In his embrace, Yun Yuzhen let out a silver-bell like tender laughter; she angrily cursed for a moment, and then said, "What do you have to do with Shang Xiuxun? Did you seduce her and have your hands on her? Quickly confess!”
Kou Zhong inwardly thought, ‘Women will be women'; unexpectedly under these circumstances they still did not forget to drink vinegar [i.e. jealous]. Smiling wryly, he said, "You consider me a sex-hungry ghost? Seducing women everywhere? Quickly report the military situation to me, otherwise, if I punish you, I guarantee your white butt will bloom like a flower.”
Yun Yuzhen raised her flower-like jade countenance with coquettish glance and spoke in an alluring voice, "The Three Big Bandits suffered defeat in their first battle, plus Flying Horse Ranch has the advantage of dangerous terrain, so after going on the offensive for only a month or so, their provision depleted and they withdrew their troops. More important reason was that the Three Big Bandits might grow in power, hence he did not want to deploy this troops to help. Also, Xiao Bangzhu is setting up his forts at the upper reaches of the Great River, dragging their hind legs, so that your Ol' Die does not dare to act blindly without thinking. Otherwise, perhaps the Flying Horse Ranch was already finished early on!”
Breathing out a sigh of relief, Kou Zhong said, "You nearly scared me to death. Turns out the situation in the south is still good.”
Yun Yuzhen sighed and said, "Exactly the opposite. The situation in the south is currently quite critical; otherwise I wouldn't be here asking you a big favor.”
Kou Zhong was startled, "What happened?” he asked.
※ ※ ※
The Western Park was located in the middle of Jicui Pond, and was filled with landscape garden of all kinds of architectural style.
By the time Ba Fenghan entered the Western Park, the drizzle was getting heavier, bringing in the spring chill, so that the tourists disappeared.
The Jicui Pond, with more than ten li perimeter, mixed with the misty rain, it was as boundless as the heaven and earth.
The piles of stones in the lake looked like mountains; some of them were more than a hundred chi above the water surface. In the vast and hazy drizzle, they were faintly discernible, like the fabled mountains of the immortals in the Eastern sea: Penglai, Fangzhang and Yingzhou.
The thing that cause people to daydream the most was that there were pavilions built on all three stone mountains, connected to each other by nine-bend bridges, and this strongly increasing the profound sense of far-reaching and empty-space feeling.
North of the lake, there was a channel leading into the lake. On either side of the lake, residential buildings stood in great numbers; halls, mansions and pavilions, none was not extremely gorgeous.
The river channel was about twenty paces wide, with a flying bridge spanning above it.
With grim expression, Ba Fenghan was stepping onto the flying bridge. Ahead was a landscape garden full of willow trees interspersed with tall bamboo trees. In the middle of the garden was a small pavilion. The drizzling rain blurred its beauty, so that it looked even more bleak and cold.
Ba Fenghan set foot on the gravel path, walking slowly toward the pavilion.
Right this moment, a woman flashed out of the pavilion.
He was not surprised at all; he keep walking toward the pavilion, neither slowing down nor speeding up.
The woman was tall, willowy, and elegant; she was wearing beige gown with narrow sleeves, her waist was tied by a dual-color broad belt, red and white, making her slender waist appear even slimmer.
She was wearing a rain cloak. But because her tender back was facing Ba Fenghan, he could not see her face. However, anybody could tell from her beautiful figure that she must be the most beautiful thing.
The woman was speaking in Tujue. Her voice was deep, melancholy, and moving.
Ba Fenghan stopped when he was about ten paces away from the pavilion. He sighed and replied in Chinese, "And what is the reason for all of these?”
The woman turned around like a whirlwind; her left hand rose up, a flash of golden ray like a thunderbolt shot toward the pit of Ba Fenghan's stomach.
※ ※ ※
Yun Yuzhen spoke softly, "Presently Du Fuwei is forming an alliance with Shen Faxing in preparation of big war. The one bearing the brunt will be Li Zitong.”
Kou Zhong's worried heart wound down; breathing a sigh of relief, he said, "I thought it was a serious matter. Li Zitong is not a good person. Letting them ‘ghost beating ghost' is the most ideal thing.”
Amidst the sound of the rain, the clippity-clop of the hooves continued along the street.
Kou Zhong's impression of Li Zitong was a bit vague. It happened many years ago, when they, the two brothers plus Susu, were onboard the ship to Jiangdu, arranged by Xiang Yushan, with the intention of stealing the Dong Ming Pai's account book to implicate Yuwen Huaji, but they were intercepted by Li Zitong on the Big Stream. They even fought with him. It's just that Li Zitong had quite an elegant demeanor; even when he did not achieve what he wanted to do, he retreated politely [see Book 6 Chapters 1 & 2].
Yun Yuzhen sat her tender body up; she spoke in disdain, "I thought you are a somebody, turns out you are this shortsighted.”
Reaching out, Kou Zhong pinched her cheek and said with a sneer, "Your reverse psychology is ineffective against me, Zhong Shao. Hey, since when did Li Zitong become your relative? How come you are so concerned about him?”
Yun Yuzhen angrily said, "Get out of here! In the future, I don't want to talk with you, this ignorant disciple.”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, "Again I am asking Beautiful Shifu to calm down. Li Zitong is certainly a key character. In himself, he is nothing, but the Jiangdu in his hands controls the hub of the north-south traffic, plus he has the convenience of marching to the north via the waterway. Hmm! That is indeed a problem.”
Naturally Yun Yuzhen knew that he was only speaking half-heartedly; astonished, she said, "Do you really understand, or just pretend to understand? If Du Fuwei took Jiangdu, your Ol' Die would want the entire Jiangdong and Huainan territory, and then he would seize the signal path from the Great River out to the sea. You are from Jiangdu, you ought to know how important that place is, and how you can make a fortune out of that place.”
Kou Zhong sat back comfortably on the seat; stretching out his limbs, he said, "This situation only occurs if Jiangdu fell. Presently Ol' Die strength has taken a big beating; otherwise he would not need to suck up to Shen Faxing. And Shen Faxing has had a clash with Xiaodi; no matter how you look at him, he is not a good material. Although Li Zitong is also not a good thing, but supporting him for a year or a half shouldn't be a problem. Right now I have enough to worry about, how could I have time to care about something that is happening so far away? Besides, it is not my place to care about that; since Xiao Xian is currently doing nothing anyway, let him handle this matter!”
Yun Yuzhen took a glance out of the window; snorted coldly, she said, "This is called since you don't know yourself, naturally you don't know others. In himself, Shen Faxing is not trying to save oil lamp; on the contrary, he put forth his brilliant, a divine talent in military, son, Shen Lun, a fine scholar and soldier, so that his prestige enjoys great boost. Your Ol' Die's partner Fu Gongyou is enlisting large number of new army recruits, he appears to secretly strike his gongs and beat his drums, gearing up for war. If we let them attack Jiang Jun [county], Li Zitong will be finished. Your Shang Changzhu [ranch master], Shang Meiren [beauty] will immediately become the second target. Why don't you think about that?”
Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong said, "This, at most, can be considered as ‘not knowing others'. What do you mean I ‘do not know myself'?”
Yun Yuzhen let out a stifled snort and said, "We're here! I'll let him talk to you!”
The carriage drove into a side street, and turned into a courtyard.
※ ※ ※
Ba Fenghan reached out unhurriedly; his movement seemed slow, but without missing a fraction he caught the golden light shot by the Tujue young woman right between his fore and middle fingers. The golden light turned out to be a gold hairpin.
With voice as cold as ice and snow, the woman spoke in fluent Chinese, "This gold hairpin is hereby returned to its rightful owner. From now on, Ba Dai'er no longer has anything to do with you, Ba Fenghan.” [Translator's note: just so you know, these two ‘Ba' characters are not the same.]
Ba Fenghan stared blankly at the gold hairpin in his fingers, all sorts of feelings welled up in his heart. Sighing, he said, "Did Dai'er come here to return this gold hairpin to me?”
Compared to before, Ba Dai'er was clearly thinner, although she still possessed the same beauty that made him fall in love with her at first sight.
She was only fifteen then, the young betrothed wife of Tuli Khan. When Tuli and the martial art masters under his command were out to the desert to hunt and kill Ba Fenghan, they were caught in a big sandstorm, which caused her to lose her way. It was when she was wandering alone that she was captured by Ba Fenghan.
Her slender and fully developed, beautiful naked body, her seductive, as if they could speak to him, big eyes, her unyielding and brimming with challenge expression, were intensely attractive to Ba Fenghan, and has awakened the sensual desire hidden deep within him. And thus the most intimate relationship arose between the two.
Afterwards, Ba Dai'er was hell-bent on falling in love with him; she even followed him roaming around the desert and the prairie for some time.
Nowadays Ba Dai'er has become Tujue King, Xieli Khan's military counselor Zhao Deyan's disciple, receiving direct martial art instruction from him. Ba Fenghan actually learned to speak Chinese from her, which also brought up in him the yearning for the Central Plains' wide-ranging and profound culture, and thus made him decided to come to the south.
In his pursuit of the martial art way, in a dispirited, soul-wrenching night, he finally quietly left her.
Ba Dai'er was the only woman who could make him remorseful.
Every single cun of her tender, smooth, ivory-colored skin currently wrapped inside the cloak was able to evoke his sweetest memory!
This pretty girl was so attractive to him not only because of her captivating beauty, but for her talent, her open-mindedness, her straightforward character or even her naiveté, which, combined, formed an incomparably magical power of attraction, making him unable to stop himself from falling into the snare of love.
And the beauty he was madly attracted to was originally the enemy.
But now everything has changed.
Ba Dai'er has become Tuli's woman. And now there was only hatred in her eyes, not love.
From the speed and the force with which the golden hairpin was shot, he knew very well that within the five years after he left, Ba Dai'er has been diligently training her martial art skill. With her outstanding innate ability and intelligent, she has become his terrifyingly formidable opponent.
Ba Dai'er's jade countenance quickly returned to its calm and composed condition. After staring deeply into his eyes, her pair of big eyes underneath her thick eyelashes was burning with hatred and fury, as she spoke word by word, "I want to kill you with my own hands!”