Book 32 Chapter 11 – Treating Illness For An Enemy
Leaving the Six-Happiness Casino’s main gate the horse-drawn carriage turned into the street.
Shan Wanjing laughed sweetly and said, “Every time you leave the casino, do you always have people waiting for you outside the door?”
Xu Ziling peeked through the curtain at the armed men outside the door, looking for him to give him bad luck; he asked in surprise, “Surely they have people inside the casino standing guard to take precautions against me leaving via the back door or any other doors, or even jumping over the wall. How come they don’t even know that I got into Gongzhu’s [princess] carriage?”
Shan Wanjing nonchalantly said, “If we cannot even deal with these small characters of the dark road [criminal ways], can we, Dong Ming Pai still mingle in the Central Plains’ Jianghu?”
Leaning back into his seat, Xu Ziling turned his head toward the beautiful woman sitting by his side. Smiling wryly, he said, “Gongzhu’s vision is very formidable. Last night, just one look through the curtain, you already recognized Xiaodi.”
With myriads of emotional stirring, Shan Wanjing said, “Xu Ziling, you really are too easy to recognize! My guess is that even Qin Wang has also seen through your disguise; only he hides it in his heart and did not express it out!”
Xu Ziling recalled the previous night’s situation, where in the end Li Shimin advised him to leave the city. It was indeed remarkable; it did not sound like something that anybody would say to a random stranger. His heart was moved, he said, “If there is a chance, please warn Qin Wang that within his Heavenly Policy Mansion, there must be someone who had been bought by Li Jiancheng; because anything that happened in the Mansion, Li Jiancheng seemed to know everything like the back of his hand.”
Just from the fact that Hou Xibai’s disguise of Mo Wei was subjected to questioning and Li Jiancheng immediately received the news, he knew that there was a mole inside the Heavenly Policy Mansion.
Shan Wanjing nodded and said, “I will warn him.”
The carriage was heading in the direction of the pier area. Not knowing what to say, Xu Ziling had to ask, “Gongzhu this time came to Chang’an, was it for any particular reason?”
Shan Wanjing replied indifferently, “Taking advantage while Wang Shichong and the Li Clan have not formally shed all pretense of cordiality, I am rushing to deliver a shipment of weapons, shields, bows and arrows, as well as armors, that have been manufactured in the last two years to Qin Wang, to replace the broken and old weapons. You ought to know how tense the situation in Chang’an is these days.”
Xu Ziling nodded, indicating that he understood. But there was something that he did not understand, “With Li Yuan here,” he asked, “Although they, the three brothers, don’t get along well like fire and water, they should not dare to openly fight desperate battle!”
Shan Wanjing sighed and said, “I am afraid only Laotianye would know the answer to that question! Right now both sides are somewhat wary of each other, considering both sides’ strength in Chang’an. Because Jiancheng, Yuanji’s side obtained Dugu Clan, Nanhai Pai, and Li Mi joining their ranks, also the Tujue people openly and without fear rooting for them, their power enjoys dramatic increase, immediately they tower over the Heavenly Policy Mansion.”
Xu Ziling really wanted to ask her whether she knew that Yue Shan was her Yeye [paternal grandfather (I think he ought to be her maternal grandfather)]. But naturally he did not dare to actually ask her that question.
This moment the carriage stopped at the dock. The huge warship, the Dong Ming Pai flagship, cast its anchor by the bank. Shan Wanjing sighed and said, “Qin Wang already has enough headache, yet you, two Dage plainly chose this moment to come to Chang’an for the treasure hunt. What do you suppose he has to do?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling said, “He ought to welcome us. You can suggest to him that at least under current circumstances, Kou Zhong and I only bring benefit to him without bringing any harm.”
But then he frowned and said, “Li Yuan only look on helplessly at Li Jiancheng’s power growing big, and the people he is pulling in are either families with wild schemes like Li Mi, the Dugu Clan, or those harboring evil intentions like the Tujue; what is he actually thinking?”
Shan Wanjing said, “Li Shibo [uncle (affectionate name for a friend older than
one’s father)] ought to be deliberately letting Li Jiancheng expanding his Chang Lin Army to make Shimin Shixiong [the same ‘shi’ character as in ‘shibo’ above and in Shimin’s name, this is the first time I see this kind of ‘shixiong’ – be sure to read Akolaw’s post below as well] not daring to be disloyal. In his mind, Shimin Shixiong relies heavily on troops, using power to go on the rampage; if he let him become the emperor, Jiancheng, Yuanji, could forget about surviving, it would be even more difficult for his beloved imperial concubines to live to their later years.”
Stunned, Xu Ziling said, “Is he really that clueless on how to look at people?”
Shan Wanjing cast her gaze on the floating snow outside the window; her bosom filled with emotional stirring, she said, “The imperial palace is another world altogether. Deep in the Palace is where most lies and slanders are. Li Shibo’s greatest weakness is that he is affectionate and lustful, so that the women surrounding him are telling him all day long that Shimin Shixiong is not right; hence even a better person would become a bad person who is wicked beyond redemption in his eyes. For example, there was this one time during a banquet in the Palace Courtyard; remembering his birth mother’s early demise, momentarily Shimin Shixiong was overwhelmed with emotion and shed tears in public. Unexpectedly Li Shibo’s imperial concubine slandered him, saying that he harbored a grudge against and jealous of Jiancheng and various imperial concubines. If he was allowed to hold power, he would definitely kill them [feminine] all to the last one. They also said that Jiancheng Taizi is kindhearted and loving; only he could take care of them [again, feminine]. Under this daily effort, naturally Li Shibo put Shimin in a distance and Jiancheng close to him. Furthermore, Shimin Shixiong spent a long time outside on military expedition, how could he have time to make the effort to explain himself? His natural character is the kind of people who refuse to abandon his principle and his stand, who does not keep account on anybody. Himself and Li Shibo are two different kinds of people who are the polar opposite of each other.”
Xu Ziling was beginning to understand why Li Yuan would condone Ke Dazhi frustrating Li Shimin’s awe-inspiring authority. But after he reminded him a little bit, Li Yuan ought to come to see the truth.
After a moment of silence, Shan Wanjing softly said, “When are you planning on transporting the stuffs inside the treasure trove out?”
Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, “We only have vague clues on the treasure trove; until this moment we still have not found the main threads.”
Stunned, Shan Wanjing said, “Unexpectedly you don’t know where the treasure trove is?”
“You could say that,” Xu Ziling explained, “Niang did not have time to completely explain the location before she gave up.”
Shan Wanjing’s pair of beautiful eyes lit up; she cheerfully said, “That is to say that your chance of finding the treasure is just slightly higher than people who completely have no knowledge of the treasure’s location; am I right?”
Xu Ziling was slightly stumped for words. “You could say that,” he replied.
In high spirits, Shan Wanjing said, “Then I advise you to simply give up looking for the treasure trove! Yang Su was intelligent but devious; he was reserved but shrewd. This kind of man plotting actively to build the treasure trove in preparation of rising in rebellion, how could it be that easy to find?”
Smiling bitterly, Xu Ziling said, “Gongzhu seems to be very happy that we can’t find the treasure trove.”
“Of course,” Shan Wanjing admitted frankly, “Do you know that the two of you have become the figures that the outstanding heroes throughout the world have the most misgivings against? If the Duke Yang’s Treasure fell into your hands, you would become like a tiger that has grown wings. At that time Qin Wang will also be forced to immediately launch the attack to avoid the Shao Shuai Army creating the situation that would become big trouble for his Li Family’s effort in unifying the Central Plains.”
Xu Ziling was puzzled, “Such a trivial treasure trove, can it play such a big role?” he asked.
Shan Wanjing asked him back, “Do you know how the existence of the treasure trove leaked out?”
Xu Ziling shook his head blankly.
Shan Wanjing said, “The information was started by Yang XuanGan. In those days he raised his troops in rebellion. To stimulate morale, he claimed that if he could force entrance into Guanzhong, he could unearth his old Die Yang Su’s treasure trove. He also said that the storehouse has enough weapons of superior quality to equip a division of twenty-thousand-man army and enough riches comparable to the state treasury. Even before he was wiped out he still lamented that in vain he had the treasure but could not use it. He had the treasure map entrusted to his trusted aide to break out the siege and take it away. Afterwards the map ought to fall into your Niang’s hands. Everybody thinks that you obtained the secret map from the Luocha Nu [female demon]; turns out there is no such thing.”
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “When Niang passed away, she did not have the secret map on her at all. It must be Niang herself who destroyed it.”
Shan Wanjing sighed and said, “If it were other people, not the two of you, talented martial art masters, who nobody could do anything to you, I am afraid he would have been captured early on and would be tortured to get to the bottom of it, and then there could not possibly be this kind of misunderstanding.”
Xu Ziling looked out at the Yong An Canal; the snow has finally stopped. Both banks have entirely become a pure white world.
A subtle feeling welled up in his heart. This time, meeting Shan Wanjing again, they were like old friends who had known each other for many years, with nothing that could not be talked about, plus they trusted each other. The feeling was cordial and warm.
Shan Wanjing said, “If I had come to Chang’an after the New Year like it was originally planned, I am afraid I would not have come across you!”
Without thinking, Xu Ziling asked, “Why did Gongzhu come to Chang’an early? Did Madame come along as well?”
“Niang did not come,” Shan Wanjing replied, “We received Qin Wang’s urgent letter, hence we had no choice but to deliver the weapons early, simply because recently Li Jiancheng convinced the largest weapon manufacturer in Luoyang, Sha Tiannan to throw his lot with him, and the Sha Family has always amassed a large quantity of excellent quality weapons stored up outside Luoyang. Qin Wang predicted that obtaining the weapons that the Sha Family offered to him, Jiancheng might become unfavorable toward him, hence he has to make good preparation to guard against it.”
“And Li Yuan does not know anything about this matter?” Xu Ziling asked in disbelief.
“So what if he does?” Shan Wanjing said, “Unless Li Yuan forbids his three sons to raise their own armies; upgrading equipment is the most common matter. All weapon factories in Guanzhong are under Li Yuan’s direct control; therefore, his sons must seek help from the outside.”
Sucking in a mouthful of cold air, Xu Ziling said, “In this kind of desperate-fight-could-happen-at-any-moment situation, anything could go wrong and deteriorate into trouble.”
Glowering at him, Shan Wanjing said, “For Kou Zhong, isn’t the more chaotic Guanzhong is, the better it is?”
Xu Ziling frankly said, “If there were no Tujue people or perhaps the demonic school’s tremendously wicked people involved in this matter, Kou Zhong would have thought so. But for the present virtuous cause, naturally Kou Zhong knows the difference between slight or important, urgent or non-urgent.”
Muttering to herself irresolutely, Shan Wanjing asked, “Would Ziling be willing to meet Qin Wang one time?”
Xu Ziling said, “If anybody found out about it, Qin Wang might be accused of having secret ties with external enemies, plus Kou Zhong might not be happy if I do that.”
Shan Wanjing’s jet-black eyebrows lightly knitted, she said, “You guys seem to know something that even Qin Wang himself did not know. Am I right?”
“This is as it should be,” Xu Ziling replied, “Ay! I understand Gongzhu’s good intention toward us. And Gongzhu still have great kindness toward us that we do not know how to repay. Ay! Xiaodi is leaving! But before I do, I have something to say, I hope Gongzhu will listen carefully.”
A dark shadow flitted past Shan Wanjing’s pretty eyes; she gently hung down her head and said, “Speak up then! I hope it’s not something that is too hard to hear.”
Xu Ziling said, “Li Shimin is a powerful, broadly-talented man. Once he determines clearly the enemy and us, he would never allow any selfish sentiment to influence either his decision or action. Gongzhu is looking at a certain side of Li Shimin, while what we are experiencing is the other side of Li Shimin. I don’t want to talk about the details, but I hope Gongzhu could leave this trouble spot as quickly as possible.”
Shan Wanjing’s jade countenance changed repeatedly; she said, “Thank you very much for Ziling’s word of advice, Wanjing understood my own situation. Didn’t you just mention something about paying a debt of gratitude? Although I would not consider it that, but if you guys are willing to do something for me, Wanjing would be extremely grateful.”
Xu Ziling responded affirmatively, “Gongzhu, please speak up. As long as it is within our power to do so, we will definitely do it for you.”
Shan Wanjing hatefully said, “Kill Bian Bufu for me. The longer this man did not die, the longer Niang and I can’t possibly live in peace.”
After leaving the Imperial Palace, Kou Zhong rushed over to see Gao Zhandao and the others first, to coordinate and discuss the details of the tonight’s operation. While there was still one or two sichen before his appointed time to meet with Xu Ziling, he thought about returning to the Sha Mansion first to see if he would have time to rest for half a day, to recover his spirit in order to deal with anything, big or small – that could happen tonight.
Stepping into the Sha Mansion, Sha Fu, greatly delighted, met him and said, “Mo Ye is back just in time. Wu Xiaojie is looking for you!”
Kou Zhong had no idea what to think; he asked, “Wu Xiaojie is looking for me? What for?”
Sha Fu replied, “Let’s get into the reception hall first, we’ll talk inside.”
Kou Zhong asked in surprise, “Wu Xiaojie is waiting for me at the main hall?”
Sha Fu replied, “Dugu Family’s Feng Xiaojie [Miss Feng (phoenix)] is here. Wu Xiaojie is talking with her.”
Kou Zhong was shocked. “Since we have guest, plus she is Wu Xiaojie’s close friend [orig. close friend of the lady’s chamber], it is not appropriate for Xiaodi to barge in!” he said.
Lowering his voice, Sha Fu said, “Feng Xiaojie appears to be coming especially to see Mo Ye. There’s more, Laoye’s order, tonight, for the Lunar New Year’s Eve banquet at the Imperial Palace, he and three Shaoye, as well as Mo Ye, will set out from here at the you hour [5-7pm]. Laoye specifically instructed me to remind Mo Ye. Ha! It is quite possible that Mo Ye is the busiest person in the City of Chang’an.”
This moment they reached the guest room outside the main hall. Having no other choices, Kou Zhong braced himself to step over the threshold and into the main hall.
Chatting in low voices in the corner, one after another, Sha Zhijing and Dugu Feng’s two pairs of beautiful eyes followed his steps as he was walking in.
Kou Zhong stopped some distance away and greeted by raising his cupped fist, “Xiaoren pays his respect to Wu Xiaojie and Dugu Xiaojie.”
To his relief, Dugu Feng did not seem to be suspicious of him; she even stood up prettily and returned the greeting, saying, “Mo Xiansheng honors Feng’er too much!”
With a smile on her face, Sha Zhijing said, “Let’s sit down first before continue talking. Serve tea!”
After seated properly, Kou Zhong said, “I hear Dugu Xiaojie wanted to see Xiaoren; I wonder what instructions do you have for me?”
Sha Zhijing said, “Fengfeng is Zhijing’s intimate friend, we all are of the same side, there is no need for Mo Xiansheng to stand on ceremony.”
Kou Zhong mused inwardly that Zhijing could be considered having a vast circle of friends; unexpectedly she had that many good friends. From this, it could be inferred how well regarded Sha Tiannan was in Luoyang.
Dugu Feng said, “In that case, Feng’er will no longer be polite. This time Feng’er came to beg Xiansheng to treat the illness of one of Feng’er’s elders.”
Momentarily Kou Zhong was still unable to guess; he asked, “Treating the illness of which honorable relative of Dugu Xiaojie?”
Dugu Feng replied, “It’s Feng’er’s Momo [from the dictionary: (dialect) elderly lady – please also read Akolaw’s post below]. She is suffering from asthma. But this past year there have been more frequent attacks; it makes us worry to our death!”
It was only then did Kou Zhong come to his senses. He mused inwardly that treating You Chuhong’s asthma was still all right, but when they came across each other, it would be strange indeed if she did not beat him until he was in a sorry state. Besides, he practically did not have any qualifications to cure her long, chronic illness. Without any better option, he had to resort to his secret art of stalling for time. He said, “Xiaoren is certainly willing to help, but asthma, the cause of disease is so complex, its hand and tail are the longest, and it’s very difficult to be brought under permanent control. After the New Year let Xiaoren come to take a look, and then we’ll decide how we are going to put our hand to it.”
Revealing an embarrassed look, Dugu Feng asked earnestly, “Feng’er knew that Xiansheng’s honored self is so busy, but these past couple of days Momo’s illness is flaring out really bad, I was wondering if Xiansheng could find the time to come with Feng’er to make a detour to our humble abode?”
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly. He has been accustomed to be the physician who ‘once he put his hand to it, vitality will return’. If he went, he simply must show off his ability, otherwise he would make people suspicious.
But treating the illness of such a powerful enemy, it would only bring a hundred of harms without a single benefit; how must he deal with it?
From the side, Sha Zhijing opened up her mouth to help, “Mo Xiansheng simply has to help; Zhijing has not seen Lao Furen [old madam] for a long time, let us go together to pay an official call on her, the Senior!”
Kou Zhong wanted to decline yet it was beyond his capability to do so. Hardening his heart, he said, “Two Xiaojie’s orders, naturally Xiaoren has to follow.”
Greatly delighted, the two ladies ‘escorted’ him to hurry up into the carriage and drove toward the Dugu Mansion.
Coming to Hou Xibai’s Passionate Nest, Xu Ziling found out that the latter was one step ahead of him to be here, bending over his desk, writing or painting something, looking so relaxed and contented.
Concentrating his attention, Xu Ziling came to look. “It’s her!” he said in shock.
Hou Xibai had just put the finishing touch on the vivid and lifelike, distinctive-styled and lively-stroked painting of a beauty. Astonished, he asked, “You know Ji Qian?”
Xu Ziling said, “I saw her at the Six-Happiness Casino today; she was gambling fiercely and ruthlessly.”
With leisure yearning, Hou Xibai said, “I can imagine her boiling-wave enchanting look by the gambling table. Ji Qian is the most popular lady of Shang Lin Yuan; I don’t know how many high officials and nobilities, rich merchants and huge businessmen grovel under her pomegranate skirt. I never thought that even after exchanging my face, I could still be in her favor.”
Displeased, Xu Ziling said, “This is called ‘it is hard to change one’s essential nature’. Just how many emotional debts have you incurred so far? Quickly own up to the facts one by one. Otherwise, when I take your disguise, I would have to pack my food before finish eating.”
Embarrassed, Hou Xibai said, “It’s not that I wanted to go to the pleasure house to fool around. It’s just that every night, if Er Shaoye and that kid Bu Jie don’t go to the pleasure house, they won’t be able to sleep peacefully, and he regards me as his best pleasure house buddy, plus when I don’t have anything to do, Xiaodi become agitated, hence I have no choice but to risk my life to accompany the gentlemen. Honestly, Xiaodi has already been exercising extreme restraint, otherwise when Ziling is back to be me, you will encounter even more trouble.”
“Forget about it!” Xu Ziling said, “Luckily I can’t possibly see her tonight!”
Hou Xibai’s handsome face turned slightly red, he cleared his throat and said, “Ziling, please forgive me. I heard that with Ji Qian in the lead, a group of Shang Lin Yuan’s popular ladies might come to the Palace to perform singing and dancing tonight. I hope she won’t be looking for you!”
Seeing Xu Ziling’s face, he hastily added, “Ziling, there’s no need to be worried; the feeling between Xiaodi and she is only limited to common courtesy, there has been no activity that oversteps the bounds of propriety. At most just a few intimate words! Hey! No! She and I are clear and innocent; we are just friends who can talk to each other! This beauty has always been a lone flower admiring itself, just like Shang Xiufang, who only sells her art and not her body.”
Dejected, Xu Ziling sat down. Smiling bitterly, he said, “Other than that, what else does Hou Xiong have that will give Xiaodi a bit advantage?”
Hou Xibai tossed the painting brush and spoke in serious expression, “I have just obtained information that Yang Xuyan never attend any public events, and this gives me headache. Based on Xiaodi, one person’s strength, I am afraid I cannot take him.”
Hearing that, Xu Ziling’s eyebrows were knitted deeply. It was half a day later that he spoke in heavy voice, “It’s a pity that tonight both Kou Zhong and I cannot spare time for a separate task. However, if one person is willing to help, capturing or killing Yang Xuyan shouldn’t be a problem.”
Emotionally moved, Hou Xibai asked, “Who is this person?”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Hou Xiong is able to cooperate with her, it might be something that you seek but fail to get. I’ll give you three chances to guess, let’s see if you could guess it.”
His curiosity greatly piqued, Hou Xibai said, “Ziling, pleased don’t torture Xiaodi! Quickly open your revered mouth and tell me!”
Xu Ziling said, “Other than Shi Feixuan, who would have the ability to help Hou Xiong dealing with Yang Xuyan?”
Greatly shaken, Hou Xibai slapped the table and said, “I should have guessed earlier that it is she. I did not think she would also come here.”
Xu Ziling said, “I will go immediately to see her. Hou Xiong may continue painting. I want to see which beauty you have not had a chance to paint yet, so that when Xiaodi see her in person, it won’t be like I don’t even know her name.”
Hou Xibai cheerfully said, “In that case, Xiaodi will make an exception by painting a few stinky men!”
The two looked at each other and roared in laughter. Nothing else needed to be said.