Rong Fengxiang appeared to be unable to curb his raging temper toward the two boys. Murderous intent flashing repeatedly in his eyes, he let out a cold snort and said, "How did you get in?" The rest of the people were absolutely silent, plus it was not their turn to speak anyway.
Astounded, Kou Zhong said, "Why speak so much nonsense?"
And then, turning to Wang Shichong he said, "I don't need to tell Shengshang [your holiness/your majesty], you ought to know what to do! Xiaodi has always been an impatient man!"
Wang Shichong was so angry that he nearly vomited blood. "Get Xu Xingzhi in here!" he growled. The imperial guards acknowledge the order and left.
Kou Zhong smiled and said, "Give Xiaodi a rather presentable fast boat. When we arrive at Yanshi, I will release him. No other conditions will be accepted. Understand?"
What could Wang Shichong say?
They sailed away from the Eastern Capital, downstream toward Yanshi. It was dusk. The sky cleared after the rain. The scenery was enchanting. Wang Xuanying had his acupoint sealed, he lay unconscious in the cabin. The three chatted leisurely about everything that happened after they parted, there was the joy of meeting again after a calamity.
Xu Xingzhi said, "When Wang Shichong bestowed grand titles to his relatives and subordinates, he left out Zhong Ye, so I knew that he intended to use evil scheme to harm two masters. Thereupon, while going on an official trip to Jinyong, I took the opportunity to slip away to Yanshi to look for you. Who would have thought that I could not escape his various linking arms?"
Xu Ziling was at the helm. Hearing what was said, he spoke up, "In my opinion, Wang Shichong still want to put Mr. Xu in an important position; otherwise, with his jackal and wolf [i.e. evil person] character, he would have you executed on the spot."
Kou Zhong let out a cold snort and said, "In that case, his treasured crown prince will be done for as well."
Xu Xingzhi looked back, a warship was tailing them. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Toward this kind of harsh and merciless man, I would rather die than working for him. Unlike Kou Ye and Xu Ye, whose righteousness reaches the clouds and the sky, heroes and towering figures who disregarded your own safety and danger for other people's sake. Even if I, Xu Xingzhi, have to deliver my little life, I would do so most willingly."
Kou Zhong still had lingering fear; he said, "This time it was just a bit too dangerous. Not only Rong Fengxiang's martial art skill is so bizarrely high, it also has a weird heretical, secret feeling; definitely not of orthodox method. We nearly ruin the enterprise for the sake of one basketful because of him.
Astonished, Xu Ziling said, "I thought it was only my own perception; I did not know you had the same feeling. On the surface his technique was straightforward and open, but hidden within it was crafty, heretical move. I also felt that he was somewhat reserved, as if he was trying to hide something. There must be a dirty little secret somewhere."
Kou Zhong appeared to be deep in thought, as if he was recalling a distant memory. It was quite a while later that he said, "When I fought with him, although only twice, I had a feeling that I have seen the expression showing in his eyes somewhere before. This is really strange; when I saw him before, why didn't I have that kind of feeling?"
"That must be because normally he deliberately hid the radiance of his eyes," Xu Xingzhi said, "Only when fighting did he apply his true qi, hence he was unable to conceal it. If that is the case, then Zhong Ye must have met him before, only he was not showing this face."
Xu Ziling nodded, "Mr. Xu's explanation makes a lot of sense," he said, "Rong Fengxiang himself is a man without any position, whichever side has great power, he then attaches himself to that side; he must be harboring unfathomable motives."
Thinking deeply, Kou Zhong said, "If that's the case, Rong Fengxiang's real identity should not be difficult to guess; who has close relationship with Zhu Yuyan or someone of similar position, and have fought with me? Oh!"
His entire body shook, he looked at Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling returned his gaze with a blank. "Who is it?" he asked.
Kou Zhong took a deep breath and said, "I remember! Oh, my Niang! Must be Pi Chen, that demon Taoist; really formidable."
Xu Ziling was stunned, "How could it be him?" he asked, "But it also makes sense. Wang Shichong is in deep trouble this time."
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, "Boy, oh boy! In this case, I am afraid Rong Jiaojiao is not his daughter at all. And Yang Xuyan's origin is even more dubious, so much so that Dong Shuni is also not simple at all. Li kid might be falling into a trap without he realizing it."
Xu Xingzhi was puzzled, "Who is Pi Chen?" he asked.
After explaining it to him, Kou Zhong said, "Yin Gui Pai wants to contend over the world; Pi Chen, that demon Taoist's something or other Pai [Sect] also wants to fish in troubled water. Although his method is different, his intention is the same. If Pi Chen knew that as soon as he fought we were able to see through it, he would have regretted it deeply."
Xu Xingzhi cast his gaze on the bright moon that has just risen from behind the mountain in the distance; he said, "After reaching Yanshi, I am going to go ashore and rush toward the Flying Horse Ranch. Two masters must be very careful; that man Li Zitong does not look like a good man. The men under his command, Bai Xin, Qin Wenchao and Zuo Xiaoyou, three men are all famous valiant military leaders."
Recalling that they were about to deal with Du Fuwei and Shen Faxing's coalition army, a nearly impossible task, the two boys could only look at each other dejectedly.
Xu Xingzhi mused, "Du Fuwei and Shen Faxing's collaboration is only for mutual interests, there must be heavy conflicting views in it. If two masters could ingeniously exploit this, perhaps you would be able to break their coalition as easy as blowing off dust."
His spirit greatly aroused, Kou Zhong said, "Mister's proposal has a lot of merits; I will certainly keep it in mind. When the time comes, I will strive to carry it out."
The sailboat rounded a sharp curve, and entered a wide, smooth section of the river course, where it was able to sail downstream at full speed. About ten miles pass Yanshi, the boat slowly pulled toward the shore. Because there were only a few of them, plus the boat was light, the warship trailing them from the Eastern Capital has been left far behind early on.
The sound of hoof beats rumbled along the shore. Their old friend Yang Gongqing, leading about a dozen riders, arrived; and then he went on board, alone.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "Great General Yang indeed has guts and has knowledge; you have the impertinence to climb aboard alone."
Yang Gongqing walked over toward Kou Zhong. After casting a glance at Wang Xuanying, who was still lying on the deck, unconscious, he greeted Xu Ziling and Xu Xingzhi, who were standing on the bridge, and then said with a sigh, "This time Shangshu Daren is at fault for courting disaster. I, Yang Gongqing, have nothing to say."
Kou Zhong said, "While I am here, I might as well tell Dajiangjun [great general] two things. If Dajiangjun is happy, you may pass it on to that baby Wang Shichong."
Yang Gongqing was puzzled, "What things?" he asked.
Thereupon Kou Zhong calmly told him about Li Shimin, who might be recruiting Li Mi's former generals, and about Rong Fengxiang, who might be Pi Chen in disguise. And then he laughed and said, "If I don't make them very scared and on edge, and make it difficult for them to have peaceful days, how could I vent this grudges?"
Yang Gongqing's countenance changed; he said, "These two things are no small matter; I must immediately send the letter via flying pigeon to report to Wang Shichong."
Just by hearing him calling Wang Shichong by name directly, Kou Zhong knew that his resentment toward Wang Shichong has reached the level that it was revealed in his speech.
Kou Zhong leaned over and spoke in low voice, "Dajiangjun may bring the hostage back, but you have to remember how Wang Shichong is treating me. Another day he may use the same method to treat Dajiangjun. Serving a tiger and wolf master cannot bring about good outcome."
Smiling ruefully, Yang Gongqing replied, "I already knew it! Three gentlemen, take care!"
Picking up Wang Xuanying, he turned around and left.