Kou Zhong followed at the back of the line, riding side-by-side with Xu Ziling. They no longer had to worry about Li Shimin, but they worried about Bai Sheng. Now Li Shimin believed that they were part of Shang Xiufang's entourage, but Bai Sheng believed that they were Wang Shichong's men. Therefore, as soon as Wang Shichong's imperial bodyguards showed any sign that the boys were not one of their own, Bai Sheng would immediately know that they were impostors. This outcome appeared to be inevitable. If Li Shimin did not travel together with them, it might still be possible for them to attempt to make their move first to control Bai Sheng, but now naturally they could not do that.
While they were having this headache, the cavalcade slowly stopped. From the palace hall's steps Song Mengqiu went down to meet them. Li Shimin jumped down from his horse to personally open the carriage door for Shang Xiufang. All around them were imperial bodyguards. They would not be able to slip away quietly even if they wanted to. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling could only exchange helpless look, as they braced themselves and dismounted from the horse.
The imperial guards came over to take their horses away. 'Boom!' A sudden clap of thunder shook the Palace City. Strong wind blew, blasting everybody's clothes that they fluttered in the wind. The horses were startled; they reared and neighed. And then bean-size raindrops started to pour down, sparse at first, but quickly became dense.
Song Mengqiu appeared to be prepared. Hastily he opened the umbrella he was carrying, to protect the gracefully-stepping-out-of-the-carriage remarkably beautiful woman from the rain. Others had no choice but to scurry around like drowned rats.
The earthed darkened the sky turned faint. While Shang Xiufang and Li Shimin and the others hurriedly climbing the steps into the palace hall, the rain was getting heavier, like it was pouring out of a tray.
The happiest were, naturally, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. They took advantage while everybody else was busy taking shelter from the rain, to unleash their shenfa and while the gods was not aware, the ghosts did not perceive, they slipped away toward the bell tower at the southeast corner.
While gazing toward the elegant and grand roof of the Qianyang Hall, the two boys had a singular feeling of history repeating itself, so much so that they shuddered involuntarily.
From the bell tower where they were to the roof of Qianyang Hall, the distance was about thirty zhang, which was more or less equal to the situation at the Rong Mansion the previous night. Furthermore, the torrential rain has also turned the daytime into the dark of the night.
The corridor surrounding the main hall was full of imperial guards taking shelter from the rain. The only way they could enter the palace hall was from the roof going down, via the window close to the top of the palace hall, and launched a surprise attack into their target inside the palace hall.
Kou Zhong took a deep breath and said, "Do you have any idea how to cross such a distance? Can we repeat the technique you proposed earlier here?"
Xu Ziling nodded and said, "Of course we can. It is even easier now, because we have the long rope that we were going to use to scale the city wall. Come!"
Kou Zhong took off his knapsack to get the rope, which was about ten zhang long, out, and handed it over to Xu Ziling. "This time we are going to rely on your ability!" he said.
Planning in advance, Xu Ziling took the rope and tied both ends around his and Kou Zhong's waist; he said, "If this method cannot bring us to the roof of Qianyang Hall, we can use it to escape!" while pulling Kou Zhong's Moon in the Well in passing.
Kou Zhong protested, "At least you ought to tell me what to do!"
"Very simple," Xu Ziling replied, "I send you to the air, you apply your inner power to glide, and then Xiaodi toss the Moon in the Well, you copy Huang Gongcuo stepping on the flying disc, relying on the saber's momentum to fly to the destination. Remember, the most critical thing is to apply your energy to suck the saber. If it creates any noise, 'Ding!' as it pierces the roof of the hall, both of us can be declared finished."
Immediately Kou Zhong's eyes shone, "You are really quite something!" he said.
"Go!" Xu Ziling shouted in low voice.
Kou Zhong leaped off the bell tower. Xu Ziling stretched out both palms, flat, while applying his power to the soles of his feet, immediately he rose at an angle about ten zhang into the air, at the same time as the thunderstorm.
Normally, it would be strange indeed if nobody noticed people flying in the air like that, under this kind of strong wind and heavy rain circumstances, even if someone was to look up to the sky, perhaps they could not see anything.
A bolt of lightning flashed in the empty air above Kou Zhong's head. When his momentum was used up, Kou Zhong made a somersault, like a flipping fish he slid in the direction of the palace hall's roof. This moment Xu Ziling was also coming at an angle to catch up with Kou Zhong.
Under the rainstorm and the crash of the thunder, Kou Zhong 'swam' ten more zhang, which brought him nearly fifteen zhang from his target. Xu Ziling applied his power to throw the Moon in the Well, which arrived right on time under Kou Zhong. Kou Zhong reached out to grab the saber's hilt, while at the same time raising his qi to lighten his body.
'Deng!' the rope between the two boys was pulled perfectly straight. By the time Kou Zhong was brought to the edge of the palace hall's roof, Xu Ziling was also pulled by the rope. He made a somersault, and landed by Kou Zhong's side.
Time for action. Hooking their feet on the roof of the palace hall, the two boys leaned out the eaves to look down.
They looked inside through the ventilation window close to the roof the hall. The vast main hall was brightly lit. More than a dozen banquet tables were set up, divided into two rows, facing the main banquet table.
In the midst of the rumbling noise of the rain beating the roof, the melodious sound of music, intermingled with the sound of people talking and laughing, seemed to be coming from another world.
Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling's ear, "Li kid openly participates in a distinguished meeting held by Wang Shichong in the Palace, isn't that the same as acknowledging Wang Shichong's imperial throne?"
Xu Ziling was examining the situation; he saw that to left side of Wang Shichong's main banquet table, the first seat was occupied by Wang Xuanying, followed by Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu, Rong Fengxiang, and the others. To the right, the head seat was occupied by Shang Xiufang. Next in line was Li Shimin, followed by officials, members of the gentry, and celebrities of the City of Luoyang. Hearing the question, he crossly said, "You still have time to think about such thing? Li kid is willing to participate in this lunch banquet, naturally he has his own reasons!"
When he was talking, the rain flowed from the back of his neck to his face and mouth, filling him with some kind of joyous, carefree, and he-could-throw-caution-to-the-wind-at-any-moment feeling.
The heaven and earth were overflowing with rolls of thunder, flashes of lightning, and the loud noise of the rain. Compared to the warmth of the lights inside the palace hall, the outside world appeared particularly violent, ice-cold, and merciless.
The rain poured down from the tiles of the roof like an unstoppable waterfall onto the flight of steps by the corridor of the palace hall. All the guards were crowding toward the wall of the hall. It seemed like in the whole imperial palace, only the two of them were hanging from the eaves of the palace hall, letting themselves swept by the wind and battered by the rain. Water was dripping from every single strand of hair on their bodies.
Wang Shichong's hateful voice was vaguely heard inside the palace hall, "Tonight Miss Xiufang's honorable self will depart by boat, so let us offer her a toast, wishing her to have a pleasant journey."
It was only then did the two boys understand why the banquet was being held at midday, and why Li Shimin was willing to attend.
Kou Zhong leaned over and whispered, "I am going to pretend to assassinate Wang Shichong, you are in charge of catching that little Xuanying; what do you think?"
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, "Leave Wang Shichong to me, you deal with Li kid, put Yuchi Jingde, those three fellows under control."
Kou Zhong was stunned, "Then who's going to do the kidnapping?" he asked.
Taking off his mask, Xu Ziling said, "Naturally, that will be Xiaodi. When Wang Xuanying sees that his Laoye [lord/master] is under attack, he will certainly rush over to help, and that will be the moment he is going to be captured."
Following his example, Kou Zhong also removed his mask. "Be careful of Rong Fengxiang," he said, "If he is a bit more formidable than Rong Jiaojiao, it is enough to give you headache. Hey! Do you think I might accidentally kill Li kid?"
Xu Ziling replied in heavy voice, "Our target is to rescue Mr. Xu. If you are greedy to render merit and seek victory, you might be captured by the enemy instead, and then we will lose everything. If that happened, the hostage to be swapped would not be Mr. Xu, but you, this stupid fellow. Do you understand?"
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, "In front of you, how come I am always the stupid one?"
Xu Ziling refused to bicker with him much longer, "When do we move?" he asked.
"What do you think?" Kou Zhong muttered irresolutely.
Xu Ziling wiped the rain from his eyes, revealed a smile on his face, and spoke softly, "Naturally the moment the enemy's alertness is at the lowest point! Tell me, when should we make our move?"
Revealing his brilliant smile, Kou Zhong replied, "This is called heroes usually agree. The moment our great expert Xiufang starts to open her golden mouth will be the moment we make our move."