Book 31 Chapter 4 – Great Method of Exchanging the Person
On the pretext of his unfinished business with Lei Jiuzhi earlier, Xu Ziling parted company with Bu Ting outside the Vermillion Bird Gate, but actually he was going to look for Hou Xibai to help Kou Zhong, the fake doctor, treating Zhang Jieyu’s ‘incurable disease’.
He pretended to walk along the Vermillion Bird Boulevard in the direction of Lei Jiuzhi’s hotel first to make sure that no one was following his track. He was just about to turn into a side street when Lei Jiuzhi hurriedly rushed over from behind and called out, “Mo Xiong, wait up!”
Xu Ziling waited for Lei Jiuzhi to catch up before turning left into the alley, and continued on toward Xuan Ping Li.
Lei Jiuzhi spoke in low voice, “I was scouting around in the Imperial Palace for you, who would have thought that I came across Kou Zhong? Fortunately I recognized his fake face. Somehow this kid has become a doctor, and went into the Palace to treat Li Yuan’s imperial concubine’s illness, but he doesn’t even know how to write a prescription. Fortunately, when I was following Lu Shi, I gained some superficial [orig. skin and hair] medical knowledge; otherwise, I don’t know how to help him to get through this ordeal.”
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, “I bumped into him head-on in the Palace as well, but I was on my way to see Li Shimin.”
Shaken, Lei Jiuzhi asked, “He didn’t see through your disguise?”
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling replied, “That is still unknown; he missed the appointment for some urgent matter. Ay! This barrier is even more difficult to pass than Kou Zhong treating an illness.”
Immensely proud of himself, Lei Jiuzhi said, “That kid Kou Zhong is really smart; he transmitted his voice over the distance, telling me that Niangniang’s illness is cold and hot, and I happen to have special experience in treating cold and hot fever. I guarantee that with just several applications of the medicine, the illness will be gone.”
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “Her illness is not cold and hot fever; rather, she was poisoned by Yang Xuyan’s slow-acting poison Fen Jing San. He is acting on behalf of Dong Shuni to clear away a formidable opponent in striving for Li Yuan’s favor.”
When Lei Jiuzhi’s shock was over, his face turned white; he spoke with trembling voice, “If she is poisoned, then this is bad. The Dengzhan Hua [lit. cup-of-(oil)-lantern flower] I blindly prescribed cannot be taken by a poisoned victim; otherwise it will speed up the toxicity in the qi and blood, which could cause that beauty to breathe her last.”
Xu Ziling was shocked. And then he made up his mind, “Let’s find Hou Xibai first to talk about it.”
Raising his qi, he flew forward. The passers-by only saw a blur flashed past.
Kou Zhong deliberately sat with his back toward Ke Dazhi’s table. Sitting in front of the table, he borrowed paper, brush and ink from the restaurant, and in one breath wrote down Dengzhan Hua, Sheng Di [lit. grow on earth], Honghua [safflower (Carthamus Tinctorius)], Chaihu [Chinese Thorowax (Bupleurum chinense)], Zhi Ganchao [roasted licorice root], Danpi [the root bark of the peony tree], Xiangfu [red nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus)] and other medicine names, along with their quantities, just like real prescription. [Translator’s note: all these names are from the dictionary, I have no idea what they really are.]
Sure enough, seeing the prescription, Chang He did not notice any difference from ordinary doctor’s prescription; his confidence doubled, but he still did not feel reassured. “How’s these medicine’s property? Which one would Mo Xiansheng say the main ingredient that has to be picked from Mount Zhongnan?”
Naturally Kou Zhong had no intention to answer. While he was pretending to be thinking, stable, powerful footsteps came from behind. A voice speaking Han with some accent said, “Chang Jiangjun, how are you? Are you off-duty today?”
Chang He stood up. He pulled a chair for the Tujue young martial art master coming to greet them, and said, “Ke Xiong, please sit down!”
Ke Dazhi dutifully sat down; his sharp gaze fell onto Kou Zhong’s face, he smiled and said, “Is this Mo Xiansheng, the divine doctor that has just arrived in Chang’an?”
Kou Zhong had already restraint the divine light in his eyes. Assuming a socially-awkward, did-not-know-how-to-behave attitude, he said, “It’s precisely Xiaoren, and Sire is …”
Chang He said in astonishment, “Ke Xiong’s information is indeed fast and abundant.”
Ke Dazhi cheerfully replied, “It’s just because Xiaodi had just met Taizi Dianxia [His Highness the Crown Prince].” And then, turning to Kou Zhong, he said, “Xiaodi is Ke Dazhi of Eastern Tujue. What I admire the most is men with marvelous skill, men with real talent and solid knowledge. After Mo Xiansheng cures Zhang Niangniang’s illness, Ke Dazhi will request the pleasure of enjoying some benefits from Mo Xiansheng.”
Finished speaking, he left with a smile on his face.
Although Kou Zhong hated him for his implication, for the dagger hidden within the smiles, hinting at Kou Zhong’s inability to cure Zhang Jieyu’s illness, he was still grateful that he interrupted Chang He’s interrogation, helping Kou Zhong out of predicament.
After sending off the visitor, Chang He returned to his seat. Kou Zhong leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I still want to add some ginseng to the prescription. Perhaps it would be best if Chang Ye could send someone to buy the things listed on this prescription, and then we’ll study it together.”
Chang He mused that how could he have any qualifications to study prescriptions with him? “Are we going back to Xiaodi’s residence?” he casually asked.
Shaking his head, Kou Zhong replied, “No! Sitting here, my spirited brain is gushing forth; I definitely will not leave.”
The truth was that in his note, Lei Jiuzhi told him to stay here, to wait for him as he went to contact Xu Ziling.”
Naturally Chang He had no idea of his real intention; he had no choice but to agree.
After listening to the whole story, Hou Xibai’s handsome countenance turned white. “It’s bad!” he cried out, “I only know how to refine Fen Jing San, but not how to neutralize it.”
Xu Ziling’s heart sank straight down; he said, “Since that’s the case, I will have to immediately tell Kou Zhong to slip away before he tries to treat a dead person.”
“Wait a moment!” Lei Jiuzhi said, “Although in term of medical expertise I only have superficial knowledge, in term of neutralizing poison I have gone through painstaking work. Is it possible for Hou Xiong to explain the method of manufacturing Fen Jing San? Let me take a look at it to see if I could spend a bit of effort.”
Muttering to himself irresolutely, Hou Xibai said, “Fen Jing San’s two main ingredients are extremely common around the southeast coastal region, the ingenuity lies mainly on the complex refining process, using variety of herbal medicines plus distillation method, until it is refined to the colorless, odorless state, which will make it difficult to detect. Furthermore, the main ingredients’ poison counteracts each other and subdues the other’s toxicity, to such an extent as to change the property of the poison.”
Lei Jiuzhi’s countenance changed; he said, “Just by listening to it, I know that this poison is very difficult to neutralize. What are the two main ingredients?”
Xu Ziling proposed, “Can we use internal true qi to force the poison from the meridians and push it out?”
Hanging his head down, Hou Xibai said, “That is precisely the origin of the name Fen Jing San [reminder: burning-channel (medicinal) powder]; the poison transforms itself into meridian qi, eroding the channels. If we rashly transmitting Buddhist and Taoist, two schools’ orthodox internal true qi into the channel, we would only intensify the toxicity, and thus producing the opposite of the desired result.”
And then, turning to Lei Jiuzhi, he said, “The two main ingredients are Duanchang Cao [intestine-severing grass (anybody remember where we saw this grass before? Hmm …)] and Yang Jue Niu [sheep-horn twist]. I happened to see Yang Xuyan grew these two kinds of highly toxic plant in his house, plus I saw traces of the plants being plucked, so I knew that he was refining Fen Jing San.”
Stunned, Lei Jiuzhi said, “These two kinds of plant are highly poisonous, but they are only suitable to be applied externally, not orally. The victim would immediately feel dizzy, with sharp pain in the throat and abdomen, the mouth foams, to such an extent as to cause organ failure and even death. Is it possible for Hou Xiong to explain the entire refinement process?”
In one breath Hou Xibai mentioned eighteen different medicines and briefly explained the refinement process.
Lei Jiuzhi suddenly stood up and said, “I need to personally ask Kou Zhong about Zhang Niangniang’s condition; perhaps I could really prescribe the right medicine for the illness and neutralize Fen Jing San’s toxicity.”
Finished speaking, he hurriedly left. Being left behind, Hou Xibai and Xu Ziling ‘you look at me I look at you’, both were burning with anxiety.
Sitting there doing nothing, Kou Zhong himself felt embarrassed, but Chang He did not show the slightest bit of impatience. This moment Ke Dazhi and his companions have finished eating and were leaving. He came over to say goodbye before going down the stairs.
Kou Zhong was so bored that he became antsy; he could not help wanting to sound Chang He out, “Aren’t the Tujue coming specifically to loot our sons and daughters and our wealth? How could they unexpectedly be Taizi Dianxia’s honored guests?”
Chang He jumped in fright; lowering his voice, he said, “Mo Xiansheng should not talk nonsense; even more, you shouldn’t casually speak about those things with anybody. Ay! This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly; when we have time later, I’ll talk about it with Xiansheng.”
Just by listening to the tone of his voice, Kou Zhong knew that inwardly Chang He was also quite dissatisfied with Li Jiancheng’s decision to put Tujue people in important position.
The men sent to buy the medicine came back and handed over a large bundle of herbal medicine to Chang He, who, in turn, handed it over to Kou Zhong.
In this moment, where he could not escape anymore, his saving-star appeared. Kou Zhong used the previous escaping scheme by saying that he needed to go to the latrine to meet with Lei Jiuzhi.
When he came back, with spring breeze across his face, he patted Chang He’s upper arm and said, “Let’s go.”
Stunned, Chang He said, “We haven’t even eaten yet, how can we go just like that?”
Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, “My brain is the strangest thing; oftentimes when defecating I get bright ideas. Right now we are going to the West Market to buy the necessary medicine, and then we’ll go to Chang Jiangjun’s mansion to start refining the medicine. I guarantee that it will cure Niangniang’s strange illness.”
“Don’t we need to go to Mount Zhongnan?” Chang He asked in bewilderment.
Kou Zhong answered his question with a question, “Going to Mount Zhongnan for what? Come on!”
Hou Xibai dejectedly slumped in his chair; he sighed and said, “If I am guessing correctly, that piece of half Image Scroll must be carried around by Yang Xuyan. Unless we could know clearly his every move, taking advantage when he is alone, relying on Xiaodi, Ziling and Shao Shuai, three men’s power to catch the enemy off guard with a surprise attack [idiom from Sunzi’s ‘The Art of War’] to have him killed, I am afraid we can forget about getting the Image Scroll back.”
Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, “Even if we could really kill Yang Xuyan, by drawing support from us, two outsiders like this, aren’t you afraid you might provoke your honorable master’s anger?”
Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai replied, “It’s because Ziling does not know the real reason behind why I am this anxious to seize the Image Scroll. Other than to gain the initiative by striking first, the more important reason is to seek survival under Shi Shi’s hands. To outsiders, the rules in the demonic school are unimaginable. The year Xiaodi turned eighteen, Shi Shi swore an oath under demonic school incantation: if by the time I turn twenty-eight I cannot block the Hua Jian Pai’s highest martial art, the Hua Jian Shi’er Zhi [the twelve earthly branches of Hua Jian (lit. among the flowers)], which he will personally launch at full-strength, then I shall die for the Sect. This year Xiaodi is twenty-six; time is limited. Since I am going to die anyway, I don’t have time to attend to other things.”
Early on, Xu Ziling already kept his calm in the face of the unexpected [idiom: no longer surprised at strange sights] toward demonic school’s more-and-more-emerging, nefarious, peculiar, and strange things. Hearing that, he said, “Since that’s the case, I can speak on Kou Zhong’s behalf to promise Hou Xiong that we will strive our hardest to help you obtain the other half of the Image Scroll.”
Hou Xibai revealed a slightly happy expression. He sighed and said, “Now, my only advantage is that Yang Xuyan still does not know that I am glaring like a tiger watching its prey nearby. In case I expose my track, it will be my turn to be in difficult situation.”
Xu Ziling’s heart was moved, he said, “If Hou Xiong could turn into Gong Chenchun, won’t Hou Xiong be able to hide your trace?”
Hou Xibai’s pair of eyes immediately lit up. After looking at Xu Ziling up and down for quite some time, he nodded his head and said, “I have complete confidence that I can be your Gong Chenchun one hundred percent. But if I become Gong Chenchun, what identity is Ziling going to assume to move about in Chang’an? Compared to me, you shouldn’t see the light even more.
Hardening his heart, Xu Ziling said with a smile, “I can become the returning-to-strike-and-kill-the-Heavenly-Lord-Xi-Ying’s Overbearing Saber Yue Shan; won’t that satisfy rival demands [idiom: the best of both worlds]?”
This decision came suddenly, but there were hundreds and thousands of reasons in favor of Xu Ziling’s action. In the first place, it was fueled by the King of Qin, Li Shimin. Hou Xibai’s Gong Chenchun would definitely have different ‘personality traits’ from Xu Ziling’s Gong Chenchun. Only by doing this would he make Li Shimin unable to see through that Gong Chenchun was Xu Ziling, because he was practically a different person.
As for other people such as Bu Ting and the others, as long as Hou Xibai knew the interpersonal relationship and the complete details of the course of events, due to the fact that the time spent in company of each other was short, based on Hou Xibai’s ability and wisdom, intentionally dealing with the unintentional, he would definitely be able to handle any occasion smoothly.
After staring blankly at him for a long time, Hou Xibai finally shook his head and said with a sigh, “Turns out you are Yue Shan. No wonder Yue Shan became that formidable. Everybody thought that it was the Huan Ri Da Fa’s [great method of exchanging the sun] efficacy, turned out it was actually Ziling’s Huan Ren Da Fa [great method of exchanging the person]. Ha! Even if we told them, nobody would believe it.”
Xu Ziling spoke seriously, “Hou Xiong must listen carefully, I will tell you everything, omitting nothing, about everybody I met and all the conversations I had after I became Gong Chenchun. When you have learned enough about my voice and intonation, you will become Gong Chenchun!”
Kou Zhong was endlessly busy in the Chang Mansion’s kitchen; he felt as if he was doing a repeat performance of his stint as the chef in the Flying Horse Ranch’s kitchen in the past. But this time instead of preparing light refreshments, he was brewing Lei Jiuzhi’s recipe for antidote with utmost care.
Chang He personally selected two male servants in the Mansion who were particularly nimble, both in terms of brains and hands and feet, to stay with him and help with all kinds of required work. He also hired a master worker specializing in manufacturing medicine from the drug store to be Kou Zhong’s assistant, while he himself also stayed to supervise and direct the operation. Everybody was busy until the sky turned hazy, the earth turned dark, the sun and the moon lost their luster.
Kou Zhong knew his own limitation. After explaining the manufacturing method to the pharmaceutical master worker, he asked him to ‘play a leading role’ in everything else, while he himself put on an act of supervising from the side, and only dared to invent crazy nonsense in Chang He’s ears, for fear that the master worker would hear it.
Half-believing, half-doubting, Chang He asked, “With this pill, would Niangniang really be able to recover completely?”
Bracing himself, Kou Zhong said, “After taking the pill, I will also use the needle. I guarantee that Niangniang will be healthier and have brighter countenance than before. Hey!”
The Chang Mansion’s housekeeper suddenly – falling forward and tumbling down, flustered and exasperated – rushed in. While the two men were startled, the housekeeper cried out, “Huangshang is here! Huangshang is here!”
The first to react were the pharmaceutical master worker and the two young servants; they threw themselves on the ground in panic. Kou Zhong and Chang He looked at each other.
Amidst the herald’s announcement, “Huangzhang personally came!” Li Yuan, wearing casual attire, under escort of Li Jiancheng, Chen Shuda, Wang Ling, and a squad of Imperial Bodyguards, rushed like a whirlwind into the kitchen.
Chang He and Kou Zhong hurriedly kowtowed. The former loudly said, “Chen [I, your servant (used in addressing the sovereign)] Chang He pays his respect to Huangshang.”
Li Yuan’s gaze fell onto Kou Zhong first, and then moved to the pharmaceutical master worker; he said, “Mo Shen Yi, please rise.”
Unexpectedly Li Yuan mistakenly thought that the master worker was the Divine Doctor Mo; he was so scared that he limply lay on the ground like mud on the shore, how could he say anything?
Behind Li Yuan, Li Jiancheng spoke in low voice, “Fu Huang [father Emperor]! This one is Mo Shen Yi …”
Li Yuan cleared his throat to express his apology. Rushing forward, he pulled Kou Zhong, the Divine Doctor, who, not only did not look like a divine doctor, but was actually not a divine doctor – from the floor, while issuing his order at the same time, “Everybody, please rise. Just proceed as usual.”
Hearing the imperial decree, the master worker crawled back up. Under Li Yuan’s sharp eyes watching attentively, he continued the great undertaking of manufacturing the pill.
Li Yuan amiably pulled Kou Zhong’s sleeve to the side and asked in low voice, “What illness does Jieyu actually suffer?”
Under everybody’s attentive gaze, Kou Zhong cleared his throat. And then, puffing out his chest, putting on an act of proud divine doctor having a card up his sleeve, he said, “Niangniang’s illness is a rarely seen strange disease; for lack of better term, let’s call it ‘cold deficiency, yin heat’. Hey! It is indeed rarely seen.”
“Excuse me, may I ask Mo Xiansheng, what is ‘cold deficiency, yin heat’? In the medical book of successive generations, there does not seem to be any illness by this name. Would Xiansheng please enlighten me?”
The speaker was one of the men coming with Li Yuan, around forty years old, with long, beautiful beard that reached his chest, his appearance clear and marvelous.
Signaling Kou Zhong with his eyes, Li Jiancheng said, “This gentleman is known as the ‘Living Hua Tuo’, Wei Zhengxing Dafu [physician], a person of the same profession as Mo Xiansheng. The two of you ought to have a lot in common.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong felt lucky that he had received Lei Jiuzhi’s instruction; otherwise this moment he would definitely make a fool of himself. The thing he was most afraid of was exposing himself as a fake divine doctor, and then he would have to bag his food and leave before finish eating.
Smiling slightly, he said, “Xiansheng’s distinguished name has already been like a thunder piercing my ear, and today I have the good fortune of meeting you; it is indeed Xiaoren’s honor.”
Wei Zhengxing’s eyes swept across the material in making the pill; he spoke coldly, “Xi Jue [rhino horn] slice, Tian Hua Fen [lit. pollen of heavenly flower], Ma Huang [ephedra], Beng Da Wan [Centella asiatica] and so on are medicines that are mostly used to detoxify [or to relieve fever] and to raise the yin property. I wonder what do they have to do with Niangniang’s illness?”
How could Kou Zhong dare to have direct confrontation and exchange moves with him? Furthermore, he could not reveal that Zhang Jieyu has been poisoned by Yang Xuyan’s Fen Jing San. Without any choice, he avoided the important and dwelled on the trivial instead, saying, “When the illness first broke out, were Niangniang’s cheeks burning hot, but she was unwilling to drink more, her pulse slowed down, her tongue was coated with yellowish-grey, and she felt sleepy all day long?”
While Wei Zhengxing was slightly startled, Li Yuan’s dragon countenance lit up; he said, “Precisely like that. It was as if Mo Xiansheng has seen it with your own eyes. It is indeed amazing.”
Kou Zhong’s remark was in fact the symptoms of Fen Jing San’s poisoning. This moment he did not want Wei Zhengxing to continue his interrogation, he said, “That is precisely the symptoms of ‘cold deficiency, yin heat’. The yin and yang clashed, the disease flared out rapidly. My Hui Chun Dan’s [returning-spring pill] power could take radical measures, and then by using needles, Xiaoren is going to link up the meridians and qi, I guarantee that Niangniang will recover completely in a few days. Huangshang, please rest assured.”
Greatly delighted, Li Yuan said, “In that case, Zhen will no longer dare to disturb Mo Xiansheng’s work. I will return to the Palace first and wait for Xiansheng’s good news.”
Secretly Kou Zhong thanked the Heaven and thanked the Earth. Presently, his only hope was that this Lei Jiuzhi’s invention of Hui Chun Pill would really be keen and effective, and could really cure Zhang Jieyu’s strange illness. Otherwise, it would be his turn to suffer an incurable disease.