Book 33 Chapter 13 – Emotion Cannot Be Stopped By Oneself
Inside a small courtyard west of Qing Ming Canal, Yun Shuai invited Kou Zhong to sit in the hall. He laughed and said, “A wise person reflecting a thousand times can still make a mistake. This is your honorable country’s widely popular saying that is the truth. If you only thought carefully, you ought to know that I can’t possibly let my clansmen know that I am here. But An Long could be considered extremely capable; even when I disguised myself as a Dashi [ancient Chinese term referring to Persian and Arabs (Courtesy of Akolaw)] merchant coming to the east to do business, I still could not hide from him.”
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong shook his head and said, “I underestimated Yang Xuyan. The strange thing is, logically speaking, he has no reason not to come.”
Yun Shuai said, “Why do you think he has no reason not to come?”
Kou Zhong said, “Because last night I stole something that is extremely important to him, quite possibly make him never able to get a glimpse of his Shifu Shi Zhixuan’s Immortal Image Method.”
Staring blankly, Yun Shuai said, “Yang Xuyan is unexpectedly Shi Zhixuan’s disciple?”
After giving him a brief explanation, Kou Zhong said, “Yang Xuyan really wishes to eat my flesh and drink my blood; this scheme was planned by him. Tell me, do you think he ought to come?”
Yun Shuai smiled and said, “He did come; he even crouched on a high place behind the temple, ready to ambush Shao Shuai, only too bad the mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind it; I ambushed him from behind, only his agility was indeed outstandingly quick. At that time I had a hundred-percent confidence that I would be able to subdue and kill him, but he still managed to escape. This man is indeed Shao Shuai’s formidable opponent.”
Kou Zhong cried, ‘Lucky!’ inwardly. He said, “Was Guoshi unable to bear not going to your temple to worship God? How could you coincidentally come across me?”
Yun Shuai sighed and said, “When one already left his hometown for a long time, it was easy to have one’s thoughts and feeling. Seeing the entire city of Chang’an celebrating the beginning of Spring invoked the homesick feeling in my heart, inadvertently I came to the temple and wandered around the neighborhood. I saw a large number troops with torrential rush momentum were charging over, so I knew you met a mishap.”
Kou Zhong expressed his gratitude again, while casually asked what happened after they parted.
Yun Shuai’s pair of eyes emitted an intense murderous aura, but the tone of his voice was unusually calm; sketching it light shade, he said, “Since Shi Zhixuan’s sneak attack, I knew that I am his target. I also knew that you guys were unable to stop him. Therefore, after my power recovered somewhat, I leaped onto a big tree by the road and hid over there, letting the carriage leaving without me.”
Kou Zhong stared blankly. He wanted to say something but then hesitated.
Yun Shuai spoke indifferently, “Let the things of the past remain in the past, I could retain my life, hence I still have a chance to take revenge on them.”
Kou Zhong had nothing to say; he could only earnestly hope for Xie Xianting, two persons – that Heaven would help the worthy, that Shi Zhixuan could not catch up with them, or perhaps he disdained to kill them [see Book 29 Chapter 1].
Kou Zhong was dying to ask his relationship with Zhu Can, but in the end he decided it was inappropriate for him to open his mouth; he changed the subject instead, “Why did Guoshi come to Chang’an?” he asked.
Yun Shuai pondered silently for a moment before saying, “I came to see the situation in the Central Plains. We, the Western Tujue have been fighting against the Eastern Tujue for many years; although there have been many victory and defeat between the two, the fact is that we are actually inferior to them. If your distinguished country could turn the chaos back and put it under control, the land under heaven is unified, the most important thing is naturally to deal with Xieli by all means, then our objective would be the same, hence there would be the possibility that we could cooperate.”
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, “Guoshi came to Chang’an, evidently you decided that the House of Tang has the best chance to unify the world, am I right?”
Yun Shuai sighed and said, “Originally I thought so. But once I saw how numerous and complicated the factions in Chang’an are, how the Qin Wang Mansion and the Taizi Mansion, the two cannot exist together, to such an extent as to miss the golden opportunity of going to the east to attack Luoyang and let Wang Shichong sorting out the remnants of Li Mi’s troops – I can’t help but feeling worried for the Li Family. If Xieli’s evil clutches seize this opportunity to invade, the Central Plains will be in great danger.”
Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “Now that I know the reason why Guoshi came to Chang’an secretly, maybe we could become battle companion to deal with the big enemy.”
Knitting his brows, Yun Shuai asked, “Are you referring to Shi Zhixuan?”
Kou Zhong replied, “Not only Shi Zhixuan, there is also Zhu Yuyan and Zhao Deyan. These three are joining hands in a conspiracy to deal with Qin Wang Li Shimin.”
Greatly astonished, Yun Shuai said, “Isn’t Li Shimin your enemy as well? Why don’t Shao Shuai sit on the mountain and watch the tigers fight, while also seize the opportunity to take away the weapons and other things from the Duke Yang’s Treasure?”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “This matter is hard to explain in a few words. For the time being there is a partnership relation between Li Shimin and me; if Xieli invades, all of us would have to pack our food and leave before we finish eating.”
After staring fixedly at him for a moment, Yun Shuai laughed hoarsely and said, “Although I still don’t understand you too well, furthermore, your action and style don’t match my character, but surprisingly, I admire you very much. About this cooperation, we must take our time in making the decision. I wonder if Shao Shuai could make arrangement for me to see Qin Wang first …”
Kou Zhong gladly said, “If I can’t even accomplish such a trivial matter, how could we talk about working together? I’ll do it right away. I will give Guoshi a definite answer before nightfall today.”
Inwardly he thought it was really not suitable for him to tarry, he still had to go quickly to see Shang Xiufang.
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Usually the Bei Li [northern neighborhood] was already crowded and bustling with noise and excitement, today not even one drop could trickle through. Every casino had people at the main gate directing traffic; only for every person exiting would they allow another person entering, so that there was a long line outside the door.
Even Lei Jiuzhi, someone who saw casinos as his home, could only gaze wistfully at the gate and sigh, but had to step back. On the contrary, Xu Ziling happily pulled Lei Jiuzhi to turn around and leave; he said with a laugh, “Everybody is scrambling to make a fortune, while in fact, it is the casino’s changzhu, guanzhu [owner] are the only ones getting rich. We’d better stroll around a little bit, and then later on we go to Fu Ju Lou to enjoy the beautiful scenery of snowflakes floating down over the Yue Ma Bridge.”
Lei Jiuzhi said, “These few days, all the restaurants and wine shops are closed, only pleasure houses and casinos are still opening their door to do business. With nowhere else to go, everybody is just flocking into these places; that’s why their doors are like the market.”
Xu Ziling led him walking south along the Yong An Canal; he lightly said, “Don’t you use your lotus-flower-lustrous-tongue to tell me to brave the snow to wait for our turn at the casino door. The temples should be open?”
Stunned, Lei Jiuzhi asked, “Are you thinking of going to Wu Lou Si? Aren’t you afraid of alerting Shi Zhixuan?”
Xu Ziling said, “Shi Zhixuan is a holy monk living in seclusion in clear meditation, how could he have spare time to go all over the place watching and searching for people? Besides, the temple must be very crowded. We take advantage of the confusion to get into the temple; if we are lucky, we might find the entrance to the buried treasure, and then we would be able to make proper arrangement with what is about to happen.”
Greatly astonished, Lei Jiuzhi said, “I thought you are hoping that Xiao Zhong is not going to find the treasure, and then he would give up his ambition of striving for the world; why do you suddenly become this enthusiastic?”
Sighing lightly, Xu Ziling said, “Supposing after doing my best I still cannot find the treasure, I can persuade him to give up. The thing is, I already promised him that I’d do my best to look for the treasure. Something that I promised, I have to strive my hardest to accomplish it.”
Wu Lou Si appeared ahead. As expected, people were coming and going, the rain and snow did not affect their enthusiasm to worship God and pray for His blessings.
Lei Jiuzhi said, “The people coming to worship Buddha are mostly benevolent believers with advance age; I wonder if the closer one is to one’s death, the more one hope that there will be another heaven and earth after death, so that their life could go on.”
Xu Ziling did not expect Lei Jiuzhi might suddenly make such a deep philosophical remark; he responded, “Based on what they have seen and heard, people might, over the years, deepen what they know about life from experience. Take Kou Zhong for example, he said that before, he never believed such thing as decreed by fate. But after going through all kinds of situation, he felt that in everything, there is a pair of hands of the fate behind it; therefore, gradually he is developing different way of looking at things.
Lei Jiuzhi laughed and asked, “Does Ziling believe in fate?”
Looking up to let the snowflakes floating onto his face, Xu Ziling replied, “I don’t know.”
He could not stop the memory of Shi Feixuan wearing Buddhist nun attire this morning from appearing in his mind; a burst of bitter feeling rose up in his heart.
What kind of arrangement would fate bring him?
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Kou Zhong hurriedly came to Shang Xiufang’s temporary residence, located within a standalone courtyard house with a fully enclosed courtyard [see footnote Book 31 Chapter 11] west of Shang Lin Yuan.
The heavenly woman whose beauty and stage name was known throughout the world, who was waiting eagerly at the west wing, saw his arrival.
She was sitting quietly in front of the qin, tuning its silky string, facing the window, looking at the garden outside, where snowflakes were floating down, in harmony, dense, freely dancing in the air.
In the hall of the wing, the stove was blazing, so that the room was as warm as the spring.
Perhaps her subordinates were out to enjoy the festivities, but other than two maidservants waiting on her, there was no other person in sight.
After closing the door, the maid left. The pavilion courtyard was quiet without any noise, a piece of tranquil harmony. Only occasional noise of the firecrackers from a distant place was heard, as if it kept reminding them that today was the big auspicious day of New Year’s Day, but that it was something that happened in another world.
Shang Xiufang softly said, “Sit down by Xiufang’s side, will you?”
Kou Zhong lifted a chair and set it down by her side, slightly behind her, and sat down obediently.
‘Ding! Ding! Dong! Dong!’
One after another the notes to the ‘Xian Weng’ [lit. immortal elderly man] rang. While tuning the instrument, Shang Xiufang casually plucked segment after segment of the melody. Although it was an improvisation, none of the melody was not elegant.
Suddenly this talented girl transformed these originally discontinuous notes into a beautiful musical score, like disjointed segments of sentences linked together into a chapter, brimming with sad, parched, bitter, and also making the listeners wallow in, and were enchanted by – melody, as if it tenderly excavated the deepest feeling in everybody’s heart.
Kou Zhong breathed her enchanting fragrant, he looked as her snow white, scallion-like fingertips pushed, pressed, and plucked the seven strings of the qin; momentarily his mind was intoxicated.
After going through the fierce battle at the Bosi Hu Si, where he narrowly escaped death and came out alive – just now, he felt as if it had happened in another reincarnation, that it was something that happened so far away that it could not be touched, and that it was something to be forgotten.
The song ended. Kou Zhong was still in daze, unable to control himself.
Fixing her gaze at the snowscape outside the window, Shang Xiufang spoke softly, “You finally came!”
A feeling that Kou Zhong could not identify welled up in his heart; although it was such a simple remark, it was just like her qin, narrating thousands of words, hiding with it endless disappointment, pleasant surprise, anticipation, as well as hope.
Clearing his throat, Kou Zhong looked at the graceful, undulating outline of the side view of her face, her sparkling-and-translucent-like-jade, rosy-within-the-white tender and lovely flesh of her cheek, her sparkling and dazzling, unfathomably deep beautiful eyes. Somewhat at a loss on how to respond, he said, “Xiufang Xiaojie ought to be very busy today, how come you are staying alone in here, amusing yourself by playing the qin?”
Shang Xiufang unhurriedly replied, “Xiufang politely declined any visitor today, because it is the anniversary of the death of my deceased mother.”
Hearing that, Kou Zhong was greatly astonished; if that was the case, why did she implore him to come alone today to see her?
Shang Xiufang turned her head to look at him, she spoke indifferently, “Other than contending for hegemony over the land under heaven, is there anything else that would move Shao Shuai’s heart?”
Song Yuzhi came to his mind, Kou Zhong was on alert inwardly. Smiling wryly, he said, “Xiaojie could try to ask Qin Wang the same question. I am afraid the answer would be precisely the same. Anybody who got sucked into this whirlpool, it is not just difficult to get out, it is even more difficult to pursue other things.”
‘Pfft!’ Shang Xiufang giggled tenderly and said, “You’re lying!”
Her demeanor and facial expression was like an innocent and unaffected, honest but shy little girl. Looking at her, Kou Zhong felt a rush of excitement; he awkwardly said, “Xiaojie is really formidable; unexpectedly you could even tell lies when you hear it.”
Highly excited, Shang Xiufang said, “It’s good to talk to you to relieve boredom; if it were someone else, he would have use thousand methods a hundred words to explain and circle around the lies. Oh, your face is not bad either!”
Surprised, Kou Zhong said, “This is the first time anybody ever praised my fake face.”
He could not help remembering Dugu Feng’s ‘viewing in a new light’ demeanor toward him, and mused inwardly that he had just spoken another lie.
But this time Shang Xiufang did not see through his lie; turning her head back to look at the scenery outside the window, she spoke indifferently, “I wonder if Shao Shuai is afraid to see Xiufang.”
Kou Zhong could not bear to lie to her again, he calmly said, “In the world, which family’s man does not wish to get close to Xiaojie? It’s just that because Kou Zhong cannot spare time or has no time for a separate task, that time in Luoyang I missed our appointment, that’s all. I am asking Miss to forgive me.”
Shang Xiufang shook her head and said, “I was not talking about that time only, but in general. Womenfolk’s intuition is very formidable, unlike men who always think that every woman is interested in them. From some subtle facial expression and reaction, it is very easy to read the secret in men’s heart.”
Unable to argue, Kou Zhong smiled ruefully and said, “Even if Xiaodi wanted not to believe, I simply can’t. Only meeting a few times, plus we have never had any in depth conversation, but Xiaojie understands me very well, it even feels like even more clear than Xiaodi himself.”
Shang Xiufang’s beautiful eyes floated over him again. In this sidelong glance, certainly her seductive appearance was growing without restraint, overflowing with ten-thousand-kind amorous feelings. The most formidable part was that in her pair of eyes, there was a hooking-soul, absorbing-spirit charm, so that being at the receiving end of her gaze, Kou Zhong’s heart was severely swept away, and nearly had his soul hooked by her for real.
He was accustomed to see beautiful women, but compared to Shang Xiufang, all those women lacked that kind of charm-beneath-the-surface touching flirtatious expressions.
Only the simple-and-elegant-like-a-fairy Shi Feixuan had enough qualifications to make claims as an equal with her. But naturally the latter would never use that kind of bewitching-people-to-the-death expression in her eyes to look at people like Shang Xiufang did.
Laughing sweetly, Shang Xiufang, as tender and soft as water, said, “Does Shao Shuai understand?”
Absent-mindedly, Kou Zhong asked, “Understand what?”
Lowering her head to the base of her neck, Shang Xiufang said, “Dork!”
‘Ding! Ding! Dong! Dong!’
This touching beauty’s delicate, long, gentle and beautiful hand glided over the strings of the qin, playing a piece of gentle and cheerful melody. Even the slowest and obtuse man would know that she was happy and pleased because she had Kou Zhong by her side, accompanying her.
Kou Zhong’s scalp went numb as he suddenly understood. Just now Shang Xiufang said that she could catch the content of the other side’s heart from the man’s facial expression and demeanor. But now unexpectedly he failed to catch the meaning behind her ‘flattery’, so it served him right for her to regard him as a dork.
Ay! What should he do? His first love was Li Xiuning. After knowing Song Yuzhi, although gradually he was able to shift his love to her, but the beauty before his eyes right now was so provoking-tender-affection; hurting her heart was truly the most cruel thing to do.
Although for a man to have three wives and four concubines was none of the other people’s business, he has never entertained any idea of having wives and concubines; he felt that he could only focus his love on one woman. Being fickle in love was really not a burden he’d like to bear.
Besides, he had made a pledge to unify the world; he practically did not have time to consider the passion between a man and a woman, because the most difficult problem was still weighing his mind.
Shang Xiufang stopped playing the qin, the last note was still lingering in the air. The beauty laughed slightly and spoke gently, “What is Shao Shuai thinking?”
With a pained smile Kou Zhong said, “This time Xiufang Xiaojie cannot see it through?”
Shang Xiufang spoke softly, “Heroes and outstanding talents always have other aspiration to be embraced. Today I was able to invite Shao Shuai to honor me with your presence, Xiufang is extremely grateful.”
Kou Zhong was afraid she might go on, changing the subject, he said, “That night Li Jiancheng was giving a dinner party, it seemed like you have not seen through that I am Kou Zhong, how did you suddenly find out?”
Shang Xiufang replied, “Just when you were leaving, you cast me a glance, and that glance revealed your identity. Therefore, there’s a saying that secrets may be inadvertently revealed.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Now I am really a bit scared of you!”
Shang Xiufang looked directly at him. Her beautiful eyes staring deeply into his, she said, “No need to be afraid, Xiufang is already very clear of the content of Shao Shuai’s heart.
Kou Zhong’s heart was boiling, he blurted out, “No!”
But as soon as the word came out of his mouth, he already regretted it.
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Xu Ziling and Lei Jiuzhi walked back and forth more than a dozen times among the crowded-to-bursting-point tide of people in the temple, stepping through every nook and corner. But there was still not in the least bit of clue on the possible entrance to the buried treasure.
Taking the opportunity while the monks in the temple were still busy in receiving the benevolent believers, they even sneaked into their apartments to search, yet the result was still nothing.
The two sat down in the center pavilion by the turtle pond at the rear garden.
Lei Jiuzhi said, “We even sneaked into the Zang Jing Ge [library, lit. scripture storehouse (two-story) pavilion] to search, and certain that there is no entrance whatsoever. The only one remaining is the Fangzhang Tang [Abbot hall], which is closed all year round. Do you want to take a risk to search there?”
Xu Ziling shook his head, “Too dangerous,” he said, “There is a fifty-fifty chance that Shi Zhixuan is sitting in meditation inside. We’ll talk about it tonight.”
Lei Jiuzhi was shaken, “You guys are really going to fight tonight? Shi Zhixuan is definitely someone not to be trifled with.”
Rising up to his full height, Xu Ziling said, “Let’s go. We’ll discuss it with Kou Zhong.”