Book 31 Chapter 8 – Dropping by To Seek Vengeance
Chang He and Kou Zhong waited in the outer hall of the Ning Bi Pavilion. The former spoke in low voice, “This morning Huangshang is having an urgent meeting with Taizi Dianxia [His Highness the Crown Prince] and Qin Wang in the inner imperial court; otherwise, Huangshang would definitely personally come here.”
Rubbing his eyes for lack of sleep, Kou Zhong casually asked, “How come I did not see Qi Wang?”
Like an old friend who stick together through thick and thin, Chang He replied, “Qi Wang went to Guan Wai [outside the Pass, see also Book 30 Chapter 5] for an important matter; he has not returned yet.”
Zheng Gonggong came out; with smile across his face, he respectfully said, “Niangniang invites Mo Shen Yi in.”
Kou Zhong followed him into the inner chamber. This time, dressed neatly, Zhang Jieyu was sitting on a recliner. Although she was still far away from glowing with health and vigor, her sickly look has gone, her cheeks were showing a little bit of color. As long as one was not blind, anybody would be able to see that she was in the middle of recovery.
Zhang Jieyu was wearing phoenix crown on her head, her tastefully chosen dress was of beautiful deep blue-green color with pearl-colored trim. A brocade gown was draped on the outside, a white jade double-ornamented belt was tied around her waist. She appeared graceful, luxurious, dainty, and charming; no wonder she could become Li Yuan’s beloved pet.
Naturally she treated Kou Zhong with utmost courtesy. Revealing a cordial smile, she said, “This past half a month Aijia has never slept as well as I did last night; Mo Xiansheng did not bear the title Divine Doctor in vain.”
After greeting with raised cupped hands, Kou Zhong boldly sat on the chair prepared especially for him to examine her illness next to the couch, musing inwardly that you, beauty, had enough sleep, but I had just closed my eyes and already Sha Fu woke me up.
Zhang Jieyu obediently stretched out her jade hand from inside the gauzed sleeve to let Kou Zhong put his three fingers on her wrist. Unexpectedly she expressed her feeling, saying, “Why do, in life, we must suffer all kinds of suffering and torment, big and small from time to time?”
Naturally no one among the eunuchs and palace maids accompanying her was able to answer this question. Kou Zhong was examining the condition of the qi and blood within her tender body in full concentration; absent-mindedly he blurted out, “That depends on the reason of living. If it is for the sake of experiencing life, then we ought to taste a small amount of all kinds of experience. Hey! I was just babbling nonsense; Niangniang, please do not blame me.”
Zhang Jieyu looked at his ugly face in daze. She said, “Xiansheng’s remark is extremely novel, nobody has ever told Aijia such way of looking at things. Clearly Xiansheng is not one who confines himself to common propriety; your temperament is frank, you will say whatever you are thinking. How could Aijie blame Xiansheng? However, the torment of illness, I would rather not taste it.”
Originally Kou Zhong wanted to just be a yes-man and nodded his head in agreement and be done with it, yet he could not help saying, “Illness is not completely without any benefit either; at least it could remind us to watch our health. For example, a knife cut is painful, hence we know that we must avoid the knife. If it didn’t hurt, even if others cut our hands, we will not know it. Ha! Therefore, people who train martial art ought to be most afraid of pain.”
Zhang Jieyu was stunned. “What Xiansheng said is not unreasonable,” she remarked.
Kou Zhong thought the time has come not to use reckless move anymore, it was time to use the needles. Taking out Sha Zhijing’s nine-needle copper case, he said with a smile, “After this time, Xiaoren shouldn’t need to come again to treat Niangniang’s illness!”
Early in the morning, Hou Xibai’s Gong Chenchun came to Dong Lai Inn to look for Lei Jiuzhi and Xu Ziling. In order to hide from people’s eyes and ears, the latter was wearing the waxy-yellow-faced mask. Following Lei Jiuzhi’s direction, he used the name Yong Qin, a gambler cum traveling merchant from Shandong.
The three had their discussion inside the room. Hou Xibai said, “Last night Li Jiancheng sent his man to deliver five taels of gold. I declined the reward in front of Xing Chang Long people; I wonder if I did the right thing?”
Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Lei Jiuzhi said, “It was the totally right thing to do; but the question is how Li Jiancheng is going to swallow this annoyance.”
“Who cares about his Niang?” Xu Ziling said, “The present situation is delicate. This fellow Gong Chenchun is being drawn separately by Li Shimin, Li Yuan and Feng Deyi. Li Jiancheng is not without any misgiving.”
Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai said, “But surely Ke Dazhi’s Sandstorm Saber Technique’s name is not in vain. Even if I can use the Fan of Beauty to fight his Sandstorm Saber, victory or defeat is still unknown; if I had to use sword, I am afraid I won’t last but a few strokes. This man is an ultimate disaster.”
Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, “For me, using weapon or not, there won’t be much difference. If we have a chance to encounter Ke Dazhi, we could swap identities just before the fight; let me deal with him.”
Frowning, Lei Jiuzhi said, “What I am afraid the most is if we suddenly come across him and have no time to swap identities.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Hou Xibai said, “That shouldn’t be a problem. This is the House of Tang’s heavenly capital, and Ke Dazhi belongs to the Chang Lin Army, he cannot kill anybody easily, I will simply lure him to set a date for a decisive battle; at that time Ziling can leisurely coming on top. But this Tujue barbarian indeed has solid skill, Ziling must never treat him lightly.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “No matter who the opponent is, I have never underestimated the enemy.”
Hou Xibai said, “There is another problem: Qin Wang seems to have the intention to recruit me into his Heavenly Policy Mansion. How should Xiaodi handle this problem?”
Xu Ziling decisively said, “This might become spinning-a-cocoon-around-oneself problem. Hou Xiong can use the pretext that your ancestor prohibited the Mo Family’s later generation to become government officials. It would be best if you drop hints to Bu Ting and the others earlier rather than later. If the rumor reaches Li Shimin’s ears, this problem will be solved.”
Exclaiming in admiration, Lei Jiuzhi said, “Ziling’s brain can move really fast. No matter how difficult the problem is, in your hands it suddenly become the bamboo splits when it meets the knife’s edge.”
Hou Xibai cheerfully said, “Xiaodi was just about to draw support from Ziling’s ability and wisdom to get the Image Scroll back from Yang Xuyan’s hands.”
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, “I am afraid this problem of yours can only be solved via the Overbearing Saber Yue Shan’s hands. If we let Li Yuan know about Pei Ju’s real identity and his relationship with Yang Xuyan, we might get the result of buy-one-get-three, i.e. we could offer the secret collusion between Yang WenGan and Yang Xuyan, and Yang Xuyan and Dong Shuni, together. Then we might be able to fish in troubled water. While we are at it, slaughtering Yang Xuyan is not an impossible thing either.”
Remembering Yang WenGan’s young concubine Madame Hong, Lei Jiuzhi nodded and said, “Concerning Yang WenGan, we still need to do some work.”
Xu Ziling calmly said, “We don’t have much time. The time has come for Yue Shan, the Senior, to make his appearance!”
Accompanied by Zheng Gonggong, Kou Zhong returned to the main hall. Chang He nervously asked, “How’s Zhang Niangniang’s condition?”
Zheng Gonggong rushed to answer, “Mo Xiansheng is worthy to be called Divine Doctor. This time the effect of the needle is even more miraculous, Niangniang’s countenance looks like as if she was never sick.”
Returning to his true color, Kou Zhong giggled and said, “Now Niangniang only need a bit of nap. I dare say that her illness has been completely eradicated, and will not recur.”
Chang He’s entire body relaxed, simply because this matter is closely related to his future success or failure as a government official.
“Yin De Niangniang has arrived!”
The three were stunned; they hurriedly knelt down to welcome the imperial concubine’s honored self.
Yin De Fei [fei means imperial concubine] was the most powerful – apart from Zhang Jieyu – imperial consort in the Imperial Palace; both received special favor from Li Yuan. Moreover, she was the other important imperial concubine from whom Li Jiancheng painstakingly wanted to win favor by fawning on her.
Taking a furtive glance at her, Kou Zhong saw a beautiful woman, wearing buttoned cape with wide sleeves, its length reached her knees, the top embroidered with five-colored trimmed with golden thread decorative design – walking slowly with eunuchs and palace maids crowding around her.
Inside the cape, she was wearing short-sleeved long skirt. The skirt’s waist was fastened high above her natural waist, almost to the armpits, making this originally slender, jade-like Yin De Fei appeared even more lanky and lithe. Her lotus steps lightly moved as she swayed over; extremely touching, definitely not inferior to Zhang Jieyu in any respect.
Kou Zhong had to admit that both Yin De Fei and Zhang Jieyu were natural beauties who could turn the world upside down. Compared to Dong Shuni, they have some kind of more mature grace; no wonder Yang Xuyan had to use heretical school skill to help Dong Shuni striving for favor.”
“Three gentlemen, you may rise!”
Following Chang He and Zheng Gonggong’s example, Kou Zhong stood up. He pretended to be panic-stricken, not daring to lift his head to look at her.
Yin De Fei spoke softly, “This must be Mo Shen Yi; how’s Jiejie’s condition?”
Kou Zhong replied, “Zhang Niangniang has fully recovered, the Heaven blesses Huangshang.”
Yin De Fei burst in praises and admiration; she said, “This time Mo Shen Yi has rendered great merit, Huangshang will certainly bestow heavy reward. If Mo Shen Yi has any cherished desire, you may speak without hesitation.”
Just like Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong was most afraid of being entangled by government bureaucracy, which would make him unable to go anywhere. Hastily he replied, “Xiaoren’s only cherished desire is that Chang Jiangjun will climb step by step. This time, were it not for Chang Jiangjun coming with Xiaoren all over Chang’an to find the elixir to be used, it would be difficult to achieve this miraculous efficacy. As for Xiaoren, it is necessary to follow my ancestors’ wishes of the deceased, before reaching the age of forty I must roam the world to the benefit of common people, while also broadening my horizon.”
Hearing that, Chang He was so moved that he hurriedly dropped to his knees.
Yin De Fei was very impressed with Kou Zhong’s ‘indifferent to fame and fortune’ heart; she praised, “Turns out Xiansheng is a man with high aspirations; Yin De failed to venerate you!”
And then, turning toward Chang He she said, “Chang Jiangjun recommending Mo Xiansheng to Taizi Dianxia, you have also rendered great merit. Aijia will definitely call on Huangshang’s attention, we won’t forget Jiangjun’s contribution.”
Finished speaking, she went into the inner hall to visit Zhang Jieyu.
By the time they left the Palace, Chang He already considered Kou Zhong as ‘life and death friend’; he pulled him toward Fu Ju Lou for a celebratory luncheon. Compared to yesterday, naturally the two men’s mood now was like heaven and earth.
Disguised as Yue Shan, upright and unafraid Xu Ziling stepped onto the Yue Ma Bridge. Whether his unusual appearance, his imposing figure, or his overbearing momentum, everything made other people could not help but to cast a couple extra glances toward him.
Coming down the bridge, he turned toward the direction of the West Market. His destination was the Zheng Wang Fang [Political Goodwill Lane (Courtesy of Akolaw)] at the northeast corner of the West Market, adjacent to the Imperial City.
Those able to live in this area not only had to be rich to be able to afford it, but also must have authority and power to succeed.
Inside the Wang Fang [king block], mansion houses stood in great numbers, all were official residences of high official and noble persons. Xu Ziling stopped outside a huge mansion. The plaque above the door said ‘Hainan Huang Fu’ [Huang of the South Sea’s Mansion], four big letters.
After taking a deep breath, Xu Ziling secretly gathered his strength, and then when the stored up energy reached its highest level, he let out a deep shout, and released an iron first, unleashing the power of the Treasured Vase Image, heavily struck the big wooden door, which was made of red wood, carved in detailed and delicate flower pattern.
The spiraling energy was released, like a fragile piece of wood the big wooden door shattered into wood chips, splattering and swirling away into the inner courtyard. The courtyard door turned into a rectangular hole.
The loud noise immediately alerted the residents of this mansion, who were Nanhai Pai disciples. Momentarily human voices were like a boiling cauldron, more than a dozen armed men and women burst out from the main entrance of the mansion.
Xu Ziling, as the fake Yue Shan, precisely came here to create a disturbance; the noisier the better. The most ideal would be if he could create a stir in the whole city, to let everyone know that Yue Shan’s honorable self has arrived.
Slightly pulling up the hem of his long gown, which was like ‘Yue Shan’s trademark’, he stepped across the threshold and entered in.
Two big men roared angrily, one holding a saber, the other a spear, they both pounced on him. Behind them a man thundered, “Who dares to display shockingly bad behavior inside our Nanhai Pai?”
Swaying his shoulders, Xu Ziling floated forward like moving clouds and flowing water. He swayed left and right just before the saber and the spear reached his body, and thus evaded the enemy’s weapons by a hairsbreadth. Afterwards he thrust both hands to the left and right simultaneously. The two men clearly saw his palms were coming, but they were incapable to evade. They were hit squarely by the palms and were thrown backward, no longer able to crawl back up.
Two persons, one man and one woman, attacked together with a saber and a sword from the top of the steps going down. Evidently they had worked hard in fighting in formation; their coordination was like seamless heavenly clothes.
Because their Zhangmenren [headmaster] the ‘Golden Spear’ Mei Xun and most of the Sect’s martial art masters were coming with Li Yuanji out of the Pass to deal with Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two boys, the remaining disciples staying in Chang’an, with the exception of the ‘Nanhai Xian Weng’ Huang Gongcuo, were second-class martial art masters.
Xu Ziling was very clear of this situation, hence the reason he openly dropped by to pick a fight, to look for Huang Gongcuo to settle the account.
Plus there was no better way to let Li Yuan know that he, Yue Shan, has arrived.
Imitating Yue Shan, Xu Ziling’s eyes shooting out deep, cold rays of light, staring with powerful, fierce-without-companions momentum, without stopping a single step, he climbed the stairs to meet the enemy; his two hands chopped like lightning, icy cold murderous spirit surged out like the tide. Before the enemy’s attack arrived, he already made them feel their skin hurting, their breathing was difficult, immediately their will to fight was snatched away, they were unable to put their real skill to use.
Under unending clashing noise, not a single one of four enemies’ sabers and swords was lucky enough to evade Xu Ziling’s palm chops. Two enemies’ weapons were thrown off their hands; another person was hit by his kick and was sent flying backward. The female disciple holding a sword had her sword snatched away by him. They were utterly routed, and scattered in all directions to evade.
Xu Ziling stabbed the sword backhandedly, sweeping the man attacking him from behind, sending both the man and his stick rolling down the long steps. He was just about to kill his way into the hall when a stick shadow flashed out from the inside, swiftly hacking down on his head. The movement was faster than lightning or the spark from a flint, plus the stick wind was like the mountain, incomparably fierce and severe.
Even with Xu Ziling’s ability, he did not dare to meet the attack head-on. At the same time he remembered Yue Shan mentioning this person in his memoir, saying that he could be rated as the other martial art master of Nanhai Pai, apart from Huang Gongcuo.
The stick wielder was an old man wearing brocade gown, his hair and beard had turned completely white. When the iron stick was moved back and forth, there was no hesitation in changing the moves midway; from swift hack it changed into straight stab, swiftly taking the middle of Xu Ziling’s waist. Ferocious and ruthless.
Xu Ziling let out Yue Shan’s long laughter; he calmly said, “’Qimei Gun’ [frowning eyebrows stick] Mei Tian, after so many years you have not shown any progress.” While still speaking, he already moved the sword to deflect the stick away, and then casually counterattacked the opponent until he blocked to the left and clumsily moved to the right. Suddenly he tossed the sword away and sent out a punch.
Mei Tian has never expected that he would abandon the sword to use his fist instead. Hastily he used his stick to block, but with a miserable grunt he was hit by the fist power and was sent inside the door.
The main mansion’s gate finally fell.
This series on contacts between the two sides happened in just a few breaths and was quickly over. Only this moment did the other people have the opportunity to attack Xu Ziling.
Xu Ziling strode into the hall. Both hands unfolding his brilliant skill of borrowing-force-to-deflect-force, forcing the attacking enemies to fall to the left and tumbling to the right in utter defeat.
Mei Tian swung his stick again to attack. Naturally Xu Ziling did not need to be polite. Using force to attack force, in less than ten moves his finger jabbed the jianjing vital acupoint on the opponent’s shoulder. Mei Tian staggered and tumbled back, he nearly fell on his butt on the ground.
After this fierce battle, nobody else in the hall was able to fight.
Tossing his head back in loud laughter, Xu Ziling said, “Huang Gongcuo, where are you? I, Yue Shan, have come to collect your debt!”
Mei Tian struggled hard to suppress his surging blood and qi; he hatefully said, “Huang Gong is at the West Market’s Fu Ju Lou. Yue Shan, if you have guts go find him there!”
Xu Ziling disdainfully said, “Do I need to have guts to go look for Huang Gongcuo? Were it not for Laofu restraining my anger early on, don’t even think that there would be one single mouth remain alive inside this mansion. Just consider you guys lucky.”
With a loud laugh he swaggered out.
Chang He and Kou Zhong sat on the same table they sat yesterday; raising their cups, they toasted each other, happy and excited. In one breath Chang He ordered seven, eight kinds of dishes. It did not matter how big of an eater these two were, there was no way they could finish this much food.
After pouring down the yellow soup into his throat, while gasping for breath, Chang He said, “Yin De Niangniang’s one word has more power than Taizi Dianxia’s ten words; this time Mo Xiong is really my true friend. In the future, Mo Xiong’s problem will be my, Chang He’s problem.”
Kou Zhong’s eyes were roaming around the mansions and the surrounding area of the Yue Ma Bridge; he casually remarked, “Other than medical knowledge, Xiaodi also indulge in the study of architecture. Hey! This interest was also cultivated by Jiashu.”
Already regarding him as a deity, Chang He sincerely praised, “Turns out Mo Xiong is such an erudite and multi-talented person. But Chang’an is a new city; the oldest construction is only a few decades old.”
Babbling wildly, Kou Zhong said, “Old or new is not important; the most important is the architectural creativity. In Chang’an, who might have conducted special research and have the most extensive experience in this aspect?”
Chang He replied, “The previous generation’s greatest architect was naturally Zi Wenqiao; the city of Chang’an was built under his supervision. But now the person you want ought to be the Gongbu Shangshu [lit. Minister of the Ministry of Works (in imperial China)] Liu Zhenghui. Nobody knows Chang’an constructions more than he does.”
Greatly delighted, Kou Zhong said, “Is it possible to arrange a meeting with this Gongbu Daren?”
Chang He cheerfully replied, “Even if you didn’t want to see him, you can’t. Just yesterday he came to me, asking me if Mo Xiong could treat his son’s illness. But how could I be in the mood to talk to him yesterday?”
And then he suddenly leaned closer and spoke in lowered voice, “Ke Dazhi is coming again!”
Kou Zhong turned his head to look at the entrance. Ke Dazhi was climbing the stairs, upright and unafraid. The man leading the group was unexpectedly Li Mi, with Wang Bodang following behind him. Scared, Kou Zhong quickly turned his head back; his heart was thumping.
Chang He went on, “Fu Ju Lou seems to be particularly lively today, even Nanhai Pai’s old fellow Huang Gongcuo is also coming. Accompanying him are, unexpectedly, Qi Wang’s doted general Zi Wenbao and Libu Shangshu [lit. Minister of the Ministry of Appointments (in imperial China)] Zhang Liang.”
Casting a furtive look, Kou Zhong indeed saw the appearing-to-be-immortal-elderly-man ‘Bu Lao Shenxian’ [not growing old Daoist immortal] Huang Gongcuo, chatting and laughing happily with two other men on the other corner.
Returning to the previous topic, Chang He said, “Since Mo Xiansheng has the intention to get to know Liu Daren of the Ministry of Works, let Xiaodi accompany Xiansheng to stop by and pay him a visit; I guarantee that he will welcome you with open arms.”
Kou Zhong was about to answer, Ke Dazhi came over to greet the two men; he laughed and said, “Tonight we are going to Shang Lin Yuan again to drink our fill; Xiaodi will be the host, two gentlemen must give me a little bit of face.”
Thinking that quite possibly Li Mi and Wang Bodang would be two guests of honor, Kou Zhong hastily said, “It’s not that Xiaoren does not want to give you a face, but … ay! The so-called ‘people fear getting famous like pigs fear fattening up (for the slaughter)’ [idiom: fame has its price], later on I will have to rush about everywhere for patient consultation. If you don’t believe me, ask Chang Jiangjun.”
Chang He nodded repeated. The fact was that he actually did not have too good of an impression toward Ke Dazhi, this foreign outstanding swordsman, hence he did not have the desire to get close to him.
Hearing that, without the slightest trace of politeness Ke Dazhi plopped his butt on the chair. But just as he was about to speak, a gloomy, hoarse voice came from the direction of Yue Ma Bridge, saying, “Huang Qisha [seven-killing], come down here immediately for Yue Ba Dao!”
The entire originally clamorous Fu Ju Lou instantly became crow and peacock made no sound.
Kou Zhong craned his neck to see; to his shock he saw ‘Yue Shan’ was standing at the end of the bridge. His entire person exuded a considering-oneself-unexcelled-in-world overbearing spirit. Kou Zhong could not help exclaiming, ‘Excellent!’ inwardly.
He understood the purpose behind Xu Ziling’s action.
 Qimei (齐眉), lit. ‘eyebrows coming together’, could be coming from an idiom: 举案齐眉, lit. to lift the tray to eyebrow level; mutual respect in a marriage. Additional explanation courtesy of Akolaw: the name comes from the length of the staff stand from the ground to the eyebrow of the user.