Book 2 Chapter 2 – Mutual Deception
Carried under Du Fuwei’s arms, the two boys really covered about a hundred li that day. Before daybreak they have arrived at Xin’an County [Luoyang, Henan].
This county is one of the two thriving big cities along the Yangtze River. Because the fire of war has not reached this place, compounded with a large numbers of refugees fled here to seek shelter, the city was bustling with noise and excitement.
With hands behind his back and a face that did not show any expression, Du Fuwei led the way. It was not clear whether he felt embarrassed that everybody was avoiding him due to his demonic appearance, or whether he was proud of it.
Kou Zhong made an eye signal to Xu Ziling before he hastened his steps toward Du Fuwei. “Die!” he called, “Aren’t you supposed to go back to Liyang to become big king over there? Perhaps there are people who took advantage of your absence to rise in rebellion!”
Du Fuwei said indifferently, “Good boy, you’d better speak a couple of words less. Otherwise, if other people hear it, I would have to kill them to shut their mouth.”
Kou Zhong stuck out his tongue. Pretending to be scared he returned to Xu Ziling’s side and said in a low voice, “Li Dage was right. Die is not a good material for somebody who would conquer the world [tian xia]; he is too eager to kill, and don’t know how to buy the hearts of the people.”
Du Fuwei turned his head around to glower at him; his sharp eyes shot a chilling murderous intention. The scared Kou Zhong did not dare to continue.
Du Fuwei was about two cun taller than the two boys, plus he was wearing a tall hat; walking among the crowd, he really looked like a crane in a flock of chicken, very conspicuous.
The three of them climbed the stairs in the largest restaurant in town. The restaurant was jam-packed with people, trying to find an empty table was definitely harder than ascending the heavens. Du Fuwei pulled a water aside and stuffed two strings of zhu coins [1 zhu = 1/24 of a tael] into his hand. God knows how the waiter conjured up his magic trick, right away the waiter led them to an empty table next to a window, and respectfully asked them, three ‘father and sons’ to sit down.
After ordering tea and some appetizers, Du Fuwei only took a sip of tea, and then he stopped and looked at the two boys devouring their food. With an indifferent tone he asked, “Who said I don’t know how to buy the people’s heart?”
Kou Zhong replied in low voice, “If Die knew how to buy the people’s heart, you would not go around forcing people into service, to enlist your troops by force; as a result those who saw it are terrified.”
Du Fuwei was incredulous, “What does a kid like you know? There’s a common saying, ‘wealth define character’. Right now Die can barely scrape a meager living by living like a pauper. If I am not careful, even my family property can be lost. Where can I find the capital to buy the people’s heart?”
Kou Zhong shook his head and swayed his noggin, “If Die knew how to buy the people’s heart, you would dress your children to look like great heroes, so that when you toot your horn about coming to the aid of the people and saving the world, we, two brothers, will follow good ol’ Die delightfully, and even help you conquering the world. It would be much better than relying on fear to control us, and thus harming the congeniality between us, father and sons.”
Xu Ziling could not endure it, he nearly spurt the delicious pastries out of his mouth; but seeing Du Fuwei’s unsightly countenance, he hurried covered his mouth and hung his head low.
Kou Zhong totally ignored the ominous glint in Du Fuwei’s eyes; he still giggled and said, “Die, you, Senior, should not be angry; sincere advice is always unpleasant to hear. The reason the muddle-headed ruler is called muddle-headed ruler is precisely because he is unwilling to listen to sincere advice. Die, if you only want to be a gangster leader, naturally there won’t be any problem, but if you want to be the world’s leader, no matter how unwilling you are to listen to criticism, you have to put up an attitude of ‘respecting the wise’, ‘encouraging free airings of different views’. Only then would people not call you ‘just another muddle-headed ruler’.”
Du Fuwei was listening to him with a blank expression on his face.
He started his career by making a life-and-death [orig. kissing neck] friendship with Fu Gongyou, mustering wanderers and riffraff [orig. grass and weeds/uncultivated land] and became the region’s overlord of the underworld. Later on he led his troops to seek shelter under Wang Bo of Changbai Mountain. And then he broke away from Wang Bo to become an independent general crisscrossing the Huai River, never suffered any defeat. Right now even Liyang had fallen into his hands, his reputation shook the world. But he had never had anybody dared to reprimand him on his face, especially not a bookish advice coming from a kid’s mouth, whose smell of his mother’s milk has not dried yet. However, while listening to him, he felt something fresh; in particular the way Kou Zhong kept calling him ‘Dad’. If he got angry because of this, he really lacked grace; therefore, momentarily he did not know how to refute.
Kou Zhong had not finished; he ate and talked at the same time, “Die, your martial art skill is so formidable. It seems to me that even Yuwen Huagu is not your match.”
Casting a glance at Du Fuwei’s expression, he let out a ‘huh?’ and then continued, “Could it be that your son kissed the wrong butt? Why does Die’s expression become so unsightly? Ay! After obtaining the ‘Secret to Long Life’, you are going to kill your children to shut our mouths anyway, so just bear with us a bit longer! Or perhaps you could seal our mute acupoint, so that we cannot make any noise. Hee hee! Actually, is mute acupoint real?”
Du Fuwei’s strong eyes swept around, he noticed that Kou Zhong constantly increased the volume of his voice. He shook his head with a wry smile and said, “If you, this kid, are thinking about drawing other people’s attention to save you, it’s just a wishful thinking. All you are doing is just adding a few more lives to take.”
Suddenly he reached down under the table to pinch Xu Ziling’s thigh. As soon as he exerted strength to his five fingers, Xu Ziling was in so much pain that he had to spit the culinary delicacy in his mouth.
Kou Zhong raised his hands in mock surrender and said, “Die is still more ruthless than your child. This strategy ‘besieging Wei to rescue Zhao’ [to relieve besieged ally by attacking the home base of the besiegers] and ‘make declaration for the east but strike to the west’, I really cannot ward off. Die, please be magnanimous! Child understood that in everything power trumps logic. Die’s lesson is very good.”
Du Fuwei was still a bit at a loss. His biggest problem was that right now was not the time to kill people to shut their mouth yet. Withdrawing his big hand, he said drily, “From now on you are not allowed to speak.”
Kou Zhong giggled and coughed, trying to stifle his laugh, but in the end he tossed his head back and roared in laughter. Only then did he lower his head and munched busily.
Du Fuwei was so furious he nearly blew his lungs. But since he did not say that they must not laugh, he felt embarrassed to punish them.
The two little demons exchanged a glance and both smiled knowingly in triumph.
Leaving the restaurant, with bamboo toothpicks in their mouth, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling strolled leisurely behind Du Fuwei. From time to time they bumped their shoulders against each other; their mind seemed to be free from the immediate trouble.
Without saying a single word, Du Fuwei headed for the marketplace and bought two horses; he had the two boys rode together in one horse with a strict warning, “If you are still daydreaming about relying on the horse’s legs to escape, I will dig one eyeball from each of you. Are we clear?”
The two boys nodded their head deferentially; their appearance made others laugh.
Du Fuwei was in no mood to argue with them, he told them to ride in the front, leading the way, while he followed behind them.
As soon as they left the city, the horses galloped along the official road. Xu Ziling let the horse speed along without trying to rein it at all.
Seeing that Du Fuwei was lagging behind at least five zhang away, Kou Zhong whispered in Xu Ziling’s ear, “This is bad, if we let this evil man takes the treasure underneath the Emperor Guan Temple in Yangzhou, Niang will definitely blame us.” But with his other hand he wrote on Xu Ziling’s back, “Just now at the restaurant I tried to attract other people’s attention. If someone is blocking our way, we can seize the opportunity to escape.”
Xu Ziling understood his intention, so he said with a sigh, “He is so formidable, we had no choice but to obey. In my opinion, although he is cruel and overbearing, he is actually a good person. At least until now he has not beaten us yet. We’d better give the ‘Secret to Long Life’ to him first, and then we’ll see whether he would really take us as his sons. When he becomes the emperor in the future, won’t we become crown prince? Yifu [foster father/godfather] ought not to kill yizi!” [foster child; ‘yi’ here means ‘righteousness’, same as ‘righteous army’ I mentioned earlier, also same character in ‘yiqi’]
Based on previous experience with Fu Junchuo, the boys knew that even though they were separated by a few zhang, it would be hard to conceal anything from Du Fuwei’s ears.
Kou Zhong knitted his eyebrows and said, “Ay! Just before her death Niang told us about the secret of opening the treasure-trove, something like three left six right, seven forward eight backward, three turns two spins; did you hear her clearly? Seems like there were two more sentences. Niang’s death was so tragic, I cried so hard that my ears turned deaf; how could I hear clearly? Didn’t Niang said that if we fail to know the secret of how to open the door, even if we get into the Temple we won’t find the entrance to the treasure-trove?”
Inwardly Xu Ziling praised Kou Zhong’s ingenuity. “Of course I remember,” he played along, “But unless he is willing to take us as his sons, otherwise he would kill us to shut our mouths anyway, we might as well not tell him anything. Fortunately Niang taught us the technique to break our main artery; worst case scenario we immediately commit suicide to end our miserable life.”
Kou Zhong pretended to be horrified, “You must not do that,” he said, “I’ll say the old ghost Du can be considered a rare talent, as long as he does not have any son yet, he must find two genius and outstanding talents like us to be his heirs; at least he could use us to admonish his ministers. If he throws us away for nothing, he is a really big fool [orig. muddled egg].”
After a short pause he sighed and added, “Ay! But you were right too, if he deal with us ruthlessly, if he gives us even half a slap on the face, we will immediately kill ourselves, to teach that evil tyrant Dad a lesson, instead of obtaining the treasure, he will be crushed to death when the while Emperor Guan Temple collapse on him.”
Hearing the more he bragged, the farther off-track he was, Xu Ziling was afraid Du Fuwei might see through their charades. “Stop talking,” he busily said, “He might catch up with us!”
Kou Zhong pretended to look back, he saw Du Fuwei lowering his head, so he knew their brilliant scheme was successful; thus he promptly shut his mouth, while in his heart he was so pleased with himself that it was hard to describe his feeling right now.
By dusk that day, the three of them reached a big town called Nanzhi. Du Fuwei found a small inn, but he only booked one room. And then he took the two boys to a small restaurant nearby to have dinner. His manner was a lot more ‘benevolent’ than before.
From the dozen or so tables, only half were occupied. The patrons appeared to be local ‘the haves’.
The three chose a quiet table on the corner. After ordering food and drink, slowly and casually said, “Since the two of you are obedient, you are now allowed to talk.”
Kou Zhong lightly kicked Xu Ziling’s leg under the table. He heaved a sigh and said, “Whatever Die, the Senior, is unwilling to hear, you might as well tell us plainly, so that your sons will not offend you by breaking your taboo, but will seal our lips instead.”
 Title chapter original: you hoodwink me, I cheat on you.
Chapter 2, Part 2
HPC, Anh, Jaya, Sky, you are welcome. Merry Christmas!! And God bless us all everyone ...
Although Du Fuwei was an ambitious and ruthless character of the ‘dark road’ who could kill people without blinking an eye, he was helpless against Kou Zhong. To show that he was magnanimous, he forced a laugh and said, “As long as you don’t deliberately stir up trouble, why would I be afraid of your talk? The amount of salt I took is more than the grains of rice you have eaten, the number of bridges I crossed is more than the road you have travelled.”
Kou Zhong showed a ‘I beg to differ’ expression, but he did not contradict.
Xu Ziling said in a low voice, “We, two brothers, accept our misfortunes as decreed by fate. Du Zongguan [see Chapter 1], after obtaining the ‘Secret to Long Life’, would you grant us a quick and easy death, and not subject us to prolonged suffering? Ay! Since Niang died, we have always thought about following her to the Yellow Spring [underworld in Chinese Mythology, equivalent to Hades or Hell]. It’s just that we don’t have the courage to kill ourselves!”
Kou Zhong interrupted, “Die, after we die, it would be best if whenever you have spare time, you have your subordinates, the generals, to order those foot soldiers to burn some gold and silver paper for us, so that in the Yellow Spring, Niang and us can live comfortably and in style.”
With these two boys messing around with him, Du Fuwei really did not know whether he should laugh or he should cry. “Who said anything about killing you?” he said with a wry smile.
With a straight face Kou Zhong said, “A ruler’s words is no joking matter; in that case you can’t even harm us.”
Du Fuwei was indeed a wily old fox; he smiled and said, “If you don’t hide anything from me, I, Du Fuwei, will keep my promises [orig. one word worth nine sacred tripods]. In the future I definitely won’t mistreat you.”
The two boys knew he had fallen into their trap. After exchanging a glance, Kou Zhong said with a sigh, “Die’s promise is good enough. Xiao Ling, you may tell him!”
Xu Ziling said, “The entrance to the treasure-trove must be opened in specific way. If Die is willing to swear a heavy oath, guaranteeing that you will not harm even half a hair on our bodies by any method, that you will truly consider us as your sons, then son will tell you the secret.”
Du Fuwei saw a group of men and women just walked in to the restaurant, one of them was an elderly man with an out-of-the-ordinary manner; obviously he was a martial art expert. Du Fuwei nodded and said, “We’ll talk about it later. Let’s eat!”
Following his gaze, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong also looked toward the door. Four eyes lit up simultaneously.
The new comers were five in total, one old man and four young people. Each one of them carried either a sword or a saber. The one causing the two boys’ eyes to light up was a sixteen or seventeen-year old, budding young girl in the prime of youth, with an exceptionally good-looking countenance.
The old man was short and stout, his bearing looked bold and powerful; as soon as he walked in, his eyes landed squarely on Du Fuwei.
The other three were young men around twenty-year old, their physiques looked heroic and strong, one of them was exceptionally handsome, and taller than the other two. This young man walked side-by-side with the beautiful girl in an intimate manner.
The young girl noticed the two boys, Kou and Xu’s marketplace rascal’s eyes were sizing her up without blinking, and angry look flitted across her pretty face; she turned her head away in disdain, and pressed closer to the tall and handsome young man’s back as they entered the restaurant.
Knowing that they had caught the young girl’s attention, the two boys were very excited; they looked at each other and laughed.
Du Fuwei saw everything clearly, but a warm, familiar feeling welled up in his heart.
He was born into a poor family, and since childhood he wasted his time stealing and robbing at the marketplace. He could not even remember how many times he was beaten up because he took liberties with beautiful women.
Later on, after mastering martial art skill, it was his turn to bully other people. But after nearly twenty years of cultivating superior martial art skill and exercising restraint of his sexual desire, he no longer forced himself into a woman. Looking at these two boys’ mannerism has evoked his memory.
“Do you want Die to get her as your wife for a few nights?” he asked in low voice.
The two boys jumped in fright. They both shook their hands to refuse. Xu Ziling seriously said, “There is no fun in those who come by coercion; our eyes see but our hands do not move.”
Du Fuwei suddenly started to like these two boys, raising his thumb he said, “Good child!”
The two boys inwardly thought that you curry our favor just to obtain the non-existent secret method to open the treasure-trove! Naturally they did not feel grateful at all. But they still put a happy expression on their face.
Because he saw that the girl was already taken [orig. the flower has a master/owner], plus he was afraid that the girl would provoke disaster from Du Fuwei because of them, Kou Zhong renounced his urge to enjoy the beauty and simply stuffed himself.
“How’s Die’s martial art skill compared to Yuwen Huagu’s?” he asked curiously, “Which one is higher, which one is lower?”
This was the second time Du Fuwei heard him arbitrarily changed Yuwen Huaji’s name to ‘Yuwen Huagu’; he was greatly amused. “Being together with you, two kids, I laughed a lot more than I did for the last ten years added together,” he said, “Later on you must not ask this kind of naïve question. I have never met him nor exchange palms with him, how do I know who’s superior and who’s inferior?”
For the sake of the treasure-trove, he gave this half true and half false answer to entertain them.
Xu Ziling said, “There must be some criteria. For instance, that guy ‘Wu Zun’ Bi Xuan [see Book 1 Chapter 5], or ‘San Zhenren’ Ning Daoqi [see Book 1 Chapter 6]; how many people have actually exchange palms with them? Yet isn’t their rank set up on high?”
With a cold laugh Du Fuwei said, “They are undoubtedly most outstanding martial art masters of this age; but every generation in the rivers and mountains [i.e. country] produces talents. Who could guarantee that they will occupy that position forever?”
Kou Zhong nodded and said, “Die’s opinion is very insightful. I wonder how many martial art masters in Jianghu are in the same level as you are?”
Seeing he was putting up a grownup manner in deadly earnest, Du Fuwei was not amused. “Quickly eat!” he snapped.
The two boys were highly interested in the discussion, naturally they were quite put off; without any choice they simply go back to eating with heads down.
Du Fuwei has always been highly authoritative in front of his subordinates. It could be said that no one did not respect him or was afraid of him. Who would have thought that these two boys acted like he was their real Dad? In actuality he did not know how to handle these two boys. His heart softened and he said, “If we are talking about the origin of Wulin’s diverse schools and sects, it can roughly divided into north and south, two major systems. It is called ‘southerners put emphasis on simplicity and obtain the essence; northerners delve deeper and exhaust their branch and leaves’. The so-called north and south refers to the north and south of the Great River. South side Wulin always leans toward the esteemed doctrine of metaphysical study [Wei and Jin philosophical school amalgamating Taoist and Confucian ideals], continuing the so-called Central Plains orthodoxy since the Wei [220-265] and Jin [265-420] dynasties. The north side on the other hand, receives heavy influence of extra-territorial Wulin world; the martial art skills branch into thousand schools ten thousand varieties in innumerable succession. It could be said to be very dynamic and fascinating. But at the highest level, each one has its own distinguishing feature, it’s hard to say which one is superior, which one is inferior.”
Speaking to this point, he saw, sitting three tables away, the old man’s ears were twitching; evidently he was listening to their conversation. In his heart he was a bit wary, since he had already used his inner energy to focus his voice so that it would not spread out. If the opposite side could still hear it, it means this person could be considered a top quality martial art master of the Jianghu.
At other times, Du Fuwei might made his move to try him out, but right now he had an important matter at hand, he was not interested in meddling with any other matters. Therefore, he immediately stopped talking and urged the two boys to eat their fill, and then paid the bill and left.
Patted their belly, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong followed him out.
As they walked past the girl’s table, she suddenly stretched out her foot and with matchless precision placed it right between Xu Ziling’s feet, who was the last in line. She exerted her strength and twisted.
Xu Ziling screamed and stumbled onto Kou Zhong’ back. The two of them fell down and rolled on the ground like a gourd.
 Hell money or Joss paper, considered currency in the underworld, offered as burnt offerings to the deceased in Chinese culture. (Wikipedia, keyword hell money or joss paper)
 Side note: for more on ‘tripods’, please read Jin Yong’s Deer and Cauldron, Chapter 1, translated by yours truly.