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Ysabel, you are welcome. Chowbeng, you are right, Fan of Beauties is closer. OK, I'll change it. Here's the end of Chapter 7, consider it a Christmas bonus. Merry Christmas y'all, wherever you are.

"Didn't you come here for Kou Zhong?” Xu Ziling asked.

Song Yuzhi's attention returned to his face; slightly angry, she said, "Of course not. This time I received Lu Shu's [uncle] order; he would like to meet up with you to chat about old affection. I wonder if you are free tomorrow?”

Xu Ziling remembered the ‘Silver Dragon' Song Lu, also remembered his heroic passion and chivalrous style in the past as he refused Yuwen Huaji's demand to hand over the three of them, ‘mother and sons'. At the same tome he also remembered his flirtatious-to-the-bone, the coquettish and charming young concubine Liu Jing. Could not help feeling delighted, he said, "I was thinking of paying my respect to him, the Senior. It's just that because of a lot of things recently, I could not find the time to do so. Also, I don't know whether he'd like to see us, hence we did not dare to disturb him!”

Song Yuzhi said, "In that case, how about tomorrow at wu hour [11am-1pm, or simply ‘noon'] at House of Dong Restaurant? We'll make arrangement for a banquet in one of the VIP rooms.”

Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, "As long as we are still alive, we won't miss the appointment.”

"Pfft!” Song Yuzhi broke into a giggle; she said, "I really don't understand why you guys made enemies everywhere. I hope you won't be like Yang Guang, whom everybody willingly dealt with.”

This beauty rarely chatted and laughed with anybody, her sweet and splendid smiling expression made his eyes light up.

Seeing Xu Ziling was staring at her, Song Yuzhi's pretty face blushed slightly. She hung her head and said, "Perhaps because you are definitely not ordinary people? Every time everybody was so sure that you could not escape calamity, you are always able to lightly and easily weathered the crisis safely. And now even Lu Shu has a whole new level of respect toward you, and has to reevaluate his assessment on you.”

Seeing her successively revealed her rarely seen charming attitude, the particularly touching and attractiveness that appeared on this exquisite and energetic beauty's body, Xu Ziling could not help feeling tenderness toward her. "Do you want me to advise Kou Zhong to dispel his idea of using the ‘Duke Yang Treasure' as the betrothal give?” he asked in tender voice.

Song Yuzhi's tender body slightly shook. After pondering quietly for half a day, she spoke in mosquito-like small voice, "I don't know. I really don't know. Right now, all Yuzhi's mind and strength are on this matter. If I don't, I will feel lonely and lost.”

Astounded, Xu Ziling said, "Does San Xiaojie know that right now you are falling deeper and deeper into the pitfall and it's getting more difficult to extricate yourself?”

Song Yuzhi reverted to her calm demeanor; she shook her head and spoke with determination, "I don't think so. But there will come a day I am going to let Kou Zhong know that I, Song Yuzhi, am not going to give in. And I will hate him more and more. He is really too repulsive.”

Quickly her expression turned bitter, as if she was trapped and angry. She said, "Outsiders don't understand the many rules in our family. Based on Die's feeling and character, there is no way he would lightly give Yuzhi away in marriage to a man not of his own choosing. Kou Zhong thought he could use the ‘Duke Yang Treasure' to impress him, he is just being carried away by his own wishful thinking!”

Once again Xu Ziling had to admit to himself that he did not understand women at all; he was left speechless.

Song Yuzhi rose up gracefully and said with a smile, "You must be thinking that Yuzhi is self-contradictory, but this is the truth. Ay! You and Kou Zhong are so different; do you have a woman you are admiring?”

Xu Ziling promptly got up from his seat. With the pretense of sending her off, he pulled the door open for her, and only then did he haltingly say, "My feeling about man-woman passion is very flagging; very seldom have I ever thought about this matter.”

Song Yuzhi cast him a sidelong glance and said, "If Xu Ziling stays single and not married, I am afraid a lot of women will be disappointed!”

Amidst a burst of fragrant breeze, she walked away.

Xu Ziling thought for a moment, and then immediately followed her lead by walking out the door.

※ ※ ※

Ba Fenghan stood in the middle of the imperial road of the main street. A powerful, matchless confidence and heroic emotion, strong aura welled up in his heart.

All doubts had been cast away outside his mind.

After years of hard training, forging ahead vigorously and striving for advancement, he has matured from among the horse thieves, a no-name minion, into outstanding swordsman who turned up his nose to the present age.

If he could defeat Qu Ao, he would be able to achieve his dream, to become the worthy opponent to Bi Xuan, which he seek but fail to get.

Perhaps nobody understood the reason these past dozen of years Qu Ao nearly abandoned himself to despair, and engrossed himself in the influence of beauty. Only he had the full grasp of the shift in Qu Ao's mind.

Because one howling-wind-and-torrential-rain night about ten years ago, in a secret decisive battle against Bi Xuan, Qu Ao failed and was wiped over the floor. Since then his confidence stumbled and he was unable to rise.

From that moment on, Qu Ao no longer without flaws.

It was Ba Dai'er who told him that.

Qu Ao's defeat has also driven him to change his plan and turn his attention to the Central Plains. He even sent his son to infiltrate the Han soil, taking advantage of the corrupt Sui government, and taking alias to masquerade as a Han. With the help of Yin Gui Pai, he established the Tieqi Hui, which ran amuck in the south [see Book 7 Chapter 3].

This scheme, which originally appeared to be a perfect ‘alien [lit. different tribe] invasion', was destroyed by Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. It also caught Yin Gui Pai in chaotic situation where they had no room to advance or to retreat. Hence Qu Ao inevitably suffered setback and shocks.

To kill Qu Ao, this was one in a thousand-year chance.

Ba Fenghan had a deep hatred toward the Tiele people.

His people and his homeland were massacred and burned by the invading Tiele main forces until practically nothing left. It has also reduced him to be a horse thief, which was eventually hunted down for a thousand li, encircled, and annihilated by the Tujue military force under Tuli's leadership, until only he, one person, managed to kill his way out of the siege by relying on his overbearing skill.

At that time he was already very famous among the Tujues, and has become a thorn in the flesh of those in power in Tujue.

Even Bi Xuan also sent his chief disciple to deal with him, which ended up getting killed, and thus tying an unresolvable vendetta.

He has never succumbed to the brutal authority.

And he always regarded Bi Xuan and Qu Ao, who killed people like scything flax, to be the highest authority representing Tujue and Tiele, two major tribes' military forces.

The sound of hoof beats rumbled over.

Like a whirlwind a dozen or so riders appeared from a street corner and galloped toward his back.

The chou hour has arrived!

※ ※ ※

Turning a blind eye toward every beautiful courtesan and pretty maid who came across him, Kou Zhong walked straight down the stairs, intending to inform Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan at the earliest opportunity about his ruptured relationship with Li Shimin. Suddenly he came face to face with someone. The other party laughed aloud and said, "I was just looking for Kou Xiong, by lucky coincidence I bump into you here.”

Surprisingly it was the heroic, grand and imposing Song Jingang.

Kou Zhong was ashamed inwardly, recalling that he was supposed to look for him, but he had completely forgotten about it.

Laughing embarrassedly, he said, "I'm really sorry, due to other things occupying my mind right now, can we arrange another time to have detailed discussion?”

Song Jingang smiled and said, "I was having the same thought. Did Kou Xiong's meeting with Qin Wang just now did not end in a happy note?”

Taken aback, Kou Zhong said, "You really have eyes that seem to see everything; it looks like you are always hanging behind my back.”

"Kou Xiong please do not misunderstand,” Song Jingang said, "It's just that my subordinate saw Kou Xiong and Hong Funu walking together toward Qin Wang's wing. And now I see Kou Xiong walking down in rage, so I brazenly made speculation. Kou Xiong please do not take offense.”

Kou Zhong was relieved. Just after taking his leave after making another appointment on the time and place to meet later, he came across Xu Ziling. Surprised, he said, "Did Cui'er send all Three Flowers of Man Qing swarming into the room at once that you, Xiao Ling, could not endure it and thus slip out of the room?”

Xu Ziling kept walking in a hurry, "Stop talking nonsense,” he said, "Ol' Ba may have already fought with old man Qu!”

Kou Zhong sucked a mouthful of cold air, and quickly followed behind Xu Ziling, leaving the clamoring Tingliu Pavilion, hurrying toward the main gate.

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