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HPC, Lao Qianbei, DongBin, you are welcome. Xiaohu, yes, please. But only if you can transmit true qi to me, not the false qi. pengembara, welcome to the forum, hope you like it. akolaw, so you were simply repeating the text in Cantonese? Kowloon, thanks. Hungry, I thought those two are minor characters. Xu Xiong, thanks.

"Pfft!" Shi Feixuan burst into a tender giggle. While the dumbstruck Kou Zhong was staring at her lovely appearance and beautiful disposition, she spoke glibly, "Jiang Taigong[2] obtained the Emperor by using the 'Yin Fu' [yin - negative/feminine (of 'yinyang'), fu - talisman/mark/seal] scheme, developing the 'Six Secret Strategic Teachings', assisting the Wu King to exterminate Shang Dynasty and founded a country. Su Qin's[3] crafty millet technique used the Vertical Alliance System to lobby the feudal vassals and obtained six states' seals. The Great Han's Zhang Liang[4] studied intensively the 'Su Shu' [lit. plain book], 'San Lue' [Three Strategies (of Huang Shigong)], to help Liu Bang pacify the world. Currently Kou Xiong has acquired the 'Secret to Long Life'. Although it is a treasure of the Taoist School, it can help Kou Xiong joins the ranks of the world's top martial arts masters, completely unrelated to contending-over-the-world, governing-the-world affairs. That being the case, why not retire early, be the great swordsman of Jianghu[5], gain famous reputation forever; wouldn't it be better than being drawn into politics and a never-ending power struggle?"

Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, "No wonder you appreciate that fellow Xu Ziling, because you last few sentences were the best portrayal of him. Otherwise, if he is willing to help me with all his strength, I definitely will not end up opening a small restaurant."

Even with Shi Feixuan's indifferent-to-fame-or-gain, no-self-no-action self-cultivation, she could not stop her jet-black eyebrows from slightly knitted as she spoke in distress, "If you keep mentioning him left and right, Feixuan will have no choice but to take my leave, and will no longer regard you as a friend with whom I can have open discussion."

Kou Zhong hastily said, "Xianzi please calm down; the fact is that I always extremely admire you. It's just that I know in my heart that there will come a day when you and I will have to face each other in the battlefield; so I am struggling to suppress the feeling in my heart. Now Xiaodi understands I am in the wrong, would Xianzi please ask me anything, Xiaodi will not hide anything I know, I won't stop before I have said it through."

Since making her debut, it was the first time for Shi Feixuan that a young man declared his love openly, yet she was keenly aware that this public declaration of love was spoken without thinking, not based on truth at all. She ought to be displeased, yet for some reason she found it very difficult to be angry or to blame him. And this was precisely Kou Zhong's trait that no one could match; even his enemy found it hard to hate him.

Ever since Kou Zhong stepped into this small hall, the two of them have been opposing each other with equal harshness. And Kou Zhong's most brilliant feature was that he basically did not give the opponent any opportunity to grasp his vulnerability and flaw. Even with Shi Feixuan's intelligence, she could not help feeling that she was unsure where to start.

The fact was that Kou Zhong himself had his own difficulties.

In terms of knowledge, experience, and eloquent, he was positive that he could not match this lucid-and-elegant-like-fairy-descending-to-the-world peerless, tender, beauty. And she obviously wanted to persuade him to support the bright master [i.e. rightful emperor]; one, by withdrawing from the power struggle, and two, by selecting one of the candidates.

Supposing under 'faulty argument and poor rhetoric' he harshly refused her 'kind intention', plus his previous convictions in the 'Jade Annulus of He Clan' affair, he would only make himself a formidable opponent in this no-one-unwilling-to-provoke beauty. Therefore, he decided to take the 'heretical school of opinion' route by employing marketplace method, combined with blunt and straightforward manner, so that even if she might lose her temper and protest coquettishly, she could not become his real enemy.

It was a subtle advantage, and certainly it would be hard to refute.

After staring hard at Kou Zhong with her beautiful eyes for half a day, a hint of barely discernible smile escaped from the corner of Shi Feixuan's mouth, as she spoke indifferently, "All right! Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, these five aspects, could Kou Xiong explain them all one by one?"

Hearing the question, Kou Zhong was stunned, while inwardly cried, 'Formidable!'

He originally wanted to make her go away in anger; who would have thought that not only she did not lose her temper, she even presented a vague and abstract subject to test him. Her purpose was obviously to make him expose his own folly.

With this kind of move, she was forcing him into a corner, while trying to find a hole in his response, and thus swaying his confidence in vying over the world.

If he decided to proceed with his original plan, he would only incite disdain in her heart.

Thereupon he smiled wryly again and said, "That sounds very much like a subject from the imperial examination. Xianzi, is it possible to ask questions that are related to reality? For example, how to be a good emperor? How to quell the outstanding heroes of the world? How to make common people's live happy, and so on? Xiaodi was born in the marketplace; upon searching my own soul, I know that I have better understanding to answer the last questions compared to pampered sons of honorable schools and big clans. But if you want me to try imperial examination, I guarantee that you won't find my name even at the bottom of the list of successful examinees."

Shi Feixuan was startled and emotionally moved. She was an expert at the profound art of observing people; listening to this remark, she knew it came from the bottom of Kou Zhong's heart. She understood even more that he cleverly compared himself to Li Shimin, making her feel that if she chose Li Shimin based on this kind of test, fundamentally she was not being fair. Just like people who passed imperial examination brilliantly, it did not mean that they would make a government official who love and respect the people. Naturally she would not make final conclusion carelessly based on other people's answer at all; rather, she would make her judgment based on long-term observation.

Just as this out-of-the-ordinary, free-from-vulgarity beauty thought that Kou Zhong would not be able to answer her question, Kou Zhong spoke up with serious expression, "Xianzi actually puts forward Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, these five aspects into one entity. Hee! Did Xiaodi say it incorrectly? Heaven has the Heaven's principle, human beings also have human beings' principle, so all living things between the heaven and the earth actually abide by certain law: Virtue can only be accomplished after the Principle is established, able to persevere in the right way [in Chinese, the same word 'dao' can mean 'way' or 'principle'] is virtue. Therefore principle and virtue will always be together. Benevolence and righteousness evolve from the conduct of the innermost being; it came from compassion and kindness of the heart. As for propriety? This is actually the foundation of the four previous aspects, from which grew the norm that all mortals must follow, in order to safeguard the ethics, morality, benevolence and righteousness in interpersonal relationship."

This remark was actually declared at the outset of the preface of the first chapter of Lu Miaozi's Art of War, indicating that to govern the troops, one must first understand the way [or principle] of Man and Heaven. It was written, "The way of Man and Heaven may not necessarily be used to each other, thus said all the ancient sages. Yao was venerated like the clear sky, Shun simultaneously held seven governments, Yu narrated nine arable fields, King of Wen used Bagua [divinatory trigrams] explaining the heavenly law, Duke of Zhou determined the four seasons to the greatest extend of yin and yang. Confucius wished for nothing, Lao Dan [Lao Tzu] established the perpetual non-entity. Military principle so far involves variation of the supernatural beings, in all cases it does not escape from technique of self, much less from the method of military expedition to contend for supremacy. The principle of observing the heavens is by grasping the heaven to proceed, by carrying on to the end. Releasing the Heaven means benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and confidence, five virtues. Observing these means prosperity, abandoning these means defeat."

Kou Zhong was exceptionally intelligent; from these ideas, he developed his own theory.

Shi Feixuan was emotionally moved again; she said, "Kou Xiong's profound comment and righteous remark left Feixuan with no choice but to have a whole new level of respect for you. I just want to ask Kou Xiong one more question: Kou Xiong spoke those words, was it for personal gain, or did it come from your holding-on-to-people's-plea heart?"

Completely at ease, Kou Zhong laughed and said, "If I denied that it was for personal gain, then I would be violating principle and virtue; but if I only do it for myself and not for the people, I would lack benevolence and righteousness. Therefore, all Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, are basically one entity!"

For the first time Shi Feixuan felt that she was truly a nobody who could not do anything, because his answer was like saying that it was for the happiness of the people that he vie for the world. Hereby she could begin to persuade him to act in the interest of the people, and do the thing that he must do the most.

Kou Zhong went on, "As for who should be the first, and who should be the last, I am afraid even Li kid cannot tell? Otherwise, he would abandon his personal gain and come to help me, Kou Zhong, to unify the world. Isn't that right?"

Frowning, Shi Feixuan said, "Kou Xiong's words is not without a little truth, but it actually is far from reality, and it has made even more difficult for Feixuan to accept. And this is where the problem lies: based on Kou Xiong's current strength, merits and achievements, how would you convince the masses? It would only make the world more chaotic, and thus it would bring Kou Xiong and the people more harm than good."

Even Kou Zhong himself had to admit that Shi Feixuan was an extremely charming lobbyist [or political adviser]. But in the end she still did not believe that he, Kou Zhong, was capable of doing anything. She was just afraid that he would produce the legendary 'Duke Yang Treasure' and bring to the world more unknown variables!

Beyond Kou Zhong's expectation, Shi Feixuan stood up gracefully, fixed her beautiful eyes on him, and said, "The Heaven emitting murderous aura, the stars are moved, the constellation shifted. The Earth emitting murderous aura, dragons and snakes rise to the land. Mankind emitting murderous aura, heaven and earth are turned upside down. Fire conquers wood, disaster arises must be subdued. Traitor conquers the nation, time in movement must be dispersed. For the living, death is the root; for the dead, living is the root. Grace born from harm, harm born from grace. The words of Feixuan are ended. If fate so dictates, I will see Kou Xiong face to face again!"

Finished speaking, she floated away.

[5] Orig. Xiao Ao Jianghu, but different 'Xiao' from Jin Yong's Xiao Ao Jianghu (Smiling, Proud Wanderer). Xiao - hiss/whistle, while Jing Yong's 'xiao' was laugh/smile.

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