After staring blankly at Shi Feixuan for half a day, Xu Ziling showed a hint of bitter smile and said, "There is indeed a small misunderstanding between Miss Shi and I; frankly speaking, I originally decided not to come to Yuelai Inn to stay for the night, who would have thought that I met someone whom I did not want to meet? In order to get rid of his entanglement, I had to pretend that I had a friend who reserved a room for me here; as a result, I was forced to come here. To make the best after a mistake, I thought about staying here for one night, and then leaving tomorrow morning; who would have thought that Miss found me here? Hey! I am really sorry."
Shi Feixuan was listening to him in keen interest, and then, with a smile on her face, she said, "This is called a destiny! Why did Ziling Xiong suddenly have the urge to pour out what's in your mind?"
Recovering his free and at ease attitude, Xu Ziling replied calmly, "Before answering this question, can Xiaodi ask a question fist?"
Shi Feixuan replied indifferently, "Ziling Xiong, please go ahead."
Xu Ziling said, "My understanding is that all the inns and hotels in Chengdu have already booked solid. Miss arrived here can't be much earlier than I did, but how could you easily book a room for me? And why was the mister old shopkeeper outside was so respectful and so polite to me?"
Shi Feixuan replied nonchalantly, "It's simply because I did it through someone else, and in Chengdu, this person is very resourceful. Now, can you answer Feixuan's question?"
It was only this moment that Xu Ziling started to understand that Shi Feixuan's trip to Chengdu was not as simple as it appeared on the surface, because with her character, she would never visit anybody, especially a man, this casually. After slight hesitation, he said, "The answer is very simple: simply because I did not wish to accept Miss' invitation."
Shi Feixuan did not think it was rude at all; on the contrary, she smiled even more cheerfully and said, "Naturally Feixuan has already guessed so, but I just wanted to hear Ziling Xiong's explanation one step further. As I'm sure Ziling Xiong already know, Feixuan's invitation absolutely does not involve any feeling between a man and a woman; rather, it was for different purpose."
Xu Ziling's heart grew even colder. But he quickly dispelled this vexing thought and said, "All Miss's actions and speeches are enshrouded in profound mystery, how could we, mere mortals, understand it? Besides, right now I just want to get a good night's sleep. Everything else can be considered tomorrow morning. Miss, please do not laugh at me."
"Who would laugh at you?" Shi Feixuan spoke in displeasure, "I can only blame your mouth for not following your heart. The truth is that you are expecting Shi Qingxuan to come here looking for you. You also resent Feixuan's view on Hou Xibai. Am I right?"
Stunned, Xu Ziling said, "I really did not think that Shi Qingxuan would come to look for me. From the tone of your voice, it seems that Miss does not have a peaceful relationship with Shi Qingxuan. As for Miss's other guess, are you suggesting that I, Xu Ziling, am jealous?"
Just like her own description about the water flowing over the solid rock without leaving any trace, like a quiet water without any ripple Shi Feixuan said, "Just consider Feixuan misunderstood you! I was just trying to figure out what kind of man Xu Ziling really is. Not many people can arouse my curiosity like Ziling Xiong, and that is the truth. Will Ziling Xiong believe me?"
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, "Other than the heavy responsibility you received from your master, what else can Miss possibly care about? This time I am going to Shu [Sichuan], I just want to warn Shi Qingxuan, to tell her to be careful of Yang Xuyan. Once I am done, I will immediately leave. Other things I don't want to care, not to mention it is out of my control anyway."
Shi Feixuan nodded and said, "Feixuan understands. If there were no Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling would become free clouds and wild crane, without any concern over the affairs of life. I respect Ziling Xiong's decision; moreover, I hope that Ziling Xiong would be willing to do the same. Feixuan will take my leave now!"
※ ※ ※
Everybody looked at Kou Zhong in astonishment.
Kou Zhong took a sip of his wine and said heavily, "Shi Feixuan must be going to Sichuan to pave the road for Li kid. This will mean that if Xue RenGao didn't fall into disadvantageous position, then he will be blown back to his roots by the Li kid."
Everybody was speechless.
Ci Hang Jingzhai was the holy land that the Wulin world was looking up to. If they clearly showed their support to the Guanzhong's Li Family, father and son, their prestige would potentially increase many times over. If Shi Feixuan personally take this matter into her hands by going to Bashu to speak on Li Shimin's behalf, unless it was a stubborn man or someone with a hidden agenda of his own, it would be very difficult for anybody to say no to Ci Hang Jingzhai's request. Moreover, if Xue RenGao were routed, the Li Clan's fame and power would rise even more like the sun in the middle of the sky. To neutral regional powers, early attachment to the future ruler was naturally much more valued than an oath of allegiance when the time came.
Bu Tianzhi said, "Duzun Bao's Xie Hui [see Book 22 Chapter 6] plays a critical role in Bashu. Without him giving the nod, no one would dare to act on his own initiative. He and the Song Family of Lingnan have in-laws relation, surely he won't easily surrender to the Li Family, father and son?"
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, "Zhi Shu has this view because you have not seen Shi Feixuan. Not only she is more beautiful than an immortal, her words, insight, knowledge and experience are as formidable as her sword. If she is willing to forgo her honor and surrender her nobility by taking the role of Li kid's government official like Su Qin or Zhang Yi, I guarantee that she will be able to impress many people."
And then, as if he had just remembered something, he turned to Chen Changlin and asked, "After the Dugu Clan was defeated and they ran out of Luoyang, where did they go?"
Chen Changlin replied, "The safest place will be Guanzhong's Chang'an. Besides, they are relatives."
Puzzled, Bu Tianzhi asked, "What relationship there is between the Dugu Clan and the Li Clan?"
Chen Changlin said, "Li Yuan's father and Yang Jian each took Dugu Clan's older and younger sisters as their wives, thus the relationship was established. My understanding is that there is Yang Xuyan thrown in the mix as the go-between, so Li Jiancheng ignored Li Shimin's strong opposition and convinced Li Yuan. Therefore, although the Dugu Clan is lodging under another person's roof [idiom: to live relying on someone else's charity], they are extremely well-off."
Kou Zhong felt big headache; thinking that he was about to go to Chang'an for a treasure hunt, yet his enemies were gathered there. This would make things doubly difficult for him.
After heaving a sigh, Kou Zhong blurted out without thinking, "After taking care of Shen Lun, I am thinking of going to Lingnan to pay my respect to Song Que."
Everybody was caught in surprise that after the mountain road twists around each new peak [idiom: things have taken a new turn] he suddenly blurted that remark; they were all greatly astonished.
It was as if Kou Zhong was just awakened from a dream; seeing everybody was staring at him, he said, "What did I just say?"
Chen Laomou replied, "You said you wanted to see Song Que."
"Ah!" Kou Zhong exclaimed; his old face slightly blushed, he nodded and said, "Right! I should pay an official call to him, the Senior. From here to Lingnan by boat, how many days will it take?"
Knitting his brows, Chen Changlin replied, "A few days will do. But this man, Song Que's character is proud and aloof; he is very difficult to get along with. Shao Shuai hastily coming to his door, I don't know how he will react."
Chen Laomou spoke heavily, "Perhaps he would try Shao Shuai's saber technique."
Luo Qifei said, "The Song Family has never really participated in the power struggle after the Sui perished. I'll say they might repeat the stratagem of obtaining the world from Yang Jian. Based on their superior geographical location, whoever becomes the emperor would have to placate them generously."
Chen Changlin added, "Therefore, the Song Family can't possibly be drawn directly into the power struggle of the present day. If Shao Shuai wanted to persuade them, you would only waste your time."
Slightly embarrassed, Kou Zhong said, "I just want to say hello. But since gentlemen say so, let me give it some more thought!"
Yet the beautiful image of Song Yuzhi emerged in his heart; moreover, it quickly grew even more vivid and intense.