Book 31 Chapter 13 – Startling-the-Heaven Conspiracy
Gao Zhandao respectfully said to Er Wenhuan, “Daren, please understand, Xiaoren is the business proprietor of Tong Xing She, who has always been carrying out my official duties and observing the law, engaging in waterborne transport business, earning considerable respect from colleagues of the same profession, and has been appointed the president of the waterborne transport industry association in this region. For some unknown reason today suddenly some evil people dropping by at our door, smashing everything in my shop into smithereens, also wanting to hurt people. As the victim here, Xiaoren only fight to defend ourselves. Everybody here has seen this matter with their own eyes; they can be my witness!”
He had just finished speaking, the onlookers roared their agreement at the same time; they all denounced the Weishui Meng’s side under Fu Di’s leadership for bullying intolerably, for going on the rampage and being tyrannical.
Seeing the crowd’s emotion was running high, Er Wenhuan’s countenance changed slightly. If the city broke into civil unrest and this matter reached Li Yuan’s ears, plus Li Shimin made a big fuss over it, perhaps even Li Jiancheng would not be able to cover it up.
But he has been rolling about in the official arena for many years; there was no trick in dealing with contingencies like this that he did not know. Waiting for the crowd to calm down, he shouted, “Right and wrong, crooked and straight, this officer will investigate very clearly, and will severely punish the perpetrator. You, who are the heads of the two parties, shall follow this officer back to the office to explain everything.”
The crowd burst into rowdy jeering again.
Everybody knew that Weishui Meng and Jingzhao Lian had the Crown Prince Jiancheng’s backing. If Gao Zhandao was arrested and brought back to the office just like this, it would be no different than sending a lamb into the tiger’s den; it would be strange indeed if he would come back alive.
Gao Zhandao’s countenance changed; he cast a glance toward Xu Ziling, asking direction from him.
Inwardly Xu Ziling realized this was a thorny problem. Basically, he must never let Gao Zhandao to come with Er Wenhuan to the office. But if they resisted arrest openly, could Gao Zhandao and the others continue mingling in Chang’an? He spoke to Gao Zhandao in low voice, “Witness testimony!”
Gao Zhandao came to see the truth; he spoke to Er Wenhuan, “Even if Xiaoren and Fu Di come with Daren back to the office, it will only be my word against his; it will still be difficult to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. If Daren wants to investigate this matter clearly, why not ask nearby shops on the spot …”
Er Wenhuan angrily cut him off, “How to investigate a case, must this officer receive instruction from you? Anybody who wants to be your witness can come to the office! Guards!”
The group of guards behind him responded in chorus; it was quite intimidating.
Those who originally wanted to straighten their back to bear witness immediately cowered into silence. Anybody knew that going to government official institution was never a good thing.
On Fu Di’s side, everybody revealed a pleased look; a gloating, taking-joy-in-calamity-and-delight-in-disaster expression that said ‘I want to see how you, Gao Zhandao, will end.’
Everybody, including Er Wenhuan, was stunned. Kou Zhong’s disguised Divine Doctor Mo pushed his way from among the crowd. Giggling, he said, “Er Jiangjun, how are you? Lucky that Xiaoren was passing by that I saw everything clearly, so that I can save Er Jiangjun from wasting your spirit. Let Xiaoren come back with Er Jiangjun to be the witness.”
Immediately Er Wenhuan had a headache. This time he was able to ‘appear in time’ to help Fu Di out of hard-pressed situation, actually it was pre-arranged. Their objective was to use the combined power of the government official and the gang and society to destroy Tong Xing She in one move. Who would have thought that amidst the bullying, one Divine Doctor Mo Yixin appeared, so that it would be difficult for their counting-their-chicken-before-they-are-hatch plot to succeed?
Kou Zhong was not a commoner that he could push around; on the contrary, he was the current burn-your-hand, feel-the-heat [idiom: a mighty figure that no one dares to approach] celebrity, who had direct access to Li Yuan, and had also obtained Li Yuan’s favorable impression and trust.
Er Wenhuan hurriedly changed his face; respectfully he said, “Turns out Mo Shen Yi’s honoring us with your presence. This kind of trivial matter, how could we dare to inconvenience Mo Shen Yi?”
Gao Zhandao, Niu Fengyi and Zha Jie still failed to recognize this brave man who upheld justice as Kou Zhong. On one hand, they had not seen each other for many years, but also because at this moment, whether it was voice, bearing, and so on, Kou Zhong looked like another person altogether.
Xu Ziling cried, ‘Wonderful’ inwardly. Since their arrival in Chang’an, whenever Kou Zhong wanted to see them, it had to be in secret, under sneaky environment. But after this, Kou Zhong would be able to establish ‘relationship’ with them; outsiders would think that they had formed friendship through this matter.
Acting friendly, Kou Zhong came to Er Wenhuan’s side and said with a laugh, “Upholding law and order is not only Er Jiangjun’s responsibility, but also everybody’s responsibility. Only this way will justice be upheld. Xiaoren decided to bear witness in this matter, because this group of wicked men is too excessive!”
Er Wenhuan nearly wanted to grab his head and cry out in pain. This kind of incident involving public security inside the city was actually outside the limit of his Chang Lin Army’s authority. His original intention was to take Gao Zhandao back to Chang Lin Army headquarters, lock him up for ten days or half a month until the general situation was fixed before releasing him out.
But with Kou Zhong meddling like this, potentially Gao Zhandao could be brought to the city guards office, and then everything must be carried out impartially according to the rules. With Kou Zhong, this Divine Doctor, as the witness, who would dare not to show deference by not handling this matter in compliance with his testimony?
If the incriminating evidence was established, Fu Di would be sent to the Ministry of Justice, and then even Li Jiancheng would not be able to bare one shoulder [idiom: to side with] on his behalf.
However, he was not without a bellyful of evil tricks; rolling his eyes, he laughed and said, “With Mo Shen Yi giving testimony, how could Mo Jiang still have any doubt? I do not need to trouble Shen Yi to come and go and rush about either. If I made Xiansheng exhausted, how could Mo Jiang answer Huangshang and Taizi Dianxia? Guards, arrest Fu Di and his men for me, and bring them back to the office.”
Amidst the thunderous cheers, Fu Di and the others, hanging their head dispiritedly, followed Er Wenhuan leaving this place.
Xu Ziling seized this opportunity to invite Divine Doctor Mo to the inner courtyard as a way to express their gratitude. Once they reached the side hall of the inner courtyard and were seated properly, Xu Ziling revealed Kou Zhong’s real identity to Gao Zhandao, three men. They chatted warmly with the delight of meeting again after a long period of separation.
After Kou Zhong recounted the current situation briefly to them, Xu Ziling said, “Yang WenGan wanted to control the gangs and societies in Guanzhong via Weishui Meng is only a harbinger for more important operation. Now we are openly frustrating their awe-inspiring authority, although it is a delight, but we have become a thorn in their side. From taking the initiative, Yang WenGan has turned passive, later on he would have no choice but to use ten-thousand-jun-thunderbolt trick to deal with us, otherwise, how could he stand? If we do not prepare a good method to cope, it would be too late for regret.”
Gao Zhandao, three men nodded in agreement.
Fu Di was merely Yang WenGan’s vanguard pawn. Speaking about strength, they had Yang Xuyan, Li Jiancheng, and Li Yuanji supporting Jingzhao Lian from behind, which certainly could not be underestimated.
Kou Zhong asked Xu Ziling, “In your opinion, will Yang WenGan conspire with Jiancheng, Yuanji, and so on to assassinate Qin Wang?”
None of Gao Zhandao and the others was not emotionally moved.
Xu Ziling said, “You and I came to the same conclusion. Yang WenGan’s counting-his-chicken-before-they-are-hatched plot ought to be removing Li Shimin first, and then dealing with the other members of the Li Clan. There must be Tujue people involved in this matter, Mo Shuai [the Demonic Commander] Zhao Deyan must have come here for this matter as well.”
Slapping his thigh, Kou Zhong said, “If we could exploit this situation well, we might be able to strike the water right and left; both to unearth and carry away the hidden treasure, and because the Li Clan’s vitality is heavily wounded due to the struggle among different factions, it will be difficult for them to invade to the east.”
Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, “This really isn’t the struggle among different factions; rather, it is Tujue’s invasion’s startling-the-heavens conspiracy. Once something goes wrong, it might repeat the Wei [220-265] and Jin [265-420] and the Northern Dynasties [386-581] falling due to Yi people’s [barbarians/non-Han people] invasion. Excuse me, but may I ask Shao Shuai if you could bear it in your heart?”
Grabbing his head, Kou Zhong said, “Listening to Ling Shao, I am getting muddleheaded. Are you saying that we have to help Li kid dealing with our honorable Taizi Dianxia? I am most afraid that not only Li kid won’t appreciate our kindness, he might, like last time in Luoyang when he helped Wang Shichong dealing with us – try to harm us one more time.”
Displeased, Xu Ziling said, “That is preposterous. I don’t believe that you are that muddleheaded! We, Han people, fighting among ourselves behind closed door, is our own business. But if we let Tujue’s evil claws reach Guanzhong, the world will potentially be in great mess; how could you not understand?”
Seeing the two were having argument, Gao Zhandao, three men, did not dare to interrupt; they did not dare to express their opinion even more.
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “The preposterous thing is that I can’t argue with you. Since we are brothers, naturally I will have to respect your opinion.”
Turning to Gao Zhandao and the others, he changed the subject, “It has been many years! Are there any brothers who get married and have children here, and put down roots?” he asked.
Niu Fengyi replied, “All of us brothers, not a single one did not suffer from the war. As long the world has not been pacified, we don’t dare to get married; therefore, it’s not that there are no brothers who get married and have children, but the number is very low. Those who happened to be in that situation were advised to leave our Gang and sever all relationship, so that if something bad happens, it won’t implicate their wives and children.”
“You guys have handled it very well,” Xu Ziling praised.
Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “That will make it a lot easier for us to manage. Starting from this moment, we will immediately break up the whole into pieces, disperse all over the place, lie low momentarily to avoid being the target of the enemy’s attack. Can the business be handed over to somebody else of the same trade to act on our behalf?”
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Zha Jie said.
Kou Zhong said, “Ling Shao and I will be in charge of getting clear understanding of the situation on Yang WenGan’s side; you will try your best to conserve your energy. As long as you are thinking that there is a great possibility that Yang Xuyan might be among those who are going to deal with you, without I need to tell you, you ought to know how to be careful!”
Gao Zhandao and the others exhaled a mouthful of cold air together; they repeatedly nodded their head to promise.
Muttering to himself irresolutely, Gao Zhandao said, “The day after tomorrow is the auspicious day of New Year [orig. the beginning of Spring]; even if there was no Yang WenGan’s affair, we are going to close down temporarily tomorrow night anyway, and probably open up for business after the first three days of the new year. Therefore, taking advantage of the situation to close for five, six days probably won’t raise anybody’s suspicion; they won’t guess that we are increasing our vigilance even more.”
Xu Ziling’s heart was moved, he said, “In the previous years, do you guys have a gathering to eat dinner together on the New Year’s Eve?”
Smiling wryly, Niu Fengyi replied, “That is indeed our usual practice; in fact, we have already reserved more than ten tables at the restaurant to celebrate the Spring Festival [another word for Lunar New Year] together. We’d better cancel it now.”
“Which restaurant is it?” Xu Ziling asked.
Zha Jie replied, “Fu Ju Lou is out of question for us, but the Chang’an Lou in Bei Li is not bad either; only the scenery can’t compare to Fu Ju Lou.”
Kou Zhong happily said, “This family dinner, we simply have to do it. If the enemies want to create trouble, this is the best opportunity.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “Just now Zhandao and Xiao Jie separately revealed your skill, putting your martial art master’s power on full display; therefore, if the opponents want their strike to go smoothly under this kind of situation, they must also be able to leave peacefully afterwards, their operation must be squeaky clean. Other than Yang Xuyan, Yang WenGan, who else from the other side might be able to do it?”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “Hou Gongzi will be very happy to hear this news.”
Xu Ziling said, “This matter still need to be planned in details; if we let Yang Xuyan get away, we’ll have no choice but to bag our foot before finish eating. Therefore, we must not fail.”
Kou Zhong addressed Gao Zhandao and the others, “You go notify our brothers first. From this moment on until tomorrow night’s family gathering, we must not show our face in public as much as possible.”
Gao Zhandao and the others received the order and left.
Kou Zhong turned to Xu Ziling and asked, “Do you really want to help Li kid?”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “It’s not that I don’t have any consideration for you, but a virtuous cause is facing us, we must not let the demonic school and Tujue people join hands to inflict great suffering to the world! Kou Shao Shuai is an outstanding hero; if you want to contend over the world, in the future you could display strength and discipline by fighting Li Shimin on the battleground, to determine victory and contend for supremacy.”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “Speaking about outstanding hero, how could I, Kou Zhong, compare to Ling Shao? I totally agree with you; it’s just that how to proceed, it’s definitely not an easy thing.”
Xu Ziling was silent for half a day. Finally he spoke in heavy voice, “Do you agree to help Li Shimin because I stubbornly insist on it?”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Ling Shao look down on me, Kou Zhong, too much! I really believe that what you said is right, hence I agree to help you. Come! Tell me first, what great idea do you have?”
Xu Ziling said, “I want to warn Li Shimin.”
“What?” Kou Zhong blurted out.
Returning to his Yue Shan’s disguise, Xu Ziling swaggered back into the Dong Lai Inn. The owner and all the inn attendants were treating him like a deity; they were extremely deferential toward him. They even took the initiative to upgrade his accommodation to the biggest and most luxurious suite in the north garden of their hotel, lest they displeased him, the old friend of the Great Tang Emperor.
Sitting in the imperial tutor chair in the hall, Xu Ziling closed his eyes to regain composure, pondering over the affairs of the past few days, in order to plan future action.
Currently he and Kou Zhong were like walking on a dilapidated old rope bridge spanning a high cliff. Once they slipped, they would fall into the abyss and would have their body torn, their bones crushed; therefore, they simply must not make a wrong step under any circumstances.
Suddenly the alarm went off in his heart, Xu Ziling shouted coldly, “Who’s there?”
A man slipped through the window; like moving clouds and flowing water he sat into the imperial tutor chair separated by a small table from Xu Ziling, and said with a laugh, “Yue Ba, I trust you have been well since last time we met!”
Xu Ziling opened his eyes and calmly said, “Turns out it’s ‘Going Against the Tide’ You Niaojuan. You came to Chang’an, I wonder what noble errand brings you here?”
Every single wrinkle on You Niaojuan’s face was shining and glowing; lowering his voice, he let out an evil laugh and said, “For someone you had just returned to the fray after a period of inactivity, Yue Ba is indeed not a common chord. First, you struck and killed Xi Ying in Chengdu, and today you ruthlessly repressed Old Freak Huang on the Yue Ma Bridge. The powerful way the wind blows, nobody in the world can compete with you.”
Acting impatient, Xu Ziling knitted his brows and said, “Do you think that I, Yue Shan, am someone who love to be flattered? If you want to talk nonsense, don’t blame Ol’ Yue for asking you to leave.”
Hastily You Niaojuan laughed apologetically and said, “Yue Ba’s temper is still this fiery. No more chitchat then, this time Xiaodi came to ask Yue Ba for a favor.”
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, “Why would I want to do you a favor?”
You Niaojuan leaned a bit closer; lowering his voice, he said, “Because the Old Demon Shi wants to kill you.”
Xu Ziling responded indifferently, “If he wants to kill me, what can you, You Niaojuan, do for me?”
Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, You Niaojuan said, “Right now Xiaodi is pretending to wallow in the mire with An Pangzi [fatty], to carry out a joint-conspiracy with Zhao Deyan. The target is precisely your old friend Li Yuan. If Yue Ba agrees to help Xiaodi, I, You Niaojuan, am willing to swear an oath according to the demonic school magic spell that I will completely stand on your side.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “This business deal does not sound like it will bring me any benefit. What is it that you want me to do for you?”
The demonic light in You Niaojuan’s pair of eyes flared out dramatically, he spoke word-by-word, “Xiaodi wants to ask you, the Senior, to help me snatching the Sheng Sheli [holy relics]. For me, this object is a matter of life and death, but for you it does not have any usefulness. If you don’t help me, it might fall into the Old Demon Shi’s hands; and after the Old Demon Shi combined the Demonic King and Demonic Emperor in his body, the first person he is not going to let off will be you, and then it will be Zhu Yuyan and Ning Daoqi’s turn.”
Xu Ziling so wanted to ask him why the first person Shi Zhixuan wanted to kill was him, but naturally he did not dare to ask that question for real, otherwise, it would be strange indeed if You Niaojuan would not suspect that he was a fake Yue Shan.
Xu Ziling coldly asked, “Where is Sheng Sheli hidden at?”
You Niaojuan spoke in heavy voice, “It’s hidden within the Duke Yang’s Treasure.”
Inwardly Xu Ziling was severely shaken. You Niaojuan should have been unaware that Demonic Emperor Relics was within the Duke Yang’s Treasure; this information could not possibly come from the ‘Fat Merchant of Sichuan’ An Long. Zhu Yuyan would not be willing to tell him, this old enemy, even more. In which case, where did he learn about it from?
Concentrating his attention to execute Yue Shan’s xinfa, Xu Ziling’s eyes emitted grim rays of light; turning his head, he met You Niaojuan’s excited, wild and blazing eyes, and said, “I have never heard about this matter; where did you hear it from?”
You Niaojuan replied, “Please forgive Xiaodi for keeping the climax of this story. Yue Ba, you may decide in one word, are you willing to cooperate with me, You Niaojuan?”
Instead of answering, Xu Ziling asked him, “Do you know where the Duke Yang’s Treasure is?”
Laughing evilly, You Niaojuan replied, “If I did, I would not have come to ask for your help. But the two stinky kids who know the hidden treasure, this moment they ought to be already in Chang’an. Right now the Old Demon Shi is glaring intently on the side like a tiger watching its prey, waiting for them to look for the treasure, and then he will reap where he has not sown. Everybody for himself, you, Yue Ba, ought to do me this favor.”
Inwardly Xu Ziling was shaken again, thinking that he and Kou Zhong had really underestimated Shi Zhixuan’s scheming, as well as his means.
By the time Kou Zhong was returning to the Sha Mansion, Sha Fu was directing his subordinates to decorate this magnificent mansion with lanterns and colored banners, in preparation for the beginning of spring.
His status and position now really could not be mentioned on equal terms with his status and position then. Everybody showed him utmost courtesy and was very respectful, polite and cordial.
Laying down the task in his hand, Sha Fu took him straight into the inner hall to see Sha Tiannan, husband and wife.
After asking him in details about treating Zhang Jieyu’s illness, Sha Tiannan cheerfully said, “These couple of days there is a steady stream of people coming to ask to be examined or treated medically. Laofu has been trying to push them off on the grounds that Yixin is treating Niangniang’s illness. But after the Spring Festival, no matter what, Yixin must entertain Laofu’s friends a little bit.”
Kou Zhong simply gave him his yes-man consent. After sitting down for half a moment, he asked to be excused. But as soon as he stepped out of the hall, he was intercepted by the Fifth Miss Sha Zhiqing’s personal maid, who said, “Xiaojie is requesting the pleasure of seeing Xiansheng.”
Having no excuse at all, Kou Zhong did not have any choice but to follow her toward Sha Zhiqing’s elegant residence at the southern garden.
Arriving outside the door, he heard a sweet female voice coming out from the inside, “That Kou Zhong loves to play ghost and disguise himself as a demon; but no matter what he looks like, I only need to take one glance, and I will certainly be able to recognize him.”
Hearing that, Kou Zhong’s soul flew away and scattered, while crying out ‘Really bad!’