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Hungry, Song Clan supported Kou Zhong. akolaw, I have no idea what lap cheung/lap stand cheung is. DongBin, Lao Qianbei, Jaya, HPC, you are welcome. Xiaohu, I hope this is not too disappointing. Xu Xiong, are you kidding? I am sick ...

Song Yuzhi came to his mind, Kou Zhong felt a sense of loss. It was quite some time later that he said, "Whether I, Kou Zhong, can have the qualifications to fight over the world, it depends entirely on whether I can retrieve the hidden treasure; if I could not, even if I start, I could only be a lowly thief leader. Right now it seems to be just an empty promise, it's too early to say anything."

Song Lu stroked his beard and said with a smile, "If everybody is like you, they must find the hidden treasure first before rising in rebellion, Yang Guang would still be sitting on his emperor seat peacefully!"

Kou Zhong smiled bitterly and said, "This is called present days are different than the former days. At that time the common people's complain reached the heavens, as soon as someone stepped forward to raise his arm, he would be able to muster the crowd and rise up; or perhaps if I were a great general with power from the Sui household, I could have troops whenever I needed troops, I could have money whenever I wanted money. But now fragmentation of power has become reality, if you want someone to throw his life for you, you must have a special characteristic that attracts people. Isn't there a rumor in Jianghu that whoever can acquire the 'Duke Yang Treasure' can obtain the world? This is exactly what the thing that I, a poor ghost, must do the most."

Song Lu nodded and said, "Just by listening to you, I know that you, Xiao Zhong, understand the heart of the people. This is the most important qualification to strive for the world. Rest assured! As long as you are capable to make achievement, our Song Family will give your our full support. Humph! If we let barbarians[1] obtain the world, will we, Han people, have a place we call our home?"

Kou Zhong knew that he was referring to the Li Clan, whose fame and power was rising these days.

The Li Family was Guanlong aristocrat; they have been actively related by marriage to the nobility of the Xianbei and other tribes, during their invasion of the Northern and Southern Dynasties [420-589 AD], to expand their political and military strength; while southern land-owning class like Song Family, have always married among themselves, without any regards to the royal crown, to preserve their heritage and cultural purity. Thereupon it was inevitable that the north and the south did not trust each other.

The intermarriage of Han and Hu [see footnote] in the north was a very common thing. People with 'northern barbarian surnames' such as Yuan, Zhangsun, Yuwen, and the others were actively holding power in political and military affairs. Yang Dong's minister Yuan Wendu, whom Wang Shichong wanted to denounce, and one of the upper-rank generals in Li Shimin's Heavenly Policy Mansion, Zhangsun Wuji, were not Han men at all. Naturally the Song Clan had misgivings and wanted to repel them.

Were it not for this kind of delicate situation, Song Que would not have made the promise that if Li Mi could overtake Luoyang, he would give Song Yuzhi away to marry Li Tainfan, and seal their alliance agreement, simply because Wang Shichong was also a barbarian.

However, Kou Zhong, this new rising star, was clearly a southerner, so compared to Li Mi, he fitted more to the Song Clan's ideal.

Kou Zhong nodded and said, "This kid has one thing I need support on; I am afraid only Lu Shu will be able to accomplish it properly."

Song Lu replied happily, "Don't hold your hope up to high on me! Looking at you, how you have risen from a lowly, nameless kid to a later generation martial art master whom the Wulin world think highly of; it was like watching my own child grew up to be an adult. Whatever help you need, just tell me."

Kou Zhong was really touched; it was half a day later that he said, "This kid wants Lu Shu to deliver an important message to the Flying Horse Ranch Changzhu [ranch master] Shang Xiuxun."

And then he explained in details Liu Wuzhou and Xiao Xian's evil scheme. He spoke heavily, "Lu Shu needs to be very clear in explaining the situation to Shang Changzhu. If you send someone else, if she has doubt, she might hold things up."

Song Lu nodded and said, "I understand! Leave this matter to me."

Kou Zhong said, "If we are lucky and able to defeat Li Mi, Xiao Ling and I might go to Jiangdu to see how we can deal with Du Fuwei and Shen Faxing's coalition forces. Lu Shu may tell Shang Changzhu that I will be sending someone called Xu Xingzhi to report to her on the situation. She knew this man."

Song Lu muttered to himself irresolutely for a moment, and then letting out a cold humph, he said, "This fellow Xiao Xian is really despicable; while we were curbing Lin Shihong, he took the opportunity to plunder the strategic cities north of the Great River. But could Zhu Can let him expanding to the north?"

Kou Zhong recalled the self-proclaimed 'Garuda King' Zhu Can [first mention Book 8 Chapter 7], whose daughter, the 'Venomous Spider' Zhu Mei, whose martial art skill was superior to Kou Zhong, had exchanged blows with him by mistake at the second carriage on the dock outside the city of Baling. Without thinking he blurted out, "How's Zhu Can's current situation?"

Song Lu said, "This man is so brutal, he did not have popular support at all. But his subordinates and ministers reach a hundred thousand strong, so he cannot be taken lightly. Recently they were involved in fiery battle with the Three Big Bandits; although they gained the upper hand, but were unable to expand their power. If you can make the troops and generals under his command to surrender, and govern his territory with benevolence, combined with Flying Horse Ranch's elite troops and the remnants of Jingling troops, you can accomplish much."

Listening to that, Kou Zhong's eyes lit up. He nodded and said, "Lu Shu is absolutely right. Ginger is indeed the older the spicier."

Song Lu burst out laughing and said, "This matter is easier said than done, but if you can eliminate Zhu Can, this big evil, in itself it will be a gargantuan good thing, it will make your reputation spread out far and wide, win the heart of the people. At that time you may seize the opportunity to sweep away the Three Big Bandits, who bring intense disaster to the peace of the land. Combined with our Song Family's Lingnan Army, at least one quarter of the world will already be in your bag."

Kou Zhong excitedly said, "As long as I can get the 'Duke Yang Treasure', everything won't be too difficult to achieve. At that time Lu Shu must lead your troops to help me."

This moment, a bodyguard came in and reported that a guest has come to seek audience. Kou Zhong was in high spirit, how could he be interested in seeing anybody? "I don't have time now!" he said impatiently, "Ay! Who is he?"

"He called himself Qin Chuan," the bodyguard replied, "He said Kou Ye would definitely want to see him."

"It's her!" Kou Zhong blurted out.

※ ※ ※

Kou Zhong entered the small hall; Shi Feixuan, disguised as a Confucian scholar, sat silently in the corner, her countenance was peaceful, her clear, limpid eyes watched as Kou Zhong walked in, as if she did not want to miss even the most subtle of his movement.

Her immortal self appeared to have some kind of strange power that could transform the ordinary place into a sacred fairyland, the ordinary small hall seemed to be infected by her presence that the atmosphere became surpassing-the-dirt, free-from-vulgarity.

Kou Zhong came over and sat down in the seat by her right, the two of them was separated by a small table; smiling, he said, "Did Shi Xianzi [fairy] confuse Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling? Perhaps you were looking for Xiao Ling, but you misspeak by mentioning Xiaodi's lowly name instead?"

A strange feeling welled up in Shi Feixuan's fragrant heart.

Ever since she left her school's gate and set foot on this mundane world, this was the first time someone dared to tease and crack jokes with her.

In front of her exceptional immortal appearance, anybody would be terrified with her out of the ordinary presence, afraid that they might lose their manner and incite her contempt.

Shi Feixuan spoke indifferently, "Kou Xiong must be a person whose natural character loves to joke and trifle without respect. Feixuan's purpose this visit is to ask for guidance in a few matters. And Feixuan is definitely not some kind of Xianzi."

Kou Zhong relaxed and slumped back into his chair, leisurely and glibly he said, "If you want answer to your question, Shi Xianzi better go look for that kid Li Shimin; Xiaodi might disappoint Feixuan."

Shi Feixuan's jet-black eyebrows slightly knitted, she asked in surprise, "Feixuan has not even stated my question, why do you already tighten your troops and have your heart filled with hostility?"

Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, "Because I am afraid you, Xianzi, would give Xiaodi an opportunity that on the surface appears impartial, but actually not impartial at all, to see if I, Kou Zhong, am a talent to govern the world like that Li kid. Once your confirm your opinion, if in the future you help Li kid with all your strength to deal with me, you would do so with clear conscience."

Shi Feixuan smiled and said, "Kou Xiong's imaginative power is quite quick, indeed something that Feixuan seldom see in all my life, no wonder you are able to hoot at the wind and the cloud [i.e. unstable situation] while the world is in chaos like this. But please forgive Feixuan for being dull-witted, how did Kou Xiong decide that in my heart I already have a preconceived idea, and think that Kou Xiong is inferior to Li Shimin?"

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "This is basically not preconceived idea, but a fact. Right now Xiaodi has just begun; I still don't have any idea how to cure the nation, if you asked me, I would be dumbstruck and unable to reply. In the end I will be embarrassed. Therefore, I'd prefer not to answer, leaving a bit of mystery for you, Xianzi, to think about it. If you have spare time you may … hee hee … you may think why Xiaodi is so brassy like this."

Displeased, Shi Feixuan said, "You do know yourself; not many people can be like you. But that being the case, why don't Kou Xiong select a brilliant master in your heart, help him unify the world, and alleviate the people's suffering?"

Kou Zhong let out a cold humph and said, "How can I, Kou Zhong, be willing to be someone else's attendant? Contending for supremacy in the chaotic world is one thing, governing the world after it is unified is another thing. If you want to ask, why don't you ask how am I going to obtain the world? Talking about other things is still too early."

Very interested, Shi Feixuan said, "It does not matter to me whether Kou Xiong believe me or not, but Feixuan's visit this time is not to talk about how to rule a country. Now that Kou Xiong already took the initiative to raise this issue, Feixuan can't help but curious, and wants to ask for your guidance: based on your current situation, how would you, in the midst of outstanding heroes already successful in setting up their independent regimes, distinguish yourself?"

Remaining confident and at ease, Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, "I am looking at it step by step. If I fail, then I'll return to Yangzhou to open a small restaurant. Hey! Mine and Xiao Ling's culinary talent came from an expert. If Xianzi happens to pass by my humble establishment, we will make two small vegetarian dishes for you to try. Ha! I am practically a man who is at home wherever I am. Later on Xianzi will not need to take trouble for Xiaodi. It's all right with me if you want to help that Li kid!"

[1] Barbarians, Hu Ren [hu people] refers to any ethnic groups that are not Han.

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