Book 5 Chapter 5 – Entanglement of Passion and Evil
Daiqing Lou has not opened its door to welcome the guests. Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Susu, three people were hiding inside a small uninhabited two-story side-building by the front courtyard, waiting quietly for the clothing store delivery boy.
Peipei has become their only hope of escaping.
Now that Xu Ziling was seriously wounded, relying on Kou Zhong’s strength alone, it would be impossible for him to bring the other two escaping from the city.
Losing the roster, Shen Luoyan would definitely do everything in her power to hunt them down, because this matter involved the rise and fall of the Wagang Army.
Kou Zhong leaned against the window and looked out; he said in low voice, “I am not lying to you, when Shen Luoyan, that b1tch, thought that you died, she was acting differently from her usual manner, and I know that she was not pretending.”
Xu Ziling was sitting cross-legged to recuperate; hearing Kou Zhong, he opened his eyes and said impatiently, “Stop talking! Whenever I remember her, my heart is burning.”
Without turning his head, Kou Zhong warned him, “Don’t be impatient; be careful, or else you might suffer fire deviation.”
Xu Ziling was shocked. He realized that after sustaining serious injury, his strength was in decline, and his state of mind was prone to fluctuate. Hastily he focused his attention to recover his mental state to its original crystal clear condition.
Her pretty face blushing slightly, Susu said, “Shen Luoyan did ask about Jiejie’s relationship with you two; when I told her, she did not seem to be convinced. Come to think about it, maybe she is really jealous!”
Kou Zhong’s gaze returned to the floating snowflakes filling the heaven and the earth outside. He nodded and said, “Shen Poniang once said that if she married, she would marry Xiao Ling, but she wanted me to be her lover. At that time she was joking, but now I think there is 30% truth in what she said. Ha! If we can create distress in her mind, all enmity is paid in full!”
And then he excitedly said, “Hey! He’s here!”
‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ there was a knock on the door. The shop assistant holding a bundle of cloth in his hands shouted against the cold wind, “Satin brocade delivery!”
A big man came out of the main hall’s door. He walked across the front courtyard, and pushed the main gate a little. “What is it?” he asked.
The shop assistant handed the bundle over to the big man’s hands and muttered, “Naturally it is highest quality silk fabric; it’s for Miss Peipei.” Finished speaking, without even turning his head around he hurriedly trudged away, braving the snow.
The big man was stunned; he stared blankly for half a day before carrying the bundle back into the building.
Kou Zhong quickly dropped down on the floor and stuck his ear to listen to the activity downstairs.
He heard a woman asked, “He Fu! What is it?”
He Fu replied, “Really strange! Someone’s sending highest quality silk fabric and specifically indicated that it is for Lady Boss!”
“That is strange indeed!” the woman said, “Lady Boss has not personally come out to greet the guests for a long time, unexpectedly someone is trying to curry favor with her. Just deliver it to her place, we’ll talk about it later when she comes back!”
Noiselessly Kou Zhong flashed out of the side-room. A moment later he came back and said, “Turns out Peipei is the lady boss of this place. She lives in a secluded room at the rear courtyard, but right now I don’t know where she went.”
“This is not a good place to hide,” Xu Ziling said, “We’d better go to hide in her private chamber!”
Kou Zhong cheered, praising his good thinking. Carrying Susu, he left first to lead the way. Xu Ziling had no difficulty running after him.
If Yang Xuyan were to personally witness the current situation, he would be shocked and would not dare to believe his eyes.
Because he did not know that the ‘Secret to Long Life’ was Taoist School’s secret, which was not passed on throughout the ages. It was also the secret that controlled nature; that gods and ghosts could not comprehend.
When Yang Xuyan’s sword pierced Xu Ziling’s lower abdomen, it was blocked by the roster, so that the speed was somewhat reduced. However, this split second buffer was enough for Xu Ziling to prevent the sharp tip from delivering fatal qi into his body.
Lower abdomen was like the sea of qi, if this part were wounded, it would be very difficult to recover. To martial art practitioners who cultivate qi, it would be especially devastating.
Yet the ‘Secret to Long Life’s’ function was precisely to save one’s life and to prolong it. On top of that, there was Kou Zhong’s true qi, which came from the same source, giving aid to him in treating the injury. Therefore, within a period of one night, Xu Ziling was able to recover most of his strength, creating a miracle, which other people found it hard to believe. Meanwhile, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Susu naturally thought that it was as it should be; they were not surprised at all.
It was Shen Luoyan who has miscalculated; she had the search concentrated in the dense lanes, alleys and houses within two li radius from her residence, resulting the three people could easily come and hide in this place.
By this time the girls of Daiqing Lou have not gotten out of bed for too long, everybody was taking a bath and changing their clothes, and have not left their rooms, hence there were only a few maids and servant walking along the corridor, so that the three people could arrive at the Lady Boss Peipei’s building without any surprise, without any danger. Avoiding two young maids at the anteroom, they slipped into her personal chamber.
Without any politeness Kou Zhong pulled open the bedspread and asked shivering Susu to get into the quilt first, and then he had Xu Ziling lying down on the other side, while he himself sat at the foot of the bed.
He laughed and said, “Looks like there is nothing special about the Wagang Army, at least up to this time they still cannot do anything to us.”
Susu angrily said, “The worst thing about Xiao Zhong is that you are very easy to be complacent. Wait until we can escape out of town, feeling proud about yourself at that time won’t be too late!”
Xu Ziling said, “Since leaving Yangzhou, night and day we lived a fugitive life. I really wish we could find a place with verdant hills and limpid water where we can settle down, living a quiet and peaceful life.”
Susu excitedly went into detailed discussion on what kind of place would be ideal for them to settle down.
Soon afterwards Kou Zhong asked about Yang Xuyan’s martial art skill. After Xu Ziling told him everything he knew, as if he was still terrified he said, “This person’s internal energy has reached the ‘following-one’s-heart-desires’ level; not only the tip of his sword could spit out qi power, it was even divided further into hundreds and thousands streams, each one with different level of pulling force, so that I was completely unable to display my usual level.”
Kou Zhong muttered to himself, “This is very unusual for sure, but since he could achieve it, we ought to be able to do the same.”
“Xiao Ling,” Susu was curious, “You really could not see his appearance clearly?”
‘That’s what more surprising,” Xu Ziling replied, “The place we fought was dark without any light, but clearly my vision was filled with sword rays, plus his movement was as fast as a ghost or a demon; I could not even tell whether he is tall or short, fat or thin.”
Kou Zhong slapped his thigh, “I understand,” he said, “Try pressing your eyeball with your finger; very quickly you will see stars. Yang Xuyan must be exploiting this principle; he used the sword qi to create pressure to your eyes, so that your misperception flared out. Ay! This guy can be considered really formidable!”
Xu Ziling nodded, “Perhaps it did happen like you said,” he said, “But his sword was even more terrifying. Obviously strike would hit the target, but suddenly it hit empty air, and the real strike came, it was so slick that I could not block it. No wonder there are so many dominating characters harboring a grudge under his sword.”
Kou Zhong breathed out a mouthful of cold air; he said, “This guy is really proficient. Huh?”
The three of them shut up immediately.
Sound of footsteps coming from afar, even Susu was able to hear it. Followed by the two maids in the outer hall spoke in chorus, “Madame is back!”
Inside the room, the three people were greatly delighted; knowing that finally they were going to find Peipei.
A somewhat cold and detach, deep, but pleasant to hear female voice spoke, “What is this?”
One of the maids replied, “Somebody bought a bolt of silk fabric from the west street shop and have it delivered here, indicating clearly that it was for Madame. This matter has been reported to Yun Niang.”
Peipei was silent for half a day before finally spoke calmly, “Go get Yun Niang for me.”
The two maids complied and left.
Straining his ears to eavesdrop, Kou Zhong heard Peipei sat down; he whispered, “Let’s hear what they have to say first.”
Xu Ziling said, “Isn’t Yun Niang the flirtatious lady who received us the other day?”
Kou Zhong nodded.
Suddenly the three people felt somewhat nervous.
Right now it could be said that Peipei was their last hope.
If this road is blocked, then they could only rely on their own power to escape.
Previously, when Xu Ziling was not injured, it was already hard to accomplished; right not it was even more difficult to do.
Soon Yun Niang arrived. After dismissing the two maids, Peipei said, “What did you find?”
Yun Niang respectfully replied, “I have investigated this matter. The one buying the cloth must be Susu, the time was yesterday afternoon. It appears that the two boys are using the ‘toss a stone to find out what’s ahead’ trick trying to find Madame.”
The three people listening inside the room shuddered in fear, because when speaking about them, Yun Niang’s voice did not have any trace of politeness.
Chapter 5, Part 2
Peipei was silent for half a day; she said, “It should be so. But I am afraid they won’t be able to come. Right now Xu Ziling is injured by Yang Xuyan, whether he will live or die is still to be seen. Shen Luoyan is going all-out to search for them. Just now she passed on a message to me, telling me that if our Baling Bang dared to interfere, she would not be polite. Therefore, we simply must not stain our hands.”
When Kou Zhong and the others, three people, heard this, they looked at each other, their hearts sank.
Outside, Yun Niang griped, “This time we are going to be killed by Xiang Shaoye! Offending Wagang Army, how can we set out foot in Xingyang?”
Peipei said, “The only way is to cooperate nicely with Shen Luoyan. Just now I went out by myself to see whether Kou Zhong would show himself to meet with me. And now we have confirmation that he has not come, I will notify Shen Luoyan about this matter. If they did come, you have to try to detain them here; wait for my return and then we’ll talk.”
Finished speaking, she went out of the room.
Now that the three people’s last hope was dashed, after putting everything in the room to its original condition, they quietly left.
Using the heavy snow as a cover, with Kou Zhong carrying Susu on his back, they swiftly traversed several buildings, and reached the large garden of Xu Shiji’s official residence.
After surveying the surroundings for a moment, Kou Zhong said, “According to Chen Laomou’s instruction, Xu Shiji’s office must be in one of the side rooms east and west of the main building. And Xingyang’s city blueprint ought to be there as well.”
Xu Ziling said, “That will be easy to find out. Let’s go!”
The three crossed the garden and headed toward the front courtyard.
By this time Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s experience was already very rich; they knew when to come and when to leave, hence they stopped and proceeded accordingly. After avoiding several servants and maids of the mansion, they arrived at Xu Shiji’s study, a room filled with scroll after scroll of documents.
Following Chen Laomou’s method, they searched around speedily, thumbing through the documents, and returned them to their original conditions so that not a trace of sign would be found that they have been manipulated.
The number of documents in the room exceeded a thousand scrolls, therefore, this task was time consuming and laborious.
The entire Xu mansion appeared to be deserted, it wasn’t clear whether all the martial art experts in the mansion were involved in the operation to hunt and arrest them.
The two boys focused their strength into their eyes, flipping over the left and uncovered the right in the dark, all the way until the first watch of the night [between 7-9pm] before finally Kou Zhong made a breakthrough.
The three huddled together, looking at a roll of drawings Kou Zhong spread over the table. Susu lighted an oil lamp on the table. Kou Zhong took off his outer garment to mask the lantern, so that the light would not leak out.
Xu Ziling turned to the third page from the bottom and called out happily, “This is it.”
It was the map of Xingyang City’s underground sewer system, the drawing was very detailed, and it was well-annotated.
Kou Zhong pointed to a sewer at the south of the city and said, “This sewer is connected to the moat, the width reaches five chi [reminder: 1 chi is approx. 1 foot or 1/3m] enough for us to pass through.”
Xu Ziling pointed to the intersection between the sewer and the city wall river and said, “There must be a drainage fence or some kind of barrier installed here at the mouth of the sewer; we must bring a saw or some other tool to break out.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “That’s easy, just leave it to me. Right now let me find the way first, you two hide in here, wait for me to come back.”
The three studied the map a bit longer. Susu dejectedly said, “I am not leaving! Such a long underwater passage, I will be suffocating to death.”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “There is Xiao Zhong here, how can Jiejie have any problem? Last time Xiao Ling sucked Jiejie’s mouth, this time it’s my turn!”
Susu glowered at Kou Zhong, her pretty face turned red.
Xu Ziling admonished him, “Zhong Shao, how can you speak such frivolous words to Su Jie? Our sister-brother relation is clear and white; that time it was an emergency!”
Kou Zhong busily apologized to Susu. Sweeping his eyes around, he said, “You’d better hide inside that big wardrobe. I only need to take some of the contents out, it should have enough space for you to hide. Xiao Ling, use this opportunity to recuperate, Su Jie, try to get some sleep.”
By the time Xu Ziling awoke, Susu was still sleeping soundly in his bosom; her breathing was soft and even. He busily woke Susu up and whispered, “Someone’s coming!”
Susu woke up with a start and turned around to bury her face into his bosom; she did not even dare to take even a half of loud breathing.
The door was opened, Shen Luoyan’s voice was heard outside the wardrobe, “Shiji! Where is the city map?”
After a series of light rustling noise, there was a sound of a scroll being opened. Xu Shiji’s voice said, “We have searched the entire southern part of the city, still we can’t find those two kids. We must expand the scope, while at the same time sealed off the places we have searched, so that they cannot slip back in.”
Xu Ziling groaned inwardly.
Relying on his fantastic true qi, it shouldn’t be difficult to evade these two people’s eyes and ears. But Susu only knew punching and kicking skill; she did not know any first-class internal skill at all. When Shen and Xu, two people have calmed down, they would definitely be able to tell that there was something unusual inside the wardrobe.
Thinking to this point, he had a sudden inspiration; quickly he covered Susu’s lips and slowly transferred his true qi into her mouth. As expected, Susu’s external breathing stopped. A pure, based on internal-breathing qi flowed in and out; from external breathing turned into internal breathing.
Shen Luoyan and Xu Shiji discussed step-by-step method to search the entire city. While they were deciding on how to seal off the area, Shen Luoyan suddenly let out a tender cry; and then there was a sound of people kissing on the outside.
Shen Luoyan furiously said, “Don’t do that! I am not in the mood.”
Xu Shiji let out a cold snort and said, “Not in the mood? When did you ever be in the mood? How long has it been since we had some kind of intimacy?”
Displeased, Shen Louyan backed off, “When Miss is not in the mood, that means the Miss is not in the mood. Could it be that Xu Ye is having some regret?”
Xu Shiji’s tone softened somewhat. In an almost pleading tone he said, “Luoyan! You should know I am wholeheartedly devoted to you, don’t let any outsider affect out deep affection to each other!”
Inside the wardrobe, Susu snaked her hand around to lightly pinch Xu Ziling’s lower back, indicating that the ‘outsider’ who affected their relationship ought to be him.
Shen Luoyan’s voice turned icy-cold, “Don’t talk nonsense,” she said, “What outsider, insider? How can it involve any third person? You, Xu Ye, have always been very romantic, whether you have me, one person, or not, what does it have to do with you? You can be wholeheartedly devoted to me, I am afraid that was only a joke!”
From slightly ashamed, Xu Shiji flew into rage, “Originally I did not want to say this, I have been playing along according to the situation [orig. find a stage, put on a comedy], and you know it. Why do you settle the score only now?”
After a short pause, he continued, “Ever since you came across that guy Ba Fenghan, his sweet speech and honeyed words swept you off your feet, so that you roamed around together with him all day long. Upon returning, you suddenly changed. Even Duke Mi asked me about you. Tell me, what should I tell Duke Mi?”
This time it was Xu Ziling’s turn inside the wardrobe to feel awkward, but he was also greatly disgusted. Turned out Shen Luoyan came across Ba Fenghan, and perhaps they even went to bed together, otherwise Xu Shiji would not be that jealous.
On the other hand, Susu was greatly surprised, because when she thought that Xu Ziling was killed, her demeanor changed, how could now suddenly Ba Fenghan come into the picture?
She heard Shen Luoyan furiously said, “Your affair, I do not give a damn; my affair, I don’t need you to care.”
Xu Shiji softened up; he sighed and said, “Not only Ba Fenghan is a foreigner, this time he came to the Central Plains, it is clearly to stir up the wind and the rain. Ever since he made a name in that sword duel, he has already defeated more than a dozen renowned masters in various regions. Pulling up a relationship with someone like him won’t give us the slightest bit of advantage.”
Shen Luoyan was silent for half a day; suddenly she said, “Right now I am only thinking of how to get the roster back; if we let it falls into the government’s hands, the repercussion is simply unthinkable! Let’s go quickly.”
Only after the two people left that Xu Ziling and Susu finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Susu’s raised her pretty face, with her breathing as fragrant as the orchid she said, “Xu Shiji’s fear is misplaced!”
Xu Ziling let out a wry smile and said, “It’s because Jiejie has not seen Ba Fenghan that you said so. Not only this man has superior martial art skill, his appearance exudes a very breathtaking charm. All he has to do was to make an appearance, and automatically everybody’s eyes were drawn to him. Compared to him, I am really far too inferior.”
Susu was displeased, “I don’t believe you,” she said, “It’s just because you and Xiao Zhong are still young. But in time, Jiejie don’t believe there are people who will overshadow your radiance. You just don’t know it yet! In fact, every day you are still changing. Most of all, each one of you has your unique personality traits, even Jiejie’s heart is being moved by you!”
Although the two of them were in such a close, intimate situation, there was no amorous thought in their hearts, only pure love between sister and brother.
Embarrassed, Xu Ziling said, “Jiejie must not laugh at me, how about getting some more sleep?”
Susu yielded; she nodded, and then like a docile little lamb she obediently buried herself in his bosom and closed her beautiful eyes, and fell asleep.
With Susu’s alluring tender body in his embrace, myriads of thoughts were surging in Xu Ziling’s mind. All of a sudden he was overwhelmed with the feeling that he was completely at a loss.
The first thing he had to consider was not how to deal with Yuwen Huaji to avenge Fu Junchuo, but rather how to arrange a place for the good Jiejie in his bosom to settle down.
The problem was that all along the two boys were unclear on the relationship between Li Jing and Susu.
Even if they found Li Jing, they might only make things worse.
It was the time when the soldiers mutinied and the troops rebelled, they would not feel at ease leaving Susu just anywhere.
On the other hand, taking her along would also be extremely dangerous to her, considering the two boys have become the target of a multitude of arrows.
While he was racking his brains until his head felt bloated, Kou Zhong came back.
By this moment the sky has brightened. Kou Zhong slipped into the wardrobe and dejectedly said, “This time we are doomed; turns out when the sewer reaches the exit, it is divided into a dozen passages so small that even a dog cannot pass through. We are wasting our effort, and have been rejoicing in vain.”
“Did you go down to check it?” Susu asked.
Kou Zhong nodded, “Of course I did,” he said, “I had just stolen another set of clothes to change. Ay!”
“No wonder you smell different!” Xu Ziling remarked.
Kou Zhong said, “While I was out, I also checked the situation of the city defense. There are Wagang Army troops everywhere, the city does not lack elevated lookout posts; leaving the city is merely lunatic ravings. Hey! Xiao Ling, are you better now?”
“Three more days before I am fully recovered,” Xu Ziling replied. And then he said, “I have an idea.”
“You are really smart,” Kou Zhong said in amazement, “I have already exhausted my brains. Speak up quickly, let us hear it.”
“It’s that roster,” Xu Ziling replied, “For Wagang Army, this roster is a lot more important than some ‘Duke Yang Treasure Trove’. We can use it as our bargaining chip. What do you say?”
Kou Zhong pondered silently for half a day; finally he nodded his agreement and said, “Certainly it’s the only way out in the middle of no way out. However, it would be best if we wait till you are fully recovered before going out to strike a deal with Shen Poniang, that way we will have a bit more assurance.”
Xu Ziling shrugged his shoulders, “We are not going to fight,” he said, “A bit sooner or a bit later won’t make much difference. But according to the news we just heard, this morning Shen Luoyan may begin searching this area. If we strike the deal after we are found out, it won’t have as much value.”
“All right!” Kou Zhong said, “I’ll go find Shen Poniang then!”
Susu pulled him back, “Xiao Zhong!” she called, “Jiejie is very scared!”
Kou Zhong planted a light kiss on her cheek; he said with a giggle, “Jiejie, set your heart at ease! Whoever wants to deal with us, Yangzhou’s Two Dragons, must bag the food they can’t finish and take it away [Not sure about this, must be some idiom].”
And then it was Xu Ziling’s turn to pull him back, and without missing a word, he told him everything he heard from Shen Luoyan and Xu Shiji’s discussion about the hunt and arrest operation.
“Thank Heaven and thank the Earth!” Kou Zhong happily said, “This time they can forget of standing by my side at all!”
It was only then did he really leave.