Book 32 Chapter 2 – King of Qi Returning to the Capital
Accompanying Li Jiancheng were Xue Wanche and Feng Liben. The three borrowed the east wing of the Sha Mansion to have a private talk with Kou Zhong, but none of the Sha Family was invited to join.
Kou Zhong was still especially wary toward Xue Wanche, simply because he could see that both in terms of intelligence and martial art, within Li Jiancheng’s Crown Prince Faction, he could be considered top tier [orig. ‘shang shang’, borrowing Akolaw’s term: A1].
After chitchatting for a moment, Li Jiancheng went straight to the point, “From Yin De Fei, I hear that Mo Xiansheng is determined to use your medical skill to help the people of the world, to obey your Jiashu’s instruction to roam the world, hence you have no intention of becoming an officer in our Great Tang. Is that right?”
Just by looking at how fast he obtained the news from Yin De Fei, Kou Zhong knew how close Li Jiancheng’s relationship with Yin De Fei was. Naturally it was also possible that it was Chang He who reported this matter to him, although this possibility was not high, simply because it involved Kou Zhong’s support on his career.
With flickering eyes Xue Wanche and Feng Liben fixed their gaze on Kou Zhong; they wanted to know how Kou Zhong would respond. Naturally Kou Zhong also know that Li Jiancheng had a reason for asking him that question. He wanted to see if Kou Zhong could be bribed; hence he did not hesitate to deploy his army and move his troops like this, urgently coming to the Sha Family to have a good talk with him. There must be an urgent matter that Li Jiancheng needed Kou Zhong’s cooperation.
If he said one word that was out of line, it would be strange if Li Jiancheng did not doubt him. Thereupon Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Dianxia [Your Highness], please understand, men coming out of his home to make his way in the world, who does not want to establish some glorious deed? Only because Jiashu is proficient in reading fortune by looking at my appearance that he told me that these ten years Xiaoren would have to go through dangers one after another, therefore, I must go to the south and scuttle to the north in a life of a wanderer; only then will I be able to resolve my fate. Hence he admonished Xiaoren to go everywhere and all directions to practice medicine.”
Relieved, Li Jiancheng said, “Turns out Mo Xiansheng has this secret trouble. This is easy. This Dianxia will give Xiansheng some travel expenses first. Some day when Xiansheng is tired of traveling you may come back here; at that time this Dianxia will have unified the world, I guarantee that Xiansheng will enjoy endless glory, splendor, wealth and rank.”
Kou Zhong pretended to have his eyes brightening as he looked at Feng Liben putting a heavy bag on the small table by his side.
Li Jiancheng smiled and said, “Here is two hundred taels of gold, a trivial token of my appreciation, Xiansheng please kindly accept.”
Kou Zhong shook all over; lying prostrate to express his gratitude, he said, “Thank you Dianxia for the reward.”
Back to his seat, Kou Zhong felt that Feng Liben and Xue Wanche were thirty-percent less alert, their expression was more relaxed.
Li Jiancheng said, “Now we all are of the same side, there is no harm in this Dianxia to speak forthrightly. Supposing Huangshang inquires about the cause of Zhang Jieyu’s illness, this Dianxia hopes that Xiansheng would speak the truth about the cause of Niangniang’s strange illness just like Xiansheng told this Dianxia at Shang Ling Yuan last night, which was the invasion of slow-released cold and hot highly toxic poison.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong cried, ‘Formidable!’ If he was not being tactful and voluntarily entered into cooperation, it would be guaranteed that he would not end well. If it were someone else, under this kind of making-threats-and-promises situation, who would dare not to obediently submit?
Hanging his head down, Kou Zhong said, “That is as it should be. Xiaoren understands how to report to Huangshang!”
None of Li Jiancheng, three men, did not show happy expression. Playing it down, Xue Wanche said, “Mo Xiansheng must remember, you must not take the initiative to raise this issue to Huangshang; you must wait until Huangshang inquires it before you begin to tell him the particulars without concealing anything. In the medical field, Xiansheng is a great expert, naturally you know how to speak like seamless heavenly clothes a lot better than us, these laymen.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong was startled; lifting up his eyes, he replied, “Leave this matter to Xiaoren. Xiaoren will carefully formulate good explanation. When Huangshang inquires, then I will be ready to give him an answer.”
Seeing how sensible he was, Li Jiancheng was greatly delighted; he said, “Mo Xiansheng indeed did not fail this Dianxia’s expectations toward you. I wonder how long will Mo Xiansheng stay in Chang’an?”
Inwardly Kou Zhong said that as soon as Laozi obtained the treasure, even if you kneel in front of me, begging me to stay, I couldn’t possibly agree. However, on the surface he answered, politely and modestly, “Should be about twenty more days. Jiashu’s instruction is that I should never stay in one place more than a month.”
Li Jiancheng rose up and said, “Since Xiansheng is going to stay in Chang’an for a while, this Dianxia will send you two young and pretty palace maids to serve Xiansheng in bed. I guarantee that Xiansheng will be satisfied.”
Kou Zhong was shocked, thinking to himself won’t that mean Laozi’s every single movement would be under your, Li Jiancheng’s close watch? He busily sprang up and said, “Dianxia’s good intention, Xiaoren can only appreciate it in my heart. Because Jiashu told me that as long as the bad luck has not passed, I must not come near women.”
Stunned, Li Jiancheng said, “Unexpectedly there is such a strange taboo. Your esteemed uncle must be an extraordinary person. Ha! In that case, I’ll wait for Xiansheng to finish your wandering and come back here. This Dianxia will make arrangement for Xiansheng then.”
Kou Zhong sent off the three men to the main gate, and watched as the three galloped away under escort of their personal bodyguards. He was about to slip away to see Xu Ziling when he came across the Second Young Master Sha Chenggong, who had just come back. He immediately grabbed Kou Zhong and pulled him back into the house to talk. Kou Zhong had no choice but to sigh for his bad luck.
Sitting down on a corner of the main hall, Sha Chenggong cheerfully said, “Mo Xiong’s medical skill is indeed like a deity’s. After your needle treatment Madame Qing felt like she had shed her mortal body and exchanged her bones, the sickness and pain are completely gone, she is extremely happy; she repeatedly urged Xiaodi, no matter what I have to take Mo Xiong to Feng Ya Ge tonight for a simple meal, to let her personally express her gratitude. That’s why Xiaodi once said that outward appearance is not important at all, the most important thing is whether one has real skill or not. You must not, by any means, touch Madame Qing. Hee! Other than Madame Qing and Miss Xi’er, Feng Ya Ge has beautiful women so numerous that one could just bend down and pick them up. Tonight, I guarantee Mo Xiong’s luck with women will reach the heavens.”
Inwardly Kou Zhong mused that I came to Chang’an for the purpose of contending for hegemony over the world; I don’t have time to accompany you visiting a brothel. But on the surface he revealed an awkward expression as he shook his head and said, “I was born to live a hard life. Very soon your Jiefu [older sister’s husband; in Book 30 Chapter 11 and 12, Chang He was the fourth Meifu (younger sister’s husband)] Chang He Daye might come looking for me; I don’t know which Emperor relatives’ illness I will have to treat. About the luck with women on that Madame Qing’s side, I have no choice but to trouble Er Shaoye to go and enjoy it alone. Ha! I might make some tonic for you, Er Shaoye to boost your vitality.”
This was a half-true-half-false statement; obviously Sha Chenggong was not without any misgiving toward Chang He. He had no choice but to show a pained expression and said, “No problem. But could LaoGe do your best to get away and make a detour for a moment? Otherwise, it would be very difficult for Xiaodi to answer Xi’er.”
This moment a subordinate came to report that Chang He’s good self has arrived. Inwardly Kou Zhong was amused; actually, he was more afraid of Sha Chenggong and Chang He’s ‘confrontation’. Patting Sha Chenggong’s shoulder, he said, “Let Xiaoren see what I can do!”
And then he hurriedly went out to greet Chang He.
Xu Ziling changed back to his disguise, the yellow-faced man Yong Qin. He had an appointment with Lei Jiuzhi to meet at Hou Xibai’s small courtyard, and then together they would go for dinner followed by a trip back to the casino. Coincidentally Hou Xibai also came.
Actually, it was not a coincidence at all, because a few hours every day Lei Jiuzhi would come here to wait, to see if Hou Xibai left any information or perhaps wanted to meet.
Grabbing his head, Hou Xibai said, “Li Yuanji and Yang WenGan are back!”
Xu Ziling and Lei Jiuzhi looked at each other. This could mean that those two had abandoned their plan to intercept the two boys outside the Pass and changed it into dealing with them inside Chang’an, or perhaps they were guessing that the boys had already entered Chang’an, hence they must return immediately to deal with them.
Hou Xibai said, “This is very strange. According to intelligence, Ziling and Shao Shuai have appeared in Weinan, another big city inside the Pass, in Chang’an’s vicinity, and even ran into Jingzhao Lian people over there and injured several men. Hence the reason Li Yuanji and the others were rushing back upon receiving the news.”
Astonished, Lei Jiuzhi asked, “Where did Xibai get this information from?”
“It was Qin Wang Mansion’s people who told me,” Hou Xibai replied, “Just now when I met Qin Wang, he asked me if I fought Ke Dazhi, what would be my chance of victory? Remembering that it might be Ziling’s battle, I said I have 50% confidence. Hearing that, Qin Wang was very happy, he rewarded me ten taels of gold, double the amount of gold that Li Jiancheng gave me.”
Lei Jiuzhi said to Xu Ziling, “Li Shimin must be at the end of his patience toward Li Jiancheng.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “That must be the case. This is called even Buddha has a fire! Li Jiancheng’s biggest blunder was involving the Tujue, making Li Shimin feel that he is in danger. Actually, in the struggle between the factions in Guanzhong, the key to its success or failure has evolved to whether the Eastern Tujue would be able to deploy large scale invasion or not.”
Hou Xibai said, “In my opinion, Li Shimin is having a major headache; although in the battlefield he is a triumphing-in-every-battle commander-in-chief, but back in Chang’an, he is facing another kind of battle strategy, crafty plots and machinations, and enemies committing all manner of crimes. Furthermore, Li Jiancheng is the perfectly legitimate successor to the title of the Emperor, receiving support from Li Yuan’s favorite concubines’ faction, plus he has the demonic school and the Tujue people backing him, it could be said that Li Shimin is caught in a completely take-a-beating, disadvantageous situation. I really can’t think of any way to help him.”
Lei Jiuzhi was puzzled, “Within the Great Tang Army, Li Shimin has great prestige. As soon as he issued his order, won’t Li Jiancheng be beaten and be utterly defeated, and even Li Yuan won’t be able to do anything about it?” he asked.
Shaking his head, Hou Xibai said, “The House of Tang adopts governmental military system; after fighting a battle, they return home. Government soldier returning to the farm, they are no different than ordinary citizens. In the event that the central government wants to deploy government troops, they have to issue military symbol of authority to local prefecture or county. And then the provincial governor of the prefecture or county, together with capital city’s guards jointly verify the authenticity of the military symbol of authority; only then will they be able to send troops. Military training is carried out locally every winter. Supposing Li Shimin wanted to raise arm in rebellion; first of all, he must obtain the military symbol of authority from Li Yuan’s own hands. Secondly, such a large-scale mobilization, how could it not alarm Li Jiancheng? Perhaps even before the government soldiers arrived, the Heavenly Policy Mansion would have been beaten to pulp already.”
Xu Ziling began to understand Yang WenGan’s usefulness. Such a big boss of a large underworld gang who held tyrannical power over a territory, without any military symbol of authority, he could deploy a large number of men to deal with anybody.
And the Tujue martial art masters under Ke Dazhi’s leadership could play an even more critical role in this kind of situation.
Hou Xibai went on, “Many times Li Shimin has asked Li Yuan to allow him to attack Liu Wuzhou and Song JinGang, who are bidding their time in Taiyuan like a tiger watching its prey, but he was thwarted by the Crown Prince and Imperial Concubines Factions, precisely because they are afraid that seeing the situation is not favorable to him, Li Shimin would gather the troops outside and declare his independence, to such an extent that he might turn around and attack Chang’an.”
Lei Jiuzhi gained a sudden understanding, “No wonder Li Shimin values an outsider like you so much. If you could ruthlessly dampen Ke Dazhi’s might, he could at least kill Li Jiancheng’s arrogance. Looking around the Heavenly Policy Mansion, although they have martial art masters like a cloud, but even Zhangsun Wuji was defeated under Ke Dazhi’s hands. Fighting one-on-one, they do not have anybody who could withstand Ke Dazhi.”
Smiling bitterly, Hou Xibai said, “Hence the reason Qin Wang told me to come with him tomorrow night into the Imperial Palace to participate in the Lunar New Year’s Eve banquet. This time we’ll have to see Ziling’s martial art skill!”
“Tomorrow night!” Xu Ziling was surprised, “Ay! I was just going to tell you a plan to deal with Yang Xuyan; too bad it was going to be carried out also tomorrow night.”
And then he told them the details of Yang Xuyan might assassinate Gao Zhandao during the Tong Xing She’s New Year’s Eve family dinner tomorrow night.
While upon listening to this Hou Xibai’s eyebrows were knitted deeply, Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, “Don’t worry! Yang Xuyan has a close relationship with the House of Tang, how could he dare to miss this kind of occasion? Supposing he really wanted to proceed with the assassination operation, he would only do it before or after the event, or perhaps making an excuse to leave. As long as we make proper arrangement, we still have the opportunity to kill him.”
Hou Xibai’s eyes lit up; he said, “This time we definitely must not let him slip away. Otherwise Ziling and Shao Shuai’s identity would be exposed to light.”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Even if he is fully aware of our identity, or perhaps just before the battle he manage to slip away, he would definitely not broadcast this matter out. It’s just that our situation will be even more dangerous. That’s all.”
The other two looked at him in bewilderment. Xu Ziling explained one step further, “The logic is very simple, simply because of his Shifu is also Hou Xiong’s Shifu, Shi Zhixuan, who is painstakingly waiting for us to get the Duke Yang’s Treasure out. In his eyes, other matters are only secondary.”
Slapping his thigh, Lei Jiuzhi said, “This will give us more leeway in carrying out our plan; there will be no more misgivings.”
Hou Xibai said, “Now it should be Xiaodi’s turn to tell Ziling everything that has been happening these past two days I am in disguise as Mo Wei!”
Kou Zhong pulled Chang He back to the main gate; making a show of being very much in earnest, he lowered his voice and said, “Let’s get out first and talk.”
The four subordinates that Chang He brought with him gave one of the horses to Kou Zhong, so that two of them had to share a ride as they galloped out of the Sha Family’s new mansion, in the direction of the Yue Ma Bridge.
Pretending to be in distress, Kou Zhong, ‘in so much pain that he did not want to live’, said, “Xiaoren got entangled by Er Shaoye that I nearly died, fortunately you, Chang Daren came to the rescue; otherwise, I really don’t know how to get away from him.”
Chang He laughed and said, “Is Chenggong trying to get Xiansheng to treat Madame Qingqing, whose beauty and fame spread far and wide?”
“Treating an illness is not the problem,” Kou Zhong replied, “What I am most afraid of is that he wanted me to go drinking and socializing with brothel beauties. Wine can confuse character, beauty is even more formidable. Xiaoren is practicing Tongzi Gong [virgin boy skill/power], if it is broken, more than thirty years of heart and blood will go down the drain.”
Chang He revealed a look of sympathy; momentarily he did not know how to comfort him.
Beating the snake following the stick [see Book 3 Chapter 3], Kou Zhong said, “Can Chang Daren do Xiaoren a favor?”
Chang He showed his natural color as a man who upheld yiqi; patting his chest, he said, “Whatever it is, Mo Xiong only need to tell me, Xiaodi will definitely carry it through to the best of my ability.”
Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, “These past two days I treated people’s illnesses nonstop, I am so tired that I nearly die, when I get home, Er Shaoye is entangling me to death. Hey! You know that sometimes I need to quietly rest, alone. Can I ask that when I am hiding, you cover for me by making an excuse that I am treating someone else’s illness at your request?”
Chang He gladly said, “This should be no problem. But Huangshang ordered me to notify you: tomorrow night, the Lunar New Year’s Eve banquet at the Palace, Mo Xiong must attend. When the time comes, Xiaodi will come to pick Mo Xiong up and bring you to the Palace.”
Kou Zhong’s remark just now was nothing more than to find an excuse not to stay at the Sha Mansion to eat the New Year’s Eve family dinner, so that he could deal with Yang Xuyan’s assassination. This moment he was dumbstruck and unable to reply, while crying, ‘What bad luck!’ inwardly.
Chang He went on, “Mo Xiong has become the most well-received person in Chang’an. Not only Huangshang and Taizi Dianxia think highly of you, even Qi Wang, who had just returned this morning, also wanted to invite you to Feng Ya Ge tonight to have a chat. On this, Xiaodi did not dare to decline on your behalf.”
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly. Even after going around and around, he still had to attend the King of Qi, Yuanji’s banquet. He spoke dejectedly, “Aren’t I supposed to go to the Palace early morning tomorrow to treat Niangniang’s illness?”
“Of course Qi Wang is aware of that,” Chang He replied, “Mo Xiong only need to stroll into his banquet for a moment, and that should do it.”
Kou Zhong pushed for a final effort; he sighed and said, “Chang Xiong seems to forget that I am training Tongzi Gong; I am most afraid of seduction.”
“Leave this matter to me,” Chang He replied, “I will secretly notify Qi Wang, asking him to make appropriate arrangement; I guarantee that nobody is going to seduce you, Laoxiong.”
Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, “What time is Qi Wang’s banquet going to be held? If there is still time, I’d like to go home and take a nap to restore a bit of spirit. This is called the way of maintaining good health.”
Chang He took a glance toward the setting sun in the west, “There’s still about a sichen or so,” he replied, “It’s not a big deal if Mo Xiong comes a bit late. Xiaodi will speak for Mo Xiong!”
Kou Zhong asked to be excused, pulled his rein to turn his horse around, and flew away as if he was escaping.