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Ysabel, Jaya, DongBin, HPC, Sky, you are welcome. Xiaohu, I never know when you are being serious and when you are joking. The reason I said 'avid fan' earlier was that you were waiting expectantly, and I did not deliver that day. Akolaw, thanks for the reminder. Not. Xu Xiong, thanks for letting me know you are still around. I guess for me, your comments are so cryptic sometimes, that I was difficult to 'interpret'.

Book 17 Chapter 3 - Unstable Situation at the Famous Restaurant

The House of Dong Restaurant had staircases on the southeast and northwest corners of the building connecting the three lower floors, but the staircase leading to the top floor was located in the middle. One must walked through the corridor of the third floor before one could climb onto this fourth floor.

The stairwell was enclosed in wooden railing with decorative carved pattern, surrounded by open space up to three zhang wide, which also served as the hub where corridors leading to the individual rooms converged. It gave the impression of grandeur, as well as wide-open atmosphere.

By the time Kou Zhong and the others rushed out of the corridor leading to the southern hall to the stairwell area, all four corridors were already packed with people. Li Shimin, Tuli, and the group of men under their command, were standing in a row outside the north corridor. Every one was glaring like a tiger watching its prey toward Fu Jian, who was standing by the railing, with his hands behind his back, looking down the stairwell toward the lower floor.

Xing Mofei, Wang Bo, and a group of Tuyuhun martial art masters spread out behind Fu Qian, about a zhang away, showing cold laugh on their faces. It was a tense situation [orig, with swords drawn and bows bent]; their opponent was obviously Li Shimin and Tuli's side.

Among the crowd watching the excitement on the eastern corridor, Kou Zhong and the others recognized the ‘Passionate Prince' Hou Xibai and Yun Yuzhen; the others ought to be restaurant patrons who happened to be there just at the right time.

Following Fu Qian's eyes, Kou Zhong and the others also cast their gaze downstairs. They saw a man lying face down on the stairs between two floors, unmoving; it was unclear whether he was dead or alive. Looking at his hat and attire, he must be a Tujue martial art master who came with Tuli.

Kou Zhong leaned over to Song Yuzhi's small ear and whispered, "Good Zhizhi, is that Rong Fengxiang?”

Song Yuzhi's pretty eyebrows were slightly knitted; she appeared a bit uncomfortable at his deliberate show of affection, yet she did not move away, simply because Liu Jing was standing on her other side, thereupon she nodded slightly as a response.

Kou Zhong was referring to a middle age man, who looked to be in good shape; his face thin, tall and lanky, a bit like Wang Bo, but his expression serious, a face that seldom smiled, but giving out the impression that he was a cool-headed and composed man.

His eyes sharp, his nose high and straight; in proportion to the rest of his face, his mouth looked a bit too big, his temples high and bulging, yet he also carried a big boss air on him.

This moment, all eyes were on Fu Qian, yet this gentleman, without the slightest degree of uneasiness, with a despising look on the corner of his mouth, which was barely discernible, spoke coldly, "Tuli, if you want to fight, why should you send your subordinate to throw away his life first?”

Li Shimin took a step forward and spoke indifferently, "Victory or defeat is commonplace in any military operation. May I ask how does Fu Xiong view Mu Tiexiong's life or death? Other matter can be discussed later.”

Surprised, Fu Qian turned his gaze toward Li Shimin; an amazed and alert expression flitted across his eyes. Frowning, he said, "Who are you, Sire? Why do you speak for Tuli?”

Letting out a cold snort, Tuli said, "Fu Qian, you have eyes but fail to see Mt. Tai, even Qin Wang Li Shimin, formidable renown gives him authority over the whole country, you did not know, yet you still came to the Central Plains and got into this muddy water. Xiaodi really need to wipe your cold sweat for you.”

Although the crowd was still unclear on why Fu Qian and ‘Dauntless Lion' Mu Tiexiong fought, but they could more or less guess that Tuli deliberately sent out Mu Tiexiong to incite trouble, but he received a ‘lesson' instead.

As for why Tuli was so unwise like that, apart from the person involved, the rest were at a loss.

Fu Qian let out a long laugh and said, "I have long heard Qin Wang's name, and today I finally am able to see him. Indeed he is a dragon among men. Fu Qian pays his respect.”

Whether he was talking or laughing, there was some kind of heroic charisma that look disdainfully on the whole world, which was extremely terrifying.

The most amazing thing was the dragon [young dragon with horns] beard on his face, which stuck outright, yet could make people feel that he was a thoughtful, refined man, without the shortcoming of an uncouth, reckless man of the wild.

With a hint of smile on his face, Li Shimin returned the propriety. Grandly, yet modestly he replied, "Fu Xiong flattered me, Shimin's really ashamed and dare not accept the honor. If Fu Xiong has no objection, Shimin would like to send someone to look at General Mu's condition.”

Fu Qian sneered and said, "No need to do more than is required. Just let Mu Xiong lay down for a moment and then he would be able to get up by himself. Shimin Xiong please do not blame Xiaodi for showing no mercy for this lowly man; if it weren't so, it would be difficult to bring everybody out here.”

And then he swept his gaze around. When his eyes landed on Kou Zhong and the others, unexpectedly he smiled and nodded his head in greeting. His manner was calm, and extremely elegant.

This moment Wang Bo interjected, "Please let Ol' Wang give my impartial judgment: General Mu blocking our way, it was already rude, yet he also publicly insult Wangzi's clansman. Wangzi made his move, it could be considered reasonable.”

Tuli nodded and said, "The victor is the king, the loser is the bandit; this can be called reasonable. So be it. But Old Wang ought to know the Central Plains' current situation; it could be said that nothing is reasonable. Since Fu Wangzi dared to lead his troops to the east, naturally he knew that this is not the good time to go on a scenic tour.”

This moment, Dong Fang suddenly appeared from nobody knows where; he said, "Gentlemen, if you have anything against each other, let's talk. Please give this old man a little bit of face!”

He had not yet finished, Rong Fengxiang already cut him off, "Dong Laoban obviously knows that this matter is not an ordinary Jianghu dispute at all, any damage your honorable building suffer, let ol' Rong take the responsibility.”

This man spoke with arrogance, without giving the other party the slightest opportunity to argue.

Dong Fang was an extremely slick and sly man; he did not dare to speak too much, but was appealing for help by casting a glance toward Song Lu, while with his mouth said, "Rong Laoban's verbal confirmation is enough. Even if my humble building is torn down, I, Dong Fang will be able to build another one.”

The tone of his voice was harsh and defiant; apparently he was disgruntled over Rong Fengxiang's big-rock-crushing-down-the-crab haughtiness.

Song Lu made his way out of the crowd; naturally Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, Song Yuzhi and Liu Jing followed closely behind him, immediately creating a burst of chaos. When Song Lu reached the outermost row of people crowding the south corridor, this martial art master, senior figure of the Song Clan let out an ear-splitting long laughter, imbued by his strong internal energy, so that everybody's eyes were drawn toward him.

It was only then did Song Lu cupped his fist and said, "Zaixia, Song Lu of Lingnan, would like of offer my humble opinion, wishing everybody to let me speak it out.”

Forget about he demonstrating his profound internal power by his laughter, or perhaps his reputation as the ‘Silver Dragon' Song Lu; merely the fact that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, these two shooting-star upstarts of Wulin world, were standing on his side as his attendants, was enough to give his words some substance [orig. if thrown on the floor, it will make a sound], so that people would not dare to ignore him.

Fu Qian's gaze swept them; when his eyes landed on Song Yuzhi, they lit up with distinct expression of incomparable admiration. Finally they returned to Song Lu and he said in delight, "Old Song's reputation filled the land under the heavens, a genuine chivalrous hero; of course ol' Fu will listen.”

When his eyes were fixed on Song Yuzhi's flowery jade countenance, Kou Zhong, who was standing by her side, was able to sense that although on the surface she acted as if nothing happened, but her heartbeat and her pulses responded by speeding up; he could not help feeling bitter and his heart ached, knowing that toward this martial art master of Tuyuhun royalty, Song Yuzhi was unable to ignore completely.

Song Lu's eyes flashed brightly, as he swept his gaze across Li Shimin, Tuli, and their men, before finally rested on Rong Fengxiang. He smiled and said, "Rong Laoban, please don't take offense, we are people who are used to roam the Jianghu, we love our freedom and hold debt of gratitude and grudges in high regards, only seeking the delight of our hearts. But Dong Laoban has poured his heart's blood into this building; if we fight in here and in the end there are cooked crane or burned qin [zither], it will be a blot on the landscape. Why not we move the troops to the plaza downstairs, and continue our dispute there?”

By listening to his remark, it was obvious that he did not betray Rong Fengxiang's face, but at the same time he made the opposite party difficult to refute.

Quite surprisingly, Rong Fengxiang was not angry; he only spoke indifferently, "Song Xiong's advice is proper; how could Xiaodi have any objection?”

Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, however, shivered inwardly. This man could either bow and submit, or stand tall [idiom from I Ching, Book of Changes]; his speech was in good taste and fitting. He was definitely an extraordinary figure.

Fu Qian laughed happily and said, "Fighting anywhere shouldn't be a problem. Even in here, ol' Fu can guarantee that not a single tile or a piece of wood will be damaged. Whether the opponent can do the same, this is something that is out of my control.”

The crowd was in uproar; Fu Qian was so confident that he had full control of his movement.

A long laughter came from Li Shimin's camp. The heroic, tall and straight Pang Yu walked out in large strides. He smiled and said, "Fu Wangzi's remark has stirred up Pang Yu's heart that it is unbearably itchy; I can't help asking for your brilliant advice. But we'd better set up the rule first: whoever accidentally damage anything will be considered lost; how about that?”

If Pang Yu were from Tuli's party, nobody would be the slightest bit surprised. All because in recent years the Tujues' fame and power was more flourishing by the day. In their implementation of aggressive expansion policy toward their nearest neighbors on all sides, they have tied deep enmity with the Tuyuhuns.

But the speaker was unexpectedly a top martial art master from Li Shimin's Heavenly Policy Mansion; hence everybody knew that this was not as simple as an ordinary quarrel between two men, but involved the great undertaking of vying over the world.

The martial art masters from Tuyuhun side were eager to give it a try; they all wanted to fight in Fu Qian's place. But Fu Qian stretched his arm to block. His copper-bell like eyes glimmer with a smile, he spoke toward Li Shimin, "If for some reason Pang Xiong lose control and defeated by Zaixia, would Qin Wang personally come down the arena?”

The uproar immediately stopped; the place became ‘crow and peacock made no sound', everybody wanted to know how Li Shimin would answer this challenge.

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