Book 30 Chapter 11 – The Richest Family in Luoyang
The Second Young Master Sha Chenggong walked Kou Zhong, this newly acquired divine doctor, back to his cabin. He even stayed for a while to chat with him like a close friend. Kou Zhong took this opportunity to ask him about their move to Chang’an.
Sha Chenggong sighed and said, “I regard Mo Xiong as one of our own, hence I am telling you the truth. We are slipping away from Luoyang, because Wang Shichong’s luck is running out; just wait till the Great Tang’s elite troops are coming to the south, they are going to fix him up.”
Hearing that, Kou Zhong felt greatly upset, but he also knew that it was an undisputable fact. “You are going to Chang’an this time, have you made suitable arrangement on the place you are going to stay?” he asked.
Sha Chenggong thought that since Kou Zhong wanted to rely on his Sha Family, he had special concern over this aspect. Making a show of being very much in earnest, he lowered his voice and bragged, “To be honest with Mo Xiong, our Sha Family is not only the richest family in Luoyang, within our clan there’s no lack of individuals who became government officials for several generations. Have Mo Xiong heard about the Dugu Clan? Dugu Feng is actually my Die’s biaodi [younger male cousin via female line]. Presently the Dugu Clan is put in important position by the Tang Emperor Li Yuan. My fourth meifu [younger sister’s husband] Chang He, not only he is a famous martial art master in Wulin, he is also a valiant general within the imperial court. He is in charge of guarding the Xuanwu Gate, an important place within the Chang’an’s Palace City. This time we are going to Chang’an is to accept Crown Prince Jiancheng’s invitation to seek asylum there. The course of events is so thrilling that I am not sure you’ll believe me when I tell you.”
Kou Zhong already grasped the Sha Family’s relationship with the people in Chang’an, he was not interested to continue chatting with him. Deliberately letting out a big yawn, he said, “This time I am coming across people of high rank along the way; turns out Er Gongzi’s family background is this illustrious. Ah! Using needle is more exhausting mentally compared to using medication.”
Although Sha Chenggong’s mannerism was heavy in rich family’s younger generation style, he was not stupid; aware that Kou Zhong had the intention of chasing the guest away, he said, “After reaching Chang’an, Xiaodi still have one request that I hope Mo Xiong will not decline.”
Kou Zhong really wished that he would just shup up and leave; putting on an act like he was an old friend, he said, “As soon as I saw Er Gongzi, I feel like we are kindred spirits, and have already become close friends. Whatever it is, Er Gongzi may speak it out without worry. As long as I, Mo … hey! As long as it is within Biren’s powers, I will certainly do it for Er Gongzi.”
Greatly delighted, Sha Chenggong said, “It is just a trivial thing. There is a beautiful woman that Xiaodi happen to know, this moment she is in Chang’an. She also suffers from headaches, which flares out from time to time. If Mo Xiong could skillfully use your miraculous hands of a healer to return the spring, Xiaodi will be extremely grateful.”
Kou Zhong mused silently that it seemed like his new profession as a divine doctor has already been decided. He laughed and said, “Such a trivial thing of lifting one’s hand, what’s the problem? Ha! Er Gongzi is indeed very romantic.”
Sha Chenggong’s eyes emitted a passionate and expectant expression. As if the words came out of the bottom of his heart, his spirit running fast, he said, “This beauty can be rated as the most remarkably beautiful woman in the world, when men see her, none was not moved.”
Kou Zhong’s curiosity was piqued; he asked, “A woman who could make Er Gongzi’s dreams winding around and lead your soul away, which family’s lady is she?”
His thoughts wandering far away, Sha Chenggong replied, “She is the double-peerless in both beauty and skill, her fame spread north and south of the Great River [i.e. Yangtze], acclaimed as the number one courtesan in the world, Shang Xiufang.”
“What?” Kou Zhong blurted out.
Sha Chenggong was stunned. With disbelief on his face, he sized Kou Zhong’s ugly face up and down, and asked, “Has Mo Xiong seen her?”
Kou Zhong realized that he had lost control over himself; hastily he said, “How could I, this kind of uncouth and a person of low status, see her? It’s just that if Biren could treat her illness, I feel that it would be my greatest honor!”
Sha Chenggong laughed and said, “By the time Mo Xiong become the most famous doctor in Chang’an, you won’t be a person of low status anymore. Frankly speaking, at the beginning Xiaodi did not have the slightest regard toward Mo Xiong, but now Mo Xiong has become the good friend that I respect the most. As long as you have a real talent and a solid skill, and then add a bit of opportunity on top of that, there will be a day when you will make your debut. It’s late, Chenggong will not dare to stop Mo Xiong from taking a rest.”
Kou Zhong stood up to send him off. After Sha Chenggong left, he turned around to fall onto his bed, while thinking about Shang Xiufang, and also thinking about Xu Ziling.
Tomorrow morning, they would enter the Pass.
Would the Great Tang’s Chang’an city be like a ferocious beast that could swallow him whole, or would it be like a stepping stone that could enable him to contend for hegemony over the world?
Xiao Xiuming whispered fast in Xu Ziling’s ear, “On Er Wenhuan’s left is Chang Lin Army Academy’s military officer Qiao Gongshan; on his right is one of the three main disciples of Longxi Pai’s Zhangmen Jin Dazhuang, the Jian Langjun [sword ‘young lord’] Wei Jiaqing. All three are Chang’an’s famous martial art masters. Mo Xiong must be careful.”
While he was still speaking, the men on Er Wenhuan’s side already discovered that the other party coming right at them from the end of the bridge was Xiao Xiuming and Xie Jiarong. Immediately they stopped chatting and laughing. With eyes burning they spread sideways, blocking the entire northbound pedestrian path of the big stone bridge. Unless the three made a detour via the vehicles and horses lane in the middle or crossed over to the southbound pedestrian path, they would bump into their battle array.
Upon seeing this, none of the other pedestrians did not cross the vehicles and horses lane to cross the bridge from the pedestrian path on the other side; surprisingly no one dared to stop to watch the excitement, so that only the two sides remained in the face off situation.
Xu Ziling’s fiery gaze swept around.
Er Wenhuan’s stature was strong and muscular, his appearance fierce and uncontrollable, dauntless, ready-to-fight, and ferocious.
Qiao Gongshan was comparably older; he ought to be twenty-something years old, his build was slightly short and stout. He grew short beard, but his hands and feet were thick and solid, the taiyang acupoints on his left and right temples were bulging; evidently he was an expert in inside and outside refined cultivations. His martial art skill could not possibly be under Er Wenhuan’s.
Jian Langjun Wei Jiaqing’s appearance was distinguished and accomplished, confident and at ease. Although far inferior to the ‘Passionate Prince’ Hou Xibai’s elegant spirit and his out-of-the-ordinary scholarly character, he ought to be very popular and a welcomed good-looking young lord.
Xu Ziling remembered that day at the relay station outside the city of Hannan, during the confrontation with Li Yuanji, Kou Zhong inflicted heavy losses to another martial art master from Longxi Pai, the ‘Willow Leaf Saber’ Diao Ang, within three saber strikes; unexpectedly he had just arrived in Chang’an, and already he encountered this Wei Jiaqing.
From the other side, Xie Jiarong spoke in low voice, “We absolutely must not show any weakness; otherwise the opponent might win-a-cun-want-a-chi [give him an inch, and he’ll want a mile], and then the days ahead will be even more difficult. No matter what, as long as the justification is on our side, Qin Wang Mansion could make decisions on our behalf.”
Hearing him saying that, Xu Ziling had an idea. Falling back half a step, he followed the other two until they were about a zhang away in front of Er Wenhuan and the others, a group of Chang Lin Army troops, before stopping.
Patting the saber hanging on his waist, Er Wenhuan laughed mischievously and said, “Turns out it’s Guanzhong Jian Pai’s Xiao Xiong and Xie Xiong; long time no see. Ol’ Er thought that you guys have sealed your sword and go back to your native place to live in seclusion. I heard in recent years Xing Chang Long made big profit and a lot of money, naturally two gentlemen also received generous bonus. I wonder if I could borrow a tael or two so that us, brothers, can go to Ping Kang Li to have fun?”
His remark provoked the roar of laughter from the men on his side.
Qiao Gongshan spoke with a cold laugh, “Were it not for Er Jiangjun [General] mentioning Guanzhong Jian Pai, I nearly forget. After Bu Ting, Qiu Wensheng no longer accepted disciples; was it because he changed profession to selling salt together with his disciples?”
Chang Lin crowd’s roar of laughter shook the heavens; ridicule and insult seemed to be their forte.
Xiao Xiuming and Xie Jiarong were fully aware that they were deliberately provoking them, but still they did not expect that this bunch would be this rude by insulting their master and their school; they were so angry that their countenance turned pale, and were unable to say anything.
A disdainful smile escaped from the corner of Jian Langjun Wei Jiaqing’s mouth; remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, he said, “Xiao Xiong and Xie Xiong must not blame Er Xiong and Qiao Xiong’s proper intestines and suitable belly; they only said what should be said, simply because these past two years your honorable Sect only knew how to curry favor from Qin Wang Mansion, as well as baring your shoulder on good business; you have long ago provoked public anger.”
Agitatedly and angrily Xiao Xiuming said, “What does Wei Xiong mean by that remark?”
From behind Wei Jiaqing, someone mocked, “Wei Ye said it so clearly, you still don’t understand? Let Laozi explain to you: Guanzhong Jian Pai’s people are all horse-fart worms.”
The other side roared in laughter again.
When Xie Jiarong pressed his hand onto the hilt of his sword, Xu Ziling took a step forward and said with a smile, “Excuse me! Excuse me! Laozi don’t have time to listen to your ravings and random talks.”
With repeated ‘Qiang!’ one after another the more than a dozen men headed by Er Wenhuan, Qiao Gongshan, Wei Jiaqing, pulled their weapons, while tightening their formation to wait.
Xu Ziling was a veteran of a hundred battles, he had seen all kinds of wicked people; although the opponent had many men, a great force, he did not even consider them to be worthy to look at. His hand grasped the sword hilt, with repeated ‘Pop! Pop!’ he stepped steadily, carrying concentrated, incomparably strong momentum, pressing on straight toward the enemy.
“Who are you!” Er Wenhuan thundered, while charging forward at the same time. The long saber streaked over the empty air, hacking down on Xu Ziling.
Qiao Gongshan was, after all, a martial art master. Sensing Xu Ziling’s threatening momentum, he quickly matched Er Wenhuan’s offensive move by sending out a palm push toward Xu Ziling’s left flank, carrying with it violent and flaring out qi power, as well as astonishing might.
Wei Jiaqing was the only one among the three opponents whose sword has not left its sheath; with a cold laugh he gazed steadily from the side at the development of the battle.
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Xie Xiong, Xiao Xiong, please hold your troop disposition for me.”
When the last word was spoken, the long sword was pulled fast as lightning to meet Er Wenhuan’s saber [orig. girdle saber].
Not only Er Wenhuan felt that his qi power was leaking out, he also felt that the opponent’s long sword was creating a burst of irresistible pulling force, dragging him to sway to the right, so that he was blocking Qiao Gongshan’s palm strike on Xu Ziling’s behalf.
When Qiao Gongshan pulled back his palm in shock, Xu Ziling already moved to Er Wenhuan’s left side. Using his shoulder he forcefully bump Er Wenhuan’s left shoulder with the power of flash flood breaking out the mountain. The long sword in his hand made a circle, it turned into a long rainbow attacking Wei Jiaqing, who was pulling his sword out of its sheath.
The turn of events happened so suddenly that practically no one was able to help.
Himself, Er Wenhuan could be considered a martial art master. He suffered losses because he underestimated the enemy; he did not know Xu Ziling’s uncanny feat of deflecting force, hence as soon as he attacked, it ended disastrously. If he knew that the opponent was Xu Ziling, whose name shook the heavens, he could not possibly be this useless.
With a miserable grunt Er Wenhuan was knocked over so that like a kite with cut string, he staggered and fell onto the vehicles and horses’ lane, knocking against the tail of a horse-drawn carriage that happened to be galloping by, creating a loud ‘Bang!’ before bouncing back, nearly becoming a rolling gourd, in an extremely sorry state.
Wei Jiaqing suddenly pulled his sword to meet Xu Ziling’s long sword. He let out a stifled grunt, while his sword was twisted by the opponent’s sword that his arm was swung sideways. He was about to change move when he felt as if the pit of his stomach was struck by a big pestle. Instantly his countenance turned white as he stumbled back and knocked two men from his own side, who were about to charge forward, so that all of them tumbled down together into a heap.
Xiao Xiuming and Xie Jiarong had never thought that Xu Ziling was this formidable. Watching this, they were dumbstruck; momentarily they did not know whether they should stay on the side holding their troop disposition, or they ought to step forward to cheer for him.
Xu Ziling whirled his long sword into a large circle, successively sweeping five enemies’, including Qiao Gongshan’s, sabers and swords coming to attack him. All of them were forced back by his sword, backed by abundant power, carrying intensely cold strong wind, bold and powerful like violent wave and raging tide.
By this time Er Wenhuan already stood back up; from being ashamed, he became angry. “Let’s kill him!” he bellowed.
He was about to attack Xu Ziling from the side, when someone thundered, “Stop!”
Startled, everybody stopped, and then turned to look at the voice. They saw five, six riders reining their horses to stop at the vehicles and horses’ lane.
The one shouting was wearing law enforcement hat on his head, and blue-green government official attire on his body; to protect against the cold, a thick coat was draped over his shoulders. His slender face had a five-strand long beard, his age in the vicinity of forty, fifty years old; his appearance was rather like that of a Taoist immortal. With his powerful tiger-eyes he fixed his gaze on Xu Ziling.
Seeing this person, Er Wenhuan and the others immediately held back their anger and obediently pulled back their weapons. Saluting, he said, “Beizhi [lowly/humble officer] pays his respect to Feng Daren.”
Xu Ziling returned his sword into its sheath.
As the guilty party files the suit [or ‘thief cries thief’], Qiao Gongshan rushed to speak, “This man clearly came to the capital to stir up trouble and create a disturbance. Would Feng Daren please preside over upholding justice for us, and prosecute him according to the law?”
Furious, Xiao Xiuming was about to speak up, but that Feng Daren signaled him not to speak. He spoke coldly to Xu Ziling, “What’s this Renxiong’s [friend] honorable surname and great given name? Where are you coming from?”
Xu Ziling calmly replied, “Xiaomin [commoner/civilian] Mo Wei, coming from Bashu. This past year I have been working for Xing Chang Long.”
Feng Daren’s gaze swept across Xiao Xiuming and Xie Jiarong before stopping at Xu Ziling’s face again. Slightly nodded his head, he spoke indifferently, “Your swordsmanship in extremely remarkable, you ought to be a very famous person, but why has this officer never heard about your great name?”
Xu Ziling replied, “Xiaomin’s sword skill came from Jiafu, Mo Yixin; I came out only in these past two years to roam the Jianghu, Daren please note clearly.”
Feng Daren slightly nodded his head again. Meeting Er Wenhuan and the others’ expectant gaze, he solemnly said, “The right and wrong, the crooked and the straight of this matter, this officer has seen clearly. Your tyrannical behavior of blocking the way and provoking other people is surely repulsive. Were it not for looking at Crown Prince Jiancheng’s face, I would have taught you a good lesson tonight. Get the hell out of my back!”
Immediately Er Wenhuan’s eyes emitted ominous glint, but Qiao Gongshan, standing by his side, quietly pulled the corner of his clothes; in the end his anger did not flare up. After casting a fierce gaze brimming with bitter resentment toward Xu Ziling, he led his troops to leave angrily.
Only after Er Wenhuan and his cronies left far away did Feng Daren reveal a hint of smile; he said, “Although Mo Xiongdi’s swordsmanship is outstanding, but within Chang Lin Army, the martial art masters are as numerous as the cloud. It would be best if these days you temporarily lie low until the fuss dies down. Good bye!”
Finished speaking, he urged his horse to gallop away.
Watching his back as he went away, inwardly Xu Ziling had a favorable impression toward this man. “Who was that?” he asked.
Coming to his side, Xiao Xiuming said, “Mo Xiong certainly have good luck coming right onto your face; that man is Huangshang’s [the emperor] trusted aide, the Minister of the Ministry of Justice, Feng Deyi. Even Crown Prince Jiancheng has to give him enough face.”
By this time Xu Ziling’s interest to roam around has been greatly diminishing; he said, “We’d better go back to bed early to rest!”
Xiao and Xie, two men, had the same feeling; they promptly agreed to go home, no longer wanted to go anywhere.
When Kou Zhong woke up from sleep, the sky was still dark. Looking out the window, he saw that the two ships, one in front of the other, were still sailing upstream toward the west.
From time to time, he heard people walking on tiptoe along the corridor outside; obviously the Sha Family’s maids and servants already woke up to prepare themselves in serving the Sha Family’s Laoye, Furen, Shaoye, Xiaojie [old master, madam, young master, miss], and so on.
After putting on the mask, draping his outer robe across his shoulders, and doing little things to make himself presentable, Kou Zhong fetched the Moon in the Well, which was wrapped in cloth and silk – that he put next to his pillow, and pushed the door and went outside toward the deck.
Everybody he met was deferential and polite toward him, indicating that he had won certain lofty position within the Sha Family.
Holding the Moon in the Well tightly in his hand, he thought that if someday he could use this treasured blade that Xiao Xian presented to him as a gift to cut down Xiao Xian’s head, this Great Liang Dynasty’s Emperor could be considered engineering his own death.
Suddenly someone was calling him from behind. Turned out it was the big butler Sha Fu. This good old man, who was loyal and devoted to the Sha Family, came to Kou Zhong’s side, who, by this time, was stopping in front of the cabin’s door. A bit nervous, he said, “Is Mo Xiansheng heading outside?”
Surprised, Kou Zhong asked, “What’s wrong?”
Sha Fu replied in low voice, “Since midnight last night, there’s a big five-mast ship pursuing us from behind, and now they are only less than half a li from us. Chen Laoshi, Mao Laoshi, and the others are already upstairs to take precautions.”
Although big five-mast ship was rarely seen along the river courses inland, but insignificant pirates definitely would not worry Kou Zhong. After thinking for a moment, he suddenly asked, “What’s my name?”
Sha Fu was taken aback, “What’s your name?” he repeated.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “This is quite funny actually. Jiashu has always disliked my real name Mo Daniu [lit. big ox] since it is not pleasant to the ears; therefore, he changed my name to Mo Da [big]. But then he felt that this name was too arrogant, so he wanted another new name for me. So he changed my name like that, and when he dissatisfied with the name, he changed it again, repeatedly. And now, even I am not clear which name he is giving me. Without any better option, I made up my mind to take the Mo whatever that Jiashu introduced me to San Shao Furen the other day as my name and be done with it. So, what name did Jiashu use to introduce Xiaodi to San Shao Furen?”
Sha Fu was an honest person, how could he think it strange that Kou Zhong did not know his own name? Taking it to be true, he said, “In that case, Mo Xiansheng should be called Mo Yixin!”
Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, “Ha! Mo Yixin.”
Finished speaking, he stepped over the threshold and came to the deck.
About a dozen or so Sha Family warriors were all gathered on the deck. Chen Laiman and Mao Shichang were standing on the stern gazing at the big ship appearing under the light of the dawn about half a li behind them.
On the other Sha Family’s ship, the warriors were also on the deck taking precautions; their number was twice, three times more than this ship.
With the Moon in the Well in his hand, Kou Zhong came to Chen and Mao, two men’s side, and said, “Probably that ship is also heading to Guanzhong, just like us!”
With tensed expression, Mao Shichang replied, “That ship is a seagoing ship, the hull goes deep into the water; unless it is really necessary, they can’t possibly sail through the night like us. In my opinion, it is very suspicious.”
Focusing his power into his eyes, Kou Zhong looked carefully; suddenly his tiger-body shook and he almost cried out.
Stunned, Mao Shichang and Chen Laiman looked at him. Kou Zhong realized that he had lost his self-control, hastily he tried to conceal it by saying, “That ship is accelerating, they will catch up with us within half a sichen.”
Only then did Mao Shichang and the others feel relieved.
Letting out a dry cough, Kou Zhong said, “I don’t think that ship is pursuing us; otherwise, the trebuchets on the ship would have already cast the stones toward us. Hey! I should also go back to treat Laoye’s illness!”
Just now, in just one glance he immediately recognized the ship was the Dongming Princess Shan Wanjing’s personal ship, which was also the Dongming Pai’s Flagship. Like a thief lacking in confidence, he thought that hiding in the cabin would be a bit safer.
Xu Ziling went to the rear courtyard’s hall. He was about to sneak out from the back door to go out to the Dong Lai Inn at the Vermillion Bird Boulevard to look for Lei Jiuzhi when he bumped into Tian Santang.
Tian Santang was very courteous and was in a very good mood; he warmly said, “Obtaining Mo Laoshi’s help is our Xing Chang Long’s good fortune. Last night Mo Laoshi put our divine might on full display, fiercely dampening Er Wenhuan, Qiao Gongshan, and the other Chang Lin bullies. Not only you have vented big resentment of ours, you also caused Feng Daren to notice you. It is indeed a good thing.”
Xu Ziling did not understand, “I was afraid I might cause trouble for Tian Ye,” he said.
Letting out a cold snort, Tian Santang replied, “Just like Du Gong said, when trouble comes, we cannot avoid it, even if want to. Duan Ye even said that we must not yield a single cun; counter soldiers with arms, counter water with an earth weir [idiom: different situations call for different action]. Leave everything for Qin Wang to take responsibility and to manage.”
Xu Ziling praised inwardly; Li Shimin was worthy to be Li Shimin, knowing that yielding would only make Jiancheng and Yuanji’s arrogance flare even more, until in the end he would have no place where he could stand.
Tian Santang went on, “According to Duan Ye’s analysis, because we fought a great victorious battle, inflicted heavy losses to Guan Sheng Xing and Jingzhao Lian, we have become the main target of Crown Prince Jiancheng’s retaliation. Last night’s event was not accidental at all.”
Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, “What is Duan Ye’s thought about how to deal with it?”
Tian Santang excitedly said, “Duan Ye transferred more than a dozen Guanzhong Jian Pai martial art masters to help us for righteousness [or friendship] sake. He also had the salt in our warehouse delivered into Qin Wang Mansion’s warehouse that very night. Even if Li Jiancheng has gargantuan guts, presently he still does not dare to confront Qin Wang directly as the enemy. But we must be a bit more careful in everything.”
Patting his shoulder, he said, “Mo Laoshi has become our main force, you must be extra careful. There is no lack of first-class martial art masters under Li Jiancheng’s command, whose martial art skill is far superior to Er Wenhuan, Qiao Gongshan, and the rest of that bunch. If you have nothing important, it’s best to stay in the shop.”
Musing inwardly that that wouldn’t do, Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Hiding away shows our weakness too much! Tian Ye, rest your heart at ease, Mo Wei will never let Xing Chang Long’s awe-inspiring authority down.”
Finished speaking, he went out the door and left.
 Xuanwu – Black Tortoise, the seven mansions of the north sky. See also my note on Vermillion Bird in Chapter 9.