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HPC, Ysabel, Jaya, you are welcome. Sky, about the rain … I could have sworn that this episode is set in Seattle … DongBin, for the foreseeable future, you will see a lot of Tianjin Bridge. Xu Xiong, you are right (about the movie, not sure about Da Tang). Xiaohu, most of the time, I read as I translate. A few times I was really curious of what happened next, but it was rare. When I read ahead, more often it was because I was tired of translating, or the text kind of difficult, so I looked at the text, reading, while thinking how to put those sentences into English. Sometimes knowing what happen next helps in structuring the sentence, or give me better idea what Huang Yi was talking about. The most difficult thing about this particular story is that the author used a lot of sub-sentences. I dare say, ALL the time.

Book 15 Chapter 7 - Looking At The Present

Fixing his gaze at Kou Zhong, Song Jingang said, "Does Kou Xiong know that you are trapped in dangerous situation?”

Kou Zhong inwardly thought that this question was extremely unnecessary, but on the surface he appeared modest and ready to receive instruction, "Song Xiong, please advise,” he said.

Song Jingang spoke heavily, "Without Zaixia saying it clearly, Kou Xiong ought to know that we have close relationship with the Tujues, hence we can also obtain valuable information from them.”

More and more Kou Zhong felt Song Jingang's persuasive charm.

In fact, until now, Song Jingang was still skirting around without speaking to the point. But by adding all these leaves and branches, he already generated powerful sense of pressure so that Kou Zhong would feel the need to get close to and cooperate with him.

Obviously the opposite party could see through his intention to contend for hegemony over the world, hence each sentence was able to hit the bull's eye, so that Kou Zhong could not help being moved.

Frowning, he said, "There's one thing I've always wondered; I heard that the relationship between the Li Clan and the Tujues has always been good, supposing you and the Li Clan fought each other, which side do you think the Tujues will help?”

Song Jingang calmly replied, "The weak side will receive the help. Does Kou Xiong understand?”

The two looked at each other's eyes, and both burst out in a knowing laughter.

Holding back his smile, Song Jingang solemnly said, "For the sake of the Jade Annulus of He Clan, Kou Xiong has offended Li Shimin. Based on his decisive, steadfast character, he definitely will not let this matter off so easily.”

Sneering, Kou Zhong said, "What makes him think that the Jade Annulus of He Clan is in my hand? You should know that even the person implicated, Shi Feixuan herself does not dare to ascertain.”

"That is really strange,” Song Jingang said, "But Li Shimin indicated to Tuli that he is certain that the Jade Annulus of He Clan is in your hands. And he is extremely wary toward you, Kou Xiong; he stated explicitly that if he could not employ you, two brothers, he had no choice but to cut off feelings of gratitude and loyalty, and have you destroyed. Others may not know the power he holds in his hands, but definitely he cannot conceal it from me. Therefore, I know that Kou Xiong is currently at an extremely dangerous situation.”

Kou Zhong was well aware that Song Jingang was telling the truth, because he could not possibly weave this kind of tale.

He thought Li Jing must have really betrayed them; otherwise, how could Li Shimin dare to allege that the Jade Annulus of He Clan was in their hands? Kou Zhong's eyes suddenly shone with murderous intent as he spoke heavily, "Do you think the number of people who want to take the head above my, Kou Zhong's neck is lacking? There is no harm in adding him, one person, to that number.”

Song Jingang spoke indifferently, "I have no doubt that Kou Xiong is a talented man, but how much do you really know about this person, Li Shimin?”

Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, "I was just about to ask Song Xiong for guidance.”

Admiring look appeared Yun Yuzhen and Bu Tianzhi's faces; to be willing to modestly ask for advice was definitely a big advantage for this kid.

Song Jingang said, "I have never met Li Shimin, but I have spent some time in making some inquiries and doing some research on his coming and going since he raised in rebellion at Taiyuan; my conclusion is that this man is decisive and progressive, his determination is far-reaching, and because of his extremely unswerving determination and his expertise in deploying his troops, he is able to use his weakness to eliminate the strong, to seek victory in the midst of danger. He is indeed a rare talent in military affairs.”

And then, after looking deep into Kou Zhong's eyes, he said, "He never made mistakes; his opinion toward Kou Xiong this time can't be an exception.”

His countenance changed, Bu Tianzhi said, "Li Shimin came to Luoyang this time, how's his strength?”

Kou Zhong cast Bu Tianzhi a surprised look; it appeared that his concern about Kou Zhong was not a fake.

Song Jingang said, "As for how many attendants Li Shimin brought to Luoyang, I am not clear. But with him establishing the Heavenly Policy Government, the number of valiant military leaders he obtained is like a cloud; it could be said that his strategic experts are as thick as rain. Clearly this man has a very persuasive charm, he can make the heart of the people turn to him.”

After a short pause, he went on, "In term of literary aspect, I'd say he has the most influential person under his employment, which is Fang Xuanling[1]. This man does not know martial art, but has outstanding knowledge and experience. When Li Shimin was leading his troops to enter Guanzhong, Fang Xuanling happened to go north of Wei River to visit his son, hence he was invited to join the army by Li Shimin. All memorials to the Emperor, military orders, and so on, are being taken care by him single-handedly. Moreover, this man is most adept in drafting a policy, planning military operations, equipment, as well as military provision and weaponry financing; everything are clear and in good order. Although he cannot attack the enemy and achieve victory in the battlefield, he plays a crucial role for either success or failure. If I were to start a war against Li Shimin, I would make a plan to assassinate this man first.”

Kou Zhong mused that if another day he was going to go to war against Song Jingang, he must protect Xu Xingzhi; otherwise, if Xu Xingzhi was assassinated by Song Jingang, he would suffer a great loss.

Although until now Song Jingang did not explain why he wanted to see Kou Zhong, but Kou Zhong had more or less guessed the reason.

Song Jingang wanted to exploit Kou Zhong's intimate knowledge of Du Fuwei's real situation to help Li Zitong in dealing with Du Fuwei, and so he would easily swing his troops to Taiyuan and advance to Guanzhong.

Naturally Song Jingang also knew that Kou Zhong was not someone who would be easily manipulated by anybody; otherwise he would not waste so much energy in persuading him.

Bu Tianzhi asked, "How about the military aspect?”

Smiling bitterly, Song Jingang replied, "Even if I used up all the fingers on my hands and the toes on my feet, I won't be able to list them all. Within the Li Clan themselves, Li Shentong and Li Shimin, three brothers are the most brilliant. But their real strength actually comes from martial art masters from all sides who attach themselves to the Li Family. Among those, more than a dozen, who, no matter how you look at them, are first class masters, who are known in Jianghu as the Policy Government Upper-class Generals. The leader of these upper-class-general level people is, unexpectedly, a woman. Nobody knows her name. But because her weapon is a red brush, she is known as the Red Brush Lady, without any name.”

Kou Zhong was astonished, "Is she more formidable than Yang Xuyan?” he asked, "How come she occupy the leadership position?”

Clearly Song Jingang did not know that Yang Xuyan was Li Shimin's man; emotionally moved, he asked, "How did Kou Xiong know that Yang Xuyan has entered Guanzhong Army?”

Kou Zhong mused, ‘Turns out you are not omniscient at all'. After explaining briefly, he said, "I was wondering if Song Xiong would agree to meet later for further deliberation of this important matter. Right now I must immediately go to the Palace to see Wang Shichong; otherwise he might grow suspicious.”

Song Jingang knew he had hooked Kou Zhong's interest; no longer insisted on persuading him, he let him go after they made an appointment to meet at a later date.

※ ※ ※

Ba Fenghan leaped high into the air, and lightly landed on Xu Ziling's small boat. Sitting at the bow, he said indifferently, "It's time to return the boat to its owner.”

A bit embarrassed, Xu Ziling asked, "How did you know I was following behind you? Clearly you have never looked back.”

Ba Fenghan opened up his hand; turned out he had a small round mirror in his palm.

Only then did Xu Ziling understand. Ba Fenghan asked, "Did you hear everything?”

Xu Ziling's handsome face blushed slightly; while his hand was busy rowing, he replied, "I thought you were going to converse in your native language, who would have thought that you were speaking Chinese. Hey! I am sorry!”

Ba Fenghan nodded, "I was speaking Chinese for your sake,” he replied, "Sometimes women's hatred caused by love is more terrifying than severe floods and fierce beasts; the biggest problem is that no matter what, you won't have the heart to deal with her ruthlessly. I originally thought that she was so young, so she ought not to take everything so seriously. Now I know I was terribly wrong. Oh! Watch out!”

Xu Ziling already heard the sound of a boat cutting the waves; hastily he rowed the small boat to the side.

※ ※ ※

A boat rapidly sailed past; the man handling the boat did not look significantly different from any local Luoyang man.

The two men's eyes lit up at the same time.

"Did you smell it?” Ba Fenghan asked.

Xu Ziling replied confidently, "Herbal medicine's smell.”

Both men remembered Shangguan Long immediately.

Xu Ziling put the oar into the water, while in his heart he apologized to the original boat owner, because he needed to borrow the boat a bit longer.

※ ※ ※
[1] Fang Xuanling (579-648), Tang Dynasty historian, compiler of History of Jin Dynasty.

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