Book 3 Chapter 3 – Betting Against Beautiful Woman
After traveling for more than ten li in one stretch, they reached a secluded forest. Only then did the two boys dare to stop and pick up some wild fruits to eat.
Kou Zhong heaved a deep sigh and said, “The man who attacked Zhai Rang sneakily is definitely not a Turkic, otherwise he would have the same accent as Yan Lihui and the other Turkic people; who could he be?”
Xu Ziling was sitting by his side; still having lingering fear in his heart, he said, “That Zu Junyan is really despicable, conspiring with outsiders against his own Boss; we must expose him.”
“Who would believe us?” Kou Zhong replied with a wry smile, “We have no control over this kind of matter. The most important thing right now is to pick up Susu Jiejie, and immediately get her out of the danger zone, lest disaster will find her like the fish in the moat [see Book 1 Chapter 11]. Would you like me to be the matchmaker to arrange your marriage to Susu Jiejie?”
Xu Ziling angrily said, “You still have time to joke around in time like this? You’d better find the way to Pengcheng first, and then we’d do a couple of business transaction without any capital, get a couple of fast horses to take us to Rongyang. That is most important.”
Kou Zhong sprang up, patted his chest and said, “Leave it to me. Just now when we were on top of the hill, I saw a temple in the distance. We can go to that temple to ask for directions. Let’s hit the road!”
The two boys continued their journey. But when the temple was in sight, they were greatly disappointed.
The way leading to the temple was full of weeds; apparently it has been a long time since any human ever set foot on this path. Clearly this temple was an abandoned broken-down temple.
In time when war was raging continuously, even an entire town could turn into ghost town; much less just a temple.
When they reached the external wall of the temple, it was indeed dilapidated and lifeless.
Kou Zhong said with a wry smile, “At least we will have roof over our head; tonight we’ll sleep here!”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “I really miss last night’s roast chicken. You possess great magical power, why don’t you conjure another one up for me to see?”
Kou Zhong pulled him toward the main gate. Just as they stepped over the threshold, they got a big shock. Two coffins were placed side to side in the temple’s main hall; both were covered in dust and cobwebs, and looked extremely creepy.
The two boys were numb as they stood there as in a trance.
After a long time Kou Zhong finally said, “Do you dare to sleep in here?”
Xu Ziling shook his head emphatically; he said, “There’s nothing good in here; I’d rather sleep outside with the sky as our roof and the earth as our bed.”
Kou Zhong couldn’t agree more, “Let’s go!” he said.
They were just about to leave when suddenly, ‘bang!’ one of the coffin lid shot out and flew toward the two boys.
The two boys were scared out of their wits and screamed together, “Ghost!” as they urged their feet to run like crazy out of the temple.
Suddenly they heard a loud shout from behind, someone was shouting angrily, “Kids, where do you think you are going?”
The two boys got their senses back; turning around, they saw the Sui general who wielded a pair of awls last night at the battlefield, was running toward them. He had shed off his armor and helmet, and was only wearing a regular warrior suit.
As long as it was human and not ghost, it would be a lot easier to deal with. Kou Zhong pulled the long saber on his back, stood in the middle of the courtyard, and laughed aloud. “Turns out it’s an old friend!” he said.
Like a lightning the Sui general was already in front of him; raising his pair of awls, he took Kou Zhong’s saber head-on.
Seeing the fierceness of the opponent’s move, Kou Zhong did not dare to meet hard with hard. Unleashing the ‘Crossing Bird Technique’, he swiftly darted a zhang away.
But Xu Ziling refused to back down, he charged forward with his saber to meet the awls.
‘Dang! Dang!’ Xu Ziling was shaken and had to take two steps back.
Meanwhile Kou Zhong attacked from the side, his saber surged on like tidal waves, rolling around toward the opponent.
The man stayed calm and unhurried, the awls in his left and right hands moved in continuous attack, separately blocking the two boys’ long sabers, alternating between wide open and tightly close, but the variation within the moves was endless. Momentarily Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were helpless to deal with him.
But this man’s formidable martial art skill only aroused the two boys’ fighting spirit. They were using him as their sparring partner in practicing their saber play. The more they fought, the braver they were; the longer they fought, the more proficient they got, until finally they managed to force him falling back repeatedly.
The man launched a fake attack, and then floated backward.
The two boys halted. “Why stop fighting?” they asked in chorus.
“Cannot beat you, why continue fighting?” the man retorted.
Seeing he was this forthcoming, a good impression grew in the two boys’ heart.
“Where are your troops?” Xu Ziling asked.
The man returned his awls to his back, his eyes gleaming with cold ray as he said, “If not for you, two people, disturbing my, Qin Shubao’s troop formation, how could I be defeated by that stinky woman [poniang] Shen Luoyan? Although I cannot kill you today, I will never forget this big enmity.”
Kou Zhong sneered and said, “So you consider that a big enmity? You Sui army are worse than beasts; burning the whole town is not enough, even people and livestock are not spared, yet you still rape and murder the women; how are we going to settle this blood debt? I really wish that Shen poniang would get rid of you.”
Qin Shubao was shocked, “Is there such thing?” he asked.
Thereupon Xu Ziling narrated the tragedy they personally witnessed the other night. Hearing this, Qin Shubao shook his head and sighed; he dejectedly said, “Just put that blood debts on my, the Ol’ Qin’s account. In any case, when the Ol’ Qin go back this time, it will be hard to avoid losing my head; so I don’t care about anything anymore.”
Kou Zhong was puzzled, “Since you know you are going to lose your head, why go back?” he asked,
“You are just a little kid, what do you know?” Qin Shubao replied impatiently, “Just get lost from laozi’s presence; if you provoke my anger, I will drag you down to the grave with me.”
Kou Zhong had an idea; he laughed and said, “To a dead person, money is useless. Since you are going to go back and deliver your life, it would be best if you use your money to accumulate merit and do good works; why don’t you give all your money to us, brothers? To requite evil with good, won’t this benevolence worth doing?”
Qin Shubao intently looked at the two boys, sizing them up; a moment or two later, he burst into laughter and said, “You, these two little kids, your martial art skill is not bad, plus you are getting more and more formidable; who could have thought that you are actually just two poor wretches. So be it! All the money I have is barely enough for us to eat a good meal. Before I die, let me, Qin Shubao, be your host, and give you your mother’s big meal, and then we’ll go our separate ways!”
Xu Ziling was skeptical, “You are not going to look for an opportunity to harm us, are you?”
‘Pei!’ Qin Shubao spat; he said angrily, “Who do you think you are? By the time I, Qin Shubao, started to fight in the south and attack to the north, you were still hiding behind your mother’s breast, peeing in terror and crying for your Niang. Since you can’t tell the good from the bad, the deal is off; don’t even think that I will give you half a penny.”
Kou Zhong struck while the iron is still hot, saying, “You really are sincere. Let us go to the best wine shop in Pengcheng; if we don’t have enough money to settle the bill, we will ask you, Laoge [old big brother], to take the full responsibility.”
Qin Shubao laughed aloud and took the lead.
Chatting and joking, the three of them walked for a while, and then they saw the glittering light of a river ahead, reflecting the starlight in the sky above. Qin Shubao pointed to a high mountain in a distant to their left, saying, “That is Mount Luliang [in Shanxi], Pengcheng County lies about thirty li northwest of the mountain. The road ahead is Sishui [lit. river Si, county in Jining, Shandong]. We will stop for the night here, come daybreak tomorrow, we’ll find a boat to go to Pengcheng, and save our leg muscles a little bit.”
“If you use your money to hire a boat, will we have enough money to eat and drink?” Xu Ziling wondered aloud.
Qin Shubao patted the pair of awls on his back and said, “Do we need money to ride a boat? Who would dare to inconvenient me, the Ol’ Qin?”
Kou Zhong was flabbergasted, “All soldiers are evil people,” he said.
Recalling his own impending fate, Qin Shubao dejectedly said, “Stop deriding me.” Taking off his pair of awls, he lay down on the grassy land by the river, using his awls as the pillow.
The two boys also took their long saber off their back, and copying him, they lay down on the grass. Watching the disappearing stars above, they realized soon it would be daybreak.
Qin Shubao said, “I still don’t know your, two little kids’ names.”
After telling him their names, Kou Zhong said, “We consider you, laoge as a true friend, plus we know you are going to lose your head, hence we told you our real names. But you must never tell anybody else, otherwise, we won’t live much longer than you do.”
“Are you wanted criminals?” Qin Shubao asked in surprise, “In time like this, who has time to pay attention to you?”
“It’s really hard to explain in a few words,” Xu Ziling said, “But it’s the truth.”
Qin Shubao cheerfully said, “You consider the Ol’ Qin as your friend, naturally I won’t betray you, and I don’t want to know your background either. But honestly, your saber technique can be considered quite advance, ordinary folks will find it difficult to be your match. More importantly, you are still young, in the future you will definitely become great men. The most formidable thing is that you continuously create new moves that change according to the situation. The second time we fought, I had to strain a lot harder to deal with you. It was almost a miracle.”
Being praised by him, the two boys felt they were floating in the air like immortals. But Qin Shubao suddenly sat up and turned his gaze toward Mount Luliang, and heaved a sigh.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly puzzled, they also sat up to accompany him. “What’s so special about that mountain?” Kou Zhong asked.
Qin Shubao sadly said, “There’s nothing special about that mountain, but there is a very special woman on the mountain. I rarely thought of here all these years, but now that my days are numbered, I can’t help thinking about her.”
Sympathizing with him, Xu Ziling said, “Qin Laoge should go see her first before making other plans. Perhaps after seeing her you won’t be so foolish as to go back to have your head chopped by other people.”
“You can easily lose your life in battlefield anyway,” Kou Zhong added, “Henceforth you can conceal your identity and live a peaceful life.”
Smiling wryly, Qin Shubao said, “How can you understand me? I would rather die than being an ordinary citizen. Right now the imperial court is looking for talents, perhaps I can render merits to redeem my crime. If I really don’t have any other choice but to die, do you think I would go back?”
Relieved, Xu Ziling said, “I see. In that case, you ought to go see your sweetheart even more.”
Qin Shubao laughed aloud and said, “It’s just a wishful thinking on my part; she is the thousand-jin (catty) gold [i.e. daughter (honorific)] of the Sect Leader of Luliang Pai, while I am only a poor soldier. I only have the qualifications to look at her from the distance several times, but after I met her, every time I had intimate relationship with women [Translator’s note: the original word is the vulgar version], I always pictured them as she. Ay! This year she ought to be twenty, I am afraid she is already married and bore children.” The last sentence was spoken with a sob.
The two boys scrutinized his appearance; they saw that although his built looked strong and powerful, his face looked like cast-iron, adorned with wind and frost [i.e. hardship]. His cheekbones were a bit too high, so that in comparison, his sparkling, lively eyes looked a tad low; in short, he could not be considered handsome. Definitely not the type of men whom women would likely pour out their affection to.
Noticing the sky was turning bright, Qin Shubao stood up and said, “I don’t know why I told you, two kids, the load on my mind. Look! A boat’s coming.”
The two boys followed him running to the shore.
A small sailboat was sailing upstream. Since the three people had sharp eyes, they could see that there was only one person on the boat, wearing a long robe and a bamboo rain hat, standing at the stern to steer the boat. A fishing net was spread across the deck, and several bamboo baskets were strewn on the bow.
Qin Shubao waved and called out, “Laoxiong [‘old chap’], can you give us a ride?”
 Orig. ‘beat the snake following the stick’. From baike.baidu.com: the full idiom is ‘wooden stick beats the snake, the snake follows the stick’; meaning: one can look at an opportunity and seize the opportunity to increase the benefit/advantage.
Chapter 3, Part 2
Jaya, HPC, Ysabel, Drak, Zlack, you are welcome. Sky, 'girl' friends ...
The man did not pay them any attention, he steered the boat toward the distant shore on the opposite side instead, as if he intentionally wanted to avoid them.
Qin Shubao signaled the two boys, and soared into the air, crossing about four zhang of water surface, toward the sailboat.
Prior to this, the longest distance the two boys were able to jump was only three zhang. But since they had no choice, they simply braced themselves and jumped with all their strength.
One after another the three people landed on the fishing net between the sail mast and the stern. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling cheered together, they were very pleased with their own progress.
“Aiyo!” the fisherman cried out with shrill voice, “You broke my net!”
The three people looked at each other; turned out ‘he’ was a ‘she’, a young woman with sweet, pleasant-to-the-ear voice.
Right that moment, the woman raised her right hand to pull something from the thin air, the net where the three people were standing on was suddenly closing up, trapping the three people like fish in the net, hanging from the mast in a very pathetic condition.
It was only then did they realize that the net was tied on its four corners with long, thin, transparent natural silk strings that were connected to an iron axle high up on the mast. Under the bright sunlight, it was almost invisible, so that they were being negligence and fell into the trap. The strange thing was that the transparent and thin silk strings were able to withstand the three people’s weight, which was more than 200 catties. [Translator’s note: I don’t think 200 catties is correct, because that means on average one person weighed only about 30kg; but I translated it as is.]
Three people struggled hard, the net was swaying continuously, but with each sway, the net tightened a bit, until the three of them were squeezed into a ball, that they nearly could not even move their fingers.
The woman laughed aloud; she lifted up the bamboo hat, and her thick, beautiful fair instantly cascaded down like a waterfall.
Qin Shubao’s voice cracked, “Shen Luoyan!” As soon as he finished speaking, following the swaying of the net, his face turned to the other side.
The beautiful woman shed her long robe, exposing plain yellow, skintight warrior suit underneath, her waist was wrapped in wide blue belt. She smiled coyly as she looked at the three people she caught in the net.
Kou Zhong cried out, “I am about to die, I am going to die soon! Why haven’t you let us out? Aiya! Don’t struggle!”
Shen Luoyan was exactly like her name suggested: female beauty captivating even the birds and beasts [chen yu luo yan, lit. fish sink, goose alights; an idiom from Zhuangzi]. Her pair of eyes was just like limpid lake waters in the fall [again, an idiom describing a woman’s beautiful eyes], perfectly matched her pretty eyebrows extending onto her slender temples. Her skin was snowy white like jade, coupled with her elegant and graceful demeanor, she was indeed a rare beauty that was not inferior to Yun Yuzhen in any way.
Rarer still, she exuded some kind of noble air that could shake other people’s heart, that could make any man who look at her to adore her, while feeling ashamed of his own inferiority.
Running her fingers on her hair, she brushed it aside to reveal her face, which could bewitch men’s heart. “Keep calm and don’t get excited,” she said nonchalantly, “Let Xiao Nuzi [little/lowly woman] speaks a few words, and then I will put you down.”
After another tender laughter, she said in soft voice, “Qin Shubao! Do you surrender? This net is the ‘Capturing Immortals Net’, the handiwork of number one craftsman in the world, Lu Miaozi; even immortals fall for it.”
At this moment her thick hair and lower garment were blown by the river breeze, sticking to her body at the front, and fluttering lightly behind her, highlighting her sweet, fair and graceful figure and her exceptional charm, making people believed even more than she was a fairy descending to the mortal world.
The two boys were staring dumbly at her, but Qin Shubao angrily said, “If that night these two kids did not mess around and spoil my troop disposition, the one being the prisoner would be you, this stinky woman. You just won by luck!”
Xu Ziling also angrily said, “Didn’t you hear that? We are your benefactors, how could you treat the benefactors who save you life like this?”
Shen Luoyan laughed heartily, “Of course not!” she said.
With a wave of her left hand, the fishnet fell heavily on the deck, and immediately opened up.
The three people were burning with anger, this humiliation was difficult to endure. Shouting in unison, they pulled out their weapons to kill her.
Shen Luoyan pulled her sword from the stern and drew three sword-flowers, her sleeves floated in the air, she successively blocked the three people’s attack.
‘Ding! Ding! Dang! Dang!’ As each weapon made contact with her sword, they all felt that her sword contained infinite consecutive changes, which not only neutralize their current attack, they felt that if they pressed on with another round of attack, it would also be defused. Overwhelmed with shock, the three people successively retreated to the bow, away from the fishnet.
The trio exchanged glances; a feeling of dread of her exquisite swordplay started to grow in their hearts.
Still calm and unruffled in the midst of fighting, Shen Luoyan sat on a small stool on the stern. Placing her sword horizontally across her knees, she smiled and said, “Do you, three big men, have the guts to listen to me say a few words?”
Qin Shubao coldly said, “Ol’ Qin is the general of a defeated army, if you want to take my head, please do so with my respect, but if you want me to betray the imperial court to enter the Wagang Army, let Ol’ Qin advise you to forget this delusion.”
Shen Luoyan let the river breeze blew her fair freely, her soul-hooking beautiful eyes swept the three people. Finally her gaze stopped at Qin Shubao’s face; with a delicate laughter she said, “I am surprised that such a grand general does not dare to listen to a lowly woman’s words. Very well! You may go. But two Xiao Xiongdi, please stay, let Luoyan expresses my gratitude properly.”
Kou Zhong was delighted. “Staying, that won’t be necessary,” he said, “Right now what we, two brothers lack the most is money. Beautiful Junzhi [military advisor], whatever money you have on you, please just give it to us!”
“Pfft!” Shn Luoyan burst into laughter; covering up her mouth in mock anger she said, “Who would have imagined that you are this greedy? You want money? Then follow me home.”
It does not matter whether she was lifting a hand or moving a leg, her movements were overflowing with charm. Altough Qin Shubao turned a blind eye to her, but the two boys were unable to take their eyes off her.
Shen Luoyan turned her gaze back to Qin Shubao; pretending to be surprised, she said, “Great General, why are you reluctant to leave?”
Qin Shubao angrily said, “These two kids have nothing to do with Ol’ Qin. Truth be told, I even have animosity toward them for causing me to lose the battle. Shen Luoyan, if you think that you can use them to threaten me, you are gravely mistaken.”
Xu Ziling replied in surprise, “Even if she wanted to detain us, I am afraid she does not have the ability; how could she use us to threaten you, laoge?”
Qin Shubao shook his head and said, “You must never underestimate this woman [just remember that in all these, the term ‘woman’ was derogatory]. Other than being famous as the ‘Pretty Junshi’, she also has another nickname, ‘Serpent and Scorpion Beauty’ [interestingly, the dictionary gave ‘Femme Fatale’ as alternate definition]. From Wagang Army’s world [tian xia], at least one quarter can be attributed to her. Even our Grand Marshal, the ‘Henan Road’s Twelve Counties Recovery Ambassador’ Zhang Xutuo was lured into her ambush and perished in the battlefield.”
Shen Luoyan was displeased, “Toward the two Xiao Xiongdi, I only have good intention; you, Qin Shubao, can be considered an important person, don’t start a rumor to slander me, a lowly woman, will you? Besides, Shen Luoyan really cannot live up to what General Qin said. When all is said and done, Luoyan is only a pawn under Pushan Gong [Duke of Mount Pu(?)]. If we are talking about devising battle plan in a tent, determining victory a thousand li away, who under the heavens in the present day can surpass Mi Gong? [Duke Mi]”
After a short pause, she continued, “Before the battle of Dahai Temple [lit. big ocean], Mi Gong already said, ‘Xutuo is brave, but foolhardy. When his troops enjoy sudden victory, he was very arrogant, hence he could be captured in one battle. But the three generals under his command, Qin Shubao, Luo Shixin and Cheng Yaojin, are rare talents. If we cannot use them, they must be killed!’ It is due to Mi Gong’s injunction that Luoyan exhausted my lips and tongue to advise you, General, to renounce the dark and seek the light. Bright generals must have brilliant master. Right now destiny has already been determined, the demise of Sui Clan is at hand, all the people in the world long for brilliant master. If General Qin still wants to help tyrannical ruler, please feel free to leave. But these two Xiao Xiongdi must follow Luoyan home.”
Turning to the two boys, she smiled sweetly and said, “If I don’t go home, I won’t have any money to give you!”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. Their scalps turned numb; apparently Qin Shubao’s conjecture was not incorrect, this woman was more formidable than their Beautiful Shifu.
Qin Shubao looked around, he still could not see what other trick she was preparing to deal with him. With a deep voice he said, “Ol’ Qin has never cowered under others’ threat.”
Shen Luoyan laughed coquettishly, “Isn’t General going to commit suicide at Sishui? Why don’t you make a bet with us? Right now Luoyan will let General and two Xiao Xiongdi go freely, within the next six sichen, you may go anywhere. After that, within three days I will capture you three times, but I guarantee that I won’t harm even half a strand of hair on your body. If you lose, you must obediently join us, the Pushan Gong’s force, and must not show any disloyalty.”
Xu Ziling protested, “We are your benefactors, why do you include us, two people?”
Shen Luoyan frowned and said, “I was only thinking for your good! When Mi Gong obtain the world in the future, you won’t have to ask for money everywhere like little beggars.”
Qin Shubao threw his head backward and roared in laughter, “Very well! It’s a deal. Just consider what happened just now as the first one. If you have the ability to capture Ol’ Qin two more times, Ol’ Qin will have to choice but to surrender.”
Shen Luoyan also laughed and said, “Qin Shubao is indeed a hero and a real man.”
Turning toward Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two boys, she said, “It would be nice if you have half of Qin Xiong’s heroic spirit.”
Qin Shubao shouted, “How can you, Shen Luoyan, judge these two Xiongdi? Let us go!”
The trio let out a loud yell and leaped off the sailboat toward the shore, and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Shen Luoyan looked at the direction the three of them disappearing, an enigmatic smile appeared on the corner of her mouth.