Book 31 Chapter 11 – Enemies On A Narrow Road
Returning to the Sha Family’s mansion, Kou Zhong avoided the main hall, which was still full with guests, but at the rear courtyard he was intercepted by the Second Young Master Sha Chenggong, who asked, “Where did Mo Xiong go? I had a hard time looking for you.” [Translator’s note: original text was ‘third’ instead of second, also in subsequent occurrences the rest of the chapter, I think Huang Yi made a mistake; I am taking the liberty to change it to ‘second’.]
Noticing that his belly was bloated, his eyes were bloodshot, Kou Zhong knew that last night he was at the pleasure house, partying all night long. Unexpectedly he looked for Kou Zhong this ‘early’; hence he knew that he did not have any sincere intention.
Gaining the initiative by striking first, Kou Zhong said, “It was me who was having a hard time. As soon as we got to Chang’an, I am so busy until the sky hazy the earth darkened; when Er Shao [second young] was still sleeping, Xiaoren had to grope about in the dark to go to the Palace, waiting for Niangniang to wake up so that I could treat her illness. Just now I examined and treated Gongbu Shangshu Liu Daren’s beloved son’s illness. Ay! It looks like the Heaven decreed that I have to live a busy life. And now I can’t even get a good sleep.”
Staring blankly, Sha Chenggong said, “But no matter what Mo Xiong has to help me this time. Ay! Because I already promised someone.”
Although Kou Zhong did not like him, but he did not have any ill will either. Smiling wryly, he asked, “Is it Shang Beauty?”
Sha Chenggong’s old face turned red; humming and hawing, he said, “I haven’t had a chance to see Miss Xiufang. This time I want to ask you, LaoGe, to examine Feng Ya Ge’s [cultured/sophisticated pavilion (usually two-storied)] Laobanniang [lady boss].”
Stunned, Kou Zhong asked, “What kind of place is Feng Ya Ge?”
Sha Chenggong replied, “Feng Ya Ge is the most famous pleasure house, apart from Shang Lin Yuan, which was personally established and managed by Madame Qingqing. From time to time she is having problem with her stomach and intestine. It seems like only Mo Xiong has the ability to eradicate her chronic ailment. Mo Xiong simply has to help me this time.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “I wonder if Er Shao has some interest toward Madame Qingqing?”
Putting his hand on Kou Zhong’s shoulder, Sha Chenggong was half-pushing him toward the rear courtyard gate; with an awkward laugh he said, “Mo Xiong is indeed an understanding person; but the one I want is her pretty daughter Xi’er Xiaojie. Although she can’t compare with Madame Qingqing’s ten-thousand-amorous-feelings, but she is also extremely tempting. When Mo Xiong sees her, you will know that I am not speaking empty words.”
A horse-drawn carriage was waiting respectfully at the public square by the rear courtyard gate. When the driver saw the two men coming, he hurriedly opened the carriage door.
Kou Zhong was greatly puzzled; halting his step, he asked, “With Er Shao’s capacity and status, how could you settle for second best?”
Sha Chenggong whispered in his ear, “First of all, I just got here; I do not know Chang’an’s situation yet. Secondly, I hear that Qi Wang is crazily pursuing Madame Qingqing, so that nowadays nobody dares to touch her. Ha! Let’s get in the carriage, we’ll talk some more!”
Xu Ziling stepped into shop with ‘Tong Xing She’ [flourishing together agency] signboard hanging above the door. Raising his voice, he said, “Who’s the boss? I have a batch of goods need to be shipped to Yuhang [district in Hangzhou, Zhejiang]. Can we discuss it?”
Gao Zhandao’s imposing figure shook; abandoning the customer, he called another shop attendant to take care of him. Coming over, he said, “Yuhang is a long and arduous journey, can Laoxiong afford the cost?”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “Let’s find a place to sit down and talk!”
Gao Zhandao’s eyes emitted red-hot rays of light, because he recognized Xu Ziling’s voice. “Laoxiong, please come with me,” he hastily said.
The two did not speak anymore; they walked inside, passed the atrium, and into the side hall of the inner courtyard. Gao Zhandao closed the door.
Xu Ziling took off his mask. Gao Zhandao’s eyes were gushing with hot tears of joy; he was about to go down to his knee but Xu Ziling stopped him up.
Emotionally moved, Gao Zhandao spoke in hoarse voice, “We haven’t seen each other for a long time, Kou Ye and Xu Ye have become the figures that the world look up to. I, Gao Zhandao, and my brothers can wait upon two Daye, it is indeed our honor.”
Xu Ziling felt uncomfortable; smiling wryly, he said, “Whether people looking up to us, that is secondary, but those you want us to die are uncountable. Sit down first and then we’ll talk.”
After they were seated properly, Gao Zhandao asked, “Where is Kou Ye?”
Xu Ziling replied, “He is coming as well, but momentarily cannot spare time, hence the reason he cannot come together with me to see you.”
Gao Zhandao shook his head with a sigh, “The news that two Ye’er [simply: masters] are coming to Chang’an has already spread and is known to everyone, but everybody thought that it would be difficult for you to enter Chang’an even for half a step. Who would have thought that two Ye’er possess great magical power and arrived here with not even half a person finds out? Ha! How could Yang WenGan, Li Yuanji, and the like, be two Ye’er’s match?”
“We just have a little bit of luck, that’s all!” Xu Ziling replied, “How are our other brothers?”
Gao Zhandao replied, “Fortunately Kou Ye and Xu Ye have come, so that you can make decision for us. Presently we are encountering a very troublesome matter.”
Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, “What is it?”
Gao Zhandao replied, “This matter, start explaining and it’s a long story [idiom]. How are Yucheng and the others?”
Xu Ziling’s heart was throbbing with pain; he said dejectedly, “This matter also ‘start explaining and it’s a long story’. It was the two of us who harmed them.” Recalling this matter, he could not stop the intense hatred toward Yin Gui Pai from bubbling up in his heart.
Other than ‘debt of blood must be paid in blood’, there was no other way to settle this matter.
Coming to Feng Ya Ge, one would feel like he was returning home. It was a different pleasure house; in terms of layout and decoration, it looked just like ordinary residence of a family with literary reputation, there was not the slightest bit of fear-of-not-enough-grandeur, commercial feeling.
Overall, this Feng Ya Ge consisted of four courtyard houses [with fully enclosed courtyard in the middle], which were separated from each other by corridors, with the wing of each courtyard house pointing toward the middle courtyard [or atrium], all overlooking the beautiful scenery of a pavilion in the middle of a mood garden with a small bridge over running water.
In term of footprint, it was only one-quarter of the Shang Lin Yuan, but it was superior in a sense that it did not have the hustle and bustle of the larger pleasure house; instead, it gave out a feeling of a cordial home, especially to those literary, elegant scholars type. No wonder it was able to compete against the long-established, having-great-potential-in-terms-of-riches-and-might, Shang Lin Yuan, which was located diagonally opposite across the street from it.
The carriage stopped outside the door. Sha Chenggong pulled the unwilling Kou Zhong to knock on the door and come in. The young maid answering the door said, “It is indeed lucky that Sha Gongzi invited Mo Xiansheng to honor us with his presence. Madame Qingqing has been waiting respectfully for a long time in the east courtyard!”
Noticing the young maid was quite delicate and charming, Kou Zhong mused that if the maidservant was like this, what the master looked like could be easily imagined.
Because Sha Chenggong had ulterior motive, he was trying really hard to curry this young maid’s favor. But noticing Kou Zhong’s ugly countenance, the young maid was rather unwilling to look at him more than half a glance. Taking the piece of silver that Sha Chenggong stuffed into her hand, while leading them in, she bantered flirtatiously with Sha Chenggong.
Sha Chenggong’s weakness was pretty women, hence he immediately forgot Kou Zhong. Whispering in her ear, he prattled incessantly about inconsequential matters, while walking along the courtyard’s corridor, heading toward the east courtyard.
Because it was still early – they would not be open until another three sichen – the courtyard only had several maids and servants sweeping and cleaning; it was a serene atmosphere.
Kou Zhong followed behind the two, walking with his hands behind his back, happily and contentedly enjoying the garden’s beautiful scenery after the big snow. Inwardly he had a sense of déjà vu, as if he had seen layout similar to this somewhere, but momentarily he could not remember where.
But he did not mind it at all, because it was not the first time that he was having this kind of feeling, just like a bad memory that was left behind by a dream. Clearly this was the first time that he has been here, yet there was a feeling of he was revisiting old haunts.
Finally they reached the west wing of the east courtyard. The pretty maid cast Sha Chenggong another coquettish glance, she said, “Two Daye, please wait here for a moment, Xiaobi [little maid] is going to notify Madame.”
The young maid lightly knocked on the door, another servant girl opened the door and let her in. Sha Chenggong expertly reached out and in one swift movement he pinched the pretty maid’s ample butts. The pretty maid glowered at him for a moment before turning around and entering inside.
Watching this, Kou Zhong shook his head in secret. Sha Chenggong moved back to his side, and whispered in his ear, “Is this the first time that Mo Xiong visited this kind of prostitute place?”
Playing dumb, Kou Zhong replied, “Of course this is the first time. This is the first time that I am going out to see this aspect of the society, not to mention where did I get the money to enjoy it from?”
While speaking, he gathered his power into his ears to listen to the young maid inside speaking, “Sha Gongzi is here, bringing that Mo Dafu [doctor] who cured Zhang Niangniang. Oh! Mo Dafu’s is truly less than impressive; he is ugly and uncouth.”
Madame Qingqing’s lazy voice was heard, “As long as he can cure my illness, why do I care about how he looks? People greedy of handsome and love pretty faces are our biggest taboo! Most good-looking men don’t have good heart. I have had personal experience in this; I know about this matter very clearly.”
Suddenly Kou Zhong’s heart was shaken. He was sure that he had heard this Madame Qingqing’s voice somewhere before, but despite racking his brains, he still could not figure out who she was.
Sha Chenggong spoke again in his ear, “As long as Mo Xiong is able to cure Madame’s illness, Xiaodi will arrange to have Mo Xiong enjoying the romance among the pretty faces. Xiaodi will cover all expenses, Mo Xiong need not worry a bit.”
Kou Zhong’s mind was someplace else, naturally he did not hear what he said; otherwise he would rain curses inwardly on Sha Chenggong’s ‘lecherous and dirty’ means.
The door opened, the two pretty maids reappeared; they bowed to invite the two men inside.
Apprehensive, Kou Zhong stepped over the threshold and came inside.
The room was divided into inner and outer section, separated by a screen partition consisting of two standing wooden frames with detailed decorative carved patterns, creating two adjoining halls, one big and one small. The inner section was nearly double in size to the outer section.
Madame Qingqing was sitting on the left extremity of the inner section, but his view was obstructed by the screen; only after walking around the screen would he able to see her beautiful face.
Finally he did pass the screen. A beautiful person with gorgeous eyes was looking at Kou Zhong. As their gazes met, Kou Zhong was immediately gob smacked; he could not believe his eyes.
No matter what or how hard he thought, he would never imagine that he would see her here.
Noticing Kou Zhong’s peculiar expression, Sha Chenggong looked at him with astonishment.
Gao Zhandao revealed grief and indignation on his face; it took him a while to calm down. He said, “In that case, since Yucheng might not have been killed, why didn’t he come to Guanzhong to look for us?”
Xu Ziling did not want to talk about Duan Yucheng anymore; changing the subject, he said, “Just now Zhandao mentioned about encountering huge problem; what is it?”
Gao Zhandao spoke heavily, “On this, I must explain the situation of local gangs and societies in Guanzhong first. Speaking about Chang’an, the biggest organizations are two gangs and two sects, which are Jingzhao Lian, Chang’an Bang, and Longxi Pai, Guanzhong Jian Pai. As a result of the Heavenly Policy Mansion and the Crown Prince’s Eastern Palace’s open fight and covert maneuver, the local gangs and sects are also separated into two large camps, becoming Jingzhao Lian and Longxi Pai on one side, taking orders from the Crown Prince Jiancheng, and Chang’an Bang and Guanzhong Jian Pai forming an alliance to lean on Li Shimin’s side. Following the Heavenly Policy Mansion and the Crown Prince’s Eastern Palace’s intense struggle, these two big camps become more and more like water and fire. Eventually it spilled over to affect us, small gangs and societies doing business.”
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, “What gang or society do you belong to?”
Gao Zhandao seriously replied, “Since receiving two Bangzhu’s order three years ago to go to Chang’an to set up a business, we have been mingled in Chang’an until today and make a name for ourselves. All shops along this street involving waterborne business are taking our Tong Xing She as their only guide. Coming across ordinary, minor inconveniences, we could be flexible and did not need to use force; most problem we are able to deal with. Otherwise, we could ask Chang’an Bang’s Qiu Laoda [boss] to appear personally and mediate for us. Therefore, we have also been living together in harmony with Jingzhao Lian and Longxi Pai. However, five days ago, under deliberate provocation, Qiu Laoda was forced to fight and received injury from the Eastern Tujue martial art master Ke Dazhi. And thus Jingzhao Lian’s Yang WenGan sent his men everywhere to poke around Chang’an Bang’s territory, putting all the small gangs and societies who have always relied on Chang’an Bang in danger. I don’t know how Yang WenGan is going to deal with us.”
Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, “Are you saying that Li Shimin only sit and watch, but remains indifferent?”
Gao Zhandao sighed and said, “This moment Qin Wang is powerless to defend himself. Not only Li Yuan is siding with Jiancheng, the imperial concubines on his left and right also unceasingly sow dissension concerning Li Yuan and Li Shimin’s relationship. I hear just yesterday Heavenly Policy Mansion’s scholar-warrior [学士, modern translation is university degree equivalent to bachelor’s degree] Du Ruhui came across Yin De Fei’s father Yin Zuwen. Once disagreement broke, Yi Zuwen had his men injure him, breaking his finger. And yet Yi Zuwen wanted his daughter Yin De Fei to lodge false accusation [orig. the guilty party files the suit] in front of Li Yuan that Qin Wang made his men beat up her father. Unexpectedly Li Yuan believed it, and refused to listen to Qin Wang’s explanation; he put all the blames on Qin Wang. Xu Ye, tell me, under this situation, how could Qin Wang still have the power to mind local gangs and societies’ conflict of interest?” [Translator’s note: as I noted before ‘Fei’ actually means ‘imperial concubine’, only typing ‘Imperial Concubine Yin De’ repeatedly is quite a handful.]
Yi Zuwen was the man supporting Ming Tang Wo from behind; hence it was clear that the Princelings Faction and the Imperial Concubine Faction were supporting each other to suppress Li Shimin that he was unable to move a single step, and could only sit while watching the enemy’s power continuously increasing.
Only Xu Ziling knew that Yang WenGan would not last long, because Li Yuan already knew Yang WenGan’s relationship with Shi Zhixuan. If he and Kou Zhong had a free hand to deal with Yang WenGan, Li Yuan also could not possibly be involved. “What is the most urgent matter for you right now?” he asked.
Gao Zhandao replied, “Yang WenGan is using lending-somebody-a-knife-to-kill-someone-else scheme; he is using another notorious underworld gang as his pawn to force us to realign our allegiance. This morning we received notification that we only have three days to reply. For this reason we are having a big headache.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “This matter is not difficult to resolve. How is the other brothers’ situation?”
Gao Zhandao cheerfully said, “For a long time now we have heard about two Ye’er’s sensational deed of turning the sky and the earth upside down; the brothers are extremely inspired. Day and night they all practice the Shen Long Ba Ji [divine dragon eight strikes] that Kou Ye and Xu Ye personally passed on to us. Otherwise we would not be able to withstand Guanzhong’s wind and rain. Fengyi and Xiao Jie [little Jie] are out to scout the other gangs and societies’ reaction. About the two Bangzhu’s arrival in Chang’an, only the three of us know.”
But then he sighed and said, “It’s just that Xiao Jie is young and vigorous [orig. full of sap (idiom)], he is so infatuated with Feng Ya Ge’s popular auntie Xi’er that he had no thought for tea or rice. I am really afraid that he would mess up our proper business.”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “This kind of thing is unavoidable; I’m sure that he will come to his senses really soon. Right now we must ascertain first of what is true and what is false in the Weishui Meng [River Wei Union] and its relationship with Jingzhao Lian; only then will we be able to act after full consideration of the actual situation.”
Greatly delighted, Gao Zhandao said, “With Xu Ye personally in charge, this kind of matter surely will like bamboo splits when it meets the knife’s edge.”
Xu Ziling mused that if he personally appeared, he would only court disaster; but if Yue Shan or Mo Wei taking the initiative, perhaps it would be a different matter altogether.
When Kou Zhong saw the beauty, he was surprised to recognize her as the popular prostitute Qingqing, whom he met many years ago in Xin’an county. At that time, in order to evade Du Fuwei’s hunting them, they hid in a brothel to take refuge, and they took advantage of Qingqing eloping with her boyfriend as a cover for their escape. Afterwards they found out that the boyfriend’s goal was only to swindle her valuables and trick her to have sex with him, which led Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling to uphold justice by rescuing her and her maid Xi’er, so that they were spared from misfortune. However, at that time not only Qingqing was not grateful at all, she even lashed bad words at them, so much so that they separated under unpleasant atmosphere [see Book 2 Chapter 3].
Unexpectedly Qingqing, master and maidservant, came here. Not only that, with sound and color [idiom: vivid/dazzling] they established and operate a brothel with out-of-the-ordinary reputation.
‘Affairs of life is hard to foresee’. This was a perfect example.
Noticing he was staring blankly at her, Qingqing misunderstood; she asked, “This gentleman ought to be Mo Xiansheng! Why does Mo Xiansheng look at qie [I, your servant] like that? Is it because qie’s chronic illness is difficult to treat?”
Kou Zhong came to his senses. Clearing his throat, he said, “Madame Qingqing’s illness, did it start about four, five years ago?”
Qingqing was pleasantly surprised; she asked in amazement, “Xiansheng’s medical expertise is indeed divine; just in one glance you know the condition of qie’s illness. Mo Xiansheng, Sha Gongzi, please sit down. Serve them tea!”
Inwardly Kou Zhong was sighing with sorrow, thinking that of course I know; when he encountered her in the past, this beauty was healthy and happy, but now anxiety made her brows knitting deeply. Evidently it was because of that man cheated her to such an extent as to make her suffered from pent-up frustration that was hard to dispel, and as a result her body took the toll.
Just by hearing just now she spoke casually about her view on attractive and intelligent men, he knew that she still took the old affair to heart.
Sha Chenggong took the fragrant tea. He bragged about Kou Zhong, “Didn’t I tell you that Mo Xiansheng is a Divine Doctor, not just in name only, but also in reality? Even Zhang Niangniang’s strange illness was cured by him; what illness he could not possibly cure?”
Kou Zhong no longer wish to listen to his voice or look at his face; he said, “If Er Shao don’t mind, Xiaoren wants to be left alone with Madame to examine her illness.”
Sha Chenggong was extremely bored anyway, but he did not know what to do, hence he went out with the two maids to the outer section.
Kou Zhong sat down by Qingqing’s side and put his three fingers on Qingqing’s fragrant wrist. Recalling the past events, he sighed and said, “Madame’s illness came from pent-up frustration, which affected your mood and appetite. Illness of the heart must be cured from the heart. Does Madame have any question?”
The load on her mind was touched, Qingqing said, “Xiansheng’s opinion is really accurate; could it be that my illness is really without any cure?”
For the first time Kou Zhong really felt that he has become a divine doctor; sincerely and earnestly he said, “Relying on Xiaoren’s needle technique, perhaps I could provide momentary relieve on Madame’s problem; but if the cause of illness is not eradicated, sooner or later it will recur. It is hard to bring under permanent control.”
Qingqing sighed faintly and said, “Xiansheng, please do your best! Even if you cannot eradicate my illness permanently, qie could only blame myself; I will never blame Mo Xiansheng.”
Kou Zhong blurted out without thinking, “Let the past events vanish like smoke in thin air; why would Madame still take it to heart?”
Qingqing’s tender body trembled, she said, “Could it be that Xiansheng know about what happened to qie in the past?”
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly, realizing that momentarily he lost control over himself and revealed the content of his heart.
 Example of courtyard house 四合院: