After pondering silently for half a day, she nodded and said, "Very well! I will stay in the north. But I don't want to hang around that man, Wang Shichong. When are you going to leave?"
"This matter should not be delayed," Kou Zhong replied, "We are going to leave tomorrow morning."
After expressing his desire to go back to Luoyang to Yang Gongqing, before Kou Zhong even explained the reason, Yang Gongqing already spoke heavily, "Does Zhong Xiao Xiong wish to clear out at this point?"
Kou Zhong awkwardly replied, "Da Jiangjun is really astute."
Yang Gongqing reached out and put his hand on Kou Zhong's shoulder; his eyes flickering brightly, he said, "Among the talented commanders that Ol' Yang met in all my life, you are the one with most talent. If you gain more experience over time, it will be difficult to find your match in the world. What's in your mind?"
Kou Zhong replied in low voice, "Can I not have any plan for the time being? I just feel that Wang Gong is not someone that I can work together with, hence I want to temporarily retire, so that everybody can stay as friends."
Yang Gongqing sighed and said, "I understand what you feel. Speaking about merit and bestowing reward, how can your share be ignored? Tomorrow I'll have one of the warships to take you back to Luoyang, with the pretext that you are going to personally report the military situation to Daren, also to discuss whether we should immediately cross the Great River to attack Heyang. However, since you already have aspiration, it is not advisable to stay in Luoyang for too long; you know what I mean?"
Touched, Kou Zhong said, "I will never forget the beautiful time fighting side by side with Da Jiangjun."
Yang Gongqing removed his hand from Kou Zhong's shoulder, laughed aloud, and said, "No better or worse than each other! I hope there will be other opportunities to gallop together on the battlefield, to attack the enemy and prevail over our opponents."
※ ※ ※
Kou Zhong returned to the rear court. Someone called him from behind a corridor pillar, "Kou Ye!"
Kou Zhong turned to look, turned out it was the moving pretty maid Chuchu.
The beauty pulled him by the sleeve of his clothes toward a bamboo grove in the middle of the courtyard. She spoke gloomily, "I heard Xiaojie mentioned that tomorrow we are going to part ways with you! Is that right?"
Kou Zhong heart ached; he could not help reaching out to caress the cheek of her heart-shaped face, and spoke softly, "It's the southern thing. I will definitely come back to look for you, plus you can also see Su Jie and her white and plump baby!"
"That's great!" Chuchu replied in delight.
But then she hung her head in grief as she said, "But this maid will have to spend many days without waiting upon Kou Ye."
Kou Zhong could not help fishing out the pendant hanging on his neck, and said with a laugh, "Look! Aren't you always waiting upon me personally?"
Chuchu's tender body shook severely, while her face shot a look of surprise, before throwing herself into his bosom; disregarding everything she hugged him tight, while crying tears of joy.
Kou Zhong's heart was filled with soft jade, warm fragrance, as he smelled her seemingly unfamiliar, yet incomparably familiar, scent of her body; his mind was flooded with the intoxicating scene of the past, where death was at hand in the Big Boss Mansion. With both arms he embraced her tightly and said, "Don't cry. As long as we can survive this chaotic time, there will come a day when we will be happy and no longer have to separate."
This moment, either Song Yuzhi or Li Xiuning have become an out-of-reach distant memory in his heart.
Chuchu suddenly left his embrace; with faint breathing she said, "Chuchu forgot my manners!"
Unable to restrain his emotions, Kou Zhong pulled her into his bosom again; feeling her unreserved deep love for him, he said, "Just remember! I, Kou Zhong, have never regarded you as having lower status, and I never will."
Chuchu's entire body, from head to toe, trembled; she said, "Kou Ye, please take a good care of yourself."
Finished speaking, she left with tears in her eyes.
Kou Zhong sighed.
For the sake of his great undertaking, must he make so much sacrifice?
If he were a simple kid without any aspiration, this moment he could pledge his undying love for her, and then they could rest and fly together [idiom: inseparable], like a pair of mandarin ducks, together, wing to wing, passing through the night.
But he has reached the where he could not extricate himself, his Shuanglong Bang [double dragons gang] men were waiting for his coming.
Flying Horse Ranch was caught in a dangerous position.
Susu was in urgent need of his rescue.
Plus he and Xu Ziling had foes everywhere, there was danger at every step.
This was the price that he had to pay.
※ ※ ※
The warship sailed west against the stream.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling stood side by side at the bow, facing the river breeze, and the vast, unfathomable destiny waiting for them.
Kou Zhong said, "We will leave as soon as we can find Xu Xingzhi; even if we have to fight our way out, I still want to go."
Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, "Wang Shichong will not dare to oppose you openly like that; otherwise, how could he convince the masses? Besides, even if Li Mi died, he has not turned stiff yet; he would not be so dumb as to rattle the troops' morale."
Kou Zhong nodded and said, "Make sense! I was thinking the same thing."
Xu Ziling quieted down.
Kou Zhong sighed and said, "It was just like a dream; until now I still cannot believe that Li Mi, whose formidable renown gives him authority over the whole country, could be defeated by us."
Xu Ziling sighed slightly and said, "Inevitably there will be one day that you might realize that life is just a big dream, and becoming the emperor, toiling to become master of the universe is not at all real."
Having said that, he could not refrain from thinking about Shi Feixuan, whose elegance was like an immortal.
However, Kou Zhong was thinking about Chuchu, who was hiding in his bosom, weeping with grief.
A gust of wind came, brushing the two boys' clothes that they were rustling in the wind. The Eastern Capital Luoyang appeared ahead; majestic, towering in the distance. A spectacular scene.
Would one day this grand city also fall to the enemy?
END OF BOOK 18