Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan

Book 46 - Chapter 5 – Evening Drum, Morning Bell 1

Chapter 5 – Evening Drum, Morning Bell[1]

In the vegetarian shop’s main hall, all the more than twenty tables were occupied. Xu Ziling gave generous tip to the waiter, yet he still had to wait for nearly half an hour before he got a square table in the corner. After he ordered some vegetarian dishes, Du Fuwei arrived, alone. He took off his tall hat, bending his waist and stooping his back, so that he appeared to be like someone else. He took the seat next to Xu Ziling. The latter hastily poured tea for him, while also called him in low voice, “Gandie [adoptive father (dictionary adds this information: traditional adoption, i.e. without legal ramifications)].”

Du Fuwei revealed a rare benevolent smile; cheerfully lowering his voice, he said, “I can hear you call me Die, my old bosom is greatly comforted. Ay! Xiao Zhong still persists in scheming with the tiger for its skin, in helping Wang Shichong to defend Luoyang?” Translated by foxs

Xu Ziling smiled helplessly; changing the topic, he asked, “Gandie this time came to Chang’an, is it just for a visit or are you going to stay for a long time?”

Du Fuwei sighed again. A little at a loss, he said, “I don’t know. The problem is that my so-called neck is intertwined with Fu Gongyou. He and that demonic school’s demon Taoist Zuo Youxian occupy Danyang and take a good hold on it; moreover, he refused to talk to me. The Li Family’s father and son, from top to bottom, treat me very well, I really want to stay here to enjoy a little bit of quiet and happiness, but I also cannot bear to stare blankly at Old Fu continues to sink down. Only after suffering untold hardship we could sever relationship with the demonic school, but now he again threw himself into their bosom; surely it is impossibly stupid.”

He raised his cup of tea as if he was toasting with wine and drank it up.

Xu Ziling poured him another cup of tea. With the colorful and aromatic well-prepared vegetarian dishes on the table, Xu Ziling could not help thinking about Shi Feixuan; if he were with her in this corner of the vegetarian restaurant enjoying vegetarian dishes together, what would it feel like? foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Sweeping his sharp gaze around at the other diners inside the hall, Du Fuwei asked, “Ziling came to Chang’an for what business?”

Xu Ziling spoke heavily, “Can Child ask Gandie a question? Between Li Shimin and Li Jiancheng, which one do you wish would succeed the position of the master of the Tang?”

The refined light in Du Fuwei’s pair of eyes suddenly flashing, he said with a cold laugh, “I, Du Fuwei, started my career in Huainan [prefecture, Anhui], with war on all sides, but never suffered defeat, my undertaking was built on horseback. You think what kind of person I would esteem?”

Xu Ziling cheerfully said, “That will do! I am coming to Chang’an this time is to deal with Chi Shengchun, because he is most likely the eldest son Xiang Gui of Baling Bang, the older brother of Xiang Yushan. Between the Xiang Family and us not only there is a personal grudge, but we hate their breaking-the-law-and-committing-crimes shady business of human trafficking and so on to the bone even more.”

Knitting his brows, Du Fuwei said, “Dealing with him is not easy. With Ziling’s current skill, although you have a heart but consider it as without a heart, taking his dog life is as easy as a hand’s turn.” Translated by foxs

Leaning a bit closer, Xu Ziling sighed and said, “The problem is that from Chi Shengchun, we want to force Xiang Gui to come out, hence we have no choice but to use some sophisticated scheme.”

And then he explained it one time through. Toward this Old Dad, he had absolute trust, but even he himself did not understand why he had such attitude of the heart.

Finished listening, Du Fuwei laughed involuntarily and said, “Ziling’s plan is indeed marvelous as if opened by the Heaven itself, but I really cannot tell whether it will work. I’ve heard about this kid Situ Furong, my understanding is that he is a man who always haggles over every penny, but I’ve never heard that he is a lecherous man. Furthermore, fierce tiger is not as good as local worm; if he is coming to Chang’an to flee misfortune, how could he dare to offend Yin Zuwen and Li Yuanji at the same time, unless he dislikes living a long life?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Xu Ziling mused that indeed ginger gets spicier as it gets older [idiom: the older, the wiser]; he did not even think that thoroughly; he responded, “Supposing Hu Xiaoxian herself took a fancy on Situ Furong, would the situation be any different?”

Stunned, Du Fuwei asked, “How could that happen?”

After putting everything about Hu Xiaoxian’s affair out including the tray [idiom: revealing everything, leaving nothing], he said, “Now what Situ Furong lacks is a powerful backer [orig. kao shan – a mountain that one can lean on], and this powerful backer must be so strong that Chi Shengchun would not dare to use any other method to deal with him, but could only strive for long or short on the gambling table.”

Du Fuwei understood. After muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, he said, “I have to go back and think about this. How can I find you?”

Xu Ziling told him about Hou Xibai’s Passionate Nest, and then he parted company with Du Fuwei and returned home.

Hou Xibai was inside his study room, happy and excited, painting his Hundred-Beauty Painting Scroll. Seeing him back, he cheerfully said, “Tonight we are going directly to Shang Lin Yuan to look for Ji Qian, no matter how busy she is. If she knew that it was me looking for her, she would definitely spare time to see me, and then Ziling could ask her directly.”

Xu Ziling sat down on the side; frowning, he asked, “Any information about Yin Xianhe?”

Hou Xibai put down his brush; moving back to sit down in the chair next to him, he shook his head and said, “He shouldn’t have arrived in Chang’an yet, because nobody has even seen such a character.” Translated by foxs

Xu Ziling’s heart sank. “What time did you wake up?” he casually asked.

Hou Xibai dejectedly said, “I was practically unable to sleep, so acting on your, Laoxiong’s behalf, I went out to rush about to work. I went to see a trustworthy gang and society figure in Chang’an to check on Chi Shengchun; I learned that indeed there is a high possibility that this man belongs to the Xiang Family, because before Li Yuan entered the Pass, no one knew him. Chi Shengchun suddenly appeared, and then with Li Yuanji’s support he runs the Six-Happiness Casino; no one knows his class origin and background, we only know that he has a strong and solid capital. First, he skillfully acquired and heroically seized the casino, taking possession of the Six-Happiness Casino from the original owner, and then in just a short period of a few years he won an initial success in building a famous hall, turning the Six-Happiness Casino into a big casino that can compete with Ming Tang Wo.”

And then he sighed and said, “Not that I want to pour cold water on you, but that gang and society friend of mine said that Chi Shengchun’s natural disposition is suspicious, and he is extremely astute; compared to anybody, he deeply understands how to take small advantages but not greedy. If, following your plan, you impersonate Situ Furong, coming with big gongs and big drums to determine superiority on gambling table, even more, to fight for the Da Xian Hu Fo’s daughter, it would be strange indeed if he is not suspicious. Everything that the Xiang Family do is a bad thing, so they must have higher vigilance than ordinary people, Xiaodi thinks your plan is not going to work.”

Changing the subject, Xu Ziling spoke unhurriedly, “You seem to be very popular in Chang’an.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Hou Xibai cheerfully said, “In here, I am a man with broad face; on the top is the imperial palace, in the bottom is the marketplace, I can always find my way. Ay! I’m just worried for you!”

Xu Ziling smiled and said, “Not concealing anything from you, Laoge, Kou Zhong and I came from little pickpocket origin; encountering a particularly tight money bag, or even people who walk with their hands pressed on their money purse, we could use threatening to the east and striking to the west [idiom: creating diversion] method, for example, knocking him hard to divide his attention, while the other one seized the opportunity to unleash the empty miraculous hand. No matter how secret his money purse is hidden, one little knife could then pluck the pearl from the black dragon [idiom from Zhuangzi: to pick up the salient points from a tangled situation]; one hundred shots, one hundred hits, we never missed.”

Hou Xibai was slightly startled. His sword-shaped eyebrows lightly knitted, he said, “This threatening to the east and striking to the west method, how are we going to use it against Chi Shengchun?”

“I haven’t thought about the details yet,” Xu Ziling replied, “But Xibai Xiong’s intelligence is extremely useful, it gives me even more confidence. As long as we could plant the seed of doubt in his heart, it would grow into the gap to set our hand into, or it might become a way that would lure him in, because here is an opportunity that someone is willing to put his family wealth in his door, how could he be willing to miss it so easily?” Translated by foxs

Emotionally moved, Hou Xibai said, “If you say it that way, looks like this matter is not absolutely not feasible at all; we have think it through. Ha! How about going to Shang Lin Yuan to down two cups of yellow soup? In the pleasure house, my creativity in artistic endeavor always burst out like a spring.”

Xu Ziling laughed and said, “The one going will be only you. I also want you to find a way to get Ji Qian go to the Ming Tang Wo, so that she will accidentally run into me, this full-bearded Yong Qin.”

Smiling wryly, Hou Xibai said, “That is not possible. You don’t seem to know that even until tonight, Ji Qian is still the most popular famous pleasure house courtesan in Chang’an, the chief party guest of the Ming Tang Wo, and this Jie’er [elder sister] loves to throw a fit and loves to get angry randomly. In a good day, she might be totally submissive to you, but she could blow you off Ming Tang Wo at any moment. This kind of thing has happened to me once. Ha! Now every man in Chang’an has had the honor of being expelled by her, or at least could show that they could make her angry. But for Xiaodi, it only brought disgrace.”

The pair of Ji Qian’s shining and varied many colors beautiful eyes floated in Xu Ziling’s heart, thinking quietly that the last time he went to Chang’an, were it not for she needed something and came looking for him, perhaps he would have received the same treatment. His heart was moved, he asked, “Do you know what kind of relationship she has with Chi Shengchun?”

Hou Xibai replied, “How could Chi Shengchun dare to touch Ji Qian? Because Li Yuanji is precisely one of the turncoat officials who prostrates himself under Ji Qian’s skirt.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Astonished, Xu Ziling said, “With Li Yuanji’s power and influence, won’t obtaining Ji Qian be as easy as a hand’s turn?”

“How could it be that simple?” Hou Xibai replied, “Ji Qian’s situation a bit like Shang Xiufang; in Chang’an, she is the person that the streets know the alleys hear, no one does not know. Even Li Yuan will not allow Li Yuanji to force Ji Qian to come, to avoid incurring damaging words toward the Li Family. Besides, Li Yuanji still needs to take his own image and reputation into consideration, plus most of the members of the monarch’s inner ministerial circle by Li Yuan’s side have good relationship with Ji Qian; therefore, just like other officials under her skirt, Li Yuanji can only painstakingly fight for Ji Qian, with all the love, hate, pain and joy in it; it should be very touching.” An enchanted look appeared on his face.

Xu Ziling suddenly remembered something; he asked, “Isn’t Li Yuanji a close friend [with romantic connotation] with Qingqing Furen [madam] of Feng Ya Ge?”

Hou Xibai replied with a sneer, “Qingqing Furen is just one of Li Yuanji’s numerous women. Li Yuanji has always been romantic [see my note in Chapter 1], he loves to pick the flowers and trample the grass [idiom: to frequent brothels] all over the place.”

Patting Xu Ziling’s shoulder, he said, “All right! Do you want to go to Shang Lin Yuan to try your luck?”

Shaking his head, Xu Ziling said, “The only thing I am going to run into at the pleasure house is bad luck. More importantly, I must not take the initiative to look for Ji Qian, I can only have her running into me. Fortunately this is not an urgent matter at all. Tonight I am going to have a good night’s sleep, to raise enough spirit; I’ll think about it tomorrow. Do you know that turns out running a pawnshop is such a profound and complex knowledge and skill? In order to pursue this knowledge, my muscles are weary, my strength exhausted. You’d better stay here nicely to continue your Hundred-Beauty Painting; when you are tired of painting, go to bed and rest. Don’t forget that your Shi Shi’s heart is hard to fathom. Last night you did not sleep well; please listen to me!” Translated by foxs

Hou Xibai spoke dejectedly, “No need for you to remind me. Right now, only writing, painting, and visiting the pleasure house can make me forget everything. This is perhaps the difference between men and beasts! They only know the struggle for survival, but we know how to live, how to love, as well as the wind and the moon [romance/beautiful scenery/trivial matters], while forgetting the threat of survival. This is called an escape.”

Xu Ziling pondered, “Sleep is precisely one kind of escape, therefore, beasts also use sleep to escape reality; this is an inherent method.”

His interest abundant, Hou Xibai asked, “In that case, what is the biggest difference between men and beasts?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Xu Ziling thought deeply for a moment, he said, “I think the biggest difference ought to be the will to ponder about our own existence; for example, why do we exist? What is the meaning and the purpose of the existence itself? Is there a master of the dark underworld? Is each person like a marionette at the mercy of fate? When we came to life, where did we come from? When we die, where do we go? What exactly is the affair between life and death?”

Hearing that, Hou Xibai could only stare blankly.

Xu Ziling recalled Funantuo, who loved to talk about the Way to Live or Die; without the enlightenment from him, perhaps he would never think so penetratingly about the mystery of life, which enabled him to understand better why Shi Feixuan would give up this mundane world and devote herself to spiritual development of the Heavenly Law, which was precisely the exploration of one’s own physical existence.

Immediately he also recalled Shi Qingxuan, who, due to entirely different reasons, was able to see through and see clearly the cruel reality and the gratitude and grudges of the secular world, and thus chose the way of life of shunning the world and living in seclusion.

But he himself was unfortunate to be drawn into the big vortex of the mundane world, from which it was difficult to withdraw, to retreat, to get away.

He could not help sighing inwardly.

Nodding his head, Hou Xibai said, “These words are like evening drums, morning bells; very thought-provoking. Right now I only want to get drunk and lose consciousness, to forget the pain in my heart.”

An intense urge to go see Shi Qingxuan burst forth in Xu Ziling’s heart, he suddenly felt that he understood her better than any other moment in the past. But the Hou Xibai in his presence was the other person that he cared about. He said, “Why don’t Xibai Xiong talk about the pain in your heart? It might make you feel better.”

Hou Xibai’s pair of handsome eyes turned red. After casting a glance toward Xu Ziling, he hung his head and said with a forced smile, “I became a person who is worthy of respect due to Shi Shi single-handedly trained me; if I say that I do not have any feelings toward him, I am lying to you. Sometimes he was really good to me. Ay! How should I settle the account between him and me? Now I only want to meet him face-to-face to understand everything clearly. Last night I went to the pleasure house alone, it was exactly because I wanted him to come to me, whether he wanted to kill me or to cut me to pieces, let him do as he wished. It would be better than like right now, as if I am falling into the fog, not a single thing is distinct. Death is not that terrifying, is it?” Translated by foxs

Xu Ziling finally understood Hou Xibai’s real feeling toward Shi Zhixuan, he cried ‘Bad!’ inwardly, because Shi Zhixuan was no longer the previous split-personalities Shi Zhixuan; in the case that he thought there was such a need, he would show no quarter in executing this ‘product’ and disposing of him. foxswuxia.wordpress.com

He spoke in heavy voice, “Didn’t you say that according to the rules that your master’s school passed down to you, he made an oath the year when you were eighteen that the year you are turning twenty eight, only if you cannot block his ‘Hua Jian Shi’er Zhi’ [lit. the twelve branches among the flowers] will he kill you? You should be twenty-seven now! You have one more year of time.”

Hou Xibai spoke dejectedly, “Twenty-eight years is just the deadline that he has set. I could ask for an early meeting any moment; what I really want to know is whether if he really kills me and turns me into a ghost [of one who died unjustly], would Shi Shi be grieving and has regret? Ay! The Hua Jian Pai’s rules and ancestor laws have been established from the heart since I was little, and now have become a deep-rooted ideology; therefore, I definitely will not let you, Ziling interfere in this matter, I can only rely on my own strength to cross over this difficulty.”

Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “With your current condition, completely without any fighting spirit, in a moment you said you have your hands tied and surrender to other’s will to be punished, in another moment you said you want to contend strongly to cross the barrier, all are showing negative attitude; you really make people worried.”

Returning to his confident and at ease nature, Hou Xibai laughed and said, “This is called contradicting frame of mind; if one could not die, who would be willing to breathe one’s last while there is still plenty of time available? At least not until I finish this Tang Palace’s Hundred-Beauty Painting before we talk about it. Ha!”

Xu Ziling said, “In my opinion, unless your Shi Shi has no other choice, he will not get rid of you with his own hands.”

Staring blankly, Hou Xibai asked, “What makes Ziling think so?”

Muttering to himself irresolutely, Xu Ziling said, “People are not plants, which are without any feeling. Even Shi Zhixuan, who thinks of himself as having a heart of stone, because he caused Bi Xiuxin’s death, he also passed the last fifteen years brimming with pain and contradiction, otherwise this world might be in a different situation. Now that he had woken up from what he called ‘nightmare’, not only he does not dare to meet with Shi Qingxuan, this lethal point, he shouldn’t be willing to personally execute the disciple that he personally cultivated; therefore, my guess is that he is going to use Yang Xuyan to deal with you.” Translated by foxs

Hou Xibai’s spirit greatly aroused, he said, “This is going to be a completely different matter; I won’t let Yang Xuyan prevail, no matter what.”

Seeing his fighting spirit was aroused, Xu Ziling was greatly reassured; he said, “Your Shi Shi only has two direct disciples; if the one dying is Yang Xuyan and not you, he has no reason to destroy his only direct disciple. Otherwise, Hua Jian and Bu Tian, two Sects would not continue. The more conceivable thing is that your Shi Shi might fully support Yang Xuyan to become the victor. If you don’t bestir yourself, you might nurse a grievance under Yang Xuyan’s Shadow Sword.”

Snorting coldly, Hou Xibai said, “How could I easily give Yang Xuyan any advantage? Fortunately Ziling’s direction has sobered me up. Ha! Now I can sleep with the peace of mind!” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Since Li Shimin’s big victory by acquiring Baibi, those who still had barely enough power to oppose him in the world remained only three major military groups headed by Wang Shichong, Dou Jiande, and Xiao Xian, respectively. Kou Zhong had just sprouted his wings, momentarily it was not his turn yet. The Song Clan’s base was in the remote Lingnan. Although they had more than enough power to cut the land and proclaim themselves hegemon, but if they only relied on their own Clan’s strength, plus the southerners could not withstand the bitter cold in the north, they could only sigh for their whip’s inability to reach [idiom: beyond one’s influence].

Song JinGang’s defeat at Baibi was indeed far-reaching; not only it caused Liu Wuzhou’s fame and power to turn from strong to weak, it also made the Tujue, before they could unify various tribes beyond the Great Wall – not daring to act blindly without thinking. Without the support of the Tujue people, the other hegemon who attached himself to the Tujue, Liang Shidou, did not have any choice but to hold back his troops without moving, adopting the watching-the-fires-burning-across-the-river attitude, sitting and watching decisive battle for supremacy with Luoyang as the center.

Among the three major military groups, Xiao Xian’s situation was the most unfavorable. The key lay in Du Fuwei surrendering to the Tang; not only it pressed down on Xiao Xian that he was unable to move a single step, it also made Zhu Can, Li Zitong, Shen Faxing, and so on had no alternative but to tuck their hands inside their sleeves and quietly watching the turbulent situation.

Lin Shihong was sandwiched between two major formidable opponents, Xiao Xian and the Song Clan, it was difficult for him to do anything.

In this gradually clearing up situation, the world became the target of the struggle between the Li Clan, Wang Shichong, and Dou Jiande, three sides, and Kou Zhong’s only hope was to pull Wang Shichong and Dou Jiande together to crush Li Shimin’s undefeated myth.

After rushing on at top speed all night long, Kou Zhong arrived in Luoyang early in the morning. Among the troops guarding the gate, who did not recognize him? Immediately they flew to report to Wang Shichong.

The one coming to meet him was Wang Shichong’s second son, Wang Xuanshu, on whom Kou Zhong had quite a good impression; when they met, there was happiness all around. Translated by foxs

Escorted by their personal guards, the two galloped side-by-side toward the imperial palace.

“Any movement from Li Shimin’s side?” Kou Zhong asked.

Wang Xuanshu’s expression turning grave, he responded in heavy voice, “According to the intelligence we received, Li Shimin is going to personally lead the main forces out of the Pass and coming to the east within these few days; we have been making adequate preparation to deliver him a frontal assault by all means. Ay! Indeed like Shaoshuai anticipated in the past, Li Shimin drew a lesson from Li Mi failing to attack Luoyang after a long time, he takes the strategy of gradually purging the surrounding strongholds to sever the food transportation route in order to isolate us.”

With exuberant mood, Kou Zhong ran his eyes over the prosperous-as-ever scenery of the City of Luoyang. Astonished, he asked, “Li Shimin’s main forces are still far away in Guanzhong, how do you know what strategy he is going to adopt?”

Wang Xuanshu replied, “Because after the battle of Baibi, the Li Family sent out four great generals one after another to build up military strength all around us. They are, consecutively, Shi Wanbao to establish his presence in Longmen, to cut our southern aid route; Liu Dewei to station his troops at Taixing, if they attack to the east via the River, potentially our northern route will be sealed; Wang Junkuo is glaring like a tiger watching its prey toward Luokoulun; and the other high-ranking military officer Huang Junhan is stationing his troops at Mengjin, once they cross over the Great River, the route back to Luolun will be difficult to protect.”

Kou Zhong secretly mused that this was indeed the so-called ‘the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans’; without wasting a single soldier, a lone troop, only by relying on maneuvering troops and horses, Li Shimin already created enormous pressure onto Wang Shichong. Under such circumstances, if Li Shimin wanted to persuade the high-ranking military officers under Wang Shichong’s banner to surrender, to force them to leave and realign their allegiance to him, it would be like where the water flows, a canal is formed [idiom: when conditions are right, success will follow naturally]. foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Full of confidence, Kou Zhong said, “Luoyang is located on the confluence of the rivers, to really isolate Luoyang is easier said than done. In the past, in order to convince your esteemed father, naturally I was exaggerating a little bit. No need to worry, I don’t care if Li Shimin is releasing his horses to come over [i.e. giving everything he has], as long as we could defend Yanshi and Hulao fronts firmly, when Li Shimin besiege the city, Dou Jiande’s main forces will come to help, they will surely attack Li Shimin until he is in a sorry state; even whether he could escape back to Guanzhong will still be questionable.”

Revealing an awkward expression, Wang Xuanshu spoke in low voice, “Fuhuang [father emperor] is unwilling to listen to my advice, he violated his agreement with Dou Jiande, he already ascended the imperial throne yesterday.”

Kou Zhong’s countenance changed, “What?” he blurted out.

The men and horses galloped into the imperial palace.

[1] Chapter title – idiom: Buddhist monastic practice / the passage of time in a disciplined existence.

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