Book 32 Chapter 1 – Coming Across A Friend in Foreign Place
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “No wonder You Xiong wants to plead me to personally help you, because you need enough power to be able to fish in troubled water and obtain benefit from within it. But in my opinion, unless you can grasp clearly the time and the place those two boys are going to unearth the treasure, you will only miss it in vain; when they succeed, you will still at a loss of what to do.”
Having a plan in advance, You Niaojuan said, “This aspect, let Xiaodi worries about it. As long as Yue LaoGe is willing to give me a nod, I have ample confidence that Shi Zhixuan will fall head first.”
Xu Ziling knew that if he did not give him a nod, he could forget about this demonic school’s utterly-vicious-extremely-evil demonic man willing to reveal any information. Although he might not be telling the whole story or the truth, but in the end he would reveal a little bit of spider’s thread and horse track behind the truth. Making up his mind, he said, “Very well! It’s a deal, and I don’t need you to swear an oath either. However, if Ol’ Yue find out later that you, You Niaojuan, are not being honest, don’t blame me for dealing with you without showing mercy, for falling out with you and becoming hostile.”
Greatly delighted, You Niaojuan said, “Yue LaoGe, don’t worry. This kind of mutually-beneficial, mutually-advantageous thing, how could I, You Niaojuan, foolishly mess it up? Much less later on we can be friends!”
Xu Ziling seized this opportunity to ask, “You’d better lay out the plan first [orig. put everything out including the tray]; I want to know how I would fit into it.”
Lowering his voice and leaning closer, You Niaojuan spoke with serious expression, “Shi Zhixuan wanting to kill you, Yue LaoGe, is not an empty talk that I, You Niaojuan, am using to threaten you. If you, LaoGe, know that Shi Zhixuan, Zhu Yaofu and Zhao Deyan, these three current top figures of the demonic school, are, for the first time, never happened before – joining hands to do a world-shaking thing, then you won’t be surprised why you, LaoGe, could become the first target that they want to eliminate, because you, LaoGe is a threat to their success or failure.”
For the first time Xu Ziling was convinced that You Niaojuan sincerely wanted to cooperate with him to snatch the Demonic Emperor’s Relics.
Previously, from Yang WenGan’s action, he and Kou Zhong speculated that Shi Zhixuan and Zhao Deyan were working together to topple the Great Tang Dynasty, only they did not expect that Zhu Yuyan, who has always been like fire and water with Shi Zhixuan – might also join this conspiracy. Each one of these three parties had enormous strength; their combined power was definitely not a small matter. Not to mention the reality that the struggle among the different factions in the Great Tang’s royal household was very intense, which gave the enemy a good opportunity to be exploited.
Pretending to be amazed, Xu Ziling said, “Is that so?”
You Niaojuan said, “Their first objective is to kill Li Yuan’s second son, Li Shimin. Without this man, the House of Tang will become a tiger without teeth and lacking claws. However, this is just their target on the surface. The fact is that each one of the three is harboring sinister design to obtain the Sheng Sheli; it’s just that no one openly admit it!”
Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, “How did you know about all these things? An Pangzi can’t possibly tell you!”
Proud of himself, You Niaojuan replied, “It was Zhao Deyan that crafty ghost who told me. He knew that his martial art skill couldn’t match Xie Wang [demonic king] or Zhu Yaofu; so he knew that he has to find a martial art master to help him. Although with his mouth Old Zhao said he does not covet Sheng Sheli, and that he would rather it falls into my hands, and that he does not want Shi Xie Wang or Zhu Yaofu obtaining it, but how could I, You Niaojuan, be that easy to be cheated? Old Zhao could see that I know the method to extract the divine power accumulated inside the Sheng Sheli; hence he deliberately coaxed me to help him! Once he obtained the Sheng Sheli, he would turn the spearhead around to deal with me.”
Xu Ziling asked in astonishment, “I, Yue Shan, has never been a lay practitioner of Buddhism [orig. virtuous men trustworthy women]; you are not afraid that just like Old Zhao, I am going to deal with you too?”
Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, You Niaojuan said, “Forget about your, LaoGe’s words have always been like the Nine Tripod Cauldrons, you have never done anything that is against your conscience, the most important thing is that your Huan Ri Da Fa actually follows Tianzhu [Indian subcontinent] Buddhist School approach; if you absorb the divine power of the Sheng Sheli, you might immediately suffer fire deviation, and then even Da Luo Jin Xian [God of the Gods, see Book 28 Chapter 9] would not be able to save you.”
Letting out a cold humph, Xu Ziling said, “Frankly, I practically have no interest in your Sheng Sheli at all; the only thing I am interested in is to take Shi Zhixuan’s dog life. Where is this completely-lacking-any-sense-of-justice madman hiding?”
It was only this moment that he was able to figure out the reason why Yue Shan simply must kill Shi Zhixuan. The key person was Shi Qingxuan’s birth mother Bi Xiuxin. She was Yue Shan’s close female friend, but Shi Zhixuan, using despicable method, killed her. Based on Yue Shan’s violent character and explosive temper, it would be a wonder indeed if he did not hunt Shi Zhixuan to the ends of the earth to settle the account.
From Yue Shan’s description of Bi Xiuxin in his memoir, Xu Ziling could not help greatly admiring this previous generation’s good-looking and intelligent beauty, while at the same time his detest toward Shi Zhixuan’s despicable means also arose involuntarily. Even he himself was unaware of the emergence of this attitude of the heart. This morning he told Li Yuan that wanted to deal with Shi Zhixuan, and both sides accepted this matter as it should be by rights, nothing to doubt. But Xu Ziling had not pondered deeply why he felt like he simply had to kill Shi Zhixuan. Until now, You Niaojuan pointed out the circumstances behind why he and Shi Zhixuan could not exist together, he began to understand and came around to the idea that between the two, there was a deep hatred that even all the water of the three rivers and two streams would not be able to wash away.
You Niaojuan said, “Under the heavens, I am afraid only An Pangzi knows where Shi Zhixuan is. An Pangzi has now become Shi Zhixuan’s mouthpiece. Shi Zhixuan’s business deal with Old Zhao and Zhu Yaofu, everything was negotiated through him as his representative. Perhaps only when Sheng Sheli comes into being will this fellow show himself to plunder it. At that time we’ll have to rely on your, Yue Dage’s skill.”
Xu Ziling’s eyes deliberately showed vicious murderous aura; he slowly asked the question he wanted to know the most, “Kou and Xu, those two kids, are they in Chang’an now?”
You Niaojuan calmly replied, “Based on the fact that those two are proficient in disguise and method of changing their appearance, plus their craftiness, which surpasses cunning fox, everybody from all sides still does not dare to affirm whether they are heading north, or they already secretly entered Chang’an. The most ridiculous thing is that everyone seems to shy away from talking about this matter. Even if somebody knew where they are, as long as they have not touched the Duke Yang’s Treasure, they would definitely do everything possible to cover up for the two boys.”
Xu Ziling was relieved. “If that’s the case,” he asked, “Before they unearth the hidden treasure, we ought to lie low and not waste our time. But we need to agree on a way to communicate with each other, so that if something does happen, we could immediately find the other party.”
You Niaojuan nodded his agreement. While they were discussing some ways to stay in contact, the inn attendant excitedly shouted outside the door, “Yue Gong Daye, Miss Shang Xiufang is coming to visit.”
Stunned, You Niaojuan said, “Turns out it’s that girl [orig. yatou, can be used either deprecatingly or as a term of endearment]. She seems to be made of the same mold as Mingyue [lit. bright moon]. I won’t bother Yue LaoGe any longer!”
Finished speaking he slipped out through the window.
Xu Ziling replied the inn attendant. He felt his scalp went numb as he waited for Shang Xiufang’s arrival.
Kou Zhong pulled the pretty maid’s sleeve and half-forcing her behind a cluster of small trees under the doorstep.
The pretty maid misunderstood, thinking that he was going to do wicked things to her, her flowery countenance turned pale. She was about to scream, Kou Zhong promptly said, “Jiejie, please don’t misunderstand, I just want to know who’s talking with Wu Xiaojie [Fifth Miss] inside?”
Having just recovered from the shock, the pretty maid saw his ugly face right in front of her eyes, she made an effort to suppress the disgust in her heart, and asked in astonishment, “So far away, Mo Xiansheng unexpectedly could hear Xiaojie’s voice inside the hall talking to Dong Guifei [imperial consort]?”
Of course even if she had turned into ashes Kou Zhong would be able to recognize Dong Shuni’s voice, the woman who has had one-night-predestined-affinity with him, the one who was given to Li Yuan as an imperial concubine as part of the political business deal between Luoyang and Chang’an. He was asking that question, which he already knew the answer, simply to buy some time.
Lowering his voice, he said, “I practice some punching and kicking for a few days; as a result, my ears are a bit sharper than average people. So Dong Guifei did not come to ask me to treat her illness?”
The pretty maid moved away a little bit; frowning, she said, “Back in Luoyang Dong Guifei was Xiaojie’s close lady friend [orig. boudoir/lady’s chamber friend]; this time she came specifically to visit Wu Xiaojie. They have been talking for a while, Xiaojie then told me to see if Mo Xiansheng has come back, and asked Mo Xiansheng to meet her. Other than that, Xiaobi [little maid] does not know!
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly; he fully realized that Dong Shuni must have received Yang Xuyan’s order to investigate whether this Mr. Mo was Kou Zhong’s incarnation. To put himself in someone else’s shoes, if he were Yang Xuyan, he would do the same thing. Just like Li Shimin suspected that ‘Mo Wei’ was one of the two boys in disguise.
This is called sooner or later the ugly woman must see her father-in-law. Even if he could avoid it temporarily, he could not avoid it forever. His mind churning at the speed of light, he hardened his heart and said, “Jiejie, please wait for me here for a moment, I need to go to the latrine; when I come back, I will see Dong Guifei and Miss.”
Perhaps it was because the pretty maid was imagining the repulsive expression of this ugly man inside the latrine, her expression looked like she was going to be sick. Turning her face away, she said, “Mo Xiansheng, the quicker you go, the quicker you’ll come back. Ay!”
Kou Zhong implored her over and over again, “Jiejie must not go in by yourself; otherwise Dong Guifei will know that I am going someplace else!”
The pretty maid nearly wanted to stomp her feet in anger; she crossly said, “Don’t call me Jiejie this and Jiejie that unreservedly; Xiaobi is called Xiao Ning. Mo Xiansheng, please go to relieve yourself quick!”
Inwardly Kou Zhong cried, ‘Thank Heaven and thank the Earth!’ while hurriedly left.
Xu Ziling listened to Shang Xiufang’s footsteps as she, under escort of the innkeeper and her maids and servants – was walking along the corridor, his listless heart was difficult to suppress.
Apparently Shang Xiufang had some kind of unusual gratitude and grudges relationship with the real Yue Shan. Otherwise, based on Shang Xiufang’s usual style, she could not possibly pay Yue Shan a visit like this. One thing went wrong, his real identity might be exposed by her, and then all his achievements thus far would be wasted.
To be honest, whether they could find Duke Yang’s Treasure or not was not a big deal. However, to let Shi Zhixuan and the others to overthrow the Li Clan and pulling in the Tujue to invade was not a joking matter.
But slipping away was not Yue Shan’s character either. All he could do was to brace himself and continue, betting on Laotianye’s kind intention.
Shang Xiufang’s touching voice, which contained specks of great changes [lit. the blue sea turned into mulberry fields (idiom); fig. the transformations of the world] within the tenderness and softness, was heard from the corridor about ten zhang away, saying, “Wait for me here. Without my order, no one is allowed to come over.”
After the chorus of response from the maids and the servants, light and graceful footsteps were coming near.
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, “What brings Shang Xiaojie here to see Ol’ Yue?” His voice was faint, yet it traveled far away.
Shang Xiufang did not answer. She went straight toward the door, gently pushed the door open, and stepped inside the hall.
The two looked at each other’s face. Shang Xiufang was wearing a hood to defend against the cold, which extended from the top of her head down to her fragrant shoulders, exposing only half of her face. The outside emphasized the exceptionally magnificent contour of her beautiful silhouette. On the lower part of her body, the long skirt was made of multi-pleated fabric, each pleat was of different color, with light traces in pale drawing, simple, elegant and noble, with some kind of indescribable grace, confidence and at ease impression, pretty and leisurely with many postures.
On the outside, she was wearing white-colored fur coat; which also made her appear to be too weak to stand up to the wind, lovely and touching, a when-I-see-it-I-feel-compassion charm.
Although he was half-pretending, Xu Ziling was certainly taken aback and was emotionally moved. Every single fiber of his as-thin-as-cicada-wing mask, which seamlessly covered his handsome face, revealed a shocked expression, as his entire body, from head to toe, shook severely and he blurted out, “Mingyue!”
Shang Xiufang was slightly startled. Her eyes revealed a hard-to-believe expression. Fixing her gaze to size him up, she shook her head and said, “Are you really the Overbearing Saber Yue Shan? No, it can’t be. Yue Shan had passed away many years ago.”
Xu Ziling felt as if his entire spine was immersed in ice water, as he was overwhelmed by the dejected feeling of defeat. Could it be that Kou Zhong and his treasure hunt effort and grand plan to fight the demonic school must be written off just like this?
Kou Zhong applied the ‘Tou Tian Huan Ri Suo Gu Da Fa’ [lit. stealing-the-heaven, exchanging-the-sun (together means ‘engaging in fraudulent activities’), shrinking-the-bones big method], which he comprehended in the face of emergency. Enduring unlimited pain, he doggedly used his internal power to alter his skeleton and muscle’s original shape. As long as he could make his physique slightly different, he could still hide from the crafty girl Dong Shuni.
Since practicing the qigong from the Secret to Long Life, he and Xu Ziling have been increasingly able to control their own body, but using inner qi to forcefully change his external form like this, this was his first attempt.
A moment later, Kou Zhong wiped the cold sweat due to the pain from his forehead, feeling that not only he was about a cun shorter, the most amazing thing was that he now had a big belly, which, combined with his ugly face, made him appear even more evil.
Fortunately, most of the time, the women of the Sha Family, the Fifth Miss Zhijing included, had never had their eyes stayed on his body for long, so that even if he changed his shape, they could not possibly notice it.
After comforting himself, Kou Zhong patted his belly and walked back toward the pretty maid Xiao Ning.
In that instant, Xu Ziling was walking out of the bottom of despair and saw a glimmer of light. Listening to the tone of Shang Xiufang’s voice, also looking at her hard-to-believe demeanor, it was evident that Shang Xiufang was not absolutely sure that Yue Shan was dead; hence the reason she personally came to see him.
From this, it could be inferred that she only received the news of Yue Shan’s demise from some third party and thus Xu Ziling still had some leeway to recover. [Translator’s note: this part had several missing characters and kind of gibberish, so I ‘interpret’ it the best I can.]
At that time, only Bi Xiuxin and Shi Qingxuan knew about Yue Shan’s passing. Therefore, Shang Xiufang possibly received the news from Shi Qingxuan.
His mind turning at the speed of light, Xu Ziling sighed and said, “You are Mingyue’s daughter. Ay!”
With graceful posture, Shang Xiufang slowly removed her hood to reveal a magnificent-style-unmatched-in-this-generation beautiful jade countenance. Without blinking her pretty eyes stared at him. “Who are you?” she asked.
Xu Ziling decided to stake it all, to take a risk, by saying, “No wonder Xiufang misunderstood. At that time Laofu intentionally asked Xiuxin to broadcast the news of my death. Past events like fleeting smoke, I really cannot bear to look back!”
He blurted the last two sentences simply because he did not know what to say.
Shang Xiufang’s tender body shook severely, she asked in astonishment, “Why are you doing this?”
Xu Ziling’s entire body relaxed, knowing that he had won this bet. But he had not completely and safely crossed the danger yet, because he did not know anything about Yue Shan’s relationship with Shang Xiufang’s mother, Mingyue. He only needed to say one word wrong, and he would immediately reveal his foundation. In his memoir, Yue Shan had never mentioned this woman, Mingyue. However, after meeting Li Yuan, he had more or less grasped Yue Shan’s style. When there was someone with whom his love and hate were difficult to distinguish, he would be unwilling to mention this individual in his memoir.
In similar fashion, toward Shang Xiufang’s mother, Yue Shan must have had intertwining gratitude and grudges, so that he was unwilling to remember her.
Yue Shan died nearly ten years ago, which put Shang Xiufang at around ten years old; therefore, the news of Yue Shan’s death that Bi Xiuxin sent must have been addressed to her Niang, Mingyue.
Thinking to this point, Xu Ziling rose to his full height, walked over to the window, heaved a deep, deep sigh, with his hands behind his back, he asked, “Is Mingyue well?”
“Niang passed away five years ago!” Shang Xiufang responded in low voice.
Perhaps it was because he had put himself too deep into Yue Shan’s persona, myriads of feeling assaulted his heart. Both in terms of romantic love or in endeavor, it could be said that Yue Shan was a loser from head to tail.
After his wife and daughter were murdered by the ‘Heavenly Lord’ Xi Ying, Yue Shan had dedicated his life to the way of the saber, mastering the shocking-the-world saber technique, acclaimed to be the unparalleled-in-the-world ‘Overbearing Saber’, and was finally defeated under the ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que, and thus the illustrious name he built all his life went down the drain and flowed to the east.
During this period of his life where his family was destroyed and he suffered a crushing defeat, he had been in love with a number of beautiful women, but nothing good has come out of all of those. Perhaps the gratitude and grudges between he and Li Yuan was also caused by a woman. His ‘husband-and-wife’ passionate relationship with Zhu Yuyan was also just a blurry image.
Sighing mournfully, Xu Ziling sadly said, “It’s finished! It’s finished! Mingyue had gone, what else there is to say? Xiufang, go back! You look very much alike your Niang!”
Hot tears gushed out of Shang Xiufang’s eyes; she spoke tremblingly, “Xiufang only want to tell Yue Gonggong [grandpa] something. When Niang received the fake news of Gonggong’s death, she said something. Would Yue Gonggong like to know what it is?”
Xu Ziling quietly calculated; base on the time period, Yue Shan suffering a crushing defeat and returning to his native place to live in seclusion happened forty years ago. At that time Shang Xiufang’s Niang was probably just a little girl in her early teens; otherwise, how could she had such a young daughter like Shang Xiufang? Therefore, she ought to be about the same age as Madame Dongming. From this, he speculated that Yue Shan and Mingyue must have different kind of relationship, not a passionate love between a man and a woman. Besides, Shang Xiufang called him ‘Yue Gonggong’, which confirmed his guess about this kind of relationship.
“What did she say?” he asked in deep voice.
Lowering her voice, Shang Xiufang replied, “She said that she regretted that she did not listen to Yue Gonggong, and failed to live up to Yue Gonggong’s good intention.”
Finished speaking, the beauty covered her face and withdrew; she hurriedly left as if she was fleeing from him.
Xu Ziling breathed another long, long sigh. He nearly wanted to tear off his mask to wipe the cold sweats inside. This kind of test would continue to come. Next time, would he still be able to pass the test without a hitch like this?
As Kou Zhong was stepping over the threshold, two pairs of beautiful eyes immediately shot at him, but their reaction was different.
Dong Shuni, who looked more mature and more brilliant, had her eyes fell on his ugly face first, before moving toward his slightly bulging belly, and then casually toward his physique, which, due to the muscles and bones were tightened up, it appeared to be bending outward, making him appear to be a cun or so shorter on the legs. A look of disgust flashed through her eyes, and then, unwilling to look at him any longer, she lowered her eyes.
Sha Zhijing had never been attentive to either his appearance or his physique. Although this moment he showed a lot more shortcomings than usual, she still did not notice anything different. Her expression looked just like before, she laughed and said, “Mo Xiansheng is here! This is Zhijing’s good meizi [younger sister], who is now Huangshang’s noble Dong Guifei. Hearing Xiansheng’s great name, she came especially to visit Zhijing and to pay her respect to Xiansheng.”
Kou Zhong raised his cupped fist to greet her; using his unpleasant-to-hear fake voice, he said, “Turns out it’s Guifei Niangniang. Please accept Xiaoren’s respect.”
Dong Shuni’s eyes scanned him from top to bottom one more time; she revealed a disappointed and disinterested expression. “This is not Imperial Palace’s inner garden,” she spoke indifferently, “There is no need for Mo Xiansheng to be overly courteous.”
Kou Zhong cheered inwardly for getting through this ordeal, while at the same time, because of applying his inner power, his whole body was unbearably aching, hence he sat with an unnatural posture some distance away on a seat below the two ladies, accepting the cup of fragrant tea offered by a maid, acting like he was listening to the ladies’ instructions respectfully.
This time it was Dong Shuni who really wished that this ugly divine doctor would quickly leave.
During the awkward moment where everybody did not know what to do, Sha Fu rushed in and said, “Taizi Dianxia [His Majesty the Crown Prince] is here; he is asking Mo Ye to immediately come to see him.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong was greatly surprised; why would Li Jiancheng come looking for him?