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Kou Zhong had never seen such a brilliant smile, which, for the first time – appeared on You Chuhong’s old face; suddenly the deep wrinkles seemed to disappear completely. This old granny, whose martial art skill was absolutely high, seemed to find her long-lost youthfulness.
Looking horizontally, looking vertically, she was just a kind old woman.
Even though they were enemies and not friends at all, Kou Zhong still felt happy and pleased that he was able to get rid of the ineradicable disease, which had pestered and brought suffering to this Senior for more than half of her lifetime.
Standing on the side, Dugu Feng [peak] and Dugu Feng [phoenix] were so impressed that they felt like prostrating themselves in admiration. For the last several decades, they had invited famous doctors from various regions to treat You Chuhong, but only Kou Zhong could do the ‘the needle arrive, the illness gone’; at least it has not flared up again.
Kou Zhong performed five needle treatments in succession. This moment he felt like he was ‘replacement guaranteed if not genuine’ Divine Doctor; although he was unable to eradicate You Chuhong’s asthma, at least he could substantially reduce the number of times the illness flaring out.
You Chuhong gratefully said, “Mo Shen Yi is the benefactor who saved Laoshen’s [old body] life. These past two nights I slept until daybreak; something that I had never experienced in more than thirty years.”
Kou Zhong put up a front by quoting the principles of medical science that Lei Jiuzhi taught him, saying, “Tai Furen’s [old lady (title for the mother of a noble or an official)] ineradicable disease was due to your martial art training took a wrong turn, so that the lung and kidney, two passages – suffer damage. According to the medical book: lung is the imperial canopy of the five viscera, kidney is the fundamental of the vital energy. Lung’s qi not healthy, kidney’s qi not strong; obstinate phlegm follows the qi floating upwards, turning into the illness of coughing and gasping for breath. I now apply the needle to target the illness, so that the lung and the kidney intersect. As long as from now on you properly take care of your health, perhaps in the end you could completely recover.”
Greatly astonished, Dugu Feng [peak] said, “A lot of physicians have already explore the possibility that something was wrong with the lung and the kidney, two passages, but how come they always end up having their hands bound and unable to do anything about it?”
Inwardly Kou Zhong scolded himself for talking too much; inventing crazy nonsense, he said, “It was due to Tai Furen’s martial art training went wrong, and it was related to internal qi; how could ordinary physician know how to treat it? Our humble family specifically talked about using martial art to treat people, as it turns out, it could really deal with it.”
You Chuhong nodded and said, “Shen Yi’s inner power is from the orthodox Taoist school, incomparably refined and pure, not inferior to Feng’er’s [phoenix].”
Kou Zhong mused inwardly that although he had already held back half of his power, he still could not hide it from her, this great expert.
Dugu Feng’s [phoenix] pair of eyes lit up, she said, “This is called there is a sky outside the sky, there’s a person beyond a person [idiom: in the wider world there are people more talented than oneself]. If Mo Xiansheng dedicated yourself to developing martial art, you will be a first-class master. May I ask Xiansheng, how should Popo [grandma] take care of her health properly?”
This was precisely the question that Kou Zhong was waiting for. With serious expression, he said, “First of all, she must not fight against anybody; even more, she must not get angry. Apart from this, she has to eat and drink regularly, and must have enough sleep. Hey! Water quality is most important; it could directly affect kidney’s function.”
You Chuhong’s pair of eyes flashed brightly, she spoke fiercely, “If I could kill that s1ut, I, You Chuhong, will henceforth wash my hands in the golden bowl; how about that?”
Dugu Feng [peak] hastily said, “Niang must not personally think about it that you injure your spirit; just leave it to us!”
Hearing that, Kou Zhong was shocked inwardly; intuitively he knew that the s1ut was referring to Shen Luoyan, because Dugu Ba lost his life in her hands. He could not help regretting that he told You Chuhong about this matter. But at that time they were in Luoyang, plus their fight against Shen Luoyan was like wildfire; how would he know that the changes of today might happen?
Dugu Feng [phoenix] also persuaded her, “Popo’s own body is most important, you must listen and obey Xiansheng’s orders.”
Revealing a disheartened expression, You Chuhong sighed and turned to Kou Zhong, saying, “Mo Shen Yi please do not take offense; this is a matter for regret to our humble family. I make clear distinction between gratitude and grudges the most; what other people do to me, I will do the same to them in return.”
Kou Zhong had no choice but to be a yes-man, thinking that he must find a way to warn Shen Luoyan, telling her to be vigilant.
Dugu Feng [peak] said, “Xiansheng specifically mentioned the water quality for consumption; I wonder if you have a good suggestion. I don’t care which famous spring in the world, we will find a way to transport that spring water to Chang’an.”
Just from this remark, he knew that this centipede, the-dead-but-showing-no-signs-of-rigor-mortis Dugu Clan certainly still had influence in all parts of the country; otherwise, if the famous spring was inside Wang Shichong’s territory, how could he regularly transport the water into Chang’an?
This was exactly what Kou Zhong wanted; he said, “We may not necessarily have to abandon the near to seek the far. May I ask, where does the water that your honorable home use for daily consumption?”
How could Dugu Feng [phoenix] ever imagine that he was harboring evil intentions? She replied honestly, “In the Xi Ji Yuan, there are a total of four wells, separately located on the east, south, west and north, four sides; it is said that they are related to geomancy and feng shui. Of the four, the water from the north well is the sweetest.”
Suppressing the ecstasy in his heart, Kou Zhong pretended to be amazed; he said, “Unexpectedly there are so many; four wells! Really amazing!”
Dugu Feng [peak] laughed and said, “For us, this is normal. The strange thing was that last night three wells were frozen, only the north well did not freeze. Not only that, because of the snow, the water level rose nearly two chi.”
Kou Zhong nearly wanted to hug and kiss Dugu Feng [peak]; because without he even needed to see, he already knew what happened.
Both he and Lei Jiuzhi had the same thought; the entrance to the treasure trove must be opened using hydraulic power, and the entrance must have something to do with water.
Jiancheng and Yuanji have investigated the courtyard houses that were related to Yang Su, naturally this Xi Ji Yuan would not narrowly and luckily escape. The reason they could not find it was because the secret passage has not been activated yet.
Lu Miaozi loved to exploit the power of nature the most. The bottom of the well was naturally connected to the river course, which was also the best cover for the entrance.
Kou Zhong said, “Is it possible for Xiaoren to inspect the water quality of the north well? If there is no problem, we may not need to trouble the troops and mobilize the masses to collect water from afar.”
Dugu Feng [phoenix] blissfully sprang up and spoke cheerfully, “Let Feng’er show the way!”
※ ※ ※
After exchanging conventional greetings, the two men sat down.
Xu Ziling asked, “Was Yun Guoshi [teacher of the state] satisfied with your meeting with Qin Wang?”
Yun Shuai nodded and said, “Li Shimin is certainly a dragon among men, no wonder Xieli has such a deep misgiving toward him. At first I thought he was just the kind of people who loves empty words of benevolence and righteousness, but the fact is greatly beyond my expectation. Other than Shao Shuai, no one has enough qualifications to be his match.”
Astonished, Xu Ziling said, “I never expected that Guoshi has such a high opinion of Kou Zhong.”
Yun Shuai proudly said, “For those of us in high position, the first thing we must learn is to understand people; without any insight, I have no doubt that we are doomed to be defeated. Li Shimin is precisely a man with insight; just by looking at his subordinates, I knew that he is deeply aware of the way to employ people.”
“In that case,” Xu Ziling said, “Junshi has decided to cooperate with Qin Wang, to deal with Xieli side-by-side?”
Yun Shuai replied, “It’s too early to say. Upon my return, I will report the fact to our humble king, everything still needs to be decided by our humble king. If there come a day where the one unifying the world is Kou Zhong rather than Li Shimin, we will still have a chance to cooperate.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “The matter of the future, who could predict without being a clairvoyant? However, there is an opportunity to cooperate before our very own eyes.”
Yun Shuai sighed and said, “It’s not that I flaunt the others’ spirit while extinguishing my own might, but even if the three of us join hands, I am afraid we will still be unable to kill Shi Zhixuan. His demonic power already surpasses normal practices of martial art study; we can’t put him in order just by relying on numbers taking unfair advantage of a few.”
Remaining tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling said, “What about Zhao Deyan?”
Yun Shuai’s imposing physique shook, the radiant light in his pair of eyes suddenly flared out as he looked at Xu Ziling.
※ ※ ※
Returning to the Sha Mansion, Kou Zhong was summoned by the Third Young Madam to talk. Over and over again she implored him to stay, hoping that he could stay in Chang’an for a little while longer.
Only after Kou Zhong exhausted his lips and tongue, also made a promise that after two years of ‘wandering’ he would return to Chang’an – did he barely get off the hook.
On the way back to his room, he came across Sha Fu. Noticing his gloomy countenance, plus he appeared to be extremely busy, Kou Zhong asked in surprise, “What happened?”
Sha Fu hatefully said, “Er Furen [second madam] has a maid who ran away, stealing a batch of Er Furen’s jewelry. Now Da Guye [oldest son-in-law] is deploying his men to search everywhere; I’ll say she won’t run away too far.” [Translator’s note: it’s confusing to me, since at first Chang He was the husband of Sha Tiannan’s fourth child (Sha Zhijing was the fifth); but a couple times now Chang He was called the ‘oldest’ (son-in-law, brother-in-law).]
Kou Zhong understood immediately, he secretly called female demon Wan formidable; this move was the right medicine prescribed for an illness, in order to strive for his favorable impression.
He remembered that amorous maid servant of the Second Madame, he just did not remember her name; knowing full well that even if Chang He made the move himself, he would not be able to find, let alone bring back, the escaping Yin Gui Pai mole.
After uttering a couple of consoling words to Sha Fu, he went back to his room to take a look; sure enough, Wanwan has been waiting for his good self inside the room.
As if nothing had happened, Wanwan said, “Shao Shuai ought to be satisfied! Following your instruction, we withdrew our people from the Sha Family, to show our good faith in the cooperation. Furthermore, we pledge not to offend the Sha Family in the future.”
Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, “Xiaodi is extremely grateful.”
Wanwan went on, “The saber outside has also been changed back to the Moon in the Well. Can Shao Shuai explain what’s going on?”
“It was Xiang Yushan and Zhao Deyan playing ghost,” Kou Zhong replied, “I wonder if Dajie know what is the relationship between those two?”
Evidently Wanwan was very appreciative of him telling the truth; she laughed and said, “Xiang Yushan already paid obeisance to enter Zhao Deyan’s tutelage, to become the only disciple of Zhao Deyan’s, to receive direct instruction from him. You guys want to kill him, I’m afraid it won’t be as easy as before.”
Kou Zhong said, “Catching us completely off guard, those two wretched muddled-eggs kidnapped Lei Jiuzhi, and tortured him using some kind of his mother’s ‘Seven Needles Controlling the Mind’ capital punishment. Now, although we have rescued him back, he still cannot talk, cannot move. If Dajie could tell us how to break this torture method, on the evening of the third of the month, we may deliver the Holy Relics into your jade-hands.”
Hearing that, Wanwan’s countenance changed slightly; displeased, she said, “Are you thinking of disregarding your promise, and change to have discussion with the tiger while scheming to peel its skin [see chapter title of Book 25 Chapter 8], by striking a business deal with Zhao Deyan?”
Kou Zhong mused that Zhao Deyan, this old tiger, might not necessarily be easier or more ferocious than the tiger Yin Gui Pai; no matter with whom he made the deal, it would still be having discussion with the tiger while scheming to peel its skin.
“Aha!” he laughed, “How could I, Kou Zhong, be willing to led by the nose by Zhao Deyan like that? Between me and him, as well as the Xiang kid, there is only enmity without any kindness. With Dajie, at least within the enmity there’s still a bit of friendly relations. However, if Dajie cannot offer any way to break the torture method, then Dajie would have to accept our arrangement. But I guarantee that as long as Ling Shi [your honorable master] is willing to make her move, with me and Ziling helping on the side, eventually the Holy Relics will still fall into your hands.”
Wanwan’s countenance changed several times; finally, perhaps she was having another thought, she asked, “Have you found the entrance to the treasure trove?”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “I dare to swear to Heaven, indeed that is the case. However, Dajie must not follow us; otherwise this agreement is void.”
Wanwan smiled sweetly and said, “Very well! I will immediately go back to Shizun [revered master] to ask for guidance. If we know how to break the torture method, I will notify Shao Shuai immediately, then all the difficult problems will be easily solved [orig. bamboo splits when it meets the knife’s edge]. Who on earth knows about this kind of long-lost torture method anyway?”
“We want to know this person more than you do,” Kou Zhong replied.
Wanwan said, “Within the demonic school, Zhao Deyan is well known to be light-in-promise, scant-in-trust type of person. You must be careful and must guard against him. If Shao Shuai has no urgent matter, please do not leave the Sha Family. Perhaps I will be back soon with the good news!”
After Wanwan left, Kou Zhong stretched his limbs; his entire body relaxed.
The plan that he and Xu Ziling came up with was both amazing-like-the-Heaven-opens, and feasible; it included all the top figures of the black and white, two ways, pitting them against each other in sandpiper-and-clam-war-together-and-the-
Fisherman-catches-both strategy, which was greatly advantageous to their treasure-picking operation.
If they could kill An Long along the way to enter the secret passage to avenge for Shi Zhixuan murdering You Niaojuan, naturally it would be even more ideal.
Thinking about Xu Ziling, a strong gratitude welled up in his heart.
Were it not for Xu Ziling, this time he came to Chang’an for the treasure hunt, he would have made a mess so bad that it would be difficult to clean.
What was the real situation at the bottom of the north well at the Xi Ji Yuan?
Tomorrow Li Yuan would lead his civil and military officials, along with his sons Li Shimin and Li Yuanji, leaving the Palace to go to the Zhongnan Mountain for their annual spring hunt. And Yang WenGan would take advantage while they were camping at the Deer Valley to launch the surprise attack.
While on the battlefront over yonder the killing was like wildfire, the city of Chang’an would become another battlefield for the bitter struggle between the orthodox and the demonic over a different treasure, the ‘Demonic Emperor Relics’.
Under this tangled and complicated circumstances, the stuffs from the treasure trove would be secretly removed. If they could safely reach Peng Liang, then he, Kou Zhong, could start the great undertaking of striving over the world.
If Ziling could stay, that would be even more ideal.
It’s a pity that reality doesn’t always happen like one’s heart’s desire.
Chang He’s voice called out from outside the door, “Mo Xiong!”
※ ※ ※
Xu Ziling came to Yu He An. After announcing his intention, Shi Feixuan came out to see him. The latter’s countenance serene, she spoke indifferently, “Just sending Lei Xiansheng off?”
Sketching it in light shades, Xu Ziling replied, “Something that we could do ourselves, how could we dare to trouble Xiaojie?”
Shi Feixuan sat down by his side, separated by a small table; she asked in astonishment, “How come from the tone of Ziling’s voice, you seem to suddenly regard me as an outsider?”
Suppressing the urge to ask her where she went this morning, Xu Ziling said, “I wonder if Shi Xiaojie would have a way to invite the Four Great Holy Monks, or perhaps Liao Kong Dashi, to come over before the xu hour on the third?”
He sighed inwardly. Who could have thought that forced by circumstances, even toward Shi Feixuan, he did not have any choice but to scheme against.
However, it could be said that what you did the first day of the year, Xiaodi do it on the fifteen [no idea, must be a saying]; there is nothing to say.
Shi Feixuan’s tender body slightly shook, she said, “Have you finally found the location of the treasure-trove?”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Indeed. We also want to set a trap to make Zhu Yuyan, Zhao Deyan and Shi Zhixuan to ‘you fight, I snatch’ for the Demonic Emperor Relics, so that they break off their relations with each other. If Shi Xiaojie does not want the Relics to end up in one of those people’s hands, you must make your move.”
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