Book 36 Chapter 5 – Compassion
Under the illumination of the Night Pearl’s green glow, they saw a flight of stone steps extending from the mouth of the secret passage under the putuan, down into a small secret chamber, about a zhang square – below.
It was precisely like Kou Zhong was joking earlier; this room was for changing clothes and putting on disguise.
On the east wall of the room was the entrance to the secret passage. The ceiling was only a bit more than five chi high [reminder: 1 chi is approx. 1/3 of a meter], so that tall men with magnificent build like Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong, must stoop down and bend their knees to enter.
Kou Zhong entered the secret chamber and plopped his butts on a chair in front of a table with a mirror on it. Looking at his own countenance in the copper mirror, he laughed and said, “The disguising equipment in here is very complete; I was just wondering if perhaps when he was in the mood, would he disguise himself as a woman and go out to play?”
Xu Ziling entered the secret room behind him. He took a quick glance toward the dark secret passage first before responding, “If you want to know the answer, you can open these clothing trunks to see whether there are some women’s clothes and ornaments.”
On the other two walls, leaning against the wall were two large chests. Inside were all kinds of clothes, ornaments and costumes. In one of the chests they even found Great Tang Army’s military uniforms.
Delighted, Kou Zhong said, “Tomorrow we could rely on these things and put on disguise to leave Chang’an.”
Xu Ziling said, “It would be best if we don’t touch anything in here, so that even if Shi Zhixuan returned, he would not know that we already know the secret that he is Dade Shengseng.”
Astonished, Kou Zhong said, “Do you think Shi Zhixuan will come back?”
“It’s very difficult to say,” Xu Ziling replied, “Shi Zhixuan did say about returning to the fray after a period of inactivity in one year, which coincides with this habit of going out of the Pass every year during the Beginning of Spring festival. It can clearly be seen that he would hate to lose this Dade identity, which he painstakingly created and built.”
“His dried-up Zen identity is practically only used to deceive people,” Kou Zhong remarked, “Ay! If we can’t borrow his things, how are we going to go out and see people with our clothes covered all over with bloodstain like this?”
Xu Ziling sat on the trunk behind Kou Zhong with his back leaning against the wall. Thinking deeply, he said, “You think Yun Shuai could get away?”
Kou Zhong replied, “It depends whether he could seize the opportunity while the Great Tang Army is entirely under our control. Yun Shuai really have some skill in qinggong; his ability to escape shouldn’t be below ours. Why do you suddenly think of him?”
Xu Ziling did not answer him; muttering to himself irresolutely, he said, “Jiancheng, Yuanji’s search operation cannot continue indefinitely. However, reinforcing the city defense, dispatching massive military force to guard the city gate surely can be easily done. Therefore, the best way to leave the city is still via the secret passage inside the treasure house.”
“That is indeed the safest way, but not necessarily the best way,” Kou Zhong said, “First of all, if we could slip away with the gods did not know the ghosts did not perceive, anybody would be suspicious. If there is no precursor of us mysteriously disappearing in the Yong An Canal and later on reappearing, it might not be a problem, but now it’s a different story. Besides, our responsibility is to draw everybody’s attention away so that Zhandao and the others have the convenience of transporting the precious gold and treasure away.”
Staring fixedly at the Night Pearl in the hollow of his palm, Xu Ziling said, “Let’s look at where the other exit is located first, and then we’ll think of a way; what do you say?”
Kou Zhong sprang up and said, “Good idea.”
The two focused their power into their ears, and after making sure that there was no one upstairs, they slowly pushed the cover of the exit open. Craning their neck to look, unexpectedly it was a study room with shelves full of books.
The secret passage was longer than the two boys thought, it was at least ten zhang long.
The Abbot’s room was located at the rear court of the Wu Lou Si, near the eastern external wall. Outside the wall was a side street about three zhang wide. Calculating the distance, this study room ought to be located in the courtyard house across the street.
Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, “The master of this house must, more or less – have some relationship with Shi Zhixuan.”
Xu Ziling walked over to the window and pushed it open a little; looking outside, he saw the snow was still falling endlessly. From outside the courtyard wall came the sound of people speaking and horses neighing, apparently the search operation around this area was still growing strong.
Kou Zhong came to his side and said, “They must have started house-to-house search; after this is done then they would pull back the troops.”
They heard the knocking on the door of the neighboring house, followed by someone shouted, “We are hunting down criminals, quickly open the door!”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “They must have finished searching this house, our secret passage courtyard.”
Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “We ought to attract their attention to search again; if they find the secret passage, Dade Shengseng will become dog meat Buddhist monk whose reputation is swept over the floor.”
“Let’s go back and talk about this!” Xu Ziling said.
Returning to the entrance of the secret passage, they heard faint footsteps coming from outside the door. The two boys were shocked; just by listening to the footsteps, they knew that the incoming person was a first-class martial art master; moreover, there were two of them. Jumping in fright, they immediately flashed back to the secret passage using the fastest shenfa.
As soon as the lid was closed, the study room door was pushed open.
An Long’s voice was heard from above, “We are nearly implicated by those two kids to the death; they did not run to other places, yet chose this area to run to. Ha! This time it should be difficult for them to escape calamity.”
A female voice responded, “Jiaojiao don’t have such confidence like Long Shishu [martial uncle]; perhaps they already left the city early on.”
Underground, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly surprised; they never imagined that Rong Jiaojiao and An Long would hide in here together.
It appeared that even An Long himself did not know that there was a secret passage leading into the Abbot’s room at Wu Lou Si; otherwise, he would not have taken Rong Jiaojiao over here to talk.
Until now, they were still unclear of Rong Jiaojiao’s relationship with Yin Gui Pai. But looking at how close her relationship with An Long was, it could be inferred that Laojun Temple ought to be leaning closer to Shi Zhixuan’s side.
The relationship among the demonic school’s two sects and six ways was tangled and complicated, impossible to unravel.
An Long said, “Just now Xuyan had someone coming over to report to me that Shi Dage already seized the Relics. Tomorrow morning Jiaojiao must depart Chang’an by boat immediately.”
Rong Jiaojiao said, “Would Shishu leave together with Jiaojiao?”
Lowering his voice, An Long said, “I still have some business to attend to; I must stay one more day.”
Rong Jiaojiao said, “Could it be that Shishu is going to deal with Zhou Laotan?”
Letting out a cold snort, An Long said, “Zhou Laotan will never give up his ambition to obtain the Sheng Sheli; all along, keeping him alive is a disaster. What’s more, Shi Dage’s instruction is for you to take care of Jin Huanzhen; when you get to the Great River, throw her to the water to be fish food, neat and tidy. Henceforth Tian Xie Dao [Heavenly Evil Way] will be done for! Ha!”
Suddenly there was the sound of rustling clothes; listening from below, the two boys looked at each other. They could not believe their ears.
A moment ago she was calling Shishu this and Shishu that, this moment female demon Rong was already sitting in An Long’s arms in passionate embrace. Plus they knew that earlier female demon Rong was playing with Yang Xuyan, which made it more difficult for them to accept this change.
With labored breathing, Rong Jiaojiao said, “Hearing about killing people, Jiaojiao cannot help being excited.”
Laughing lasciviously, An Long said, “If I had known you are a s1ut earlier … You seriously told me to look for a secret place to talk, turns out you only want Shishu to comfort you.”
The two boys could easily imagine what An Long would look like right now; thinking about it, they felt sick. Quietly they sneaked back into the Abbot’s room.
“Do you want to get rid of An Long before leaving?” Kou Zhong asked.
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “Presently we are powerless to defend ourselves. If we killed An Long, we wouldn’t have the convenience to ride Rong Yaonu’s boat to leave, right?”
“Absolutely right,” Kou Zhong replied, “Rong Yaonu is an unusual character, she has been involved with Yang Xuyan. We are using this pretext to go north out of the Pass shouldn’t be any problem, but if we slip away like this, it won’t be any different from going out via the secret passage of the treasure house, it would still make people suspicious of our track.”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “If you want to attract attention, won’t it be very easy? Let’s talk less nonsense, while we still have a little bit of time, let’s raise enough spirit first, and then we’ll see where we can steal two sets of decent clothes, and then we’ll proceed with out magnificent feat of leaving the city.”
Early morning the next day, the City of Chang’an returned to its former situation. There were no checkpoints to interrogate pedestrians and vehicles on the street, neither was there any significant increase in the number of soldiers patrolling the city.
In fact, it was actually loosen-up-the-outside-opening-up-the-inside.
The Great Tang Army tended to have the good reputation of not disturbing the people. Li Jiancheng was a man who cherished his plumage [love and care for his reputation (Courtesy of Akolaw)]; he did not wish that when Li Yuan, Li Shimin had just left the city, immediately criminal charge was imputed on his back.
Yesterday he had no other choice, but today he must not act rashly. The more important reason was that an ordinary measure to intercept escaped criminal simply would not work against people with superior martial art skill, ability and wisdom like Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling.
Therefore, Li Jiancheng decided to strengthen the exit checkpoints of land and water, two routes, first; the other strategy was to turn from light to dark [or from open to secret], by mobilizing the local gangs and societies to pay attention to suspicious people. Unless the two boys did not set a foot outside, they could forget about evading his eyes and ears.
The big snow stopped before dawn, dumping about knee-deep snow all over the city. Vehicles and horses could not pass, traffic was paralyzed, everybody was busy shoveling the snow, the situation was quite chaotic.
Those who wanted to leave town had no choice but to take water route. The passenger and cargo terminal at the An Ding Li on the northern extremity of the Yong An Canal was crowded to bursting point. Under the many monks and not much gruel [idiom: demand exceeds supply] situation, those who were unable to secure seat on the boat had no choice but to painstakingly wait.
If Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong wanted to take advantage of this kind of situation to secretly board any boat docking on the pier, they would definitely not be able to do it. Fortunately, in order to evade other people’s eyes and ears, before daybreak, taking the golden opportunity while the Great Tang Army involved in the search operation was being pulled back with their body weary, their strength exhausted – the two boys were one step ahead by hiding inside the boat, waiting quietly for female demon Rong’s good self.
Originally they were unclear whether this big ship belonged to Yang Xuyan or Rong Jiaojiao? But last night they heard An Long told Rong Jiaojiao to make her move toward Jin Huanzhen, so at least they knew that Rong Jiaojiao would take this boat to return to Luoyang.
The two were hiding inside the room where Jin Huanzhen was kept. From time to time, they heard people coming and going outside the door, but no one came into the room to check.
Xu Ziling came to Kou Zhong’s, who was leaning against the window, monitoring the sign of activity on the opposite bank – side, and spoke in low voice, “Although this woman is not a good person [orig. lay practitioners of Buddhism], but all along she did not have any major evil conduct. I really cannot bear to watch her dying tragically without her knowing anything.”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “I was also thinking about that, but then I thought that the reason she did not continue her evil streak was simply because these years she was under Yin Gui Pai’s control, so that she could not breathe, hence she did not have any chance to do evil. If we saved her and in the future she harms people all over the place, won’t that mean we are committing a grave sin?”
Xu Ziling said, “After going through such a serious blow, perhaps her temperament would change a little. As long as we tell her that Zhou Laotan’s life is in danger, she undoubtedly will strive her hardest to rescue her husband; I am sure that she will give An Long a lot of trouble.”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “I understand your frame of mind; let’s try first whether we can wake her up. If she remains stubborn, we will knock her out again, to let her emerge and perish on her own.”
The two came over to the bedside. Kou Zhong has not shed his ‘Divine Doctor’ Mo Yixin’s distinctive character; he put out three fingers on the artery of her wrist. It was quite half a day later that he spoke in shock, “Formidable! This is the first time that I encounter this kind of sealing acupoint technique, which completely lock her true qi dead. From her hand, it won’t pass the elbow; from her foot, it won’t pass her knee. Her five viscera are blocked, making her unable to rely on her own true qi and blood’s natural course to come to her senses.”
“Can you do it?” Xu Ziling asked.
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “Just with me alone, perhaps I cannot do it. But with us, the Twin Dragons of Yangzhou’s seamless cooperation, unequalled under the heavens, apart from the Seven Needles to Control the Mind – that kind of heretical trick, is there any acupoint-sealing, meridian-stopping technique that we cannot break? Let’s wake her up first and talk later.”
The two boys propped her up in bed. Separately sitting on either side, they both stretched out one hand to grab her shoulder, and sent their inner qi inside her body. A short moment later Jin Huanzhen’s tender body shook; she opened her eyes, looked up, then looked down, and was about to cry out when Kou Zhong covered her mouth and whispered in her ear, “Don’t make any noise; we are here to save you.”
Jin Huanzhen’s eyes rolled around wildly, but she slowly calmed down. She slightly nodded her head, indicating that she understood.
Kou Zhong slowly removed his hand. Jin Huanzhen was still extremely weak; she spoke with difficulty, “Who are you?”
Kou Zhong replied, “I am Kou Zhong, he is Xu Ziling; have you heard our names?”
Jin Huanzhen calmed down instead. Nodding her head, she said, “Of course I have. Why did you save me?”
Xu Ziling said, “How did Jin Dajie fall into such predicament?”
Hearing him addressing her as Big Sister Jin, she showed happy and pleased expression. By the time Xu Ziling finished speaking, her expression turned severe; gnashing her teeth in anger, she said, “It was that godd@mn Pi Chen who harmed us. I will definitely take revenge for Laotan.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling suddenly understood; they sketched the rise and fall of the terrain [idiom: the whole sequence of events] in their mind. She and Zhou Laotan came to Pi Chen to ask for help, but Pi Chen betrayed them; he even sent Jin Huanzhen to Shi Zhixuan, hoping to win a favor from him. From this, it could be inferred that just like An Long, Pi Chen has acknowledged allegiance to the ‘Demonic King’ Shi Zhixuan.
Kou Zhong said, “Your Zhou Laotan has not died yet, but if you can’t find him before dusk, he will definitely die!”
Jin Huanzhen’s tender body severely shook, her pair of eyes shot a deeply concerned expression.
Kou Zhong briefly explained the situation, but even before he finished, tears were already falling down from the corner of Jin Huanzhen’s eyes. Distressed, she said, “Now, all my four limbs are lacking in strength, I am afraid that even in walking I will need help; how could I warn him?”
Xu Ziling said, “As long as you promise from now on you won’t presumptuously kill the innocents, what’s so difficult for us to help you recovering your strength?”
Kou Zhong spoke seriously, “If we find out that you broke your promise, it does not matter if you hide at the ends of the earth, we will find you to settle the account. Since you know who we are, you ought to know as well that there’s nothing that we cannot do.”
Jin Huanzhen spoke in low voice, “Why are you helping me?”
Xu Ziling laughed bitterly and said, “I wish I know the answer to that question. Perhaps this is called compassion; everybody has it!”
Jin Huanzhen laughed freely and said, “Turns out there are really such good people like you on earth. We, husband and wife – used to scheme against other people all day long; in the end we fell into other people’s scheme. Very well! I, Jin Huanzhen, starting from today, will absolutely not kill anybody presumptuously; otherwise, let me not be reincarnated forever. Your great grace, great kindness, one day we, husband and wife, will repay.”
The two boys felt her sincerity. Without any more words, their true qi slowly entered in, to help her blood circulation and to help her gathering her strength.
No one knew how long, but the hull shook, finally the boat raised its anchor and started sailing.
Footsteps were coming straight toward the door.
Fast as lightning Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong flashed toward the right and left of the cabin door, waiting in tight formation. Jin Huanzhen lay down, back inside the quilt, pretending to be unconscious.
The door was pushed open. The two boys already caught female demon Rong’s scent.
Right this tense moment, there was an urgent sound of footsteps approaching.
Rong Jiaojiao halted her steps and asked, “What’s the matter?”
The door was closed again. A man’s voice came from the outside, “Xiaojie! The military officers coming on board insisted that they must check the boat.”
Displeased, Rong Jiaojiao said, “Do they know that I am Dong Guifei’s honored guest? Unexpectedly they have the cheek to do this.”
Her subordinate replied, “They are very clear about our identity, but while continuously apologizing, they said that this is Taizi Dianxia’s strict order; they simply must carry it out.”
Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong cried, ‘Formidable!’ inwardly. It was only then did they know that every boat leaving Chang’an must be searched by the Tang Army. After making sure that there was no problem, they would open the gateway to let the ship pass.
Laughing tenderly, Rong Jiaojiao said, “They want to search, let them search then! What they are looking for is those two godd@mn kids; other people, they won’t care.”
Footsteps were going away.
Jin Huanzhen sat up from the bed. Horrified, she said, “What do we do?”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “When we are exercising our muscles and bones, Jin Dajie ought to know what to do!”
Jin Huanzhen was slightly startled; she was also a daring person. Immediately her eyes showed appreciative look and a smile. Nodding her head, she said, “Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, indeed your name is not in vain.”
Xu Ziling said, “If we are not mistaken, An Long and your esteemed husband’s appointment will most likely be at the Bei Li’s Le Quan Guan.”
Sound of footsteps was heard again. At least a crowd of ten people was coming. And then there was the sound of door opening.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and pushed the door and came out just like that. Standing in the middle of the corridor, he shouted, “Who’s looking for me, Kou Zhong?”
Standing by Rong Jiaojiao’s side was, surprisingly, Qiao Gongshan. Suddenly seeing Kou Zhong, momentarily he was shocked and was stunned; he forgot how to react.
Female demon Rong’s face was devoid of any color; her heart was in complete disorder.