Book 4 Chapter 12 – Disaster’s Sudden Arrival
The next day Zhai Rang invited them to have breakfast together, accompanied by Wang Ruxin and Tu Shufang, but Zhai Jiao was not present.
Zhai Rang appeared melancholy. After asking the two boys some everyday life, current situation matters, he silently drank his tea. The other four had no choice but to also keep silent.
Out of the blue, Zhai Rang suddenly asked, “How’s the situation over there?”
But Wang Ruxin seemed to understand what he was talking about; he replied, “Yesterday I bumped into Xu Shiji; he said that Duke Mi is thinking about taking Liyang Storehouse. After Luokou is captured, militias from all parts of the country will come to realign their allegiance, so our army’s prestige will be even more flourishing.”
Zhai Rang let out a stifled grunt, “Any news from Yang Guang’s side?” he asked.
Wang Ruxin said, “Right now Wang Shichong is already in Luoyang, plotting a counterattack plan. This man is a great general of the imperial court, he is also proficient in military strategy and tactics, this time Duke Mi will meet a formidable opponent.”
Kou Zhong asked Tu Shufang in low voice, “What kind of guy is Xu Shiji?”
Tu Shufang replied with a smile, “He and Zu Junyan are known as the Two Valiant of Wagang Army, he is also Shen Luoyan’s boyfriend. But until now Shen Luoyan is still unwilling to marry him.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly stunned; turned out Shen Luoyan was already taken [orig. famous flower has its owner]. A sour, helpless feeling suddenly floated in their hearts.
Wang Ruxin added, “I heard there is also a Sui government official called Wei Zheng, who is in charge of Wuyang County region’s ‘Cheng Yuan’s Treasure Code’; three days ago he offered the entire set of the Treasure Code to Duke Mi, so that nowadays Li Mi has become the most prestigious figure among the militias.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling noticed how Wang Ruxin seemed to be constantly provoking Zhai Rang; inwardly they felt very strange.
Zhai Rang pressed on the table and stood up; turning toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two people, he softly said, “Come with me to the garden!”
Unable to make any sense of it, the two boys simply followed him to the garden.
Zhai Rang walked ahead of them, with his hands behind his back; he seemed to be deep in thought.
The snow had stopped, but the snow accumulation on the ground reached about a chi deep; icicles were hanging down from the trees. Several servants were busy shoveling the snow; seeing Zhai Rang, they hastily went down on their knees to kowtow.
Zhai Rang went straight toward the small pavilion in the middle of the garden. He looked up to the sky, and with his back still facing the two boys, he said, “Sit down!”
The two boys sat down absentmindedly.
Zhai Rang spoke in heavy voice, “When I heard about you, I immediately sent people to check the events surrounding your past. Only last night they returned to report back to me. I really did not know that your names have already spread all around Jianghu. Evidently there are a lot of things that Li Mi is keeping from me.”
And then he turned around; with eyes burning he looked at the two boys and said, “Do you really know the location of the ‘Duke Yang Treasure’?”
With a bitter laugh Kou Zhong replied, “If we did, we would have gone to get it early on.”
Zhai Rang nodded. “That is reasonable,” he said, “No matter how much Luocha Nu [woman] cherished you, in the end she was still a Korean, it’s improbable that she would entrust such matter concerning the rise and fall of her country two a couple of Central Plains people like you.”
In their hearts the two boys cried out, ‘Close shave!’ It was best if Zhai Rang thought like that.
Zhai Rang sighed and said, “If I were as young as you are, I would definitely run far away from here. After my internal injury recovered, I would fight for the rivers and mountains again. But now I am already old, I don’t have the courage to do it all over again.”
And then he continued, “Were it not for Li Mi’s malicious plot against me, today to whom the deer falls [i.e. the one to seize the empire. On side note: Jin Yong explored this idiom in ‘Deer and Cauldron’.] is still unknown.”
Seeing the two boys were not surprised at all, he nodded and said, “You have already guessed that the man hiding inside the trunk who plotted against me was indeed Li Mi.”
The two boys had no choice but to nod.
Zhai Rang breathed out a mouthful of air; he continued, “I can never let the enemy, as well as my own side, that I really suffer internal injury. Even Wang Ruxin thinks that Li Mi’s plot against me had failed. That’s why he is trying to incite me to kill Li Mi and seize the power back into my hands.”
Xu Ziling was baffled, “Then why did you tell Shen Luoyan that you are giving up the Da Longtou position? Wouldn’t it be the same as telling them that you are injured?”
Zhai Rang’s countenance changed. “Did you come across Shen Luoyan last night?” he asked.
The two boys narrated what had happened the previous night.
Zhai Rang’s countenance turned incredibly ugly. He sighed and said, “You have fallen into her trap, basically there is no such thing. She intentionally said that because she knows the current close relationship between you and me, so she was testing your reaction. Supposing you did not show any sign of surprise, it would authenticate that I really suffer internal injury.”
Stunned, the two boys looked at each other, their mind was in turmoil.
Zhai Rang recovered his composure, “Don’t blame yourselves,” he said lightly, “First of all, it was due to your lack of experience, secondly, Shen Luoyan is as crafty as a fox. All we have to do right now is to think of a way to remedy the situation.”
Xu Ziling apologetically said, “We have implicated Da Longtou!”
Kou Zhong was overwhelmed with guilty feeling that he nearly wanted to kill himself. Slapping the stone table, he said, “We shouldn’t have slipped out.”
Zhai Rang sat down across the table from them, with an extremely solemn expression he said, “We must beat them at their own game; let’s get the throne out, hopefully it can buy us some time.”
After a short pause, he continued, “Right now Ol’ Zhai has something I’d like to entrust to you; I wish for you to take Jiao’er to a certain place, then I will have no fear of trouble in the rear, and will have free hand in dealing with Li Mi.”
The two boys felt big headache; dealing with this hard-to-please Zhai Jiao, a short time already felt like forever, how would dealing with her for a prolonged period of time feel like?
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Shen Luoyan hates us the most; just before leaving last night she said that she guarantees we won’t be able to leave the city. Da Longtou is asking the wrong person.”
Zhai Rang was staring blankly for half a day. Finally he murmured, “Who in the world does not want to catch you, yet you are still able to live free and easy. It’s a clear sign that you do have some abilities.”
Hastily Xu Ziling declined modestly, “That is because the opponents did not really want to kill us. Besides, all those times it was only the two of us, naturally making our escape were a lot easier.”
Zhai Rang nodded his agreement, “In that case,” he said, “I’ll have to make different arrangement to send off Jiao’er. Do you want me to send Susu along?”
The two boys hurriedly replied, “That won’t be necessary!”
Zhai Rang smiled wryly and said, “It was because I spoiled her, nowadays everybody is afraid of Jiao’er. Only she and Susu happen to be especially good to each other. Ay!”
Remembering that Zhai Rang let Susu to accompany Wang Bodang, the two boys did not feel particularly sympathetic toward his laments.
Zhai Rang continued pouring out his heart to the two boys, “When you reach to where I am, you will know that you’ll have to do a lot of things against your will. It was because I am not as ruthless as Li Mi that today I came to this plight.”
The two boys did not know how to comfort him.
Zhai Rang suddenly took off the dragon-engraved ring from his left middle finger. Stuffing it into Kou Zhong’s hand, he said, “Jiao’er will leave today, and tomorrow it will be your turn. One more day Li Mi has not returned, one more day the city of Xiangyang remains in my control.”
Kou Zhong looked down to examine the ring in his palm; he was confused, “This is …”
Zhai Rang’s voice was heavy, “I don’t have any face to ask you to help me. But in order not to let my men suspect that I am a coward, I can only go to outsiders like the two of you to do it.”
Xu Ziling said, “Whatever errands Da Longtou wants us to do, there is no harm in telling us.”
Zhai Rang said, “Supposing my delaying tactic succeeded, I want you to take this ring to Leshou and look for Dou Jiande. In terms of talent, wisdom and martial art skill, this man is above me, plus he has a deep friendship with me. You can truthfully tell him my situation. What comes next, just leave it to him to handle.”
Kou Zhong received the ring, and resolutely said, “Such a trivial thing, we can certainly do it for Da Longtou.”
Zhai Rang suddenly revealed a cold and ruthless smile as he said in low voice, “He is ruthless, I won’t hold on to righteousness. I only need to spill a bit of secret to Wang Shichong, I guarantee that’ll teach Li Mi a lesson in suffering defeats. And then the legend that he emerged victorious in every battle will collapse.”
Hearing that, Kou and Xu felt a chill crept in their heart.
Although right now they were standing on Zhai Rang’s side, they did not dare to give compliment toward the way he conducts himself or his method.
Zhai Rang also seemed to realize that he had committed a faux pas. “You may go back now,” he said, “I still want to sit here and think about how to arrange for your departure. I will let you know later.”
The two boys breathed a sigh of relief and withdrew in haste.
Li Mi may come back any minute, they went to Tu Shufang; Kou Zhong asked for a long saber, but Xu Ziling wanted to use short halberd. They both thought that starting now, even going to sleep they had to have their weapons in their bosom.
 Wei Zheng (580-643), Tang politician and historian, notorious as a critic and editor of the History of Sui Dynasty.
Chapter 12, Part 2
Weed, HPC, Jaya, Ysabel, Laoren, Komeng, you are welcome. George, I do hope so too, but looks like we are stuck there for the foreseeable future. Bocah, I think this part can be considered 'action'. DongBin, I know that, but we are talking about Zhai Rang and Li Mi and Wang Bodang of the novel, not the real historical figures. At least I have not seen any mention of the real Wang Bodang raping Susu. Sky, it's a recurring theme in wuxia: the female character is engaged, but in the end falls for the protagonist.
The two boys also went to find Susu, telling her that they were leaving tomorrow night. Afterwards they went back to the courtyard to practice martial art.
That day passed uneventfully. After dinner, the two of them returned to hide in their room.
Kou Zhong said, “Since that loathsome granny Jiao is leaving tonight, we’d better have Su Jie sleep in my room, while the two of us sleep together here like before. If something happens, escaping will be more convenient.”
Xu Ziling agreed, “Old Zhai is asking us a favor, he won’t dare to oppose. Whatever we do, even if his eyes are wide open, he would have no choice but just turning a blind eye on us.”
He has not finished speaking, there was a knock on the door, Susu’s voice was heard outside, “Are you there?”
The two boys were greatly delighted; busily they welcomed Susu inside. Who would have thought that as soon as the door was closed, she threw herself to the two boys and cried bitterly? “Miss has left!” she said with a sob.
Recalling Zhai Jiao, no matter how hard they tried, they simply could not emulate Susu’s distress.
Some comforting words later, Susu was calming down somewhat, but her pretty eyes were quite red and swollen from crying.
Susu agonizingly said, “Now you are the only family Jiejie has, will you leave Jiejie?”
To comfort Susu, Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Of course not, unless Jiejie really loves that Yiqi Shan. Married woman naturally cannot have us cherish our Jiejie anymore.”
Susu turned tears into laughter; pouting playfully, she reprimanded him lightly. The two boys hastily carried out their magic, and only when she seemed to forget Zhai Jiao that they made their proposal to have her stay in the adjacent room.
Susu rolled her pretty eyes; blushing, she said, “The bed is so big, if the three of us sleep together, won’t it be safer?”
Xu Ziling jumped in fright, “How can that be?”
Susu crossly said, “Don’t you dare having ideas. Between us, sister and brothers, we are as bright as the sun and the moon, it’s just that this time we are a bit closer than usual! This is everybody’s dream, actually.”
Kou Zhong stammered, “If people find out, what would they think?”
Susu’s pretty face blushed slightly, but she persisted, “Who would find out? Don’t tell me you don’t think it is fun?”
Finally Xu Ziling conceded, “Jiejie is not afraid, what are we afraid of? Tonight the three of us, sister and brothers will share the bed. Zhong Shao, you must not make any illicit move.”
Kou Zhong cried out to heavens for the injustice he received, “Who do you think Zhong Shao is? Much less I revere Jiejie as an immortal. Xiao Ling, I demand an apology.”
Susu cheerfully said, “I trust you, that should be enough.”
Xu Ziling warned her, “This kid Kou Zhong always brandish his hands and swinging his legs during sleeping, for the past many years I don’t know how many times I was punched by his fist, was kicked by his legs.”
Kou Zhong laughed bitterly and said, “Worst case scenario, Jiejie can sleep on your side over there.”
Susu shook her head, “No!” she said, “I want to sleep between the two of you. Both are my good Didi.”
The two boys were overwhelmed with emotion that they felt like crying. Right now the three sister and brothers only had each other to depend to.
“Be careful,” Xu Ziling reminded Kou Zhong, “Chuchu might come to look for you. That will spoil our grand plan.”
“Ah!” Susu exclaimed; from her bosom she took out a necklace with jade pendant, and solemnly said, “I came here this time, it was actually on behalf of Chuchu, to give this jade pendant to you; she implored me to personally witness you putting it on your neck.”
Kou Zhong was shaken. “Did she leave with your Miss?” he asked.
Susu’s emotion was stirred up with concern again, her elegant eyes turned red; hanging her head, she nodded.
Kou Zhong solemnly took the jade pendant and put it on around his neck, and then he sighed and said, “Why does the love between man and woman cause so much pain?”
Stomping his feet, Xu Ziling said, “You should have asked Old Zhai to leave her behind.”
With a wry smile Kou Zhong said, “At that time I practically did not even think about her. But now I am very sad, just like if I have lost something very precious in my life.”
Xu Ziling asked Susu on his behalf, “Do you know where your Miss is going?”
Susu shook her head, “Even Miss herself did not know,” she replied, “Only Tu Shufang knows.”
Xu Ziling said, “We can always ask Old Zhai tomorrow.”
Kou Zhong felt a little relieved; he was back at his giggling manner as he teased Susu, “Jiejie, can we go to bed now?”
Susu gracefully rose up, kicked her boots, threw off her silk gown, exposing her even more well-developed curves.
“Don’t take off more clothes!” Xu Ziling hastily said, “If something happens we can go a bit faster.”
Susu stomped her feet in anger, “Xiao Ling, really! Who wants to take off more clothes?”
Although the three of them were babbling about Li Mi was going to attack Big Boss Mansion tonight, but actually none of them really thought that Li Mi would return tonight.
From his pile of clothes in the trunk Kou Zhong took out a cloth belt, tossed it toward Xu Ziling and said with a laugh, “I want you to take care of this life-saving rope; if something happens, you carry Su Jie on your back, while I will be responsible to open up a path, killing our way out of the heavy siege.”
Susu shuddered. “Can you not talk about scary things like that?” she said.
Xu Ziling lifted up the mosquito net and respectfully said, “Jiejie, please!”
Smiling, Susu gracefully climbed onto the bed, and lay down in the middle. Flustered, the two boys hastily blew out the oil lamp and took off their outer robe. And then one after another they climbed from the foot of the bed and lay down on Susu’s left and right.
In the darkness of the room, the three people’s heart was throbbing. Susu suddenly broke into giggle; gasping for breath, she said, “I will be surprised if you don’t fall off the bed tonight; can’t you get closer to me?”
The two boys also giggled and scooted closer to her. An unbounded sweet and warm feeling welled up in three people’s heart. Susu pulled the quilt over to cover all of them. She sighed and said, “Even if I die tonight, Jiejie has two such good Didi like you, I feel that my life has not been in vain.”
“Uh?” she suddenly exclaimed, “How come you did not even take off your boots?”
The two boys laughed hysterically. Kou Zhong struggled hard to take a deep breath to say, “So that when we have to flee it will be a bit more convenient!”
Susu was cross; she sat up and had the two boys take off their boots.
While they were busy doing her bidding, suddenly there was a ‘Pop! Pop!’ noise out of nowhere, followed by sound of people shouting.
Kou Zhong sprang up, pushed the window open and saw blazing fire from the direction of the front courtyard, the intensity of the fire was terrifying.
By this time Xu Ziling and Susu had come to his side; watching the scene, they were dumbstruck.
“The fire is strange,” Kou Zhong said, “Must be an insider job.” Before he even finished speaking, sound of fighting came from four sides, eight directions.
Staying calm, Xu Ziling kneeled down and called out, “Jiejie, quickly climb onto my back.”
Susu was so frightened that her knees went soft. She had to leaned on Kou Zhong, who quickly grabbed her and helped her up on Xu Ziling’s back.
Althought Xu Ziling felt that Susu’s body emitted a high degree of attractive force, his heart was pure; he hastily cleared his mind and steered away his thought from that direction.
Susu only felt that this little brother’s broad back was warm and safe. Considering that she was scared out her wits [orig. lost soul, dropped spirit], for the time being she was not lost in wild and fanciful thoughts either.
The sound of clashing weapons kept coming in. After tying Susu well, Kou Zhong fetched the short halberd for Xu Ziling, while took the long saber for himself.
“You follow behind me,” he said coldly, “If we get separated, we’ll meet again at Daiqing Yuan. You must never try to leave the city, Li Mi will never let anybody out of the city.”
Finished speaking, he rushed out of the window.
Xu Ziling gathered his thought, and then followed behind him.
Kou Zhong leaped to a high place, and saw all around him were warriors wearing red cloth on their heads, attacking in full force, killing the guards of the Big Boss Mansion, even the maids and servants were not spared. For a short while the sound of wailing shook the sky.
Zhai Rang’s voice was heard coming from the left, “Revel thief Li Mi, do you dare to fight mano a mano with me, Zhai Rang?”
Li Mi’s gentle and pleasant-to-hear voice responded, “Da Longtou’s request, how could Li Mi dare not to comply?”
This moment Xu Ziling already caught up with Kou Zhong; he called out, “This is the only chance to escape!”
Kou Zhong understood immediately. If they did not take advantage of the moment Zhai Rang pinning down Li Mi’s main force to escape, they might never have the chance to leave.
With a loud shout Kou Zhong raised his saber and flew toward the eaves of the building to their right.