Book 30 Chapter 13 – Having an Audience with the Tang Emperor
Following Xiao Xiuming, Xu Ziling came out to the street. Snowflakes were floating down from the sky. A gorgeous horse-drawn carriage, under escort of eight cavalrymen, was waiting respectfully by the roadside.
The white snow swirling in the air united the neat and tidy Vermillion Bird Boulevard with the purifying-heaven-and-earth’s whiteness, making everything appeared blurry. Xu Ziling felt as if he was reliving the old dream of that morning in Luoyang, where he bravely battled the Four Great Holy Monks.
Xiao Xiuming rushed forward to pull the carriage door open and said, “Mo Xiong, please climb into the carriage, Xiaodi will be waiting for you at the head office.”
Hardening his heart, Xu Ziling climbed into the carriage. Feng Deyi, wearing full government official regalia, was staring at him without blinking at all; he spoke indifferently, “Mo Xiong, please sit by my side.”
Following his order, Xu Ziling sat down. The carriage slowly started.
Feng Deyi looked out the window at the number one street in Chang’an under the swirling snow. He smiled and said, “Chang’an has three treasures; I wonder if Mo Xiong has heard of it?”
Xu Ziling blankly shook his head.
Feng Deyi slowly said, “They are silk weaving, tri-color glazed pottery, and copper mirror.” And then, lowering his voice, he spoke like reciting poetry, “Using copper as a mirror, one can properly put on hat and clothes. Using ancient history as a mirror, one can clearly see the rise and fall of mankind. Using people as a mirror, one can understand gains and losses. Conducting himself as an official in feudal court, one must be like a clear mirror. Does Mo Xiong understand what I mean?”
Xu Ziling actually did not understand why he spoke those words, but referring to oneself as a mirror contained a deep truth, while also implying clean personal integrity, unlike one who resorted to fawning on the superior, resorted to bragging and flattering. Feeling deep veneration in his heart, he said, “Only by being like that would one be called doing his responsibility as an official to the utmost, to avoid disaster from reaching all the people. Xiaoren submit with admiration.”
Feng Deyi pulled back his gaze from looking outside the window; looking at Xu Ziling approvingly he said, “Able to make Mo Xiong deeply having similar impression, I knew that Mo Xiong is also a loyal and righteous warrior with high aspiration in your bosom. I wonder if Mo Xiong know why this officer is looking for you this early in the morning?”
Xu Ziling shook his head with blank expression on his face.
Revealing a faraway look on his eyes, he said, “Mo Xiong’s display of martial art last night had some kind of heavenly-steed-soaring-across-the-skies, brandishing-unconstraint, brimming-with-creativity feeling. This kind of out-of-the-ordinary, becoming-an-arhat swordsmanship is something Ol’ Feng seldom see in all my life. I can’t help having sympathy-toward-talent thought; I can’t bear seeing you die by violence in Chang’an just like that, so that such a good sword technique would be in vain.”
Xu Ziling suddenly saw the light; he smiled and said, “Thank you very much for Feng Daren’s concern. Life and death are ruled by fate; if Xiaoren take life or death to heart, last night I might resign myself to adversity [idiom: submit meekly to humiliation] and would not have set myself in direct confrontation against Er Wenhuan and the others.”
Astonishment appeared on Feng Deyi’s face; he spoke cheerfully, “Turns out Mo Xiong truly is not the kind of people who flaunt courage and strength, but don’t put life and death in the eyes. My utmost admiration.”
Xu Ziling was afraid Feng Deyi wanted to recruit him as his subordinate, which would mean he could not go anywhere, and lose the freedom that he currently wanted the most. Gaining the initiative by striking first, he said, “Xiaoren has always been indifferent to worldly rewards, to life or death. The reason I threw myself into the Bu Family was just because the Bu Family is well known for their charity, unlike profiteering merchants in general. When the world is set in order, the four oceans return to one, Xiaoren is going to go back to my hometown to pass my days cultivating the soil and growing vegetables, enjoying the truly interesting livelihood within the ordinary life.”
Feng Deyi smiled and said, “Unexpectedly Mo Xiong has some other cherished desire, this official admires that very much. But one has to compromise in this world [orig. when one in Jianghu, one’s body does not belong to him]; does Mo Xiong know what kind of people have you offended?”
This moment the carriage was entering the Guang Ming Avenue; if they continued forward, they would go straight into the Imperial City’s main entrance, the Vermillion Bird Gate. Feng Deyi shouted out, “To Dong Da Si [lit. eastern big temple]!”
The driver lashed his whip to urge the horses on; they turned to the right toward the east.
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “Chang’an’s situation today is as rivers Jing and Wei are clearly separated [idiom: to be entirely different]. Under Huangshang, if one is not attached to the Crown Prince, then he is attached to Qin Wang. Xiaoren understands his own situation.”
Feng Deyi said, “If Mo Xiong were Qin Wang Mansion’s man, I would not have to worry for you. The problem is that Mo Xiong has just arrived; although you are working for Xing Chang Long, you are still considered an outsider. If some mishaps happen, it would be very difficult for Qin Wang to stick out his head for you. Just for this fact, your enemy might, without the slightest scruple, try to kill you, by fair means or foul, within this short period of time, to establish their prestige. Therefore, this official wanted to waste my time explaining, to persuade Mo Xiong to seek a way of self-preservation.”
Xu Ziling calmly said, “This morning they already tried once; they launched surprise attack on Xiaoren at the West Gate of the East Market. Fortunately Xiaoren’s luck is not bad that I was able to avoid this calamity.”
After Feng Deyi asked for more details and Xu Ziling told him everything, Feng Deyi muttered to himself irresolutely for half a day, before he suddenly asked, “Where in Bashu is Mo Xiong’s home?”
Xu Ziling was afraid he would ask in details about his ‘hometown’ situation and then he would be dumbstruck and unable to reply; therefore, he had to say the place where he was most familiar with. “Xiaoren’s home is at Shizi Qiao [Lion Bridge] Street in Chengdu.”
Feng Deyi delightedly said, “That will do! Recently there was a major event in Chengdu that created an uproar within the Wulin world; did Mo Xiong hear about it?”
Xu Ziling had absolutely no idea what he meant when he said, ‘That will do!’, but noticing his brimming-with-expectation manner, he could not make an excuse that he did not know. He had to respond, “Is Daren referring to the Overbearing Saber Yue Shan struck and killed the Heavenly Lord Xi Ying affair?”
Slapping the handle of his chair, Feng Deyi delightedly said, “Precisely that affair. I wonder if Mo Xiong know enough details about that?”
Inwardly Xu Ziling started to have a little bit of understanding. He replied, “At that time by coincidence Xiaoren was back home to visit Jiafu, I happened to be at the right place on the right time, and witnessed the entire course of events.”
His spirit greatly aroused, Feng Deyi asked him over and over about the course of events that he ‘witnessed’ with his own eyes. Naturally Xu Ziling was able to reply quickly and fluently.
By the time Feng Deyi was completely satisfied, this high-ranking minister, Li Yuan’s trusted aide, nodded his head and said, “This officer already thought of a wonderful way to get Mo Xiong out of misfortune.”
Xu Ziling was already well aware of what he was going to say, but of course he had to pretend that he did not know anything and had to ask him for guidance.
Feng Deyi said, “Later on Huangshang is going to the Dong Da Si to burn incense on behalf of Guifei [imperial consort] Zhang Jieyu, who is suffering from a strange illness. This officer might be able to arrange to have Mo Xiong see Huangshang. As long as this matter enters the ears of Chang Lin men, I guarantee that henceforth Mo Xiong will be as steady as Mount Tai; nobody will dare to touch even half a strand of your hair.”
Inwardly Xu Ziling was greatly delighted, but he pretended to be astonished and blurted out, “Paying my respect to Huangshang? But how could Xiaoren have that qualifications?”
Feng Deyi laughed and said, “Originally you did not. But Huangshang is anxious to know any information about ‘Ba Dao’ Yue Shan, and Mo Xiong happened to be the only one in Chang’an witnessing the two men’s dragon-war, tiger-battle. So you do have the qualifications.”
Out of the sincere gratitude in his heart, Xu Ziling said, “Feng Daren is so concerned about Xiaoren’s disaster and happiness, even if Xiaoren repay your kind acts until the next life, it will not be enough.”
Feng Deyi said, “Guanzhong Jian Pai’s Qiu Wensheng and I have more than ten years of friendship; with you, I even have particular kindred spirits. How could I see you die by violence without doing anything? But Mo Xiongdi must keep in mind that when you see Huangshang, whatever he is asking, you must reply, but must never mention anything about what happened with Er Wenhuan and the others; understand?”
Xu Ziling gave him his most solemn promise.
This moment the carriage happened to gallop into the grand, magnificent Dong Da Si. Xu Ziling already set a plan in his mind; he knew how to get Yue Shan to see Li Yuan, but he still needed to wait for Kou Zhong’s arrival in Chang’an before he could put this plan into action.
The Sha Family’s two sailboats, under escort of two House of Tang’s warships, sailed into the City of Chang’an via the Guang Tong [wide thoroughfare] Canal linking the Yellow River with the Tang’s capital, Chang’an. At the pier, firecrackers were lit, the Imperial Bodyguards stood respectfully to salute in such a grand troop-formation; it was completely beyond Kou Zhong, this fake Divine Doctor’s – expectation.
When he focused his attention to look, Kou Zhong nearly wanted to jump into the river to flee for his life, because among those welcoming them at the dock, the ones he recognized included Dugu Feng [peak], Dugu Ce, Dugu Feng [phoenix], and the other Dugu Clan’s leaders. Those that he did not recognize were even more. It looked like they must be the influential officials and rich merchants in Chang’an. It was only then did he realize that when Sha Chenggong told him that the Sha Family was the richest family in Luoyang, he was not bragging at all.
The one attracted his attention the most was a man wearing Crown Prince attire; his appearance resembled Li Shimin’s. Needless to say, this must be the Great Tang’s Crown Prince Li Jiancheng. His build was on par with Li Shimin’s, only his face was comparatively longer and narrower; he also lacked Li Shimin’s awe-inspiring righteous charisma, but the expression in his eyes was threatening. He was absolutely not an ordinary character.
Sure enough, Chang He, standing in front of him, whispered in Sha Tiannan’s ear, “I didn’t expect Taizi Dianxia [His Highness the Crown Prince] might personally come to welcome us; he is indeed giving us a lot of face.”
Sha Tiannan was smiling so wide that he could not close his mouth.
Kou Zhong withdrew into the crowd consisting of Chen Laiman, Mao Shichang, and the others. When things come to a head, he recovered his cool-headedness and calm demeanor instead. Inwardly he revived the habit he cultivated this past few days in walking, moving, sitting, and lying, as well as the voice and intonation when he spoke, hoping that he could mingle among the crowd to enter the city, and then seize the opportunity to slip away.
Fortunately the welcoming party’s attention was entirely focused on the people of the Sha Family, they did not have any interest to cast even half a glance toward Kou Zhong. When the crowd moved, he also moved; when the crowd stopped, he also stopped.
When Sha Tiannan went ashore to meet Li Jiancheng, who welcomed him, Kou Zhong and the others were still remaining on the deck, waiting for further arrangement.
Inwardly Kou Zhong cried ‘Thank Heaven and thank the Earth!’, as he watched various members of the Sha Family climbed into the welcoming carriages one by one, and then under escort of Li Jiancheng and his Imperial Bodyguards, they left the pier. Dugu Family’s people also left that not even half remaining. Only this time did he, as if relieved from a burden, follow the crowd of family bodyguards and the maids and servants to go ashore.
More than a hundred people from other government offices received them. Boarded another fleet of horse-drawn carriages, under the snow swirling in the air, they traveled speedily toward the Sha Family’s new residence in Chang’an.
Sharing the same carriage with Kou Zhong, Chen Laiman happily said, “Taizi Dianxia Jiancheng is so courteous toward Laoye, our Sha Family will definitely start another enterprise in Chang’an.”
Kou Zhong was plotting on how to slip away undetected; hearing him, he blurted out asking, “What kind of business does our Sha Family do, actually?”
Surprised, Mao Shichang said, “Unexpectedly Mo Xiansheng did not know. Our Sha Family started out by mining business. Our five metals [gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin] industrial arts are famous throughout the world. In just the weaponry, which is a separate division, we have more than a hundred factories throughout the whole nation; in Guanzhong itself we have more than a dozen foundries.”
Kou Zhong quietly mused that no wonder Li Jiancheng had such a high regard toward Sha Tiannan; turned out he was a big businessman having control over the military lifeline. Losing this person, Wang Shichong might suffer a significant blow.
Lowering his voice, Chen Laiman said, “Do you know that Luoyang’s most powerful city defender, the Divine Crossbow, was personally designed and its fabrication supervised by Laoye himself?”
Inwardly Kou Zhong was greatly delighted, since now he knew that Li Jiancheng had the intention of personally lead the army to attack Luoyang.
While he was still deep in thought, there was the sound of hoof beats coming directly from ahead. Chang He and another high-ranking military officer were rushing over to stop the cavalcade. While in his heart Kou Zhong was like a deer caught in the headlights, Chang He and the general urged their horses to come to Kou Zhong’s carriage; they called, “Mo Xiansheng!”
Hardening up his scalp, Kou Zhong stuck his head out and responded, “Biren is here. I wonder what advice does Chang Ye have for me?”
The other general courteously said, “Mo Jiang [lit. end-of-the-line (i.e. lowest grade) general] Feng Liben, paying my respect to Mo Xiansheng.”
Chang He introduced him by saying with a laugh, “Feng Jiangjun [general] is Taizi Dianxia’s Commander of the Eastern Palace; we are all good friends.”
Kou Zhong knew things have gone bad for him. Sure enough, Feng Liben said, “Dianxia did not know that Mo Xiansheng is honoring us by your presence, and thus he failed to show respect. Therefore, he specifically sent Mo Jiang to welcome Xiansheng’s honorable self, asking Xiansheng to immediately go to meet him in the Palace.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong cried out for his Niang; definitely without any good excuse to decline, he had no choice but to untie the Moon in the Well, get off the carriage and change into riding a horse, and follow the two men galloping toward the Imperial Palace.
Feng Deyi made arrangement in advance for Xu Ziling so that when they arrived at the Dong Da Si, he was to wait in the reception room.
The Great Tang Emperor Li Yuan’s holy-self had not arrived, but a large number of Imperial Bodyguards have already setup security so that the entire temple complex was closed to public, nobody could go any farther.
Accompanying Xu Ziling was Feng Deyi’s assistant general Guan Xiaoran, who, with nothing else to do, tried to strike conversation with Xu Ziling, who was watching the snowscape outside the window, “Feng Daye certainly views Mo Xiong in a new light. After personally watching Mo Xiong’s swordsmanship last night, he asked us for our opinion.”
Xu Ziling quickly declined modestly.
Guan Xiaoran said, “The rarest thing was that Mo Xiong has an extremely calm, deep and clear – bearing; your every movement was so flawless, so that it will forever be engraved in my heart.”
Inwardly Xu Ziling shivered severely, realizing that if he encountered someone who was familiar with him, like Li Shimin for example, he might grow suspicious based of this aspect.
On the contrary, disguising himself as Yue Shan might not be a problem, simply because Yue Shan himself was that kind of martial art master.
He casually asked, “In the world, nobody does not know that Chang’an’s Wulin is the place of crouching tiger, hidden dragon. Which figure is particularly remarkable?”
Guan Xiaoran replied, “Speaking about real masters, perhaps ten fingers will not be enough to count them. But to count the most powerful in public opinion, the one regarded as the foremost is the young martial art master Ke Dazhi from Eastern Tujue. This man’s saber technique has reached the realm of perfection. Time and again he defeated martial art masters of Qin Wang’s Heavenly Policy Mansion, so that the Taizi Dianxia’s Eastern Palace’s prestige is greatly flourishing. I hear that in the martial art competition during the feast in the Palace the night before last, even Zhangsun Wuji suffered losses. At that time there was also the number one famous courtesan in the world, Shang Xiufang, present. The loss of face that Qin Wang suffered was indeed too great!”
Xu Ziling repeated the name Ke Dazhi in his heart, he did not even take note of Shang Xiufang’s name.
This moment someone was coming to report: Xu Ziling was to go to the VIP lounge at the back of the monastery to have an audience with the Tang Emperor.
Xu Ziling calmed his mind. With Guan Xiaoran showing him the way, he went to see Li Yuan.