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Ysabel, spy, DongBin, Jaya, you are welcome. Hungry, I am glad you found this forum too. Be sure to check other translations, we have quite a number of completed ones. Akolaw, it is still beyond me … I wish someone (maybe you?) can put it in plain, everyday English that I can understand. Kowloon, as someone mentioned earlier (maybe Skywalker?), this Luoyang episode is dragging very long, and I still don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sky, you can read some more about it below. BTW, I found that 'perfecting the cinnabar' means 'concocting pills of immortality'.

Book 17 Chapter 8 - Beating Someone at His Own Game

After the two boys finished discussing and making proper arrangement with Bu Tianzhi, Bu Tianzhi left first, while the two boys stayed at the wine shop.

In the shop, only three tables were occupied, but because the patrons were playing finger-guessing or other drinking games, and the losers were still shouting and yelling, or even singing at the top of their lungs; the clamor was enough to shook the rafter beams.

This kind of noisy environment provided a perfect screen for the boys to talk about secret matters.

Kou Zhong muttered to himself, "Bu Tianzhi and a bunch of Jukun Bang [giant leviathan gang, first mention Book 2 Chapter 7] Xiongdi think very highly of Xiaodi, and want to follow me, Kou Zhong, to conquer the world. This is actually something I seek but failed to get, but in my heart I have a feeling that I am letting Beautiful Shifu down."

Xu Ziling let out a cold snort and said, "You are only afraid that I might oppose it! Don't worry, I won't stop you this time."

Shaken, Kou Zhong said, "What's going on? This does not look like your, Ling Shao's style."

Xu Ziling sighed and said, "Earlier Bu Tianzhi told me a lot of things, including Su Jie's marriage. It was indeed fixed up by Xiang Yushan, Xiao Huan and Yun Yuzhen with their deep plans and distant thoughts; they are aiming at our 'Duke of Yang's Treasure'."

"What?" Kou Zhong blurted out.

Xu Ziling smiled bitterly and said, "We were really too naïve to believe others easily. And now the damage is done, we are forfeiting Su Jie's lifetime happiness in a crafty and evil man's hands."

Kou Zhong stood up abruptly and bolted out the door.

Shocked, Xu Ziling tossed some money down and chased out at full speed.

Kou Zhong stood by the roadside, with his back to him, staring blankly into the distance. Although the street was full of people coming and going, his magnificent figure appeared incomparably lonely.

Xu Ziling caught up with him, and was surprised to find Kou Zhong's face was wet with tears, which flowed down from his tiger-eyes, but he remained silent.

Xu Ziling was extremely grieved as well, but remembering Shi Feixuan's story about the elderly immortal concocting pills of immortality, he held back his tears and said, "Don't cry!"

Heroes don't cry easily, just because they haven't felt deeply hurt!

After Fu Junchuo's death [orig. fragrance disappeared, jade perished], Susu has become their only family. To a certain degree, she was taking Fu Junchuo's place. No matter how much they have become influential figure [orig. the man of the moment] who scold the world, in Susu's eyes, they were always big boys without scheming heart. There was a heartfelt sincerity between them that outsiders could hardly understand.

Kou Zhong wiped the tears with his sleeve and spoke heavily, "I am going to kill Yun Yuzhen; nobody can stop me."

Xu Ziling felt a stabbing pain at the pit of his stomach; he shook his head violently and said, "This is not what a sage would do. Right now it's like we have a hostage in Xiang Yushan's hands; we must refrain from shooting at the rat for fear of breaking the vases. We will act only after careful planning; or else Su Jie's experience will be even more unbearable."

Kou Zhong's eyes alternated between clear and dark; it was quite a while before he said meekly, "Xiao Ling! Tell me what to do! Right now not only I hate them, I also hate myself. If it weren't for us cooperating with that little traitor Xiang Yushan because we wanted to deal with Yuwen Huaji, Su Jie would not be harmed like this."

"Right now we need to deal with the problem at hand," Xu Ziling said, "And then we'll go get the 'Duke of Yang's Treasure', and after everything is settled, I am going back to Baling, to get Su Jie, mother and son, out of there. In the meantime, you can focus on your aspiration, the great undertaking of vying over the world."

Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, "How could I not worry? Xiao Xian is an old fox, Xiang Yushan is a little fox; considering their sphere of influence, I …"

Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, "Even if you lead magnificent army without thousands of men and horses to find them, what good would it bring? I already have a plan, and I am confident I will be able to pull it properly and satisfactorily."

Kou Zhong dejectedly said, "This moment I feel so helpless [orig. every hope turned to dust]; I really want to give up everything, and then …"

"Don't let your imagination run wild!" Xu Ziling cut him off, "First of all, Ren Bangzhu's enmity, we cannot but avenge it. Secondly, Zhai Jiao is waiting for your good news. And then a group of our Shuanglong Bang [twin-dragon gang, see Book 6 Chapter 12] Xiongdi is waiting for you at Guanzhong to get the 'Duke Yang Treasure' out. Am I missing anybody? This kind of matter, once you started, you can't stop even if you wanted to. The only thing you need to do right now is to raise your own spirit and be brave to meet the enemy. There is no other way."

Kou Zhong hyperventilated; it was quite half a day later that he gradually calmed down. "Do we need to see Wang Shichong now?" he asked.

Xu Ziling pulled his elbow and took him walking down the street; he said in low voice, "If you tell Wang Shichong about the mole, what would his reaction be?"

Kou Zhong came to his senses; emotionally moved, he said, "It may be assumed that there won't be any benefit at all. First of all, he is unwilling to use his own self to brave danger, and then he is already suspicious of everybody around him. It will be just like exposing our own trail to the enemy for no reason."

"Who else knows about Zhai Jiao?" Xu Ziling asked.

Kou Zhong said, "Those who are able to participate in Wang Shichong's secret meetings, besides his sons and two emperor relatives [idiom: person with powerful connections], there are his trusted aides Zhang Zhenzhou, Yang Gongqing, Lang Feng, and Song Mengqiu, four people. Other than that, there are several renowned martial art masters who act as his personal bodyguards. In my opinion, Song Mengqiu is the most unreliable."

Xu Ziling said, "It's one thing if you don't like him personally, but whether he can betray Wang Shichong or not, it's another matter altogether. Putting future development aside, currently Wang Shichong is comparatively strong. If Song Mengqiu colluded with outsiders, it means he is smashing his own rice bowl [fig. livelihood]; what good would it be for him? Would Dugu Feng and Yang Dong be able to put a traitor general in an important position?"

Kou Zhong was silenced immediately; embarrassed, he said, "This moment my heart is like a knocked-out deer, I am out of my wits; you are more clear-headed."

Xu Ziling revealed a mixture hard-to-distinguish laughing and crying expression on his face; he cursed, "It's lucky that in this kind of situation you still want to make me happy. 'Heart like a knocked-out deer' generally describes a woman having her heart moved by a man; how could it be applied to you? Tell me, who are those martial art masters?"

Kou Zhong said, "Naturally there are a bunch of them who are there just to eat, but those who are privy to the secrets include Ouyang Xiyi, Ke Feng Daoren [Taoist priest], one who is called 'the Iron Hook', that kid Chen Changlin, and the beauty Linglong Jiao, who came from Qiuci, world famous for their music and dancing skills. This woman has always been not very friendly to me, so I don't think she is the spy. Ouyang Xiyi don't have any problem even more, and Ke Feng Daoren takes a very good care of me. Hey!"

The two boys' four eyes met immediately.

Because according to Kou Zhong's reasoning, those who are especially friendly to him have a greater chance to be the mole.

But Kou Zhong shook his head and said, "Aren't we looking for a hidden ghost here? This man appears to have immortal style and Tao ['the way'] bones, a man outside secular world, who regards fame and wealth as dirt; how could he be a traitor? On the contrary that Chen Changlin is young and vigorous; if either Shen Luoyan or Dugu Feng [phoenix] lured him with sex, he would crawl in front of the beauty's bed and perhaps won't even care if his ancestors are being sold!"

Xu Ziling sneered and said, "In term of having immortal style and Tao bones, won't Ke Feng match Pi Chen [see Book 14 Chapter 11]?"

Kou Zhong was shaken. He said, "Of course he is still a notch below. I don't know what kind of demonic skill Pi Chen trained; so demonic that he appears like immortal descending into the mortal world."

Xu Ziling said, "If Lang Feng, or perhaps Song Mengqiu, surrendered to the enemy, perhaps Wang Shichong would not be able to even enter the city gate; therefore, I am sure they are not the problem. On the contrary, Zhang Zhenzhou and Yang Gongqing have been stationed outside for a long time; perhaps when they saw Li Mi's increasing power, it is very reasonable to guess that they threw their lot with him."

Kou Zhong suddenly pulled Xu Ziling into a side lane; he spoke in a low voice, "I think it is quite possible that Ke Feng is the spy. Last night, when we were besieged on the Tianjin Bridge, he strongly advocated to send the troops to help us, unlike the absolutely-not-the-spy Ouyang Xiyi who was strongly opposing it."

Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, "Problem is that we cannot prove it based on that matter alone. What kind of fellow is he? Why did Wang Shichong trust him so much?"

Kou Zhong said, "He seems to be from a Taoist sect near Luoyang somewhere. Ouyang Xiyi even said that the people from this Taoist sect rarely interfere with Jiangju matters, so this time Wang Shichong gained a considerable face. That was the reason I said he can't be the spy. I think we'd better focus our attention on that kid Chen Changlin; let's see if he is going out to have a tryst with Shen Luoyan."

Suddenly Xu Ziling was jolted; he said, "Did he come from the Laojun Guan [Taoist monastery] on the summit of Cuiyun Peak of Mount Mang [See Book 16 Chapter 11]?"

Kou Zhong was dumbstruck. "How did you know that?" he asked.

Xu Ziling spoke decisively, "We must see Wang Shichong immediately. I am positive the spy is demon Taoist Ke Feng. There is not much time, I'll explain it to you on the way."

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