I am going out of town tonight, so might as well post this now, the end of Chapter 10.
Xu Ziling replied, "Wanbei [junior] only heard someone mentioning his name, so I was very curious!"
Ouyang Xiyi breathed an obvious sigh of relief, "So that's what happened," he said, "Yue Shan was a heretical sect's martial art master of our generation who ran amuck for some time in the past; vicious and merciless, he killed people like scything flax. At that time his reputation was even above Zhu Yuyan's. Later on he was defeated by the 'Heavenly Saber' Song Que, and then he disappeared. At that time Song Que was only in his twenties. This was the battle that actually established his reputation as the number one saber master in the world."
Meanwhile the carriage stopped. Obviously Ouyang Xiyi did not want to talk about this man much longer; he urged the two boys to get off the carriage.
Kou Zhong had just stepped off the carriage, a whiff of fragrance assaulted his nostrils immediately, followed by Cui'er, dressed like the lovely scene of blossoming flower swaying in the breeze, stepping forward to greet him, "Welcome, welcome. Kou Gongzi honors us by your presence; this is indeed to the Rong Mansion's glory."
Kou Zhong was stunned, "So Man Qing Yuan is not doing any business today?" he asked, "How come you, Cui'er, are here as a greeter?"
Cui'er affectionately came closer to pull his arm away; with an enchanting smile she said, "Rong Da Laoban's [big boss] order; can't we take a day off? Besides, all guests are coming here, we, Man Qing Yuan's ladies have no choice but to come here as well! Such a simple logic, yet the intelligent Kou Gongzi still has to ask nujia?"
While his hand was busy touching and squeezing her silky breasts, Kou Zhong's eyes were scanning the surrounding area for any movement.
The parking of the carriage has obviously been arranged beforehand, because he did not see any other carriage.
One after another Wang Shichong and the others got off their carriages, and were greeted personally by Rong Fengxiang.
As soon as Ouyang Xiyi and Xu Ziling were out of their carriage, they positioned themselves close to Wang Shichong, along with the other martial art masters, including the mole Ke Feng, and the officers and soldiers responsible to protect their master.
Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu and Yang Gongqing, three men, did not attend this event. The first two were responsible for city defense and keeping a close watch over Yang Dong's camp's movement, while Yang Gongqing was in charge of the main force stationed within the Imperial City.
As for Dong Shuni, because of her relationship with Rong Jiaojiao, had been inside the Rong Mansion since before noon to join in the fun.
This moment, as Rong Fengxiang and Wang Shichong were exchanging greetings, wishing each other peace and good fortune, Cui'er leaned toward Kou Zhong's ear and pouted, "Gongzi made nujia miserable! How are you going to compensate me?"
Several guests accidentally walked this way, but Wang Shichong's bodyguards kindly and courteously asked them to turn around and take another way.
Kou Zhong saw Ke Feng was walking over to Xu Ziling; apparently he wanted to get a feel for this stranger's, who had appeared suddenly, foundation. He responded without thinking, "What did I do to make Cui'er so miserable?"
Cui'er was practically nibbling on his ear; she said, "Last night you clearly promised to have Qing Ju, Qing Lian and Qing Ping to accompany you, but you slipped away without telling us; they blamed to nujia to the death."
Cui'er's soft, nagging voice, firecrackers and clamorous noise all around, splendid and dazzling lanterns, Wang Shichong and Rong Fengxiang's chitchat, Ke Feng's inquiry on Xu Ziling, the bodyguards who acted like they were about to fight their archenemy, which reminded him that they were in the face of the imminent assassination attempt, all these things were flowing like myriads of small streams converging into a big river into Kou Zhong's consciousness, giving him an extremely strange feeling.
It was like he was in the middle of a dream, from which he would forever never awake, the noise dissolved into the background so that he could see all the movement, but did not hear any sound. Perhaps because he had been anticipating this moment for several days that everything before his eyes seemed to be a very strange experience, which made all the hair on his body stood on its end.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion. By the time he saw Ke Feng was near Xu Ziling, while he, consistent with his amiable, elderly attitude, opened his mouth to talk, Kou Zhong seemed to know exactly the moment the lips started to move, the buzz of the voice seemed to cause a subtle change to the muscle on his body.
And then he saw Ouyang Xiyi came over to rescue Xu Ziling from the trouble, followed by Wang Shichong and Rong Fengxiang, under the throng of maids, servants and bodyguards' escort, walked side by side toward the main gate, while the other guests had to move aside to make way for them.
Cui'er's voice seemed to come from far away place through ten thousand crags and torrents, and lingered on inside his ears.
"Tell me! How are you going to compensate me?"
The Qiuci beauty Linglong Jiao, who was walking by his side, shot him a fierce look; she was rebuking him with her eyes.
Kou Zhong suddenly came to his senses; he gave her a cursory response, "In two days Xiaodi will set aside some time to come to the Man Qing Yuan to compensate you well."
But inwardly he was quite shaken.
After going through hard battles for many days in succession, he finally made a breakthrough in the martial art study, stepping into the realm one step higher.
And then he gently freed himself away from Cui'er's passionate, fiery entanglement, and caught up with Wang Xuanying and Wang Xuanshu, following behind the two men into the main lobby, where the sound of drums and joyous music shook the heavens.
※ ※ ※
Rong Fengxiang was worthy to be the richest man in Luoyang; the luxurious three-section main residential building clearly displayed the level of his riches and honor.
The front hall was not only spacious with high ceiling, the decoration was gorgeous; in term of grandeur, it surpassed the halls of the Imperial Palace. In the middle there were six main pillars decorated with carved golden dragons towering toward the roof, the ceiling was engraved with magnificent pattern, with the ceiling of the center atrium decorated with three-dimensional relief sculpture of two dragons fighting over a pearl. The other furnishing, the hanging ornaments, everything was extremely exquisite.
This moment approximately twenty banquet tables were set up in the main hall, with more than a hundred guests congregating around them, but it did not feel crowded at all.
Only eight people followed Wang Shichong inside, the rest stayed outside. Even so, with Kou Zhong and the others, this party still showed massive strength.
One was the politician who wields power in Luoyang; the other was the richest man in Luoyang who was celebrating his birthday, naturally there would be unending sound of people congratulating them.
With Wang Shichong and Rong Fengxiang leading the way, they did not remain in the front hall; instead, they went through the hall onto the corridor, and straight toward the inner hall where the most distinguished guests were usually received.
The hall was nearly as spacious as the front hall, but there were only ten banquet tables, with four tables in the middle, and the remaining six were spread evenly on both sides, highlighting the four most respectable tables in the hall.
The guests who could enter this inner hall must be either Luoyang's most distinguished figures, or outside visitors with distinguished status like Li Shimin, Tuli, and the others. Those with not enough weigh could only sit in the other two banquet halls.
Kou Zhong scanned the room with his eyes. The first one catching his eyes was the magician-eyed Dong Shuni, dressed like a bright-colored small bird, who was sitting together with another beautiful young girl, whose good look was hard to distinguished with Dong Shuni's, yet having a distinctive style, in a group of seven or eight exquisitely dressed young masters, who were crowded around them, talking and laughing in a very joyful setting.
This woman was, of course, Rong Jiaojiao, who shared the title 'Luoyang Twin Beauties' with Dong Shuni. Indeed she possessed natural beauty; good-looking and captivating. Her bright eyes seemed to be always on the move, seizing the soul and hooking the spirit, yet also affectionate and full of passion, while appeared bashful. Her demeanor was even more tender, straightforward and sharp-witted, with multifarious subtlety. Compared to Dong Shuni, she was slightly taller, more slender and elegant, with icy flesh and snowy skin, nobody would be able to stop his spirit from being snatched away.
Dong Shuni shot them a glance, and immediately puckered her lips in disdain, and no longer looked their direction. It was as if because of Kou Zhong, she was also angry at Wang Shichong.
On the contrary, Rong Jiaojiao's eyes lingered on Kou Zhong for a few moments, before she pursed her lips and giggled tenderly, while hanging her small cicada head down. Looking at her touching appearance, Kou Zhong's heart beat a little faster.
To the left of the main entrance, there was a group of eighteen courtesans, their hair was combed low in a spiral bun, their upper outer garment had narrow sleeves, their skirt tight on the waist, with shawl, and was standing in three rows, playing their instruments.
From konghou [Chinese harp], pipa [Chinese lute], transverse flute, waist drum, wooden block, and other musical instruments, delivering joyous, melodious tune, which reverberated over the entire hall.
More than a dozen clusters of people congregated among the tables. Kou Zhong recognized some of them, for example Tuli, Li Shimin, Wang Bo, Fu Qian, and the others, along with their trusted aides.
Song Lu was also there, chatting and laughing with Wang Bo and seven, eight other guests. But he did not see Song Yuzhi. Perhaps it was because she wanted to avoid Kou Zhong that she did not come to join the banquet.
As soon as they entered the Hall, the bodyguards spread out to the left and right, leaving only Ouyang Xiyi, Ke Feng, Chen Changlin and Xu Ziling staying by Wang Shichong's side. Led by Rong Fengxiang, they greeted the other guests one by one.
It was unclear whether it was intentional, but Kou Zhong noticed that Wang Xuanying, two brothers, immediately headed toward the noisy group around Dong Shuni and Rong Jiaojiao, leaving Kou Zhong alone with Linglong Jiao.
Linglong Jiao's eyes were fixed on Xu Ziling's natural and unrestrained back; she spoke heavily, "This man is a first-class martial art master, I wonder from where did Yi Gong [referring to Ouyang Xiyi] invite him to come? How come I have never heard him mentioning anything?"
In order to put up with her tender, skillful and nimble figure, Kou Zhong stooped down and whispered in her ear, "He is my Xiongdi Xu Ziling in disguise; he is our formidable chess piece; later on Miss will understand."
Perhaps it was because Kou Zhong's forthcoming and did not conceal anything to her that surprisingly Linglong Jiao did not move away; on the contrary, she met his eyes and asked, "Such an important matter, why hide it from us?"
While fully enjoying her beauty in close range, Kou Zhong said, "Because we suspected that among the people close to Shangshu Daren, one is a spy; Miss understand?"
Linglong Jiao looked shaken; and then she looked down and spoke softly, "You are convinced I am not the spy?"
Kou Zhong replied tenderly, "Of course. Miss is good-looking and intelligent, broad-minded and bold; the type of person who would never commit contemptible shady business."
Linglong Jiao's pretty face blushed slightly, with a mosquito-like whisper she said, "I am starting to like you a little! If you could go to Man Qing Yuan less often, I would have an even better opinion on you."
Finished speaking, she cast him a sidelong glance, before walking over toward Wang Shichong.