Book 18 Chapter 4 – Harm Born of Grace
A dash of color started to appear on Wang Shichong’s face, and then he slowly opened his eyes, and swept his gaze around at Xu Ziling, Wang Xuanying, Wang Xuanshu, Ouyang Xiyi, Lang Feng, Song Mengqiu, Yang Gongqing, Linglong Jiao, and the others. Sighing, he said, “I am not dead yet.”
Sitting up on the bed, he leaned his body slightly back, and asked Kou Zhong, whose palm was pressed against his back, “How’s the situation now?”
“The situation is really good!” Kou Zhong replied in low voice.
Wang Xuanying blurted out, “Die is seriously hurt like this, and you said the situation is really good?”
This time, even Ouyang Xiyi thought that Kou Zhong’s remark was excessively ironic.
Who would have thought that after letting out dry cough twice, Wang Shichong nodded and said, “Fortunately we have your Long-Life qi that reverses the inauspicious to luck. As long as I have half a month, I will be completely recovered. Ha! If with my injury we can obtain Li Mi’s realm, this is worth it.”
Hearing Wang Shichong’s comment, even Wang Xuanying’s unsightly countenance eased up considerably.
Wang Shichong suddenly asked, “Is the plan in place?”
Kou Zhong replied indifferently, “As soon as we have the hole in the wall, Wanggong can start receiving the visitors!”
Other than his good brother, everybody looked at each other in astonishment.
※ ※ ※
Chen Changlin came over to Xu Ziling and whispered, “It’s done!”
The rear hall became a restricted area; not only all doors and windows were closed, they were also guarded by Wang Shichong’s trusted aides.
Xu Ziling already regulated his mind and spirit. He sat cross-legged on a high stool facing the wall, his right hand extended through a small hole, which was barely big enough for his arm to go through, on the wall, and again through a small hole on the back of a chair, and pressed his palm on Wang Shichong’s back, who was sitting in the chair leaning against the wall, and slowly transferring his true qi, acting as the bridge to help this most powerful man in Luoyang connecting his meridians, which were blocked out due to his injury, to enable him to have enough strength to deal with the imminent crisis.
Chen Changlin and Linglong Jiao stood guard outside the screen enclosing Xu Ziling, acting as his protectors.
This was part of Xu Xingzhi’s meticulous brilliant scheme to cross the sea by a trick [idiom: to achieve one’s aim by underhanded means].
In the front hall, Wang Shichong’s breathing started to be low and sharp, but slowly he straightened his back, and his thin and weak breathing became long and even.
A short moment later the sound of footsteps approaching, more than thirty people appeared in the front lobby; these were all high-ranking military officers under Wang Shichong’s command, who were stationed in the Eastern Capital.
The sound of people kneeling and paying their respect continued.
Lang Feng’s loud and clear voice was heard next, “Gentlemen, please rise!”
Amidst the rustling noise, one after another they all rose.
Wang Shichong cleared his throat and said, “Today this officer summoned gentlemen to come here, there is indeed a very good news to report: victory is in sight. As for the details of the situation, Great General Yang will explain it to you.”
Immediately Yang Gongqing’s voice rose, “The scheme to lure the enemy was highly successful. Currently Li Mi believes Shangshu Daren was ambushed and is suffering serious injury, and that his life is in danger. The fact is that the injured one was someone else. Tonight Shangshu Daren is going to go to Yanshi to oversee the situation and take up the challenge, so that Li Mi may be able to come, but he won’t be able to leave.”
Wang Shichong laughed aloud and said, “General Lang Feng will be in charge here, with General Song Mengqiu, Wang Xuanying and Wang Xuanshu, three men as his deputies. All of you must maintain strict military order, don’t slack off. When in the future this officer return in triumph, after putting down the rebellion and punishing the traitors, I will evaluate everybody’s merit and bestow rewards accordingly.”
All the generals roared in agreement; they were all in high spirit.
By this time Xu Ziling could not keep up already, fortunately after Song Mengqiu ordered the generals to keep Wang Shichong’s condition of injury a secret, the generals withdrew immediately.
Xu Ziling quickly withdraw his right hand, and Kou Zhong, who was standing by Wang Shichong’s side, took his place in transmitting his qi to help maintaining Wang Shichong’s spirit.
He heard Ouyang Xiyi’s voice, “Shichong Xiong, how do you feel? After seeing the next group of people, Shichong Xiong may retreat to the rear hall to rest!”
This moment sound of footsteps was heard again. Xu Ziling took a deep breath, and then stretched out his arm through the hole on the wall, through the hole on the chair, and pressed his palm on Wang Shichong’s back again.
※ ※ ※
Inside a side room, Xu Ziling sat cross-legged on the bed, breathing in and out deeply. Kou Zhong pushed the door and entered, his face looked extremely tired. Disregarding everything, he just sprawled on the floor, stretching out his limbs and moaned, “Do you know what is the most difficult thing to deal with in the world? It’s people, always fighting and scheming against each other, all the time, everywhere; harming others for their personal benefit. Whenever there are people, bad things will happen.”
Xu Ziling did not respond. A short while later Kou Zhong was fast asleep.
The heavy rain has stopped half a sichen ago, but dark clouds were still racing in the sky, giving the impression that the rain might show off its power and wreak havoc again any moment.
By the time Xu Xingzhi and Ouyang Xiyi came to look for them, Kou Zhong just woke up, sitting up and staring blankly.
“Why did you sleep on the floor?” Ouyang Xiyi asked in surprise.
Kou Zhong stretched out his limbs and said, “This is called absorbing the earth’s qi.”
He sprang up and asked, “How’s the situation outside?”
Ouyang Xiyi sat down and said, “Yang Dong launched two counterattacks in succession to test our troops’ morale. Both ended in damaged-troops, broken-generals, and had to retreat. In my opinion, unless they have outside help, their situation is hopeless and could only sit and wait for death.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Xingzhi sat down on his left and right, respectively. The former laughed and said, “This is called being enmeshed in a trap of one’s own devising [orig. spinning a cocoon around oneself]. Even if Wanggong left, the only one who would come will be Li Mi. I really don’t understand what is Dugu Feng thinking?”
Xu Ziling opened his eyes. He greeted Ouyang Xiyi first, and then said, “It should be called ‘unexpected’ instead. Originally they wanted to draw support from Li Mi’s forces, taking advantage while Wanggong is at Yanshi, they seize control over Luoyang. Would have expected that the confidential matter is not so confidential anymore, plus Wanggong returned promptly, hence their troop disposition is thrown into chaos, and Li Mi entered by exploiting a weak spot.”
Xu Xingzhi joined in, “Shen Luoyan, Huang Gongcuo and the others left Luoyang early this morning. In my opinion the Wagang Army is like an arrow that has already left the bow; their momentum must be released.”
Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, “Oh, Li Mi! I don’t care if you are as crafty as a ghost, you will have to drink the water that I, Kou Zhong, use to wash my feet.”
And then, with lingering fears he said, “But last night was extremely dangerous; a bit more, we would never be able to free ourselves.”
Ouyang Xiyi hatefully said, “Knowing someone’s mouth and face is not the same as knowing his heart; I never thought that Ke Feng was that kind of despicable lowly man.”
Xu Xingzhi mused, “I wonder if Laojun Guan [Taoist Monastery] is collaborating with Li Mi, or with Dugu Feng? This is an extremely important point to consider.”
Kou Zhong analyzed, “They ought to be related to Li Mi. Laojun Guan’s Zhuchi [abbot, see my previous note] is the old Taoist demon Pi Chen. Perhaps just like Zhu Yuyan, he pledged allegiance to Li Mi. If Li Mi became the Emperor one day, Pi Chen’s heretical branch of Taoism sect can become the state religion, then they are going to suppress orthodox Buddhism school like Ci Hang Jing Zhai and Jing Nian Chanyuan. Humph! Pi Chen really counted his chicken before they are hatched. But I am going to make him ‘steal the chicken but cannot see a single grain of rice to nibble’.”
Ouyang Xiyi sighed in downheartedness, “I have never thought that Li Er’s [i.e. Lao Zi/Lao Tzu] disciple could be this kind of treacherous villain who bring harm to the world. I really wish we can immediately attack Cui Yun Peak to execute justice on behalf of the Heaven.”
This moment a subordinate came to report that Song Lu came to see Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong was thinking of asking favor from Song Lu. Hearing that, he gladly went.
※ ※ ※
Song Lu and Kou Zhong sat down in a side hall; after the maid withdrew, the former spoke in low voice, “Is Wang Shichong really in imminent peril?”
Kou Zhong leaned over and said, “Not that serious. But to recover, I am afraid he will need at least ten days.”
Frowning, Song Lu said, “How did such an oversight happen?”
Kou Zhong did not dare to conceal it from him; briefly he narrated the entire course of events, and then he said, “Li Mi’s power can destroy the heart, split the meridians; it was extremely overbearing. Fortunately that time Xiao Ling promptly intercepted him. Combined with Wang Shichong’s own true qi protecting his body, the punch power was neutralized seventy, eighty percent; otherwise I am afraid Wang Shichong would have breathed his last.”
Song Lu said, “Li Mi’s ‘di sha quan’ [earth terminator fist] is quite famous in Jianghu; therefore, he is very confident of his own martial art skill. In his kind of mindset, he would never have thought that the true qi you guys trained from the ‘Secret to Long Life’ unexpectedly has the power to reverse the rotation of the sky. No wonder Shen Luoyan and the others did not have any interest in staying over to watch if there was any change; they took advantage while the people were in panic and large number of citizens from the city rushed out of town to take refuge this morning, they also left the city by boat.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “If I had not let them go, they wouldn’t be able to leave even if they wanted to. Tonight I will have to rush to Yanshi; what’s Lu Shu’s plan?”
Song Lu said, “Right now the north is still dealing with wars one after another, there is no use for us to stay here. A bit later I am going down south via land route. Do you have any message you want me to pass on?”
Although what he said was an understatement, he obviously wanted Kou Zhong to know clearly the Song Clan’s position.
Chapter 4 - Part 2
Hungry, Song Clan supported Kou Zhong. akolaw, I have no idea what lap cheung/lap stand cheung is. DongBin, Lao Qianbei, Jaya, HPC, you are welcome. Xiaohu, I hope this is not too disappointing. Xu Xiong, are you kidding? I am sick ...
Song Yuzhi came to his mind, Kou Zhong felt a sense of loss. It was quite some time later that he said, “Whether I, Kou Zhong, can have the qualifications to fight over the world, it depends entirely on whether I can retrieve the hidden treasure; if I could not, even if I start, I could only be a lowly thief leader. Right now it seems to be just an empty promise, it’s too early to say anything.”
Song Lu stroked his beard and said with a smile, “If everybody is like you, they must find the hidden treasure first before rising in rebellion, Yang Guang would still be sitting on his emperor seat peacefully!”
Kou Zhong smiled bitterly and said, “This is called present days are different than the former days. At that time the common people’s complain reached the heavens, as soon as someone stepped forward to raise his arm, he would be able to muster the crowd and rise up; or perhaps if I were a great general with power from the Sui household, I could have troops whenever I needed troops, I could have money whenever I wanted money. But now fragmentation of power has become reality, if you want someone to throw his life for you, you must have a special characteristic that attracts people. Isn’t there a rumor in Jianghu that whoever can acquire the ‘Duke Yang Treasure’ can obtain the world? This is exactly what the thing that I, a poor ghost, must do the most.”
Song Lu nodded and said, “Just by listening to you, I know that you, Xiao Zhong, understand the heart of the people. This is the most important qualification to strive for the world. Rest assured! As long as you are capable to make achievement, our Song Family will give your our full support. Humph! If we let barbarians obtain the world, will we, Han people, have a place we call our home?”
Kou Zhong knew that he was referring to the Li Clan, whose fame and power was rising these days.
The Li Family was Guanlong aristocrat; they have been actively related by marriage to the nobility of the Xianbei and other tribes, during their invasion of the Northern and Southern Dynasties [420-589 AD], to expand their political and military strength; while southern land-owning class like Song Family, have always married among themselves, without any regards to the royal crown, to preserve their heritage and cultural purity. Thereupon it was inevitable that the north and the south did not trust each other.
The intermarriage of Han and Hu [see footnote] in the north was a very common thing. People with ‘northern barbarian surnames’ such as Yuan, Zhangsun, Yuwen, and the others were actively holding power in political and military affairs. Yang Dong’s minister Yuan Wendu, whom Wang Shichong wanted to denounce, and one of the upper-rank generals in Li Shimin’s Heavenly Policy Mansion, Zhangsun Wuji, were not Han men at all. Naturally the Song Clan had misgivings and wanted to repel them.
Were it not for this kind of delicate situation, Song Que would not have made the promise that if Li Mi could overtake Luoyang, he would give Song Yuzhi away to marry Li Tainfan, and seal their alliance agreement, simply because Wang Shichong was also a barbarian.
However, Kou Zhong, this new rising star, was clearly a southerner, so compared to Li Mi, he fitted more to the Song Clan’s ideal.
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “This kid has one thing I need support on; I am afraid only Lu Shu will be able to accomplish it properly.”
Song Lu replied happily, “Don’t hold your hope up to high on me! Looking at you, how you have risen from a lowly, nameless kid to a later generation martial art master whom the Wulin world think highly of; it was like watching my own child grew up to be an adult. Whatever help you need, just tell me.”
Kou Zhong was really touched; it was half a day later that he said, “This kid wants Lu Shu to deliver an important message to the Flying Horse Ranch Changzhu [ranch master] Shang Xiuxun.”
And then he explained in details Liu Wuzhou and Xiao Xian’s evil scheme. He spoke heavily, “Lu Shu needs to be very clear in explaining the situation to Shang Changzhu. If you send someone else, if she has doubt, she might hold things up.”
Song Lu nodded and said, “I understand! Leave this matter to me.”
Kou Zhong said, “If we are lucky and able to defeat Li Mi, Xiao Ling and I might go to Jiangdu to see how we can deal with Du Fuwei and Shen Faxing’s coalition forces. Lu Shu may tell Shang Changzhu that I will be sending someone called Xu Xingzhi to report to her on the situation. She knew this man.”
Song Lu muttered to himself irresolutely for a moment, and then letting out a cold humph, he said, “This fellow Xiao Xian is really despicable; while we were curbing Lin Shihong, he took the opportunity to plunder the strategic cities north of the Great River. But could Zhu Can let him expanding to the north?”
Kou Zhong recalled the self-proclaimed ‘Garuda King’ Zhu Can [first mention Book 8 Chapter 7], whose daughter, the ‘Venomous Spider’ Zhu Mei, whose martial art skill was superior to Kou Zhong, had exchanged blows with him by mistake at the second carriage on the dock outside the city of Baling. Without thinking he blurted out, “How’s Zhu Can’s current situation?”
Song Lu said, “This man is so brutal, he did not have popular support at all. But his subordinates and ministers reach a hundred thousand strong, so he cannot be taken lightly. Recently they were involved in fiery battle with the Three Big Bandits; although they gained the upper hand, but were unable to expand their power. If you can make the troops and generals under his command to surrender, and govern his territory with benevolence, combined with Flying Horse Ranch’s elite troops and the remnants of Jingling troops, you can accomplish much.”
Listening to that, Kou Zhong’s eyes lit up. He nodded and said, “Lu Shu is absolutely right. Ginger is indeed the older the spicier.”
Song Lu burst out laughing and said, “This matter is easier said than done, but if you can eliminate Zhu Can, this big evil, in itself it will be a gargantuan good thing, it will make your reputation spread out far and wide, win the heart of the people. At that time you may seize the opportunity to sweep away the Three Big Bandits, who bring intense disaster to the peace of the land. Combined with our Song Family’s Lingnan Army, at least one quarter of the world will already be in your bag.”
Kou Zhong excitedly said, “As long as I can get the ‘Duke Yang Treasure’, everything won’t be too difficult to achieve. At that time Lu Shu must lead your troops to help me.”
This moment, a bodyguard came in and reported that a guest has come to seek audience. Kou Zhong was in high spirit, how could he be interested in seeing anybody? “I don’t have time now!” he said impatiently, “Ay! Who is he?”
“He called himself Qin Chuan,” the bodyguard replied, “He said Kou Ye would definitely want to see him.”
“It’s her!” Kou Zhong blurted out.
※ ※ ※
Kou Zhong entered the small hall; Shi Feixuan, disguised as a Confucian scholar, sat silently in the corner, her countenance was peaceful, her clear, limpid eyes watched as Kou Zhong walked in, as if she did not want to miss even the most subtle of his movement.
Her immortal self appeared to have some kind of strange power that could transform the ordinary place into a sacred fairyland, the ordinary small hall seemed to be infected by her presence that the atmosphere became surpassing-the-dirt, free-from-vulgarity.
Kou Zhong came over and sat down in the seat by her right, the two of them was separated by a small table; smiling, he said, “Did Shi Xianzi [fairy] confuse Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling? Perhaps you were looking for Xiao Ling, but you misspeak by mentioning Xiaodi’s lowly name instead?”
A strange feeling welled up in Shi Feixuan’s fragrant heart.
Ever since she left her school’s gate and set foot on this mundane world, this was the first time someone dared to tease and crack jokes with her.
In front of her exceptional immortal appearance, anybody would be terrified with her out of the ordinary presence, afraid that they might lose their manner and incite her contempt.
Shi Feixuan spoke indifferently, “Kou Xiong must be a person whose natural character loves to joke and trifle without respect. Feixuan’s purpose this visit is to ask for guidance in a few matters. And Feixuan is definitely not some kind of Xianzi.”
Kou Zhong relaxed and slumped back into his chair, leisurely and glibly he said, “If you want answer to your question, Shi Xianzi better go look for that kid Li Shimin; Xiaodi might disappoint Feixuan.”
Shi Feixuan’s jet-black eyebrows slightly knitted, she asked in surprise, “Feixuan has not even stated my question, why do you already tighten your troops and have your heart filled with hostility?”
Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, “Because I am afraid you, Xianzi, would give Xiaodi an opportunity that on the surface appears impartial, but actually not impartial at all, to see if I, Kou Zhong, am a talent to govern the world like that Li kid. Once your confirm your opinion, if in the future you help Li kid with all your strength to deal with me, you would do so with clear conscience.”
Shi Feixuan smiled and said, “Kou Xiong’s imaginative power is quite quick, indeed something that Feixuan seldom see in all my life, no wonder you are able to hoot at the wind and the cloud [i.e. unstable situation] while the world is in chaos like this. But please forgive Feixuan for being dull-witted, how did Kou Xiong decide that in my heart I already have a preconceived idea, and think that Kou Xiong is inferior to Li Shimin?”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “This is basically not preconceived idea, but a fact. Right now Xiaodi has just begun; I still don’t have any idea how to cure the nation, if you asked me, I would be dumbstruck and unable to reply. In the end I will be embarrassed. Therefore, I’d prefer not to answer, leaving a bit of mystery for you, Xianzi, to think about it. If you have spare time you may … hee hee … you may think why Xiaodi is so brassy like this.”
Displeased, Shi Feixuan said, “You do know yourself; not many people can be like you. But that being the case, why don’t Kou Xiong select a brilliant master in your heart, help him unify the world, and alleviate the people’s suffering?”
Kou Zhong let out a cold humph and said, “How can I, Kou Zhong, be willing to be someone else’s attendant? Contending for supremacy in the chaotic world is one thing, governing the world after it is unified is another thing. If you want to ask, why don’t you ask how am I going to obtain the world? Talking about other things is still too early.”
Very interested, Shi Feixuan said, “It does not matter to me whether Kou Xiong believe me or not, but Feixuan’s visit this time is not to talk about how to rule a country. Now that Kou Xiong already took the initiative to raise this issue, Feixuan can’t help but curious, and wants to ask for your guidance: based on your current situation, how would you, in the midst of outstanding heroes already successful in setting up their independent regimes, distinguish yourself?”
Remaining confident and at ease, Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, “I am looking at it step by step. If I fail, then I’ll return to Yangzhou to open a small restaurant. Hey! Mine and Xiao Ling’s culinary talent came from an expert. If Xianzi happens to pass by my humble establishment, we will make two small vegetarian dishes for you to try. Ha! I am practically a man who is at home wherever I am. Later on Xianzi will not need to take trouble for Xiaodi. It’s all right with me if you want to help that Li kid!”
 Barbarians, Hu Ren [hu people] refers to any ethnic groups that are not Han.Chapter 4 - Part 3
HPC, Lao Qianbei, DongBin, you are welcome. Xiaohu, yes, please. But only if you can transmit true qi to me, not the false qi. pengembara, welcome to the forum, hope you like it. akolaw, so you were simply repeating the text in Cantonese? Kowloon, thanks. Hungry, I thought those two are minor characters. Xu Xiong, thanks.
“Pfft!” Shi Feixuan burst into a tender giggle. While the dumbstruck Kou Zhong was staring at her lovely appearance and beautiful disposition, she spoke glibly, “Jiang Taigong obtained the Emperor by using the ‘Yin Fu’ [yin – negative/feminine (of ‘yinyang’), fu – talisman/mark/seal] scheme, developing the ‘Six Secret Strategic Teachings’, assisting the Wu King to exterminate Shang Dynasty and founded a country. Su Qin’s crafty millet technique used the Vertical Alliance System to lobby the feudal vassals and obtained six states’ seals. The Great Han’s Zhang Liang studied intensively the ‘Su Shu’ [lit. plain book], ‘San Lue’ [Three Strategies (of Huang Shigong)], to help Liu Bang pacify the world. Currently Kou Xiong has acquired the ‘Secret to Long Life’. Although it is a treasure of the Taoist School, it can help Kou Xiong joins the ranks of the world’s top martial arts masters, completely unrelated to contending-over-the-world, governing-the-world affairs. That being the case, why not retire early, be the great swordsman of Jianghu, gain famous reputation forever; wouldn’t it be better than being drawn into politics and a never-ending power struggle?”
Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, “No wonder you appreciate that fellow Xu Ziling, because you last few sentences were the best portrayal of him. Otherwise, if he is willing to help me with all his strength, I definitely will not end up opening a small restaurant.”
Even with Shi Feixuan’s indifferent-to-fame-or-gain, no-self-no-action self-cultivation, she could not stop her jet-black eyebrows from slightly knitted as she spoke in distress, “If you keep mentioning him left and right, Feixuan will have no choice but to take my leave, and will no longer regard you as a friend with whom I can have open discussion.”
Kou Zhong hastily said, “Xianzi please calm down; the fact is that I always extremely admire you. It’s just that I know in my heart that there will come a day when you and I will have to face each other in the battlefield; so I am struggling to suppress the feeling in my heart. Now Xiaodi understands I am in the wrong, would Xianzi please ask me anything, Xiaodi will not hide anything I know, I won’t stop before I have said it through.”
Since making her debut, it was the first time for Shi Feixuan that a young man declared his love openly, yet she was keenly aware that this public declaration of love was spoken without thinking, not based on truth at all. She ought to be displeased, yet for some reason she found it very difficult to be angry or to blame him. And this was precisely Kou Zhong’s trait that no one could match; even his enemy found it hard to hate him.
Ever since Kou Zhong stepped into this small hall, the two of them have been opposing each other with equal harshness. And Kou Zhong’s most brilliant feature was that he basically did not give the opponent any opportunity to grasp his vulnerability and flaw. Even with Shi Feixuan’s intelligence, she could not help feeling that she was unsure where to start.
The fact was that Kou Zhong himself had his own difficulties.
In terms of knowledge, experience, and eloquent, he was positive that he could not match this lucid-and-elegant-like-fairy-descending-to-the-world peerless, tender, beauty. And she obviously wanted to persuade him to support the bright master [i.e. rightful emperor]; one, by withdrawing from the power struggle, and two, by selecting one of the candidates.
Supposing under ‘faulty argument and poor rhetoric’ he harshly refused her ‘kind intention’, plus his previous convictions in the ‘Jade Annulus of He Clan’ affair, he would only make himself a formidable opponent in this no-one-unwilling-to-provoke beauty. Therefore, he decided to take the ‘heretical school of opinion’ route by employing marketplace method, combined with blunt and straightforward manner, so that even if she might lose her temper and protest coquettishly, she could not become his real enemy.
It was a subtle advantage, and certainly it would be hard to refute.
After staring hard at Kou Zhong with her beautiful eyes for half a day, a hint of barely discernible smile escaped from the corner of Shi Feixuan’s mouth, as she spoke indifferently, “All right! Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, these five aspects, could Kou Xiong explain them all one by one?”
Hearing the question, Kou Zhong was stunned, while inwardly cried, ‘Formidable!’
He originally wanted to make her go away in anger; who would have thought that not only she did not lose her temper, she even presented a vague and abstract subject to test him. Her purpose was obviously to make him expose his own folly.
With this kind of move, she was forcing him into a corner, while trying to find a hole in his response, and thus swaying his confidence in vying over the world.
If he decided to proceed with his original plan, he would only incite disdain in her heart.
Thereupon he smiled wryly again and said, “That sounds very much like a subject from the imperial examination. Xianzi, is it possible to ask questions that are related to reality? For example, how to be a good emperor? How to quell the outstanding heroes of the world? How to make common people’s live happy, and so on? Xiaodi was born in the marketplace; upon searching my own soul, I know that I have better understanding to answer the last questions compared to pampered sons of honorable schools and big clans. But if you want me to try imperial examination, I guarantee that you won’t find my name even at the bottom of the list of successful examinees.”
Shi Feixuan was startled and emotionally moved. She was an expert at the profound art of observing people; listening to this remark, she knew it came from the bottom of Kou Zhong’s heart. She understood even more that he cleverly compared himself to Li Shimin, making her feel that if she chose Li Shimin based on this kind of test, fundamentally she was not being fair. Just like people who passed imperial examination brilliantly, it did not mean that they would make a government official who love and respect the people. Naturally she would not make final conclusion carelessly based on other people’s answer at all; rather, she would make her judgment based on long-term observation.
Just as this out-of-the-ordinary, free-from-vulgarity beauty thought that Kou Zhong would not be able to answer her question, Kou Zhong spoke up with serious expression, “Xianzi actually puts forward Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, these five aspects into one entity. Hee! Did Xiaodi say it incorrectly? Heaven has the Heaven’s principle, human beings also have human beings’ principle, so all living things between the heaven and the earth actually abide by certain law: Virtue can only be accomplished after the Principle is established, able to persevere in the right way [in Chinese, the same word ‘dao’ can mean ‘way’ or ‘principle’] is virtue. Therefore principle and virtue will always be together. Benevolence and righteousness evolve from the conduct of the innermost being; it came from compassion and kindness of the heart. As for propriety? This is actually the foundation of the four previous aspects, from which grew the norm that all mortals must follow, in order to safeguard the ethics, morality, benevolence and righteousness in interpersonal relationship.”
This remark was actually declared at the outset of the preface of the first chapter of Lu Miaozi’s Art of War, indicating that to govern the troops, one must first understand the way [or principle] of Man and Heaven. It was written, “The way of Man and Heaven may not necessarily be used to each other, thus said all the ancient sages. Yao was venerated like the clear sky, Shun simultaneously held seven governments, Yu narrated nine arable fields, King of Wen used Bagua [divinatory trigrams] explaining the heavenly law, Duke of Zhou determined the four seasons to the greatest extend of yin and yang. Confucius wished for nothing, Lao Dan [Lao Tzu] established the perpetual non-entity. Military principle so far involves variation of the supernatural beings, in all cases it does not escape from technique of self, much less from the method of military expedition to contend for supremacy. The principle of observing the heavens is by grasping the heaven to proceed, by carrying on to the end. Releasing the Heaven means benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and confidence, five virtues. Observing these means prosperity, abandoning these means defeat.”
Kou Zhong was exceptionally intelligent; from these ideas, he developed his own theory.
Shi Feixuan was emotionally moved again; she said, “Kou Xiong’s profound comment and righteous remark left Feixuan with no choice but to have a whole new level of respect for you. I just want to ask Kou Xiong one more question: Kou Xiong spoke those words, was it for personal gain, or did it come from your holding-on-to-people’s-plea heart?”
Completely at ease, Kou Zhong laughed and said, “If I denied that it was for personal gain, then I would be violating principle and virtue; but if I only do it for myself and not for the people, I would lack benevolence and righteousness. Therefore, all Principle, Virtue, Benevolence, Righteousness, and Propriety, are basically one entity!”
For the first time Shi Feixuan felt that she was truly a nobody who could not do anything, because his answer was like saying that it was for the happiness of the people that he vie for the world. Hereby she could begin to persuade him to act in the interest of the people, and do the thing that he must do the most.
Kou Zhong went on, “As for who should be the first, and who should be the last, I am afraid even Li kid cannot tell? Otherwise, he would abandon his personal gain and come to help me, Kou Zhong, to unify the world. Isn’t that right?”
Frowning, Shi Feixuan said, “Kou Xiong’s words is not without a little truth, but it actually is far from reality, and it has made even more difficult for Feixuan to accept. And this is where the problem lies: based on Kou Xiong’s current strength, merits and achievements, how would you convince the masses? It would only make the world more chaotic, and thus it would bring Kou Xiong and the people more harm than good.”
Even Kou Zhong himself had to admit that Shi Feixuan was an extremely charming lobbyist [or political adviser]. But in the end she still did not believe that he, Kou Zhong, was capable of doing anything. She was just afraid that he would produce the legendary ‘Duke Yang Treasure’ and bring to the world more unknown variables!
Beyond Kou Zhong’s expectation, Shi Feixuan stood up gracefully, fixed her beautiful eyes on him, and said, “The Heaven emitting murderous aura, the stars are moved, the constellation shifted. The Earth emitting murderous aura, dragons and snakes rise to the land. Mankind emitting murderous aura, heaven and earth are turned upside down. Fire conquers wood, disaster arises must be subdued. Traitor conquers the nation, time in movement must be dispersed. For the living, death is the root; for the dead, living is the root. Grace born from harm, harm born from grace. The words of Feixuan are ended. If fate so dictates, I will see Kou Xiong face to face again!”
Finished speaking, she floated away.
 Jiang Taigong/Jiang Ziya - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiang_Ziya, Jiang Ziya (c. 1100 BC, dates of birth and death unknown), partly mythical sage advisor to King Wen of Zhou and purported author of “Six Secret Strategic Teachings” one of the Seven Military Classics of ancient China.
 Su Qin - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su_Qin, Su Qin (340-284 BC), political strategist of the School of Diplomacy during the Warring States Period (475-220 BC).
 Zhang Liang - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Liang_(Western_Han); Su Shu - http://www.gushiwen.org/guwen/sushu.aspx (this is in Chinese)
 Orig. Xiao Ao Jianghu, but different ‘Xiao’ from Jin Yong’s Xiao Ao Jianghu (Smiling, Proud Wanderer). Xiao – hiss/whistle, while Jing Yong’s ‘xiao’ was laugh/smile.