig. wu]. Two squads become fireteam [orig. huo, classifier for military units (old)], five fireteams become a squad [orig. dui] , two squad are Guan [platoon?], two Guans are Qu [regiment?], two Qus are Bu [division], two Bus become Xiao [brigade?], two Xiaos become Pi [corps?], and two Pis are the army [jun]. Whether it is ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, each unit must have control, one line of communication, and one way to string these units together, as if millions and millions of silk become one thread, crooked strands are pulled together into straight line, none does as he wants, there is no single stray strand. This is a whole and cohesive army, with the great general giving the guiding principle, attaining an effective control and simplifying the complex. In the entire army, from the generals to the soldiers, each person must understand his own responsibility and his relationship with superior, subordinate, and peers, left and right. The formulation is not random. Only then there will be managing the many just like managing a few result.

    Kou Zhong praised, No wonder just now there were so many people on the road, but there was no chaotic situation at all.

    Yang Gongqing said, Whether it is a wu, a huo, a dui, a guan, a qu, a bu, a jiao, a pi, a jun, or perhaps wu, dui, qi [lit. banner], shao [sentry], si [department], ying [camp/battalion], shi [army division] are only different names, but all use either ten or five as the base, as its principle. Other commissions include heralds, drummers, flag bearers, physicians, groomsmen, signalmen, carpenters, blacksmiths, and other choice of persons, each department with its own duty, constituting a sophisticated combat system, which is qualified to decide superiority on the battlefield against the enemy.

    Kou Zhong was about to speak, suddenly there was shouting outside. While everybodys countenance was changing, a bodyguard burst into the tent; flustered and exasperated he said, Reporting to Commander Yang, things look bad.

    The four men were shocked; could it be that Li Mis wonder troops have arrived at Yanshi?

  12. #212
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 18 Chapter 7

    Book 18 Chapter 7 Secretly Crossing the Wei River at Chenchang[1]

    Dumbstruck, Yang Gongqing, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Wang Xuanshu, along with a group of high-ranking military officers, looked at the big granary, which already turned into coke. Nobody had anything to say. Lined up on the ground were a dozen or so barn dogs and more than a dozen guards, which had been burned until their bodies were difficult to recognize.

    This storehouse was one of the sixteen granaries inside the city, but the amount of grains being stored here was equal to the other fifteen storehouses added together. The fire spread too fast, and generated more than a dozen flames at the same time. Were it not for the high wall separating the storehouse from the other residences, plus the overcast, thick and wet clouds of the month between spring and summer, it was quite possible that the disastrous situation did not stop as it did right now.

    The deputy general in charge of guarding the storehouse was kneeling on the ground, trembling continuously, looking extremely pitiful.

    Yang Gongqing angrily said, This is impossible; I have already reinforced the guards, how could you not able to grasp even the enemys shadow, yet they were able to commit arson till it looks like this? At the very least, there ought to be some effort in putting out the fire.

    The deputy general spoke in trembling voice, The fire well has been plugged with sand and stoned by the enemy.

    Stunned, Yang Gongqing said, How did the spy transport the sand and the stones here?

    Kou Zhong spoke with confidence, As soon as we send people to search, I am sure we will find a tunnel or something like that. This must be the evil scheme that the enemy has plotted actively. Wed better send people to inspect the other storehouses in the city.

    Promptly an officer accepted the order and left.

    Wang Xuanshu pulled the other three aside and spoke in low voice, This is called a mistake of mistake. I have just had the real provisions transported to the camp outside the city. The burned grains in here are all fake stuffs. Because my personal bodyguards were responsible for the transport, nobody knew that the new shipment was fake goods.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, Er Gongzis efficient work is indeed amazing; was the stuff carried by the fifty mule-train the real grains?

    Wang Xuanshu was pleasantly surprised; he nodded and said, It was indeed. So what do we do now?

    Yang Gongqings spirit greatly aroused, he said, This is called mistakenly hit the secondary vehicle; also known as Heaven helps me. Right now we must do everything we can to search for the spy. All outsiders not registered locally must be locked up for questioning, while heavily reward citizen who report suspicious characters. On the other hand, we must strengthen the storehouses guards, while trying to find a way to open a secret granary to store our grains.

    Realizing that he had inadvertently set up great merit, which would definitely gain his fathers praises, Wang Xuanshu gladly left to make the arrangement.

    Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, Looks like we should go back to the Commanders mansion to drink wine to celebrate; we are going to welcome Li Mis army soon!

    ※ ※ ※

    It was not even dawn yet, someone came to wake Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling up and had them go to the Commanders Mansion, where they saw by Yang Gongqing at the main hall. Wang Xuanshu was yawning. But Linglong Jiao, with windblown-dust face, was sitting by Yang Gongqings side, talking and pointing to the strategy terrain chart lying on the table.

    As the two stepped into the main hall, Yang Gongqing looked up and saw them; laughing aloud, he said, Wagang troops are coming!

    Hearing that, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, crowded over in great delight.

    Linglong Jiao spoke excitedly, I have made contact with our informers all over the place, even seeing it with my own eyes, Li Mis vanguard unit is pressing on toward Yanshi. If they did not stop over anywhere, we should be able to see Wagang troops banner from the top of the city wall. I already dispatched more than a dozen martial art masters with fine qinggong to closely watch their movement. They will send the information via carrier pigeon.

    Kou Zhong asked, Which troops are moving? How many?

    Linglong Jiao replied, Its the new army recruits from outside the city, under Shan Xiongsin, Chen Zhilue and Fan Wenchao, three mens command. The main force inside the city has not made any movement.

    Yang Gongqing anxiously said, Li Mi is going to use decoy.

    Xu Ziling asked, Did Miss Jiao sneak inside the city to see whats going on?

    Linglong Jiao proudly said, No city defense can stump me, Linglong Jiao, but the private residences housing the troops are tightly guarded, I was afraid to beat the grass and scare the snake, so I could only look from a distance. The city was quite and peaceful, evidently Li Mi considers victory is within his grasp, he is completely confident.

    Wang Xuanshu asked, Are those new recruits really as bad as what Xuan Yong said?

    Linglong Jiao replied, The vanguard regiment under Shan Xiongxin numbered approximately three thousand; they set out in the evening. Because the forest obstructed my line of sight, I could only estimate the number based on the dust raised by the troops; they are all infantry, and they dont march in squad formation, so I know they are not properly trained regular troops.

    Astonished, Kou Zhong said, Miss Jiao unexpectedly can tell a lot of things from the dust kicked by the troops; you must be an expert in observation and detective work on the military intelligence.

    Obtaining his praise, Linglong Jiao delightedly cast him a sideway glance and said, If you want to learn, I can be your Shifu. If the dust is rising high, it is the cavalry; infantry would create a low, wide and rolling dust. Shan Xiongxins new army recruits raised low, scattering, untidy dust, precisely because of insufficient training and their formation was not in good order. For well-trained elite army, the dust may rise in columns, clear and not random. When the troops stop the dust stop, this is the marching of the troops under powerful general. The dust scattered left and right, front and back, this is not marching in formation.

    Listening to her, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling submitted with all their hearts; now they knew that observing the enemy was also a scientific knowledge.

    This moment a bodyguard came in to report that they had just received information from the front line via the carrier pigeon.

    Yang Gongqing received it, took a quick look, and handed it over to Linglong Jiao, saying, Li Mis out-of-town forces are striking up two separate camps on their way toward us, but the main force inside the city still has not made any move. It appears that he is trying to lure us out to attack. Our army provisions were really burned by him, we would have wanted to have decisive battle as early as possible, before our grains run out, rather than painstakingly defending a city under siege.

    Wang Xuanshu nodded and added, At that time his main force may launch surprise attack on us, killing us while we are caught unprepared.

    Noticing both Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had deep frown on their faces, Yang Gongqing asked in surprise, Li Mi appears to have fallen into our trap, why do you look troubled instead?

    Xu Ziling said, I have a feeling that something is not right. Li Mi has Ke Feng as his spy, he ought to know that our side has Miss Jiao, a first-class expert in scouting the enemys movement, glaring like a tiger watching its prey, monitoring his troops situation. If that is the case, how would he use the decoy?

    Kou Zhong added, In Miss Jiaos opinion, did the tight security at the guarded entrance to the private residences housing the troops defy reason?

    Linglong Jiaos tender body shook slightly; revealing a thinking-deeply expression, she nodded and said, That is so. The patrolling troops were not ordinary soldiers, but martial art masters within Li Mis troops, hence the reason I shrank back.


    Kou Zhong slapped the table and said with a sigh, What a cunning Li Mi! If I guess correctly, he must be using a tunnel or some kind of covering to transfer his main force in batches to a secret camp outside the city. And then when we mistakenly assume that his main force has not left the city, and presumptuously meet Shan Xiongxins new army recruits attack, he would use the same ruse he defeated Zhang Xutuo in the past, by pretending to be defeated and luring us out of Yanshi, and then from somewhere his troops appear to ambush ours. If that happens, it would be strange indeed if we are not going to be wiped out.

    His countenance changed, Yang Gongqing said, Does that mean we already lost the decisive opportunity?

    Not necessarily, Kou Zhong replied, Moving out forty thousand men via a secret tunnel only under cover of darkness is something that cannot be accomplished in just a night or a half. Just by looking at when Shan Xiongxins troops will arrive, well know how much time is needed, because no matter what, Shan Xiongxins new troops will have to wait until Li Mis main force is ready before they dare to setup formation outside the city to wait respectfully.

    Wang Xuanshu anxiously said, If we cannot grasp where Li Mis main force is going to move to, we would only be able to send our men into the city to wait painstakingly, our previous plan cannot be carried out anymore.

    Before Kou Zhong could answer, a guard came to report that Xuan Yong was seeking audience.

    Xuan Yong only greeted Yang Gongqing and the others briefly before solemnly reported, Li Mis worthy to be called the most outstanding schemer of the present age; unexpectedly he already dug three underground tunnels in advance, and transferred his main forces in batches north to Mount Mang. Were it not for Xiaoren grew suspicious, I would never be able to guess his trick.

    Yang Gongqing asked nervously, Do you know the exact location of their camp?

    Xuan Yong dejectedly said, Shen Luoyan is using her reconnaissance bird circling in the sky, so I did not dare to rush indiscriminately into action, plus she is setting up strategically located outposts along the mountain roads so that there is no way to trail them. According to my estimate, based on the current rate, Li Mi would need at least one night to transfer all of his main forces north to Mount Mang.

    Everybody was back around the table to look at the map. They saw that at the upper left corner of Jinyong city, Mount Mang was slanting down straight toward Yanshis northeast corner, in unbroken mountain range of about a hundred li, covering a vast area. If they could not grasp the whereabouts of those forty thousand men, when the battle started, the ambushing troops might come out suddenly from anywhere north of the city, which would be confusing and strike fear in their hearts.

    Xuan Yong said, Right now our side does not dare to act blindly without thinking, plus the opponent has martial art masters as numerous as the cloud; as soon as they appear, we wouldnt be able to escape even if we tried.

    Kou Zhongs left palm chopped horizontally across, he spoke ferociously, First of all we must kill that flat-haired beast! Ay, but this will only alert that Shen poniang.

    Leave this to me, Linglong Jiao said, I can enter Mount Mang from the other side, without following the mountain road. As long as they make fire to cook, or perhaps cutting down the forest to open up a path, there are always traces to be found.

    Xu Ziling said, Wed better think carefully first, this time Li Mi marches his troops in secret, he must have given it a lot of considerations; it will not be that easy for us to see through it.

    Yang Gongqing agreed; he said, The tunnels could have been excavated in advance, other things would have been arranged properly beforehand, Mount Mang stretches out for several hundred li, to find carefully hidden troops in such a short time is easier said than done. While the war is imminent [orig. pressing in on one's eyelashes], wed better decide if we want to turn our back to the city, or to defend Yanshi to the death.

    Kou Zhong shook his head emphatically; he said, We will proceed according to plan. Only if we cannot locate his main force will we change plan to hold fast to the city. At least we still have one day and one night to exhaust all possibilities.

    Yang Gongqing pondered silently for half a day; finally he asked Xuan Yong, Hows the situation on Wagang Armys side?

    Xuan Yong replied, Remaining in Jinyong are Wang Bodangs force. Li Mis another great general Bing Yuanzhen is guarding Luokou. The two cities military force is less than ten thousand men. Commanding the new army recruits pretending to attack Yanshi is Shan Xiongxin. This man has a very deep rift with Wang Bodang over a courtesan, but he himself is a talented field commander.

    Hows Bing Yuanzhen? Kou Zhong asked.

    Xuan Yong replied disdainfully, This mans skill in military strategy and tactics is not bad, he is adept at defending a city, but he lacks guts, definitely not a talent in charging and breaking through enemys lines.

    And then, with a cold humph he said, Shan Xiongxin, Bing Yuanzhen, and the others are Wagang Armys old generals; they dont have too good of a relationship with Pei Renji, Xu Shiji, Shen Luoyan, Wang Bodang, and their group, new upstarts that Wang Shichong dotes on and trusts. Therefore, if we can break through Li Mis troops, I guarantee Wagang Army will be split up and in pieces, each commander will defend their own unit, and when the time comes, if we use reconciliatory technique, each unit of Li Mis army will fall without a fight. Question is how can we break Li Mis ambushing troop hidden on Mount Mang.

    Yang Gongqing sighed helplessly and said, In that case I will quietly wait in here for your good news.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Linglong Jiao, and Xuan Yong, four people stood on one of Mount Mangs peaks, looking around as far as their eyes could see. The mountain stretched out endlessly in all direction, the cliff was as red as cinnabar, strange-looking peaks everywhere. Under the rain and the fog, the dense forest looked like a hazy emptiness. The landscape seemed to be changing indeterminately, creating a strange, yet serene, scenery.

    The deep valley at the back of the mountain looked even denser with ancient trees and thick vegetation, standing upright on the sloping hills, like an imperial canopy covering the heaven.

    The mountains topography was strategic and easy to defend; pine and cypress, mountain elm, resplendent and beautiful, grew along the bluish-green stream at the valley floor, and took roots on the steep, dangerous cliffs.

    Mount Mang was definitely wonderful and beautiful; no wonder Laojun Temple was built on the Cui Yun Peak of this mountain. But to find a group of forty-thousand soldier on this boundless big mountain, like Yang Gongqing said, they could only rely on their luck.

    Which direction is the Laojun Guan? Kou Zhong asked.

    Linglong Jiao pointed to the direction of Jinyong city and said, Its on the northeasterly direction from Jinyong city toward Mount Mang, about only half a day or horse ride from Yanshi city, not including the part of the road leading up the mountain.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, In any case, in order to meet Shan Xiongxins force, Li Mi cant possibly pick a place too far from Yanshi to set up his ambush. Forty thousand is not a small number. As long as we check everywhere on Mount Mang region north of Yanshi, we are bound to find a bit of sign. Theres not much time; while right now it is hard to tell drizzle and fog apart, the low visibility is going to provide cover for us. Lets go!

    ※ ※ ※

    The drizzling rain was getting heavier, entering the deep mountain was like entering a blurry realm out of the mortal world, even recognizing the mountain path was difficult, forget about looking for the enemys track.

    Given the circumstances, even Linglong Jiao was at her wits end.

    After dark, the search process would be even more difficult.

    How about we meet Da Xiaojie first? Xuan Yong made a suggestion, With more manpower, the chance of success will increase.

    Kou Zhong shook his head, If the enemy found us out, they might ambush our ambushing troops, then our plan will fizzle out.

    Xu Ziling spoke heavily, How about going to Laojun Guan to try our luck? In order to be able to march quickly across the mountain, Li Mi must have had the horses and army provisions shipped in advance somewhere on the mountain. And there is no better place than the Laojun Guan, since the demon Taoists over there are in collusion with Li Mi.

    Frowning, Kou Zhong said, That is a reasonable speculation, but Laojun Guan is located on Cui Yun Peak, going up the mountain is not too convenient!

    Severely shaken, Xuan Yong said, Kou Ye, I guess you dont know, under the Cui Yun Peak, there is Cui Yun Valley, and in this valley, they built more than a dozen exquisite buildings dedicated to house visiting worshippers who wants to stay over a short period of time, or perhaps pursue short-term meditation. Furthermore, there is also a wide expanse of forest in that valley. Pitching camp in that forest will definitely be hidden from view.

    Kou Zhong was pleasantly surprised, From Cui Yun Valley to Yanshi across Mount Mang, how long will it take? he asked.

    Xuan Yong said, There is a mountain path from there, at most one sichen they could be out of the mountain. And then several dozen li of open grassland. If they are all cavalry, and they ride fast, perhaps they could reach Yanshi in less than two sichen.

    Kou Zhong slapped his forehead and said with a laugh, Now we are talking. Li Mi and Shen poniang! You owe me; this time we will wipe the slate clean!

    ※ ※ ※

    Laojun Guan was located on the summit of the majestically towering Cui Yun Peak, amidst the dense forest, surrounded by bluish-green hills and a precipitous cliff on one side, with deep ravine extending several zhang down from the top of the mountain to the valley below. If one could climb to the summit, one would be able to see the Yellow River to the north, and Luo River to the south. This moment, in the dark, misty emptiness, where it was hard to distinguish the rain from the fog, the place looked like an eminent and unapproachable legendary abode of the immortals; who would have thought that the head of this monastery was a top figure of the heretical sect?

    Cui Yun Valley was located at the foot of the Cui Yun Peak; the valley was wide open and flat, with a cluster of more than a dozen buildings with whitewashed wall and dark colored roof situated at the fringe of the forest on the north side of the valley, crisscrossed by small paths, adorned by thickets of wild flower and luxuriant fragrant grass. In the distance, under the rich bluish-green color of the mountain, lined by layer upon layer of mountain range, there were distinct yellow, alternating with green, rice fields. The scenery looked like a painting; certainly it looked like a sacred ground of the garden of peach blossom spring, making it more difficult to think about the demon Taoists and the waiting for dawn, with head resting on a spear soldiers [idiom: fully prepared and biding their time before the battle].

    The mouth of the valley at the southern end was a large area of cypress and elm forest. In this kind of weather, if there were indeed army camp hidden within the forest, even looking down from an elevation, it would still be difficult to see.

    Right outside the valleys entrance, the mountain path was sloping down, through the gorge, and continued winding down. But because of the mountain terrain, they could not see the plains south of the valley.

    Kou Zhongs heart was moved; he said, If Li Mis troops are hiding in the forest, how come we cant even hear one neighing horse?

    This moment, Linglong Jiao, who was out on reconnaissance duty, returned with happy expression, Just as expected, she spoke excitedly, Inside the valley, in the middle of the forest, there are tents everywhere, full of Wagang army; but I did not see warhorse, mules or other beasts. Looks like there is another storehouse hidden elsewhere, so that they would not have to climb in hardship.

    Everybody was greatly delighted.

    Kou Zhong said, Xiao Ling and I will stay here to continue keeping a close watch on them, you two go back separately to notify Da Xiaojie and Da Jiangjun [great general]; everything may proceed according to plan.

    After a short deliberation, they agreed on how to contact each other, where to meet, and other particulars. And then Xuan Yong and Linglong Jiao left happily.

    By dusk, the rain stopped, the sky was clear. The situation in the valley was plainly visible. From their vantage point atop a dangerous cliff, they could faintly see the tents hidden within the forest. Also from time to time they saw soldiers going back and forth from the camp to the buildings.

    Kou Zhong was crouching among the grass and the trees. It was quite a long time before he spoke, Xiao Ling! I have a nagging feeling that something is not right.

    Xu Ziling, lying on his back by Kou Zhongs side, said, Is it because you cannot see Shen Luoyans flat-haired bird, or perhaps because you see a camp without any horse?

    Kou Zhong did not answer, but asked him a question instead, We have been harmed by Shen poniang many times, and every time we nearly fell into her evil scheme. If our intelligence and wisdom is so useless, where do you think her formidability lies?

    Xu Ziling pondered quietly for a moment, and then he replied in agreement, You did not exaggerate. Speaking about plotting and tricks, employing stratagem while chatting and laughing, we seem to always fall into disadvantageous position; from Zhai Rang got killed to Wang Shichong badly injured, not a single time we won against her.

    Thinking hard, Kou Zhong said, Do you remember when we first met her, we made a bet that we would surrender if we were captured three times? She laid out the Old Man of the Plains Mo Cheng trap, as if she could predict without being a clairvoyant she let us board the pirate ship on our own, and yet capsized his own boat on the torrent among the rocks on purpose, taking advantage of our kindness in trying to rescue him, the senior, to get us under her control [see Book 3 Chapter 4]. Each time she demonstrated her ability to fathom the opponents psyche, which varies from person to person. That being the case, how could she not guess that we might come to Laojun Guan to take a look? Dont you think its stupid for us to hide in here?

    Xu Ziling suddenly crawled up and joined him looking down into the valley below. Severely shaken, he said, You are right. The army camp down below must be one of Shen Luoyans schemes. Out of ten tents, I bet you that nine are empty. As long as they have several thousand soldiers in here as the decoy, they could make us mistakenly believe that Wagangs wonder troops are hiding in here, while the real wonder troops are elsewhere. This is bad! How are we going to find them after dark?

    We can only do our best, Kou Zhong said, No matter what, the real ambushing troops cant be too far away from Yanshi. Therefore, they must be somewhere on the mountain, in some similar environment, so that they dont have to worry the sound of neighing horses might spread far and wide. Come! Lets get down and investigate clearly whether we accuse Shen poniang wrongly before deciding what to do.

    [1] Chapter title: an idiom, referring to s stratagem used by Liu Bang in 206BC against Xiang Yu of Chu. Figuratively means to feign one thing while doing another.

  13. #213
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 8

    Book 18 Chapter 8 Pincher Attack From Front and Rear

    The two boys sat down dejectedly on a hilltop outside Mount Mang.

    In the sky, layers of clouds covered the moon. On the plain down below was a faint circle of light, which was the city of Yanshi north of Luo River.

    For the full two sichen the two had been groping blindly in the mountains, straight from the city of Jinyong on the other side, yet they still did not see the least bit of the enemys track, so their strength was gone, their body weary, and it was all for nothing.

    Kou Zhong cursed ferociously, Must be because of the rain earlier today, washing away the ground that not only the traces, even the smell is gone.

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, It was just a drizzle; the traces ought to remain.

    Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, Of course there are traces, but all led to Laojun Temple. Hey!

    What is it? Xu Ziling asked.

    Kou Zhong thought aloud, Didnt Xuan Yong said that at the quickest rate, Li Mis main force would still need one night to travel the tunnel north toward Mount Mang? Why was it that outside Jinyong just now, the water was still, without the slightest bit of different condition?

    The two boys shook at the same time; they came to their senses.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Good Shen poniang! She is really formidable; this must be stealth dragon turns into a phoenix tactic, using the new army recruits to substitute the elite troops, while the elite troops borrow the new army recruits as a cover, secretly heading to a place that would be advantageous to launch a sudden attack. This ruse is indeed very formidable; we nearly fall for it.

    Xu Ziling spoke in distress, Its less than two sichen to daybreak, where will we find the ambushing troops?

    Kou Zhong said, Li Mis elite troops departed Jinyong the day before yesterday, resting during the day, and walking at night; perhaps right now they are still on the way toward their camp. Such a grandiose forty thousand cavalry, if they want to avoid other peoples eyes and ears, they could only hide somewhere before reaching Mount Mang. That means they still had to go around a circle to get to this side; either they are still pressing on toward the destination, or they are going to arrive soon. Lets go quickly!

    Dont be anxious, Xu Ziling said, If we guessed wrong this time, well lose the one-in-a-thousand-year opportunity to defeat Li Mi. Under the circumstances, either Shan Xiongxins new army or Li Mis wonder troops [Translators note: again, here I want to contrast 新兵 (xin bing), new army recruits, with 奇兵 (qi bing), troops appearing suddenly (in a raid or ambush). See my previous note in Chapter 5.], the only feasible strategy is to have their troop disposition with Mount Mang on their back; that way they can avoid trouble from the rear. Therefore, we can safely assume that Shan Xiongxins new army recruits would pitch their camp north of Yanshi, with Mount Mang on their back. They are going to lure Yanshis army to attack, while Li Mis main force is hiding somewhere on the mountaintop in the vicinity of Mount Mang; this way it would be more convenient for a light cavalry to attack. If that is the case, the place where Li Mis forces are hiding is ready to appear at the call!

    Kou Zhong stuck his ear on the ground. It was quite a while later that he sat up and said with a wry smile, Shen poniang must have her troops wrap their horses hooves; Xiaodi cannot hear the slightest bit of noise.

    Xu Ziling sprang up and said, In that case, we must use our feet to walk, and use our eyes to look!

    ※ ※ ※

    The two boys withdrew into an underbrush; Shen Luoyans strange bird circled twice in the air before flying far away.

    The two boys crossed over the underbrush toward the opposite hillside, and looked down toward the forest below. They saw army tents extending forever into the distance, everything was clear and in good order, separated from the grassland between Mount Mang and the city of Yanshi only by a hill. If the cavalry rode fast over the hill, they would be able to touch Yanshis city wall in just one sichen; it was definitely very convenient, while also extremely hidden.

    From here to Cui Yun Valley was about fifty li. This place was northeast of the city of Yanshi. Beyond, there were vast grassland and sparse forest and shrubbery. If Shan Xiongxin pitched camp due north of Yanshi, leaning against Mount Mang, then this place became the horn from which the attacking momentum was the greatest; it was indeed following the art of war to the letter.

    Kou Zhong leaned over to Xu Ziling and whispered in his ear, Now we split up. You go to Yanshi and tell Yang Gongqing to send troops immediately, taking advantage while Li Mis legs are still unsteady, the people weary their horses tired, to brandish our troops and dominate the weak with the strong. I go to Zhai Jiao; while Li Mis storehouse is busy serving the battle, we will set fire and attack the camp from the rear, so that he will face the enemy from front and rear. After we capture Shen poniang, I will send her to you to become your convenience-wife for a night. Ha!

    Xu Ziling crossly said, Remember the firework signal; you must not miss this striking opportunity. Dont let Shen Luoyans strange bird find you first. Ay! Its coming again!

    The strange bird returned. This time it flew straight toward their hiding place; it seemed to have found them.

    Xu Ziling gathered his power and waited with full concentration.

    Who would have thought that the strange bird circled one time, and then flew up high into the sky, let out a cry and went away?

    Kou Zhong said, Luckily that flat-haired beast cannot talk; otherwise we will be in trouble. Why havent you left?

    ※ ※ ※


    Yang Gongqing slapped the table and rose up; laughing aloud, he said, Li Mi is indeed a grandmaster in using odd strategy, but this time he comes across a tiger; he is using odd tactic to invite disaster. I am going to have him able to come but will not able to leave.

    The crowd of high-ranking military officers stood up with a loud rumble, everybody was in high spirit, the morale was very high.

    Wang Xuanshu was so excited that his eyes shone, his handsome face brightened.

    Although Xu Zilings natural disposition was subdued and usually let things take their own course [Taoist doctrine of inaction], yet infected by the atmosphere of the army camp, he also had his blood racing.

    Thinking about Li Mis treachery and his ruthlessness, killing people like discarding weeds, also thinking about the innocent maids, servants and children of Zhai Rang Mansion, Ren En and his brothers demise, he really wished he could chop off Li Mis head.

    Yang Gongqing spoke with a huff, The army is ready and waiting, everything has been properly prepared.

    And then he shouted to the more than twenty generals standing on either side, We are going out of the city via the eastern gate, follow the river going east first, and then after winding around the forest we will change course to the north, straight toward Li Mis wonder troops hiding place.

    The generals accepted the order and left first.

    Yang Gongqing turned to Xu Ziling and said, I know Xu Xiongdi has never liked to brandish saber or using staff, but battlefield is not the same as Jianghu, weapon in hand is always a bit more convenient, what kind of weapon would Xu Xiongdi like to use?

    Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders and said, In that case, Id like to trouble Yang Da Jiangjun to give me a lance!

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong, Zhai Jiao, and Tu Shufang, three people crouched low behind a huge boulder, looking into the distance through tall grass at the edge of the forest, to observe the activity in Li Mis camp.

    Even in the darkness before dawn, which usually made people negligent and tired, Kou Zhong could still feel the blazing hatred spewing out of Zhai Jiaos eyes; inwardly he decided that during the attack to the camp later, he must not leave her side even for a moment. Otherwise, if any unexpected misfortune came to this fiery-tempered, ugly yet proud and arrogant Big Miss, he would not be able to answer his sister Su.

    Zhai Jiaos voice, which sounded like it erupted suddenly from the gap between her teeth, spoke with hatred, Li Mi, you have never thought that this day will come. You picked a campsite to emphasis your strength; presently there is no danger around the wide-open camp, the stream under the sloping hill, with forest on both sides, and there is no strategic pass to defend. Whether sneak attack or setting fire, both will make you bag your food and leave before you finish eating.

    A strange feeling welled up in Kou Zhongs heart.

    After going through the tragedy of having her household scattered and the people perished, although her temperament did not change, her knowledge and experience, as well as her attitude in facing problems, were totally different; she was not like the pampered, arrogant and willful thousand-catty gold Miss of her previous life.

    Tu Shufang said, Li Mi did not make mistakes, because the main purpose of his military operation this time is to subdue the enemy using the ambushing troops. With his back toward the dangerous mountain, he tends to be unassuming. By choosing this place, which is easy to defend and easy to launch attack, if the troops from Yanshi arrive, he could ride up the hill, and regroup on the mountaintop. The only thing he left out by mistake is precisely our troops, which will attack from his back!

    This moment Xuan Yong came back from his hiding place, The enemy has just eaten their dry rations, men and horses are trying to get some rest, even the soldiers on sentry duty are dozing off; this the best time to attack the camp. If after daybreak the construction battalion managed to dig trenches to lay out a defense all around the camp, the difference in the degree of difficulty in attacking the camp would be like heaven and earth, clouds and mud.

    Zhai Jiao impatiently said, Xiao Zhong, what did you do? How come we have not seen Yanshi cavalry yet?

    Smiling apologetically, Kou Zhong said, Dont worry! Xiao Ling is handling it; dont you trust him?

    Right this moment, from the sky came the sound of flapping wings.

    Shen Luoyans strange bird, which was able to communicate with the spirits, flew in from the south, and danced a few circles over the camp with anxious movements. The camp immediately rose up in a roar, which rippled through entire camp in a short period of time.

    Breathing out a sigh of relief, Kou Zhong said, Theyre here! Prepare to attack.

    ※ ※ ※

    By the time Yanshis approximately twenty thousand strong light cavalry of elite troops turned out in full strength, first traveling eastward along the northern bank of Luo River for three li, and then changed course to the north straight toward Wagangs main force camp, which was about twenty li from Yanshi, Shan Xiongxins new army recruits were very busy for they had just started to set up camp on several hilltops, backed by Mount Mang.

    The difference between victory and defeat may very well be decided in just one move.

    If Li Mi has had one more day, his officers and soldiers would have enough rest, and had enough chance to stabilize his troop-dispositions legs, then the situation would be something else.

    Yanshis forces took three separate routes; Wang Xuanshu and another general led a group of five thousand men, acting as the vanguard battalion, from left and right pressing on toward the enemy ranks. Yang Gongqing, Xu Ziling and Linglong Jiaos center division was divided into forward, middle, and rear, three groups, directly charging into Li Mis hidden army camp.

    The dawn has arrived, the birds lodging for the night soared into the sky.

    The plains, the forest, the mountain and the fields were shrouded in thick fog, the heaven and the earth looked hazy and boundless.

    The left and right, two-pronged vanguard battalion, was the first to arrive at the edge of the forest region. Outside the forest was a vast grassland, stretching out to about two li deep and ten li wide.

    Wang Xuanshu followed his order to lie low, quietly waiting for the main army to arrive.

    The enemys banner and cavalry, disordered and in a mess, swarmed out of the mountain top; apparently they were in panic and terrified, at a loss to know what to do due to their sudden arrival.

    By this time the forward team of the main army galloped out of the forest, divided themselves into three groups, and spread over the plain, in a fluid formation, as if they were a single organic life form. Seeing the opponents frantic troop disposition on the mountaintop, everybody was in high spirit and was eager to charge forward.

    Before the Wagang Armys archers and troops wielding the shield had any chance to form their battle array, Yang Gongqing already arrived. Upon seeing this, he let out a loud and long laugh and said, Wagang kids, if Ol Yang cannot beat you and wipe you out this time, later on Ol Yang will write my name backward.

    Seeing this, Xu Ziling nodded his approval.

    The main forces of his side have been honing their strength for the big push, their morale was like the rainbow; if they waited much longer, it would only weaken their own momentum. Therefore, while the enemy has not had any chance to steady their footing, they had to take them by the storm, which, again, was in deep agreement with the art of war.

    Tens of thousands hoof beats, the rumble shook the heavens; loud battle cry permeated the intense atmosphere of the entire battlefield. The three groups, of two thousand men each, constituting the main force sprinted directly uphill toward the enemys position.

    The first few rows of cavalrymen were holding shield and long spear on either hand to block the enemys arrows and darts, while the soldiers behind them were holding bow and arrow, ready to shoot as soon as their comrades at the front break into the enemy ranks.

    Yang Gongqing and Xu Zilings four thousand men followed tightly behind them, advancing slowly, providing support to the sharp riders at the front storming the enemy. The rumbling of sixteen big drums struck together enhanced the advancing prowess of the Wang Army.

    Xu Ziling was secretly paying close attention to Yang Gongqing as he continuously issued his orders. The flag carrier following closely behind him also continuously waved the banner with different hand movements to send all kinds of signal. The wing battalions lying low on both sides also responded with their own flag signals. Xu Ziling began to understand that a magnificent army with thousands of men and horses also had countless changes within them, not at all as simple as when the flag was waved to the left they would move to the left, the flag waved to the right they shifted to the right, when the drums were sounded they would advance, when the gongs were beaten they would retreat, and so on.

    Ahead suddenly battle cry shook the heavens, arrows screeching by; the long awaited decisive battle finally reached the stage where the two opposing forces came into contact.

    From the east and the west the sound of hoof beats rang out, the wing battalions left the forest to charge toward the enemy position on the hill slope.

    The big battle was finally in full swing.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong, Zhai Jiao, Xuan Yong, Tu Shufang, along with approximately two-hundred and twenty-five soldiers that Zhai Rang left behind, were guiding their horses by the reins along a dense forest behind the Wagang Armys camp, watching with bated breath as the frenetic enemy rushing to the east and dashing to the west in the camp; some of them mounted their horses, some were running on foot, but all were rushing to the mountain top. The people shouting and the horse neighing, the upheaval was like the doomsday was coming.

    Everybody was holding a bow in one hand, and an arrow, which tip was wrapped with cloth or other flammable material, which had been soaked in kerosene, waiting for the optimum moment to strike the enemys rear.

    Xuan Yong whispered, Those thirty some tents on this side of the stream are all provisions tents. We are going to burn the provision tents first, and then attack the others.

    Zhai Jiao spoke in heavy voice, Li Mi is mine, I want to chop his stinky head with my own hands.

    Kou Zhong inwardly cry what a pity!; if Wang Bodang was around, Kou Zhong could claim that his head belonged to him as well.

    Were it not for Wang Bodang, most probably Susu would not abandon herself to despair and randomly find a man to marry. And lo and behold, she chose this harboring-evil-intentions Xiang kid.

    This moment, from the other side of the mountain came the sound of weapons clashing against each other and the battle cry, like the rumbling of thunder filling the whole sky. Zhai Jiao, brandishing her big Guan saber [I believe Guan here refers to Guan Gong/Guan Yu from the Three Kingdoms], which matched her build like seamless heavenly clothes, shouted loudly, All Xiongdi, the moment to avenge Da Longtou has arrived!

    Finished shouting, she took the lead by swiftly rushing out.

    Kou Zhong and the others, more than 200 men, also shouted together, lighted up their fiery arrows, and rushed out behind her.

    The fiery arrows streaked through the sky like more than 200 beautiful, brilliant fireworks of the Lantern Festival [night of the 15th of the first lunar month], painting the sky red as they flew across the dozen or so zhang distance toward the rear tents of the Wagang Army camp.

    One after another the tents caught fire; the fiery arrows missing their target landed on the leaves and clusters of vegetation, creating the crackling noise of burning bushes.

    This kind of kerosene was highly flammable, the humidity in the air increased the fire intensity instead, the thick spring air did not affect it at all.

    By the time Zhai Jiao and the others attacked their way into the camp, they have already released three, four volleys for a total of nearly one thousand fiery arrows. More than half of the tents on both sides of the stream were ablaze, with thick smoke rose up to the sky.

    The enemy had never imagined the ambushing troops would attack from the rear; on top of that, the attack from the front was already more than they could attend to. In their panic, they practically failed see that the troops attacking from the rear were only a bit more than two hundred men. The weary troops staying behind at the camp to take care of things were immediately thrown into chaos, and were utterly defeated.

    When Zhai Jiaos big Guan saber blade met a soldier, it chopped the soldier; when it saw an officer, it hacked the officer. Moreover, Kou Zhong, Xuan Yong, and Tu Shufang protected her from left, right and back, three directions, so that she was like a tiger that has grown wings, like a hot knife through butter swept through the enemy camp, charging through the Wagang Army troops blocking their attack that they were scattered and smashed.

    Taking advantage while the enemy was scattering in all directions, their men also killed and burned everywhere, turning the battlefield into a slaughterhouse. The situation was chaotic and bitter to the extreme.

    Kou Zhongs Moon in the Well was even more invincible; each saber strike, without the blade even made contact, the saber qi was enough to injure the enemy and throw them to the ground.

    Xuan Yongs Bird Beak Strike [Book 14 Chapter 9] also displayed its astonishing prowess as it crisscrossed unhindered among the magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, killing the enemy that the opponent suffered a crushing defeat and scattered in all directions.

    Only a dozen of xi later [息 must be a unit of time, but I could not find its definition], this group of troops filled with deep hatred already broke their way into the center of the enemy camp; only about a thousand paces or so, they would have passed through and reached the mountain slope.

    The general situation was decided, the only thing remained was to see whether their blade could reach Li Mi, this powerful military general with an impressive record as never been defeated in battle.

  14. #214
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 9

    Book 18 Chapter 9 Defeat Like Collapsing Mountain

    With morale like a rainbow, plus considering the troop disposition on the enemys side has not had stable footing, like three long snakes, the main force, consisting of three groups of two thousand men each, shot like swift arrows, fast like lightning, violent like the storm, charged up the mountain slope, breaking into the enemy ranks.

    Li Mi and his group of generals went up to the top of the hill; before the commanders banner was even erected, he directed his subordinates to dash down the hill to intercept the enemy, hoping to break the first round of the enemys assault, trying to give his troops the chance to regroup, and then with his superior military strength, he would meet the enemy head on.

    The arrows were raining down from the sky. The cavalry from both sides met in the middle of the slope, which covered several li of grassy hillside, engaging each other in a close hand-to-hand combat. Momentarily the sky turned hazy the earth darkened, the sun and the moon lost their light.

    The four thousand elite cavalry under Yang Gongqings leadership were slowly, but steadily pressing forward.

    For Xu Ziling, riding on Yang Gongqings left, this was the first time that he officially participated in a bloody battle between two armies; not only that, it was a pure cavalry battle, where victory or defeat was decided very fast. He could not help being terrified by bitter atmosphere. Deep down in his heart he realized that under this kind of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, it did not matter how brilliant his skill was, the only thing he could depend on was really the power of cooperation with his teammates.

    Yang Gongqings eyes were gleaming brightly as he looked at Li Mi, sitting on horseback on top of the hill under his commanders banner; turning to Xu Ziling, he said, Cavalry is also known as engaged-disengaged troops, because it can disengage but can engage as well. Quick to disperse and quick to gather, whether its a hundred or a thousand li, going out and coming in with no gap between them, rapid, swift, nimble, and rushing; therefore, this is the troop to determine victory. This time, if our side did not rely entirely on the intercepting, rushing, hastening cavalry, Li Mis children would not have been in such a difficult situation.

    Xu Ziling noticed that although Li Mis cavalry engaging the enemy continuously falling down, but because of their superior number, there were others continuously taking their place, they were able to hold down his sides cavalry that it was difficult to gain a cun advantage, and was forced to engage in a chaotic warfare.

    While he was worrying about it, his sides two wing-cavalries were already charging at the enemy from both sides, immediately the Wagang Army found that it was more than they could attend to, and the entire array was thrown into a chaos.

    At this point, his mind already went back to its original calm, quiet-like-still-water state.

    He saw the beautiful, flower-like Shen Luoyan by Li Mis side was ferociously staring at him.

    Right this moment, thick smoke rose to the sky behind Li Mi, followed by the battle cry shaking the heavens.

    Yang Gongqing laughed aloud and said, Little boy Li Mi has fallen into the trap! Whoever can chop the head from his neck will be rewarded with a hundred tael of gold.

    These words were spoken with his qi, so that his voice shook the battlefield.

    Battle drums echoed wildly, Yang Gongqings most elite cavalry finally entered the battle, pulling apart the overall battle situation.

    Recalling the blood debt of the people of Zhai Rang Mansion, from top to bottom, and of Ren En and his men, Xu Ziling urged his horse to charge forward, to rush up the hill slope.

    Wagang troops, which were weary from rushing all night, seeing the blaze soaring to the sky from the rear of their camp, lost their zeal to continue fighting; they scattered in all directions, and were no longer able to stop the-longer-the-battle-the-braver-they-were, their-momentum-like-a-rainbow Yanshis elite cavalry.

    Li Mi and his nearly ten-thousand-strong personal guards finally started to move, charging down toward Yang Gongqings main force, hoping they could draw the violently swelling water from collapsing the dam. Unfortunately, since ancient times, there was no place on earth more realistic and more callous than the battlefield. With the defeat imminent, even if Sun Wu [Sun Tzu] reborn, Kong Ming [Zhuge Liang] reincarnated, they lacked the strength to reverse the rotation of the sky.

    Leading a group of more than five hundred warriors, Xu Ziling went straight up the hill toward Li Mi like a hot knife through butter. Each strike of his spear, either poking or stabbing, sweeping or blocking, his spiraling energy like mountain flash flood crashing against the enemy trying to resist him, killing and throwing them off their horses, not a single one lucky enough to escape albeit narrowly; especially the enemy charging down from up the hill, who happened to be in his way, could ever block this lance, a long-reaching weapon that could attack solidly from a distance, which Xu Ziling was able to move with extreme dexterity.

    In this kind of moment, where the point of the spear clashed against the saber blade, if you did not die, then I perish. There was practically no place for benevolence.


    A long sword, which appeared like a divine sword dropping from the sky, parried his spear, which he thought was going to make a kill.

    Focusing his attention, Xu Ziling realized that the sword wielder was unexpectedly one of the Wagang Twin Tiger Generals [or valiant generals], whose fame was on par with Wang Bodang, Pei Renji.

    Ahead, densely crowded together, were Wagang troops. The pressure on him was immediately multiplied many times over; to his left and right, the fighters from both sides were falling down one after another, yet in the blink of an eye, the places they vacated were taken by their comrades from behind.

    Xu Ziling let out a long whistle, the blood debt of his allies, who had fought side by side with him, but have met a violent death, welled up in his breast. The lance in his hand turned into a phantom shadow of thousands of spears; his qi whistling sharply, like a gale blowing huge waves he stormed toward Pei Renji.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong and the others, with the courage of male lion, under Zhai Jiaos leadership, more than two hundred men, scattered and gathered together again, like a razor sweeping through the enemys rear.

    This moment the rear of the enemys camp has been engulfed in raging flames and thick smoke, there was no way to retreat anymore, plus from time to time the morning breeze rolled the smoke up, making people wanted to keep away from it as quickly as possible. As they fought desperately over the endless hill slope, the enemy could not figure out what was true and what was false, they merely fought desperately trying to escape from either side of the hill, which greatly increased the attackers power and influence.

    The two people were of the same heart, their sharpness could cut through gold.

    These more than two hundred men were all the younger generation of Zhai Rangs personal guards, throughout Wagang Armys uprising, they had always followed Zhai Rang. They had been waiting for this opportunity for revenge with craned neck; and were very well aware that if they could not join the army ahead, death would be their only way out, hence they fought even more desperately.

    One side was a flustered, weary army; the other side was an armed force driven by vengeance and had made up their mind to die. The difference in their mindset indeed could not be measured with reasons.

    Wagang Army has entered the panic-stricken state as if they were trying to evade a spreading plague, naturally it was difficult to organize an effective resistance.

    After Kou Zhong and the others successfully charged through and broke up a cavalry regiment Li Mi sent to intercept them, they finally reached the hilltop.

    As far as their eyes could see, there were enemy troops scattering in all directions trying to escape with their lives, while intense battle was still raging on in the middle of the hill slope and on either side of the hill. They also saw Yanshi troops who had been able to break through the enemys line of defense, charging to the left and dashing to the right among the utterly-defeated enemy ranks, crisscrossing the hill to attack the enemy.

    The hill slope was densely covered with the dead and the injured, fully displaying the ruthlessness of war. The blood dyed the underbrush that the slope became a vast red blood area, shocking the eye, astonishing the heart.

    With a quick glance Zhai Jiao already saw Li Mis commander banner; she shouted, Today Zhai Rangs daughter has come to demand your life!

    Slapping the horses butt, she galloped down the hill toward the crowd of Li Mis personal guards.

    Zhai Jiaos group had red cloth tied to their heads for identification. As Yanshi troops saw them, they immediately made way for them. Moreover, from among Li Mis choicest elite troops, more than half actually Zhai Rangs former subordinates. Recognizing the newcomer as their Big Miss Zhai Jiao, psychologically, they did not dare to block, plus they realized that they had been defeated, hence seeing the group of ready-to-die warriors under her leadership, their courage was shaken immediately, and all they wanted to do was to hastily flee for their lives.

    Wagang troops last shred of what little will to fight remaining in their heart finally fell apart.

    When everyone was unsure, feeling as if they had entered a no-man realm, as they charged toward the rear of Li Mis personal guards, about a hundred men charged up the hill to meet them. They recognized the leaders as Xu Shiji and the Two-Malevolent of Changbai, Fu Zhen and Fu Yan, two brothers. The former had a long halberd in his hands, while the latter two were still using their usual weapons, long-handled ax and hook-sword. All threes battle attire was dyed red with blood; their expression sinister, but they looked tired.

    Kou Zhong let out a shaking-the-heaven long laughter, leaped up from his saddle, and pounced down on the three men, while calling out loudly, Kou Zhongs coming!

    By this time Kou Zhongs name was quite well known throughout the world. When they heard it, immediately there were a number of men among Li Mis personal guards who lost their courage; leaving their post, they fled for their lives.

    Dang! Dang! Dang!

    Kou Zhong repeatedly shot up and pounced down again, while the Moon in the Well in his hand hacked down as fast as lightning, to block the three mens attack.

    Zhai Jiao and her men also arrived and attacked, immediately this squad of counterattacking troops was shattered in all directions.

    Fu Zhen, Fu Yans courage was gone, they couldnt even release half of their usual power; as soon as they saw this, they were the first to run to the side and disappeared.

    Being left alone, Xu Shiji could not cope; he somersaulted backward from his mount, and was barely able to evade Kou Zhongs dangerous move.

    Zhai Jiao bent down from her horse and brandished her Guan saber, sweeping it across Xu Shijis chest.

    Xu Shiji was also exceptional; in this kind of situation, he was still able to drop his long halberd, pulled the sword hanging on his waist, and met her Guan saber head-on.


    Xu Shiji, his body and his sword, was thrown down the hill, but it has also saved his life.

    These past several years, Zhai Jiao trained painstakingly day and night, just for this moment; naturally she did not have time to care about other people, with violent roar she pounced directly at Li Mi.

    Xuan Yong, Tu Shufang, and a group of her man ran after her in great flurry, while the brave and unstoppable Kou Zhong landed on the empty saddle of Xu Shijis horse; tapped his toes on the saddle, and soared toward Xu Ziling, who was in melee against Li Mi, Pei Renji, Shen Luoyan, Zu Junyan, and the others, like celestial soldier descending to the world.

    In similar cases, by soaring in the sky like this, his body was completely exposed against the enemys arrows, darts, swords and spears; it was really no different from committing suicide. However, this moment every one of the enemies really had no time to take care of himself, for fear that it was too late for them to escape, hence nobody had any time to attack him.

    After injuring Pei Renji, Xu Ziling finally had a face-off against Li Mi.

    Since their meeting at the abandoned village, this was the first-time Xu Ziling stood face to face with this overlord whose name shook the world.

    Li Mis build was tall and sturdy, singular and majestic. His countenance looked old and inelegant, his long hair draped over his broad shoulders on both sides, his torso was lined with flickering, shiny armor. When he brandished the heavy steel spear in his hand, it felt light, as if floating. His eyes were gleaming with cold light, yet there was some kind of insufferably-arrogant, ambitious-and-ruthless-character aura around him. However, his body already had multiple injuries.

    He slashed with his spear more than a dozen times in succession, all were strenuously blocked by Xu Ziling; the two were immediately locked in hard battle.

    Each time Xu Ziling blocked Li Mis spear, he felt as if he was being pounded by a thousand-catty boulder, shaking him severely that his qi and blood were churning.

    Fortunately, his true qi, which came from the Secret to Long Life and the Jade Annulus of He Clan did not circulate the same path as regular qi, so that not only it was able to neutralize the opponents qi, it generated new energy as well, so that he was able to meet spear strike by spear strike.

    Its just that obviously his riding skill was inferior to the opponents, so that he was only on the defensive position, and could only take the beating from Li Mi.

    Kou Zhong pouncing down from the sky immediately reverse the whole situation.

    Although all around him Li Mi only had less than two thousand personal guards remaining, but all along his military power was at least double the enemys, plus he had the advantage of occupying higher-up-on-the-hill position. Were it not for Kou Zhongs ambushing troops suddenly appeared from the rear, reasonably speaking he ought to be able to hold on much longer, or at least would be able to retreat in orderly manner, unlike now, where his troops were scattering in all directions, and was difficult to maintain their formation.

    Still, from beginning to end, Yanshi forces were unable to consolidate their power to annihilate Wagang troops; they were merely able to hold the upper hand, while trying to stop the escaping enemies, which continuously enlarging the battlefield, so that the fighting spread to long grassland on the hill slope, down to the sparse forest region at the bottom of the hill.

    If they did not leave now, what were they waiting for?

    Li Mi sighed inwardly.

    If it were regular Jianghus fight-to-the-death instead of battlefield where the enemy was determined to die, even if he had to face strong enemy like Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong fighting together, he could still give it all and strive for victory.

    However, under present circumstances, he had become a target of multitude arrows, where wave after wave, in thousands and in hundreds, the enemies were coming to kill him. At any given time he had to deal with a variety of weapons, not only he could not unleash any exquisite move, oftentimes he had to decide whether he should dodge a saber strike or to meet the tip of a spear, while trying to evade the really deadly attack.

    Naturally he did not dare to go all out either, because he wanted to avoid huge loss of his true strength, to such an extent that he did not have enough strength to continue.

    What he used were simple, direct, and effective moves. All those usual tricks of luring the enemy or confusing the enemy were quite useless this time.

    He knew that if he let Kou Zhong flew overhead, while Xu Ziling, another first-class martial art master, entangling him, even if he continued staking everything he had, he would only end up dead.

    While Li Mi was about to shout, commanding his troops to retreat, Shen Luoyan already cut in between he and Xu Ziling, and shouted tenderly, Mi Gong, go!

    Li Mi knew that before his eyes was the only chance to escape; in the end he roared the sentence that ever since his debut to contend for hegemony over the world has never spoken out of his mouth, Everybody, go!

    Leaping off his horse, the steel spear in his hand swiftly shot toward Kou Zhong.


    Both men were thrown backwards at the same time.


    Zhai Jiaos Guan saber left her hand and flew across the three zhang distance over the battlefield toward Li Mi.

    Pei Renji and the others cried out in fear simultaneously, Mi Gong, be careful!


    Li Mi swung his spear backward to block the Guan saber. Borrowing the impact force, he flew out, kicked an enemy off the saddle, and rode the horse to the east to escape.

    Xu Ziling parried Shen Luoyans sword more than a dozen times in succession, but did not counterattack even half a spear strike. He said with a bitter laugh, Beautiful Junshi, please!

    Deeply moved, Shen Luoyan cried and called out, Xu Ziling, how are you?

    Reining in her horse, she turned around after her sides warriors, who were retreating in defeat, and galloped away wildly.

    Zhai Jiao roared her order for her troops to pursue the enemys remnants relentlessly.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were fully aware that cornered enemy must not be pursued; afraid that she might failed, they hastily galloped after her.

    The bugle horn ordering the retreat was finally sounded, indication the direction that the runaway defeated soldiers ought to take.

    The melee has turned into a chase, with Yanshi forces pursued the enemy for more than ten li. It was only because Yang Gongqing had some misgivings about Shan Xiongxins troops that he beat the gong to recall the troops.

    Ever since Wang Shichongs army started to a war against the Wagang Army, this was the very first time that they scored a victory.

    This battle resulted in Li Mis defeated army running away to Luokou; from 40,000 cavalry, only a bit more than ten thousand men remained, the casualties were extremely disastrous.

    On the other hand, Yanshi army only lost about two-thousand something men; the victory was effortless and brilliant.

    ※ ※ ※

    Bare-chested, Kou Zhong sat on a rock by the Luo River, as if he was sitting on the throne, while an army doctor was tending the wound on his left arm, right waist, and chest.

    Yang Gongqing has already led the main force back to Yanshi, to guard against Shan Xiongxin taking advantage of attacking while the city defense was quite weak, because he had left only one thousand soldiers in the city. He wanted to stop Li Mi, in case he turned back to mount sneak attack, or perhaps joined forces with Shan Xiongxin to restore his military strength.

    Xu Zilings wounds had already been dressed properly, plus his injury was lighter than Kou Zhongs, simply because from the start his troops had occupied superior position, unlike Kou Zhongs meager military strength penetrating deep into the enemys camp.

    The sun was about to sink behind the western hills, the soldiers were resting in clusters on the several hills nearby, overlooking the plains on both sides of the river downstream toward Luokou.

    Four battle ships were moored on the shore, delivering army provisions, medicine, and the cleanup crew.

    The remains of the soldiers from their side would be brought back to Yanshi for proper burial, while those from the enemys side would be buried in a mass grave on site, in order to avoid plague and unpleasant ailment.

    Zhai Jiao, Xuan Yong, and their men were still searching for enemys track nearby; they have not returned yet.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said to Xu Ziling, On the battlefield, it doesnt matter if your martial art skill is unrivalled, its impossible not to be injured. Question is how to avoid mortal hit. Right now on Xiaodis body, from head to foot, the muscles are sore, the bones aching. Even a fierce battle against Zhu Yuyan would not be this strenuous.

    Xu Ziling was watching four cleanup crews struggling to push a cart loaded with dead bodies up the gangplank into the ship; momentarily he was unable to speak.

    This moment, Linglong Jiao, leading about a dozen riders, who have been out to scout the movement of Li Mis defeated army, returned. She flew off the horse, and then, walking heroically yet elegantly toward the two boys, and reported, This time Li Mis had failed miserably. Along the sides of the road there was a continuous chain of men who were unable to hold on and fell from their horses; even his commander banner was thrown away. I am afraid when he rose his army, he had never dreamed of having such a tragic military campaign.

    Kou Zhong scrutinized all the exquisite [Linglong] curves on her tender [Jiao] body up and down several times, before smiling and said, Only someone like Jiaojiao, whos able to control the overall situation of a bloody battle from a distance, can escape without the slightest injury. Ha!

    Linglong Jiaos pretty face blushed as she said, If you are mocking me for not exerting myself on the battlefield, I will never let you off. But since you are calling me such a pleasant name like Jiaojiao, plus considering that you are injured that your face is green your lips are white, I forgive you for the time being.

    Kou Zhong said with a laugh, Seeing your tender body is unharmed, my heart is gratified; thats all! Did Li Mi take a hike to his old native place Luokou? That old kid slipped away so quickly.

    Zhai Jiao was back as well; with excited look on her face she leaped off the horse and called out, We are going to attack Luokou immediately.

    Hearing that, deep frown immediately appeared on Xuan Yong and Tu Shufangs faces; they even signaled Kou Zhong with their eyes.

    However, going against everybodys expectation, Kou Zhong said, Indeed heroes usually agree; lets go aboard the ship and return to Yanshi immediately, we will discuss the great plan to attack Luokou with Yang Da Jiangjun.

    Everybody was taken by surprise.

    It should be noted that Shan Xiongxin still had nearly 60,000 troops stationed by Mount Mang, north of Yanshi city. It did not matter how useless this batch of new army recruits were, if they hastily attack Luokou, this useless army would still be a threat to their rear.

    However, by this time no one did not submit cheerfully toward Kou Zhongs strange plans and amazing schemes. It was as if he must have had a card up his sleeve before he could say that remark.

    Kou Zhong grabbed the Moon in the Well, which had been lying by his side, and cast his eyes in the direction of Luokou, as he spoke indifferently, Li Mi would never accept that he was running to Luokou just like that; he would definitely try to join forces with Shan Xiongxin with the hope of turning defeat into victory. Therefore, as long as we can stop them from joining up, and can make Shan Xiongxin not daring to act hastily, those troops guarding Luokou under Bing Yuanzhen would only have one way out: surrender. Wang Bodang is even more powerless to defend Jinyong. Following up a victory and pressing home the attack is one way to maximize the outcome of the war, does Da Xiaojie believe so?

    For the first time Zhai Jiao sincerely listened to Kou Zhong; delighted, she said, Xiao Zhong, you are indeed a talented field commander which hard to come by in the present age; if in those days Die had encountered you instead of that traitor Li Mi, the world would have become our Wagang Armys!

  15. #215
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 10

    Book 18 Chapter 10 Great Reward to Family Member

    Standing on the bow of the ship, Xu Ziling was staring blankly into the distance.

    River breeze came directly at his face, his clothes were fluttering in the wind, yet it was unable to blow away the horrific memory of the wretched and severe war!

    He understood the inevitability and unavoidability of war, just like the never-ending struggle and feud of Jianghu.

    Even for someone as detached from the world as Shi Feixuan, it would still be difficult to ignore the suffering of the common people, that she realized that she must use wu [martial/military] to overcome wu, and that unification of the world was a must.

    Kou Zhong came to his side; looking into the distance at the sinking red sun ahead, he said leisurely, Only after a fierce battle will one realize that the ordinary things in ordinary everyday life are actually precious. One might well ask, the moment we were fighting hand-to-hand, deciding life or death, on the battlefield, who would have time to pay attention to the touching beautiful scenery of sunrise and sunset?

    Revealing a pained look on his face, Xu Ziling smiled ruefully and said, Zhong Shao seems to enjoy the pleasant lingering effect of the aftermath of the battle a bit too much.

    Kou Zhong replied, As long as we did not die, everybody would feel the indescribable happiness. Especially after a big victory. Much less the victory was so close!

    After a short pause, he mused, I must form an invincible cavalry of my own personal guards; otherwise, when I encounter Li Shimin in the future, how could I resist his Black Armor Elite Cavalry?

    Xuan Yongs voice came from behind, Kou Yes way of thinking is extremely insightful, I wonder if you ever heard about the ten advantages of using the cavalry?

    Delighted, Kou Zhong said, Id like to hear the details.

    Xuan Yong came to Kou Zhongs side, and said seriously, One: facing the enemy right from the start. Two: taking advantage of weakness to defeat the enemy. Three: chasing scattered enemy, striking disordered enemy. Four: attacking the enemy striking the rear, making the enemy run. Five: protecting the provisions, securing the armys path. Six: defeating the enemys closed or separated-by-water path, while developing the connection between two areas. Seven: catching the enemy off guard, striking the soldiers before they rouse their brigade. Eight: attacking the slack when it is the least expected. Nine: burning its accumulation, emptying its city. Ten: sweeping its open land, capturing its children. With these ten principles, the advantage of cavalry will be maximized. This time Kou Ye was able to deal a big blow on Li Mi, all because you were able to display the advantage of cavalry battle to the fullest, hence you could use the few to defeat the many, and use the rapid to subdue the weary.

    Xu Ziling said, Problem is that everybody knows the advantage of the cavalry, but why is it that only Li Shimin could have invincible cavalry, plus their number is limited to only a thousand?

    Xuan Yong replied, This kind of matter is always easy to grasp but difficult to put into practice. Who wouldnt want to think that his own cavalrys prestige surpasses others, but has to suffer the limitation of talented military officers, horsemanship, warriors quality, warhorse, and equipment? Purely from cavalry standpoint, nobody in the world could surpass Flying Horse Ranchs expertise in breeding and trading horses, so that even though they number in merely several tens of thousand, they are able to resist Du Fuwei in the east, ward off Zhu Can in the west, blocking Wang Shichong in the north, and pressing down Xiao Xian, Lin Shihong, in the south, even making it difficult for the Three Big Bandits to gain a cun advancement, while displaying their prowess in equestrian archery at the same time. Coming in like fire, leaving like the wind, so that it is impossible to defend effectively.

    Kou Zhongs eyes immediately lit up.

    Yanshi appeared ahead, their flag was flying on the city wall.

    Kou Zhong breathed a sigh of relief and said, Thank Heaven and thank the Earth! As long as Yanshi, you, Senior, is still safe and sound, this time Li Mi will really be done for!

    ※ ※ ※

    Finished listening, Yang Gongqing swept Kou Zhong, Zhai Jiao, Xuan Yong, Wang Xuanshu, Tu Shufeng, Linglong Jiao, six people sitting around the table with his eyes one time all the way through; only then did he nod and say, We have nothing to fear of Li Mi and Bing Yuanzhen, but Shan Xiongxins new army is currently constructing a rampart to strongly defend their position. If they can hold off against us for then days, half a month, when Li Mi finishes restructuring his army and stabilizing his footings, the situation might be completely different.

    Zhai Jiao looked at Kou Zhong; apparently, since he single-handedly engineered this close-to-impossible miraculous feat of defeating Li, her impression on him was greatly changed, and now she would follow him blindly.

    Xu Ziling was not present at this most important military meeting after the big battle; he withdrew into a quiet room.

    Kou Zhong slyly said, Because Li Mi thought that we are short of provisions, he decided on blitzkrieg strategy, to avoid us replenishing our supply from the Eastern Capital; therefore, in coming south this time, he did not bring too much provisions. As a result, as long as we can occupy Wang Bodang at Jinyong so that he is incapable of supporting Shan Xiongxin, even if Shan Xiongxin has millions of main forces, he would surrender as it will be the only way to go.

    Zhai Jiao nodded and said, Wang Bodangs force defending Jinyong is only several thousands strong, plus they can be considered new army recruits, definitely powerless to defend Jinyong.

    Xuan Yong said, We have our people within the Jinyong city; as long as Da Jiangjun makes a bluffing move of attacking Jinyong, when the peoples heart grew timid, we could seize the opportunity to burn their granaries. Inside and outside collaborate, Wang Bodang will have no choice but to abandon the city and cross the river to go back to Heyang.

    Emotionally moved, Yang Gongqing said, That is certainly a feasible plan.

    Frowning, Wang Xuanshu said, Supposing when we are marching to Jinyong, Shan Xiongxin divided his troops into two, one proceeded to assist Jinyong, the other to attack Yanshi, and then Li Mi also seized this opportunity to come to the east, wont we be caught is perilous situation?

    Yang Gongqing laughed and said, Er Gongzi need not worry. Lets talk about Jinyong first. We only need to send five thousand cavalry, to advance and station outside the city of Jinyong, by the time Shan Xiongxin received the news, we would already gain a stable footing, then we could use light cavalry on surprise attack to make his new army tired of constantly running for their life. And when their heart is in the state of panic like that, Shan Xiongxins new army practically wont have the morale and strength to face an attack and meet it.

    Tu Shufang leisurely sucked in the tobacco pipe in his hand; puffing out a hazy smoke, he said with a smile, As long as we can force Wang Bodang to give up defending Jinyong, leave it to Ol Tu to deal with Shan Xiongxin. I will inflict pain that he had never knew before, to see if he is a sensible soldier with a clear view of things. However, before I see him, it would be best if we could make Bing Yuanzhen surrender without fighting, so that Li Mi would lose his momentum, exhaust his strength, and forever will not have any hope of making a comeback [orig. return to office after living as a hermit on Mount Dong (must be an idiom with historical background, but I cant find it yet. Sun Quan of Three Kingdoms period?)].

    Linglong Jiao also spoke up, Shan Xiongxin has at least a ten days time, before he could cut lumber to build cart and make ladders, and make preparation to attack Yanshi; now he ought not dare to act blindly without thinking.

    Yang Gongqing said, Capturing Jinyong city is a trivial matter. Even if we cant burn Wang Bodangs provisions, as long as bluff by pretending to attack the city, I guarantee Wang Bodang would be on the lookout to make his escape. Jinyong really is not a strong fortified city; it is far inferior to Yanshi. It did not fell before, simply because Li Mis main force was holding us up!

    A slight pause later, he went on, But if we want Bing Yuanzhen to surrender, we must lure Li Mi out of Luokou; otherwise, based on his former prestige, he might make apprehension to grow in Bing Yuzhens heart.

    Having a card up his sleeve, Xuan Yong said, Whether its Bing Yuanzhen or Shan Xiongxin, both were Zhai Yes former subordinates, they are dissatisfied that Li Mi murdered Zhai Ye, only they are angry, but not daring to speak out. For the past few years Li Mi continuously supports only his trusted aides, which increases their resentment; therefore, as long as we could create a situation where they feel deeply threatened, I can guarantee that they are going to surrender and return their allegiance to us, and will not throw their life in for Li Mi, whose prestige is falling fast.

    Looking at Kou Zhong, Yang Gongqing said, Kou Junshi, whats your view on this matter?

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, This plan is called dividing the troops into two directions, bluffing the enemy. On one hand, we dispatch fast riders to force Jinyong, on the other hand we send the army to cross the river, acting as if we are going to besiege the hard-to-shake Luokous defense. Of these two, the former must be accomplished first; only if we can force Wang Bodang to move will we make the river crossing.

    Wang Xuanshu said, If we want to transport the siege equipment across to the camp on the opposite bank, due to the limited load capacity of the pontoon bridge, it will take a long time. If Shan Xiongxin and Li Mi receive the information and come to attack, wont we be in a very bad situation?

    Kou Zhong smiled and replied, Hence the reason we must force Wang Bodang to leave first to break Shan Xiongxins retreating route and persuade him to surrender before we can proceed with this plan. By that time, if Li Mi heard and came to attack, he would find that Shan Xiongxin is holding the troops in self-defense, while Bing Yuanzhen has offered up Luokou as sacrifice to Heaven; other than running away, what else can he do?

    Yang Gongqing laughed aloud and said, Kou Junshi has certainly given this plan thorough consideration. There is no time to lose, tonight well take a good rest, bestow all three armies, boost their morale. Tomorrow we take advantage of the dark before dawn to start moving the troops. Well send five-thousand-cavalry toward Jinyong to bluff. As long as Wang Bodang abandon the city and flee, the other plans can be executed one by one, to make that boy Li Mi suffer a setback that will lead to total collapse, and something that he will regret the rest of his life.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling escorted Zhai Jiao as they stood to her left and right on lookout tower of the northern city wall, looking into the distance where the enemy camp stretched more than one li north of the city, with their back against Mount Mang.

    Zhai Jiao has changed a lot. Although she still had fiery temper, impatient, rude and impetuous, clearly she was much better in speaking reasons and willing to listen to others, compared to previously, when she was still the thousand-catty of gold [(honorific) daughter] Big Miss.

    Because of her relationship with Susu, the two boys were especially respectful to her, even cherished her.

    Zhai Jiao suddenly sighed and said, If my Dies spirit in heaven knew that the Wagang Army, which he founded single-handedly, was unexpectedly destroyed by his own daughter, I wonder if his feeling would be hurt and it would be hard for him to take.

    Understanding the contradiction in her heart, in which she worried about personal gains and losses, Kou Zhong tactfully explained, Supposing Buddhists concept of reincarnation is true, right now Da Longtou might be a little white and plump, adorable baby; of course he would forget everything from his previous life, be happy and forget all worries. But then again, supposing death is like extinguished lantern, it would be like eternal sleep without waking up again, the four elements are vanity [idiom: this world is an illusion], then nothing to be worried anymore. Therefore, Da Xiaojie does not need to be anxious on Da Longtous spirit in heavens behalf. Right now the only thing you must think about is the deep pleasure after you put that thief Li Mi to the blade!

    Zhai Jiaos pair of huge eyes lit up; she spoke with conviction, If Die is allowed to be reincarnated as a healthy little treasure, and if I could find that little treasure, wouldnt it mean that I will be together with Die? You, two kids, must find a way for me to do that!

    Hearing that, the two boys were grieving inside.

    Up to this moment, Zhai Jiao still could not accept the brutal truth that when Zhai Rang died, he would never come back, hence she made that kind of opening-the-heaven request.

    Under repeated urges from her, Kou Zhong grabbed his head and said, The only way if we could find a medium who is able to communicate with spirits to inquire, to see if Da Longtou can personally furnish information for us.


    Zhai Jiaos huge palm slapped heavily on the back of Kou Zhongs shoulder; the pain made his teeth ached and his mouth split. She spoke in great delight, This kid really know how to use your brains; in Jianghu, those who are experts in communicating with spirits, none can surpass one from a sect in Sichuan province, the Tong Tianzhen Mu [lit. old woman who communicate with deities], Xia Miaoying. After killing Li Mi, you guys will accompany me to look for her.

    Kou Zhong blurted out, What kind of heretical sect is that?

    Zhai Jiao angrily said, As long as we can find Die, why do you care whether she is from heretical or orthodox sect? Are you going to accompany me or not?

    Xu Ziling feebly said, However, we want to look for Su Jie first.

    Zhai Jiao was severely shaken, Susu is still alive?

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, Who said Su Jie hey!

    Hot tears were starting to form on Zhai Jiaos eyes; her voice trembled as she said, Where is Susu?

    To this Big Miss, the two people closest to her in this world were Zhai Rang, and next in line was the beloved maid who grew up with her. This moment, hearing that Susu was still alive, she was overwhelmed with emotion.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling felt a stab of pain in their heart at the same time; they were overwhelmed with intense remorse that they felt they had no face to see Zhai Jiao.

    Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, Su Jie is in Baling right now, she ay! She is married and bore a son.

    Zhai Jiao suddenly reached out to grab Xu Zilings arm; she shouted, After killing Li Mi, we will look for Susu first, and then well go to Sichuan. What kind of guy did Susu marry?

    Kou Zhong felt so helpless that he replied with a voice so low that it was barely audible, That guy is called Xiang Yushan, a great general under the self-proclaimed Emperor Liang, Xiao Xian. Ay! This guy

    With teardrops hanging on her face, Zhai Jiao revealed a sincere smile; she was not even aware that there were more to what the two boys were saying. Letting go of Xu Zilings arm, she said in happiness, Susu did not die, thats good enough!

    In fear and trepidation, Kou Zhong tried to feel her out, We still need to get one or two things ready before we could look for Su Jie.

    Contrary to the two boys expectation, Zhai Jiao nodded and said, I also have something else I need to do; lets see if we could agree on a time and a place, then well go together to Baling!

    Naturally the two boys did not dare to refuse; they could only groaned inwardly, sad and dejected.

    The joy of victory was completely replaced by deep guilt.

    ※ ※ ※

    After escorting Zhai Jiao back to her quarter at the Commander Mansion, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling went to the rear circular pavilion and sat down face to face, with worried look on their faces.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, It would be best if after Da Xiaojie sees that Su Jie did not marry the right person, in her anger she would kill us, and then we can be reincarnated, all worries of the previous life would be forgotten, once the main problem is solved, all troubles are solved.

    Sitting dejectedly on the stone bench, Xu Ziling shook his head and said, That is a cowards way of thinking. After we get to Baling, we must get Su Jie, mother and son, out of there, no matter what. Anybody dares to oppose us, we kill them.

    Kou Zhong bitterly said, If it was Su Jie who wanted to oppose us, are you saying you would kill her too? Besides, even if we tell her that Xiang Yushan is a hundred percent crook, with Li Jing already hurt her heart deeply, how could she take another big blow?

    Burying his face in his hands, Xu Ziling groaned, Oh Laotianye! Please tell us what to do.

    Frowning deeply, Kou Zhong mused, Perhaps Bu Tianzhi will be able to help us in this matter. At least he could go back to Baling and sound Su Jie out, and then based on his information, we can work something out.

    Xu Ziling looked up and said, That is in no way the only thing we can do in this matter. It would be best if we could grab Xiang Yushans biggest weakness, and then force him to voluntarily let go.

    Kou Zhong reached out to put his hand on Xu Zilings shoulder; lowering his voice, he said, After our business in Jiangdu is finished, you and I will go back to Baling together; momentarily we are going to set aside all those Duke Yang Treasure or what have you, what could be more important than Su Jie?

    Stunned, Xu Ziling said, That wont work! Unless you dont want to contend for the world anymore. This is a matter where every moment counts.

    Kou Zhong sat down and with rueful smile he said, Su Jie is now our only family in the world; if she has any mishap, Ill never be happy, and then why would I even want to contend over the world?

    Xu Ziling nodded and said, From Jiangdu taking the boat to Baling in the west will only take us ten days. I am only afraid that Xiao Xian will not let us take Su Jie away; this must be considered in details. Its late! Lets go back and have some rest!

    ※ ※ ※

    The next day the city of Yanshi was still buzzing with the after-the-big-victory excitement; the army officers went around on horseback to encourage the soldiers, in preparation for the next major battle. The siege equipment was already on the main street leading to the southern gate, ready to be transported out of the city and toward the opposite bank any moment, giving out the impression that they were going to attack Luokou.

    Because the waterway was sealed by the enemys fortification, the land route to attack Luokou was the only feasible alternative.

    By wu hour [11am 1pm] two warships from the Eastern Capital began to dock, another great general, Zhang Zhenzhou, received Wang Shichongs order to come, bringing rewards for the three armies on the big victory, as well as bringing one thousand reinforcements.

    Zhang Zhenzhou and Yang Gongqing had a closed meeting in a private room. It was a full sichen later that they finally summoned Kou Zhong in, while completely disregarded Wang Xuanshu.

    The two generals expression looked strangely grave.

    After sitting down, Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, What could possibly happen? Could it be that Yang Dong and Dugu Feng have gained the upper hand?

    Zhang Zhenzhou let out a cold humph and said, After Dugu Feng learned about Li Mis big defeat, he immediately fled the Eastern Capital. We forced our way into the Imperial Palace, and had Yuan Wendu and Lu Da executed on the spot. Concerning Yang Dong, the Eastern Capital has completely fallen into our hands.

    Kou Zhong was at a loss, Then why is the two Great Generals countenance so unsightly? he asked.

    Yang Gongqing spoke in heavy voice, Right now Shangshu Daren is just about to force Yang Dong to abdicate, ready to proclaim himself the Emperor.

    Zhang Zhenzhou joined in, Zheng Guogong [Duke of State] wanted to use Zheng as the official dynastic name, and bestowed his family and relatives big titles; as far as I know: he is going to set up Xuanying as the crown prince, Xuanshu as Han Wang [king], Wang Honglie as Wei Wang, Wang Xingben as Jing Wang, Wang Taizhen as Song Wang, Wang Shiyun as Qi Wang, Wang Daoxun as Lu Wang. And then the two of us plus Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu will become Four Subduing Generals, to be stationed in four principal big cities outside the Eastern Capital.

    Kou Zhong suddenly saw the light.

    Wang Shichong was not a capable person who could get things done; once in power, he impatiently bestowed big titles to his family and relatives. By doing this, how could he make the high-ranking military officers who have gone through fire and water with him accept wholeheartedly?

    This kind of nepotism was precisely the fatal cause of Wang Shichongs future defeat.

    Zhang Zhenzhou spoke ferociously, This matter has yet been carried out, but if this become reality, it will really dull other peoples heart. As a matter of fact, the reason we were able to deal a big blow on Li Mi this time, achieving splendid military success, no one rendered bigger merit than Kou Junshi, yet Daren did not utter a word about this, on the contrary, he ordered me to secretly spy on Junshi.

    Kou Zhong gratefully said, It is rare that two Great Generals have absolute confidence in me [orig. to give ones bare heart into somebody else keeping], but presently the most critical thing is the total eradication of Wagang Army; other matters can be set aside to be dealt with in the future.

    Zhang Zhenzhou and Yang Gongqing also realized that they should not be distracted by power and position arrangement in current emergency situation. Therefore, after further deliberation, they went their separate ways to handle their job.

    Kou Zhong returned to the rear courtyard to look for Xu Ziling. He was talking with Tu Shufang in the pavilion.

    Seeing Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling said, I already told Fang Shu [Uncle] about Su Jie, hoping that he could persuade Da Xiaojie to wait until we rescue Su Jie, mother and son, before she meet with Su Jie.

    Tu Shufang sighed and said, When Susu meet people who are not warm and virtuous, she always make us feel distressed about her. I now have more or less understood the situation. Ill take care of Xiaojie for you. Even if I told you, you would not believe me, but in order to raise funds for troops and provision, these past few years Xiaojie has been buying and selling sheepskin clothing, and the business is very good.

    Kou Zhong sat down and said, With Fang Shu and Xuan Xiong helping her, naturally her business will grow more and more!

    Thats why I said you wouldnt believe me, Tu Shufang said, This business is run entirely by her [orig. one hand, one foot]. Although she was using the funds left by Zhai Ye as her capital, and she employed our own people, but if not for her accurately see when the buy and when to sell, she would not be able to make big money like now.

    The two boys were greatly amazed; they would never have thought that Zhai Jiao had a knack for running a business.

    Tu Shufang went on, Apart from her desire to avenge Zhai Ye, her mind and spirit are all on the business. Other than having the brains to do business, we also need to see if her fists are hard enough. Therefore, Xiaojie watches her business very tightly; as long as I advise her a little bit, she will definitely agree to patiently wait for Susu to come so that they can meet.

    It was only then did they understand what Zhai Jiao meant when she said she had something to do.

    Tu Shufang said, Xuan Yong is a hard-to-come-by military talent, plus he is highly intelligent. If Xiao Zhong wants to conquer the world, he could be your left and right arms to help you.

    Embarrassed, Kou Zhong blamed Xu Ziling, You even told him that?

    Displeased, Tu Shufang said, Why would you want to conceal it from me? A real man sets up his conduct, he must stop at nothing, dont be afraid of what other people would say. Xiao Zhong has this ambition, Fang Shu cant be happier for you!

    After a short pause, his countenance turned serious as he said, Since Li Mis big tree has fallen, Wagang Army surely will be falling apart. Based on your relationship with Xiaojie, plus by means of your, Kou Zhongs current prestige in Jianghu, Xiao Yong and I can be on the go to campaign for you, to recruit a team of Wagang Armys elite troops. If we focus on younger generations and run a vigorous selection process, you will have a lot of power to support your great undertaking in the future. As for money for soldiers pay, you wont have any problem.

    Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, Thank you for Fang Shus support.

    With a slight sigh Tu Shufang said, That day, when together with Xiaojie we fled in panic, the thought of revenge was without prospects, but in a flash time for Li Mi to be executed is near at hand; nothing is impossible in this world. Fang Shu has very high expectations on you.

    Thereupon Kou Zhong asked him, Werent you used to serve under Gu Yingtai of Li Ping Countys banner? What happened to this person?

    Tu Shufang shook his head and said, That man appears to be in close relationship with Dou Jiande, even though he and Li Mi cannot exist together. It will be very difficult to persuade him to throw himself into your side. Just ignore him.

    The sound of footsteps came.

    The three turned to look, and saw the lucid and elegantly moving young maid Chuchu, shyly walking toward the three. While stealing a glance toward Kou Zhong, her beautiful eyes could not conceal the blissful expression.

    Pleasantly surprised, Kou Zhong said, Chuchu, when did you arrive? How come I did not know it?

    Chuchu greeted them with ten thousand good fortunes and said, Chuchu arrived here this morning to wait on Xiaojie. Kou Ye, you are very busy, how would you know it?

    And then she told Tu Shufang that Zhai Jiao wanted to see him.

    Knowing the fact about Kou Zhong and Chuchu, Xu Ziling tactfully left with Tu Shufang, to give the two an opportunity to be alone for some time.

    Momentarily, this pair of a man and a woman felt as if what happened to them was a lifetime ago; there were thousand words, ten thousand speeches, but neither knew where to start.

  16. #216
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 11

    Book 18 Chapter 11 Waiting for Dawn with Head Resting on a Spear[1]

    Kou Zhong smiled and said, Would you sit down, please?

    Immediately red clouds flew across Chuchus jade cheeks; shaking her head, she said, Its inappropriate [orig. not conforming to established standard/customs].

    Stunned, Kou Zhong asked, What customs?

    Biting her lip, Chuchu quietly said, Its the difference between master and slave!

    Kou Zhong did not understand, I am only your friend; we knew each other throwing snowballs in those days, since when did we become master and slave? he asked.

    Chuchu revealed a sweet, sweet smile on her face; apparently she was recalling the touching scene when they were playing and throwing snowballs at each other in Da Longtou Mansion that day. Delighted, she said, But that was different! Then you and Xu Ye were Su Jies yidi [foster (younger) brother]. But now you are people with status and position; even Xiaojie must respect you. Naturally I have to maintain etiquette!

    Seeing that she still maintained the adorable expression that made his heart beat faster that year, a hard to describe feeling welled up in his heart.

    Originally he wanted very much to tell her that he was still wearing the necklace she gave him as a present, but another thought made him give up this idea. He sighed and said, Go to hell with etiquette, I, Kou Zhong, am still the same guy who throw snowballs at you. Ay!

    If life can be started all over again, Susu would not have married Xiang Yushan.

    Chuchu spoke in low voice, If Kou Ye has no instruction for me, Chuchu must return to see if Xiaojie needs anything!

    ※ ※ ※

    By dusk that day, Zhang Zhenzhou led five thousand light cavalry toward Jinyong.

    Yang Gongqing, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, leading twenty light cavalry, sent them off.

    Only after making sure that Shan Xiongxins new army did not make any unusual move that they turned back to Yanshi.

    This moment, Linglong Jiao, who had been out to scout the enemy, was already back. Everybody gathered at the main hall of the Commander Mansion to listen to her report. Zhai Jiao, Tu Shufang, and Xuan Yong participated in the meeting, while Wang Xuanshu was out to inspect the army camp on the southern bank of River Luo, to strengthen their defense.

    Linglong Jiao said, Just as Kou Junshi expected, Li Mi led the defeated army to return to Luokou, and immediately consolidated his forces. He stayed for one night only before leading seven thousand cavalry out of town heading to the west. It appears that he wants to link up with Shan Xiongxins main force.

    Her pair of eye spewing flame of hatred, Zhai Jiao laughed coldly and said, This time well make him come alive, but go back dead.

    Tu Shufang spoke heavily, Li Mi is arrogant and conceited; he can win but he cannot lose. This time his troops morale is low yet he wanted to lead his troops to counterattack; this is only courting disaster.

    Kou Zhong shook his head and said, Although he takes defeat with bad grace, and is anxious to redeem his face, but in no way will he foolishly link up with Shan Xiongxins almost-out-of-provision lone army. This matter must not be lightly ignored, otherwise we will commit the grave mistake of underestimating the enemy.

    Yang Gongqing nodded and said, He is luring us to attack Luokou.

    Zhai Jiao was puzzled; she asked, Luokou basically has no risk to us, if we were to attack, Bing Yuanzhen, whos on the lookout, will immediately break down; why would Li Mi want to go there?

    Xuan Yong said, Li Mi will surely not cup his hands and offer Luokou to be taken. My guess is that he is hoping we would mistakenly think that he is going to join forces with Shan Xiongxin, hence we would seize the opportunity to attack Luokou and cut his return path to the east. And then, by the time we took our military supply wagon to cross the Luo River, he would start storming our crossing-the-river troops, while Shan Xiongxin go all-out to besiege the city. This scheme is very sinister, yet Kou Ye has already seen through it.

    Kou Zhong breathed out a long sigh and said, Li Mis fatal weakness is that he still thinks we lack food supplies, hence we had no choice but to urgently capture Luokou and plunder Luokous abundant provisions and equipment. Therefore, this is a luring-the-enemy scheme.

    Luokou was one of the five major granaries of the former Sui dynasty; altogether it had two thousand large cellars, each one stored eight thousand dan [approximately 100 liters] of grains. Although Li Mi had already opened the storehouse to provide relief for the people, but these past several years he continuously replenishes Luokous cellars to supply the needs of the Wagang Army.

    Zhai Jiao said, In that case, why dont we pretend to cross the river to lure him to attack us?

    Right now he is anxious, but we are not, Kou Zhong replied, Lets wait for Zhang Da Jiangjun [great general] to attack Jinyong first. When we have the advantage of Shan Xiongxin surrendering, we can concentrate our force to deal with Li Mi.

    And then he asked Linglong Jiao about the situation of the army camp up Mount Mang.

    Linglong Jiao replied, Those supporting troops are all old, weak, and injured soldiers; this morning they started to withdraw to the north. Looking at the situation, they seem to cross the river toward Heyang.

    She added, The heart of Shan Xiongxins troops is unstable, there is a continuous stream of men abandoning their weapon and running out of the army camp, so that although their number is quite a lot, there is no fighting spirit, as well as the ability to fight.

    Kou Zhong was emotionally moved, Do you know how many have escaped? he asked.

    Linglong Jiao replied, They are crawling over the wooden fence to escape. Eight out of ten watchtowers set up outside the camp have no one to man, but since the escape attempts were all in the evening, the exact number is difficult to estimate. I caught several deserters to interrogate, and all said that in the camp, rumors are flying around everywhere; some even say that Li Mi had been killed by us. Therefore, everybody had no heart to continue fighting zealously. Shan Xiongxin even stopped building the siege equipment; he is acting like they are going to withdraw.


    Yang Gongqing slapped the table; his spirit greatly aroused, he said, Li Mis biggest mistake in life is using this kind of mob to attack us.

    Linglong Jiao said, Nearly all of Shan Xiongxins troops are infantry, warhorses are less than five hundred. Now they already started limit the ration per person, each day they only allocate half of normal ration, I am afraid they wont last too long.

    After casting a glance toward Xu Ziling, who had been silent throughout, Kou Zhong said with delight, That will do! Basically we do not need to wait for Jinyong to fall to start crossing the river and carryout the luring-the-enemy scheme. I can guarantee that Shan Xiongxin will ignore Li Mis order to attack us, instead, he will hold his troops in defensive position, waiting for us to move to Luokou, and then he would escape without a trace. At that time he can bargain with us and talk about the terms of surrender.

    Everybody nodded in agreement.

    If it were Shen Luoyan or Xu Shiji instead of Shan Xiongxin, naturally the situation would be substantially different.

    Because Shan Xiongxin has always been an important high-ranking general under Duke of Pushans camp, who felt deep resentment on Li Mi, plus by rationing his troops, he could not bear to have a mob within his camp; how could he take a risk by throwing his life for Li Mi?

    Yang Gongqing concluded the meeting by saying, We will pretend to cross the river tomorrow, while arranging two supporting hidden troops at the same time: one to monitor Shan Xiongxins activity, the other will be in charge of dealing with Li Mi. If Li Mi is defeated again this time, he will lose his momentum and will no longer able to use the troops.

    ※ ※ ※

    Knock! Knock! Knock!

    From the footsteps, Xu Ziling already recognized Kou Zhong; he said, Come in! Why this time you are following etiquette, unexpectedly you know how to knock?

    Kou Zhong pushed the door and entered; he smiled wryly and said, Out of ten times, there were at least five times I knocked the door. Ling Shao seems to be full of anger tonight!

    Xu Ziling waited until Kou Zhong took his seat at the other side of the small table before saying, Since seeing Da Xiaojie, I am thinking of Su Jie more; how could I possibly have a good mood?

    Kou Zhong said, Worrying over Su Jie is not going to help, plus we must not act blindly without thinking, otherwise we are going to fall into Old Thief Xiao and Little Thief Xiangs scheme.

    And then he told Xu Ziling about Wang Shichong bestowing high-ranking titles to his family and relatives, and thus provoking Zhang Zhenzhou and Yang Gongqings discontentment.

    Detest and loathsome burst in Xu Zilings heart; he changed he subject, If tomorrow Li Mi does not fall into the trap, or perhaps he slipped away, do we continue pressing down there, and thus helping someone like Wang Shichong conquer the world for nothing?

    Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, The problem is not on us, its on Da Xiaojie, the Senior.

    Xu Ziling mused, As long as we tell Da Xiaojie that we want to pick Su Jie, she ought to accept it!

    His spirit greatly aroused, Kou Zhong said, This can still be considered feasible measure; if Li Mi flees back to either Hulao or Yingyang, we will be able to get rid of him in ten days to half a month. Frankly, I am worried that Ol Die and Shen Faxing would attack Jiangdu, in which case Flying Horse Ranch will be in danger. How can they deal with Zhu Can, that homicidal maniac devil, and deal with Ol Die and Xiao Xian at the same time?

    Xu Ziling agreed, After seeing how formidable a cavalry is, now I understand why that many people are eyeing the Flying Horse Ranch like a tiger watching its prey. Only warhorses bred and trained by them would be able to deal with Heavenly Policy Mansions Black Armor Cavalry. Therefore, if I were Ol Die, I would also view capturing Flying Horse Ranch as my top priority.

    Kou Zhong happily said, Its rare that Ling Shao and Xiaodi have this kind of common understanding. Although Su Jies matter is important, it is not as urgent as Flying Horse Ranchs matter, which demand immediate action. Whether we can kill Li Mi or not tomorrow, we must immediately rush back to Luoyang, and after seeing Bu Tianzhi, we must slip away with Xu Xingzhi immediately. As for other matters, let them be Wang Shichongs headache.

    And then, he heaved a sigh and said, Only today did I finally understand why Liu Dage plainly fell in love with Su Jie, but he did not dare to reveal his love.

    Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, What did you understand?

    Kou Zhong spoke heavily, Liu Dage really likes Su Jie.

    Xu Ziling was bewildered, What is it that you are trying to say? he asked.

    Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, We have finally experienced how treacherous the battlefield is. Even Li Mi, that kind of talent, once he caught in disadvantageous situation, at the slightest pretext he must suffer the lost on the battlefield. Therefore, every trip to the battlefield, our little life is in Laotianyes hands, it is no longer ours to decide. Under this kind of circumstance, where being alive in the morning does not guarantee staying alive in the evening, how could we dare to hurt the frail heart of the woman we love?

    Xu Ziling was silent for a moment, before speaking slowly, Why do you suddenly have this feeling?

    Kou Zhong dejectedly said, When we were at the Da Longtou Mansion, without thinking I simply pulled Chuchu into my arms to show my affection to her, but today, although I am fully aware that she is a thousand times, ten thousand times willing, I did not dare to touch her even for half a finger; how could I not have any feeling in my heart?

    Xu Ziling wanted to say something, but in the end he remained silent.

    ※ ※ ※

    Early the next morning, the city gates have just opened, a train of military supply wagons and mule carts streamed out of the city toward the pontoon bridge, ready to cross the river.

    By this moment, five thousand strong elite cavalry under Yang Gongqing and Kou Zhong has also lain low inside a forest north of the pontoon bridge, where lookout posts were set on all high points around, to keep a close watch over any movement far and near.

    Like a flurry of snowflakes intelligence news were pouring in.

    Zhai Jiao was surprisingly quiet, making people felt her determination in killing Li Mi.

    Xu Ziling was acting as her personal bodyguard, afraid that if something happened, she would disregard any danger to such an extent that the enemy might be able to exploit her.

    Wang Xuanshus supply troops began crossing the river.

    This moment new intelligence arrived: Wang Bodangs troops stationed inside Jinyong had heard the news and were trying to escape to Heyang, while the citizens of the city opened the gate wide to welcome Zhang Zhenzhous main forces.

    Without costing a single troop a single soldier the city of Jinyong has fallen into Zhang Zhenzhous hands.

    In the meantime, just as expected, Shan Xiongxin did not make any movement.

    Linglong Jiao rushed over on horseback to report, Li Mis cavalry is coming at full speed; evidently they found out that we are crossing the river.

    Greatly delighted, Yang Gongqing hurriedly ordered all generals to be ready for battle.

    Kou Zhong could not help praising, Were it not for Miss Jiaos expertise in spying the enemys situation, and provide us with accurate intelligence, we would only be doing twice the effort for half the result. Definitely we wouldnt have the amazing efficiency of guessing the enemy like a deity like right now.

    Smiling sweetly, Linglong Jiao said, You are most adept at coaxing people.

    Kou Zhong humbly asked, Is there any key point in enemy reconnaissance?

    Linglong Jiao replied, The important part in moving the troops is intelligence. If you dont know the enemy, it would be like fighting the enemy blindfolded; it would be strange indeed if you dont get defeated. Therefore, before the three armies [referring to upper, middle, and lower, or right, center, and left armies] even moved, the scouting riders move in advance. Even ordinary provincial military unit must have a group of experts in reconnaissance, in order to know the enemys target.

    Considering own future, plus in this moment he flirted with this Qiuci beauty that she was staring at him, waiting in expectation, Kou Zhong pursued further, How do you train reconnaissance experts then?

    Linglong Jiao replied, First, you must select the people; they have to be adept in moving around and must be quick-witted. Only this kind of people will be able to take the mission upon himself. Second, they must be familiar with geography, environment, and local dialect of various regions, easy to blend in and make inquiries; it would be best if they have disguising skill, which will enable them to reach everywhere. If you could bribe a local or even buy the enemys man, that would be even more surefire.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, Turns out its so complicated.

    Lowering her voice, Linglong Jiao said, Why do you seem to be very interested in this kind of business, which is considered minor arts in the military?

    Kou Zhong did not answer, he asked her a question instead, May I ask you a question that probably shouldnt be asked?

    Linglong Jiao fixed her eyes on him for half a day before finally nodded and said, Ask away!

    Kou Zhong leaned forward slightly and said, What relationship does Miss Jiao have with Wang Gong? Why did you make light of traveling a thousand li from Qiuci to here to help him conquering the world?

    Hanging her head down, Linglong Jiao said, Why do you ask?

    Pretending nothing had happened, Kou Zhong said, Just curious!

    Linglong Jiao shook her head and said, If you just ask casually, I wont tell you.

    Stunned, Kou Zhong said, Is it a secret?

    Linglong Jiao has not had time to answer, Kou Zhong suddenly looked up to the sky, and blurted out, The time has come!

    [1] Chapter title: idiom, meaning fully prepared and biding ones time before the battle.

  17. #217
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 18 Chapter 12

    Book 18 Chapter 12 Bearing The Price to Pay

    When everybody heard Kou Zhongs cry of alarm, they all looked at him first, before copying him looking at the sky.

    They saw Shen Luoyans scouting bird continuously circling in the air, following a strange flight path.

    Immediately Yang Gongqing, Linglong Jiao, Xu Ziling, Zhai Jiao, and the others, who knew whats going on, countenance changed. This birds strange flight path was telling its master that there were hidden troops inside the forest.

    In order to hide from the eyes and ears of enemy spies, they have spent a lot of effort to lay the ambush.

    First, there was another team of cavalry attracting the enemys attention, to act as if they were guarding against Shan Xiongxins troops from attacking while the military supply wagons were crossing the river.

    And then there were lookout posts on higher elevation to watch for any activity before the cavalry left in the dark of the night by leading their horses along through the woods, before lying in wait at the present location. Naturally they wrapped their horses hooves with cloth and silk to avoid creating unnecessary noise.

    But after a thousand planning ten thousand calculating, they still did not expect this psychic strange bird to make its appearance.

    Quack! Quack! Quack!

    The strange bird flew in the northeast direction, which was the direction from which Li Mis cavalry was coming. This moment they already heard the faint noise of horses neighing and their hooves.

    Left and Right Wings move first! Yang Gongqing barked his order.

    The bugle horn was sounded.

    The ambushing troops two wings left and right vanguard, each one three thousand riders strong, rushed out of the jungle first, along a curvaceous path, toward the enemys flank.

    And then the center army swarmed out of the forest, galloping in neat formation along the grassy plain, straight toward the enemies galloping out of the sparse forest area ahead.

    Horsewhip went down, the warhorses let out long neigh, brimming with urgency and desperate circumstances.

    Warriors on fine steeds like a tide of violent waves drowned the prairie. Morning light reflected by the battle helmets, body armor, and soldiers weapon created brilliant, dazzling flickers of light.

    Mother earth quickly fell back.

    In just a few tens of xi the center armys eight thousand cavalry already entered the sparse forest region, forcing them to reduce their speed as they meet the enemy.

    Because the enemy was estimated at eight thousand, they did not have any misgivings about taking advantage of their superior number, and simply charged at the opponent.

    Now their only hope was to fight speed with speed; it would be best if the enemy did not have any time to retreat, or perhaps consolidate their battle array, so that they would be able to cut the enemys tail and kill Li Mi until he was utterly defeated.

    Kou Zhong, Linglong Jiao, Zhai Jiao, Xu Ziling, and the others were the first to gallop up a hill. They saw on the forest about half a li ahead dust was rolling up to the sky, along with rapid hoof beats, but the hoof beats were fading away.

    Zhai Jiao shouted, Chase after them!

    Kou Zhong shouted even louder, Dont chase!

    Zhai Jiao was furious, Why not? Li Mi is running away!

    This moment Yang Gongqing arrived and rode alongside Kou Zhong.

    Kou Zhong asked Linglong Jiao, Can that rolling dust be considered rising in columns, or scattered in disorderly manner?

    Linglong Jiao reined her horse that it snorted a blast of air from its nostrils; she called out, Wagang enemy troops are still in strict formation, not scattering randomly.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Just as I suspected. Shen Luoyan already guessed the ambushing troops, hence she deployed the strange bird to tell us to run after it. I dare say that they are setting up an ambush in the forest ahead. When we enter the trap, Li Mi would turn his troops around and attack.

    Good point! Yang Gongqing shouted. Immediately he ordered the bugle horn to be sounded to halt the advance, instructing the two wings vanguard team to stop where they were.

    Finally Zhai Jiao saw the light and clear-headed, but her mood was still surging up and down, her eyes were full of resentment.

    Xu Ziling paid close attention to Kou Zhong; he saw his eyes were as calm as still water, while exuding his intelligence and callousness.

    It was the first time that he saw this kind of expression in Kou Zhongs eyes, and could not help shivering inwardly, recalling what Kou Zhong said on the wall of Jingling city, when they were standing face to face against Du Fuweis magnificent army with thousands of men and horses besieging the city.

    He was disregarding the life and death, and simply regarded the entire battlefield as a chessboard, while both sides were the chess pieces striving for victory on the chessboard.

    After undergoing this battlefield experience, Kou Zhong has grown from a kid who had no idea how to do battle to an outstanding strategist, a commander who was able to anticipate the enemys movement like a deity.

    Yang Gongqing open-mindedly asked for guidance, What do we do now?

    Kou Zhong resolutely said, We only have to leave several thousand men to lay out a defense in here, so that Li Mi cannot make a cun of progress. The train of military supply wagons must continue crossing the river. Furthermore, we must send separate rapid cavalry force to go straight to Luokou; attack the city so that he wont have time to deal with it.

    Xuan Yong said, If Li Mi turns his force around to defend Luokou, do we still want to attack?

    Kou Zhong said, Li Mi would not withdraw willingly; he still has hope in Shan Xiongxin. When Shan Xiongxin take the opportunity to withdraw as we are advancing to Luokou, even when he realizes his mistake, it would be difficult for him to turn back; his only way out is fleeing toward Hulao.

    In the forest ahead, the dust subsided; obviously Li Mi also halted his troops, realizing that his scheme did not work.

    This action has increased Kou Zhongs persuasive power and his reputation a lot more than any lengthy discourse.

    Kou Zhong went on, Rapid cavalry effectiveness is that they will be able to reach Luokou one step ahead, to guard against Li Mi crossing the river and returning to the city. As a result Luokous Bing Yuanzhen will only have two choices: either abandon the city or surrender.

    Yang Gongqing let out a long laugh and said, Lets do it!

    ※ ※ ※

    After seven days, Li Mis, an ambitious and ruthless character of this age, fate was decided.

    Bing Yuanzhen, who was defending Luokou, surrendered to Yang Gongqings soldiers at the city wall. During this critical moment, Li Mis other great general Shan Xiongxin mustered his troops to defend the city, but Tu Shufang persuaded him to surrender.

    Li Mi knew his big momentum has passed; he had no choice but to lead his men escape to Hulao, while Wang Bodang retreated to Heyang.

    Kou Zhong and Yang Gongqing consolidated their men and horses, ready to follow up the victory and press home the attack, and then captured Hulao.

    Who would have thought that Li Mi fled at hearing the news, and escaped to Heyang to join forces with Wang Bodang?

    He originally wanted use the Yellow River as a barrier, while defending Taihang in the north, linking with Liyang on the east, in an attempt to rehabilitate from losing the battle.

    However, after the major defeat, the morale of his troops slackened.

    Furthermore, there was the factor of Wagang Army split into different factions due to Zhai Rangs early demise. One after another old generals refused to follow order, so that although Li Mi had the power, he could not exercise it, he had the military force but no territory.

    Also, because Wang Shichongs army had just acquired many cities and wide expanse of territory, he must rest to reorganize his forces; momentarily he was unable to cross the river to attack Heyang. Therefore, his strength was used up to pacify the Henan region, and temporarily the situation became standing opposite each other with the river as the barrier.

    That evening, in a side hall at Hulaos temporary government buildings rear court, Tu Shufang invited Zhai Jiao to talk to Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. He said, I have already revealed everything concerning the situation in the south, as well as Susus affair, to Xiaojie, because I think being forthright is better.

    Zhai Jiao stared viciously at the two boys and said, Such an important matter you dared to conceal it from me; see if I am not going to kill you two along with that Xiang Yushan.

    The two boys mumbled meekly; they did not dare to talk back.

    Zhai Jiao said, How could I be an unreasonable person? This time Li Mi has suffered enough trouble, without any hope of ever recover. Although I have not been able to put my blade on that treacherous bandit, at least I am finally able to vent Dies anger. I dont want to continue exerting myself for somebody like Wang Shichong either; what do you have in mind?

    Kou Zhong replied, Wed like to go back to Luoyang first, and then immediately go down south, helping the Flying Horse Ranch to fight against adversity and ensure their safety, and then see how we can take Su Jie, mother and son, away, and then come to join Xiaojie.

    Zhai Jiao resolutely said, I am going with you!

    Kou Zhong was shocked, Xiaojie definitely must not come with us, he hastily said.

    Why not? Zhai Jiao angrily said.

    Tu Shufang reached out to show his loyalty, What Xiao Zhong mean is that he is hoping Xiaojie would stay in the north, to help him contacting Wagang Armys talents that he could use, so that in the future we can start great undertaking together.

    Xu Ziling also said, If Xiaojie stays in the north, you can monitor Li Mi tightly, so that you might be able to take his dog life at any time.

    This remark was more effective than anything to move Zhai Jiaos heart.

    After pondering silently for half a day, she nodded and said, Very well! I will stay in the north. But I dont want to hang around that man, Wang Shichong. When are you going to leave?

    This matter should not be delayed, Kou Zhong replied, We are going to leave tomorrow morning.

    After expressing his desire to go back to Luoyang to Yang Gongqing, before Kou Zhong even explained the reason, Yang Gongqing already spoke heavily, Does Zhong Xiao Xiong wish to clear out at this point?

    Kou Zhong awkwardly replied, Da Jiangjun is really astute.

    Yang Gongqing reached out and put his hand on Kou Zhongs shoulder; his eyes flickering brightly, he said, Among the talented commanders that Ol Yang met in all my life, you are the one with most talent. If you gain more experience over time, it will be difficult to find your match in the world. Whats in your mind?

    Kou Zhong replied in low voice, Can I not have any plan for the time being? I just feel that Wang Gong is not someone that I can work together with, hence I want to temporarily retire, so that everybody can stay as friends.

    Yang Gongqing sighed and said, I understand what you feel. Speaking about merit and bestowing reward, how can your share be ignored? Tomorrow Ill have one of the warships to take you back to Luoyang, with the pretext that you are going to personally report the military situation to Daren, also to discuss whether we should immediately cross the Great River to attack Heyang. However, since you already have aspiration, it is not advisable to stay in Luoyang for too long; you know what I mean?

    Touched, Kou Zhong said, I will never forget the beautiful time fighting side by side with Da Jiangjun.

    Yang Gongqing removed his hand from Kou Zhongs shoulder, laughed aloud, and said, No better or worse than each other! I hope there will be other opportunities to gallop together on the battlefield, to attack the enemy and prevail over our opponents.

    ※ ※ ※

    Kou Zhong returned to the rear court. Someone called him from behind a corridor pillar, Kou Ye!

    Kou Zhong turned to look, turned out it was the moving pretty maid Chuchu.

    The beauty pulled him by the sleeve of his clothes toward a bamboo grove in the middle of the courtyard. She spoke gloomily, I heard Xiaojie mentioned that tomorrow we are going to part ways with you! Is that right?

    Kou Zhong heart ached; he could not help reaching out to caress the cheek of her heart-shaped face, and spoke softly, Its the southern thing. I will definitely come back to look for you, plus you can also see Su Jie and her white and plump baby!

    Thats great! Chuchu replied in delight.

    But then she hung her head in grief as she said, But this maid will have to spend many days without waiting upon Kou Ye.

    Kou Zhong could not help fishing out the pendant hanging on his neck, and said with a laugh, Look! Arent you always waiting upon me personally?

    Chuchus tender body shook severely, while her face shot a look of surprise, before throwing herself into his bosom; disregarding everything she hugged him tight, while crying tears of joy.

    Kou Zhongs heart was filled with soft jade, warm fragrance, as he smelled her seemingly unfamiliar, yet incomparably familiar, scent of her body; his mind was flooded with the intoxicating scene of the past, where death was at hand in the Big Boss Mansion. With both arms he embraced her tightly and said, Dont cry. As long as we can survive this chaotic time, there will come a day when we will be happy and no longer have to separate.

    This moment, either Song Yuzhi or Li Xiuning have become an out-of-reach distant memory in his heart.

    Chuchu suddenly left his embrace; with faint breathing she said, Chuchu forgot my manners!

    Unable to restrain his emotions, Kou Zhong pulled her into his bosom again; feeling her unreserved deep love for him, he said, Just remember! I, Kou Zhong, have never regarded you as having lower status, and I never will.

    Chuchus entire body, from head to toe, trembled; she said, Kou Ye, please take a good care of yourself.

    Finished speaking, she left with tears in her eyes.

    Kou Zhong sighed.

    For the sake of his great undertaking, must he make so much sacrifice?

    If he were a simple kid without any aspiration, this moment he could pledge his undying love for her, and then they could rest and fly together [idiom: inseparable], like a pair of mandarin ducks, together, wing to wing, passing through the night.

    But he has reached the where he could not extricate himself, his Shuanglong Bang [double dragons gang] men were waiting for his coming.

    Flying Horse Ranch was caught in a dangerous position.

    Susu was in urgent need of his rescue.

    Plus he and Xu Ziling had foes everywhere, there was danger at every step.

    This was the price that he had to pay.

    ※ ※ ※

    The warship sailed west against the stream.

    Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stood side by side at the bow, facing the river breeze, and the vast, unfathomable destiny waiting for them.

    Kou Zhong said, We will leave as soon as we can find Xu Xingzhi; even if we have to fight our way out, I still want to go.

    Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, Wang Shichong will not dare to oppose you openly like that; otherwise, how could he convince the masses? Besides, even if Li Mi died, he has not turned stiff yet; he would not be so dumb as to rattle the troops morale.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Make sense! I was thinking the same thing.

    Xu Ziling quieted down.

    Kou Zhong sighed and said, It was just like a dream; until now I still cannot believe that Li Mi, whose formidable renown gives him authority over the whole country, could be defeated by us.

    Xu Ziling sighed slightly and said, Inevitably there will be one day that you might realize that life is just a big dream, and becoming the emperor, toiling to become master of the universe is not at all real.

    Having said that, he could not refrain from thinking about Shi Feixuan, whose elegance was like an immortal.

    However, Kou Zhong was thinking about Chuchu, who was hiding in his bosom, weeping with grief.

    A gust of wind came, brushing the two boys clothes that they were rustling in the wind. The Eastern Capital Luoyang appeared ahead; majestic, towering in the distance. A spectacular scene.

    Would one day this grand city also fall to the enemy?

  18. #218
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 19 Chapter 1

    Book 19 Chapter 1 Get Stuck in Critical Situation Together

    The sun was setting in the west.

    The warship sailed speedily into the City of Luoyang, following the Luo River toward the Imperial City.

    On the city wall and the high points of all the watchtowers along the riverbank flags were flying, a festive scene of triumphant return after the victory.

    Ships and boats went back and forth on the river, pedestrians, horses and carts crowded the street; indeed it was a city bustling with prosperity. Seeing a warship entering the city, all passersby on both sides of the river waved and cheered, creating an enthusiastic atmosphere.

    However, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were not affected by this atmosphere at all. After scrutinizing the sign on the flag, Kou Zhong spoke in shock, Yang Dong was finally forced to abdicate!

    Although it was inevitable, yet still a bit too hasty. It could clearly be seen that Wang Shichongs desire to proclaim himself the emperor was urgent. From now on the Central Plains would have one more self-proclaimed emperor.

    Xu Ziling spoke in heavy voice, I do not wish to see Wang Shichong.

    Kou Zhong nodded in agreement, Seeing him does not have any significance anyway, he said, See if you could find Bu Tianzhi; Xu Xingzhi and I will look for you, and then under cover of darkness, we will leave the city. Ay! All of a sudden I have a little heart-alarmed, body-leaping ominous feeling. If I experience some mishap, kill Wang Shichong to avenge me.

    Xu Ziling laughed and said, How could Ouyang Xiyi let Wang Shichong to kill you? Based on his position in Jianghu, no matter what Wang Shichong must give him a little bit of face. Unless he has help from martial art masters of Ouyang Xiyi or Chen Changlins caliber, Wang Shichong is incapable to make a move against you. As long as you act according to circumstances, there should be no problem.

    Nevertheless, the two still agreed on ways to meet all kinds of contingencies. Only after they were done that Xu Ziling jumped into the river, swam toward the thicket by Luo River dike, and disappeared without any trace.

    ※ ※ ※

    The warship cast anchor at the dock outside the Imperial City.

    Wang Xuanying, Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu and the others led their men to meet him, and accompany Kou Zhong galloping toward the city gate.

    Kou Zhong pulled the rein to slow down, while casually asked about Wang Shichongs condition.

    Wang Xuanying sighed and said, Li Mis punch was no trivial matter at all, to this day Die has not been able to leave the bed, but he is in good spirits; all day long he is asking when he can see Kou Junshi again.

    Wang Xuanying was surprisingly polite and deferential, but listening to him, Kou Zhongs hair stood up on its end, and his heart was shivering in fear. Reasonably speaking, if Wang Shichong could not even get out of bed, he should not be this anxious to proclaim himself the Emperor.

    But why would Wang Xuanying lie to him? Kou Zhong inwardly wiped the proverbial cold sweat from his brows; he asked, How are Old Yi and Changlin Xiong?

    Song Mengqiu on his other side put on a fake smile and said, They are waiting by Shengshangs [ministers form of address for the current emperor] side, ready to meet Kou Junshis honorable self.

    Hearing that, Kou Zhongs heart sank even lower. Ouyang Xiyi has always extremely cherished him and Xu Ziling; hearing about their return, it was quite reasonable to expect him to come and meet them personally, but this time the situation was different, all government officials in the entire Eastern Capital have fallen under Wang Shichongs control, there was no need for Ouyang Xiyi to stay twelve sichen a day by Wang Shichongs side to protect him; at least Xu Xingzhi ought to come to meet him.

    Suddenly, Kou Zhong had a feeling that he was trapped in a tigers den.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling arrived at the place where Bu Tianzhi was staying in Luoyang, and found that the people were gone, the place was empty; moreover, the inside of the house was a mess. It appeared that they were leaving in extreme haste.

    The strangest thing was that there were no marking or secret sign as agreed, which was extremely unusual.

    Xu Ziling sat down dejectedly in a corner of the main hall. He was wondering inwardly whether Bu Tianzhis departure was related to Wang Shichong. If it was, then Kou Zhong was in danger.

    But he was still not too worried. Wang Shichong wanted to harm Kou Zhong, it was definitely not an easy matter.

    While he was musing, suddenly he heard footsteps approaching.

    Even with Xu Zilings usual cool composure, he could not stop his countenance from changing greatly. Because from the footsteps, he already recognized who the person was.

    At the same time, he knew that Kou Zhong was indeed in a grave danger.

    ※ ※ ※

    Who was the person Wang Shichong dreaded the most right now? Before, it was obviously Li Mi.

    But after Li Mi suffered crushing defeat, in this Central Earth central zone of the Yellow River basin, the Tang occupied Guanxi, Zheng occupied Henan, Xia occupied Hebei; they had become the three powers that stood like the three legs of a tripod [i.e. tripartite of balance of forces].

    But for Wang Shichong, the Zheng Emperor, contention for hegemony over the world was still a distant matter. The most pressing business he had to attend to was to stabilize the interior, to consolidate the outcome of the war.

    If Wang Shichong was able to personally orchestrated the military operation at Mount Mang, which resulted in Li Mis defeat, then the glory and prestige of the victory would belong to him, so that he did not need to have any misgivings to anybody.

    But the fact was not like this at all.

    Currently, Kou Zhong had, albeit inadvertently, established a sublime prestige within Wang Shichongs army, as well as developed a close relationship with generals under Wang Shichongs command. It would be strange indeed if he did not invoke Wang Shichongs suspicion and jealousy.

    Just by looking at how Wang Shichong bestowing high titles to his family and relatives, it was clear that he was a selfish and narrowminded person. And then there was precedence in Zhai Rangs case. Naturally Wang Shichong did not wish for Kou Zhong to become another Li Mi.

    On top of that, there was undoubtedly close relationship between Kou Zhong and Zhai Jiao. Anybody would be able to guess that Kou Zhong could potentially absorb Li Mis surrendering troops and defeated generals under his own banner. In which case, Wang Shichong would be in danger like he was raising a tiger.

    One by one these thoughts crossed Kou Zhongs mind. The more the thought, the more fearful he became.

    The cavalcade galloped into the Imperial City, heading toward the Shangshu Mansion.

    Why didnt they go to the Imperial Palace? Even if Wang Shichong could not get out of bed, he could be carried to the Imperial Palace.

    Wang Xuanyings voice rang in his ears, Why dont Ziling Xiong come with Junshi to pay his respect to Fu Huang [father emperor]?

    His thoughts wandering far away, Kou Zhong replied perfunctorily, He is like the floating clouds in the sky, with no interest to pay attention to earthly matters; even I cannot control him. Ay!

    The last sigh was for the developing situation that he had to face. Under this kind nasty situation, how could he contact Xu Xingzhi?

    Shangshu Mansion appeared ahead. Its brightly illuminated main gate was like a beast opening its mouth, waiting for him, a tasty morsel, to enter and satisfy its hunger.

    Kou Zhong was absolutely certain that once he stepped over the threshold, he would never be able to get out relying on his own power.

    Kou Zhong reined his horse to stop, and was the first to dismount.

    Myriads of thought flashed through his mind. The final conclusion was the thirty-sixth stratagem: if everything else fails, retreat.

    Currently, he and Xu Ziling were recognized as world-class martial art masters. Wang Shichong, who was fully aware of what was true and what was false concerning them, knew that if he wanted to take the little life of either one of them, other than he had to have enough power, it also had to be under specific situation and special arrangement before he even had any chance of success.

    And the main hall of this Shangshu Mansion happened to provide such a favorable place.

    Wang Xuanying leaped down and landed on his left side, and spoke cheerfully, Kou Junshi, please!

    Kou Zhong took a deep breath, and finally made the decision that was pivotal in nature to his destiny.

    ※ ※ ※

    After breaking through the wall and coming out, before Xu Ziling had the chance to spring up from the ground, his left ankle tightened, because Yuchi Jingdes Gui Zang [see Book 17 Chapter 12] Whip, which slid closed to the ground, so that it was very difficult to guard against, wrapped itself around his ankle tightly.

    The tiny suction cups along the body of the whip wound around tightly on his skin and flesh.

    If Xu Ziling had not seen Yuchi Jingde and Wang Bos battle, this moment he would have been trying with thousand ways, a hundred plans to shake off the loathsome entanglement of the Gui Zang Whip. But now, he was fully aware of the strange whip technique of this Heavenly Policy Mansion martial art master, with the changes that were impossible to guard against. He quietly thought that if he wanted to compete with the opponent in changes, he could forget about having his left foot intact.

    Thereupon Xu Ziling let out a cold snort, his left foot planted firmly on the ground, like an iron panel his entire body changed from lying supine to become standing erect with both feet on the ground.


    The Gui Zang Whip went taut like a ramrod, but Xu Ziling stayed perfectly still. The other end of the whip was held about three zhang away, in Yuchi Jingdes hand, whose build was extremely bold and powerful, who lowered his waist in a horse stance. But the latter was actually shivering inwardly. The technique he launched just now was meant to drag Xu Ziling down to the ground first, and then he wanted to exploit the pulling force of the suction pads on the body of the whip to break his ankle. But unexpectedly Xu Zilings internal energy, ingeniously unleashed, sucked the body of the whip firmly, and thus his ankle locked the whip so that it could not be moved instead. This kind of strange move was completely beyond his expectation.

    Sound of the wind sprang up everywhere.

    Five shadows separately flew in from the roof and walls of the front and rear courtyards, Surrounding Xu Ziling in the middle.

    Pang Yu, holding a four-chi long greenish-black awl stood on top of the wall. His sleeves fluttered in the night breeze, he looked extremely confident and at ease, but his eyes were sharper than a hawk, as from his high vantage point he ferociously stared at Xu Ziling, who seemed to be turning a blind eye to the besiege.

    Zhangsun Wuji, who dressed in dark green Confucian scholar attire, with fair skin and delicate facial features, stood with his hands behind his back at approximately the same distance on the opposite side of Yuchi Jingde, with Xu Ziling right in the middle. There was a jade Xiao [vertically blown flute] stuck on his lower waist. He was carrying a down-to-earth demeanor, without the slightest bit of swords-drawn-and-bows-bent attitude, free and easy as he was visiting a fellow scholar.

    But Xu Ziling did not underestimate him at all, because from his deep-pool, pavilion-and-high-mountain-peak bearing, he knew that his martial art skill could not be inferior to Yuchi Jingde.

    The other three were the saber-wielding Luo Shixin, the spear-wielding Shi Wanbao, and the truncheon-wielding Liu Dewei, who spread in all direction, and thus sealing all escape paths Xu Ziling might take.

    Xu Ziling fixed his gaze at the hole in the wall he created, and the debris of the mahogany chair scattered on the floor; he shouted in heavy voice, May I venture to ask Shimin Xiong, assisting Wang Shichong to deal with Kou Zhong, besides Yang Xuyan, who are the others?

    ※ ※ ※

    Applying his internal energy, Kou Zhong let out an earth-shattering shout, If Wang Gong is still giving a little consideration to the host and guest relationship, please come out to answer me!

    Wang Xuanying, Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu and the group of personal guards standing by his side were stunned; more than half immediately pressed their hands onto the hilt of their weapons as they backed off slightly and glared at him.

    His voice travelled far and wide, resonated throughout the Imperial City.

    The crow and peacock made no sound.

    Song Mengqiu cleared his throat and signaled the others with his eyes that they would not rush indiscriminately into action. Kou Junshi misunderstood! he said to Kou Zhong, Shengshang is still lying on the dragon bed to recuperate from his injury, hey

    Sneering, Kou Zhong said, Didnt General Song tell me that Old Yi and Changlin Xiong are inside the Mansion? How come they did not utter a single word?

    Immediately Song Mengqiu was at a loss for words.

    Kou Zhong exerted his authority without sparing anybody; letting out a long laugh, he said, There is an old saying, the birds are over, the bow it put away. Humph!

    Clink! Clank! there were repeated sound of metal clashing against metal.

    Wang Xuanying and the others did not wait for him to finish speaking, they already exposed the foxs tail; one after another they drew their weapons.

    With another long laugh Kou Zhong soared to the sky, prompting Song Mengqiu, Lang Feng and Wang Xuanying, three men to also soar in pursuit.

    Countless archers showed themselves from the roof of the buildings nearby; immediately murderous aura filled the air, while battle cry shook the heavens.

    Who would have thought that Kou Zhong only rose for two zhang, unexpectedly he changed breath mid-air, changed direction diagonally, and flew toward the steps of the Shangshu Mansion?

    This move was a big, big surprise to everybody, and who among the pursuers had the ability to change his breathing midair like him? They all went to far and rose two more zhang up into the air, so that the several hundred archers hiding on the roof refrained from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vases, nobody dared to release the arrow.

    Before even landed on the ground, Kou Zhong already pulled the Moon in the Well.

    Over a dozen Wang Shichongs personal guards, like wolves and tigers, charged toward him; it looked like very soon Kou Zhong would be caught in chaotic warfare.

    Kou Zhong knew that if he was held up by these personal guards even for a while, he would fall into siege by hundreds, even thousands Wang Armys troops. And if that happened, even Ning Daoqi would be hard pressed to escape the misfortune of fighting to the death. With a loud roar, his body following his saber, he charged into the enemys formation.

    The Moon in the Well turned into cold ray protecting his body. The two personal guards at the front blocking his way were immediately thrown sideways and fell to the ground.


    Another man, along with his sword, was hacked that he flew backward and fell. After consecutively knocking two more personal guards, he rolled down the steps.

    By this moment, from the bottom of the steps, amidst the shouting and yelling, the saber flashes and sword shadows, the enemy was swarming up the steps like a tidal wave. Momentarily he could not see clearly just how many the enemies were.

    Kou Zhong did not dare to jump high; suddenly he flew sideways, avoiding more than a dozen enemy charging at him, rushing along the Shangshu Mansion toward the east, to the closest Xuanren Gate, while murderous intent filled his breast.

    One after another the enemy came to intercept him.

    Kou Zhong was well aware than Xuanren Gate must be swarming with massive military force and martial art masters, so heading that way was actually his ruse to confuse the enemy.

    Actually, if all the gates of the entire Luoyang, a capital city consisted of the Imperial Palace and the Imperial City, were closed, and the city walls, which were several zhang high, were covered with archers, even if he grew wings like a bird, it would still be difficult to cross over; the security was that right.

    Fortunately, inside the city, there were high buildings everywhere. Although the upper floors were surrounded by high walls on all sides, but all the walls always had a portal, with the balconies usually linked together, so that it would be a very good place to play hide-and-seek.

    Wang Shichong was a man who loved to put on a good face, so he did not want Kou Zhong assassination, this kind of scandal, to be spread outside; therefore, he wanted to lure Kou Zhong into the Shangshu Mansion to be killed there, to prevent Kou Zhongs blood from staining his Palace City.

    Kou Zhong estimated that as long as he was able to escape out of the Shangshu Mansion limit, Wang Shichongs ambushing power would be weakened considerably, hence Kou Zhong would have a hope of escaping alive.

    Kou Zhong changed direction again; he went around toward the back of the Shangshu Mansion, and darted toward the stable [orig. Taipusi, court of imperial stud; office originally charged with horse breeding] and the workers quarters. Crossing over these two magnificent structures, he came across a row of Dalisi [judicial officers office], Zongzhengsi [directorate of the imperial clan], Waterworks Supervisor office, and the Commandant of Guards office [these last two were part of Nine Ministers of the Imperial China], which stood side-by-side, and connected to the Hanjia Gate and the Deyou Gate, which was the Imperial Citys north exit.

    On both sides were high city wall reaching more than ten zhang. This moment, amidst the sound of bugle horn, a team of more than a hundred armored soldiers charged out of the back of Shangshu Mansion straight toward him. While above the wall there were shadows of enemy soldiers everywhere.

    To break his way over the wall was practically out of question. If there were no enemies on the wall, relying on his skill of taking a breath midair, he might be able to do, albeit with difficulty. But under the enemies merciless lance, spear, arrow and dart, jumping up would be tantamount of throwing his life away.

    His only choice was through the other five exits leading out of the city.

    First was through either Xuanren Gate or Dong Taiyang [East Sun] Gate, which were connected to the east-west major road in front of the Shangshu Mansion.

    The Xuanren Gate was the east exit out of the Imperial City. Just now he already tried and this road ought to be closed, so he could forget about it. The Dong Taiyang Gate was the road leading into the Palace City.

    Chengfu Gate was the south Imperial City exit of the Shangshu Mansion. Unless he was willing to turn around and throw himself into the embrace of Shangshu Mansions main force, he would not need to spend any effort to break through it.

    The remaining choice was the Hanjia Gate and Deyou Gate, these two layers of gate at the front.

    Between the two gates, there were the Hanjia Granary, Zhuanchu Rice Grain storehouse, and other things. Kou Zhong has been involved in the hostilities against the Palace City in the past, so he knew the Capital City situation like the back of his hand. Its just that he never expected that in the end he would use this knowledge to run for his life!

    Saber flashes flickered continuously, two sabers hacked down on him from left and right, the power was adequate; obviously these two were the best and brightest among the personal guards within the Wang Army.

    As soon as he saw the saber momentum, he knew that if he charged forward to meet the attack head on, the enemy troops would arrive, and then he would be besieged in the middle again.

    The biggest advantage he was able to maintain until now was denying the enemies any opportunity to entangle him, instead, he took the enemy going around in circle, to make use of the Imperial Citys terrain to run this way and that, in order to confuse the enemy.

    Once he lost this advantage, it would be the end of Kou Zhong.

    The Moon in the Well parried left and right in succession, while at the same time he retreated swiftly.

    As soon as the two attackers sabers met Kou Zhongs, they screamed because they were hit by the spiraling energy, like a windmill they spun away; not only their mouth spurting fresh blood, their companions behind them did not have time to dodge that they all were hit and fell to the ground while groaning in pain. It was as if they were hit directly by Kou Zhongs spiraling energy.

    The more than a dozen enemies intercepting him with torrential momentum were immediately utterly defeated.

    Kou Zhong was also overcome with lost of strength.

    Although the two saber strikes ingeniously sent out the spiraling energy to pierce through the opponents body, it also cost him considerable true energy that he was unable to follow up the victory by pressing home the attack, and was unable to force his way into the enemy ranks toward the Hanjia and Deyou, two layers of gates on the city wall ahead.

    But he was already extremely satisfied.

    Suddenly traversing seven zhang, he evaded the violent-tidal-wave-like more than a hundred enemies streaming out of the Shangshu Mansion behind him.

    He decided to abandon his plan to charge ahead.

    Because in order to reach the two-layer outside gate, he still needed to pass through the Taipusi, the worker supervisor office, and others, six buildings in total.

    Since Wang Shichong already planning the scheme to kill him, it was only natural that he would prepare ambushing troops in those buildings, waiting for him to walk right into the trap.

    The only way out with his life was to enter the Imperial Palace, where he then could exploit all kinds of situation to open up opportunities for him to escape.

    Letting out a long whistle, Kou Zhong soared in an angle toward the city wall separating the Imperial City with the inner Imperial Palace.

    Darts and arrows split the air.

    Kou Zhong changed the direction of his true qi from slanting up to slanting down, so that the several dozen powerful arrows flitted across overhead, while he threw himself to the bottom of the city wall, and then, staying close to the wall he bolted in the direction of the Shangshu Mansion.

    Like a bolt of cloth the enemy rolled down on him.

    Hundreds of torches and lanterns shining down their light from the top of the wall and all around the Shangshu Mansion. Sabers, swords, spears, halberds and body armors and shields flickered brightly under the light. The Imperial City suddenly turned into Asura [malevolent spirit in Indian mythology] hell of bloody battle.

    Kou Zhong sped up constantly. Staying close to the wall he shot toward the Dong Taiyang Gate, the only gate leading into the Imperial Palace.

    He did not care anymore how many people he would have to kill, but he had to kill his way toward the Dong Taiyang Gate. Even if Ning Daoqi came in person, he would not be able to stop Kou Zhong.

  19. #219
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 19 Chapter 2

    Book 19 Chapter 2 Blood-soaked Capital City

    With his hands behind his back, Li Shimin leisurely walked out of the hole; he smiled and said, As long as Ziling Xiong is able to remain here for one sichen, Li Shimin guarantees that Ziling Xiong will be able to leave unscathed.

    Xu Ziling cast a sidelong glance toward Yuchi Jingde, who was continuously applying his internal strength to pull the whip as hard as he could. Remaining tranquil and indifferent, he said, Shimin Xiong must not lie to me. If not for you guaranteeing Wang Shichong that you are going to take care of Xiaodi, how could Wang Shichong dare to deal with Kou Zhong? Isnt he afraid that in the future he would not be able to sleep peacefully?

    None among Zhangsun Wuji and the others did not show astonished expression, they all felt the necessity to reevaluate Xu Zilings ability and wisdom.

    Xu Zilings conjecture demonstrated his deep understanding and cognition of human nature.

    Presently everybody in the world knew that Kou Zhong and Xu Zilings life and death were connected to each other; if they got rid of one of them, it would be strange indeed if the other one would not seek revenge. And if they gained this kind of dreadful enemy, anybody would have a hard time finding a good nights sleep afterwards.

    In his heart, Yuchi Jingde was having another strange feeling.

    The glance that Xu Ziling shot at him, as clear as a deitys, seemed to penetrate him inside and out that nothing was left out, knowing what is true and what is false in him, making him feeling so uncomfortable that he nearly spurted out blood, and the strength of his hands immediately diminished to some degree.

    With a wry smile Li Shimin said, Ziling Xiong understands Wang Shichong too well! But I, Li Shimin, have other ways to deal with my business; I will never let anybody else influence me.

    Xu Ziling laughed calmly and said, If Shimin Xiong is unwilling to answer my question just now, Xiaodi is going to charge to break the siege.

    Li Shimins eyes shot an emotional expression as he shook his head and said, In addition to Xuyan Xiong, theres also Xiaodis Er Shu [second uncle]. Ziling Xiong ought to know that Kou Zhong has no chance of returning alive. It would be better to stop at this point, I can then arrange to let you have Kou Xiongs remains.

    Li Shimins second uncle was Li Shentong, an outstanding martial art master within the Li Clan.

    Xu Ziling looked up to the sky, and fixed his attention to the half moon, which has just appeared on the eastern horizon; the tone of his voice was calm as if it did not contain the slightest bit of human world feeling, as he spoke heavily, I am going to make my move!

    A burst of hot tears welled up in Li Shimins pair of tiger-eyes; he turned around and walked away, while calling out sadly, Ziling Xiong, please forgive my offense!

    This sentence was the same as he was issuing an order to execute Xu Ziling. Immediately the atmosphere was filled with thick fire of war.

    ※ ※ ※

    Swift like a gale Kou Zhong slid close to the wall, both to evade the attack from the right side, also to make the archers at the top of the wall not have any access to take aim at him. The one thing that gave the interceptors the most headache was that when he encountered a powerful enemy, he would slid to the wall like a swimming fish, and avoided the enemy right on time. But when the enemy was weak, he would go all-out to make a kill. Over the short distance of about ten zhang, he had received more injuries, but the number of enemies slaughtered by him was also in the dozen. The battlefield was intense, but chaotic.

    He had just hacked two enemies blocking his way, sending them flying away, when from his rear left came a sharp and swift attack. Kou Zhong did not have time to look, using his left foot as the axis, his spun his tiger-body around, lightning fast the Moon in the Well chopped, he parried the attacking lance.

    As soon as he looked, he recognized the attacker as one of Wang Shichongs personal guards, a Pianjiang [deputy general] who also led the troops; he had chatted with him several times, and had even fought side-by-side with him.

    This moment the opponent showed a wry smile with a hint of helplessness as he drew the lance back. Kou Zhong originally wanted to follow-up with rapid succession of his treasure saber strikes, but he could not help forcing himself to pull back. While these thoughts were fleeting in his mind, three spears swiftly stabbed him.

    Kou Zhong easily somersaulted to evade.

    He saw that the Dong Taiyang Gate was no more than ten zhang away, but the gate was full of enemies, and all were wielding weapons that were beneficial to attack from a distance like lances, spears, halberds, and the others, which were most disadvantageous to him since he wanted to have a close range combat.

    And to the left there was a group of approximately a hundred men with fresh power, which was coming over to besiege him, with shields on their left hands and swords on their right hands; their formation was orderly. If he was intercepted, it definitely would be a dead end for him.

    Kou Zhong shivered inwardly.

    The enemy has obviously recovered after the confusion, and reorganized their offensive. Plus they obviously knew that he wanted to break through the Dong Taiyang Gate; therefore, they concentrated their main force there, so that even if he grew wings, it would still be difficult for him to fly.

    Four spears, like four streaks of lightning, were shooting at him.

    With his right foot pushing the wall, Kou Zhong changed direction, and charged toward a group of enemies. Saber and man united, more and more enemies fell face up as he stormed out of the siege.

    Although it has taken the enemy by surprise, but because there were enemy soldiers everywhere, he could only charge out of one siege into another, but the distance to the Dong Taiyang Gate was only six zhang now.

    A man, with a shield on his left hand to protect his body, hacked down on him with the sword in his right hand; full of momentum, carrying a gust of wind assaulting Kou Zhongs face.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, General Song, how are you?

    The attacker was indeed Song Mengqiu. The enemies all around matched Song Mengqius offensive; like tidal wave they surged over.

    Song Mengqiu thundered, If you immediately throw your saber away and surrender, I guarantee that Kou Xiong will die with intact corpse.

    Laughing coldly, Kou Zhong said, General Song is showing this much consideration to Xiaodi?


    Kou Zhong rapidly flashed away to evade the opponents sword momentum; with his shoulder he bumped an enemy to his left on the pit of his stomach. The man broke his bones and spurted blood, but by the time he fell down, Kou Zhong already flicked his wrist and the saber hacked down on Song Mengqius refined steel shield, creating a loud crashing sound that shook the entire battlefield.

    A spear tip pierced his shoulder blade from behind. Kou Zhong flashed, the spear was shaken that it slipped, only leaving a trace of blood.

    But Song Mengqiu bore the brunt.

    Kou Zhongs saber strike carried his full strength, with spiraling energy contained within it; so sudden like a thunderbolt, with an extremely powerful force, so that even with Song Mengqius skill, he was still hacked down by the saber momentum and was thrown nearly a zhang away, knocked his own men that they fell facedown to the left and tumbled down to the right, as if he was intentionally trying to open up a path for Kou Zhong.

    Song Mengqius entire left arm and half of his body went numb, but before he had time to hasten the circulation of his blood and qi, Kou Zhong, like his own shadow, followed closely. The murderous aura of the Moon in the Well, like a surging tide or angry wave, rolled in.

    While Song Mengqiu cried out, Not good!, Kou Zhongs saber, ingenious to the extreme, only gave him one option: he had to hastily raise his sword to block.

    The spiraling energy like a huge wave surging into him; Song Mengqiu groaned in pain, and then like a puppet in Kou Zhongs hand he staggered toward the Dong Taiyang Gate for a dozen steps or so, opening up a path for Kou Zhong again.

    Although the hundred something sword and shield wielders behind Kou Zhong desperately ran after him, all along they were always a few steps behind.

    Four, five spears stabbed from Song Mengqius left and right, hoping to stop Kou Zhong from using Song Mengqiu as his main target of attack.

    Kou Zhong knew that in this critical moment, if he could hack Song Mengqiu that he fell back a dozen steps or so, he could fight over toward the gateway, which was about eight zhang deep.

    Throwing his head back, Kou Zhong let out a long whistle, and used his remaining strength to circulate his true qi to all his four limbs and hundreds of bones in his body, and continued on into his saber. The Moon in the Well immediately exuded a deep, cold, fierce and severe murderous aura. The men blocking his way felt a deep, cold saber qi assaulted their faces; they felt as if their body had entered an icehouse, and had difficulty breathing.

    The saber wind screamed; powerful, severe and ear piercing.

    Song Mengqiu seized this opportunity to scamper away.

    After a number of heavy, dull crashes, none of the several spear-wielders blocking Kou Zhongs way was lucky not to have his spear broken and stagger left and right, with one wound or another.

    Because his true energy was at the point of exhaustion, Kou Zhong steeled his will to make a somersault to evade the massive military offensive coming from four sides, eight directions, toward the Dong Taiyang Gate. More than a dozen injuries on his body immediately sprayed blood; it was a scene shocking the eye, astonishing the heart.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling discharged Kou Zhongs safety, as well as his own life or death, entirely out of his brain ocean and heart lake. His lingtai [at the top of the head] was empty, clear, still, and bright, without the slightest bit of distracting thoughts.

    He did not reveal the slightest sign that he had clearly grasped the path, the angle and the order of the enemys attack.

    These six Heavenly Policy Mansion martial art masters of upper-ranked generals level were indeed worthy to be called old Jianghu veterans with real combat experience. Without even moving they were already able to seal tight all escape routes. When they moved, it would surely become like a seamless heavenly clothes [idiom: flawless]. The most formidable was Luo Shixins saber, Shi Wanbaos spear and Liu Deweis truncheon, which separately attack from three sides: front, rear and side, and the moment of their arrival did not differ. Even if he moved both hands at the same time, he could only block the opponents two weapons.

    Worst yet, his left ankle was still wrapped tight by Yuchi Jingdes long whip, so that he was unable to make significant shift or sidestep the attack.

    More frightening was Zhangsun Wujis jade flute, which arrived a hair later than the three mens attack, to make him know that even if he was able to parry or evade the three mens all-out first wave of offensive, he would still have to deal with Zhangsun Wujis all-out strike.

    Pang Yu, who was standing about two zhang behind him with naked blade in his hand, also presented enormous threat to him, making Xu Ziling feel deep apprehension, and forcing him to set aside spare energy to deal with his sneak attack.

    Fighting one-on-one against any one of these six martial art masters would be enough to force Xu Ziling to go all-out; combined together, their killing power increased exponentially. Under normal circumstances, any one of them would be able to inflict heavy injury to him, without giving him the opportunity to strike back.

    Where could he find the hole in the enemys joining hands, the escaping one? Such offensive was really difficult to dismantle; his situation was really dangerous.

    Suddenly Xu Ziling roared; sending the strength in his whole body to his left ankle, he attacked Yuchi Jingde along the body of the whip.

    Yuchi Jingde felt an enormous, matchless spiraling strange energy bursting into his hand; in his shock he quickly focused his entire strength to resist. Who would have thought that the opponents spiraling energy suddenly changed direction? From attacking force, it turned into a pulling force.

    But Yuchi Jingde was outstanding as well; lowering his waist in a horse stance, he pulled the Gui Zang Whip.

    This moment Luo Shixins saber, Shi Wanbaos spear and Liu Weides truncheon struck at the same time.

    Xu Ziling laughed aloud. Like a cotton wadding blown by a gale, with a speed that could not be discerned by naked eye, he broke away from the enemys siege. Swift like the wind and fire he ran into Yuchi Jingde. The enemys whips pulling force has become the helping hand for him to dodge the attack instead. Only Shi Wanbaos spear drew a wound on his left shoulder so deep that it split his flesh.

    Yuchi Jingde suddenly lost the pulling force, his own strength recoiled, even with his profound internal strength he could not help feeling unbearable discomfort that he nearly vomited blood. He staggered back, and his Gui Zang Whip, which followed an unceasingly growing in amplitude sine wave pattern, nearly fell to the ground.

    Pang Yu and Zhangsun Wuji, who were waiting for an opportunity on the side, could see everything clearly; they were both horror stricken.

    To accomplish such an impossible feat like Xu Ziling just did, one must be able to switch the direction of the true qi within ones body many times in the blink of an eye. It was only this moment they realized the formidability of the internal power from the Secret to Long Life.

    The two shouted at the same time, sword and flute moved together.

    More astonishing thing happened.

    ※ ※ ※


    Kou Zhongs saber hacked a long halberd stabbing toward him; borrowing the reaction force, he flew at an angle, straight toward the upper floor of the Dong Taiyang Gate.

    The enemies had never expected that he would choose difficulty and abandon easy, and they were overwhelmed with caught-unprepared feeling.

    More than a dozen long special spears, extending as long as three zhang, which were used specially to besiege a city, were swung toward him.

    Kou Zhong made a decision in his heart. Most of the power he used to soar just now was borrowed from the reaction force, so he still had some energy remained. Quickly he exchanged his true qi to generate new power, and somersaulted midair to evade the attack, while crossing more than two zhang of the city wall, and then going at an angle toward the city gate tower at the edge of the city wall standing against the Imperial Palace.

    From this angle looking northwest, he could see the inner city wall of the Imperial Palace, as well as the three gates, Yongtai, Taihe and Xingjiao, located at the southeast corner of the Palace City.

    Indeed as he expected, the three gates did not seem to have any special guards reinforcement. Therefore, as long as he could manage a slightly faster speed, he would be able to enter the Imperial Palace before the enemies had time to intercept him, and then he would attempt to escape.

    The top of the wall was in a great mess.

    Kou Zhong threw his person and his saber together at the enemy ranks with their raised lances and standing spears, while thundering, Death to those who block me!

    The Moon in the Well created a large circle of saber light overhead and pressing down, covering a large area. His power and qi was strong; indeed it was the strongest since his debut.

    In this fight for his life, he displayed his skill to the greatest extend.

    While the enemies were rushing to the east and turning over to the west, he set foot on the top of the wall.

    At this time he was only about two zhang away from the edge of the wall facing west. Success in sight, his will to fight rose up. Not daring to be negligence, while the enemys formation was still in chaos, the Moon in the Well charged toward the walls edge like rolling wind, rushing thunder; immediately blood splashed everywhere. Two men blocking his way were immediately hit by the saber on their chest, straight into their heart, and they fell one after another.

    Kou Zhong stepped on the enemies dead bodies, and then he moved around with slippery shenfa like a swimming fish, each strike of the saber resulted in one enemy fell down, and those who were hit by the saber died on the spot; there were only deaths, no injuries.

    His internal qi circulated continuously; as the old power was diminishing, the new one was being generated.

    Seeing he was this powerful, all around him the enemies heart and guts turned cold, and withdrew in profusion.

    Kou Zhong gained a few more injuries, but his murderous intent grew. His Moon in the Well displayed its capability to extreme saturation, as he, with all his heart and soul, rushing and moving around unhindered, with an insufferably arrogant air.

    Suddenly there was nobody in front of him but an empty air; turned out he had reached the edge of the city gate tower.

    Kou Zhong turned around, the Moon in the Well swept in a circle, seven, eight spears and lances clashed with the saber and broke.

    Everyone retreated in horror.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Laozi [I, your father] is leaving!

    With a back flip he jumped.

    Right this instant, two streams of qi power, thick and concentrated, strong and violent without equal, sharp like a blade, shot at him separately from underneath.

    Inwardly Kou Zhong was greatly startled, knowing that finally he encountered martial art masters who could send him to his doom; not only one, but two.

    Meanwhile, sound of weapons splitting the air was heard from behind, as six, seven spears were thrown at him from the top of the wall.

    ※ ※ ※

    Unexpectedly the Gui Zang Whip was pulled back taut.

    A wave of violent, abrupt pulling force, despite Yuchi Jingdes stable horse stance, has pulled him that he staggered two steps forward before he was able to steady his posture.

    Pang Yus sword and Zhangsun Wujis flute also hit empty air.

    It was impossible!

    It was clear as day that Xu Ziling was rushing toward Yuchi Jingde, appearing to attack him with all his might; who would have thought that when he was about half a zhang away from the opponent, unexpectedly Xu Ziling halted, and retreated to the opposite direction, pulling the whip along with him?

    This kind of sudden change in true qi could turn any martial art masters Eight Extraordinary Channels into a great mess, and even drive him into fire deviation; yet Xu Ziling did it casually, as if nothing had happened.

    The section of Gui Zang Whip wrapped around Xu Zilings ankle disintegrated into cun-size pieces. Laughing aloud, he said, Heavenly Policy Mansions martial art masters are indeed out of the ordinary; I, Xu Ziling, have the honor to experience it!

    They only saw him soaring into the sky, rising above the wall, and disappeared in the distant darkness.

    Everybody could only stare blankly on the spot, and looked at each other in disbelief.

    No one had ever thought that the whip, which on the surface seemed to put him in extremely disadvantageous situation, had become the one thing that he relied on to escape. Such an amazing magic trick was indeed beyond everybodys ability to play.

    Although they had such a high regard on Xu Zilings ability, it was not before they were engaged in a real fight that they understood the level of his attainments.

  20. #220
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Book 19 Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 Reaping the Result of the Battle

    Kou Zhong took a glance, and further affirmed the idea that it would be difficult for him to overcome the enemy with force. The two men soaring from this city gate to intercept him were wearing personal guard military uniform, but they wore helmet that covered the upper half of their faces. Obviously they did not want him to recognize their real appearance.

    The man on the lower left had a sword in his hand, which he turned into countless sharp points dazzling the eyes, reflecting the rays of light of the torches and wind lanterns far and near, making it difficult to see his figure, but Kou Zhong was clear, without any doubt that he was the Shadow Assassin Yang Xuyan, whom he had personally fought before.

    This man was indeed an amazing talent in using the sword; in terms of proficiency and power usage, he has reached the grand master level, plus his sword technique was exquisite. Just against him alone, Kou Zhong did not have any confidence of victory.

    The other man wielded a strange-looking weapon. It looked like a spear but not exactly a spear, like a halberd but not exactly a halberd; perhaps like an illegitimate son of the union between a spear and a halberd, but its offensive power was overbearing, his martial art skill was definitely on par with Yang Xuyans.

    While Kou Zhong was calling for his Niang inwardly, seven more spears were thrown from the top of the wall toward his back.

    Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, Xuyan Xiong, I trust you have been well since we last met!

    His body swayed left and right rapidly several times in the air, five spears flew pass closely left, right and above him, but unexpectedly he caught two in his armpits, the violent force helped him changing the direction of his fall, so that he flew over empty air forward, straight in the direction of the Yongtai Gate of the Imperial Palace.

    Even with Yang Xuyan and Li Shentongs ability, they could only pounce on empty air.

    When martial art masters fought against each other, they were actually fighting over this split second difference. By the time the two, applying their qi, landed back on the ground, Kou Zhong has already entered the Imperial Palace.

    For a moment a large number of pursuing soldiers swarmed into the Yongtai Gate, so that the situation became chaotic. As a result, the two were unable to move freely instead, and thus they could only sit and waste a good opportunity.

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling changed into another set of clothes, bought a steel saber, and put on a mask, turning his appearance to that which the Henan Mad Scholar Zheng Shiru mistakenly thought as the vicious, heretical Overbearing Saber Yue Shan of the previous generation. And then unhurriedly he strolled to the wine shop where he agreed that he would wait for Kou Zhong.

    He was confident that Kou Zhong could survive and escape to see him here.

    If Kou Zhong was dead, then Xu Ziling would stop at nothing to assassinate Wang Shichong and Li Shimin to avenge him, and then he would go down south to pick up Susu, mother and son, entrust them to Zhai Jiao, and then alone, he would go find Yuwen Huaji to settle the debt.

    Since they wanted to contend over the world, it was either you kill me or I kill you; nobody would have anything to complain.

    Suddenly Xu Zilings mind opened up, nothing occupying his heart.

    He was born, and he would die, there was nothing to worry about.

    Anything that ought to happen would happen.

    This moment, a couple of Jianghu characters stepped into the wine shop. As they caught a glance at Xu Ziling, sitting alone on a table in the corner, first they looked stunned, and then their countenance changed greatly, they hurriedly backed out.

    Noticing all these with the corner of his eye, Xu Ziling was baffled.

    It should be noted that Yue Shan had not stepped foot in Jianghu for several decades; unless it was old martial art master of the same generation, there should be no one able to recognize him. Why would two men, about no more than thirty years old, who randomly rushed in, recognize him in just one glance?

    Upon further contemplation however, he understood immediately.

    The news of Yue Shans arrival in Luoyang must have spread from Zheng Shirus mouth, or perhaps he informed a certain personage of from a powerful local gang or society, and that person ordered his subordinated to pay attention to such particular figure, and thus such thing occurred.

    But now that even Xu Ziling has become archenemy of Wang Shichong and Li Shimin, why would he care about other people?

    He just wanted to drink.

    If Kou Zhong was really harmed, what kind of blow would that be for Xu Ziling?

    When someone died, would he vanish like smoke in thin air, without leaving any trace, or would he be reincarnated as someone else?

    Kou Zhongs familiar footsteps were approaching.

    Xu Ziling looked up, but what entered into his vision was a personal guard in civilian clothes.

    Kou Zhongs gait was unsteady, as he sat down dejectedly on the chair next to him. Hidden by the mask, Xu Ziling was unable to see his face, but naturally he knew that Kou Zhong has received serious injury.

    After drinking a cup of wine, Kou Zhong hatefully said, Wang Shichong, the guy who should have been dead that day, unexpectedly joined hands with Li kid to deal with me, nearly took my old life away. Luckily I have an amazing skill of altering head and exchanging body, otherwise you wouldnt be able to see me anymore, unless you are willing to go to the underworld to look for me.

    Xu Ziling reached out from under the table to grab Kou Zhongs hand, and quietly transmitted his true qi, while speaking indifferently, Just now some people recognized me as the Overbearing Saber Yue Shan, so this place is not suitable to tarry long. We also have to find a way to shake anybody trying to pursue us.

    Taken aback, Kou Zhong said, Yue Shan?

    Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling replied, Whats so strange about that?

    And then, frowning, he said, Your injury is so heavy, dont even think that youll recover in one night, but that is only the internal injury; I am afraid the external will take two more days.

    Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, The only reason I was able to get away was I exploited Yang Xuyans assumption that my energy was completely exhausted, plus I led Wang Shichongs men from the Imperial City on a tour to the Palace City, running around for several li. The funniest thing was when I broke into Hougong [lit. rear palace, chambers of imperial concubines] and shouted that Wang Shichong was going to kill Yang Dong, the entire Imperial Palace was immediately thrown into chaos, so I seized the opportunity to exchange clothes with a friendly and kind-hearted imperial guard, and slipped out of there. Ha! Aiyo!

    Displeased, Xu Ziling said, Dont be happy too soon! What about Mr. Xu?

    Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, Lets go! If this hatred is not avenged, I am not a gentleman; the man of the mountain has excellent plan.

    ※ ※ ※

    The city of Luoyang was strangely quiet that night.

    Wang Shichong did not send his men to search for them. Anybody knew there was nothing to gain in this matter anyway.

    The two boys were hiding on the bell tower overlooking Tianjin Bridge. While transmitting his qi to help Kou Zhong recuperate, Xu Ziling told him about the siege Li Shimin laid out for him and how he escaped.

    Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air and said, Li kid is so vicious; I wonder Li kid did not send Li Jing, this makes sense, but why didnt he send Hong Funu to take part?

    Sneering, Xu Ziling said, You should not let this kind of thing harming your spirit! Now think about how to rescue Xu Xingzhi? The worst thing is that we dont even know if he is dead or alive, hows his situation? I just want to get the hell out of here.

    Kou Zhong closed his eyes. He silently received the true qi Xu Ziling transmitted into his body. It was quite a while later that he opened his eyes and said, What Wang Shichong needs the most right now is a Junshi [military counsellor] and an expert in strategy like Xiaodi, and Xu Xingzhi happens to meet that need. Although Xu Xingzhis martial art skill is nothing to brag about, in terms of ability and wisdom he is definitely not inferior to us. He must have a way to convince Wang Shichong that there isnt any close relation between him and us, and the fact is there is none. Therefore, he must be safe and sound.

    And then he sighed and said, If my enemy is only Wang Shichong, I dont have to worry so much, but with Li kid added into the equation, it is another matter altogether.

    Didnt you say you have another excellent plan? Xu Ziling reminded him.

    Kou Zhong nodded and said, Tomorrow Ill go to see if Xu Xingzhi has left any message for us, and then Ill try to get in touch with the man Song Jingang left in Luoyang, to get a better understanding of the situation in Luoyang. Ay! Suddenly looking ahead and looking back, I see no one familiar; it makes me feel so uncomfortable.

    Xu Zilings heart was moved; he quietly thought that he ought to also look for the delicate and pretty, the beautiful Qiu Tongtong, whom Liu Heita left here, to try to scout for the news.

    Kou Zhong thought hard, Now the situation of all parties is so urgent, why does Li kid deliberately waste his time so many days in the Eastern Capital? There must be a reason that we cannot see through yet.

    Xu Ziling spoke in low voice, Save your energy! Other things can be figured out after daybreak!

    ※ ※ ※

    The next morning the two went their separate ways to do their job.

    In Luoyang, everything looked normal; it even looked more prosperous than before.

    Xu Ziling put on a mask that he had never worn before; he disguised himself as a poor, grieving scholar, as he treaded the familiar path on his way to look for Tongtong.

    It was only when he reached the shop that he shed his disguise to show his real identity and entered the shop, and a short moment later he met with Tongtong in a room at the rear courtyard of the shop. The latter was packing up; obviously they were about to leave.

    Seeing his visit, Tongtong spoke in great delight, I was so worried about two Daye, but seeing Xu Ye safe and sound, I will have good news to report to Liu Ye.

    After being seated, Xu Ziling asked, Is Miss Tongtong leaving?

    Tongtong nodded, Now the situation is critical, she replied, Xia Wang [King of Xia] already formulated plans for attacking Xu Yuanlang. Next turn will be Yuwen Huaji. Otherwise, once the Li Army is out of Guanxi, it will be too late for us to regret.

    Xu Ziling nodded in agreement.

    In the School of Military, to seize victory, every moment counts.

    Now that Li Mi was defeated, the whole situation changed.

    Among the three major forces in the Central Plains, inside and outside the Pass, each faction had their own challenges and urgent matters they had to deal with.

    Li Yuan still had Xue Ju, father and son, this fear of trouble in the rear, also the glaring-like-tiger-watching-its-prey, waiting-for-an-opportunity-to-move Liu Wuzhou.

    Wang Shichong still had to consolidate the result of the war, receiving Li Mis defeated army and his territory, and to eradicate Li Mi once for all, to pull him up by the roots.

    For these reasons, Dou Jiande must seize this golden opportunity to clear up the enemies that would block his move to the south. Xu Yuanlang being the first, and then Xu Zilings own personal enemy Yuwen Huaji next.

    For the time being, Wang Shichong had become the center of the battle instead. Whoever captured Luoyang would be able to control the river transportation hub to the north. And when that happened, nobody would be able to stop his advancement to the south.

    With grave expression, Tongtong said, According to the secret information I obtained, three days ago, Li Shimins subordinates, Li Jing and his wife set out toward Heyang; it does not look like a good thing.

    Xu Ziling was severely shocked inwardly; his countenance changed, he said, Li Shimin wants to take Li Mis defeated army into his, he wants to recruit the surrendering soldiers.

    Frowning, Tongtong said, How could Li Mi be content to be someone elses subordinate?

    Recalling Kou Zhongs analysis on Li Shimin, Xu Ziling replied heavily, Enduring it is a small matter, but a big scheme in this upheaval. Right now although the world is big, Li Mi has no place he could hide, no road he could flee to. If Li Shimin could offer him shelter, to keep away from the way the wind blows and the intensity of the fire, it sure is better than ending up failing and wiped over the floor.

    Tongtong still did not understand, If the rumors are true, Li Shimin is said to be both wise and courageous. He should know that recruiting Li Mi is just a case of nurturing a tiger inviting calamity.

    Xu Ziling nodded, Your comment is not without reason. But let me go a layer deeper: Li Shimins trick is mainly done for others to see. He wants to show clearly that even an ambitious and ruthless hegemon of a region like Li Mi, he would welcome with open arms and breadth of mind, that following him would mean prosperity. This is probably the reason why he had to fight less on so many battles.

    Tongtongs tender body trembled slightly, her beautiful eyes shot reverent and admiring look as she spoke in low voice, Tongtong surrenders! Xu Yes deep knowledge of Li Shimin is just like you are able to see through him clearly. That must be it, and that is the only reasonable explanation.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, Most probably Li Shimin is the one person in the world, in the present age, who knows how to use that kind of strategy the most; a capable person acting as an incapable person, conducting himself as if he is a nobody. And now I am worried for Kou Zhong! He painstakingly defeated Li Mi, yet without a single thank you the Li kid took over his biggest achievement.

    Tongtong said, The situation is getting tense now. After Wang Shichong consolidated his troops, he started to force other parties men and horses to withdraw from the Eastern Capital. This is the other reason why we want to withdraw.

    I wonder if Fu Qian, Tuli, Wang Bo, and the others are still in Luoyang? Xu Ziling asked.

    Fu Qians situation, I am not too clear myself, Tongtong replied, But one after another Tuli and Wangbo have left the city, presently their destination unknown. Ay! The Mount Mang Military Expedition has turned the entire situation upside down, and now nobody knows what will happen next. Only one thing is for sure, Kou Ye and Xu Yes prestige in Jianghu has exploded many times over; nobody dares to take you lightly.

    How could Xu Ziling care whether his reputation was better than before? He asked further, Do you have any information on either Huang Gongcuo or Yin Gui Pai?

    Tongtong replied, I heard Huang Gongcuo is returning to the south. As for Yin Gui Pai, they have always been secretive, nobody knows what they are doing.

    Xu Ziling felt something was really wrong. With Yin Gui Pais reputation of debt must be repaid, enmity must be avenged, how could they be willing to let them off?

    But Tongtong clearly knew she should stop right here. Thereupon Xu Ziling took his leave. This delicate and pretty, pleasant beauty revealed a sad expression as they were about to part. Sending him off to the door, she said in low voice, Xu Ye, please be careful, right now there is an extremely high price for the heads above your necks!

    ※ ※ ※

    Xu Ziling met Kou Zhong at a noodle shop. The latter looked really angry as he said, The situation is quite bad, Xu Xingzhi did not leave any secret mark. My guess is that Wang Shichong already saw through our relationship, thereupon he held him up as a hostage, so that we came to rescue him.

    After a short pause, he lowered his voice and said, Actually, rescuing him ought to be the last resort. As long as we can capture a hostage with personal relationship to him, say Wang Xuanying, we wont have to worry that Wang Shichong will not agree to the exchange.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, I am afraid you must go to the Imperial City or Imperial Palace to find Wang Xuanying. In that case, you might as well make your move against Wang Shichong himself; its even more straightforward.

    Kou Zhong laughed and said, I was just using him as an example. The fact is, I already have someone in mind; I am not afraid Wang Shichong will not give in.

    Dong Shuni? Xu Ziling spoke heavily.

    Precisely that woman, Kou Zhong excitedly replied, We can harm Yang Xuyan and Li kid at the same time. Can you guess whether Li Shimin is aware that Yang Xuyan has already gambled his head over this loose woman?

    Frowning, Xu Ziling said, How would we make our move? We cant wait in vain outside the Imperial City, plus we do not know from which gate she is going to leave, and then we wont know which carriage she is going to hide in.

    Kou Zhong looked around at the other diners of the noodle shop first, before leaning over whispered in Xu Zilings ear, Officially Dong Shuni has become Li Yuans imperial concubine. Logically she ought not leave her boudoir even for half a step, especially to see another man. Luckily both you and I know what she is made of; it would be strange indeed if she does not steal out to have a tryst with Yang Xuyan.

    Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, You speak as if it is as simple as eating a bowl of noodle until you are full. Forget about your injury has not been healed properly, apart from Yang Xuyan, I dont know how many more vicious men are in the Rong Mansion. We go in blindly to look for her, itd be a wonder if we are not making a mess.

    Kou Zhong said, Without entering the tigers den, how could we get a tiger cub? As long as we can rescue Xu Xingzhi, Song Jingangs men can make arrangement for us to go to Jiangdu. Time is running out, well make our move tonight.

    And then he added, Do you know whos looking for Yue Shan?

    His interest piqued, Xu Ziling asked, Who?

    Kou Zhong mysteriously said, How can you not guess? Its Shang Xiufang.

    What? Xu Ziling blurted out, She is still in Luoyang?

    Kou Zhong said, This misunderstanding has grown out of proportion! You are impersonating Yue Shan has not only detained her here, she even offers ten taels of gold for any information on your, this fake goods, whereabouts. I really wanted to look for her and ask why she is so anxious to see this Yue Shan?

    Sneering, Xu Ziling said, Didnt you say that she has a very good opinion on you? Plus she already invited you for a private meeting.

    Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, It was then, now its different. I hear every night Li kid went to Man Qing Yuan to hear her playing qin and singing. The two carry on intimately with each other, how could I have a share?

    Xu Ziling shook his head and said, Li Shimin is absolutely not the kind of man to indulge in wine and women. What he is doing is simply creating diversion, to confuse Wang Shichong and his mens eyes and ears. The fact is that he is secretly trying to recruit Li Mi to be his general; if he is successful, it would be like winning a lot of battles without any blood on the mens swords at one go.

    Kou Zhongs countenance changed, he asked, Where did you get that information from?

    After Xu Ziling told him in details, Kou Zhong slapped the table and praised, Good kid, you are indeed all right. But I dont believe he will succeed. Ay! I shouldnt be that confident.

    Noticing everybodys raised eyebrows at them, Xu Ziling reprimanded him, Keep it down a bit, will you?

    Only now did Kou Zhong look down and start eating his noodles. He mumbled, What I am worried the most right now is Female Demon Wan; she suddenly went into hiding, so that we cannot guard against her. Even if we could rescue Xu Xingzhi, the road to Jiangdu will not be good for us. Dont forget that all along Yin Gui Pai always has close working relationship with Ol Die. This will be the thorn on our back, it might carry great misfortune for us.

    Xu Ziling sighed and said, But now, other than taking it one step at a time, what else can we do?

    Kou Zhong silently finished his noodle before shaking his head and said, We must go from passive to active, to kill first before seeking for life; only then will we be able to ruthlessly give lessons to Li kid and Wang Shichong, that old fox who forget favors and violate justice. Kidnapping Dong Shuni is the first step. As for the second step, hey! Do you have ideas?

    Displeased, Xu Ziling said, You must be a very combative person. What makes you think that you can fight Li kid? Even fighting one-on-one, we may not necessarily able to beat Li kid.

    Kou Zhong giggled and said, We are fighting in wits, not in forces. Youd better put on your Yue Shan disguise and go see Shang Xiufang, see if there is any advantage we can exploit.

    His heart moved, Xu Ziling said, If I became Yue Shan, it would be better not to see Shang Cainu [talented woman], but Wan Yaonu [female demon] instead! Can you find out where Zheng Shiru is staying?

    Kou Zhong threw up his arms and said, Currently I have neither generals nor soldiers, how am I supposed to find out?

    And then, shaken, he said, Why not try Bai Qingers ship? There is no harm in exposing your track a little bit before making yourself scarce again. I will keep watch for you nearby. While we still have more than half a day until night time, it might be good for us to look for a bit more fun thing to do.

    Xu Ziling hesitated, What if we bump into Zhu Yuyan? She might be an old friend of Yue Shan; wont she then see through my disguise and might provoke a problem for us? he asked.

    Kou Zhong said, Sooner or later we are going to deal with Zhu Yuyan anyway, why would you be scared of her? Besides, the chance to bump into her is minuscule, perhaps this is the only way we can scout out Yin Gui Pai.

    After deep contemplation for half a day, Xu Ziling nodded and said, Very well! Well do just like you said. Might as well try our luck.

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