"Why not?” Wang Shichong asked in surprise.
Kou Zhong sighed and said, "The only thing we need to do now is to show our weakness to the enemy; the more Li Mi underestimate us, the more he look down upon us, the better it will be for us.”
Ouyang Xiyi, who was sitting at the same table with him, was puzzled. "Battlefield is battlefield,” he said, "By dealing with Huang Gongcuo, we determine victory in the contention for supremacy in Jianghu; otherwise, if we let him and Dugu Clan join hands and wait for an opportunity to assassinate Shichong Xiong, this problem will make us nervous and keep us on edge all day long. If that happens, won't we have time to do other things?”
Most people in the hall nodded their heads in agreement.
Only Priest Ke Feng raised the whisk in his hand and said with a smile, "Kou Xiongdi must have special insight; why not tell us?”
Kou Zhong calmly said, "First, I want to know how's Li Mi's situation?”
"Zhenzhou!” Wang Shichong singled him out, "Li Mi's situation, I want you to explain!”
Zhang Zhenzhou said, "As soon as we began constructing the bridge and building the granary in Yanshi, Li Mi immediately amassed army provisions and troops and horses; he also ordered his big general Bing Yuanzhen to lead the troops to establish their presence at the mouth of River Luo, Cheng Zhijie to enter and garrison Jinyong city, Shan Xiongxin to guard Heyang. At first glance it appeared that they were going to march to Yanshi, but it is also possible that Li Mi is thinking to use the Yellow River in the south as a barrier, to guard Taixing in the north, to join Liyang in the east, and thus taking the stance of defense as a means to offense, hence we do not dare to send troops to advance.”
Just by listening to his explanation, Kou Zhong knew he was military strategist who was full of resourcefulness and insight, and thought that Wang Shichong was able to occupy Luoyang, the center of the Central Plains, was not by fluke at all.
Seeing everybody's eyes were focused on him, Kou Zhong cleared his throat and said, "I have heard about Wang Bodang and Pei Renji, or perhaps Shen Luoyan, Xu Shiji, Zu Junyan; but I have never heard about his mother's Shan Xiongxin, Bing Yuanzhen, and Cheng Zhijie. Within Li Mi's army, what kind of characters are these people?”
Hearing vulgar language in the midst of his talk, everybody could not help smiling. Only Ling Longjiao showed look of disdain; she snorted coldly, expressing her displeasure.
Yang Gongqing said, "There are certainly a horde of talents under Li Mi's command, Kou Xiongdi only mentioned five of them just now, because they are comparatively well-known in Jianghu, hence their names are widely known. But among the other civil and military officers, there is no lack of figures with decent name. Cheng Zhijie, Shan Xiongxin and Bing Yuanzhen are all famous generals; among them, Cheng Zhijie is the bravest and fiercest and the most outstanding. This man's original name was Cheng Yaojin; after establishing his reputation, because he did not like his name, he asked Li Mi's chief imperial strategic adviser Wei Zheng for a new name and thus changed his name to this elegant one.”
Wang Shichong's eldest son, whose appearance was not impressive, Wang Xuanying, joined in, "Li Mi also have two other valiant military leaders, Luo Shixin and Qin Shubao; both men's martial art skill is out of the ordinary, experts in the art of war. When we meet them, we must not inattentive.”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, "Thank you for the pointers. What I want to know is, among this group of generals, which one used to be Zhai Rang's subordinate?”
Everyone was startled; they were all emotionally moved.
Those who originally showed contempt toward him were also forced to restrain their despising heart.
Wang Shichong stared at Kou Zhong for half a day, before finally exhaling and said, "Shan Xiongxin and Bing Yuanzhen are veteran generals who followed Zhai Rang battling the land under heaven before Li Mi rose abruptly to this towering position. All along they do not have too harmonious relationship with Li Mi's bunch of other trusted aides. But if you are thinking of inciting them to betray Li Mi, it won't be an easy thing.”
Kou Zhong spoke leisurely, "Shangshu Daren, please forgive me for being blunt. Nowadays outstanding heroes are rising all over the world and joining volunteer armies of all sides, their motivation is either to achieve glory, riches and honor, or to the benefit of thousands of people. Previously, the reason why there are so many people willing to attach themselves to Li Mi, was perhaps after Zhai Rang was assassinated, they had no choice but to throw their lot with this fellow; if nothing else, they wanted to openly follow this supposedly future Son of Heaven, ordained by Heaven. Therefore, as long as we can show these people that the Son of Heaven, ordained by Heaven, is not Li Mi, their seemingly solid, unbreakable Wagang kingdom's power will be all split up and pieces, simply because of these flaws will create insecurity in people's heart.”
And then, continuing word by word, he spoke powerful and resonating words [lit. if thrown on the floor, it will make a sound], "Currently the situation can be clearly distinguished: whoever make his move first will have to suffer defeat. But supposing the confrontation continued, by the time Li Mi recovered his strength, Shangshu Daren will be in danger.”
There was silence in the hall, even the sound of breathing seemed to be stopped.
Chen Changlin, whose body looked like a puma, said, "Listening to Kou Xiong, it appears that you have determined to force Li Mi to make his move first; why don't you explain to us and let us discuss it at length?”
All eyes were fixed on Kou Zhong; even Ling Longjiao, who appeared to hold Kou Zhong in contempt, was not an exception.
Kou Zhong was very pleased with himself; he knew that he had established his position among this group of Wang Shichong's military advisors. Laughing calmly, he said, "Therefore, not only we must not deal with Nanhai Pai's people, we must use them to our advantage.”
※ ※ ※
The moment Dugu Ba was about to land on the fast boat, it was as if the boat was moved by invisible hands under the boat; it suddenly moved sideways three chi.
It was precisely these three chi difference that decided this vicious man's fate.
A golden light shot out from the water.
After suffering a heavy injury, and his feet landed on empty air, Dugu Ba was totally at a loss, his face showed a horror stricken expression.
The assassin, who was hiding under water, also knew that it was the perfect time to strike, the moment where Dugu Ba's throat was hit with piercing blow was precisely when more than half of his body has already entered the water. He died without even able to cry out, and then his body disappeared under water.
It was only then did the two men see clearly that what killed him was a golden needle in a beautiful, lily-white hand.
Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling had never expected this change; they stared blankly at the river water, which, under the floating droplets of rain, was returning to its tranquil state.
Shen Luoyan's beautiful face appeared from under the water; smiling sweetly at the two, she said, "Thank you very much for two gentlemen's assistance, otherwise it would be difficult to wipe away this disgrace and hatred. But you must never tell anybody that it was my doing. Qu Ao is not here; he is in one of Yin Gui Pai's secret nests. If you agree to promise me to keep this secret, I will tell you where it is. Just consider it as a reward.”
※ ※ ※
Having a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong slyly said, "If Shangshu Daren can pretend that you are suffering injuries from assassination attempt, I guarantee that Li Mi would immediately launch a large scale attack; then our chance will come.”
Wang Shichong revealed a pained look on his face. "Right now we are on guard as if there is fear all around. If we intentionally give opportunity to others, it would be bad; suffering a major loss would be counter-productive [orig. to try to be clever and end up with egg on one's face].”
It was unclear whether Zhang Zhenzhou was afraid of Li Mi, but he said, "Li Mi always triumph in every battle; even during the battle of Mount Tong he suffered heavy loss, his strength remains. How could Kou Xiongdi be sure that we can defeat Li Mi?”
Kou Zhong knew that if he did not strengthen these people's confidence first, Wang Shichong, this everything-for-self-and-selfish-profit man, would never take this big risk. With resounding words full of assurance and composure, he said, "In the scheme of troop deployment, even in Sun Tzu's the Art of War, there is also a point about knowing your enemy. Gentlemen Daren ought to understand thoroughly that I have the inside information. I have been in contact with Zhai Rang's daughter; through her network, Li Mi spurting a sneer will not escape my attention. As long as Li Mi fell into the trap and sent out his troops, we will lure him and launch sneak attack, using ambush tactic to burst the myth that he triumphs in every battle.”
After a short pause, he continued, "I am also in contact with King of Xia Dou Jiande's chief general Liu Heita, asking him to bluff in our aid. Therefore, as long as Shangshu Daren is willing to brave this danger, it would be strange indeed if Li Mi does not fall into the trap.”
Everybody was emotionally moved.
Wang Shichong's spirit greatly aroused, he asked, "May I meet Zhai Jiao's men?”
Slapping his chest, Kou Zhong said, "Even meeting Zhai Jiao is not a problem. How about today?”
This time, any doubt that Wang Shichong had vanished.
But Yang Gongqing said, "But the assassination ruse has to be meticulously planned, to ensure that it is absolutely safe. After meeting Miss Zhai, we will take our time making the decision. Shangshu Daren, what do you think?”
Slapping the table, Wang Shichong said, "Let's do it.”
Inwardly, Kou Zhong was very pleased, thinking that if this time you, Li Mi, is able to escape this calamity, I, will write my personal name, Kou Zhong, which shakes the Jianghu, backward.
At the same time, he also recalled his mask, which he buried in a secret place outside the city; that thing should be very useful.
Without Ba Fenghan and Xu Ziling's help, he would never dare to let Wang Shichong brave the danger of fake assassination.
Because the opponent was really too tough.
 Wei Zheng (580-643), also real historical character, Tang politician and historian, notorious as a critic, editor of History of the Sui Dynasty.