Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan

Chapter 8 – Cold Forest, Clear and Far

Inside the side room with the best view on the fourth floor of the House of Dong restaurant, Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Wang Shichong wants to harm me!”

Stunned, Yang Gongqing said, “Can’t be! Last time Wang Shichong reaped the consequences of his words [idiom from Mencius] by wanting to kill Shaoshuai, and he lost a great amount of popular support, provoking enormous antipathy from the military, from top to bottom. Now is the time of the wind and the cloud [i.e. unstable situation] with fantastic changes, plus Shaoshuai is not a benevolent-man-trustworthy-woman at all, how could Wang Shichong dare to act rashly?”

Kou Zhong raised his cup to offer a toast. After both sides enjoyed a cup to the full, he laughed and said, “This is called talking from experience. Because Wang Shichong is confident that he is going to win this battle, plus I am dropping by his door to offer myself, how could he be willing to miss this golden opportunity send a saber strike in passing and finish Xiaodi?” Translated by foxs

And then he revealed Wang Shichong’s identity and said, “The demonic school people’s conduct is vicious and merciless, they kill to the last one, and do not talk about Heaven’s law and human emotions. Time and again I messed up their plan, I am sure I have become their public enemy. If they could eliminate me and Li Shimin in one fell swoop, their chance of success will be greatly increased. Wang Shichong sent Wang Xuanshu to meet me, precisely because he wanted to pacify my heart.”

Frowning, Yang Gongqing said, “Demonic school people always see everything for self and selfish profit, they are like a tray of loose sand. Based on Wang Shichong’s character, he will only do things that are beneficial to himself, dealing with you is really an unwise move. Ay! If you did not tell me, I would never believe that Wang Shichong is a demonic school person. However, only Wang Shichong belonging to the demonic school will explain the shady relationship between him and Rong Fengxiang.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Lowering his voice, Kou Zhong said, “As I see it, the current development of the various factions of the demonic school, which were originally like a tray of loose sand, fighting against each other until you die, I live – is that they are leaning toward unification, because this is a matter of life and death. And at this moment, Wang Shichong has become their greatest hope to seize the world. Just now when I saw Wang Shichong, he hinted that internally the Li Clan is unstable; evidently the demonic school has their people in Chang’an doing their trick. If Zhu Can is related to the demonic school, with Zhu Can realigning his allegiance to Wang Shichong, it shows that the demonic school is united into one, so that they could rise above others in this struggle over the world.”

Yang Gongqing nodded and said, “If you defeat Li Shimin, at least half of the world will fall into Wang Shichong’s pocket. If he could eliminate you and Li Shimin in one fell swoop, then the whole world will fall into Wang Shichong’s pocket. What’s Shaoshuai’s intention on this?”

The refined light in Kou Zhong’s pair of eyes flaring greatly, he smiled and said, “Naturally it’s to beat them at their own game. First, I have to help Wang Shichong win this battle, and then I’ll think of other things later.”

Stunned, Yang Gongqing said, “But didn’t you say Wang Shichong is going to kill you?”

Kou Zhong spoke indifferently, “This time it’s different from the past. Wang Shichong will no longer dare to deal with me openly, because he is afraid it might affect the troops’ heart, so he can only have other demonic school people to kill me, while he is staying out of it. Then I’ll regard it as someone dropping at my door for me to practice my saber skill!” Translated by foxs

Yang Gongqing said, “In that case, what good is it for Shaoshuai to stay here? It’s better for me and my men to come back to Pengliang with Shaoshuai to split the mountain and watch the tigers fight.”

Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “I have been painstakingly thinking about your proposal, but unfortunately right now, against the Li Clan Army, my Pengliang Army is still unable to withstand a single blow. Besides, Luoyang tends to involve Bashu, it is of a very great importance, so it must not fall; otherwise, who would want to exert himself for a man like Wang Shichong?”

Yang Gongqing said, “The problem is that Wang Shichong will not use you; you are staying here will only be left unused, while you will still have to deal with the harm Wang Shichong is planning on you.”

Letting out a cold snort, Kou Zhong said, “When he is in a tight spot, naturally he will come to ask for my help. I know his shameless character too well.”

Taking a deep breath, Yang Gongqing spoke slowly, “What does Shaoshuai think Wang Shichong’s chance of success is?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Evidently Kou Zhong has repeatedly mulled over the very same question in his mind, hence he was able to respond quickly without thinking, “At most only ten-percent chance, and that is still dependent upon whether the Li Clan can turn their internal strife around or not. Wang Shichong is basically not Li Shimin’s match. Ay! If currently Luoyang were mine, Kou Zhong’s, Li Shimin would surely suffer a big defeat.”

Yang Gongqing spoke in heavy voice, “If it were the case, what would Shaoshuai do?”

Kou Zhong smiled and said, “If I were Wang Shichong, I would face the attack with all my strength, to engage Li Shimin in a few hard battles, to inspire the troops’ heart, to do everything in my power to make the various generals of different surname with disloyalty in their heart not daring to act blindly without thinking.”

Yang Gongqing sighed and said, “It’s a pity that Wang Shichong is not Shaoshuai; facing Li Shimin, who leads military operations with extraordinary skill on the battlefield, he would only be defeated faster and more urgently. Only if Wang Shichong is isolated in Luoyang will he ask for Shaoshuai’s help. What reversing-the-rotation-of-the-sky plan does Shaoshuai have?”

Kou Zhong knew that Yang Gongqing was a steady, composed and distinguished man, if he only showed off the bravado of an ignorant person, he would surely be spurned by him. He spoke seriously, “My original concept is extraordinarily perfect, that is, when Li Shimin attacks Luoyang, Dou Jiande would cross to the south of the river and come. As long as the Zheng Army is in the vicinity of Hulao, the Li Army will not dare to offend Hulao, hence we keep the east route toward Luoyang free, so that Luoyang will never lack foodstuff, the battle to siege the city will turn into the battle to seize provisions, then Li Shimin will find it difficult to sleep peacefully. Too bad Wang Shichong is eager to proclaim himself emperor, so that it’s difficult for Dou Jiande to work with him. With no other choice, I have to put up with him a little bit, by using my Shao Shuai Army to make up for it. As long as I can maintain the vitality of Hulao, this front line, Li Shimin will never be able to isolate Luoyang, it’s even possible that he will lose this decisive battle.”

After Shen Luoyan floated out, Hou Xibai came back, intoxicated and full. Seeing Xu Ziling at home, he was greatly surprised, “Don’t you have a class to attend? Why did you come back so early?” Translated by foxs

Sitting down by Xu Ziling’s side, he went on, “I still have no information about that friend of yours, Yin Xianhe, but the rumors about the military campaign to the east are flying everywhere.”

“What are the rumors?” Xu Ziling asked.

Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Hou Xibai said, “No need to waste time on those that are complete nonsense, but there are three information worth pondering, and the credibility is quite high.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Xu Ziling’s curiosity was piqued, he laughed and said, “Are you going to keep me in suspense? Tell me quickly, otherwise severe penalty is waiting for you.”

Hou Xibai blurted out laughing, he said, “With Ziling keeping me company, the depressing days can be interesting. The first information is that Li Yuan is considering whether he ought to appoint Yuanji as Li Shimin’s deputy.”

Frowning deeply, Xu Ziling said, “No way! Li Yuanji had just suffered defeat, and it was Li Shimin who cleared up the mess and thus turning defeat into victory. Luoyang is such an important military campaign, how could Li Yuanji have a share in it?”

“When you think about it, it’s not impossible,” Hou Xibai analyzed, “Li Yuan is sending Li Yuanji to Luoyang, it really is not to win the battle, but to keep a close watch over Li Shimin, for fear that after capturing Luoyang, he might occupy the land and use it to threaten Chang’an. Li Yuan might not think so, but as long as Li Jiancheng’s Princeling Faction and the Imperial Concubine Faction have this misgiving, it is tantamount to Li Yuan also has this misgiving.”

Xu Ziling remembered that Li Shimin once mentioned that Li Yuan was afraid that he might occupy Luoyang and proclaim himself the emperor. Sighing inwardly, he asked, “And the second information?”

“The second information is even more astonishing,” Hou Xibai replied, “It’s the man-eating mad demon Zhu Can unexpectedly surrendered and paid allegiance to Wang Shichong; I never thought that Wang Shichong would be that stupid.”

Stunned, Xu Ziling said, “Unexpectedly there is such thing?”

Hou Xibai said, “The wind from an empty cave is not without any cause. Zhu Can has worked together with Xiao Xian and Cao Yinglong, he must have a close relationship with our holy school. As it turns out, Wang Shichong and the holy school’s Laojun Temple’s Pi Chen have dubious relationship, hence if the two are having an affinity with each other, and if because they are facing a powerful enemy they join hands to fight on the same front, it’s simply a where-the-water-flows, a-canal-is-formed matter. The question is how did this matter leak out?” Translated by foxs

Xu Ziling understood what he meant. If there were no inner ghost [i.e. rat/traitor], this kind of afraid-others-might-find-out matter was not something that either Wang Shichong or Zhu Can would want to announce; this matter was of great importance, and now there was another variable in Kou Zhong coming to help Wang Shichong to defend Luoyang, the situation became even more complex. He said, “It should be related to the struggle within your honorable schools and sects. From the beginning, Wang Shichong is Da Ming Zun Jiao man, he does not belong to the Two Sects, Six Ways. And now a certain group within the holy school of the Central Earth is supporting Wang Shichong, perhaps some other groups of the holy school are opposing it, so they are trying to destroy it from the inside.”

“Let’s not waste time in trying to analyze this matter,” Hou Xibai said, “The last information pertains Chi Shengchun. Didn’t you say that you want to deal with him using threatening the east and striking to the west strategy, to fish in troubled water? Turns out his opening a casino in Chang’an was not a smooth sailing at all. The Six-Happiness Casino originally belonged to someone called Wen Yusheng. This man’s nickname was ‘Guo Shan Niao’ [lit. over the mountain bird], a vicious and merciless man, otherwise, he would not have earned that nickname.”

Guo Shan Niao [Chinese Wikipedia says king cobra (Ophiophagus Hannah)] was one kind of extremely poisonous snake, its temperament violent, not at all like the great majority of snake, which when it sees people, it would get away, rather, it will take the initiative to attack people. foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Xu Ziling nodded and said, “When the Li Clan entered and took control of Chang’an, as it should be rights, they would completely eradicate Baling Bang and the Xiang Family’s old power. Thereupon Chi Shengchun received the order to change his surname and sneak into Chang’an, to assume new identity and reenter the gambling industry. Furthermore, he connected with Li Yuanji and grew his business to today’s level. Swallowing the Ming Tang Wo is his next step in expanding his gambling business.”

Hou Xibai said, “Chi Shengchun won the Six-Happiness Casino from Wen Yusheng. According to Jianghu rules, if you agree to bet, you must accept to lose, Wen Yusheng shouldn’t have nothing to say, but Chi Shengchun violated a big taboo; unexpectedly even Wen Yusheng’s beloved concubine was snatched away by him. Rumor has it that for this reason Wen Yusheng dropped by to give Chi Shengchun bad luck, but since then his track was lost; presumably he was killed by Chi Shengchun. Finally this matter became a cold case [orig. settled by leaving it unsettled].”

Xu Ziling was stunned, “Unexpectedly Wen Yusheng is dead!” he said, “How are we going to exploit this matter?”

Hou Xibai cheerfully said, “This is the most brilliant part: Wen Yusheng had a sworn brother with even better reputation than him, surnamed Cao, given name San, nicknamed ‘Duan Ming’ [lit. short-lived], who loves to wear long hair, adept in using flying dagger, a serious bandit whose stinky name spread far and wide. One time he ran amuck in Bashu, afterwards he was killed by Xiaodi, because he was also a brutal picking-flower evil thief [i.e. rapist]. Ha! Don’t you think it’s brilliant?”

Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, “You want me to impersonate Duan Ming Cao San to seek revenge for Wen Yusheng against Chi Shengchun? Have you ever thought that if it was really Cao San coming to settle the account with Chi Shengchun, with Chi Shengchun’s power, even the root of a tree can’t possibly be worthy in his eyes? Much less Cao San is a picking-flower lecherous thief, without committing one or two cases of rape, wouldn’t it appear out of his style?” Translated by foxs

Hou Xibai blurted out laughing and said, “Other than Xiaodi, no one knows that Cao San is a lecherous thief. The way I see it, on the one hand, due to his outstanding martial art skill, this man had enough qualifications to bring disaster to Chi Shengchun; on the other hand, because the news that I went to hunt and kill Cao San was known to everybody in Bashu, only I have never told anybody about the outcome. Therefore, when Chi Shengchun is helpless against Cao San, he would definitely come to borrow Xiaodi’s folded Fan of Beauty to deal with him, then Xiaodi could build relationship with Chi Shengchun. This is an alternate threatening the east and striking to the west strategy. The real threatening the east and striking to the west strategy is your Situ Furong coming to hollow out Ming Tang Wo. That will be irresistible to Chi Shengchun; it would be strange indeed if Chi Shengchun won’t bite the bait.”

Emotionally moved, Xu Ziling said, “Xibai Xiong has given my business a lot of thought.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Hou Xibai said, “What I hate the most is picking-flower thief, not to mention the Xiang Family is trafficking women? Your, Xu Ziling’s business is my, Hou Xibai’s business, otherwise, why would we call each other brother? Tonight, you let your long hair loose and come to wreak havoc to the Xiang Family, kill a few people and have fun.”

Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, “I cannot kill people recklessly like that.”

Hou Xibai said, “Then change it to injure a few people. In short, make Chi Shengchun panic at the slightest move [orig. wind sighing and crane calling], to make him lying down and eating in restlessness, only then will we achieve the goal.”

After a short pause, he said, “There is another benefit to this scheme, which is we could openly grope Chi Shengchun’s foundation, to see when he had no other way, what kind of people he is going to beg to stick out their head for him. For example, if the one helping him is Wanwan, then we know that he has the support of Yin Gui Pai behind him. Cao San’s role is to make Chi Shengchun feel his life is under threat, thereupon he is forced to reveal the cloven foot.”

Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling asked, “Cao San is that formidable?”

Hou Xibai laughed and said, “You don’t know how hard it was for me to kill him. This man, speaking high, speaking low, his lightness skill was the top in his time, otherwise he could not be a famous lone bandit. You don’t need to pick flowers, just do a few thefts, then everybody would know Cao San’s honorable self has arrived in Chang’an.”

Xu Ziling smiled and said, “All right! I’ll do it according to what you said, I will be a temporary thief. Actually, I have wanted to come at night to explore the Chi Mansion, only I was afraid to beat the grass and scare the snake. But now with Cao San identity, I can easily proceed.” Translated by foxs

Greatly delighted, Hou Xibai said, “Finally I am able to do a bit to help. Now you rest for a moment, wait for me secretly preparing some tools for you to impersonate Cao San, at least you need some flying daggers to look like him. Ha! Things are getting more and more interesting!”

After muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, Yang Gongqing said, “What do I do now?”

Kou Zhong asked, “Tell me, currently, other than you, Yang Gong, and Zhang Zhenzhou, who else does Wang Shichong most afraid of that they might surrender to the Tang?”

Sketching it in light shades, Yang Gongqing responded, “Tomorrow morning we will be very clear about it.”

Kou Zhong understood. In the military meeting tomorrow, Wang Shichong would come up with global deployment in meeting Li Shimin’s main forces head-on; just by looking at how he clamped down the various generals of different surnames, the content of his heart could easily be inferred. foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Kou Zhong asked, “Is Xiangyang still under Qian Duguan’s control?”

Xiangyang was the most important military strategic city at the south side of Wang Shichong’s Great Zheng. If Xiangyang fell into Li Shimin’s hands, it would be difficult for Zhu Can’s army to advance a single cun, so it was the place to be contended by the Great Zheng and the Great Tang.

In the past, when Wang Shichong was battling Li Mi, he had personally gone to Xiangyang to lobby Qian Duguan. Thus the importance of Xiangyang was clear.

Kou Zhong’s inquiry about the situation in this aspect had some deeper meaning, because he knew Qian Duguan was a Yin Gui Pai man.

Yang Gongqing said, “This matter is quite strange. If I were Qian Duguan, I would definitely refrain from expressing my support to certain side; rather, I would see the situation clearly before calmly making decision. However, the fact is not so. Qian Duguan already made clear that he is supporting Wang Shichong, which makes Wang Shichong full of confidence even more.”

Kou Zhong slapped the table and said with a sigh, “Finally the situation is clear to me. Wang Shichong at least receives Da Ming Zun Jiao and Yin Gui Pai’s support, hence he is so sure he will win this battle. His Niang! Tonight I must go to give Rong Fengxiang a surprise, to gain the initiative by striking first.”

“You are not afraid of angering Wang Shichong?” Yang Gongqing asked.

Kou Zhong smiled and said, “I will see the opportunity and act accordingly. Now the most important thing for you, Yang Gong, is to do everything in your power to conserve your energy. As long as Wang Shichong does not dare to send you out with the vanguard troops, it will do. There’s one more thing I nearly forget to ask you: is Linglong Jiao in Luoyang?” Translated by foxs

Shaking his head, Yang Gongqing replied, “I am not clear about that. This woman is Wang Shichong’s trusted aide, specializing in spying the enemy for him. It would be best if Shaoshuai not telling her the truth; Wang Shichong is willing to trust her, there must be a certain reason.”

Kou Zhong patted his stomach as he stood up and bade goodbye, he said, “I am going home to get a nice sleep. After raising my spirit, Rong Fengxiang will meet some trouble! Ha ha!”

The sun was setting in the west, it was early evening when the lanterns were first lit. Inside Hou Xibai’s Passionate Nest, Hou Xibai helped Xu Ziling putting on a belt with eight flying daggers hanging on it. Laughing aloud, he said, “Hair draped over the shoulders, black clothes, flying daggers hanging from the waist, plus malevolent devil mask on the face, you look like the Duan Ming Cao San coming back to life; looking at you, even I, who put him to his end, am shivering all over though not of cold and am overly suspicious.”

Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, “Although I have been a small thief, dressing up as a big bandit is still the first subject in the exam; I wonder if this can be considered an upgrade?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com

Hou Xibai said, “It could be considered a several-level upgrade, because Cao San is not any ordinary small thief at all, rather, he is a solitary big bandit who carefully selected fat victim and devoured it. It would be best if you could pick Chi Shengchun’s most precious familial property clean, so that Cao San will become famous in one move, and the rich people in Chang’an will be anxious and unable to carry on even for a single day.”

Xu Ziling walked over to the window of the study room, peeking outside at the floating clouds dyed red by the setting sun in the sky, he laughed and said, “Then you need to prepare a team of mule carts for me.”

Eagerly attentive, Hou Xibai helped him putting on the outer robe to conceal the nightwalker outfit and the belt with eight flying daggers he wore on his waist, and then Xu Ziling tied up his long hair into a bun on the top of his head. When the time came, he only needed to let the hair fell and he would immediately become the Duan Ming Cao San. After putting away the terrifying mask in his pocket, Xu Ziling put on the other mask to become the full-bearded ‘Yong Qin’.

Talking and laughing, Hou Xibai said, “Too bad Ziling is not a spy, it is indeed a waste of talent. All outstanding spies, none is not well versed in disguising skill and altering their appearance; they could incarnate to millions different personalities, they could become anybody they are impersonating. Ziling indeed has this ability.”

“Don’t joke around,” Xu Ziling said, “Since this morning, not even half a grain of rice entered my belly, I am so hungry that my legs went soft, if someone overtook me, I might really become my nickname, Duan Ming [reminder: short-lived]. What good proposal do you, LaoGe have?” Translated by foxs

Hou Xibai said, “Beili [reminder: northern neighborhood/district] and East and West, two marketplaces have eateries like a forest, which gentleman is free to choose. Do you like spicy food? Beili has Sichuan Cuisine restaurant that Xiaodi frequented.”

Xu Ziling said, “Now even I cannot figure out whether you are really confused or just pretending. How could I walk together with you, this famous person? If you come across an acquaintance, how are you going to introduce me? Xiaodi only need you to point the way, I can go on my own to seek cure for my hungry stomach.”

Hou Xibai laughed to his heart’s content; he said, “I misunderstood then, simply because both you, LaoGe and Kou Shaoshuai love to win by a surprise move, so Xiaodi thought that going together to the restaurant is another surprise move, and if I delve deep into the bottom of it, you might think that Zaixia is dull-witted, therefore, I had no choice but to speak following the tone of your voice.”

Xu Ziling felt that he liked this person more and more. He said, “Where are you going tonight? Are you going to Shang Lin Yuan again?”

Spreading out his hands, Hou Xibai said, “Without going to Shang Lin Yuan, how am I going to pass my days? Beili’s Qing Cheng Caiguan [Green City Restaurant] near Ming Tang Wo is the place Ji Qian loves to go. My first visit there was with her.”

“Understood!” Xu Ziling said. foxswuxia.wordpress.com

As he was leaving, Hou Xibai pulled his sleeve and said, “Have you ever heard of Guan Tong?”

Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, “Who’s Guan Tong?”

Lowering his voice, Hou Xibai said, “Jing, Guan, Dong, and Ju, respectively, are the Four Great Masters of the painting world of the previous generation. Guan is Guan Tong; it is rumored that Chi Shengchun, using large amount of gold, acquired Guan Tong’s ‘Han Lin Qing Yuan Tu’ [lit. Cold Forest, Clear and Far Painting], which is regarded as a rare and valuable item. I heard this from Li Yuan’s own mouth, only then I found out that this rare treasure has fallen into his hands. If you steal this painting, I could take a quick look at it so that even if I die, I won’t have any regret.”

Xu Ziling was disappointed; from this aspect, he knew that Hou Xibai was racking his brains for schemes to have him impersonate the Duan Ming Cao San, at least half of it was for selfish reason.

Yet Hou Xibai still playfully winked at him, smiled and said, “Now you should understand why I have to stay overnight until daybreak at the Shang Lin Yuan! This is called creating an alibi.”

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