Book 32 Chapter 12 – Able to Meet Together Only by Fate
The Dugu Clan’s mansion house was located in the Guang De Li [lit. light virtue neighborhood] east of the West Market. The Yue Ma Bridge was precisely at the southwest square of the neighborhood block. The scale was grand, with layer upon layer of buildings, yet unlike the Sha Mansion, which was new construction mansion house.
In Kou Zhong’s impression, he had seen this mansion house’s profile, because it occupied the area far away from the other magnificent houses in the neighborhood. However, because the year of its completion was before the sixth year of the Emperor’s reign, he set it aside and did not pay too much attention to it.
From the Sha Mansion, this place was only a little more than the time needed to drink a cup of hot tea away, but Kou Zhong deliberately wanted to make Dugu Feng happy, thus he pretended to be clueless. When they alighted from the carriage at the plaza of the main courtyard, which everybody else was already familiar with, Kou Zhong, out of habit, scrutinized the main building’s construction.
Dugu Feng asked in surprise, “Mo Xiansheng must have a lot of experience in landscape garden and building architecture!”
It was Sha Zhijing who bragged for him, “Because of mutual interest with the Ministry of Works’ Liu Zhenghui Daren, Mo Xiansheng has made his acquaintance with him for two days and they have become close friends.”
Kou Zhong mused that turned out Sha Zhijing was paying attention to his business. According to reason, Chang He should not broadcast everywhere with whom Kou Zhong had dealings with, so where did her information come from? Perhaps when he had the chance later he ought to inquire clearly.
Dugu Feng cheerfully said, “Turns out Xiansheng is an expert in this field as well. Feng’er knows nothing about architecture. I wonder what Xiansheng’s evaluation on our ‘Xi Ji Yuan’ [lit. west lodge garden] is.”
Kou Zhong cried inwardly, ‘Good question!’ Clearing his throat, he said, “This is an old Sui architectural style, and it ought to be built at the beginning of Sui, hence in style, technique and materials, it still has Wei, Jin and North-South dynasties’ influence.”
Dugu Feng came to his side and said in astonishment, “Xiansheng’s insight is very accurate. So what are actually the differences with current construction?”
Inwardly Kou Zhong replied that perhaps only Laotianye, or perhaps Liu Zhenghui – would know; yet he blurted out an answer anyway, “Each generation has distinct technique and spirit, as well as appearance – of the architecture. An expert would know in just a glance.”
Sha Zhijing originally thought that other than medical and diseases, he did not know anything else. This moment she suddenly had a whole new level of respect for him. She asked Dugu Feng in low voice, “Your ‘Xi Ji Yuan’ indeed has a long history; I thought it was a new construction.”
Dugu Feng replied, “It was refurbished at the beginning of the Emperor’s eighth year. This residence building used to be cabinet minister Chen Gong’s official residence. Chen Gong was Yang Su’s trusted aide; although his official position was not high, at that time he had quite an authority and power.”
Kou Zhong was severely shaken, “What?” he blurted out.
Stunned, the two women looked at him.
Kou Zhong realized he had lost self-control. Fortunately this moment Dugu Feng [peak] personally came out to meet them, saving Kou Zhong from wasting his time to invent some story to explain his blunder.
At the same time, he changed his mind. Now he determined to show some achievement in treating You Chuhong’s asthma; otherwise, You Chuhong, this temperamental and eccentric old woman might not want him to continue treating her illness, and then Kou Zhong would lose the opportunity to hunt for the treasure.
Xu Ziling circled around Dong Da Si once, but he was still unable to find Shi Feixuan’s Yu He An [jade crane nunnery]. While he was wondering inwardly, he found out that behind Dong Da Si, there was a narrow alley with forest trees on both sides covering the sky, giving up the impression that the path was leading directly into some mysterious hidden place.
Due to the falling snow, the path was covered in thick snow, so that if one did not pay attention, it would be so easy to miss it.
Xu Ziling entered the alley. His feet were producing crunching noise as he walked along the snowy path. Suddenly the path opened up to a wide panorama. An imperial ancestral temple, which size was only about one quarter of Dong Da Si, appeared before his eyes. It was plain and simple, without any adornment, giving the impression of a quiet and secluded place where people could hide from the dust of the earth.
Were it not for he absolutely must find Shi Feixuan, he would hate to disturb the peace of the stand-aloof-from-worldly-affairs Buddhist nuns inside the nunnery.
Reaching the outer courtyard main gate, he was about to knock using the ring on the door, when he sensed that somebody inside was coming toward the gate.
Xu Ziling mused, ‘What a coincidence!’ Taking three steps back, he stood aside, so that whoever opened the door would not be startled by his presence standing outside the door.
The door was opened a little, a man slipped out, wearing a hood that was pulled low to cover his eyes. For a moment Xu Ziling was unable to see his appearance.
Both men were startled at the same time.
Xu Ziling never expected that the person coming out was not a Buddhist nun, but a man.
The other side was startled because he never expected that someone would stand outside the door.
The man looked up from under the hood. Xu Ziling also looked at him. Their eyes met. Both men’s tiger-body was severely shaken.
The man cried out in surprise, “Ziling!”
Xu Ziling groaned inwardly. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, he said, “What a coincidence! It’s Shimin Xiong.”
Unexpectedly it was Li Yuan’s second son, the King of Qin, Li Shimin.
Kou Zhong put his ‘Three Fingers Zen’ on the artery of You Chuhong’s exposed thin-boned wrist under Dugu Feng [peak], Dugu Feng [phoenix], Sha Zhijing, Dugu Ce, and several other Dugu Family’s sons, grandsons, daughter-in-laws and grandsons’ wives’ attentive gaze; immediately he moved his gaze to look deeply onto You Chuhong’s face.
This old woman, not only she did not look fiery like when they met in Luoyang, her eyes were deep, her breathing hurried and brief; she appeared to be in a lot of pain from the torment of her asthma.
You Chuhong was unlike Zhang Jie Fei. If Kou Zhong was not careful, she would immediately see through what is true and what is false.
Toward his mother, Dugu Feng [peak], this wily old fox, was acting like a completely filial son; deeply concerned, he asked, “Mo Xiansheng, is my Niang’s illness really problematic?”
Kou Zhong asked, “When did Lao Furen’s asthma start?”
Opening her old eyes, You Chuhong, weakly and without strength, replied, “It was thirty years ago. Xiansheng’s true qi is very refined, pure, and authentic; I wonder which family or sect’s internal school’s true qi is it?”
Dugu Ce replied for him, “Mo Xiansheng’s skill came from teachings handed down in his family; his uncle is a famous divine doctor in the south.”
Kou Zhong mused inwardly, ‘Little Ce is a good kid.’ And then, full of confidence, he said, “I wonder if Lao Furen’s asthma came from martial art training?”
You Chuhong nodded and said, “Xiansheng’s insight is very accurate. Lao Shen’s [lit. old body] illness was from when I trained Pifeng Zhang Fa [lit. cloak/cape staff technique] in the past, and suffered a setback. At first I did not care, plus I thought it was a momentary occurrence; who would have thought that it deteriorated into an uncontrollable stage? The past few days were even more exhausting.”
Most of Kou Zhong’s internal skill and true qi came from self-study by groping in the dark, hence he knew about the channels in human body like the back of his hands. He said, “Lao Furen’s Pifeng Zhang Fa relies mainly on the Twelve Regular Channels, with Eight Extraordinary Channels as the secondary, exactly the opposite of great majority of other internal skills that rely mainly on Eight Extraordinary Channels, and here lies the problem.”
Sha Zhijing humbly asked for guidance, “What is the relationship between the Twelve Regular Channels and the Eight Extraordinary Channels?”
Although there was no lack of experts in internal school’s qigong present, it could be guaranteed that no one knew how to answer this question, because everybody simply trained by following some prescribed method; they only knew how but did not know why, let alone understanding the relationship between these two types of meridians of different nature.
In this aspect, Kou Zhong’s knowledge entirely came from the blind man riding a blind horse, basically by relying on introspection and analysis of his own experience. He smiled and said, “The so-called extraordinary channels are Ren, Du, Chong, Dai, Yang Qiao, Yin Qiao, Yang Wei, and Yin Wei, these eight meridians. They are both not constrained by the ordinary meridians, and not restricted by the regular meridians’ yin and yang; hence the name extraordinary.”
Dugu Feng’s [phoenix] eyes emitted a look of reverence; she said, “Xiansheng’s medical theory is brilliant; it is indeed admirable.”
Kou Zhong seized the opportunity to show off his prowess; he said, “The qi and blood in human body circulates and flows through the Twelve Regular Channels; the cycle comes back to the start, maintaining normalcy. If qi and blood rush forth together, the meridians are full to overflowing, they flow into these eight channels; leaving the path and keep flowing, it becomes extraordinary channel. Hey! As an analogy, consider the Regular Channels as Jianghe [could refer to Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, or simply ‘river’], while the Extraordinary Channels as lake and deep pool. When the river is full to overflowing, the water flows into lake and deep pool. When the river dries up the water flows out of the lake and deep pool. Both function as regulator to each other. Lao Furen’s asthma is due to the coordination between the Twelve Regular Channels and the Eight Extraordinary Channels became dysfunctional, the calamity reached the lung passage, over the years it manifested into this illness.”
Shaken, You Chuhong said, “After all these years, can it still be cured?”
Under everybody’s expectant gaze, Kou Zhong said, “Lao Furen, please don’t worry; with several applications of needle, feeling the way to adjust the balance, Lao Furen then alter the circulation of the channels within your body, I guarantee that we will immediately see some result.”
Everybody was greatly delighted. Dugu Feng [peak] said, “Fortunately we have Mo Xiansheng going out to aid the world; indeed this is the good fortune of the people under the heavens.”
Kou Zhong took out the nine-needle copper case, and said, “After Xiaoren uses the needle, I guarantee Lao Furen will be able to sleep comfortably tonight. Tomorrow I will come back to continue Lao Furen’s treatment. But because of an urgent matter, Xiaoren will have to leave immediately; I am asking everybody’s forgiveness.”
Inwardly he was delighted. From You Chuhong, he would be able to pry into the secret of the Twelve Regular Channels. The great benefit to his saber technique would be difficult to estimate.
Both men did not expect that they would meet face to face on a narrow path under this kind of situation. Li Shimin was the first to recover. “Are you looking for Shi Guniang [different ‘Miss’]?”
Embarrassed, Xu Ziling nodded. He said with a wry smile, “Turns out last night you have really recognized me.”
Li Shimin nodded. After muttering to himself irresolutely, he said, “Let’s talk inside!”
Turning around, he pushed the courtyard door and took the lead to enter in. Xu Ziling followed behind him.
Two Buddhist nuns were sweeping the snow accumulation in the courtyard. On the doorstep of the main temple stood an old Buddhist nun, holding a string of beads in her hand. With kind brows, pleasant eyes [idiom] she greeted the two with joined palms.
Li Shimin said, “Chang Shan Shitai, please don’t blame Shimin for leaving and then coming back, simply because I came across a good friend, and wish to borrow your honorable temple’s quiet room to talk.”
Chang Shan Ni [Buddhist nun] was not surprised at all, she did not even ask anything; she simply said, “Two Shizhu [benefactor], please follow Lao Ni this way.”
She took the two around the imperial ancestral temple and into the guest room on the left side of the middle courtyard to sit, and then she quietly left.
After the two were seated properly, Xu Ziling took his mask off and asked, “Shi Xiaojie [regular ‘Miss’] is not here?”
Li Shimin’s eyes emitted a complicated but passionate look; shaking his head, he said, “Her fairy-self went out and has not come back. Nobody knew when she is returning.”
Inwardly Xu Ziling cried, ‘Bad!’ He smiled wryly again, and said, “How is Shimin Xiong going to deal with us?”
Li Shimin sighed and said, “That question ought to be asked to Jiancheng Taizi and Qi Wang Yuanji; it has nothing to do with Li Shimin.”
Recalling that day in Luoyang, where Li Shimin ordered his men to surround and kill him, Xu Ziling felt it was very difficult to return to the relationship he had with Li Shimin in the past. “Why did Shimin Xiong look for Shi Xiaojie?” he asked, “Ay! This is not an appropriate question, is it?”
Li Shimin shook his head and said, “Ziling must not think that there is anything that you should avoid. It was because my situation is not good that I came to look for Shi Guniang to confide with her. She is the only person who could make me tranquil and even-tempered. It’s just that I never expected that Ziling has such a close relationship with her.”
After pondering quietly for a moment, Xu Ziling made up his mind. He said, “If Shimin Xiong is willing to let the two of us move about freely in Chang’an, perhaps we could help Shimin Xiong dealing with the disaster pressing in on your eyelashes.”
Emotionally moved, Li Shimin said, “Does that include sitting and watching, but remaining indifferent, toward your effort to get the treasure trove?”
Xu Ziling returned to his calm demeanor; he smiled and said, “With Shimin Xiong’s out-of-this-world talent, you are still afraid that the treasure might return to Kou Zhong? We know what’s slight or important, urgent or non-urgent; comparatively speaking, the Duke Yang’s Treasure is merely a trivial matter.”
Li Shimin’s heroic emotion welled up; he laughed aloud and said, “Listening to the tone of Ziling’s voice, it seems to me that after Kou Zhong obtains the treasure trove, Ziling will no longer participate in his Shao Shuai Army. If that is the case, then there’s no harm in letting Kou Zhong taking away the treasure trove. However, Xiaodi must also declare it clearly: the day Kou Zhong seizes the treasure and leaves Chang’an will be the day that Xiaodi will begin to deal with him with all my strength.”
“One word and it’s settled,” Xu Ziling replied, “Does Shimin Xiong know that you have become the next principal target of the conspiracy of numerous powers joining hands together?”
Astonished, Li Shimin said, “Ziling came to Chang’an for, at most, just a few days! How come you seem to understand Chang’an’s situation better than Xiaodi?”
Xu Ziling replied, “This matter, start explaining and it’s a long story. If my guess is correct, in the not-so-distant-future, there will be a big change in Chang’an. If Shimin Xiong does not deal with it properly, your Li Family’s world will be all split up and in pieces, and forever cannot recover your strength.”
Li Shimin’s countenance changed, he said, “Unexpectedly it is that serious.”
Xu Ziling asked, “In the near future, does Shimin Xiong have any plan to leave Chang’an to go someplace else?”
Li Shimin shook his head and replied, “Under current circumstances, even if I have a mind to go on a military campaign, Fu Huang would never allow me, and Huang Xiong [emperor elder brother] would also attempt to stop me.”
“That’s strange,” Xu Ziling said, “According to reason, even if your esteemed older brother is directly involved, it would be very difficult for them to make their move inside the city.”
Shaken, Li Shimin said, “I understand what Ziling said. If they want to take advantage while I am out of town to deal with me, there will be a great opportunity ahead.”
Xu Ziling’s spirit was greatly roused.
Li Shimin went on, “Every year, the third day after the beginning of Spring, Fu Huang usually go to Mount Zhongnan to hunt, accompanied by me and Yuanji, while Taizi usually stays behind to take care of Chang’an. On Mount Zhongnan, we usually stay at Ren Zhi Gong [lit. humane wisdom palace]. That place does not have any defensive means; if the enemy attacks and we are not prepared, and they have enough military power, their chance of success is quite high.”
“That must be the enemy’s plot,” Xu Ziling commented.
Li Shimin said with a cold laugh, “Since I already know it, they could forget about having any chance of success.”
Xu Ziling said, “The implication of this matter is extremely extensive, Shimin Xiong must not treat it lightly. But if you have proper arrangement, perhaps Shimin Xiong will be able to turn the whole situation around, so much so that you might be able to ascend the Taizi position.”
Li Shimin’s eyes flickering brightly, he said, “Xiaodi is listening respectfully with washed ears. Ziling please explain the rise and fall of the terrain [idiom: the whole sequence of events] one by one in its entirety, so that Xiaodi can consider it in details.”