Book 4 Chapter 9 – Sincere Collaboration
Xiang Yushan still looked like he was not completely awake yet, the look of a second generation prodigal son with green face and white lips, but his smile was still very much amiable. Without any trace of politeness he simply plopped himself down on a seat, and cheerily said, “Meeting old friends in a foreign land is indeed a real joy in life. And this is …”
Kou Zhong had no choice but to introduce, “This is our Jiejie.”
Ever since Xu Ziling found out that he belonged to the notorious Baling Bang who specialized in human trafficking, he truly loathed this person from the bottom of his heart. He said coldly, “Since Xiang Xiong is Baling Bang man, it can be said that persons who walk different paths cannot make plans together. Right now we are not even friends, Xiang Xiong please excuse yourself.”
Listening to this remark, even Susu was confused; she was not clear about the relationship between Xiang Yushan and these two boys.
But Kou Zhong giggled and said, “What a coincidence, I wonder if Xiang Xiong has received favor from that Peng Liang Hui s1ut and is thinking of transferring us as your property to her?
Xiang Yushan was still a slick and sly man; raising his hands in mock surrender he said, “Xu Xiong, Kou Xiong misunderstood me. You misunderstood our humble gang even more. Please let Xiaodi [little younger brother] …”
Xu Ziling impatiently cut him off, “Could it be that Baling Bang is not in the business of selling human flesh but in selling pork meat?”
Kou Zhong patted Xiang Yushan’s shoulder, while with ‘brows raised in delight and eyes laughing’ said, “I heard your precious gang is Yang Guang, that fatuous monarch’s lapdog, and here is precisely the Wagang Army territory; if Xiang Xiong does not get out of here, this time it will be our turn to sell you.”
Xiang Yushan smiled wryly and said, “Ever since we got to know each other, other than a bit of misunderstanding, we do not have any grudges. Could it be that two Xiongtai [brother, a polite appellation for a friend of one’s age] will not even willing to give Xiaodi a chance to offer an explanation?”
Noticing that even after receiving a hundred insults from these two boys this man was still humbly stooping down trying to defend himself, Susu could not bear not to speak up, “Just give Xiang Gongzi a chance to offer an explanation!”
Xiang Yushan gratefully said, “Jiejie is really good.”
“She is not your Jiejie,” Xu Ziling crossly said.
While Kou Zhong snapped, “Spit it out!” [orig. ‘you have fart, let it out’]
But Xiang Yushan was amazingly patient; unexpectedly he still did not take any offence. Lowering his voice, he said, “Within Eight Gangs Ten Societies, our Baling Bang ranks second of the Eight Gangs, our reputation is extremely resounding; however, it was destroyed by some people who are blinded by greed in order for them to curry favor with Yang Guang.”
Kou Zhong leaned closer to his ear and giggled in a weird way and said, “Certainly Xiang Xiong’s manner looks just like those ‘blinded by greed’ people!”
Not to know whether to laugh or cry, Xiang Yushan said, “Kou Xiong please do not speak sarcastically to Xiaodi.”
Xu Ziling asked in amazement, “People who resort to propriety must have some favor to ask. Since Xiang Xiong submits to humiliation like this, there must be a conspiracy behind this.”
This has made Susu unable to stand by idly and watch; slightly on edge, she said, “Even prisoners have the right to speak, couldn’t you just let him finish?”
Xiang Yushan delightedly said, “Miss indeed understands reason. I, Xiang Yushan hereby swear that other than owning and operating casino and brothel, I have never participated in that kind of ‘offending Heaven and reason’ activity the two Xiongtai are referring to.”
Kou Zhong sneered and asked, “Then where did you get those beautiful women in your casino from?”
Xiang Yushan replied, “If there is a single woman that our Xiang family has abducted and forced to be a prostitute, let me, Xiang Yushan, not die a good death.”
The two boys were simply too stunned for words.
Xiang Yushan heaved a sigh, and then he continued, “Truth be told, we have been harmed by that incapable ruler that we became like this. It was because our gang has always been in good relationship with the imperial court, plus there are members of our gang who became government officers. At first we only helped that muddle-headed ruler to gather beautiful women from all over the world for his merriment and sexual enjoyment. Who would have thought that this fatuous monarch is avaricious and insatiable? Just because he loves to go on a tour, he built palaces everywhere. Just from Luoyang to Yangzhou, he built no fewer than forty temporary imperial residences. And on each site he wanted over a hundred beauties to wait upon him. On top of that, he himself has several thousand imperial concubines and palace beauties. Just think, how many women he has altogether? We also have our hands and feet stuck deep in the mire.”
Of course the two boys had never imagined that Baling Bang had this kind of predicament; unwittingly their hostility toward Xiang Yushan was reduced by several degrees.
Xiang Yushan forlornly said, “Yang Guang not only loves women, he also loves men. And if that is not enough, the most terrifying thing is that he loves to do new trick every day. For example, he wants to make ceremonial clothes from the feather and plumes of birds and beasts, so all birds and beasts with the desired feather and plumes were caught until almost nothing left. Or like during the second year of the great undertaking, Tujue’s Qimin entered the imperial court. In order to show off his wealth, Yang Guang ordered to have the previous dynasty’s younger generations to act as his family members; unexpectedly he enlisted more than thirty thousand people in the imperial court. And when he did not have enough officers and men, we were forced to do it. In reality, we are also victims.”
And then he let out a cold snort and said, “But now the situation is reversed. We no longer have to listen to his order.”
Kou Zhong frowned and said, “You shouldn’t have listened to his order to begin with!”
“But if we did not do it, someone else would, and the outcome would not be much different,” Xiang Yushan argued, “And inevitably our Baling Bang would have immediately fallen from power.”
“So what do you want from us now?” Xu Ziling asked.
Xiang Yushan smiled apologetically, “That day Xiaodi had eyes but failed to recognize Mount Tai; turns out two gentlemen are important characters whose names shook the Jianghu recently. Currently I am under Er Dangjia [second master, see also Book 3 Chapter 8 on Ren Meimei] Xiao Xian’s order to come specifically to explore the possibilities of mutual cooperation.”
Kou Zhong laughed in spite of himself, “You are too polite. Turns out you are also after that treasure, which we basically don’t know anything about.”
Xu Ziling sneered and said, “You might as well not explain it. Right now the rumor is spreading around everywhere; what was false has become the truth. Who would believe that we really don’t know the treasure’s whereabouts?”
“Gentlemen are wrong,” Xiang Yushan said with serious expression, “From the start Xiao Er Dangjia did not believe that you know the treasure’s whereabouts.”
The three people could only stare blankly.
Susu knitted her eyebrows and said, “Then why did you take the risk to find my two Didi? For what?”
Xiang Yushan lowered his voice, “That is, of course, for the account book!”
Immediately Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. Other than people from the Li Clan and the Yuwen Clan, who would know that the account book was in the two boys’ possession?
Xiang Yushan smiled and said, “Just by looking at gentlemen’s expression, I knew that Er Dangjia’s belief is not bad. I, Xiang Yushan, had no choice but to prostrate myself in admiration. Right now the whole world is being led by the nose by two gentlemen.”
In full alert, Kou Zhong swept his gaze around the small dumpling restaurant, he sternly said, “So you are going to rob the account book from us!”
“How could Xiaodi dare?” Xiang Yushan hastily said, “Since Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong were able to snatch the account book from Yuwen Chengdu’s hand, and were able to elude Yuwen Clan’s pursuit, plus you were able to inflict injury to Yuwen Wudi, how could Xiaodi have the guts to provoke the tiger? I am only here on behalf of our humble gang to discuss the conditions of our cooperation.”
And then he continued surreptitiously, “Don’t gentlemen wish to bring down Yuwen Huaji? He also happens to be our humble gang’s number one enemy.”
 The word ‘Miss’ here is ‘guniang’, not ‘xiaojie’ like the one they used to refer to Susu’s boss, Zhai Jiao. The easiest explanation would be: ‘xiaojie’ (miss) is the counterpart of ‘shaoye’ (young master), while ‘guniang’ (miss) is the counterpart of ‘gongzi’ (young master). Am I confusing you?
Chapter 9, Part 2
HPC, Ysabel, Jaya, Komeng, Anh, you are welcome. George, Sky, that's the problem, I can't even imagine the women introduced so far to be their 'friend', even like Cheng Ying to Yang Guo; you know what I mean? Sky, Princess is for Xu Ziling, Li Xiuning for Kou Zhong. But you are right, my favorite so far is Princess. I don't know ... to me she seems to be 'different' than the others. Anyway, here is the end of Chapter 9. Three more chapters to close Book 4.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were dumbstruck. It was half a day later that the former let out a cold air and said, “You, this kid, are indeed very well-informed.”
Xiang Yushan smiled and said, “Over the years, we, under different names, have opened more than two hundred pleasure houses and close to three hundred casinos, big and small, across the country, and hence have established a vast investigative network. Whatever matter we want to investigate, naturally it is relatively easier for us to do than other people.”
Xu Ziling said, “But I am afraid you won’t get any information about Yuwen Clan by visiting brothel and playing in the casino!”
Xiang Yushan nodded, “That’s a fact,” he simply said.
Kou Zhong knew that he was not going to speak up; greatly intrigued, he asked, “Why would you want to deal with Yuwen Huaji?”
Xiang Yushan’s countenance showed grief and indignation; hanging his head low he said, “Fifteen days ago, our humble gang’s Da Dangjia [first master] Lu Kangshou met the ‘shadow assassin’ and lost his life. According to our investigation, the biggest suspect is someone from Yuwen Clan. We must avenge this enmity no matter what.”
The three people suddenly understood; no wonder he kept saying Er Dangjia Xiao Xian this and Er Dangjia Xiao Xian that. Turned out this matter involved some complex political power struggle, so naturally Xiang Yushan was unwilling to casually tell them.
Xiang Yushan said in low voice, “Our San Dangjia [third master] is leaning toward Yuwen Clan people. After the incident, Er Dangjia already sent our in-house law enforcement people to take care of him. We were also able to extract from his mouth the information that Yuwen Huaji and that incapable ruler are related to this matter.”
“That Yuwen Huaji really made a blunder this time!” Xu Ziling said, “He should have eliminated your precious gang’s Er Dangjia as well.”
Xiang Yushan let out a cold snort and said, “Do you think he didn’t think about that? It’s just that they did not know the level of Xiao Er Dangjia’s real skill. He has actually surpassed Da Dangjia early on, only it was kept a secret. Although the shadow assassin was formidable, he failed to take his life; furthermore, Er Dangjia pretended to be dead to lure San Dangjia to reveal his true colors. Otherwise, our gang would have fallen into Yuwen thieves and San Dangjia’s hands early on.”
“Who was that shadow assassin?” Susu asked in wonder.
“That person’s identity is still a mystery,” Xiang Yushan replied, “It is rumored that he is still very young, perhaps he belongs to the imperial family, specializing in assassinating those who are unpleasant to the fatuous monarch’s eyes. His favorite is making his move in assassinating the target during full moons. Even Du Fuwei nearly suffered a major setback.”
The two boys let out a mouthful of cold air. If this assassin had the guts to target Du Fuwei, the level of his formidability should be easy to determine.
Xiang Yushan took out a letter from his bosom and said, “To show our humble gang’s sincerity in proposing this collaboration, Xiao Er Dangjia specifically wrote a letter, in his letter he pledged a heavy oath that he won’t be just like others who only want to exploit two gentlemen, but afterwards mean harm to you. After two gentlemen read this, you will understand, but please destroy this letter immediately.”
Kou Zhong received the letter, opened it and read. Sure enough, Xiao Xian put it in black and white that he swore a heavy oath; in addition, he put his personal seal on it. After passing the letter to Xu Ziling, Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Your Er Dangjia must be a powerful, capable and broad-minded man. Hey! Now he ought to be the Da Dangjia.”
“No!” Xiang Yushan replied, “He is still Er Dangjia. Unless that muddle-headed ruler is dead, he is unwilling to take the Da Dangjia position.”
Xu Ziling handed the letter over to Susu; he said in low voice, “What do you want us to do? Is it to hand the account book over to you? We can’t do that!”
Xiang Yushan received the letter back from Susu; using his internal strength he rubbed it until it turned to powder, and then he said with a laugh, “Of course not. We will ask two gentlemen to kindly participate in this matter, enjoying the delight of watching that incapable ruler and Yuwen Clan fighting against each other. As soon as two gentlemen nod your head, I will immediately make arrangement for you. Hey! The three of you ought to leave this place in secret [orig. ‘gods do not know, ghosts do not detect’].”
And then he chuckled softly and said, “Shen Luoyan and two gentlemen don’t get along too well!”
Susu was shocked. “We can’t leave now,” she said, “We must wait for Laoye’s return before we could leave.”
Surprisingly Xiang Yushan did not even ask why; he simply nodded and said, “So be it. Whenever you are ready to leave, just come to Daiqing Yuan [lit. ‘greenish-black mascara’ courtyard] in here, and tell them you want to see Peipei, someone will definitely contact you, and will arrange everything.”
With a loud laughter he stood up, and cheerfully said, “When I first met two gentlemen, I already felt we are of kindred spirits, and now we have the opportunity to work together.”
And then facing Susu, he raised his cupped fist and said, “I do hope to see Miss very soon.” Finished speaking, he simply left.
The three of them ‘you look at me, I look at you’; momentarily they did not know what to say.
Although they had the account book in their possession, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were still hazy and did not have clear plan on how to actually used it to harm Yuwen Huaji. Now that this matter has turned for the better, they were happy, but were also anxious that it would not be as simple as Xiang Yushan said.
Seeing Susu’s pretty eyes slightly blushed, Xu Ziling pondered a bit. Astounded, he said, “Does Su Jie like that guy?”
Susu was greatly displeased, “Stop talking nonsense!”
Kou Zhong said, “This guy is a world-class expert in patting the horse’s bottom, the words that come out of his mouth, not even half a sentence will not make people happy, and when he sees something good, he knows how to get it at once. Coaxing girls, he is even more formidable. Su Jie must not fall into his trap.”
Susu was greatly embarrassed; standing up, she said, “You still want to stroll down the street?”
Whenever the two boys went, there would always be people spying on them, so they could not help feeling anxious for Xiang Yushan. But since this man possessed great magical power that he was able to find them under these circumstances, he must also have his own way to evade surveillance.
When they returned to the Big Boss Mansion, Tu Shufang berated them for going out without telling him first. The two boys humbly asked for forgiveness, hence this matter was dropped just like that.
The two boys started to examine the account book in details. They found out that the records were mainly on Li Clan and Yuwen Clan’s arms acquisition from Dong Ming Pai: the type and quantity, the time and place of the delivery, and so on. The records were quite exhaustive, and most of the transactions happened in the last two years or so. If it fell into Yang Guang’s hands, and he did not suspect that they were going to rebel, it would be strange indeed.
That night after dinner, the two boys had a secret meeting in Xu Ziling’s room.
Xu Ziling probed, “Looks like for the time being we cannot go to Luoyang.”
“Going sooner or later is not the problem” Kou Zhong said, “If it is our destiny, we will obtain the treasure. After the Jade Annulus of He Clan is in our hands, we can head to Chang’an and try our luck to find the Duke Yang Treasure. If both are successful, we will recruit soldiers and buy horses. At that time, I want to see who would be able to strive against us, the Two Dragons of Yangzhou?”
Xu Ziling sighed, “You are thinking too far,” he said, “Right now I am worried about Su Jie. The scariest thing for me is that Baling Bang would abduct her and use her to threaten us. Don’t look at right now that Xiang guy is taking our insult and our curses with a smiling face; just think about ever since we came out to travel around the country, from those who we met, how many are really good people?”
Kou Zhong also frowned. Right now Susu could be considered their only family, no matter what they could not let her be hurt.
“We have to be more careful,” Xu Ziling continued, “After avenging Niang, we’ll bring Susu Jie to the south, find a place to settle her down, and only then can we think about any fun thing to do and how to earn a living.”
There was a knock on the door followed by Susu pushing the door open and storming in. “Miss is back. She wants to see you right away,” she said in panic.
The two boys groaned inwardly. What the fear the most right now was precisely to see this Big Miss of Zhai family, whose appearance and temperament were so ugly.
Zhai Jiao’s face, which was as black as the bottom of an earthen pot, looked tense and jittery, her eyes flickered with cold rays; with one hand on her as-thick-as-a-chamber-pot waist and the other hand pointing at them, she cursed, “I was out for five days, and you are already rebelling. You have the cheek to sneak out and stroll around the entire day before coming back. If anything bad happened, how am I going to explain to Die? Now I have reported everything to Die, he said that no matter what you are not allowed to leave the Mansion for even half a step. Wait for his return and then we’ll talk.”
Kou Zhong mused, ‘Wherever Laozi [I, your father] wants to go, it’s none of your, this b1tch’s, [email protected] business.’ But of course he did not dare to say it out loud. Smiling apologetically, he said, “It’s our, two slave materials, fault; would Miss please calm down.”
Zhai Jiao pulled back her thick finger that was pointing at the two boys. She spoke harshly, “Other than Susu, does anybody else know about this matter?”
With a straight face and a voice full of incomparable confidence Kou Zhong replied, “Of course not.”
Xu Ziling added, “Since Miss has seen Da Longtou, you should know that we did not lie to you!”
With a hint of frustration in her voice, Zhai Jiao angrily said, “Die did not say anything, except that he will be home as soon as possible. He also commanded that this matter must be kept secret. I have already warned Susu, now I am warning you, these two slave materials.”
The two boys were already accustomed to her throwing a tantrum; hence they could only let her shouting and cursing.
Zhai Jiao vented her anger a while longer. But then she suddenly said, “Do you want women to accompany you for the night?”
“What?!?” the two boys’ voice cracked.
Zhai Jiao’s temper cooled down somewhat; her voice was softer as she said, “Die told me that you are free to pick any women you fancy among the maids to keep you company at night. And when he is back, there will be other rewards as well.”
Kou Zhong was very tempted, but then he remembered that if he did that, what would the difference between he and Wang Bodang be?
Xu Ziling resolutely refused, “Thank you for Da Longtou’s good intention, but we two brothers definitely cannot accept it.”
As if relieved from a burden, Zhai Jiao said, “You don’t want it, that is the best. Who would want to accompany you, two little demons anyway?”
The two boys were infuriated, but they had no choice but to keep silent.
After staring hard at the two boys for quite a while, Zhai Jiao told them to get lost. As if they had just received the emperor’s amnesty, they hastily slipped away.