The air rang with the loud calls of bugles and dull beating of drums. The front door of the great hall was slowly pushed open, and all the ritual doors along the way were opened as well. Guards of honor consisting of hundreds of strong Long Bo men stood in two rows on either side of the walkway, welcoming the guests together with a procession of three thousand generously armored soldiers. King Yang Qiu greeted Liu Bang with a very grand ceremony. The scene felt like a dream to Wu Qi, especially when he could still remember how King Yang Qiu had attacked Liu Bang the last time the two met.
In fact, not only did Wu Qi find the scene a bit ridiculous and unbelievable, even Liu Bang himself was struck dumb by the grand welcoming. Sitting on the chariot, surrounded by a crowd of beautiful female immortals and protected by a large army of soldiers, Liu Bang watched cautiously as King Yang Qiu walked out of the door to greet him; he actually seemed to be ready to run away at any moment. Wu Qi could even see a faint white cloud swirling beneath his feet—he even had the escape art ready!
King Yang Qiu walked out of the great hall with a crowd of military officers and Oracles, including Wu Qi. As he strode along, he said in a low voice, "Don't underestimate this man. Although he is not very strong, all those who underestimated him were killed by him with schemes! My father used to send someone to fight him head-on, but even a man as mighty as my father couldn't defeat him. You must all be very cautious when dealing with him!"
After that, he introduced the few generals who were with Liu Bang to Wu Qi and the others. Zhang Liang, Han Xin, Xiao He, and Fan Kuai, who stood right next to Liu Bang like men made of iron, looked at them with bright gleams flickering in their eyes. The veins on the back of Fan Kuai's hands were bulging; he was clearly ready for a fight.
The last time they met, King Yang Qiu had brazenly attacked them and wounded Zhang Liang and the others. Although he was forced to retreat after Liu Bang counterattacked with a trump card, the horrible scene had left a deep mark in their minds. If King Yang Qiu were to attack them again now and Liu Bang did not prepare for that, there was a very high chance that he could be killed. Therefore, they had to be very careful.
But today, King Yang Qiu appeared to be very gentle and hospitable. With a faint smile on his face, he came to Liu Bang's chariot, then cupped his fist and bowed before laughing out loud, "It's my honor to have the special emissary of the Heaven visiting here! If truth be told, King of Han is a prestigious guest that few have the honor to host. Please pardon me for not welcoming you earlier. Now, would you come into my great hall? I've prepared a grand feast to ease King of Han of the weariness from the long travel!"
Then, he narrowed his eyes and glanced at the people around Liu Bang, laughing queerly while speaking in a flat tone, "Well, I heard King of Han is fond of beautiful girls, so I've prepared quite a few stunning girls especially for you. I promise you'll be pleased with them!"
Squinting back at him, Liu Bang smiled. He stuck his belly out and slowly walked off the chariot to greet King Yang Qiu with a bow. Grinning from ear to ear, he warmly took King Yang Qiu's hand and said, "Do you really have stunning girls here? Great, let's go now! A grand feast with beautiful girls, I guess I'm in the right place!"
Liu Bang made no mention of what he had said just now before he came in, such as that he was an old friend of King Yang Qiu's father. Similarly, King Yang Qiu had selectively forgotten those things as well. The two smiled as they held hands and stared into each other's eyes, which made them look like a pair of childhood lovers who had finally met after a prolonged separation. The smiles on their faces were so pure that they could only be described as perfect.
But, in Wu Qi's eyes, the two fellows were actually looking at each other and smiling foolishly for a while before they walked hand in hand into the great hall. All the military officers and Oracles quickly followed King Yang Qiu's footsteps, while Fan Kuai and the others followed Liu Bang.
One of King Yang Qiu's military officers, who stood twelve feet tall and had a burly body, saw Fan Kuai, a man with a frame as massive as him. Without uttering a single word, the officer slammed his shoulder toward Fan Kuai. Although the distance between them was only about two to three feet, the air rang with a loud whistle as the officer pushed his way over. Furthermore, he had his elbow pointing at Fan Kuai's ribs, looking as if he was about to crack all the bones with that blow alone.
Han Xin's eyes flashed with a murderous gleam as he rested his gaze on the officer. But, Fan Kuai burst into laughter, and he abruptly stepped aside like a she-bear who was on heat; lifted his elbow and pushed it toward the officer's elbow.
A thud echoed out as both men's elbows met in the air. The heavy armors they were both clad in were defensive treasures of excellent quality. Fan Kuai's heavy armor was an upper-grade Heaven Immortal artifact carefully forged by the master of craftsman in the Heaven, while the military officer's armor was a work of art crafted by the master of craftsman from Great Yu's Directorate of Celestials. As both sets of armors contained very powerful forces, their collision led to an internecine outcome. Large cracks spread outward from the elbows of the two men like spider webs as broken pieces of armor fell to the ground.
The two men looked at each other like two savage beasts, then slowly took a step aside at the same time. Wu Qi noticed that their arms had been lifted, a clear sign that the collision had wounded their bones and meridians. Their armors were glowing faintly as well, and part of them wobbled like water as the cracks around the elbows were being repaired.
Just then, Wu Qi was walking beside Han Xin as he heard him muttering, "A reckless man who can only think with his muscles...What good will that do you?"
Reflectively, Wu Qi gave Han Xin a glance, the man whom he had a brief exchange with before. But, Han Xin only stared back at him rudely, with eyes full of warning. He looked as if he would not hesitate to attack Wu Qi if he dared to look at him again. 'This is a troublemaker with thorns all over his body,' thought Wu Qi with a smile on his face. 'Sooner or later, I'll have to pull out all his thorns.'
Han Xin's fierce and rude glance had angered Wu Qi. He decided that after the matter was over, he would immediately ask Lu Chengfeng to send some capable intelligence personnel to search for Xiang Yu, making sure he was informed that Liu Bang had arrived in Pangu Continent, and that Han Xin was with him. He was curious to know how splendid the sparks would be when these old foes met one another.
With all sorts of evil thoughts tumbling in his mind, Wu Qi followed the crowd back to the great hall.
The map had disappeared and was replaced by tables carved from black jade, on top of which were placed various delicacies. There was about a mile wide empty space right in the middle of the hall, which was currently occupied by hundreds of slim, beautiful-looking female immortals and cultivators who wore only thin gauzes that could scarcely conceal their bodies. All of them were trembling, while some had their facial muscles twitching, with tears rolling down their cheeks.
As soon as he entered the hall and saw those beautiful female immortals and cultivators, Liu Bang's eyes lit up and said happily, "Sure enough, they are all very beautiful! But, I wonder..."
King Yang Qiu waved his hand generously and said, "These girls are all the captives I've captured after wiping out those rebellions, and they have not been touched by others. They are still as pure as maidens. King of Han may take them with you if you like, but they must entertain us at the feast first, so that I may enjoy myself before they can leave with you."
Liu Bang nodded hastily and agreed to the condition, his eyes narrowed with laughter. "That's what it should be! Well, I guess I'll not stand on ceremony with Your Excellency then. These girls are all of the best quality, and only a man with compassion for womanhood like me can better care and protect them!"
Wu Qi gave Liu Bang a look and thought, 'What a braggart!'
The feast was ready and everyone was seated according to their status. The air was filled with the fragrance of fine wine and delicious delicacies. In one corner of the hall, a group of musicians was playing music, while hundreds of female immortals and cultivators danced in the middle of the hall. Although their faces were a little unsightly and their movements a little stiff, they were able to make the people in the hall cheer in unison with the occasional exposure of their fair and tender bodies under the thin gauzes.
Suddenly, the gauze of a girl, who looked to be in her early teens, and whose cultivation base was nothing more than the realm of Gold Core, fell to the ground. Completely naked now, she let out a shrill scream and squatted down in horror, not daring to move. Sitting in his black throne, King Yang Qiu's eyes flashed with a cold gleam and he snorted softly. Upon hearing that, an Oracle standing next to the throne flicked his finger. The next moment, the girl's body became stiff, and then her head burst open, sputtering blood and brains all over the floor.
King Yang Qiu picked up his wine vessel and smiled at Liu Bang, who was a little pale. "These b*tches are such a killjoy," he said. "After joining the Immortal League, they are no longer the people of Great Yu, and they should be grateful that I'm just asking them to please us with dancing, and not serve my soldiers in beds. But, instead of thanking me, they spoiled the pleasure of my distinguished guest. Don't you think she deserved to die for that?"
Liu Bang turned to King Yang Qiu, then nodded slowly and said, "Yes, this little b*tch deserved to die. Why was she screaming so loud when all that happened was a quick flashing of her naked body? It is not like someone is raping her on the spot...Oh well, what a killjoy! But still, it's a pity that she is dead before any one of us can have the chance to taste her beautiful body."
With a long sigh, two streams of tears suddenly trickled down Liu Bang's face. In front of so many people, he suddenly burst into tears; soon, he was rolling on the ground while flinging his hands and kicking his legs like some crazy man. Holding the wine vessel, King Yang Qiu stared blankly at Liu Bang, his eyes wide open. He had no idea what the other was doing.
All the Great Yu's military officers in the hall looked at Liu Bang with a sneer on their faces. Zhang Liang and the other Liu Bang's attendants, on the other hand, kept their heads down and remained as motionless as puppets.
Meanwhile, the dancing female immortals and cultivators stopped their movements and gathered together, horror-stricken. None of them dared to act rashly, because their lives were in King Yang Qiu's hand. Once they did what they should not, they would soon become a horrible corpse just like the teenage girl.
King Yang Qiu fiddled with his wine vessel and watched Liu Bang twisting and weeping miserably on the floor. It was ten minutes before he asked slowly, "Why are you so upset, King of Han? Is there anything bothering you...? Why don't you speak up and let me and my soldiers share the joy?"
Wu Qi nearly spat the wine out of his mouth. King Yang Qiu's words were rather mean.
Sitting on the ground, Liu Bang looked at King Yang Qiu with tears in his eyes as he said while wailing, "There is nothing bothering me. I just feel sad for the hardships of the people's livelihood, for the innocent and tragic deaths of common people in the recent years!"
Liu Bang rolled over to King Yang Qiu regardless of his status, put his arms around the latter's feet, and cried, "The Heaven has decreed all its members not to interfere in the dispute between Myriad Immortal Alliance and Great Yu. But, I've always been very soft-hearted, and can't bear to witness the scenes of suffering and sorrow. I ask you personally, not as a special emissary of the Heaven..."
Tears rolled down Liu Bang's face as he said in a hoarse voice, "...withdraw your troops, all of you from Great Yu! This war can't go on like this!"
Wu Qi felt his head reeling, causing him to almost plunge his face into the bowl of soup in front of him.