Being at the receiving end of his stare, Yun Yuzhen's heart trembled, so that this usually smart-tooth-and-sharp-dental woman became speechless.
However, everybody else showed skeptical expression on their faces.
For the first time Li Zitong showed that he was emotionally moved, as if he had just been awakened from animosity and women's charm. "Is Shao Shuai thinking of posing as Shen Lun's men and mounting a sneak attack on Jianghuai Army?" he spoke heavily, "This tactic is easy to grasp but difficult to put into practice. As soon as both sides meet and exchange information, they would know that we are the one playing ghost."
Kou Zhong inwardly mused that Li Zitong was indeed something; in this kind of critical moment, he was not careless at all.
In the hall, the crow and peacock made no sound, everybody was quietly waiting for Kou Zhong's response.
Kou Zhong calmly said, "If it were your men, let's not mention that you won't escape the eyes and ears of Jianghuai Army's spies, even if you are dressed in Jiangnan military uniform and insignia, but you still use the swords, spears, sabers and halberds forged by Tie Ji in Jiangdu, and the bows and arrows manufactured by Chang Huilong, you would only end up as a laughingstock. Hence the reason Da Wang has an 'easy to grasp but difficult to put into practice' impression."
Tie Jie and Chang Huilong were Jiangdu's most famous weapon manufacturing companies; this was the fact no one did not know.
Seeing Kou Zhong's card-up-his-sleeve attitude, Zuo Xiaoyou slowly said, "Listening to Shao Shuai, you must have prepared an army flawlessly disguised as Jiangnan Army; am I right?"
Before Kou Zhong answered, Yun Yuzhen already interrupted, "How would I know that you, Kou Zhong, are not just making empty promises? To find such army is not something that can be done in a mere ten days' time. Not only they have to speak in Jiangnan accent, they must also use weapons produced by Jiangnan weapon manufacturer."
Kou Zhong smiled and said, "Yun Bangzhu has been to Luoyang and drank Rong Fengxiang's birthday wine; I wonder if you know someone by the name of Chen Changlin?"
Her countenance changed slightly, Yun Yuzhen said, "Never heard of it!"
Another general spoke up, "Da Wang, please understand, Chen Changlin is my fellow countryman. For many generations his clansmen are seagoing ship builders, and they have business relations with various tribes in Nanyang [Southeast Asia/South seas]."
Just by listening to his accent, others immediately knew that he was a 'replacement guaranteed if not genuine' [idiom: authentic] Jiangnan man.
Qin Wenchao asked in surprised, "How could Yun Bangzhu not know this man? Even I, who stayed in Jiangdu, have heard that he was an important guest who came by Wang Shichong's personal invitation."
Li Zitong stared blankly for a moment before letting out a stifled grunt, and then staring angrily at Yun Yuzhen, he said, "Shao Shuai, please continue."
Shrugging his shoulders, Kou Zhong said, "The fact is, I have nothing important to say. Because Changlin Xiong was not pleased with Wang Shichong's conduct, he came to throw his lot with me, plus he recruited a large number of brothers from Nanhai region, naturally already equipped with their own weapons, arrows and darts. Hey! I'm sorry to say, but it was they who robbed Old Ku's five hundred Khitan steeds; Da Wang, please be aware."
Bai Xin joined in, "Da Wang, please understand, currently Shaoshuai Army and our Great Wu are as close as lips and teeth. If Jiangdu is broken today, tomorrow it will be Liangdu's turn. Therefore, we must not suspect Shao Shuai's sincerity."
Letting out a cold snort, Shao Lingzhou said, "Kou Zhong's conduct has always exceeded all expectations, it is difficult to fathom; perhaps because he is eager to rescue certain people, he is using false words to defraud us. Da Wang, please think thrice."
Kou Zhong laughed aloud; he met Li Zitong fierce and harsh gaze, which was like two sharp arrows shooting at him. With assurance and composure, he said, "No matter what, Da Wang will have to fight this battle. Otherwise, if Jiangdu fell, you'd have expended a great deal of effort to kill me, Kou Zhong, in vain, and still don't have anything at all, except a group of enemies to hunt and kill Da Wang, including Chen Changlin's several thousand brothers who are experts in naval battle. Apparently you have not considered it."
Finally Li Zitong's countenance changed slightly. These last few sentences were extremely heavy with threatening power, because he did have the intention that in case he was defeated, he would run away overseas.
This moment, all eyes were fixed on Li Zitong, waiting for him to make his decision.
While Yun Yuzhen and Shao Lingzhou were crying 'Not good!' inwardly, Li Zitong did indeed take a deep sigh, as if he was venting his anger away, and then said, "Get Gui Xiongdi, two men, out for me. I wonder if Shao Shuai still have interest to stay and drink a cup of wine water?"
Kou Zhong inwardly wiped his cold sweats. He knew that he had finally gathered his little life, which was already halfway into Yan Wang's [Yama] hands, back.
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling's eyes were looking at Shi Feixuan, who was sitting cross-legged on the top of a hillock, his ears were listening to her sweet-sounding voice, which sounded like the voice of an immortal, while the enchanting night sky above was full of stars. A hard-to-describe feeling welled up in his heart.
Whether in the future they would be friends or foes, he was certain that he would never forget this moment as long as he lived.
He heard her gentle and soft voice speaking, "Hua Jian Pai has never produced any extremely vicious, exceedingly evil men. What they pursue is the art, entering into the martial way, and they see the martial way as some kind of the highest art directly related to human beings. Therefore, all disciples are multi-talented, focusing on the artistic conception of grace in the art; therefore, they are able to raise their banner among many schools and sects, and their famous reputation was not weakening for a very long time."
Puzzled, Xu Ziling asked, "If that's the case, how come Hua Jian Pai is classified as demonic schools' Two Sects and Six Ways? Furthermore, it is on an equal footing with Yin Gui Pai?"
Shi Feixuan looked up at the starry sky, her pretty eyes emitted a touching multi-colored light, as if she was able to see the real righteousness through the outward appearance of the beautiful universe; she spoke smoothly, "The separation of the whole Dao [Tao, the way] is really due to the difference of ideology. During the Spring and Autumn [770-476 BC] and the Warring States [475-221 BC] periods, hundreds schools of thought vied to be the best, only then there was division of the school of thought. Since Han Wu rejected many schools of thought and revered Confucianism as the sole orthodoxy, everybody believed in Confucianism as the righteous way. Only afterwards did the division between Righteous and Demonic exist; this is purely man-made. As for where the demonic schools came from, it is difficult to pursue the source one by one. All we know is that they oppose Confucianism's set of believe in benevolence and righteousness, propriety, wisdom and trust, and they are blaming the ignorant masses for learning the hypocrisy. After passing through long-term development, they are increasingly rebellious against orthodoxy. At the end of Han, the Yellow Turbans Peasant Uprising thieves and the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice Taoist Movement were among those. Any thought that goes to the extreme could be considered leaving the Way and entering the heretic."
Listening to this, it was as if the murky darkness suddenly opened in Xu Ziling's heart. Previously, it has always been very difficult for Kou Zhong and he to understand Yin Gui Pai's conduct and deeds. Because since they were little, the only teaching they received was from Bai Laofuzi's set of ideology, which was a mixture of Buddhism and Confucianism.
Shi Feixuan turned her pretty face around, and spoke indifferently, "Confucianism speaks about impartiality, about the doctrine of the Middle Way. Hua Jian Pai is definitely an extremist sect, believing that human's true nature and feeling is above all morality. Mixed with art, they developed a set of ideology that the orthodox sects find hard to accept; hence people classified them as demonic sect. The fact is, Hua Jian Pai and Yin Gui Pai are inherently different."
Looking at her absolutely beautiful silhouette, with its curves like spirited sky and deep valley, Xu Ziling asked in low voice, "So what do you think of Shi Zhixuan?"
Shi Feixuan cast her gaze back toward the distant mountain range and the wilderness, as if she was getting in touch with the load on her mind. It was a long time later that she sighed lightly and said, "I'm afraid Shi Zhixuan is one of so many different kind of demonic schools; he was holding two positions at the same time, as the head of two schools Hua Jian Pai and Bu Tian Ge. And these two sects' martial art xinfa and the direction they are heading are fundamentally different. Until today, nobody understand how he could fuse the two sects' martial art into one, creating unrivalled demonic skill that everybody is terrified of."
In the end Xu Ziling was unable to bear it anymore; he asked, "Shi Zhixuan is both demonic and evil, that … that …"
Shi Feixuan had an orchid character and intelligent mind, naturally she could guess the reason he wanted to speak up but then hesitated. She spoke softly, "Did Ziling Xiong want to ask, since Shi Zhixuan was this kind of man, how did our humble school's Bi Xiuxin become his woman? And you worry that Feixuan might follow the track of an overturned cart [fig. repeating a disastrous policy]; am I right?"
Xu Ziling's handsome face blushed; embarrassed, he said, "I was thinking about the former question, but have not thought about the latter one."
Shi Feixuan turned her head back to look at him; she seemed to enjoy looking at his embarrassment. A hint of smile escaped from her fragrant lips as she spoke softly, "Were it not for Xiuxin Shibo [martial (older) uncle] cherishing the worthy-of-the-greatest-admiration moral character of 'if I don't enter the hell, who would enter the hell' by using herself to test the devil, this world would have been turned upside down by Shi Zhixuan, and the demonic would grow, while the Way would vanish."
Taken aback, Xu Ziling asked, "Since that's the case, why do Miss so admire and trust Shi Zhixuan's disciple?"
An unprecedentedly sweet smile burst forth on Shi Feixuan's face, with tender, innocent manner she sneered and said, "In the end there is still this question, yet you say over and over again that you have not thought about it?"
Xu Ziling's handsome face blushed again.
Even he did not understand why in front of her clear eyes he was so out of control.
Shi Feixuan rose up to her full height, her jade countenance recovered its still-water-without-any-ripple expression. Changing the subject, she spoke indifferently, "Where is Ziling Xiong going?"
Xu Ziling understood that she was saying goodbye, he could not control the strong feeling of discontent suddenly welling up in his heart. Fighting to put his emotion under control, he stood up and said, "If Miss Shi has an important matter to do, please do as you wish!"
Shi Feixuan fell silent. Her eyes stared into the distance.
Mountain breeze blew, her dark green scholar attire fluttered in the wind, creating a rustling noise, composing a breathtakingly stunning picture.