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Book 23 Chapter 4 - Gathering the Little Life Back

Xu Ziling and Shi Feixuan stood side-by-side on a small hill; ahead was the Great Ba Mountain Range, which lay horizontally on the mother earth, extended all the way across the plains. Under the night sky, with stars scattered about like chess pieces on the board, the mountain range appeared like a huge barrier. But if he took the sky bridge from the Great Ba, he would be able to reach Sichuan, which was acclaimed as the land of plenty.

Intoxicating fragrance from Shi Feixuan's body assaulted Xu Ziling's nostrils. This was the second time that he had the opportunity to stand at such a close proximity with this beautiful woman, who was as simple and elegant as a fairy.

But he did not dare to indulge himself in wild and fanciful thought, because her heartless hint at Hefei was still deeply engraved in his heart.

By nature, Xu Ziling was a free and easy man who loved to live a simple life; it was very easy for him to take an indifferent view on this kind of man-woman affair.

However, he could not deny that every word, every smile of this outstandingly stunning beauty could make him feel like he was bathing in the spring breeze, as if he was enveloped by the attractive, infatuating natural scenery of spirited rain that came out of the empty sky.

Shi Feixuan turned her pretty face, smiled, and said, "Since we parted at Hefei, Wanwan and I had many battles, one after another; she always employed guerilla tactics, fight and run, so that it seems like she is trying to ascertain Feixuan's weight before the final battle. Although she did not appear to succeed, but even until just now, she still had plenty of strength left, but was unwilling to determine victory and defeat in an all-out battle."

Xu Ziling looked up to meet her limpid, bottomless exquisite eyes; he spoke indifferently, "Perhaps she is waiting for the Xie Di Sheli to make its appearance!"

Slightly stunned, Shi Feixuan said, "Unexpectedly Ziling Xiong also knows about the sacred relics?"

Xu Ziling rarely saw this human-being-character side of her, inwardly he was rather proud. Nodding his head, he said, "I just heard about it by random chance. Why did Miss Shi call it Sheng Sheli [sacred relics] and not Xie Di Sheli [demonic emperor relics]? Is there any difference between the two?"

Smiling, Shi Feixuan replied, "The correct name should be Sacred Relics, because it is the emblem of the identity of the Sheng Ji Zong Sheng Di [Sheng Ji - Most Holy, Zong, maybe 'ancestor', 'school', or maybe a name, Sheng Di - holy emperor. So it could mean 'Holy Emperor of the Most Holy School']. It's just that outsiders want to change Sheng Ji Zong and Sheng Di into Xie Ji [extreme evil] Zong and Xie Di; hence Sheng Sheli became Xie Sheli or Xie Di Sheli! Just think, who would be willing to call themselves Xie Pai [demonic sect]?"

Xu Ziling was amused as well; shrugging, he said, "Make sense; I was so naïve!"

Shi Feixuan looked at him deeply, as if she wanted to ingrain his appearance at this moment in her mind. Quite a while later she diverted her gaze toward the starry sky above the Great Mount Ba, and asked in a soft voice, "May I venture to ask Ziling Xiong, this is not a well-known secret at all; where did you hear it from?"

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling said, "I'm not sure if I should say it. Miss Shi, please don't take offense."

Astounded, Shi Feixuan said, "If Ziling Xiong does not wish to say it, then don't. May I ask where is Ziling Xiong heading right now?"

Instead of answering, Xu Ziling asked, "Is it possible for Zaixia to ask a rude question first? How does Miss Shi view Hou Xibai?"

Shi Feixuan showed a touching demeanor of being deep in thought, and then she looked at him and spoke softly, "How does Ziling Xiong view this man?"

Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling replied, "I have a little suspicion that he is this generation's disciple of Hua Jian Pai, but Miss Shi must not ask me to come up with any solid evidence."

Shi Feixuan smiled and said, "Feixuan would never ask you for that. Because your guess is 100% accurate. From the first day I came upon him, I knew his identity and origin, and he had never concealed it from me."

Xu Ziling was greatly shocked.

※ ※ ※

"Hold on!"

Zuo Xiaoyou stepped out in large strides to block the personal guards, martial art masters who were pouncing out from Li Zitong's left and right.

Li Zitong simply had to give a bit of face to his top rank general, who has brought a large number of his men to realign their allegiance to him; hastily he shouted his order to stop.

After begging for forgiveness, Zuo Xiaoyou turned toward Kou Zhong, who was standing proudly in the middle of the hall, inside the siege. Laughing coldly, he said, "Shao Shuai has less than ten thousand men under your command, and your foundation is not stable yet; to achieve that is already not easy, how do you think you are going to solve our Jiangdu crisis?"

None of the generals did not nod. This was precisely the question in everybody's heart. Du Fuwei only need to take a part of his troops to build rampart and defend it strongly, and it would be enough to wear down Shaoshuai Army coming down south to help Jiangdu by cutting their food supply.

Seeing his objective has been reached, Kou Zhong put the saber back into its scabbard; he said, "How do I address this general?"

Zuo Xiaoyou replied indifferently, "I am Zuo Xiaoyou."

Kou Zhong smiled and said, "I already guessed it's Zuo Da Jiangjun, I just need Da Jiangjun to confirm it with your own mouth!"

Li Zitong had just been listening to Yun Yuzhen whispering something else in his ear; he scoffed and said with a sneer, "Let's talk less superfluous words; why don't this king take a guess. Did Shao Shuai lead your troops west toward the Ranch, along the way you suffered an ambush which resulted in total defeat of your army, leaving Shao Shuai escaping alone, and now you come to swindle this king?"

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "I already told Da Wang not to listen to women's slanderous report; the fact is just the opposite. Yun Bangzhu's master, Zhu Can, and Cao Yinglong's coalition armies has been utterly defeated, each one has returned to their base camp. Cao Army has been totally wiped out by me by the bank of River Zhang. This news should reach this place very soon, only Yun Bangzhu has not received it! Ha! That is laughable indeed!"

None was not emotionally moved.

Yun Yuzhen scolded angrily, "Nonsense! With your trivial a thousand plus troops and horses, not to mention being exhausted from marching to remote regions, how could you defeat our allied armies?"

Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Kou Zhong said, "Yun Bangzhu is absolutely correct; however, superior army attacks using scheme. Also, there is a saying about battle of wits and not battle of brute force. Your allied armies and Du and Shen's coalition armies have been guilty of the same sin, which is each army has selfish motives. I simply exploited this fact and they crumbled. Yun Bangzhu might want to send your men to gather intelligence; for example, by inquiring from the traveling merchants who have been there and back, to see whether I am simply babbling nonsense."

Another high-ranking military officer spoke up, "This general is Bai Xin. May I venture to ask Shao Shuai to speak a bit more clearly?"

Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, "The situation is exceptionally complicated, but I can explain how we are going to solve the crisis in Jiangdu; after hearing it, gentlemen will know whether it is feasible."

Li Zitong inwardly mused that after you explain it, killing you then would not be too late. Thereupon he nodded and said, "Speak up! This king will listen with respectful attention."

Just by listening to the tone of his voice, everybody knew that he practically did not believe that Kou Zhong really had a way to lift the siege.

But Zuo Xiaoyou's expression showed that he was deep in thought; he interrupted, "Is it possible that Shao Shuai is thinking of exploiting the conflicting views between Du Fuwei and Shen Lun, using the driving-a-wedge-between-partners strategy? We have also thought about that, but because the two armies are separated by several dozen li, also because they are taking turn in besieging the city, we do not have a good plan on how to execute it."

Shao Lingzhou laughed coldly and said, "If Shao Shuai can only think about the same thing, it would be best if you don't speak up to show your disgrace."

Kou Zhong stared at him. With displeasure in his voice, he said, "Shao Lingzhou, you are increasingly moving backward. Even Da Wang, under the instigation of a woman, still understand that he has to at least listen to me to see if I really have the ability I can show you; at most, only after listening to me he would make his move to kill me. Yet you advised me not to speak up. I wonder if you are a spy sent here by Du Fuwei? Otherwise, how could you not give the least bit of thought toward the Great Wu?"

While Shao Lingzhou was about to blow off his anger, Li Zitong already rebuked angrily, "If you dare to speak frigid irony and scorching satire to me, I will have you slaughtered first; I don't want to hear half a sentence of your nonsense."

Kou Zhong calmly said, "I, Kou Zhong, am not your subordinate, and am not coming here to kneel and beg forgiveness from you. If you are courteously willing to cooperate, then I might have a bit of interest; otherwise, why would I give you an advantage for nothing?"

The murderous intent in Li Zitong's eyes flared out immediately. Qin Wenchao hastily said, "Da Wang, please calm down. Let's see if Shao Shuai has any good proposal first."

Li Zitong struggled hard to put his anger under control; nodding, he said, "Very well! Just consider I was wrong, Shao Shuai, please speak!"

Unless he was an idiot, everybody present knew that Li Zitong only wanted to wait for Kou Zhong to finish speaking before he would make his move.

Kou Zhong laughed calmly and said, "To use the driving-a-wedge-between-partners strategy, there must be two favorable conditions. Right now the first favorable condition had just appeared, which is Jianghuai Army's vanguard had just left Qingliu to march toward Jiangdu; they might appear outside the city any moment. As long as we are able to know well the situation of their march, we could set up an appropriate ambush or attack their camp along the way."

The men on Li Zitong's side immediately broke into a commotion. They started to believe that he was not babbling nonsense at all, because they had just received the news about Du Army's movement only half a sichen ago. Evidently Kou Zhong had setup a vast intelligence network in the area.

With a smile on her face, Yun Yuzhen said, "Du Fuwei crisscross the left of the river, if they collapsed because of your ambush, he need not come out to mingle in the world."

Suddenly a flashing light appeared Kou Zhong's eyes; fixing his gaze on Yun Yuzhen, who was sitting on the platform to Li Zitong's left, he sneered and said, "You caused Su Jie's death, and thus has become the mortal enemy that Xu Ziling and I, two boys, will never forgive, yet you can still laugh? When did I say that I would ambush and defeat Old Du's main forces? But if the one mounting a sneak attack on Old Du is surprisingly Shen Lun's men, what would the consequences be?"

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