The two men passed through the corridor with guards standing on both sides, respectfully saluting them, and then crossed over the doorstep of the entrance into the main hall of the Zongguan Mansion.
In the brightly lit hall, sitting high on the throne at the southern extremity of the hall, Li Zitong stood up and laughed heartily, "Kou Shao Shuai is certainly highly skillful and audacious; after capturing my Donghai and killing my younger brother, you still dare to come alone. Are you trying to take advantage of my, Li Zitong's tent being without anyone in it?"
Kou Zhong leisurely stepped into the main hall. Sweeping his gaze around, he saw dozens of high-ranking military officers standing on both sides, including Shao Lingzhou. Everybody was glowering at him, seemingly eager to pound on him. He could not help blurting out laughing and said, "Wu Wang praises me too much! I am neither highly skillful nor audacious; I just miscalculated Wu Wang's hospitality. May I ask whether Wu Wang wants to dye the hall with blood, or do you want to render big blow on Du and Shen's coalition forces? Either way, it only needs one word from Wu Wang to decide."
Li Zitong was slightly startled; his eyes emitted a fierce and harsh light. Staring hatefully at this young, formidable opponent, who did not show the slightest flustered demeanor, he shook his head and sighed, "Kou Shao Shuai did not misjudge my hospitality, rather, you underestimated my, Li Zitong's ability and wisdom, while overestimating your own ability. Right now this main hall has been heavily surrounded, even if you grew wings on your back, you will not be able to escape the arrows shot down from the sky by the archers."
Qin Wenchao left Kou Zhong standing in the middle of the hall to take his place after Zuo Xiaoyou, who was the first in line on Li Zitong's right-hand side. He said, "Da Wang [Great King], please consider, why don't we listen to Kou Shao Shuai's proposal first?"
All the high-ranking military officers, including Zuo Xiaoyou and Bai Xin, nodded their head in agreement.
But Shao Lingzhou coldly said, "Da Wang must not listen to his graceful words, flowery speech. This kid is most adept in using crafty plots and machinations. Once we are not careful, we might fall into his trap."
Merely by these few sentences, Kou Zhong knew that Shao Lingzhou has had an acrimonious falling-out with the people on Gui Xiliang's side, hence he did not have any scruples in dealing with this situation.
Kou Zhong chuckled and said, "Shao Junshi overpraised me! But I do have a bit of unconventional way of doing things. However, let me say this again: if you know that you cannot overcome Old Du, what would you use if you don't use crafty plots and machinations? If Jiangdu fell, Shao Junshi could simply swat your butts and get as far away as possible, but I feel sorry for those other people. No wonder Shao Junshi can speak in such a beautiful, confident-and-at-ease manner."
Shao Lingzhou's countenance changed slightly; he laughed coldly and said, "I just said that you are an expert in crafty plots and machinations, and now you are already sowing dissension, keeping the blood in your mouth while spouting people. If I, Shao Lingzhou, really have that intention, let me not die a good death."
Shrugging his shoulders, Kou Zhong said, "How about you just consider I was blaming Shao Junshi wrongly? However, I have one thing I'd like to ask for Shao Junshi's guidance: if Shao Junshi is concerned over Jiangdu's safety like Qin Jiangjun, just like Qin Jiangjun, you would at least be interested in what Xiaodi come here to propose. Why did Shao Junshi have the lack of interest to even hear it? Is it because you see that your personal gratitude and grudges within the Gang is more important than the Great Wu's rise and fall?"
These words were spoken with passion, and were quite logical; it was even more fierce and harsh compared to curses and critics. Even if Shao Lingzhou was craftier, momentarily he was at a loss for word.
Without waiting for him to reorganize his flags and drums, Kou Zhong turned his attention to Li Zitong on the platform; he said, "Whether you want war or cooperation, Wu Wang, please bestow your instruction!"
Li Zitong had his gaze fixed on Kou Zhong, his countenance slightly changed several times. Finally he took a deep breath and said, "This king is listening with respectful attention."
Right this moment, from the entrance to the left of Li Zitong's throne came a woman's voice, "Hold on!"
Hearing that voice, Kou Zhong groaned inwardly.
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In an instant Wanwan's 'Tian Mo Shuang Zhan' [Celestial Devil (or Demonic) Twin Slayers, see Book 11 Chapter 2] repeatedly tapped Shi Feixuan's Se Kong Jian [Color Empty Sword, see Book 15 Chapter 2], and thus she escaped danger by a hairsbreadth, by sweeping away the sharp weapon, which, if she was half a cun late, would pierce the pit of her stomach. And then like moving clouds and flowing water she retreated to one side, while her gauzed sleeve swiftly shot the 'Tian Mo Dai' [Devil's Belt/Ribbon], creating a meticulous belt net so that Shi Feixuan was unable to seize the opportunity to pursue and attack.
A fantastic ring of indigo light appeared on the pupil of this outstanding Yin Gui Pai direct disciple's beautiful eyes, which was the unique phenomenon of the Tian Mo Gong when it was trained to the peak.
It was only this moment that Xu Ziling realized that when Wanwan repeatedly said that she had not dealt with the two boys will all her strength, it was not an empty threat to intimidate them.
Just by looking at the way she blocked and the way she retreated was enough to give Xu Ziling a big shock. The one thing that left the deepest impression in his heart was Wanwan's ability to use the Tian Mo Shuang Zhan in such a quick and violent-like-lightning way to block and to strike, and then in the blink of an eye changed it into the Devil's Ribbon that lingered continuously like it was being wrapped around her finger, the kind of amazing move that resembled nature itself, with no gap to exploit; it has indeed reached the realm of the grand master's level. Rarer still, she was able to put her heart's intention and the state of her mind into the move, and showed it in full light. Therefore, although there were a number of strokes in between, the movements and sound were simple, as if it was written as a book that others could understand clearly. Basically, if he had not witnessed it with his own eyes, he would not have understood.
That day, when Ba Fenghan chopped his blade three times, there was still a gap between one strike and the other, thus Dugu Feng was able to exploit this opportunity and broke his saber technique.
With Wanwan, however, not only the changes of her move were without any flaw, the most formidable part was that the changes between hard to soft and vice versa was like the nature itself. If Shi Feixuan continued to pursue and attack using the same sword move, she would definitely suffer losses.
Therefore, although on the surface Wanwan appeared to be at the disadvantageous position, the fact is that she would be able to grab her dominance at any time.
Beyond Xu Ziling's expectation however, 'Qiang!' suddenly Shi Feixuan returned her sword to its sheath, while with her left hand she lightly brushed some stray hair that was blown by the wind. So calm and composed as if she had never fought an intense battle just now, she smiled and said, "Let's just drop this battle now; Wanwan Jie [older sister], what do you think?"
Like a pair of snakes the two ribbons slipped back into her gauzed sleeves. Wanwan's face showed a mixture of anger and laughter at the same time. She cast a glance toward Xu Ziling, who was standing behind Shi Feixuan, first, and then laughing helplessly she said, "With an uninvited guest coming to disturb our interest, even if we don't want to drop it, it cannot continue anyway."
Suddenly she flashed a sweet smile toward Xu Ziling before flying backward, and then disappeared into the forest.
Shi Feixuan sighed faintly.
Feeling awkward, Xu Ziling said, "I came at a bad time!"
Shi Feixuan slowly turned her tender body around, and then shook her head and said, "No! You came in time, otherwise the ending would be both sides suffer."
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Walking out gracefully from the rear hall was precisely the Beautiful Shifu Yun Yuzhen, with whom Kou Zhong had gratitude and grudges that were difficult to separate.
Only by looking at her smiling expression, Kou Zhong knew that she had confidence that she would be able to persuade Li Zitong to go all-out in dealing with him.
Plus she had Xiao Xian behind her. So no matter what, Li Zitong would want to be on her good side, unlike Shao Lingzhou, who was merely a guest with the same ranking as his own officers.
This was indeed a variable that was beyond Kou Zhong's expectation.
Li Zitong sat back into his dragon chair. The tone of his voice became gentle, as he spoke tenderly, "Yun Bangzhu, please advise."
Inwardly Kou Zhong was shocked. He finally understood that Gui Xiliang and Xing Rong's arrest was due to Yun Yuzhen playing tricks. This woman was very aware of his character; she knew that if the two were in trouble, he would come to their rescue. Thereupon she set up a trap and waited for him to fall into it. Her only problem was that she had never expected that Kou Zhong would openly drop in and thoroughly display his formidability.
Another headache for Kou Zhong was that from Li Zitong and Yun Yuzhen's current 'eyes and eyebrows come and go' demeanor [idiom: exchange flirting glances with each other], Kou Zhong knew that this man and woman have hooked up, or even engaged in heated love affair, so that if Kou Zhong attacked Yun Yuzhen's personality, he would not obtain the desired outcome.
If he fought, he would only end up spilling his blood in Jiangdu. The more he thought about it, the more he felt that such defeat under this s1ut's hands was not worth it. However, things had progressed to this point, he had no choice but to block the soldiers as they come; and if he was unable to block, it would fall into Xu Ziling's hands to avenge him in the future!
While Kou Zhong was thinking to this point, Yun Yuzhen was taking light jade steps toward Li Zitong's dragon throne. Bending down, she spoke in low voice in Li Zitong's ear, her fragrant lips slightly opened as she was talking for a moment.
Inwardly Kou Zhong praised her, 'Formidable!'; this kind of pillow-talk-like malicious words are most effective to be used on lecherous men.
Taking this opportunity, Kou Zhong took notice of the high-ranking military officers in the hall, all of them were knitting their brows. From their outward appearance, it was obvious that Qin Wenchao and Zuo Xiaoyou had been whispering to one another's ear; clearly they were not happy about Yun Yuzhen bewitching Li Zitong.
Suddenly a glimmer of hope grew in Kou Zhong's heart; his spirit was greatly aroused.
This moment Li Zitong's voice entered his ears, "If Shao Shuai really want to work together in good faith, why don't you return Donghai and those five hundred Khitan warhorses that you robbed to their rightful owner? Of course, Shao Shuai has to stay here for a few days. After everything has been transferred properly, we will discuss matters of vital importance."
Throwing his head back, Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "Wu Wang, you really know how to crack jokes. Too bad Du Fuwei and Shen Lun don't like to listen to jokes. Otherwise, maybe you could make them withdraw based on this."
The Moon in the Well left its scabbard, provoking the imperial bodyguards on both sides of Li Zitong, and the various generals on his left and right, to draw their weapons as well.
Kou Zhong held the saber horizontally across his chest, his posture was like a deity. In a loud and clear voice he said, "That day when Yuwen Huaji's troops besieged Liangdu, I, Kou Zhong, sent someone to you, asking for help. Wu Wang, you ignored it completely. It was you who did not want to cooperate, and wasn't me, Kou Zhong, at all. Under current circumstances, the victor will be king, and no one can argue. How can Donghai be given to you just because you said it? As for the five hundred Khitan warhorses, they represent the conspiracy between you, Wu Wang, and Ku Ge, to bring harm to me. Disregarding old enmity, I, Kou Zhong, come to help you to resolve the distress Jiangdu is experiencing, yet not only you don't know how to be grateful, you even want to put me to death, all because of a woman whom Xiao Xian sent to instigate you and to play you in the palm of her hands. This is an impossibly stupid thing. Let's not talk superfluous words; let's just see if you are more capable than Li Mi or Wang Shichong to be able to keep me in Jiangdu forever. But, Wu Wang, don't you forget that I still have countless brothers and friends. It's just that maybe, under grief and indignation filling their breast, they will join the Jianghuai Army, believing that they might wipe out my blood debt."
Listening to him, Li Zitong's face alternated between red and white; in the end he flew into rage and said, "How dare you! Death is near at hand, you are still this presumptuous. Off with his head!"
The imperial bodyguards received the order with a roar.
An incomparably complex expression flitted across Yun Yuzhen's pretty eyes as she lowered her head.