Book 17 Chapter 10 - Join Forces in the Central Plains
Song Jingang welcomed Kou Zhong into the inner hall; he laughed and said, "Kou Xiong is willing to come, that means you are a trustworthy man, why should anything else need to be explained?"
Kou Zhong sat down and accepted the fragrant tea offered by Song Jingang's subordinate. Looking out the window, he said pensively, "The rain stopped!"
Song Jingang leaned back in his chair; together with Kou Zhong he cast his eyes out the window and said, "Usually, you can see this kind of heavy rain in Luoyang during summer months. This was early!"
Kou Zhong put the cup on the small table between the two; looking extremely vigilant, he fixed his eyes at Song Jingang and asked, "Song Xiong, which side do you think Xiaodi should work with?"
But Song Jingang looked unconcerned; he said, "I think you should help Li Zitong."
Only after finishing his remark did he turn to see the opposite side.
Stunned, Kou Zhong said, "You really didn't want me to assassinate Du Fuwei?"
Inwardly he thought that if the answer was 'yes', he would flatly refuse. If he really wanted to assassinate Du Fuwei, it must be in the midst of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, with open saber and open spear, not with some plotting and scheming in the dark. Toward Du Fuwei, he did not have the slightest bit of ill will, on the contrary, he really had a bit of admiration and respect of a son toward his father.
Song Jingang laughed calmly and said, "That is just a lowly strategy, plus it is difficult to accomplish. I was only thinking of inviting Kou Xiong to defend and stabilize Jiangdu on Li Zitong's behalf, while the other two factions attack Jingling, to force Du Fuwei to retreat, then it will be difficult for Shen Faxing to act. At the same time, Xiao Xian will be able to act as if he was going to cross over the Great River, so that Du Fuwei will not dare to rush indiscriminately into action."
Now Kou Zhong understood why Yun Yuzhen was willing to be Song Jingang's go-between.
Song Jingang was certainly a person with great skill and strategy; in the middle of planning an attack to the Li Clan, he did not overlook military situation all over the world at all.
If Li Mi and Wang Shichong fought until both sides suffered, Du Fuwei was defeated as he attacked to the north, and Song Jingang was able to attack Taiyuan, then Liu Wuzhou's power could be easily extended to the key areas north and south of the Yellow River, and would become the most powerful overlord.
Frowning, Kou Zhong asked, "But what's in it for me?"
Song Jingang replied, "Only by protecting Li Zitong would Du Fuwei only be able to hold back and would not dare to attack the Flying Horse Ranch and the two big cities under its protection. At that time, when Kou Xiong attacks Jingling and Xiangyang, we will join forces at Luoyang. When that happens, friend of foe, or diving the world evenly, will become the matter of only two powers, then we can take our time in making the decision."
Kou Zhong laughed involuntarily; he said, "After a long time talking it over whether one is friend or foe, this is the first time that Xiaodi heard something like this. And it seems that Song Xiong is overestimating Xiaodi too much! Li Zitong may not necessarily be willing to listen to what I have to say."
Indifferent, Song Jingang said, "Since Kou Xiong is able to persuade Wang Shichong, that old fox, what is a trivial Li Zitong to you? Besides, all along my master's relationship with Li Zitong hasn't been too bad. Based only on your brilliant record of being able to defend Jingling for ten days with what can be considered only a remnant of the main army, while Li Zitong himself stood at an impasse, that will easily give him something to consider."
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, "Quite possibly Song Xiong is the best lobbyist after Su Qin and Zhang Yi. However, in this kind of troublesome matter, I must discuss it with my Xiongdi before I can make a decision. Can you wait a few days?"
Song Jingang said, "I am going to leave immediately, but I might leave behind a contact person. As soon as Kou Xiong gives us a nod, we will arrange everything for you."
Kou Zhong and Song Jingang discussed the means of communication between them, as well as talking about the current situation related to Jiangdu. Only then did he take his leave.
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Inside a compact second-floor apartment built along the Tianjin Canal on Xuanfeng Lane at the west side of the city Xu Ziling sat alone in the inner hall, waiting for Kou Zhong.
It was a safe house provided by Wang Shichong for them to use, so that they could avoid people's eyes and ears.
This moment Kou Zhong arrived; he dejectedly slumped down in the chair to Xu Ziling's left. Quite out of character, he did not blabber like a torrent as his usual self.
"What happened?" Xu Ziling asked indifferently.
Depressed, Kou Zhong replied, "I officially broke up with Yuzhi, with no hope of restoration."
Xu Ziling asked in surprise, "How could that happen? With your, Zhong Shao's silver tongue, white can turn to black, deer can turn into horse, what can't possibly be redeemed?"
Kou Zhong sighed and said, "You still call yourself Xiongdi? Right now I am so miserable, you are still teasing me? Ay! My problem is that this moment I really grew to love her, hence I am in no favorable position to use my silver tongue skill."
Stunned, Xu Ziling said, "So you are not joking."
"Joking?" Kou Zhong blurted out.
And then his expression turned bitter as with a rueful smile he looked at the pair of new boots he had just purchased, "After giving her my word that I won't appear before her again, in anguish I walked barefooted in the wind and the rain. At that time my entire being was empty and devoid of any strength, my breathing impeded, my vision indistinct, my heart was pounding inside me as if the pounding of the blacksmith's sledgehammer on the anvil, getting heavier and heavier, my brains was swelling like the rumbling of the rolling thunder, I nearly fire deviated."
Incredulously Xu Ziling stared dumbly for quite a while before asking, "Have you forgotten Li Xiuning?"
In distressed, Kou Zhong said, "When I woke up this morning, I have really forgotten her, there was only Song Yuzhi in my heart. Ay! This time is more miserable than the last time I lost my love, my entire being felt like being drowned into the abyss of the sea, the pain at the pit of my stomach was so great from the pressure."
"Do you want me to go talk to San Xiaojie?" Xu Ziling asked.
"Absolutely not!" Kou Zhong resolutely replied, "We, brothers, must let it pass. I, Kou Zhong, want to obtain the world, why must I rely on my in-laws? Humph! I wish Yuzhi will still find happiness without me."
Smiling bitterly, Xu Ziling said, "Don't ever think that she won't be happy without you. This is all right, otherwise, how could we justify ourselves in front of Song Shidao?"
Kou Zhong flew into rage, "You still don't believe that my feeling toward San Xiaojie is real?" he asked.
Xu Ziling reached out to grab his shoulders and shook him twice; he sighed and said, "If you could forget Li Xiuning, then you can also forget Song Yuzhi. Just leave a little bit of your mind for other things!"
Kou Zhong was silent for a moment. He did feel Xu Ziling's trying to comfort and care for him; nodding his head, he said, "I have an important matter to discuss with you."
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Finished listening, Xu Ziling spoke heavily, "Xiao Xian is finally going up north!"
Kou Zhong was shaken. "Good point!" he said, "Not only that, this is a one-stone, three-bird stratagem. Xiao Xian and Xiang Yushan worthy to be called conspiracy masters."
Xu Ziling sighed and said, "Fancy that they thought about it. It can clearly be seen that the one Liu Wuzhou wanted to join forces with is not you, the kid without any qualifications; rather, it is Xiao Xian. By the time they join forces outside the Pass, they can capture Luoyang first, and then attack Guanzhong. Two old kids, one goes southerly, the other northerly. Only by joining forces like this will they have the opportunity to divide the world evenly."
Actually, Kou Zhong has already been considering this issue.
It should be noted that currently Kou Zhong had no officers, no troops; the Flying Horse Ranch was not his underlings. How could Liu Wuzhou, this kind of powerful and overbearing hegemon, who had the Tujues as his supporting force, have any regard on him? At best, in his eyes Kou Zhong was a very useful chess piece. Because Xiao Xian and the others had a comparably deep understanding of him, this carefully conceived evil plan must be coming from Xiao Xian and the others.
If he fell into the trap, he would use his influence on the Flying Horse Ranch and his former subordinates at Jingling city to help him on an all-out effort to attack Jingling. When that happened, Xiao Xian would be able to enter by exploiting a weak spot, by attacking the Flying Horse Ranch and the two big cities nearby. The most formidable part of this plan was that even if Shang Xiuxun and the others were fully aware that the Baling troops were crossing the River and coming to the north, they would still mistakenly believe that it was only part of the joint military operations. By the time they became helpless, isolated troops, there would be no other choices but to surrender.
At that time Xiao Xian would acquire a wide expanse of territory north of the Great River, while Du Fuwei was deep in mire at Jiangdu, he could only sit and watch Xiao Xian nibbling away his territory in the west.
This moment Xiao Xian might be brandishing his troops going up north to Luoyang, to meet with Liu Wuzhou and together they would accomplish this beautiful dream.
"Xiao Ling," Kou Zhong said, "Tell me, what should I do?"
Xu Ziling resolutely said, "Because Su Jie is in Xiao Xian's hands, right now we refrain from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vases. Plus any military operation must have a definite target. But we can't have a fall out with Xiao Xian openly, and yet we must preserve the Flying Horse Ranch, plus we can't let Old Die prevail. There are so many contradictory and hard-to-reconcile-together situations tangled together, and you ask me to tell you what to do?"
Kou Zhong's eyes lit up; he said, "We must soldier on. As long as we can defend Jiangdu, and not causing the Old Die too much damage, and Shang beauty can put an act, pretending to attack Jingling, we can secretly deal with Xiao Xian, and resolve the immediate crisis at the same time."
But then he turned dejected again and said, "But how can we preserve Jiangdu without causing Old Die too much damage? This is simply not possible."
"We'll find a way," Xu Ziling said, "But we must go to Jiangdu to have a good grasp of the situation first, only then will we be able to change according to the situation. And now, we'd better think about tonight first."
Kou Zhong was silent for half a day. Finally he looked at Xu Ziling's scarred face, and said with a laugh, "The carriage has been waiting for a long time, may I ask Scarface General if we could set out now?"
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When Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, along with Wang Shichong and the others, arrived at the Rong Mansion's main gate, they were greatly surprised at the lively atmosphere.
Rong Fengxiang's, the richest individual in Luoyang, mansion was built atop a knoll at the northeast side of the city, occupying a vast land; the scale was really grand. At the first glance, the buildings were scattered about the forest like stars in the sky; a spectacular scene.
Right in the middle of the square outside the main gate, there was a huge mythological sea turtle mountain [鳌山]. The high fence was festooned wonderful, skillfully-crafted, colored lanterns - their estimate was that there were no less than ten thousand lanterns, glorious and dazzling, illuminating the surrounding area, inside and outside, as bright as daylight.
There was a steady stream of well-wishers' carriages and horses; everywhere they looked, the area was packed with ladies in silk embroidered dress. With the continuous ear-splitting firecrackers, their smoke filled the air, the hubbub of people's laughing and jesting, the atmosphere surpassed New Year's celebration.
Inside, the Mansion was decorated with lanterns and colored banners, maids and servants moving everywhere, greeting and ushering the guests.
Wang Shichong's group was at its peak condition as well, with close to a hundred carefully chosen bodyguards, protecting eight horse-drawn carriage, slowly entering the Rong Mansion.
Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong and Ouyang Xiyi shared a carriage. Seeing the two boys curiously looking at the crowd outside, the latter smiled and said, "When Laofu was young, I was just like you, loved to join in the fun. But now I avoid crowded places like an ominous place."
Xu Ziling had changed into another mask, he was now an ordinary-looking man, nothing out of the ordinary. Hearing Ouyang Xiyi, his heart was moved; he asked, "Has Qianbei [senior] ever heard of the 'Overbearing Saber' Yue Shan?"
Kou Zhong asked in surprise, "Just by hearing his name, I get the impression that this man is extremely overbearing; where did you meet him?"
Ouyang Xiyi was the only one, outside Wang Shichong, who was privy of Xu Ziling's real identity, in order to conceal his presence as much as possible. Hearing the question, a nervous expression appeared on his face; he said, "Did Xu Xiaodi really meet him?"
 Su Qin (340-284 BC) and Zhang Yi (-309 BC) are both political strategists of the School of Diplomacy during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).