Book 32 Chapter 13 – Intimidation and Threat
When Kou Zhong arrived at Hou Xibai’s Duoqing Wo [Passionate Nest], Xu Ziling has not yet returned. Lei Jiuzhi and Hou Xibai were chatting idly.
Kou Zhong took of his mask and tossed it onto the small table by the chair; sitting down dejectedly, he said, “Wearing this thing is so uncomfortable.”
Hou Xibai agreed wholeheartedly. He said, “Those who have never worn a mask will never know the happiness of not wearing a mask. But Lu Miaozi really deserved to be called the number one highly skilled person in the world; this mask can pass off as genuine, not only it could convey facial muscles’ expression completely, it also enables the skin to breathe. Otherwise it would be even more uncomfortable.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Hou Gongzi must have a habit of looking yourself in the mirror; otherwise, how could you know that clearly?”
Hou Xibai’s handsome face turned red, he crossly said, “Kou Xiong seems to be very happy to disparage me. I did look in the mirror, but it was because I have to imitate the expression and posture of Ziling’s ‘Mo Wei’, not because it’s a habit.”
Kou Zhong blurted out laughing happily; he said, “I really wanted to see whether you could always maintain your elegant, romantic, warm, cultured, confident and at ease manner. But when you are angry, you still look very good. No wonder there are so many girls liking you. Uh! How come Ling Shao is not back yet?”
Lei Jiuzhi said, “He went to see Shi Feixuan!”
Kou Zhong jumped in fright. “What?” he blurted out.
Hou Xibai rudely said, “What is there to make a fuss about? We need a martial art master’s help. Outside of Ning Daoqi, who might be more qualified than she?”
Kou Zhong asked in surprise, “Why do we need a martial art master’s help?”
Afraid that the two would argue, Lei Jiuzhi hastily said, “Xibai obtained the information that Yang Xuyan never attended public events, while tonight you and Ling Shao are up to your ears with work; therefore, we need Shi Xiaojie’s help.”
Kou Zhong’s eyebrows deeply knitted, he said, “Shi Feixuan is a fairy. Except for dealing with the female demon, she only exchanged a few strokes against Ling Shao in that Jade Annulus of He Clan’s affair. In my opinion, she can’t possibly be directly involved in the-sword-come-the-saber-go struggle of the Jianghu.”
Lei Jiuzhi said, “But the one we are dealing with is a demonic school’s man, also this matter concerns all the people of the world; it should be a different matter altogether!”
Patting his chest, Kou Zhong made a pledge toward Hou Xibai, “Gongzi, don’t worry. Tonight, unless Yang Xuyan did not come, Xiaodi will definitely snatch back the other half of Image Scroll from him. If I went missing from the banquet in the Imperial Palace, nobody would really bother to pay attention.”
From somewhere outside the courtyard came a burst of firecracker sound, noisy and lively, reminding them of the approaching festive day.
Hou Xibai never thought that Kou Zhong would be this concerned over his other half of the Image Scroll. Instantly his view on Kou Zhong was changed greatly; he spoke gratefully, “Just now Xiaodi’s words were offensive, I am asking for Shao Shuai’s forgiveness.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “I was intentionally teasing you. This is perhaps my unique way to express friendly feelings. I also love to tease Ling Shao. I am sure Hou Xiong will get use to it really quickly. Ling Shao and I are people who put yiqi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice] above everything else. Your business is our business. Besides, my impression on that kid, Yang Xuyan – cannot be worse than this. Others might be afraid of him, Yang Xuyan, but to me, he is nothing!”
Hou Xibai said, “I heard Ziling said that Yang Xuyan had suffered great loss in your hands.”
Kou Zhong said, “That time Yang Xuyan’s luck was too lacking, plus he underestimated me, Kou Zhong, while I will never be careless by underestimating the enemy. Therefore, the one suffer losses was naturally him.”
Astonished, Lei Jiuzhi said, “Listening to how you usually love to exaggerate, it is very easy to think that you are pompous and arrogant, but the fact is that you are really not like that. Is that some kind of disguise?”
Spreading his hands, Kou Zhong said, “If even that thing can be disguised, then I am really a greatly-crafty, greatly-wicked man.”
Hou Xibai tried to explain on his behalf, “Kou Zhong only tries to make his words a bit more vivid and interesting. When I come across a beautiful woman, my words also become even more unconstrained and free; not only spirited thought gushes forth, when it comes out, it becomes poetry.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “I wish that when Xiao Ling is taking your disguise, he won’t run into Shang Xiufang. In my opinion, she has a very good impression on you! Ay! When we have time later, I really want to learn one or two tricks from you on how to deal with girls.”
This moment Xu Ziling came back. Grabbing his head, he said, “I just saw Li Shimin.”
The three sprang out of their chair in fright. “What?” they blurted out in chorus.
Putting on his Mo Wei disguise back, Xu Ziling entered the west gate of the East Market, heading toward Xing Chang Long. In his mind he was reviewing what Hou Xibai told him about what happened these past few days.
There was still nearly one sichen before the banquet at the Imperial Palace. He and Bu Jie, Bu Ting, would be picked up personally by Duan Zhixuan to be taken into the Palace City.
When he nearly arrived at Xing Chang Long, suddenly he heard a female voice calling out, “Gong Chenchun!”
Xu Ziling was shocked. He had quickly forgotten the name Gong Chenchun; he only remembered that his name was Mo Wei.
Stunned, he looked up. A horse-drawn carriage galloped past him. The curtain was raised, revealing the ‘Great Immortal’ Hu Fo’s beloved daughter Hu Xiaoxian’s flowery jade countenance.
With a long face, she coldly said, “Finally you remember your own name? Quickly get on the carriage for this Miss [Guniang].”
Inwardly Xu Ziling cried, ‘Close call!’ If this moment the one disguised as Mo Wei was still Hou Xibai, definitely this woman would be offended and then the situation would turn bad.
Currently, although the situation could not be called good, but there was still room to redeem it. Listening to the tone of his voice, she must have met Hou Xibai’s Mo Wei. Naturally Hou Xibai did not know her; perhaps he was even immeasurably self-satisfied thinking that even though he was wearing the mask, he still had the charm as before.
She was unhappy because she was given the cold shoulder by Mo Wei, and thus Hu Xiaoxian used her Ming Tang Wo’s influence to investigate ‘his’ background, hence she was able to wait in here for his honorable self.
Having no other choice, Xu Ziling pulled the carriage door open and slipped inside.
Only after he sat down by this beauty’s side did the carriage start to move; it traveled slowly down the street.
The sound of firecrackers continued on from everywhere, the atmosphere was filled with the celebration of the New Year. Sniffing the scent coming from Hu Xiaoxian’s tender body brought peculiar feeling in Xu Ziling’s heart.
Her pretty face sullen, Hu Xiaoxian spoke coldly, “So who are you, Mo Wei or Gong Chenchun?”
Xu Ziling apologetically said, “That day I did not dare to greet Xiaojie, simply because Ol’ Gong had secret trouble; begging Xiaojie’s forgiveness.”
With fury that was difficult to calm down, Hu Xiaoxian said, “You really know how to play dumb! I thought your eyes grew on your temples. Even more unexpected, you are more engrossed on women than gambling; every night you went to Shang Lin Yuan to fool around.”
‘Injustice!’ Xu Ziling cried inwardly, but of course he could not explain. Embarrassed, he said, “It’s just because bi dongzhu [(humble) my boss] loves to go to the pleasure house to enjoy the wind, flower, snow and moon. I was just chaperoning him!”
Hu Xiaoxian crossly said, “You still say you are chaperoning? Were it not for you being particularly attentive to Shang Lin Yuan’s popular lady Ji Qian, how could she act happy and her heart was flipping over when she was talking about you?”
Xu Ziling was scared out of his wits; he and Hu Xiaoxian only had predestined affinity of meeting only one time, how come the tone of her voice was filled with intense jealousy? Naturally he did not dare to argue.
Hu Xiaoxian looked at him. Laughing coldly, she said, “You have nothing to say, do you?”
Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, “Hu Guniang [Miss] seems to know everything about me very clearly.”
Hu Xiaoxian said, “I already knew that you would come to Luoyang and Chang’an, so I specifically notified friends who are guarding the Pass to pay particular attention to your coming and going. Who would have thought that unexpectedly you were using different identity to sneak in? Tell me, you went to such great lengths, what conspiracy are you plotting?”
It suddenly dawned on Xu Ziling the reason why the frontier defense guarding Guanzhong had his portrait. What explanation could he possibly give her?
Sighing, he said, “It was because Ol’ Gong has some powerful enemies that I had to turn to the north from the south, and also had to change my surname and use another given name to evade the enemy’s eyes and ears.”
Without any trace of politeness, Hu Xiaoxian said, “What offending-the-Heaven-and-reason thing did you do that others are so bent on giving you a hard time?”
‘Mei Ji’ Sina [see Book 26 Chapter 2] came to mind, Xu Ziling said, “This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly, it’s hard to explain in a few words.”
Hu Xiaoxian said, “I am not interested in minding your personal affairs; I just want to know, why you don’t go to the casino? Are you afraid of running into me?”
Clearing his throat, Xu Ziling said, “Xiaojie misunderstood! I just arrived in Chang’an no more than a few days ago; I am not familiar with the environment yet. Give me a couple of days, naturally I am going to pay Guniang a visit at Ming Tang Wo.” [Translator’s note: honestly, I don’t understand why sometimes he called ‘Xiaojie’, the other time ‘Guniang’; but if I just use ‘Miss’, whatever subtle difference between the two will be lost in translation.]
Lowering her voice, Hu Xiaoxian said, “If I told the Bu Family brothers of Xing Chang Long and uncovered your true identity, what might be the consequences?”
Xu Ziling really wanted to reply, ‘At most I will have to waste a bit of lips and tongue to explain’, but naturally he did not want to arouse her temper and her gambler instinct. If she really did tell on him, even he himself did not know what the consequences might be. Without any better option, he lowered his voice while suppressing his anger, “Hu Da Xiaojie, please be magnanimous; would you let Xiaodi off?”
Hu Xiaoxian was very proud of herself. ‘Pfft!’ she broke into tender laughter and said, “Just consider you really know how to talk; no wonder you can coax that girl Ji Qian and made her so happy.”
Xu Ziling only wanted to get away as quickly as possible. Smiling apologetically, he said, “Xiaodi still have an urgent matter to attend to; would it be possible for me to pay Guniang a visit at Ming Tang Wo another day? We can chat in details then.”
Hu Xiaoxian’s pretty eyebrows lightly knitted, she said, “Men’s words, how much can be trusted?”
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling replied, “My words are naturally different from other men’s. Otherwise, if Da Xiaojie come to pay a visit and launch a punitive campaign, Ol’ Gong would have to bag my food and leave before I finish eating.”
Hu Xiaoxian was in complete bliss. “It’s best that you know it,” she said, “Ah, Gong Ye! Xiao Nuzi [little girl] has a favor to ask you.”
Xu Ziling knew something was not right, but under her threat, he was unable to refuse. He spoke in defeat, “As far as Xiaodi’s capabilities extend, and it’s not killing and burning, not something that will offend Heaven and reason, I will definitely do it for Da Xiaojie.”
Hu Xiaoxian suddenly leaned toward him. Bumping him lightly with her fragrant shoulder, she said with a giggle, “Of course it is something within your capabilities. I want you to gamble the ‘Shenxian Shou’ [Deity Hand] Chi Shengchun’s Six-Happiness Casino until they collapse, so that he won’t mingle in Chang’an anymore.”
Xu Ziling looked at her in shock. This change was beyond his expectation. How was he going to deal with it?
By the time Kou Zhong was back at the Sha Mansion, he only had less than half a sichen before they had to set out to the Imperial Palace.
Meeting him, Sha Fu said, “Mo Ye’s new clothes are already in your room. Shall I get two maids to wait on Mo Ye freshening up and changing your clothes?”
Kou Zhong said, “Are you forgetting that what I am training is Hunyuan Yi Qi Tongzi Gong [lit. time immemorial (or origin of the universe) one breath virgin boy skill (or power)]?”
Taken aback, Sha Fu asked, “Wasn’t it Hunyuan Tongzi Gong?”
Inventing crazy nonsense, Kou Zhong replied, “The complete name is Hunyuan Yi Qi Tongzi Gong. Hey! Did you get someone to make me new clothes?”
Walking Kou Zhong to his bedroom, Sha Fu spoke in low voice, “From selecting the material to the measurement, it was San Furen [Third Madame] who took care of it all by herself. She is most concerned over Mo Ye, oftentimes she asked me where did you, Mo Ye go.”
Kou Zhong almost forgot about her; a warm feeling welled up in his heart, he said, “Tomorrow I will have to express my gratitude to San Furen.”
Sha Fu walked him to his bedroom door. He reminded him repeatedly, “When Mo Ye is ready, please come to the main hall. I’ll have someone deliver hot water for you.”
Before Kou Zhong entered his room, two young maids were walking past him. One of them was the Second Young Master Chenggong’s beloved concubine Madame E’s personal maid Yu He. When she was greeting him, she also cast him a coquettish glance, so that seeing her, his heart was itching; but he warned himself.
Although he was ugly, his physique was lofty, plus he had skills, hence he received favor from womenfolk. To Yu He, someone with lowly status, if she could marry him and became his wife, she would have the hope of flying up to the top of the branch to become a phoenix.
Thinking about Yu He, he could not help remembering Zhai Jiao’s maidservant Chuchu, with whom Kou Zhong had sincere feeling. He wondered how Zhai Jiao was doing? He was sure Zhai Jiao would treat Susu’s child as her own. By this time, Little Lingzhong should be able to walk on his own using his little legs!
With myriads of thoughts filling his heart, Kou Zhong pushed the door and entered in.
Wanwan’s gentle and beautiful voice came from the inside, “Welcome! Shao Shuai’s honorable self has returned!”
Kou Zhong sighed inwardly. Closing the door, he went straight into the inner chamber. The peerless beauty Wanwan was holding the new set of clothes. “How about Wanwan wait upon Shao Shuai and help you change your clothes?” she said.
Displeased, Kou Zhong said, “You just want to enjoy Xiaodi’s touching body, don’t you? Hiding in my room like this, if it gets out, you will affect the innocence of this divine doctor.”
Wanwan still maintained her confident and calm demeanor. Putting the clothes gently back in the chair, she walked over to him and said with a smile, “Shao Shuai please calm down. You promised Wanwan something; have you done it?”
Kou Zhong replied, “Such a small thing, of course there’s no problem. Demonic Emperor Relics for you, the treasure belongs to me. No need for Xu Ziling’s personal guarantee; the words that Laozi said has never been not counted.”
Stunned, Wanwan said, “Demonic Emperor Relics? You knew?”
Kou Zhong calmly said, “I already knew early on. You don’t have to make an oath according to those demonic school ghost incantations either. But I will only hand the Demonic Emperor Relics over to you after we leave the city. You’d better take the responsibility of protecting us. If Shi Zhixuan snatched it away, you must not blame us.”
Wanwan fell into the disadvantageous position. Frowning, she asked, “When are you going to get the treasure?”
Kou Zhong replied, “You may not believe it, but until this moment, we still have not found the exact location of the treasure. Otherwise Xiaodi would take the advantage of the moment where everybody is going to the Imperial Palace for the feast to get the treasure and slip away. Do you understand?”
Frowning, Wanwan said, “Why do I have the feeling that I shouldn’t believe you? If it was not because Kou Daye still was not sure of the treasure’s location, today you did not need to go to the Ministry of Works and be busy until the sky turned dark and the earth black!”
Astonished, Kou Zhong said, “You are surely well-informed.”
Wanwan laughed tenderly and said, “Anything that happened in the Capital, don’t think that you could hide it from our eyes and ears. I also know that Ziling’s disguise is Yong Qin. Chang’an’s Tong Xing She was setup by you in here to do undercover work. Therefore, if you are thinking of taking the treasure out and running away quietly, you must be joking.”
This time it was Kou Zhong’s turn to fall into the disadvantageous position. He spoke angrily, “Why haven’t you taken off my clothes and served me taking a bath? You are just standing there absent-mindedly like a bird-head only thinking about how you are going to harm me, what his granny’s thing are you?”
There was a knock on the door. The hot water has arrived.