Book 31 Chapter 5 – Magical Hands Bringing the Dying Back to Life
Accompanied by Chang He, Kou Zhong sat in the outer hall of the Ning Bi Pavilion, quietly waiting for the good news after Zhang Jieyu took the antidote.
In this aspect, because Lei Jiuzhi had obtained Lu Miaozi’s handed-down teachings, using speed to control the slow, he took the risk of completely cleaning the Fen Jing San poison from her body in just one application of the drug.
After listening to Chang He’s explanation, he began to understand that ‘Jieyu’ was not this beautiful Niangniang’s name at all, but some kind of rank of the imperial consorts. Therefore, she should not be called Jieyu Niangniang, and could only be called either Zhang Niangniang, or Jieyu Guiren [nobility/person of high rank].
Only this one aspect about appellation of the court etiquette was already enough to give Kou Zhong, this ‘ye min’ [wilderness citizen], a big headache.
The two men were hungry; they were waiting until the lights in the entire Palace City were lit before Zheng Gonggong appeared to invite Kou Zhong into the inner hall.
By this time Chang He already developed a ‘together in trials and tribulations’ feeling toward Kou Zhong; he spoke in low voice, “Be careful in all things, don’t aim to achieve the best possible result, but rather try to avoid making mistakes.”
Kou Zhong mused that as a man who had been rolling about in the Palace, Chang He was willing to give him such advice, he was showing an extraordinary comradeship, so his heart was touched. Nodding his agreement, he followed Zheng Gonggong stepping into the inner hall.
The beautiful Zhang Jieyu was still leaning limply in the couch like this morning, weak and powerless; at first glance she did not appear to make any progress. But Kou Zhong’s sharp eyes were able to detect great difference on her complexion; there was less grey, dark, terrifying color within the white of her skin. Evidently the antidote Lei Jiuzhi prescribed indeed had divine efficacy. Immediately Kou Zhong’s heart was greatly assured.
Li Yuan was sitting by Zhang Jieyu’s side; his right hand was inside her sleeve, holding her left hand firmly, not letting her go, as he lovingly looked at this doted concubine, as if he did not know that Kou Zhong was here.
The other eunuchs and palace maids were standing respectfully on both sides; the atmosphere was serene.
Kou Zhong was about to kneel down, without even looking at him, Li Yuan said, “Mo Xiansheng, please come here, other people are dismissed.”
Zheng Gonggong and the bunch of eunuchs and palace maids busily kowtowed and left. Restraining his divine qi, Kou Zhong came to Li Yuan’s side.
Only now did Li Yuan turn to look at him and spoke in amiable manner, “Mo Xiansheng is worthy to be called Divine Doctor; since she fell ill, this is the first time that after taking the medicine, Jieyu did not vomit it out and the color on her face took a turn for the better. I wonder what would the next step to control the illness be?”
Zhang Jieyu struggled to open her slender beautiful eyes, which extended toward her temples; she gave Kou Zhong a slight nod to express her gratitude.
Kou Zhong moved to the other side and sat down on the chair specifically prepared for him; he said, “May Xiaoren feel Niangniang’s pulse again?”
Li Yuan spoke in calm, relaxed manner, “Although Zhen takes up duty as the Emperor, I still have half the status of a Jianghu man. Mo Xiansheng need not stand on ceremony.”
Zhang Jieyu stretched out her lily-white hand out of the quilt. Kou Zhong quickly put three fingers on her wrist; while inwardly calling out to Laotianye for His blessings, he slowly transmitted his true qi.
Li Yuan was shaken; he said, “Mo Xiansheng’s true qi is extremely refined and pure …”
Kou Zhong knew that because Li Yuan was holding Zhang Jieyu’s left hand, his body generated reaction. Li Yuan was the master of a big Clan; he could be considered one of the top martial art masters in the world, naturally his eyesight was brilliant.
Since his true qi was going through the channels of qi and blood, flowing freely without any obstruction, Kou Zhong was even more confident that the Fen Jing San poison had been eradicated, hence his quick-wit has also returned. With solemn expression he replied, “Jiashu once said, using needle without training qi is just like having muscle without any bones; twice the effort for half the result. Therefore, Xiaoren has trained qi since childhood. Hey! Due to Xiaoren has not married yet, naturally my Tongzi Gong [lit. virgin boy power] is a bit more refined and purer. Thank you very much for Huangshang’s compliment.”
Zhang Jieyu suddenly heaved a deep sigh of relief; she spoke tenderly, “Mo Xiansheng’s family qigong is original and unique.”
After going through the experience of treating Sha Tiannan and the others’ illnesses these past few days, Kou Zhong already developed a bit of insight. Since the great expert Wei Zhengxing was not present anyway, he simply must show off a bit of Divine Doctor air. Inventing crazy nonsense, he said, “Upon inspecting the qi and blood, the cold, unhealthy influence that cause the disease is on the outside. Upon examining the depth of the meridians, the yin cold is in the inside. If we want to reconcile the outside and the inside, we must use big and small needles together. In Xiaoren’s opinion, we need no more than three days; every day use the needles one time, Niangniang will definitely recover speedily.”
By this time Li Yuan already had full confidence in him; greatly delighted, he said, “I’ll have to trouble Mo Xiansheng then!”
Disguising himself as a traveling merchant, Xu Ziling sneaked out of the city. And then just before the gate closed, he turned himself into Yue Shan, and using the census register that Hou Xibai purchased, he swaggered back into the city.
In the dim, cold winter night, with a cloak and thick robe over Xu Ziling’s head and face, unless one was familiar with Yue Shan, most people would think that he was an old man approaching his coffin.
Upon entering the city, Xu Ziling reinstated Yue Shan’s aggressiveness. Shedding off his cloak, he strode swiftly, upright and unafraid, along the Vermillion Bird Boulevard.
Three more days, then it would be the auspicious day of the beginning of spring. The bitter cold weather did not impede the crowd shopping in preparation for the New Year. Compared to Guanwai [outside the Pass], Guanzhong [the middle of the Pass, see Book 30 Chapter 5] was just like Bashu [Sichuan]: a thriving situation of peace and prosperity.
Taking the risk, Xu Ziling trooped into the Dong Lai Inn, the same hotel where Lei Jiuzhi was staying. Until this moment, those who knew Lei Jiuzhi’s relationship with the two boys were only Lin Lang and Gongliang Ji, two men. Therefore, Lei Jiuzhi was the natural and proper choice to be the bridge linking him to Kou Zhong.
Just like Lu Miaozi, Lei Jiuzhi was full of tricks, plus he was an extremely seasoned Jianghu wanderer. In any thorny problem and tricky situation, he was able to change according to the situation and could deal with it with plenty leftovers.
After Xu Ziling had been sitting in the room for half a day, Lei Jiuzhi came back from scouting the situation outside; he laughed and said, “Yue Lao, how are you?”
Xu Ziling laughed and asked, “Did anybody follow Ol’ Yue’s track?”
Lei Jiuzhi sat down leisurely and said, “For the time being, I haven’t seen any. For the next few days, have Yue Lao set up any plan of action? Would you like Wanbei [junior] to work out a strategy for you?”
Xu Ziling knew that Lei Jiuzhi was obsessed to have him battling the Ming Tang Wo’s Great Immortal Hu Fo on the gambling table; changing the subject, he asked, “Is there any news about the Divine Doctor Mo?”
“How could it be this quick?” Lei Jiuzhi replied, “Yue Lao, please rest assured; detoxification is one of the skills that I, Lei Jiuzhi, am an expert in. Even if the medicine cannot cure people, it will definitely not kill people. Ha! You, this kid, are so lucky.”
Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, “What luck?”
Lei Jiuzhi leaned forward and spoke in low voice, “Just now that Gong kid came; he told me that he had just seen Qin Wang. Among the other guests, there was a Bashu man, who repeatedly questioning him about Bashu situation, including local conditions and customs. Tell me, what do you think would happen if it were you?”
Xu Ziling blew out a mouthful of cold air. Li Shimin was indeed formidable.
If the Gong Chenchun who came to see him was Xu Ziling and not Hou Xibai, no matter how like seamless heavenly clothes his outward appearance was, how completely without any flaw, his identity would be immediately uncovered. Only Hou Xibai, who was born and grew up in Bashu, would pass this junction.
Lei Jiuzhi said, “Hou kid was just passing by to talk to me about a thing or two; he heard that tonight he will have to go with Bu Jie and the others to Shang Lin Yuan. We might as well go to Ming Tang Wo to enjoy the excitement too; otherwise, it would be a long night, how could I endure it till dawn?”
Xu Ziling blurted out laughing; he said, “A long night is the perfect time to go to bed and enjoy a good dream. Don’t you think beiwo [quilt wrapped around the body as a tube (traditional bedding)] is more tempting than duwo [gambling den; reminder: Ming Tang Wo means bright hall nest/den]?”
Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, “Is Yue Lao coming to Chang’an just to sleep …?”
Xu Ziling knew he could not get away from him. “Very well!” he helplessly said, “I still have the yellow-faced man’s mask. The problem is you. It would be best if you don’t appear as Lei Jiuzhi.”
Greatly delighted, Lei Jiuzhi said, “Not appearing as Lei Jiuzhi, I’d better appear as a traveling cloth merchant from Shandong. This is the other identity that I can use to save my life, because I really have done business in this industry. Ha! As long as I change from nine fingers [Jiuzhi] to ten fingers, no one would ever doubt it was me. Yue Lao, set your heart at ease.”
Chang He only needed to look at Li Yuan’s face, which was full of spring breeze, and although he was the revered one he dropped his nobility by personally escorting Kou Zhong to the outer hall – to know that Kou Zhong had demonstrated his inherent quality as the Divine Doctor in a big way, and has produced good achievement; he quickly kneeled down to Li Yuan.
Li Yuan laughed and said, “Chang Jiangjun, please rise. Zhen actually wanted to ask Mo Shen Yi to stay in the Palace and let Zhen do the honors to be the host, but the Doctor has parental heart; Mo Shen Yi wants to go back to make sure your esteemed father-in-law’s condition is getting better. He will come back to the Palace tomorrow morning to treat Jieyu’s illness. Chang Jiangjun, please take a good care of Mo Shen Yi for Zhen.”
Kou Zhong mused inwardly, “If I stayed in the Palace, there wouldn’t be any difference with staying in prison; how could I discuss the grand plan with Xu Ziling, to see how we can proceed with the treasure hunt?”
Receiving the imperial decree, Chang He took Kou Zhong out of the Taiji Palace.
When they exited the Cheng Tian Gate, Feng Liben was already waiting respectfully for the news.
Before Kou Zhong had any chance to speak, Chang He excitedly said, “Mo Xiansheng indeed did not fail to uphold Taizi Dianxia’s [His Highness the Crown Prince] great trust. Niangniang’s illness has made great improvement. Even Huangshang did not know how to thank Mo Xiansheng.”
Feng Liben was caught in surprise. Even Li Jiancheng did not dare to wait for the news, because he did not have enough confidence on Kou Zhong. Thinking that ‘what remains unseen is deemed to be clean’ [idiom: what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over], he went to Shang Lin Yuan in Bei Li without waiting for them – to enjoy life.
Hearing the good news, naturally Feng Liben’s spirit was greatly aroused. Immediately his countenance turned deferential, he ordered his men to fetch a horse, and then said, “Mo Xiansheng, please get on the horse, Taizi Dianxia is waiting respectfully for Xiansheng’s honorable self at Shang Lin Yuan.”
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly, yet he knew he could not refuse. Even if his excuse was that he was tired and wanted to go ‘home’ to rest, he still had to personally ask Li Jiancheng to be excused. If this continued, how could he find the time to go on a treasure hunt?
Ming Tang Wo and Shang Lin Yuan actually stood side-by-side. Across the street was precisely the Six-Happiness Casino. Together, these three independent buildings formed the central district and the focal point of the Bei Li. The other comparatively-smaller-in-scale pleasure houses and casinos were like a group of stars cupped themselves around the moon [idiom from Analects], which emphasized their grandeur even more.
Outside these brothels and casinos’ door, people were doing big business; there were food stalls selling baked sesame seed-coated cake and crispy fried dough twist, deep-fried bread, chicken eggs, and so on. It was bustling with extreme noise and excitement.
The reason Shang Lin Yuan was famous throughout the country was because of its unique style; unlike the Six-Happiness Casino and Ming Tang Wo that used large quantity of multi-colored ceramic glaze and three-color tiles and bricks as decoration, it sought some kind of grandeur simplicity and elegance, brimming-with-scholarly-flavor decoration.
The main building after the main entrance was the best representation of the style; a wide expanse of grey brick wall, black glazed roof tile with green lining, under the eaves was blue and green colored painting. The columns, partition boards, and railings were unpainted, exposing the wood’s natural color. The couplets hung on the columns of the hall, which were also made of hardwood, cultured and refined. No wonder poets and literary people wrote endless odes to it.
When Xu Ziling was passing through, he only caught a glimpse of it, yet he was already interested in touring the inside. Thinking about Hou Xibai, disguising himself as Gong Chenchun, was inside, in the midst of wind, flower, snow and moon [idiom: romance is in the air], it would be like a fish back in the water, naturally he would enjoy it very much, Xu Ziling felt it would be even more interesting.
Toward a place that could make people losing their family fortune like a casino, were it not for Lei Jiuzhi half dragging him in, left on his own, he would never set foot even for half a step inside.
However, his natural disposition was that he could be at home wherever he was; since he was already here, he might as well make the best of it. Following Lei Jiuzhi, who was disguised as a cloth merchant from Shandong, inside, he squeezed himself in the middle of the crowd of gamblers, to enter the Ming Tang Wo’s mail hall.
Xu Ziling could not believe the lively atmosphere of the spacious hall, which looked like a palace hall. Nearly a thousand people, crowding around fifty, sixty large gambling tables, were gambling until the sky turned hazy, the earth turned dark, the sun and the moon lost their luster. Perhaps it was because they wanted to prevent cheating, but the lanterns in the hall were especially bright. The dice inside the bowl were knocking against each other, creating earth-shattering sharp and clear noise, combined with men and women laughing and shouting, and booing loudly, as well as clapping their hands, making Xu Ziling felt like he was having a nightmare.
Leaning close to him, Lei Jiuzhi asked, “How much money do you have with you?”
Without thinking, Xu Ziling replied, “A total of fifty-five taels of gold.”
Lei Jiuzhi was dumbstruck. “Good kid!” he said, “Unexpectedly you have a huge sum of money with you. Give them all to me.”
Xu Ziling was stunned. “Do you need that much?” he asked.
Without any trace of politeness, Lei Jiuzhi stuck his hand into Xu Ziling’s purse and took the gold. He said with a laugh, “If you don’t want to have your eggs to be squeezed in this place, naturally you’ll have to show a bit of strength. Look at me!”
And then he simply left.
Xu Ziling was rooted on the floor, staring blankly. He thought that each time Lei Jiuzhi set foot in the casino, it was like he became another person. Perhaps this was precisely a gambler’s inherent quality.
It was quite some time later that Lei Jiuzhi came back with a big bag of gambling chips. He also opened his palm, showing two bronze medals. Immensely proud of himself, he said, “With these two VIP passes, we can be like the other high officials and noble persons, to enjoy the excitement in the other four VIP halls. Xiongdi [brother]! Come on! It’s time to have fun!”
Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, “What fun is there in gambling?”
Lei Jiuzhi excitedly put his hand on Xu Ziling’s shoulder and led him toward the other end of the hall. He sighed and said, “Having a life and death battle on the gambling table in the casino is always better than fighting and killing on the battlefield! Tonight you have to make a name for yourself; otherwise, it will be difficult for us to proceed with the next step of our plan. There are only two types of people earning the respect of the casino, the first one is the ultra-rich, who, no matter how much they lose, would never run out of money, and then there is the master who could win money. Do you understand?”
Li Jiancheng took the lead to offer a toast to congratulate Kou Zhong. He said, “Wishing Mo Xiansheng’s medicine to return the spring and can cure Zhang Niangniang’s ineradicable disease sooner.”
They were sitting in the room at the northern end of the second floor, the western building of the Shang Lin Yuan, which decoration was tastefully chosen, with paintings and calligraphy works filling the walls, brimming with scholarly flavor; the atmosphere was overflowing with victory and celebration. The good news that Kou Zhong brought immediately made Li Jiancheng to have a whole new level of respect for him, to regard him as a honored guest.
Accompanying them around the banquet table, other than Chang He and Feng Liben, who had just arrived, were Ke Dazhi with his lofty appearance, and Er Wenhuan, Qiao Gongshan and Wei Jiarong, three men who had fought against Xu Ziling and suffered defeat. The other guests were Dugu Ce and a high-ranking military officer called Xue Wanche.
Kou Zhong paid special attention to this Xue Wanche. With Kou Zhong’s eyesight, from looking at his every movement and his bearing, he knew that this man’s martial art skill was not inferior to Li Jiancheng’s. Compared to special grade martial art master like Ke Dazhi, the difference was also very little.
As for Dugu Ce, only a few years ago he bumped into him once on Yun Yuzhen’s boat, so he did not have too deep of a knowledge about him, hence he was not worried that Dugu Ce would be able to see through his real identity.
Surprisingly enough, Li Jiancheng did not invite any ladies to accompany them drinking or to entertain them with songs; he was only chatting, joking, and drinking wine with his trusted aides.
Kou Zhong was seated on Li Jiancheng’s left side, with Ke Dazhi sitting on the other side. From this, it was clear how Li Jiancheng treated him, this fake Divine Doctor, with courtesy and high regard.
Li Jiancheng suddenly leaned over and spoke in low voice to Kou Zhong, “That Hui Chun Dan of Mo Xiansheng’s, is it really like Wei Zhengxing pointed out, that it was mainly used to drive away poison?”
‘Hearing a song with string accompaniment, one would know the elegant intention’. Instantly Kou Zhong knew the crafty intention Li Jiancheng was harboring in his heart.
At this time Xue Wanche suddenly barked in heavy voice, “No need to wait on us, you are dismissed!”
The four pretty maids serving them hurriedly left.
Li Jiancheng nodded his appreciation toward Xue Wanche. The others immediately quieted down to listen to the exchange between the two men.
Kou Zhong cursed inwardly, thinking that no matter how much he considered Li Shimin as his enemy, it would be beneath his dignity to use this kind of despicable means to frame Li Shimin. Because based on what he, as the Divine Doctor, said, plus earlier there was Wei Zhengxing’s remark corroborating it, if he told Li Yuan that Zhang Jieyu was being poisoned, Li Yuan would certainly believe firmly without any doubt. And under current circumstances, the most likely suspect to put poison was naturally the King of Qin Mansion’s people, who, all along, did not get along well with Zhang Jieyu.
Kou Zhong pretended to be confused; he nodded and said, “There is indeed the efficacy to expel poison, but the poison being expelled is only cold and hot poison. In term of drug usage, it is nothing out of the ordinary. The real main ingredient was …”
How could Li Jiancheng have any interest in listening to his lengthy discourse about medical science? Cutting him off, he said, “I’ll consult Mo Xiansheng about this matter later. Before Shang Xiaojie’s phoenix-self honors us with her presence, what kind of entertainment would gentlemen like to have?”
Laughing nastily, Qiao Gongshan said, “I hear the brothers of the Bu Clan of Xing Chang Long are entertaining that kid called Mo Wei in the room next door; we might as well also play the host to welcome him [orig. to wash the dust]!”
Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, “Mo Wei? Jiashu is also called Mo Wei!”
How could Chang He know that Kou Zhong was gaining the initiative by striking first? Nodding his head, he said, “Such a coincidence.” Nobody else paid any attention.
Frowning, Li Jiancheng said, “We must not act blindly without thinking. Just this morning, under Feng Shangshu’s arrangement, Fu Huang received this man for an interview at the Dong Da Si, asking him about the decisive battle between Yue Shan and Xi Ying in Chengdu.”
Ke Dazhi spoke indifferently, “As long as we don’t hurt him, but only frustrate his arrogance, how could Huangshang blame Dianxia [your majesty]?”
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly. If the one making his move was Ke Dazhi, Xu Ziling would have no choice but to use his real skill. If that happened, wouldn’t it mean that he would immediately let out the secret and put all the former work to waste?
Er Wenhuan, Qiao Gongshan and Wei Jiarong, three men immediately echoed their agreement and added fuel to the fire [orig. to push the wave and add to the billows].
Xue Wanche spoke heavily, “I see a bit of problem with this Mo Wei; although Jianghu is full of crouching tiger, hidden dragon, but such a brilliant sword master like him, how come we have never heard his name?”
Kou Zhong cried, ‘Bad!’ inwardly, yet he was completely helpless.
Li Jiancheng leisurely said, “I have also doubted him, but today Qin Wang summoned him for an interview, and he had someone cross-examined him in details about Wulin matters in Bashu. This Mo Wei answered every single question correctly. Evidently he is a real sword master from Bashu.”
This time it was Kou Zhong’s turn to be puzzled. From what Lei Jiuzhi told him, he knew about Xu Ziling disguising himself as Mo Wei and joined Xing Chang Long. But although Xu Ziling had been to Bashu, he could be considered viewing the flower from horseback [idiom: superficial understanding from cursory observation], since he only stayed for two, three days; how did he obtain the qualifications to deal with various issues in Bashu?
Rising to his full height, Ke Dazhi said, “I don’t care where he is coming from, let me come over to get acquainted with him!”
Kou Zhong cried out for his Niang inwardly. He could only stare blankly at Ke Dazhi walking toward the door. How could he resolve this ordeal?
Just before Ke Dazhi reached the door, Li Jiancheng suddenly called out, “Dazhi, please call that Mo Wei to come over; let this Dianxia see what kind of man he is.”
Ke Dazhi was stunned. But then he acknowledged loudly before stepping out of the room.