Kou Zhong promptly declined modestly; in his heart his appraisal of Song Jingang's exquisite insight and judgment grew even higher. He could not help asking casually, "In that case, your honorable master, hey! Something Khan must be the man with the highest aspiration! But why did he take refuge in Tujue? How could that be a long-term solution?”
Song Jingang sighed and said, "Even though Li Yuan occupies Guanzhong, he still calls himself a vassal to Tujue, let alone have the Tujue as our neighbor. This is a quick fix. There is no other way.”
And then, changing the subject, he said, "As far as I know, Li Shimin's top strategy is the modification of Sui Dynasty's old system. The new policy is a tax system to be known as land tax reconciliation method; roughly two dan [dry volume, approx. 100 liters] for every ding of land, two ya of silk, three tael of cotton, twenty days of military service, for non-military service, three chi of silk for every day; simple and easy to be executed [Translator's note: not sure about this part], to get rid of the previous dynasty's fraudulent government. This is called far-reaching aspiration, not having his eyes only at the present time.”
Kou Zhong was in high alert.
Building the correct political system was his biggest weakness. It seemed like he needed to copy that Li kid in establishing some his mother's seat of government, setting up the political law, or at least give the people ‘far-reaching aspiration' impression.
No wonder Shi Feixuan chose the Li kid. His resentment was that he was too late to start, and his knowledge and experience was somewhat lacking.
If Song Jingang's martial art skill was as brilliant as his insight, he must be a first class martial art master.
At the same time, he was puzzled as to why did Song Jingang use Yun Yuzhen to make contact with him? He could not help frowning as he asked, "Song Xiong still has not explained why you are looking for me, Kou Zhong. What exactly is going on?”
Song Jingang calmly replied his question with a question, "Does Kou Xiong wish to regain Jingling?”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong replied, "Of course I want it so badly. But on one hand, there are several other more pressing things to do, plus the situation does not permit me to do so. I have no choice but to wait for some other his mother's day to think about it.”
Song Jingang spoke heavily, "Military battles demand immediate action; how could you wait for long? Right now the situation is clear, Li Mi and Wang Shichong's decisive battle is imminent, no matter who win who lose, inevitably it will ruin their strength. In this case, if Du Fuwei defeated Li Zitong and acquired Jiangdu, he would be able to follow Yuwen Huaji's old route of going up north along the canal. The only difference is that since Du Fuwei has the entire Jianghuai as his backup, he need not worry about the provision would not reach him. At that time, who in the world will be strong enough to contend against Jianghuai's elite troops?”
Stunned, Kou Zhong said, "You seem to be divulging the affair between the Li Family of Guanzhong and the King of Xia Dou Jiande!”
As if he was holding the pearl of wisdom in his hand, Song Jingang calmly said, "Last time the New Qin's Overlord Xue Ju was defeated by Li Shimin, he was seriously considering to rebel, and secretly struck the gong and beat the drums in preparation of a large scale counterattack, but Li Yuan had no time to care about him, he did not even have time to care about what's going on outside the pass, so he had no other choice but to sit and watch Du Fuwei showing off his military strength. As for Dou Jiande, one day he cannot defeat Yuwen Huaji and Xu Yuanlang, one more day he does not dare to recklessly go down south, so he would not lead his troops to attack the Eastern Capital any time soon.”
Hearing Yuwen Huaji's name, Kou Zhong's eyes flashed with deep, cold murderous intent. Snorted coldly, he said, "If Xue Ju attacked Chang'an, what would Song Xiong do?”
Song Jingang's eyes flashed with mysterious light; he smiled and said, "Naturally we are going to storm Li Yuan's old nest, to break him at his foundation.”
"Taiyuan!” Yun Yuzhen and Bu Tianzhi blurted out at the same time.
Kou Zhong was shaken inwardly; he completely understood Song Jingang's strategy, and gained even more understanding on Song Jingang's out-of-the-ordinary tactics.
This time that Li kid would be in trouble.
※ ※ ※
The sword and the spear collided, ‘Qiang!' a sharp and clear noise rang out; the two men suddenly separated.
The rain did not show any sign that it would stop; fine droplets of water floated down continuously above the bamboo forest reaching high to the sky.
Although it appeared that Ba Fenghan was making an all-out effort, the fact was that it was purely to test the water.
Both men were secretly shocked.
Originally, Tuli had confidence that he would be able to beat this rival in love easily, simply because previously he was a notch above Ba Fenghan, plus in recent years he had received quite a bit of pointers from both Bi Xuan and Zhao Deyan, and time and again he made some breakthrough, while he himself never slacked off in his training, so much so that he was even disinterested in women. But when they clashed just now, unexpectedly he was unable to launch a follow-up attack; in just one move, he knew that Ba Fenghan had already completely overtaken him.
Ba Fenghan was also shivering inwardly.
He thought that without the help of the Jade Annulus of He Clan, today he could in no way achieve the desired outcome.
However, right now victory or defeat was still unknown.
Facing the wind, the Beheading Mystery Sword quivered. A strong confidence to press forward welled up in Ba Fenghan's heart; immediately a swift and fierce sword qi pervaded the air of the forest within ten zhang of him.
But the tip of Tuli's Crouching Eagle Spear swayed, indistinctly sealing off all of his attack route, so that momentarily he did not dare to cross Tuli's defense line even for half a step.
Tuli was a rare martial art talent within the Tujue imperial family. He learned the Crouching Eagle Spear Technique after he had mastered the military strategy and tactics, where he developed some kind of extraordinary concept of yin and yang, what is true and what is false, real and imaginary, as well as the mixing and blending of nature and reason.
During the battle in the desert in the past, because Ba Fenghan failed to grasp his spear path, he was stabbed by his spear three times and fell into a blood-soaked and hard-fought-struggle situation.
Tuli showed a faint smile brimming with disdain and mockingly said, "Are you scared yet?”
Ba Fenghan was unable to conceal his imposing manner as he sneered and said, "You, Tuli, have come across then thousand crags and torrents to come to this place, is it just to brandish your spear and play your stick from a distance like that? It's so hilarious that you might kill people from laughing.”
Naturally Tuli would not impetuously attack just because of this kind of talk. He laughed coldly and said, "Ba Fenghan, you are not an amateur, yet you spoke such an amateurish talk; now who'd being hilarious?”
The drizzle floated on their faces and their hands, soaking them cold. Ba Fenghan put away his fear and forced himself to step forward; his feet created splotching noise, carrying a strong momentum pressing down toward Tuli.
Tuli roused his qi and slightly moved to the left half a step, the Crouching Eagle Spear in his hands turned into a stream of bright light; fast as lightning he stabbed at an angle. The angle was so ingenious that his stab was one step ahead of Ba Fenghan's attack path.
The Crouching Eagle Spear carried a roll of raindrops, increasing his momentum several folds.
Even with Ba Fenghan's ability, he was stull unable to anticipate the changes in Tuli's move, where he attacked precisely at the moment where he was supposed to defend, and his counterattack was this swift and severe, the spear's momentum resembled the nature itself.
Ba Fenghan was forced to adopt a defensive position; he sidestepped and swung his sword to hack on the spear's head.
Tuli let out a long laughter, while unleashing his spear's momentum. In the blink of an eye his spear struck three times in rapid succession, each spear strike was in response to Ba Fenghan's attack as well as the changes of his attack path; it was violent without equal.
Ba Fenghan did not yield even for a single step. ‘Qiang! Qiang! Qiang!' he successively took the spear strikes head-on, and then the Beheading Mystery Sword turned into a net of light, taking advantage of the precise moment when Tuli's hiding-the-sky-and-covering-the-earth violent attack had just passed by.
For a moment the sword light and spear shadow shrouded the two combatants.
The falling rain was aroused by the qi power that water droplets splashed everywhere like a fountain.
The tip of the spear struck the blade of the sword.
Both men were unable to continue with their next move; they suddenly separated.
Suddenly there was a clapping.
The two were still staring at the opponent; they did not dare to be distracted.
A man appeared in the pavilion, sitting on the pavilion's railing. With a free and leisure laugh he said, "Khan's breaking-sword spear technique is indeed outstanding, victory is definitely within your grasp. However, in order to save time, why not let me, Li Shentong, join the party? After taking care of this little thief, we can drink together. Wouldn't it be more fun?”
Ba Fenghan shivered inwardly.
Li Shentong was Li Yuan's younger brother, but in Jianghu, his prestige surpassed that of his elder brother. He was an expert in using the three-pronged halberd, with its myriad of hook, peck, chop, and stab, changes; his name shook the north.
If he ignored Jianghu rules and joined hands with Tuli, Ba Fenghan's only way out was to break the siege and run away.
Tuli threw his head backwards and let out a long laugh, "To drink together, it's not that easy; not today!”
Ba Fenghan and Li Shentong were both stunned.