Book 4 Chapter 2 – Enlightenment By The Well
More than ten li from where Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling disembarked, in the second story of a restaurant at the downtown area of Dongping County, the two boys ordered food and drink, and went eating and drinking as much as they liked.
On parting, Li Shimin presented them a substantial amount of money. Naturally Kou Zhong was not shy to accept it; therefore, they instantly became high-spirited and set to work to spend it.
Xu Ziling pressed his hand down on the wine pot and persuaded Kou Zhong, “Enough drinking, you are about to pass out.”
Kou Zhong brushed his hand away and poured his own drink, “Just let me be drunk this his mother’s time! I guarantee I won’t drink anymore after this.”
Xu Ziling was displeased, “Didn’t you say you have come to realization? And now you want to drown your sorrow in wine; what kind of hero is that?”
Kou Zhong squinted and cast a sidelong glance to Xu Ziling; brushing his hand aside, he squeaked and said, “This is called wine of celebration! Celebrating my, Zhong Shao’s first time learning to love and fell in love with a big-headed Buddha. Ha! I am going to get drunk for her granny’s sake only once, in the future I will make her regret that she did not marry me. What kind of ‘thing’ that Chai guy anyway to have the cheek to look down on me? Come! Bottoms up!”
Xu Ziling was at a loss. Seeing that there were only a handful of people in the restaurant and they were all looking at them, he had no choice but to clink his cup to Kou Zhong’s, but he stayed silent.
Kou Zhong was already drunk; he crouched on the table and mumbled, “Alright, now it’s enough. Let us now go to the pleasure house next door, we’ll pick a girl who is a hundred times, a thousand times prettier than she; let’s see if I cannot live without her.”
Xu Ziling seized the opportunity to settle the bill, and forcefully pulled him up and helped him down the stairs, while going along with him, “Go! We’ll visit a low-grade brothel.”
Half of Kou Zhong immediately perked up; he said, “Don’t lie to me, one world two brothers, you must take me to the pleasure house, and must pick the cutest girl for me.”
When the two boys stepped out onto the street, it was early evening when the lanterns were first lit; the main street ought to be bustling with activities, yet it was as quiet as the ghost area. Under the autumn breeze, only one or two people were outside, walking briskly; it was indeed a desolate scene.
Xu Ziling smiled wryly and said, “Looks like you are still clear-headed!”
Kou Zhong’s countenance changed, “Turns out you do not have any intention to take me to the pleasure house; can you still be considered my brother?”
Xu Ziling forced himself to respond, “Did I promise you that?”
Kou Zhong suddenly flung Xu Ziling’s arm away; staggering to the sidewalk he squatted and stooped down, ‘wah!’ he vomited the content of his stomach.
Xu Ziling rushed forward, squatted alongside him, grabbed his shoulder, and with his other hand he rubbed Kou Zhong’s back. His heart was aching that he felt like crying.
He had never seen Kou Zhong this unhappy.
After vomiting all the yucky, gooey yellowish sour liquid from his stomach, Kou Zhong hung his head and while gasping for breath he said, “Xiao Ling! I am so miserable!”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “Your love life has only just begun, yet you are so miserable like this. If after Li Xiuning and you pledge undying love to each other, and then she changes her affection, shifts her love; won’t you kill yourself then?”
Kou Zhong shook his head, “You don’t understand,” he said, “Last night when you and Li guy were studying the account book, she and I had a very congenial conversation; she was showing a lot of concerns over me.” And then he became distressed, “But now that I think about it, she was just probing our background on Li guy’s behalf. From the beginning to the very end, she had never had me, Kou Zhong, in her heart.”
Xu Ziling dejectedly said, “You should have known that those people from upper class, influential family would never show respect for us, lowly, nameless errand boys! Didn’t you bring trouble on yourself this time?”
Clearly Kou Zhong was a lot more sober now, his tiger eyes flickered as he spoke in deep voice, “Good brother, don’t worry! After I recover, I won’t be that easy to fall in love with any women.”
Xu Ziling probed him further, “You still want to go to a brothel?”
Kou Zhong shook his head sadly. Letting Xu Ziling helped him up, he said, “Let’s find an inn to spend the night. Tomorrow morning we will immediately go to Xingyang. After finding Susu Jie, we’ll … ha!”
Xu Ziling was helping him walking along the street. “What’s so funny?” he asked in bewilderment.
Kou Zhong held on to his shoulders. The more he thought, the more he was amused. “All in all, Laotianye did not treat us too shabbily. At the very least we have had a glimpse into superior martial art realm, we even completed the first level Niang was talking about. Our money purse has enough silver, and at least we know that ‘Duke Yang Treasure’ is somewhere near Yuema Bridge in the Capital. Moreover, we obtained the account book that will really make Yuwen Huagu to transform his bones [reminder: ‘huagu’ means transforming bones]; yet I am still weeping endlessly for a woman. I really did not make any progress.”
Xu Ziling was delighted. “Now that is my good brother,” he said, “But do you still want to be the emperor?”
Kou Zhong was silent for half a day. Finally he said seriously, “We are starting to think sensibly, hence we’ll have to look at other people’s countenance to conduct ourselves, this way we will enjoy our lives. Whether I still want to be the emperor, I dare not say, but in short, I do not want to accept our inferior status. What do other people have that we don’t have?”
Xu Ziling agreed, “We are not inferior to anybody,” he said.
Kou Zhong chuckled, “So let’s do some great undertaking, so that Niang’s spirit in heaven will be gratified. In the future, no one will dare to consider us as ‘not a thing’.”
Hearing this, Xu Ziling’s heroic spirit soared. He broke into singing, a song that was popular at that time, “I am an honorable young master [gongzi], in all my life I always love talent.”
Kou Zhong continued the next line, “When thinking about dedicating myself to the service of my country, I pull out my sword and raise a heroic cry.”
The two boys marched bravely forward following the rhythm, while singing in chorus, “Galloping fast westward to Dingling Pass, going up north to Chanyu Plateau. Climbing the mountain looking ahead for a thousand li, recalling the past, the heart is happy and carefree. Who has not forgotten the disaster will be erased into dust.”
The singing echoed along the deserted street. At last Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s life of hiding to the east and escaping to the west was over, they were now free to be themselves and do the matters that they liked.
The two boys came across a well; they sat down by the well’s fence.
Kou Zhong craned his neck to look into the well; seeing the water at the bottom of the well reflecting the bright moon hanging high up in the sky, he laughed and said, “Now this is called the universe [qiankun] inside the well. It is deeper and more unmeasurable than Ol’ Die’s ‘xiu li qiankun’ [universe inside the sleeve].”
Following his lead, Xu Ziling also looked into the well. He laughed bitterly and said, “I don’t know what happened in this Dongping County; all inns are fully booked, but the streets are clear and empty. Hey!”
Kou Zhong was puzzled, “You are looking at the bright moon inside the well; why make so much fuss about nothing?”
Xu Ziling appeared to be deep in thought, his tiger eyes lit up, “I seemed to have just grabbed an important point, but it’s so hard to explain.”
Kou Zhong stared blankly for half a day, and then he looked into the reflection inside the well again. As it turns out, a cloud was passing by, so that the moon appeared to be suddenly hidden. Suddenly he also felt something indescribable at the bottom of his heart.
Xu Ziling spoke as if he was in a dream, “Didn’t Niang say that her Shifu often said that everyone has sufficient resources within himself? This well is self-sufficient. The water inside the well is just like the treasure-trove within human body; it can be used and can be changed into anything. Like this moment for example, it creates the bright moon in the well. Are you saying that is not the real moon? The fact is, real or fake, it’s hard to distinguish. Whatever you think it is, it will appear exactly like that.”
Kou Zhong’s pair of big eyes brightened; he slapped the well’s fence and said, “Well said! Watch this!” He randomly picked a pebble and tossed it into the well.
‘Splash!’ The bright moon turned into rippling, wavy lights, and it was quite a while later that the water returned to its previous state.
“I understand now!” Xu Ziling shouted gleefully, “This is indeed some kind of formidable mental cultivation. When I was facing the enemy in the past, at the beginning I could still be calm, just like the clear water inside the well reflecting everything in the surrounding area. But once the fighting started, I was fuming with rage and everything was immediately forgotten.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “You have not been thorough enough. Just like when we saw Ol’ Die, we immediately turned into a mouse seeing a cat. Same thing happened last time we were facing Shang Gong. If we could overcome our panic and maintain the same calmness we can usually achieve during practice, we could become like the clear water in the well, able to reflect everything in the surrounding area. This is completely different from our condition before.”
Xu Ziling leaned over and pressed his cheek against the ice-cold edge of the well; he sighed and said, “I am awfully happy! If I can excel in this kind of no-victory no-defeat, no-demand no-desire, and forever-will-not-be-tempted realm just like the bright moon in the well, I would be willing to have my life shortened by ten years.”
Kou Zhong wanted to say something, but sound of footsteps roused the two boys up. Turning their heads toward the direction of the footsteps they saw two men wearing swords on their waists were coming toward the well. One of them, a man wearing grey clothes, shouted, “Kids, don’t block the well, Laozi wants to drink some water.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Let the kids serve Daye [big master]!”
The two boys worked hands and feet to lower the bucket and get the clear water up. Without any trace of politeness the two big men received the bucket and drank.
The other man said, “Kids are well-behaved. It’s late, what are you doing here?”
Xu Ziling replied, “We have nothing to do, so we are just chatting idly here. May I ask where are two Dashu [big uncles] going?”
The man in grey stared coldly at him, and then said with a cold laugh, “So what if I tell you? Do you have enough qualifications to go?” Finished speaking he and his companion simply left.
The two boys looked at each other; they had no idea what he was talking about [orig. 丈八金刚 (zhang ba jin gang) - ‘unable to figure out the whole story and its contents’], and were completely at a loss.
Chapter 2, Part 2
Jaya, Anh, HPC, Drak, you are welcome. Chiktikka, what you know is probably the same as what I know. From the text, it seems to me that if Li Shimin has not married, at least he was betrothed. And no, NOT to Shan Wanjing. Sky, same ladies ... OK, here is the last part of Chapter 2, i.e. next update will be a fresh, never been posted, one.
Kou Zhong said, “Since we don’t have anything to do, why not tail them and see why they are so pretentious? Finding a place to spend the night will also be good.”
Xu Ziling readily agreed.
The two boys’ childish character was aroused; unleashing their qinggong, they flew to the eaves and jumped over the walls just like walking on level ground. They were indeed able to do what their heart wished.
Suddenly they entered a place between the heaven and the earth, where previously they could only dream of, a place where although there was only a fine line separating it from ordinary people’s world, yet it was vastly different; it was the pinnacle of qinggong, which could only be classified as a place where only martial art experts with ultimate skill could ever achieved. This has filled them with mysterious and marvelous feeling.
Their heart and mind have become like the clear water in the well; nothing to think, no obstruction, but objectively reflecting the great mysteries of the universe.
When they stuck out their heads from behind the eaves of a house, the two men had just turned from the alley into the main street ahead.
They saw a huge residential building situated at the southern city wall where there was an endless stream of horses and carriages outside of its door; it was very lively. Inside and outside the gate the lanterns were fully lit, people coming and going, sound of people talking and laughing could be heard everywhere.
Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear, “Turns out everybody is coming here. There must be a birthday or wedding, a happy occasion. What do you say we also join the festivities?”
Xu Ziling said, “No wonder those two muddled-eggs laughed at us for not having enough qualifications to come. Just look at the flair, the one having this happy occasion must not be a nobody. Without invitation, how are we going to mingle in?”
Kou Zhong seemed to have been completely recovered from the blow caused by Li Xiuning earlier; brimming with excitement, he said, “If the front gate is impenetrable, we will go through his mother’s back door. Right now our clothes are brand-spanking new; as long as we are in, nobody will suspect that we are not genuine articles!”
Without waiting for Xu Ziling’s response, Kou Zhong jumped down onto the alley and turned into the main street. Xu Ziling had no choice but to run after him.
Side-by-side the two boys walked toward the big building at the corner of the street. It was only then did they discover that from their angle of view just now they could not see the entire situation of the front gate. It was actually jam-packed with crowd of people who were unable to get it; at least the number would be close to several hundreds.
A group of more than thirty men wearing dark green warrior outfits was trying to maintain order; they did not let any onlookers from blocking the street, to let real guests on carriages and horses to enter the mansion.
Kou Zhong was greatly surprised, “My Niang! What happens here? Even if this family is holding a banquet, it definitely won’t attract these many onlookers!”
Seeing the crowd ahead of them was blocked by those several men in warrior outfits, Xu Ziling turned around and hastily stopped one of the crowds and asked, “What happen in there?”
The man glowered at him; he vented his frustration on these two boys, “You don’t even know that the world-famous Shi Qingxuan is here? Get lost! Go back to your nest to suck on your old Niang’s breasts!” he angrily said and walked away.
Hearing that, the two boys were dumbstruck.
It should be noted that Shi Qingxuan’s name has shaken the whole country as an amazing woman, due to her flute [xiao, see my note earlier, Book 2 Chapter 8] skill that was shocking the present age. They had heard her name as early as when they were still in Yangzhou, it’s just that they did not know which person had this much face that he was able to invite her to perform here. Rumor has it that she had lived a reclusive life, not many people were able to enjoy her flute music, but those who had heard her had all prostrated themselves in admiration.
Kou Zhong elbowed Xu Ziling’s flank and said with a giggle, “We won’t have to worry about being lonely tonight; there are both a show to enjoy and wine to drink.”
Xu Ziling’s heart warmed up; he laughed and said, “If you drink again, I won’t accompany you.”
“I won’t drink!” Kou Zhong hastily said, “Come!”
Seeing the path ahead was blocked, he led Xu Ziling going around in big circle and arrived at the rear wall of this grand residence, which occupied a land close to a hundred mu [1 mu is approximately 1/5 of a hectare, or about ½ an acre].
They lightly leaped over the high wall, and landed on a deserted rear courtyard. Walking toward the front of the building, they saw the big garden behind the main building was as bright as day with colored lanterns hanging everywhere, and it was packed with maids and guests.
The two boys brushed the dust from their clothes and then swaggered to join the crowd, feeling very excited in their hearts.
With ‘golden eyes blazing gaze’ Kou Zhong sized up the meticulously dressed female guests who looked like ‘lovely scene of blossoming flowers swaying in the breeze’, while from occasionally pointing out and making idle remarks about those women’s appearance; it appeared that he has indeed gotten over Li Xiuning.
When they squeezed themselves into the inside hall of the main building, they saw that the atmosphere was even more lively. Everybody was excitedly discussing Shi Qingxuan’s flute skill, as if they all were experts who have had extensive research about her.
Inside the hall, leaning against the wall were a dozen of tables full with hors d’oeuvres and all kinds of delicacies for everybody to enjoy.
Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling along as he squeezed himself left and right toward the tables. He sighed and said, “If I had known this good place, we could have come here to have dinner!”
Xu Ziling suddenly let out a muffled cry and pulled Kou Zhong to hide behind a stone pillar, as if he wanted to hide from certain people.
Kou Zhong was baffled. “What’s the matter?” he asked in confusion.
Xu Ziling pointed his finger, “Look!” he said.
Kou Zhong stuck out his head to look. He saw among a crowd of men and women guests, six or seven respectable looking young masters [gongzi] in, were chatting around two beautiful young women; it was quite noticeable. His spirit aroused, he said, “Those two girls are very pretty.”
“I don’t mean them!” Xu Ziling angrily said, “Can’t you look a bit farther than that? You said you won’t be so easy to be tempted by women.”
Kou Zhong reluctantly looked away from the girls, and saw toward the edge of the hall there was a cluster of rosewood chairs, where three men were sat. Other people could only stand on the side, emphasizing the status of these three men even more.
One of the men had snow-white hair and beard, his bearing bold and powerful, but his clothes were tattered. Although he was sitting down, he still gave the impression of his magnificent build that was as majestic as the mountain.
Another man was wearing long gown, the hair on his temples was peppered with white spots, so that people knew that he was definitely not a young man; but his appearance looked like a middle-aged man, carrying a distinguished and scholarly air of a Sect’s leader, his manners elegant, giving the impression that he was an out of the ordinary, free from vulgarity, man.
These days Kou Zhong’s experience has advanced greatly, yet he still felt that these two were outstanding characters.
Accompanied these two was a middle-aged man dressed in a high-ranking government official attire; very lordly, and gave the impression that he was an astute and formidable man.
Kou Zhong was wondering in his heart; although it appeared that these three were special personage, Xu Ziling should not make so much fuss about it.
This moment Xu Ziling’s voice was heard next to his ear, “Isn’t that Shen Naitang who we encountered the other day?”
Kou Zhong jumped in fright; hastily he swept his gaze over the dozen or so people who stood around these three men, and he quickly found Shen Naitang.
That day the two boys were detained by Du Fuwei in relation to the ‘Secret to Long Life’, along the way they encountered Shen Naitang and Liang Shidou’s son, Liang Shunming, and the others. A conflict broke out, which gave the two boys the opportunity to escape in the midst of the confusion. These days he did not remember them anymore, but now that he saw Shen Naitang, immediately he recalled Shen Naitang’s beautiful niece Shen Wushuang.
Xu Ziling said in a low voice, “Hurry up, let’s leave!”
“Why would we want to leave?” Kou Zhong argued, “Without listening to Shi Qingxuan’s flute, we cannot leave. Besides, old fellow Shen has not seen us yet.” And then he added, “That official looking guy must be the host. I wonder who those two are?”
Temporarily Xu Ziling cast Shen Naitang out of his mind; answering Kou Zhong, he said, “Just look at how respectful the other men are, we know that they are not ordinary people. Hey! Ultimate martial art experts must have this kind imposing style!”
Right this moment, it was as if that bold and powerful old man and the scholar in long gown have sensed the two boys’ staring at them; as if having prior agreement, they both shot a glance toward the two boys.
The two boys jumped in fright, they hastily withdrew to hide behind the pillar.
Kou Zhong exclaimed in low voice, “My Niang! Experts are indeed experts; they are definitely not a play thing.”
Flustered and panicked, Xu Ziling felt that someone was approaching him from behind. At first he thought it was just a guest walking by, but he clearly sensed that the person’s hand was about to tap his shoulder.
It was a subtle feeling that was hard to describe with words, he did not see the other person’s movement at all, but he clearly just knew.
In this instant, his mind entered the realm of clear water, not rippled, that can reflect the bright moon in the sky; he just knew that the other person did not mean him any harm.
The hand patted his shoulder; it was gentle and soft.
Kou Zhong also felt something was wrong, both he and Xu Ziling turned around at the same time.
As soon as they saw who it was, their soul flew away and scattered.
Because that person was the Dong Ming Princess who dressed as a handsome scholar. The one person in the world that they did not wish to see the most.