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Ysabel, Jaya, DongBin, Anh, you are welcome. Xiaohu, I happen to agree with Hungry and Chowbeng. But with all the women in this story incomparably beautiful, with hard-to-describe elegance, I found that Zhai Jiao was actually closer to reality. Akolaw, I am with Chua in this: you have the advantage of knowing the story from top to bottom, while the rest of us only know what is revealed in the story so far. It seems far-fetched that Zhu Yuyan did not recognize someone who was intimately close with her. Unless it was a one-night stand: they met in a restaurant, flirted with each other, and slept together for one night, which, I think, was more far-fetched. Sky, yes, she had idiosyncrasies as well.

Book 19 Chapter 7 - Confused by The Enemy

The small boat slid across under the bridge, and reached the east end of the Tianjin Bridge on Luo River before it slowly stopped.

Kou Zhong rose up to his full height and shouted, "Where's Wang Shichong?"

Dressed in civilian clothes, Wang Shichong appeared on the bridge. With him were Rong Fengxiang, Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu and six or seven that the boys knew as martial art masters among the personal guards; but they did not see anybody from Li Shimin's side.

Kou Zhong dramatically smiled and said, "Wanggong is finally able to stand and walk on your own dog legs, it is worthy of celebration."

Wang Shichong did not get angry at all; he spoke heavily, "Kou Zhong, this is not the first day you are roaming the Jianghu; you should understand the logic of talking bullshit less. The man is here, how do you want to swap?"

Kou Zhong laughed and said, "Well said! Since Wanggong is so sensible, naturally you already have a way that will satisfy rival demands, both to guarantee we can leave safely, and to exchange the hostage. Why don't you lay it out and we see if it is feasible?"

"Isn't it so simple?" Wang Shichong said, "We swap people on the bridge, afterwards I guarantee to let the three of you leave the city, absolutely won't stop you. Rong Gong [honorable gentleman] can vouch for me."

Narrowing his eyes, Kou Zhong looked at Wang Shichong, who stood on the arch of the bridge; shaking his head, he said with a laugh, "Wanggong is joking, right? Your guarantee is not worth half a penny. How can Rong Laoban [boss] act as your guarantor?"

Rong Fengxiang spoke heavily, "Cut the crap, tell us what you want."

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "It's extremely simple. You hand the man to me, after I verify his identity, you open the water gate, let us leave the city, and then after we are out of town, we'll let your man go."

Wang Shichong angrily said, "Contrary to my expectation, you are actually counting your chicken before they are hatched. Absolutely not! Who could guarantee that after you leave the city you are still going to deliver the goods?"

Calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Kou Zhong said, "When did I, Kou Zhong, ever go back on my word? Besides, you have no choice in this matter. As soon as something is out of question, I will kill your treasured son. I would rather see how many more people we'll have to kill in order to escape than letting you have your son back, and then having you order your men to deal with us."

Rong Fengxiang interjected, "Can Kou Xiongdi listen to Laofu? The problem now is that the swapping occurs inside the city. If it were outside the city, Kou Xiongdi will have nothing to worry about!"

Kou Zhong turned toward Xu Ziling, who was sitting by his side. After exchanging glances, he shook his head and said, "Rong Laoban does not seem to know that there is such thing as chasing and intercepting in the art of war. If we do it your way, our whereabouts and where we are going will be entirely under your control. If by that time we started to regret, wouldn't it be too late? No need to be wordy; you want to swap, you have to do it my way, I won't take no as an answer."

A murderous intent flashed through Rong Fengxiang's eyes, but quickly died down. He pulled Wang Shichong aside to the part of the bridge where Kou Zhong could not see them, supposedly for some discussion.

Kou Zhong leaned over to Xu Ziling and whispered, "Any movement in the water?"

Xu Ziling shook his head, "No!" he said, "But I always feel something is not right, although I cannot pinpoint where the problem is."

Kou Zhong mused, "Is it because we cannot see Li kid and his men?"

Xu Ziling nodded, "That is perhaps one of the reasons," he said, "But more importantly is that if Wang Shichong sincerely wanted to swap hostages, he shouldn't involve Rong Fengxiang."

Kou Zhong shook, "Make sense!" he said.

This moment, Wang Shichong, Rong Fengxiang and the others reappeared on the arch of the bridge.

Kou Zhong let out a cold laugh and said, "Laozi is getting impatient!"

Wang Shichong calmly said, "For the time being we believe you. But you must publicly swear an oath, guaranteeing that you will fulfill your obligation. If you don't agree, I, Wang Shichong, have no choice but to make every effort to avenge my son. Xu Xingzhi will have to suffer all kinds of abuse; he cannot seek life, and won't be able to find death. You will also pray to the Heaven that you will not fall into my hands."

Full of disdain, Kou Zhong said, "You, Wang Shichong, how much weight do you carry? You are the one who forgets favor and repays kindness with evil. What else do you want to say?"

"Bring him up!" Wang Shichong shouted.

Xu Ziling looked up; Xu Xingzhi's upper body appeared over the bridge railings; his hair disheveled, his face covered in bloodstain and bruises, his body was tightly tied with thick hemp rope, his eyes were closed, he appeared to be unconscious. Xu Ziling could only vaguely recognize his silhouette.

Kou Zhong grew very suspicious; he shouted, "Wake him up and have him say something!"

Wang Shichong coldly shouted, "I'll hand him over to you, you check him out yourself and then we'll talk! Toss him down!"

Two warriors lifted Xu Xingzhi up and threw him over toward the small boat.

With his upper body securely tied, Xu Xingzhi was spinning continuously in the air; looking at his momentum, it seemed like he needed about a zhang or so to land on the boar.

Xu Ziling raised the oar to meet him.

Kou Zhong focused his full attention on the situation all around.

'Whoop!' Xu Xingzhi bounced back upward. Now it appeared that he would roll toward the boat.

Right this moment, strange change happened.

The thick rope on Xu Xingzhi's body suddenly disintegrated into pieces. Both of his hands raised, bursts of powerful finger wind swiftly attacked the two boys.

At the same time, the boat shook with a loud rumble and turned into wooden chips.

The two boys had already waited in tight formation, but they still did not expect the enemy might paint by holding two brushes at the same time [i.e. to attack one problem from two angles at the same time], and completely reversed the situation.

All of a sudden they no longer stood on the small boat, but were sinking into the river.

All around there were sharp whistling as from both banks of the river more than a dozen powerful arrows were shooting at them, while countless enemies flew down from the bridge, pouncing on them.

While dodging the enemies' finger wind and arrows, the two boys knew in their hearts that the only way to reverse their losing battle was to keep Wang Xuanying under their control.

The two suddenly increased their speed diving into the water, but immediately their whole body broke out in cold sweats.

They saw some unrecognizable thing wrapped itself around Wang Xuanying's body, and lifted it up at an angle. By the time they remembered Yuchi Jingde's Gui Zang Whip, it was already too late.

The two boys were so upset that they felt like crying in the water to vent the resentment and remorse in their heart. But this moment there was no time to think; from both sides appeared countless enemies in wetsuits, wielding crossbow, closing in on them.

They knew that trying to evade these exceptionally strong and long-ranged assault weapon under water would be a vain attempt.

By this time firelight started to appear on both banks, casting their light into the river.

The two boys continued sinking straight toward the pitch-black bottom of the river; if the enemy archers ever caught their shadow under water, they could forget about escaping alive. This kind of helplessness and uselessness feeling was as unbearable as a huge rock pressing against the pit of their stomachs.

If they did not choose River Luo to carry out the transaction, even if they grew wings, it would still be difficult for them to fly away.

Xu Ziling was the first to reach the bottom of the river. As soon as he touched the mud on the riverbed, his heart was moved; quickly he applied his spiraling energy onto both palms, which he then repeated pushed out all around. The spiraling force raised up the mud and spun it around. A short moment later the river water became unbearably muddy.

Kou Zhong cheered inwardly and followed Xu Ziling's example. Sticking close to the bottom of the river, they moved forward together and quickly left the area.

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