Book 2 Chapter 4 – Great Scheme of Acquiring Wealth
After walking for more than twenty days in the southeastern direction, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, the pair that was hard to differentiate which one was older and which one was younger, arrived at Yuhang [district, Hangzhou, Zhejiang], a big county town by the sea.
After having their stomach full, Kou Zhong said, “Now that everybody is after our treasure-trove, which make famous, if we roam the Jianghu without training exceptional divine skill first, we might have a miserable or even tragic ending. But if we look for a place to hide and shrink our heads like a turtle, not only we won’t achieve what Niang was hoping for us, we will never be able to kill Yuwen Huagu either. What do you think we should do?”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “I really wish to see Li Dage and Susu Jiejie; but Gaoyou is so close to Yangzhou. That old muddled-egg Du Fuwei must be in Yangzhou doing some treasure hunt; there is a pretty good chance we will come across him!”
He sighed again before continuing, “Now we have only a little silver left, and I am tired of picking other people’s pocket. We don’t even have a place to stay, what do you want me to do?”
Kou Zhong’s eyes lit up. “Li Dage must have thought that we are dead; how could he wait for us at Gaoyou?” he said, “You are right, right now we have to get some money; otherwise, how can we have enough travel expense to go to Luoyang to look for He Clan’s Jade Annulus?”
“Do you have good idea on how to make a fortune?” Xu Ziling asked happily.
Kou Zhong already had the answer, “All great schemes to acquire wealth are inevitably linked to set your hand on it when the price is low, and let it go when the price is high. This is a salt-producing area. As long as we buy his granny’s cart of salt and smuggle his bird’s [must be swear word like ‘his granny’] into inland area where there is shortage of salt, we can exchange salt to money just like gold. At that time when we practice Li Dage’s Bloody Battle Ten-Style, we won’t need to use ridiculous tree branches.”
“Do you know a place where salt is scarce?” Xu Ziling wondered.
Kou Zhong’s eyes flitted toward a table on the left side of the wine shop; he said in low voice, “Look, that girl is so cute!”
Xu Ziling was more worried over their livelihood [orig. firewood and grain of rice]; he was not interested even to look. “Come on!” he urged.
Kou Zhong put on an air of importance; pointing to his own noggin he said, “The most useful thing in the world is a smart mind. Right now the Ol’ Du has cut off the river route along the Great River. Unless people with power and influence like Song Clan, nobody has the ability to transport salt to the region west of Liyang. Therefore, if we can ship his bird’s one cart of salt over there, even if we have to set up a stall on the ground [fig. to start up a new business], we will earn a bowl full, a basin full of profit. Come! If you want to get rich, come with me!”
After paying the bill, the two left the wine shop. They asked around where the salt wholesale place was, and immediately set out on their mission.
Xu Ziling wavered. “We have financial resources to buy salt,” he said, “But where would we find the money to buy a mule cart?”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “You did not seem to have heard of a reliable means of transportation called the wheelbarrow. Come on!”
The two boys walked for half a sichen [reminder: 1 sichen = 2 hours] before reaching the dock outside the town. They saw boundless ocean extending indefinitely in front of them. This was the first time they saw ocean that they were dumbstruck.
Kou Zhong breathed out a mouthful of cold air as he said, “It would be better if we could steal a boat and then go to the other side of the ocean to take a look. Based on our skill, maybe we can be the emperor of another country; at that time, it won’t be a problem for us to take a dozen concubines.”
As far as his eyes could see, Xu Ziling saw countless ships and boats, the masts were like a forest, and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of porters loading and unloading the boats, with merchants and travelers coming and going in unending stream; it was really bustling with noise and excitement.
Pushing along Kou Zhong, who was still having a longing look on his eyes, he said, “Getting rich is more important, let’s go!”
The two boys joined the throng. They saw not only all kinds of Jianghu personalities, they also saw a lot of government officers mingling among the crowd.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were unsure whether there were wanted notices on them in this place; seeing the officers, they tried to avoid them as far as possible.
Soon afterwards they reached the street where the most famous salt distribution center was located. There were more than a dozen large, spacious stores with open areas where row after row of salt were on display. These stores were built against the sea, behind these stores were the piers, where big cargo ships and small boats were moored.
There were over a dozen shops, but each and every one of those shops was jam-packed with people. The salt piled up like a mountain, it was so cheap that it looked like one could just take a sack or half sack without paying anything.
Encountering this kind of situation, the two boys merely stood timidly. After some argument, Xu Ziling was elected as the designated negotiator. They decided on an elderly gentleman standing behind the counter, doing some calculation with an abacus.
With great difficulty Xu Ziling squeezed himself through the crowd, and then clearing his throat, he said, “Laoban [boss]! We want to buy your goods.”
Without even looking up, the elderly gentleman replied coldly, “For the next three months all the goods here have been pre-ordered. Which store are you from?”
While Xu Ziling was at a loss and did not know how to answer, Kou Zhong pushed him from behind and said, “Let’s go to different store!”
The elderly gentleman acted as if he was not even aware of their existence; he continued concentrating on his abacus.
A man leaning against the counter stared at them coldly; he said, “Two Xiao Xiongdi looked unfamiliar; are you from out of town?”
Xu Ziling nodded, “We are from out of town,” he replied.
The elderly gentleman mumbled, “Ol’ Liu, if you want to gossip, get out of the shop, don’t obstruct people picking up their order here.
Ol’ Liu winked at the two boys, and led them out of the shop and onto the street, where he sized them up and down, and then with a condescending manner said, “Looks to me you came here to buy goods, thinking that you can transport it inland to make a fortune. It’s just that I rarely see someone as young as you are doing it. How much money do you have?”
Since childhood Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling grew up in the marketplace, how could they not know that they have met a swindler? Shaking their head, they turned around to leave.
Ol’ Liu’s countenance suddenly changed. He blocked their path and said menacingly, “You think you can go that easily?”
‘Bang!’ Kou Zhong’s fist landed on his lower abdomen.
Immediately Ol’ Liu doubled up in pain like a shrimp, and then he dropped on his knew with his hands on his stomach, followed by his entire body slumped on the ground; he did not even have any strength to groan.
One after another the people nearby scattered to avoid them.
Xu Ziling looked at Kou Zhong’s fist; he gasped, “When did your fist become that formidable?”
Following his gaze, Kou Zhong also looked at his own fist; stunned, he said, “Could it be because I have mastered the first level of Nine Mysteries Great Method that I am one sixth as formidable as Niang?”
Noticing that hundreds of eyes were looking at them, while this Ol’ Liu’s life and death was still unclear as he was still lying on the ground and became an eye-sore, Xu Ziling pulled Kou Zhong away into the crowd, which automatically made way for them.
They were just about to enter another salt store to try their luck when from behind someone called out, “Two Xiao Xiongdi, please hold your steps!”
The two boys knew that trouble has arrived; they stopped and turned around.
They saw three men wearing dark green clothes walking toward them in triangular formation. The man taking the lead was about thirty, with straightforward appearance. His manner and movement indicated that he was a man who was used to run amuck.
However, this time his face carried a smiling expression as he cupped his fist and said, “I am Tan Yong, the Fu Duozhu [vice helmsman] of the Hai Sha Bang [sea sand gang] Yuhang division. Seeing two Xiao Xiongdi’s skill and toughness, my heart itches to make friends with you. What do you say we find a place where laoge [old brother] can play a host to you?”
The two boys felt he was giving them a lot of face, but at the same time they realized that they had offended an underworld gang member, so nothing good would come out of this.
Xu Ziling shook his head and said, “We still need to hurry to buy some goods to do business.”
Tan Yong quickly came over, “If two Xiao Xiongdi want to buy salt, you need not bother to waste your time. Let’s not talk about all the goods here have already been divided up among a dozen big firms, even if someone is willing to sell some to you, not only the gangs [orig. ‘bang hui’, clan/gang and society] will want their share, the officers will want their share, the authorities will want their share, and lastly you have to pay salt tax. In short, for a hundred hard work, the profit is not enough to spend three days in a low-grade brothel, and I mean the cheapest rural town low-grade brothel.”
Hearing this, the boys’ two hearts sank to the bottom. Wouldn’t their great scheme of acquiring wealth result in nothing?
Tan Yong laughed and said, “Come!”
The two boys exchanged glances, and then they followed him to a small restaurant nearby to sit down. Tan Yong introduced his subordinates first, the other two men, to them, one was called Xie Feng, the other Chen Gui, before casually asked the two boys’ background.
Kou Zhong answered all his questions, but naturally he gave him fabricated answers. He wanted to be a Wulin’s martial art master, but he has not climbed up that high yet. However, speaking about lying, even Du Fuwei was duped by him, much less Tan Yong, who was practically a nobody; of course they believed everything he said without any doubt.
He believed the two boys were Fu Zhong and Fu Ling, that their martial art skill was handed down in their family from generation to generation, and that currently they were looking for an opportunity to make money by becoming daring small-caliber gangsters.
 I found an interesting article on Chinese wheelbarrow, which is different from modern wheelbarrows, here: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/...eelbarrow.html
Chapter 4, Part 2
Anh, Jaya, HPC, Sky, Janger, you are welcome. DongBin, CFT, the first time I saw (or noticed) that kind of wheelbarrow was in the movie Joy Luck Club (I am sure there are a lot more in other movies, I just did not pay attention). At that time I was just 'hmm, that's an interesting design', but did not think about searching it on the internet.
Tan Yong seemed to be satisfied. “Other than using your palm and fist, what kind of weapon can you use?” he asked.
Xu Ziling patted his chest, “We use sabers,” he replied, “A dozen or so men cannot do anything to us.”
Tan Yong was a bit skeptical, “Is it possible for me to test Xiao Xiongdi’s saber skill?” he asked.
Kou Zhong arrogantly replied, “Real gold is not afraid of red fire. But it would be better if Tan Ye [master] tell us your business first. Man’s life on earth is nothing more than to seek riches. I am sure Tan Ye also understands this logic … Ha!”
Tan Yong laughed aloud. He said, “As soon as I saw two Xiao Xiongdi, I feel like I’ve known you for a long time. Wealth is just material thing, Xiongdi wants money, you will get money, Xiongdi wants women, you will get women. Let us go back and meet our Duozhu [helmsman]; after we become real sworn brothers later, anything you don’t like, you can just let me know.”
Kou Zhong was very familiar with the way the dark road gang people worked just like his own ten toes. With a giggle he leaned over and whispered in Tan Yong’s ear, “Tan Ye noticed that we are from out of town, also we are just two kids who are still wet behind the ears; therefore, you want us to join your Haisha Gang to kill people from other gang. Afterwards, you push the blame away, neat and clean. Hey! This is called ‘black pot can crush people dead’.”
Tan Yong was immediately as dumb as a wooden chicken. Even Jianghu veteran like Tan Yong was caught unprepared and was unable to respond, because more or less what Kou Zhong said was exactly why he wanted to win the two boys over. It was as if Kou Zhong was the worm in his belly. Naturally there was considerable difference in the ins and outs of this matter.
Kou Zhong patted Xu Ziling’s shoulder. “Xiongdi!” he said, “Let’s go!”
Tan Yong turned around and called out, “Hold on!”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling thought that from ashamed, he was going to fly into a rage; hence they stood close together, ready to fight.
Xie Feng and Chen Gui’s eyes were also gleaming with ominous glint; they were ready to make their move.
But Tan Yong sighed and said with a wry smile, “Fu Xiaodi is really formidable. It would be better if I speak openly …”
Kou Zhong cut him off, “You must not say it. If you do, according to Jianghu rule, we can’t forget of getting away.”
Xu Ziling also laughed aloud and said, “We two brothers entering the Jianghu and making our names relying only on our skill; we have never considered relying on any patron.”
Hearing this, Tan Yong, three people were dumbstruck. These two boys possessed absolute sophistication that did not match their age; they were really impressed.
Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling away. After cupping their fist in salute, they no longer care about the three people, they simply turned around and left.
Reaching the street, the two boys were a little apprehensive, without thinking their feet took them back to the piers.
This time suddenly they saw a big ship far away coming near, and was met by two government boats. It appeared that these two boats have been waiting for the big ship.
For some reason the big ship attracted the two boys’ attention, mainly because both the external shape and the flag exuded exoticism.
As the big boat docked, immediately they saw people appearing on the deck, but since the boat was far away, they could not see clearly. It was not until a government official, escorted by four officers, climbed up the ship on a rope ladder that the two boys regained their vision.
Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around Xu Ziling’s shoulder; he sighed and said, “Doing normal business is really not easy. Turns out people who can strike it rich are unscrupulous businessmen who completely lack righteousness and justice. Ha! I have another great idea. Tonight we come back here and steal his bird’s boat of salt, and then we slip away quietly. This way we could even save those few coins.”
Xu Ziling’s heart was moved, “They have so much salt,” he said, “We stealing a dozen sacks will not make them bankrupt! Let’s steal from that shop just now! Thinking about that shopkeeper makes me angry.”
Seeing he agreed, Kou Zhong was delighted. “Now that’s my good brother indeed,” he said, “But being a thief we must have thief’s equipment; for example, steel wire to pick locks, weapons to protect ourselves, bunch of ropes, and so on. Our future rice and porridge will depend on this endeavor.”
“You are the one who came up with the thief idea, naturally you must be the one who has to take care of all these things,” Xu Ziling said.
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “Joined together we are strong, divided we are weak. In this world we two brothers only have each other, certainly you don’t want me to rush about alone, tiring me so much that tonight I can’t even move my legs, and then Ling Di [younger brother], you will have to be the thief alone.”
Xu Ziling was already accustomed to his schemes; he was just joking with him. Kou Zhong has always cherished his little brother so much, but from time to time he could not help taking a bit of advantage of him.
While Xu Ziling was about to speak, he suddenly realized that Kou Zhong had his eyes fixed to their left, while his countenance underwent a great change.
Xu Ziling promptly turned his head and saw a group of perhaps forty, fifty people that looked like ruffians and thugs, dressed in porter attire; in their hands they had sharp hooks, pointy sticks, shoulder poles, and the like. These people were heading their direction, and the one leading them was, not surprisingly, that Ol' Liu. The two boys' escape route was completely blocked.
The people on the docks immediately scattered away like flying chicken or running dogs; several government officers included. Apparently the situation was beyond the reach of the law.
Kou Zhong sucked in a mouthful of cold air. "Xiao Ling!" he said, "Did Niang ever teach us how to fight barehanded against naked blades?"
Xu Ziling had never seen such a big mob; he shook his head.
And then, with a loud shout the two of them turned around and ran for their lives along the pier toward the ocean.
The thugs' battle cry shook the heavens as they also ran after them in wild chase. The situation was extremely chaotic.
Evidently the two boys were able to run faster than the bunch of thugs; they swung to the left and swayed to the right among the piles of salt, passing over the people running away in all direction, and in a blink of an eye reached the seaside.
Kou Zhong pulled Xu Ziling toward the big ship that has just arrived and was anchored to the dock. If the ship belonged to some foreign envoys, naturally there would be some important people [orig. have face] on board; chances are these thugs would not dare to pursue them up.
In a flash these two boys covered a distance of close to a hundred zhang before they finally reached the rope ladder. Not having enough time to hesitate, they desperately climbed onto the ship.
The ladder was approximately five zhang high; very soon they reached the top. Suddenly four swords blocked their way, while someone shouted angrily, "Get lost!"
The two boys turned their heads to look down, and saw a lot of the thugs have already caught up with them at the bottom of the ladder. It was indeed a case of 'no way out ahead, pursuing troops behind'. The only way was to jump into the sea.
While they were groaning inwardly, they faintly heard a tender, melodious female voice coming from above, "Let those two come aboard!"
Someone replied, "Yes! Madame!"
The swords moved away.
The two boys felt as if they had just been granted the Emperor's pardon, and quickly climbed the rest of the way up.
They had just reached the deck when the hands behind them started to move. The four men wearing white warrior outfit hacked, chopped and sliced the pursuing thugs as if they were chopping melon or cutting vegetables so that they fell from the rope ladder, and had to jump to the sea.
The rest of the thugs were so scared that they turned around and ran back toward the pier, nobody dared to climb up the ship anymore.
There was no one on the deck other than the four warriors; they did not even see the Madame that has just let them got on board.
The two boys breathed a sigh of relief, inwardly happy that they were able to snatch their little life back. They did not forget to look down at the Ol’ Liu and the others who were shouting and making a racket at the dock, and waved their hands at them.
Suddenly they heard the female voice again from their back, the voice seemed to come from a distance. “Two Xiao Gongzi, please come with me!”
The boys jumped in fright. But when they turned around, their eyes lit up. Turned out it was a young and pretty maid, who was sizing them up while hiding a smile on her face.
Since they have saved the two boys’ life, it was only proper for them to obey their command.
Assuming the air of a refined gentleman, Kou Zhong bowed and said, “Jiejie, please lead the way!”
“Pfft!” the maid burst in laughter. She turned around gracefully and led them in.
The two boys scrambled over each other to walk behind her, to enjoy watching her beautiful back. They both felt that not only the Heaven did not bar their way, God treated them with exceptional generosity as well.
Stepping over the door, they saw a hallway stretching out in front of them, with three cabin doors on either side, but they did not see anybody, giving them the impression that the overall atmosphere was rather mysterious.
The pretty maid led them toward the last door on the left; beyond that they saw the stairs leading up and down to other levels of the deck.
The two boys were glancing to the left and right in curiosity when the pretty maid pushed the cabin door open and spoke softly, “Two Gongzi, please come in.”
As soon as they stepped in, they were stunned. Because this room was actually very spacious, only there was a hanging bamboo curtain right in the middle, dividing the room into two sections. On the door side, there were lighted oil lamps on all four corners; there was also a bench and a small table for people to sit. Several scrolls of painting were hanging on the wall. Apparently the designer of this room put a lot of thought on the layout.
 Helmsman: this is another thing that I have difficulty translating. Some of you followed my ‘Deer and Cauldron’, in the end I decided to keep it as is.
Chapter 4, Part 3
Anh, Jaya, Zlack, you are welcome. Strawberry, thanks for asking. It was quiet, we went to Canada for the day. How about yours? Sky, that's the thing: none of these beauty stays ... they only appeared for a moment then vanished. About Strawberry, since he is from Washington State, I believe he was referring to Seattle Seahawks.
Anyway, short update today, end of Chapter 3. Happy New Year everybody!
Due to the light in this side of the bamboo wall was a lot brighter than the other side, unless they lifted up the bamboo curtain, they could never see the mystery that was on the other side. But if there were anybody on the other side looking this way, he or she would be able to see everything clearly, including the fine hair on their body.
The maid politely said, “Two Gongzi, please sit down.”
After the two sat down, the maid withdrew and closed the door behind her.
The two boys sat facing the bamboo wall; they smell faint fragrance coming from the other side of the bamboo curtain, a fragrance that was very captivating.
While Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were feeling lost, a very delicate woman’s voice was heard from the other side of the bamboo curtain. “Two Xiao Gongzi, why did those dock ruffians chase you?”
Kou Zhong recognized the voice. “Turns out it was Madame!” he said respectfully, “Let us, two brothers, express our gratitude for saving our lives first.”
Xu Ziling was afraid Kou Zhong might spout some nonsense, he interjected, “We had a fight with one of them, hence he called on those people to deal with us.”
The Madame said dryly, “Two Xiao Gongzi speak in refined manner, moreover, you have strong skill, but you don’t seem to know martial art; why is that?”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “All our skill was taught by our Niang; how to read and recognize character, also she who took care of everything. After Niang passed away, we roam around everywhere, trying to see if there is any business we can do to make a fortune …”
A tender snort came from behind the curtain, interrupting him, but clearly it was not Madame’s voice.
The two boys were stunned; they have just realized that other than the Madame, there was another woman in there, whose status couldn’t be lower than the Madame herself.
But why did she express displeasure at what Kou Zhong just said?
The Madame’s voice was heard again, “And the other Xiao Gongzi, what is your intention?”
Xu Ziling knew she was asking him; shrugging his shoulder, he said, “Advance or retreat, we are together. He wants to make a fortune, naturally I also want to make a fortune.”
The Madame sighed and said, “Other than money, what else do you want to accomplish?”
“Madame,” Kou Zhong replied, “That is a very good question. After riches, naturally we want status. It would be best if we could be government official; that will certainly bring honor to our ancestors, spreading out our might to the eight directions.”
From gentle, the tone of Madame’s voice turned icy-cold as she calmly said, “There are so many people suffering from the chaos of war and from the tyranny of the rulers out there; haven’t you thought about striving for the common people, to bring light refreshments to the people under the heavens?”
Xu Ziling replied in consternation, “We are lowly and weak people, we can’t even guarantee that we will eat three meals a day; we have never thought about that kind of things.”
Remembering Li Jing, Kou Zhong said with a bitter smile, “That kind of great undertaking, only big hero can take it upon himself.”
Madame said flatly, “Everybody has his own ambition. Gentlemen, please disembark now!”
Horrified, the two boys cried out, “How could you do this?”
The door was pushed open, the maid walked in without any expression on her face. Her pretty face looked serious as she said bluntly, “Gentlemen, please!”
It was as if the two boys had seen two completely different people. Knowing that pleading would only bring them ridicule and cursing, the two boys had no choice but to puff out their chest and follow her back to the deck.
As they reached the hanging ladder, they saw the four warriors were still standing there with their hands on the hilt of their swords, adopting an expelling-the-guest pose.
On the dock below, Ol’ Liu and his gang of thugs were still waiting for their appearance, but they did not dare to make a ruckus. Evidently the warriors on the ship managed to strike fear in their heart.
It appears that this place was more lawless than Yangzhou.
Kou Zhong lightly pulled the corner of Xu Ziling’s clothes and said in low voice, “Jump ship!”
Xu Ziling understood. Without saying anything, they ran at full speed toward the side of the ship farthest away from the dock, flew over the railings, and jumped into the ocean.
Seeing they disappeared into the sea, a hint of smile appeared on the corner of the maid’s mouth, as if she already knew their response, but she did not stop them at all.