Book 4 Chapter 6 – Meeting Susu Again
The fall of Xingyang was actually one of the turning points related to the rise and fall of the Great Sui; moreover, it was the starting point of Li Mi’s contention to gain control of the world [tian xia].
For this great undertaking, for the last twelve years Li Mi has been joining Wagang Army. This man was very resourceful; he had great aspiration, and knew how to exploit the potential of Wagang Army and Zhai Rang like the sun in the middle of the sky. Also, relying on his superior martial art skill, he subdued smaller militias and different powers nearby, and hence exponentially enhanced the power of the Wagang Army. At the same time, he was able to see clearly that the river section on which they had always been relying on to transport military supplies was in fact the Achilles heel in the development of the Wagang Army, because it was insufficient to supply the necessities.
Therefore, he made a suggestion to Zhai Rang, “Take Xingyang first, rest the troops, build storehouse. When the troops and horses are satisfied, we will have advantage in our fight against others.”
Just by this insight, it could clearly be seen that Li Mi’s power, talent, greatness and resourcefulness were superior to Zhai Rang’s.
If they were able to exercise control over Xingyang and the surrounding area, they could solve the long-term food supply problem, further expanded their influence, posed a direct threat to the Eastern Capital Luoyang, and affected the military affair relations between the Capital, Luoyang and Jiangdu, three strategic cities.
After gaining Zhai Rang’s approval, in the tenth month of the same year, Wagang Army launched a large-scale military operation. They took the counties around Xingyang first before advancing toward Xingyang City.
Yang Guang valued this area very much, hence he dispatch Zhang Xutuo, who, at that time, was a top rank valiant general who suppressed the twelve counties along Henan road, to defend Xingyang, leading twenty-thousand elite troops to meet the enemy head-on.
Whether in imperial court or in Wulin, this man had famous reputation; his skill ‘Wild Wind Spear Technique’ was the de facto number on spear technique of the present age. His character was arrogant and conceited; naturally he looked down upon Li Mi, whose reputation was only so-so.
Previously, each time Wagang Army met Zhang Xutuo, they were always defeated really bad that they ran away abandoning their armors and throwing away their spears; therefore, Zhai Rang feared him like a tiger.
Hearing that the attacking enemy was this nemesis, he immediately wanted to retreat, saying, “This man is proficient in the art of war, his spear skill matchless; moreover, his generals Luo Shixin, Qin Shubao, are brave and good at fighting. We’d better evading the point of his spear for the time being, and draw a future plan.”
All the rest of his subordinates’ courage grew cold, everybody agreed; only Li Mi stood his ground against the opinion of the masses. He asked Zhai Rang to take command of the main force to confront the enemy head-on, while he, leading four capable generals Wang Bodang, Zu Junyan, Shen Luoyan, and Xu Shiji, took command of about a thousand or so martial art experts to set an ambush in the jungle north of Dahai Temple.
When the two main forces met, as expected, little by little Zhai Rang’s main force was losing, and Zhang Xutuo’s forces pursued them for about ten li, until they came to the area north of Dahai Temple. Li Mi went into action, his troops launched a surprise attack from behind Zhang’s forces. Zhai Rang joined the battle by turning around and attacked from the front. Under this converging attack Zhang’s forces suffered heavy casualties. Li Mi even went into action personally and killed Zhang Xutuo.
This battle catapulted Li Mi’s fame throughout the world, he became the most prestigious figure within the Wagang Army, even above their Big Boss Zhai Rang.
This great victory established the Wagang Army’s foundation, it also inflicted serious damage to Sui Army’s prestige.
Under this kind of situation, Zhai Rang had no choice but to let Li Mi led an army, which was known as the Duke of Pushan’s Battalion.
Li Mi was of noble birth, his previous generation was bestowed a title, hence he inherited the nobility title Duke of Pushan, and decided to use this name.
Li Mi had great ambitions; already obtained Xingyang, he aimed to get Xingluo Warehouse. This warehouse was the Sui Dynasty’s biggest granary, which was extremely important to Yang Guang, so he sent brave warrior general Liu Wengong and his twenty-five thousand strong cavalry advancing from the Eastern Capital Luoyang in an attempt to reverse the situation.
Yang Guang also dispatched Pei Renji from Tiger Prison to attack Wagang Army from behind, hoping that with these two big forces they could curb Li Mi.
At the same time, Yang Guang even dispatched his competent subordinate Wang Shichong to Luoyang to have direct confrontation with Li Mi.
When Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong arrived in Xingyang, the opposing forces were in deadlocked situation, anything could happen at any moment.
After repelling Yuwen Wudi, the two boys’ confidence increased sharply. Also because of this real combat experience where they were facing deathly danger yet came out alive, during martial art training they no longer blindly charging blindly striking like before; therefore, during these past twenty days or so of traveling, the two boys’ spirit and skill have advanced by leaps and bounds.
If someone who knew them back in Yangzhou came across them at this moment, they would certainly be astonished by the change.
Xu Ziling looked even more scholarly elegant and unconventional. His shoulders broad his legs long, his physique stood straight like the pole of a spear. Under his wide forehead a pair of tiger-eyes flickered with divine light, filled with intimidating charisma. Although he had just turned nineteen, he had the impression of a grownup.
On the other hand, Kou Zhong’s domineering aura was growing by day. Although he was about a cun shorter than Xu Ziling, yet he was already half a head taller than average men. Due to his especially thick shoulders and back, his physique looked even more imposing.
If Xu Ziling was elegant, then Kou Zhong was heroic.
Rarer still, Kou Zhong often assumed a cynical look; but with his forceful and domineering aura, the combination produced a more neutral look, a style that was unique to him.
However, the two boys were still unaware that they had entered the rank of martial art masters; when going into the city they were still nervous, acting like if anything happened, they were ready to escape without a trace.
At this time, the security around the city gate was extremely tight, the two boys have just stepped foot over the gate, immediately they were interrogated by Wagang troops wearing blue warrior outfit. As the leader saw that they were wearing long sabers and their unusually imposing manner, he questioned their family and school background, the purpose of their visit, and so on.
Kou Zhong cooked up some nonsense, but the captain was still not satisfied; he asked, “Everybody coming in and out of the city must obtain a pass signed and issued by Zu Junshi. Looking at you, I don’t believe you are lawbreakers, but military order cannot be disobeyed; forgive me for not allowing you to pass.”
Since the captain polite and courteous, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling had good impression on him. Xu Ziling calmly said, “Not to conceal anything, this time we came here to look for our close friend, Jiejie Susu; she is your … hey! Your Da Longtou’s [lit. big dragon head, Big Boss] missing beloved daughter’s maid. If you don’t believe me, you may find her and ask, then you’ll know.”
The captain frowned and said, “Don’t speak nonsense, Big Miss returned from her tour outside last month; what do you mean ‘missing’?”
Instantly Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were stunned; they were completely at a loss. At the abandoned village that day, they saw it with their own eyes how Zhai Rang was struck by the strange man who conspired with Zu Junyan; how did Susu’s Miss suddenly return safe and sound?
However, the captain did not suspect them; he said, “I also know Su Jie; after she was separated from Miss in Jiangbei, she returned here. It was I who personally escorted her back to Da Longtou’s mansion. How about this: take off your saber first, let me send people to notify her.”
After a short pause, he continued, “What are your names?”
Kou Zhong gratefully replied, “Please just tell her that Xiao Zhong and Xiao Ling came to look for her.” He exchanged a glance with Xu Ziling. Because Susu was safe, they were quite excited.
The captain ordered his men to take the two boys to wait in the officers’ hall near the city gate, and then he sent another man to ride a horse and gallop away to notify Susu.
The two boys were seated in a small stone room, the door was made of steel, obviously it was a small prison room.
Kou Zhong did not understand, “Clearly Zhai Rang was struck and injured by that strange man, how did the daughter get rescued?”
Xu Ziling replied with a wry smile, “Do you expect me to have the answer? Ay! The city defense is this tight, and every single one of the Wagang troops looked like they have fought a couple of times. Even if Susu Jiejie is willing to come with us, we won’t have the ability to take her away.”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Don’t be that pessimistic! The matter depends on the individual, we can always find ways; for example, we can try to steal his mother’s two passes. Hey! Who would have thought that the one who issue and sign the passes is Zu Junyan; himself is a traitor. Do you want to expose him to Zhai Rang?”
“How far can it get us?” Xu Ziling replied, “Right now I am most afraid to come across Shen Luoyan, that b1tch and her subordinates who have fought against us. If that happens, we will be in big trouble.”
However, Kou Zhong was very optimistic; very pleased with himself, he said, “Shen Poniang [reminder: b1tch] is Li Mi’s Pretty Junshi, naturally she follows the troops going to war. The master has something to do, the skulk of foxes and pack of dogs under him have no choice but to wait upon him on his side. I am not worried.”
And then he added, “Wagang troops seem to behave a lot better than Ol’ Die’s Jiang Huai [River Huai] troops; were it not for we have other plan, joining Wagang Army does not seem to be a bad idea!”
Xu Ziling snorted, but did not answer him; he closed his eyes and practiced his internal energy.
These days, whether walking, sitting or lying down, the two boys were hard at work cultivating their internal energy. Kou Zhong was originally not a hardworking person, but after their fight against Yuwen Wudi, he knew that practicing martial art was the only way he could save his life; hence he had to be proactive in training hard, so that his motivation now did not fall short compared to Xu Ziling’s.
Very quickly they had already entered the extremely calm state where people who train martial art difficult to seek even in their dreams. The true qi in their body surged, it was flowing endlessly.
In this no-consciousness no-feeling state, time passed quietly.
Suddenly the door was pushed open. The two boys reacted instantly; they both opened their eyes and looked toward the door.
Chapter 6, Part 2
Jaya, Bocah, HPC, Critical, DongBin, Komeng, Ysabel, Strawberry, Weed, Tgx, Xanius, Anh, you are welcome. Drak, am I so pitiful that we need that feature? Sky, another 'beauty' making appearance.
On side note, I am terribly busy these days. Some of you may remember that we are moving back to our home, hence there is no rest for the weary ... But rest assured that I intend to continue posting the updates, hopefully every 2 or 3 days, but I now realize that there is a possibility I might have to stretch that schedule, at least temporarily. Here is the end of Chapter 6. The Lord's willing, I am going to post first part of Chapter 7 Monday (my time) at the latest.
The quietness did not diminish much, but the end result was the beautiful Susu rushed in, carrying a whiff of fragrant wind around her, toward the two boys who had just sprang up from their seated position, and embraced them.
The three people cried and laughed, and laughed and cried, but there was not even half a sentence spoken.
However, because there was an outsider nearby, Susu reluctantly let the two boys go. With hot tears rolling down her face she said, “I thought I’d never see you anymore! Ay!” Unable to control her emotion, she threw herself into the two boys’ embrace again, while weeping uncontrollably, revealing her true feeling.
The captain of the guard outside the door saw the red-hot brother-sister emotion in them, his heart was touched; lightly he closed the door to let the three freely talk about what happened to them after they parted.
Kou Zhong stroked Susu’s collar, seeing she appeared to be pear blossom soaked in rain, his heart ached. “Susu Jie must not cry,” he said, “You ought to laugh.”
Holding her fragrant shoulders, Xu Ziling said, “Did Susu Jie receive wrong treatment here?”
Still in tears, Susu shook her head and said, “No! Miss is still treating me very well! Ay! You two boys have grown tall and strong; there must be a lot of girls fall for you.”
Kou Zhong awkwardly replied, “As it turns out, quite the opposite is true. Every time we met beautiful women, other than Susu Jie, if not shouting ‘beat them’, then they would shout ‘kill them’. That’s why we had no choice but to come looking for you, Susu Jie.”
Susu was accustomed to crack jokes with them; just like clear sky after the rain, “Pft!” she burst into tender laugh as she said, “You are still the same. Ay! You don’t know how much tears other has shed for you, two brothers.”
Wanting to amuse her, Xu Ziling pretended to be puzzled, “That’s strange! How come the more Susu Jie cried, the more beautiful your eyes become?”
Susu laughed while leaning on the two boys’ shoulders.
The love between these brothers and sister was genuine; although they could not avoid suspicions, there was no carnal desire between men and women, not the slightest bit.
Kou Zhong whispered on her small ear, “What about Li Dage?”
Susu’s tender body shook; lifting up her tear-stained pretty face, she said, “After he escorted me back here, he went to the Eastern Capital.”
Looking at her expression, Xu Ziling and Kou Zhong knew that this good sister’s feeling toward Li Jing has rooted deep in her heart.
Xu Ziling asked with a frown, “He didn’t ask you to come along?”
Susu bowed her head and said softly, “It was me who refuse to go with him. He is a real man and true hero, naturally he ought to take advantage of his young age to make a break through on his own career.”
The two boys felt deep veneration for her.
Kou Zhong seized the chance to say, “Although the two of us are real men, we are simply not true heroes; Susu Jie please come with us.”
Susu was shaken, “I still need to wait upon Miss,” she said.
Xu Ziling urged her, “If you stay, you might lose your life; we saw it with our own eyes how Zu Junyan conspired with outsiders to injure your Laoye [old master].”
Susu was stunned, “Nonsense!” she said, “Laoye is fine, how could you say he is injured?”
Kou Zhong was taken aback, “Wasn’t your Miss captured by the enemy?” he asked.
“There is no such thing!” Susu replied.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other; they were dumbstruck.
Xu Ziling changed direction; he asked, “Didn’t your Miss go missing for a short period of time, and then she suddenly came back?”
Susu answered, “When I came back, Miss was still traveling outside and came back home only last month. It was Zu Junshi who personally escorted her back.”
Kou Zhong slapped his thigh, “This Zu Junyan is very crafty; be a good man, be a bad man, he did all.”
Thereupon Xu Ziling narrated their encounter at the abandoned village. Listening to him, Susu’s countenance changed continuously; finally she said with determination, “I must tell this to Miss, and then let her inform Laoye. Ay! Now that you mention it, I remember something. When Miss came back, she was a lot thinner than before; also, it’s just so not like her to scold us a lot.”
“What?” Kou Zhong’s voice broke, “Does she like to scold people? Why did you say she is treating you very well?”
Susu earnestly said, “Her temper is not good, but her character is very good. I served her for many years, I have the clearest understanding.” And then she grabbed the two boys’ arms and shook them, imploring them, “For Jiejie’s sake, would you help Miss and Laoye just this one time? With someone like Zu Junyan in the army, sooner or later it will lead to disaster. If you are telling the truth, Laoye will definitely believe you!”
“How could he not believe us?” Kou Zhong said, “Otherwise, how could we know this much details?”
“It depends on whether we can speak directly to Zhai Laoye,” Xu Ziling surmised.
Seeing the two boys were persuaded, Susu was greatly delighted, “Whether you can speak directly to Laoye, it will be entirely up to Miss,” she said, “Maybe you can convince her.”
“There’s no time to lose,” Kou Zhong said, “We’ll have to see Miss immediately!”
Susu’s pretty face blushed, “It will also up to Miss,” she said, “Just wait here patiently for a while. Because even if Miss nods her head, we still need to get formal approval before you can stay in the city.”
The two boys had no choice but to look at each other with a wry smile.
Who would have thought that waiting until deep into the night, there was still no news? Fortunately there were enough tea and food. The two boys might as well practice their martial art, so that they would not feel the bitterness of ‘imprisonment’.
When Xu Ziling woke up the next morning, he saw Kou Zhong was sitting on a chair, staring blankly with face deathly pale. Xu Ziling was greatly shocked, “What happened?” he asked.
Scowling miserably, Kou Zhong replied, “I don’t know whether it was fire deviation during practice, but I can’t draw true qi from Tianling acupoint anymore.”
Aghast, Xu Ziling did quick self-examination, and his countenance immediately changed, “I am the same thing; could it be that someone put poison in our food?”
Kou Zhong moaned miserably, “Looks like it’s something like ‘san gong wan’ [scattering energy pill]. Who would want to harm us like this?”
Xu Ziling closed his eyes and circulated his qi, suddenly he felt his dantian [a point two inches below the navel where the qi resides] growing hot; the true qi was gradually condensing again. Opening his eyes, he happily said, “Try again, I seem to be able to gather my qi.”
The two boys sat on chairs, closed their eyes and circulated their energy. Half a day later their skin emitted hot perspiration, which smell a little bit like medicine.
They had never imagined that they would become this formidable; unexpectedly they could even discharge the poison from their body. While they were rejoicing inwardly, the iron door opened.
The instant the two boys heard the lock, they immediately wiped the perspiration from their head and face, exchanged an eye signal, and pretended to look dejected, but inwardly they were in full alert.
The incoming person was, surprisingly, the one with beauty like a fairy, but the heart as poisonous as snakes and scorpions, Shen Luoyan. She was smiling coquettishly as she came in and walked over to the two boys. Bowing with cupped fist she said, “Two Gongzi, how are you?”
Kou Zhong took a furtive look behind her; seeing there was only someone who looked like a city gate guard, he was relieved.
“Why are you harming us?” he asked hatefully, “If you are a heroine, come and have a fair fight with us.”
With flowery face and tender voice Shen Luoyan said, “I only want you to be a bit quieter! However, one day I don’t give you the antidote, two Gongzi may forget being as naughty and active as before. But you must not blame me, Jiejie only received Duke Mi’s order, we must guard against anybody suspicious, that’s all.” [Translator’s note: in this entire conversation, she was referring herself as ‘renjia’, basically means ‘other people’.]
Xu Ziling angrily said, “Don’t you know that we are you Da Longtou’s precious daughter’s honored guests?”
Calm and unfazed by the accusation, Shen Luoyan said, “Naturally I do. Right now the city of Xingyang has become my, this bad woman, responsibility to administer. Were it not for reading the file that Zhai Jiao girl submitted to apply for pass you you, I would not have known that two Gongzi have honored us with your presence.”
Kou Zhong dejectedly said, “Are you really dying to get married? Alright, let me take you, beautiful b1tch as my wife!”
Shen Luoyan’s beautiful eyes flickered with murderous intent, which quickly died down. After carefully sizing up Kou Zhong for half a day, also examined Xu Ziling carefully, she smiled and said, “Long time no see, you have made a little bit of progress, but it will still be difficult for me, Shen Luoyan, to have you in my eyes. You are very good at adapting to circumstances, if you are willing to obediently tell me the whereabouts of the ‘Duke Yang Treasure’, I will let you go immediately. Otherwise, I will have to kill you, once for all, so that no one will be kept in suspense.”
Xu Ziling forced a laughter and said, “I thought you were a bit more special; in the end it is still greed at play.”
Shen Luoyan sighed silently.
The two boys knew that the time she was going to make her move was at hand; they quickly focused their mind and spirit in full alert.
Right this moment, a feminine voice scolded from outside the room, “Who dares to stop me, Zhai Jiao?”
Shen Luoyan’s countenance changed slightly. It looked like she was going to make her move to kill the two boys, but then she immediately withdrew to the side.
Someone stormed in, a woman, who was thick and solid like men, who was completely different from the image of the ‘Miss’ that the two boys had in mind, who was wearing colorful clothes, suddenly appeared in the room, followed by indignant-looking Susu.
Shen Luoyan saluted and said, “Good morning Miss!”
Zhao Jiao, who did not look delicate at all [‘jiao’ means tender/delicate/frail], glowered at her with her round, copper-bell like eyes. “Shen Junshi still considers me Miss?” she said, “I told you yesterday that I want to see these two boys; why are you still unwilling to let them go until this morning?”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling turned as dumb as wooden chicken; they stared blankly at this ‘Miss’, who did not have the slightest ‘womanly flavor’.
Actually, she could be considered as having regular features; only her cheekbones were too high and round, her hair thick and her eyebrows coarse, her waist straight and her body sturdy, so that although she was wearing makeups, she looked nondescript [orig. neither fish nor fowl], enough to give a man who look at her nausea.
On the outside, Shen Luoyan appeared did not dare to defy her. Smiling apologetically, she said, “As per our usual practice, Luoyan only wanted to cross-examine them! Miss may take them right now, the pass will be delivered to Miss later.”
This time around the two boys were greatly amazed. How could Shen Luoyan be this agreeable?
Zhai Jiao maintained her reputation; she barked her order at the two boys, “You, these two slaves, have not quickly crawled out to follow me, do you want to be locked up in here forever?”
Looking at the smirking Shen Luoyan, and the apologetic and pleading expression on their good older sister Susu’s face, what could the two boys say? Without any choice they smiled wryly and ‘crawled’ out of the room.
They still heard Shen Luoyan’s voice giving them warning, “Don’t ever say that I drugged you, I would never admit it; I would kill you instead.”
 Hero – heroine. Orig. Chinese only have word for hero, ‘ying xiong’, ying – brave, xiong – male, could be used both for humans and animals. Here Kou Zhong said ‘ying ci’, ci – female, counterpart of ‘xiong’.