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Xiaohu, Akolaw, thanks. Although I suspect that it's because you expect me to continue. Ysabel, Jaya, DongBin, HPC, you are welcome. KChill, December was rather unusual, we even had white Christmas. But 'normally' it's not that bad.

Last chapter of Book 23.

Book 23 Chapter 13 - Soft Talk in Beseeching Each Other

Xu Ziling sat in his chair, staring blankly, while myriads of thought were surging in his mind. Naturally he could not possibly mistakenly think that the only reason Shi Feixuan inviting him to enjoy the Lantern Festival was because she was thinking highly of him; just like she admitted herself, there must be another profound intention. This immortal-like beauty's action was hard to fathom. If she did not reveal it herself, perhaps he would never have guessed it for the rest of his life.

Thinking to this point, his heart became restless. This rare emotion made him difficult to sit quietly again, hence he sprang up and went out of the inn. When he reached the street, he suddenly came to realization that he really did not know where to go to find Shi Qingxuan.

After warning her, he wanted to leave Sichuan immediately, he did not wish to stay even a moment longer.

If anything, he was hurt by Shi Feixuan always defending Hou Xibai, so now he just wanted to drive her completely out of his mind, and did not want to be bothered by her. It was not jealousy at all; rather, he was frustrated because even after he was trying to be a lowly person, he still failed. On top of that, thick or thin, his status never changed, which made him feel even worse.

When all is said and done, Shi Feixuan really did occupy a place in his heart.

Recalling Kou Zhong, who was also not pleased with himself in the area of man-woman relationship, he could not help feeling a bit bitter, but a bit amused as well, and felt that all of these were ridiculous. How surprisingly similar were the two boys' bitter experiences.

He really wanted to laugh aloud, but he could not laugh.

He suddenly felt uncertain about the future; he could not make up his mind. After finding, or failing to find, the 'Duke Yang's Treasure', what was he going to do? Most probably he would look for Yuwen Huaji to settle the score! But what about after that? He could not remain in the Central Plains, because as soon as he found out that Kou Zhong was in difficulty, he would not be able to stop himself from trying to help him. Only if he went somewhere where nobody knew him would he not have to guess who would fight with him next. He was already weary of 'licking the blood from the saber blade' livelihood.

A continuous breeze was blowing cold air on the street, blowing the lanterns hanging outside every door every gate, while the flame was flickering inside the swaying lanterns, creating spectacular scenery.

A horse-drawn carriage suddenly stopped in front of him. Zheng Shuming's pretty face appeared on the window and said with a smile, "I was just looking for Xu Xiong. How about coming on board? Qie has something I'd like to ask for your guidance."

※ ※ ※

A bit tipsy, Kou Zhong returned to his room. Without taking off his boots, he lay on the bed, with only one thing in his mind: presently he was still far inferior to Li Shimin. And for the first time he understood the rationale behind Du Fuwei willing to offer him the throne.

Since his arrival to Luoyang, everything has happened too quickly, too fast, plus one thing was connected to the other, so that he felt as if he did not even have time to breathe, and was simply too busy to give real consideration to his own situation.

Only just now did he have the opportunity to sit down, to drink and to chat, so that he could not help thinking about the problem facing each player in this game of power struggle.

Others might not be aware of it, but he clearly knew that attacking Jiangdu could be said as Du Fuwei's last effort in this strive for the world, yet this effort was destroyed by Kou Zhong's own hand. Under this kind of circumstance, it was extremely likely that Du Fuwei would fall from Shi Feixuan, the beautiful lobbyist's consideration. In which case, wouldn't it mean that Kou Zhong inadvertently doing Li Shimin a big favor?

The strive over the world was not a duel between two people, but a long-term desperate struggle involving strategy, political willpower, as well as mental and physical efforts. Li Shimin's expansion was faster than his expectation, so that he was overwhelmed with disheartened and frustrated feeling.


If he failed to retrieve the 'Duke Yang's Treasure', he might as well come with Ling Shao going sightseeing.

If Song Yuzhi was willing to change her mind and not blaming him, then he might as well marry her!

He was tossing and turning restlessly, half drunk and half awake, while remembering people and the things of the past, the wrong marriage between Susu and Xiang Yushan, the intertwining of love and hate between he and Song Yuzhi, his falling-out with Li Jing, Shang Xiuxun's sulking and leaving. All kinds of emotions filling his heart; shame, remorse, regret over one thing after another, kept attacking his mind until eventually he felt extremely lonely.

This was perhaps the price he had to pay in striving for the world!

※ ※ ※

Aboard the carriage, Xu Ziling was taken aback. Not because there was another young upper-class woman in the carriage, but because this young [married] woman had at least sixty-, seventy-percent resemblance with Song Yuzhi, so that in just one glance he was able to recognize the woman as Song Yuhua, Song Shidao and Song Yuzhi's [older] sister who married Xie Hui's son, Xie Wenlong.

After exchanging some pleasantries, Xu Ziling sat down on the seat opposite to the two women.

Apologetic for inconveniencing him, Song Yuhua said, "Yuhua was originally planning to ask Mr. Zheng to invite Gongzi to my humble home to chat, so that Yuhua could temporarily act as the host. However, unknowing to me, Gongzi's noble self is very busy and has no time to spare time for a separate task. Left with no choice, I presumptuously came to pay a visit, hoping that Gongzi would not take offense."

Xu Ziling had a sudden understanding, now he realized why Zheng Shiru insisted on walking him toward the inn; it was simply because someone asked him to do so. However, he was wondering what kind of urgent matter Song Yuhua was dealing with, so that although the holiday was coming right into her face, she still found the time to see him.

Zheng Shuming spoke amiably, "We came at an opportune time, otherwise we would miss Xu Xiong again; we really did not expect that Chuan Bang [Sichuan Gang] people might book a room in advance for Xu Xiong."

Xu Ziling mused inwardly that turned out Shi Feixuan booked the room for him via Chuan Bang people, naturally he could never have guessed it.

Song Yuhua's jet-black eyebrows were slightly furrowed, her demeanor was warm, gentle and beautiful, in total contrast to Song Yuzhi's brash, unyielding manner. Yet she was carrying a different kind of charm, which stirred up other people's tender affection, making them unable to refuse whatever she was asking. He heard her cherry lips speaking softly, "A couple of months ago Lu Shu [Uncle Lu] came to Chengdu and stayed for a short time; it was only then did I know that Xu Gongzi and Kou Gongzi are actually closely related to Yuhua. Therefore, since we all are of the same side, I was not afraid of being rude and came to see Gongzi."

Xu Ziling was unclear whether it was because of 'love me, love my dog' [orig. love the house and its crow] or perhaps because of her lovely and touching manner, but he started to have a favorable impression on her. He spoke confidently, "Madame Xie must not have any misgivings; whatever it is, no need to hide anything, just tell me."

Zheng Shuming spoke in low voice, "I'd better …"

Song Yuhua pulled her sleeve and said, "Ming Jie no need to leave."

Then she turned toward Xu Ziling and said, "Evidently Gongzi is already aware that the Qin State has already been defeated and perished. The Li Clan completely occupies Longyou territory, so that their Li Family's fame and power is like the sun in the middle of the sky, all outstanding heroes are in danger."

Inwardly, Xu Ziling was severely shaken. He began to understand why Song Yuhua wanted to talk to him.

Zheng Shuming added, "The Western Qin Army inflicted defeat on the Tang Army, killing Li Shimin's troops that he abandoned the spears and dragged the armors while escaping back to Chang'an. But with Xue Ju fell ill and suddenly died, followed by his son RenGao succeeding to the throne, the entire situation has been completely reversed."

Slightly displeased, Song Yuhua said, "Ming Jie should have spoken a bit clearer. Li Shimin is not the Xue Family, father and son's enemy at all. It was because his internal injury was relapsing that he was unable to lead the troops. As a result, Liu Wenjing and Yin Kaishan held command over the army, and only then did they suffer the big defeat that they had never experienced before."

Astonished, Zheng Shuming asked, "Didn't Li Shimin recover from his illness already?"

Song Yuhua explained patiently, "Li Shimin was not sick, and Xue Ju did not die of illness at all. This was the news that was announced to the outside world, the fact is that when Li Shimin was leaving Luoyang to return to Guanzhong, along the way he fell into the ambush of martial art masters of unknown origin led by Song JinGang, and received heavy injury. All along he has not recovered yet. Leading the troops to the west to resist the Qin Army had triggered his injury, and so they were defeated."

Listening to all of these, Xu Ziling was dumbstruck. Earlier he had heard from Kou Zhong's mouth about Xue Ju, who proclaimed himself Xi Qin Wang [King of Western Qin], moving his troops east to Guanzhong. Only at that time he did not know that there were so many twists and turns in this story, so much so that even Li Shimin had to pay bitterly.

Emotionally moved, Zheng Shuming said, "In that case, who assassinated Xue Ju? Those capable of slaughtering him cannot be simple people!"

Song Yuhua replied, "Other than 'Shadow Assassin' Yang Xuyan, who would have this ability?"

Hearing Yang Xuyan's name, Xu Ziling's eyes shone with terrifying strange light. "How did Xue RenGao fall from power?" he asked.

Song Yuhua gave him a clear-cut answer, "The Li Clan reached out to Li Gui first; they sent a special envoy to Liangzhou to negotiate surrender, Li Gui gladly agreed. He was conferred the title Liang Wang [King of Liang], with territory partially belonged to the Western Qin State. After solving this fears of trouble in the rear, once again Li Shimin led his army into battle. This moment RenGao was still occupying superior position, they defeated Tang Army's Qinzhou's Zongguan Dou Gui first, and then besieged the strategic town Jingzhou. Time and again he beat Tang Army's generals; until they met Li Shimin's main forces. Xue RenGao's great general Zong Luohou met the enemy head-on; who would have thought Li Shimin hid the supplies from the enemy? After battling each other for several dozen days, Xue RenGao's army provisions were depleted, one after another his subordinates, who all along could not accept his leadership, surrendered to the Tang. Li Shimin has been spying the opponent's army and knew their hearts had been swayed, he carried out the strategy of enticing Zong Luohou into a decisive battle at Qianshuiyuan, resulting in big defeat for Zong Luohou, killing several thousands of the enemy."

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