Song Que was deep in thought for a moment. Suddenly he picked his chopsticks and got a dish for Kou Zhong, as if he already forgot about Song Shidao, and said with a smile, "This is Ma Xiang [lit. sesame fragrant] chicken, eat it while it's still hot and crispy. I heard you and Ziling used to be chefs at the Flying Horse Ranch, you must be more expert than we are."
Kou Zhong took a bite; emotionally moved, he said, "Compared to the expert who prepared this Ma Xiang chicken, Xiaodi is far too inferior!"
Song Que turned to Song Zhi and said, "Is there any new development about the 'Heavenly Lord' Xi Ying?"
Song Zhi replied, "According to the latest flying pigeon dispatch from the Du Zun Bao the day before yesterday, Xi Ying has not shown his face; but Yin Gui Pai's Wanwan has made appearance in Chengdu."
Kou Zhong's heart skipped a beat; he could not help feeling worried for Xu Ziling. Unable to hold himself, he asked, "This 'Heavenly Lord' Xi Ying, what kind of fellow is he?"
Song Lu laughed and said, "Xi Ying is a demonic school's martial art master who is ranked number four within the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, barely below Zhu Yuyan, Shi Zhixuan, and Zhao Deyan. In the past, he has suffered crushing defeat under Da Xiong's hands, and ran away abroad for many years, but recently returned to the Central Plains. He even openly show off his prowess toward Da Xiong; should be because his demonic skill has had great progress that he dares to abandon restraint."
Letting out a cold snort, Song Zhi said, "If he really has guts, he ought to climb over the mountain city to issue formal challenge, but now he hides in the distant Sichuan, baring his fangs and brandishing his claws; obviously he is harboring evil intent."
Song Que's countenance became incomparably grim; he spoke slowly, "Even if Zhu Yuyan has the audacity to prop his waist, it will still be difficult for him to escape his fate to have his soul cutoff under my, Song Que's saber."
Light footsteps were heard; Song Yuzhi arrived. This graceful beauty did not wear any cosmetics; her beautiful hair was rolled into a simple bun on top of her head, she wore blue flowers on white background dress, with jade belt around her waist, lucid and elegant like the lotus in the middle of the pond.
Her pale countenance, minus her usual somewhat unyielding temperament, made her somewhat more lovely and touching; some kind of 'when I see you, I feel compassion toward you' beautiful demeanor.
Deliberately avoiding Kou Zhong's burning hot gaze, she sat on the other side of Song Que.
Song Lu lovingly poured wine for her, but a little displeased, Song Que said, "Zhi'er, what's delaying you?"
Song Yuzhi lightly hung her head down and spoke in low voice, "Just received flying pigeon letter from Xie Baozhu [fort master] in Chengdu. Last night the 'Heavenly Lord' Xi Ying was killed bare-handedly by Yue Shan, who has returned to the fray after a long period of inactivity, at San Hua Lou. The witnesses include Chuan Bang's Fan Zhuo and Ba Meng's Feng Zhen."
"What?" Kou Zhong blurted out.
Song Que and the others' gaze were immediately turning toward him; even Song Yuzhi could not help looking at him. Nobody understood why his reaction was more urgent and intense than anybody else in the room.
Recomposing himself, Kou Zhong smiled an embarrassed smile, while taking the opportunity to meet Song Yuzhi's limpid, profound gaze.
Song Zhi moved his gaze toward Song Que, whose expression remained serene; he said, "This is certainly no small matter; could it be that Xi Ying's Ziqi Tian Luo still had not reached great height yet?"
Song Yuzhi said, "Repeating Fan Zhuo and Feng Zhen's words about the situation, Xi Ying's Ziqi Tian Luo had astonishing prowess, it's just that it was not a match for Yue Shan's empty hand, empty fist using Huan Ri Da Fa. With this battle, once again Yue Shan has climbed over to the top martial art master position."
Exhaling a mouthful of cold air, Song Lu said, "This man Yue Shan has always been narrow-minded; this time he has mastered Huan Ri Da Fa, he must be coming to Sichuan city to settle old debts."
Song Que casually said, "I am most afraid that he wouldn't come."
Suddenly throwing his head back in long laughter, he said, "Good 'Overbearing Saber' Yue Shan, please forgive me, Song Que, for underestimating you."
Turning toward Song Yuzhi, he instructed, "Notify Chengdu immediately, I don't care how they do it, they must find Yue Shan's whereabouts. Because I went out to deal with Cui Jixiu and his gang, I already missed Xi Ying. This time I don't want to lose another opportunity."
Inwardly Kou Zhong cried, 'This is desperately serious!' Helpless, he forced a smile and said, "Fazhu, I am afraid this time you will be disappointed again!"
Stunned, everybody turned their eyes to him. Steeling himself, Kou Zhong added, "Because this Yue Shan is an impostor."
His countenance did not change at all, Song Que said, "Can you explain that?"
Kou Zhong leaned back into his chair; slapping the table, he said with a sigh, "The one killing Xi Ying was Xu Ziling, who was wearing Yue Shan mask personally made by Lu Miaozi. This kid is really good that he even managed to kill the fourth ranking man of the demonic way's martial art master list."
Everybody, including Song Que, was emotionally moved.
After giving brief explanation, Kou Zhong said, "Xiao Ling must have had another breakthrough in the martial way, otherwise, he would not be formidable to such a degree."
This time it was Song Que's turn to smile wryly and said, "This is called all one's hopes and efforts come to nothing. In the future, I am afraid the Central Plains' Wulin will belong to you and Xu Ziling."
And then he calmly declared, "On behalf of the Song Family, I have reached agreement with Shao Shuai; although our Song Family will not be directly involved in Shao Shuai's struggle to obtain the world, but we will give him our full support in the background. If Shao Shuai's army is defeated, this agreement will be voided. But if in the end he can unify the world, Yuzhi will become his empress. Ladies and gentlemen, is there any objection?"
Song Zhi and Song Lu did not say anything. Only Song Yuzhi's pretty face suddenly blushed; the red clouds color went straight to the tip of her ears, as she hung her head low.
Song Que rose up to his full height and walked over behind Kou Zhong. Reaching out to grab his shoulders firmly, he said, "After breakfast, Yuzhi may send Shao Shuai off. As for the other details, you may discuss it carefully later!"
Finished speaking, he laughed aloud and floated away.
Standing on the bow, Xu Ziling was enjoying the light of the river and the color of the mountain, while myriad of thoughts was surging in his mind.
Han Zenan, husband and wife's martial art skill was definitely not ordinary. Mrs. Han, Xiaochang was even more superior, enough to place her among famous martial masters of Jianghu. What kind of enemy would make them flustered and panic like this?
Even with his 'Gong Chenchun' prestige of beating He Yi Pai back, Xiaochang still described asking for his help as 'inviting disaster upon oneself'; evidently their family's foe was tremendously powerful, at least it was on par with his perceived martial art skill, so that the good-hearted Xiaochang was afraid to incriminate him.
While he was still in deep contemplation, Lin Lang came behind him and said reverently, "Turns out Gong Ye is a sage presents as an ordinary person, no wonder Hou Gongzi, who is inordinately proud of his ability, was willing to rush about to make arrangement for Gong Ye."
Xu Ziling was amused inwardly; he had never declared that his martial art skill was meager, so how could he be called a sage who presents himself as an ordinary person? But he has indeed not shown his true colors, simply because he was wearing a mask. "Are we going to cast anchor today?" he casually asked.
Lin Lang nodded and said, "The big city ahead is Badong County. We may stop over there for half a sichen to replenish our water and provision."
Focusing his power to his eyes, Xu Ziling looked ahead, and was able to see the outline of city wall. On both sides of the river, the number of buildings among the forest was increasing dramatically, not scattered like before.
At this time Lei Jiuzhi came, thereupon the two of them went to the hall to have breakfast.
They were the first guests to arrive. As soon as they were seated properly, Wu Jiang Bang people were scrambling to serve them. Naturally Lei Jiuzhi received the benefit of Xu Ziling's glory.
After some small talks, not even one out of three sentences that Lei Jiuzhi spoke meandered from his profession; he was talking about gambling again. This time he was talking about Paijiu [pai gow]; fortunately he was quite expressive, like springtime grew out of the corner of his mouth, so that it was not too boring.
He said, "Casinos have a taboo, which is there is no number 'eleven', and nobody is allowed to say 'eleven'. Because in Paijiu, there's a combination of 'five' and 'six', which make 'eleven', which almost always lose. There's also a 'ten', because in Paijiu, number 'ten' is the smallest. When someone swore 'limping ten', it came from this tile combination. 'Two-plank six' is also a cuss word, because 'two-plank' makes four, and four and six combination makes ten. Ha!"
Xu Ziling laughed and said, "If you tell it like that, it might be easier for me to learn."
Immensely proud of himself, Lei Jiuzhi bragged, "The secret of Paijiu is in 'killing to the last one', this four-word saying [gan jin sha jue] is the most sentimental emotion."
This moment the hull slightly shook, while the speed was gradually reduced, as the ship was touching the riverbank on their port side.
Lei Jiuzhi praised, "Wu Jiang Bang's skill in steering the boat is definitely topnotch. No wonder that although over the years shipwrecks and accidents over the Three Gorges have been heard repeatedly, but none ever happened to their boat."
The sailboat finally stopped at the dock.
Xu Ziling was looking down, he was about to drink a bowl of thin rice porridge, when there was the sound of sleeves splitting the air. When the two men were looking at each other in surprise, a burst of weird-sounding laughter came from the deck, followed by a voice saying, "We have a business to attend to in here, anybody dares to meddle, don't blame my staff for not showing any mercy."
Another tender female voice called out, "Hey Xiaochang! Jiejie [older sister] is coming to give my respect and wish you a good health! Why haven't you rolled out for me?"
Xu Ziling's heart was shaken; he finally knew whom Han Zenan, husband and wife, were afraid of.
And they definitely had reason to be afraid.