Book 28 Chapter 12 – Reenactment of Old Scheme
From the courtyard’s wall Xu Ziling jumped down to the ground, shook his head and said, “The enemy is setting up hidden sentry to watch the whole surrounding area of the hotel. Unless we dig a tunnel underground, there is no way we could leave from above the ground.”
The three huddled up in the dark corner of the rear courtyard; they could not think of a good way to sneak away undetected. If even Xu Ziling, with his effective and acute senses – thought that the enemy’s surveillance network was impenetrable, then the fact must be so.
It is thus clear that in Nanyang, Yin Gui Pai was still in control, and that it would not be easy to have direct confrontation against them.
Tuli said, “Now at least Xiaodi’s guess has been proven to be correct. You Qiuyan is a spy sent by Yin Gui Pai.”
Having a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong said, “The more difficult it is, the more interesting it will be. I must, despite everything, take Ji Yinong’s dog’s life under this kind of circumstances, to let Zhu Yaofu know that to deal with us, they must pay the price.”
Being very familiar with his temperament, Xu Ziling laughed and said, “What ghost idea are you thinking?” [I know I could have said ‘crafty idea’, but ‘ghost idea’ sounds funnier …]
Tuli suddenly felt the blood in his entire body was boiling. Not only he forgot this moment’s ‘on all sides, the songs of Chu’ [surrounded, all alone] and danger with enemies all around, he felt the endless delight in fighting side by side with these two boys.
Even in the most difficult and frustrating moments, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling could still maintain optimistic frame of mind and strong will to fight, vowing to contend with the powerful enemy to the end.
Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, “Remember that time in Yangzhou we were trapped by Yang Guang at the other courtyard?”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Turns out you want to reenact an old scheme. Leave it to me then!”
As Xu Ziling was returning to their room, Tuli asked in confusion, “What brilliant scheme is it?”
Kou Zhong leaned over to whisper in his ear, “We want to create an illusion of escape. After the enemy left, we could calmly strike back!”
While Tuli was still ‘knowing one and understand half’, Xu Ziling hurriedly came back.
Kou Zhong hastily asked, “What trick are you playing?”
Xu Ziling replied in low voice, “I wrote on the wall, ‘Qiuyan Jiejie, please tell Old Pi, we are going to kill Ji Yinong.’ Does Shao Shuai think this is passable?”
Smiling with exultation, Kou Zhong replied, “Ling Shao is indeed a distinguished and accomplished literary talent adept in passionate words and luxuriant sentences; little student salutes you with admiration. All right! Where should we hide?”
It was only then did Tuli understand.
Xu Ziling replied, “So many empty rooms, just find one to hide, anywhere is all right. Our reputation is so good, whatever we say, I guarantee everybody will believe. Black letters on white wall, whenever it is written out, it will make people believe even more.”
The room the three were hiding had its westward window cattycornered from their original room, separated only by a small garden, so that they were able to directly monitor any movement inside.
The three sat on the floor in the dark, taking turn to watch outside the window.
Laughing in low voice, Kou Zhong said, “The most wonderful thing is that the enemy is afraid to stir up our suspicion, they don’t dare to come within range of the hotel to look inquiringly, otherwise our brilliant scheme will not work. Now my only hope is that those traitors would come back quicker.”
Tuli pulled his head back to sit against the wall; he sighed and said, “Waiting is the most difficult to endure thing. But Shimin Xiong’s firm and persistent endurance is something that I rarely see from among the Han people that I know.”
Xu Ziling said, “When you say it like that, it means you, Tujue people, must have stronger perseverance!”
Kou Zhong was paying attention to the sign of activity in the adjoining room; the people staying inside have already entered the dreamland early on, there were bursts of snoring noise coming from the inside. He joined in, “No wonder your Tujue elite troops are so formidable; coming like congregating beasts, going like scattering birds, no footprint no trace, and no need to be entrenched in any city defense. This kind of tactics must be studied well. But in the Central Earth, this kind of battle style might be labeled with evil reputation of roving bandits.”
Tuli countered, “Only those without organization and without ideals can be called roving bandits. We all live on horseback, the entire country is elite troops, how could you discuss two disparate things together?”
Xu Ziling said, “Although your troops are elite, they are few in number, I am afraid you are barely able to compare one of the big counties of ours. But the most formidable aspect is still coming-and-going-like-the-wind strategy, once the strike fails, you spread far and wide a thousand li. But to be used in invading the Central Earth, this kind of superiority might gradually fade away. By that time, the weak point of having too few people would come to light.”
Smiling ruefully, Tuli replied, “Ziling indeed draws blood on the first prick. But Xieli does not think so. He believes that as long as he could exploit the contradictions and conflicts among various powers in the Central Earth, he could progressively nibble away the Central Earth, and thus accomplishing the grand dream that has already been existing since the ancient times.”
Listening to this, Xu Ziling revealed a thoughtful look, but did not say anything.
Changing the subject, Kou Zhong asked, “How brilliant Bi Xuan actually is?”
Before Tuli had a chance to answer, they heard footsteps.
Hiding under the window, the three peeked outside. You Qiuyan came to the opposite room. She raised her hand to knock, but she only knocked twice and immediately felt something unusual. Pushing the door and went in, she immediately flew out of the room like a whirlwind, and waved her hand to release a rocket, which soared into the night sky and exploded into a burst of red lights.
Kou Zhong was so angry that his teeth itched, thinking about the two times he let her off, yet this woman still came to harm him. He really wished he could charge out and pinch her to her death.
Amidst the sound of fluttering clothes and sleeves, one after another several shadows landed on the sidewalk outside the room. The ones that the three recognized were ‘Yunyu Shuang Xiu’ Pi Shouxuan, ‘Mo Yin’ [hidden devil] Bian Bufu, Wen Caiting, ‘Yin Hou’ Zhu Yuyan, and a middle-aged man wearing dark green clothes; but they did not see Wanwan.
They appeared like ghosts and demons, but did not disturb the other guests in their dreamland.
Just Zhu Yuyan, one person, was already enough to make them sucking in a mouthful of cold air. Hastily they pulled their heads down from the window, afraid to arouse any reaction from her.
Zhu Yuyan’s voice was heard from the other side of the garden, “Pi Shishu [martial uncle], your blunder this time is that your knowledge of these two kids is not deep enough, so much so that you underestimated their intelligence. If it were Mei’er, she could not possibly make the same mistake.”
Inwardly, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who were focusing their attention to apply their power to eavesdrop, were ashamed. Were it not for Tuli’s special skill of observing women, perhaps they would have fallen into Pi Shouxuan’s trap.
Pi Shouxuan had just stepped out of the room after examining the message on the wall. He sighed and said, “The most hard-to-believe thing is that unexpectedly they guessed correctly that I was behind Qiuyan’s back prompting her to do it; how did they do that?”
Zhu Yuyan calmly said, “Regret won’t be helping in the least. Immediately notify Wan’er for me, I don’t care how much manpower and resources we have to spend, I want one of them to the killed, the other captured, before they are intercepted by the four great bald donkeys [reminder: bald donkey is derogatory term to call Buddhist monk]. The surviving mouth will then be forced to reveal the secret of the Duke Yang’s Treasure.”
The unfamiliar male voice replied, “The message left on the wall says that they are going to kill Yinong; how should Yinong respond, would Zongzun please bestow your instruction?”
Hearing that, the three cheered inwardly. This is called wearing out their iron shoes without any success, unexpectedly the success came without spending a great deal of time and effort. At least now they knew what Ji Yinong looked like.
Zhu Yuyan responded indifferently, “It’s just empty words to intimidate you. They have no time to deal with you, plus they lack the intelligence to do so; what could they rely on to kill you? In my opinion, they must have left Nanyang immediately and fled as far away as they could. However, it’s also good to be careful. From now on, Pi Shishu and Bufu will follow you closely and not leave your side even for half a step to guard against those two kids, as well as any assassin from Yang Zhen or Zhu Can, two sides.”
Pi Shouxuan said, “Later on Ji Yinong is going to meet Jingshan Pai and Zhen Yang Pai’s people for negotiation at the Yue Lan She. It does not look too appropriate for Bufu and I to come along.”
Zhu Yuyan replied, “Pi Shishu should act according to circumstances, as long as you are able to guarantee Yinong’s safety.”
She was constantly lowering her voice; apparently it was because they were discussing classified information, so she was using gathering-noise-into-a-thread skill.
This moment they could only hear faint noise like buzzing bees in the distant place. Fortunately Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong were still able to catch most of what she said, while guessing the rest to get the complete picture.
Zhu Yuyan seemed to have an important matter to attend to, so as soon as she finished speaking, she acted as if she wanted to leave immediately, while continued to give her orders, “Caiting, find three men to be disguised as those three kids and make false appearance to lure Li Yuanji’s side to pursue them. The Duke Yang’s Treasure is of very great importance, this Zun [senior/honorable master] definitely will not let them fall into other people’s hands.”
Wen Caiting said, “What Zongzun said is right; even if there was no Duke Yang’s Treasure, we should not leave the root of the trouble to become misfortune in the future.”
Turning to You Qiuyan, Zhu Yuyan said, “Qiuyan ought to pay attention to Zhu Can’s side; if you see any unusual activity, notify us immediately. Let’s split up to do our job now!”
In the blink of an eye, Zhu Yuyan and the others left until not one remained.
Inside the dark room without any light in it, Tuli was about to speak, but Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong signaled him to stop at the same time. Tuli realized suddenly, and promptly swallowed the words that were already at the edge of his lips back into his belly.
Quite a while later, Xu Ziling slowly craned his neck to look outside, and saw a shadow flashing on the roof. Sure enough, Zhu Yuyan has returned, scaring him that he quickly shrank back to hide.
Time slowly passed. Two moments later Kou Zhong craned his neck to look outside. Zhu Yuyan’s shadow has disappeared. Kou Zhong whispered, “Do you reckon Zhu Yaofu has really left this time?”
Speechless, Tuli said, “Really crafty!”
Xu Ziling said, “Actually, from the start she was already convinced that we have the ability to get away while avoiding everybody’s eyes and ears. It’s just that later on she grew suspicious, but she wasn’t sure. She ought to be gone by now!”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “She suddenly lowered her voice, it was because she was beginning to doubt that we have not yet left.”
Puzzled, Tuli asked, “But why didn’t she simply order her people to search the inn?”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “This is the common problem of intelligent but conceited people; they are convinced that their own idea is the smartest. But it goes to show that she is certainly sinister and effective; it’s just that unfortunately she encountered people that are smarter than she is!”
Xu Ziling joined in, “Furthermore, they are people who do not wish to be exposed to the light, they are accustomed to doing things in secret. More importantly, if she ordered a search, this matter will spread around. Now we must act one step ahead by breaking the siege and leave.”
“How about Ling Shao go out to scout the area first?” Kou Zhong proposed.
Xu Ziling took his time to wait half a day longer before going out the window. But a short moment later he came back and said, “She has really left!”
Immediately Kou Zhong stood up in excitement, “This time Ji Yinong is in trouble,” he spoke with great delight.”
The three crouched behind the roof ridge, their tiger-eyes observed the brightly lit Yue Lan She across the street. All the shops in the vicinity were already closed, but since Yue Lan She was a prostitutes’ place, this was the good time to start their activities.
The plaza outside the main gate was packed with parked horse-drawn carriages, the guests were moving about in unending streams.
“How do we do this?” Tuli asked in heavy voice.
Sweeping his gaze around, Xu Ziling replied, “Sneaking into a place with many people in jumble mess like this is easy, the problem is how to find Ji Yinong before we are discovered by the enemy.”
Kou Zhong said, “We have been delayed for some time and cannot afford to wait much longer. Fortunately Ji Yinong’s Yang Xing Hui men don’t know us at all. Ji Yinong would not be stupid enough to tell his men to pay particular attention to three men that look like us. Time is fleeting, we must take the risk and place his mother’s bet.”
Tuli cheerfully said, “Hanging around the two of you, having less guts is not acceptable. Let’s go!”
Soon the three went down the street and swaggered toward the Yue Lan She’s main gate.
The doorkeepers were accustomed to Wulin figures and traveling merchants, who came from various regions, hence they did not question anything just because the guests looked unfamiliar; they simply led them into the main hall.
When the quail matron [鹑婆, could be a typo; I can’t think of any brothel term that looks similar to it] came out to greet them, Kou Zhong immediately tipped her generously. With brows raised in delight and eyes laughing, the happy quail matron eagerly and attentively served them, “Three Daye, do you have any particular girl in mind?” she asked.
Xu Ziling swept his gaze around. Although there were more than a dozen guests sitting around the main hall, nobody paid them any particular attention. Only then did he feel relieved.
From hiding in the dark they came out to this bright-as-day-lit lounge, the feeling was both intense and strange, as if they were no longer able to keep anything secret.
Kou Zhong casually said, “I heard there is a lady called Miss Xiao Wan, is that right?”
Xiao Wan was the pleasure house lady who was a close friend of Tian Kui Pai disciple Xie Xianting, the ‘root of disaster’ over whom Luo Rongtai was having a fight against Xie Xianting for her affection.
Her countenance showing that she had a difficulty, the quail matron said, “This is so unfortunate; Xiao Wan has been ill these past couple of days, I am afraid she cannot wait upon Daye! But Daye need not worry …”
After exchanging glances with the other two, Kou Zhong cut her off, “You don’t know if she’s already feeling better by now, just give it a try for us. Tell her that Xie Gongzi’s friends are coming to visit here.” And then he stuffed another tael of silver into her hand.
“Which Xie Gongzi?” the quail matron asked.
Kou Zhong replied, “The Xie Gongzi from Hannan. Please see first whether she can come to accompany us before trying to find another lady for us. The most important thing is to find us the best and the biggest, highest quality room for us. Do you understand?”
The quail matron [note: now the character is鸽, pigeon/dove] laughed and said, “Three Daye doing us the honor is hard to come by. Second floor, east wing has the best view; currently we only have one room left. Please follow nujia this way.”
The three followed the quail matron [note: and now it is鸦, crow] from the lounge via another door into the long corridor of the inner courtyard, both sides were adorned with flowers and trees, and a two-story wooden structure on both the east and the west ends, covering a vast area of land, connected by the long corridor. The sound of people drinking and playing finger-guessing game, mixed with the sound of singing and music, reverberated throughout the air between the two buildings, the atmosphere was very warm.
However, how could they be in the mood to enjoy it? Especially Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who were remembering their ‘pleasure house luck’. They could only harden their scalp and see what the final outcome would be.
Tuli, on the other hand, was in great mood. He intentionally asked, “Why is the western building so quiet?”
The quail matron replied, “All the ten rooms on the western building, southern wing, second floor, are completely reserved. It’s just that the guests have not arrived yet, that’s the reason why it is so quiet.”
Hearing that, the three’s spirit was greatly aroused. Kou Zhong hurriedly asked, “Which grand guest is this lavish?”
Revealing a cautious expression, the quail matron replied, “Nujia is not too clear about that.”
Upon entering the room, they ordered food and drink. After the quail matron and the young maid left, the three let out a long laugh and toasted each other to celebrate their success in sneaking into this place safely.
Although how they were going to execute the assassination was still a big headache to them, this was always better than staying on the outside looking in from a distance.
Casting a glance toward the window looking east, Kou Zhong laughed and said, “If I had known earlier that the view from this room is not that good, I would have asked for a room with direct view to Ji Yinong’s room.”
Tuli lightly said, “Just now I nearly told that old quail to move us to the western building; but then I thought that only by watching from afar will we see the mountain as a mountain, see the water as water.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “Let me take the first sentry-duty turn.” Finished speaking, he slipped out of the window and climbed onto the roof ridge.
Kou Zhong acted as if Ji Yinong was already in their bag; he said, “Later on, before Ji Yinong’s stinky butts warm his seat, we’ll split up into two prongs, with Khan and Xiao Ling assaulting Old Pi and Old Bian, two men, I will be in charge of chopping Old Ji down into two pieces, and then using your fellow countrymen’s strategy, once the strike succeed, we’ll disperse a thousand li away, leaving nothing behind.”
Tuli laughed and said, “Thinking about killing, my tummy suddenly get unusually hungry. I hope the food and drink will arrive before Old Ji does; the earlier the better.”
While chatting and joking, suddenly there were knocks on their door.
‘Knock! Knock! Knock!’
The two’s countenance changed at the same time, because there was no alert or omen in advance. If it were only servants or maids delivering food, how could they hide from their alert and acute senses?