OK, this is the last of the daily updates …
Zheng Shuming's beautiful eyes lit up; it appeared that she had no malice as she took a good, long look at Xu Ziling before speaking softly, "Perhaps Xu Xiong would find it hard to believe, this time nujia came to pay a visit without any wish to recklessly brandish weapons."
Being at the receiving end of this pair of beautiful eyes, which seemed to hide a lot of things that were hard to understand, Xu Ziling was nonplussed. Clearing his throat, he said, "That would be best; otherwise it won't be good for anyone."
Zheng Shuming calmly said, "The fact is, we do not have enough power here to deal with you. Plus we do not wish to tie an unraveled enmity with your Shaoshuai Army, since it won't bring the slightest benefit to our Yangtze River Alliance."
Xu Ziling did not understand, "Aren't you in alliance with Yun Yuzhen and Xiao Xian? With Xiao Xian as your backer, you shouldn't have any misgivings in dealing with us."
Zheng Shuming smiled and said, "This is called the situation has changed. Previously our number one public enemy was the roving bandits headed by Cao Yinglong, which was the reason for the establishment of the Yangtze River Alliance. But now that Cao Yinglong has been destroyed by you, we decided to place ourselves outside the struggle between you and Xiao Xian. Ay! Were it not for being compelled by circumstances, who'd dare to set himself against the two of you?"
Xu Ziling mused inwardly, "So that's what happened." A bit embarrassed, he said, "Are we that dreadful?"
Zheng Shuming suddenly shouted tenderly, "Bring me wine!"
Receiving the order, the men brought some wine and poured her a cup. They also refilled Xu Ziling's empty cup to the brim.
Zheng Shuming raised her cup to toast him, "Unexpectedly Xu Xiong is just like nujia, we are fond of the contents of the cup. Let's drink for the total annihilation of Cao Yinglong."
After exchanging a toast with her, Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, "It was only recently that I discovered the benefit of good wine; previously, I only drink when I could not decline anymore."
A blush suddenly exploded on each of Zheng Shuming's cheeks, the kind of flirtatious expression of a mature young woman who was unable to hold her alcohol, making her appeared more tender and beautiful, more alluring. With a smile on her face, she said, "It was only after my late husband passed away that Shuming started to copy others, drinking wine to relieve boredom. I wonder what made Xu Xiong started to drink?"
Xu Ziling's countenance darkened. Watching Zheng Shuming as she poured another cup full of wine, he shook his head and said, "Nothing!"
Zheng Shuming knew how to read expressions; she knew that he was unwilling to confide in her. Thereupon she put down the wine pot and ordered her men to wait outside. Lowering her voice, she said, "I hear that after killing Fang Jianding, Xu Xiong let Cao Yinglong go; I wonder if what I heard was true?"
Xu Ziling shivered inwardly. If Yang Xuyan heard about this, he might be able to speculate that Cao Yinglong had used the secret as an exchange for his life, which would be very bad. However, his mouth responded, "Zheng Dangjia is really well-informed."
Zheng Shuming sighed and said, "So it did happen. I believe Xu Xiong must have a very good reason to spare his life. But Shuming is a bit grateful to you instead. If Xu Xiong had not let him go, Shuming would not have the opportunity to kill the enemy who murdered my husband with my own hands."
Stunned, Xu Ziling said, "Wasn't your husband killed by Ba … hey …"
Zheng Shuming replied mournfully, "My late husband died in the duel against Ba Fenghan only because his old injury relapsed, but the main culprit responsible for his injury was Cao Yinglong."
Xu Ziling mused inwardly that such a muddled accounting, perhaps nobody knew how to settle it. "What made Ba Fenghan fight with Jiang Dangjia?" he casually asked.
Smiling wryly, Zheng Shuming replied, "He came to settle an old score on the behalf of Dong Ming Pai; but if he wasn't so overbearing, it would not have developed into such plight. Ay! Can we not talk about such things?"
Inadvertently Xu Ziling gained further understanding of the hard-to-fathom relationship between Shan Wanjing and Ba Fenghan. He nodded without saying anything.
Zheng Shuming toasted him with another cup of wine, saying, "This cup is to offer best wishes on the capture and killing of Cao Yinglong, also to console the million ghosts who died unjustly under his hands."
Staring blankly, Xu Ziling said, "Zheng Dangjia this time …"
Zheng Shuming cheerfully said, "The reason I am hastening to Chengdu this time is precisely to hunt and kill Cao Yinglong. Over the past few years, in order to deal with this evil thief, we have painstakingly gathered all information pertaining to him. We knew that he had never stayed in one place for more than a month; only in Chengdu he lingered for more than three months. Afterwards, he had been making multiple trips to Chengdu. Once he even went shopping at a cosmetic shop. Thus it is clear that he must have a woman somewhere in that place. Since he is at the end of his rope, I am quite certain that he might be hiding in Chengdu."
Listening to that, Xu Ziling immediately felt a big headache. While he was hesitating whether he should tell her that Cao Yinglong only had half a year to live, and asked her whether she could be magnanimous, Zheng Shuming went on, "This deep enmity of killing my husband is absolutely irreconcilable, I will not let this evil thief off, no matter what."
Xu Ziling had no choice but to swallow the words that were hanging by his lips.
Zheng Shuming noticed that he wanted to say something but then hesitated. "Did Xu Xiong want to say something?" she asked in astonishment, "May nujia be so bold to ask why Xu Xiong simply must let him go?"
Lowering his voice, Xu Ziling replied, "It would be best if Zheng Dangjia don't know. Otherwise you might be drawn into an unnecessary, but could easily bring disaster to you, gargantuan trouble, but with absolutely no benefit to Chang Jiang Lian.
Her countenance changed, Zheng Shuming said, "Unexpectedly it is that serious? In that case, does Xu Xiong have any advice for me on pursuing and killing Cao Yinglong?"
Inwardly Xu Ziling praised her intelligence and quick-witted, as well as her thoughtfulness and cautious mind. He took this opportunity to say with a laugh, "Cao Yinglong already reached 'the path exhausted, the end of the road' state, he won't live for much longer. Whether Zheng Dangjia can find him or not, it won't make much difference. If you could, don't get involved in this matter, that will be a sensible act."
Zheng Shuming knitted her pair of crescent-moon-shaped pretty eyebrows as she stared at him for half a day. Her cherry lips opened lightly as she said, "To hunt and kill Cao Yinglong has been the unanimous decision of our Chang Jiang Lian, from top to bottom. Ever since we received the flying pigeon news, we have put all manpower and thrown all resources into this matter, otherwise we would not have found Xu Xiong this quickly. I am afraid we cannot change this matter. I wonder if Xu Xiong could be a bit clearer: does he really suffer serious internal injury?"
Xu Ziling sighed inwardly. Smiling wryly, he said, "Zheng Dangjia, please forgive me, what I can tell you I've already told you."
Zheng Shuming softly said, "I am afraid Xu Xiong still does not trust nujia!"
Xu Ziling's heart moved, he asked, "Why did Zheng Dangjia walk together with Bai Qing'er?"
Zheng Shuming replied in low voice, "That is another reason qie wanted to see you. Why did Kou Zhong call Bai Qing'er a yaonu? He also mentioned to her the name of Wanwan, who made Jingling 'the city destroyed, the people perished'."
Xu Ziling's tiger-eyes flashed coldly; he spoke indifferently, "Good question! Zheng Dangjia still don't understand?"
Zheng Shuming's countenance changed again; aghast, she said, "Is Bai Qing'er really a Yin Gui Pai people?"
Xu Ziling replied frankly, "Bai Qing'er is a Yin Gui Pai female demon. Zheng Shiru is Yin Gui Pai demon. I am afraid even Qian Duguan cannot get off of this relationship. Zheng Dangjia must be very careful."
"Zheng Shiru?" Zheng Shuming blurted out, "Does Xu Xiong have any proof? As far as I know, this man has always been acting alone and independent, arrogant and has high opinion about himself, unlike any Yin Gui Pai demon."
Naturally Xu Ziling could not tell her that he disguised himself as Yue Shan and saw through Zheng Shiru's real face and real purpose. Without any better option, he said, "If we did not uncover it, who would have known that Luoyang Bang's big boss Shangguan Long is Yin Gui Pai people? This matter is absolutely true. Zheng Dangjia should not lightly ignore it."
Zheng Shuming's pretty face turned deathly pale, she bit her lower lip, but did not say anything.
Intuitively Xu Ziling felt that she did not believe him, plus this matter involved the emotion between a man and a woman; otherwise, her reaction would not be that strange.
Sighing, Xu Ziling poured another cup of wine for the two of them, saying, "This cup is for Zaixia paying my respect to Zheng Dangjia, hoping Zheng Dangjia would attach most importance to the general situation. I also offer this toast to say good-bye. Please!"
He had not finished speaking, someone entered the restaurant in big strides. Surprisingly, it was the 'Mad Scholar of Henan' Zheng Shiru.
※ ※ ※
Without making any noise at all Kou Zhong leaped down the city wall. After hiding the rope with the hook well, in the blink of an eye he already set foot on the red-light district, where he spent countless childhood days in Yangzhou.
He put on the mask that turned him into the full-bearded man with eagle-beak nose. His destination was Tian Xiang Lou to find Madame Yuling. Only through her would he be able to get in touch with Gui Xiliang while evading other people's eyes and ears.
Perhaps because the news of Du Fuwei's main forces invading their territory has not spread around, the atmosphere at the red-light district was still peaceful and lively, making people wonder perhaps the situation inside Yangzhou did not have the slightest relationship with the fire of war outside the city.
Along the sides of the street, red sleeves floated and disappeared, the lanterns illuminating the road, the sound of music and song were everywhere. Kou Zhong could not help feeling that he had fallen back into his youth when he could only peek from the outside, leaning against Cui Nong Hong, while other people were staking a thousand pieces of gold on one throw [idiom: extravagant]; a hard-to-describe emotion welled up in his heart.
In that instant, past happenings filled his mind completely, as if he was back as his old little rascal self, roaming the streets of Yangzhou, living a life where hardship and happiness were difficult to tell from each other, but where his heart was filled with longing and expectation of the future.
At the same time, another train of thought rose in his heart, making him feeling dazed and lost.
The fact is, he could never go back to the past. It is also impossible to recall the past years by his thought, he could not change the choices and mistakes that he made in the past either.
What's lost is lost. Time is like powerful current that will never turn back.
He had already lost a lot of precious things. In every case, people constantly make mistakes, make inappropriate choices, while regrets always come later. This is a recurring phenomenon. This realization seemed to make him dazed and at a loss as to which path to follow.
All previous efforts and achievements did not seem to carry any lasting importance; it could not even scratch the itch in his heart.
If only he could walk hand-in-hand with Song Yuzhi, strolling along this bustling scenic spot of Yangzhou, it would be such a beautiful thing, touching and satisfying the heart.
Suddenly the sound of hoof beats urgently pulled his thought back to the grim reality, and then he realized he had just walked past Tian Xiang Lou's main gate.
A horse-drawn carriage was just hurrying out of the gate.
Suddenly an ominous feeling rose up in Kou Zhong's heart; he ran after the fragrant carriage, which ought to carry Madame Yuling's honorable self.