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Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan (Published Novel) - Chapter Book 38 - Book 38 - Chapter 3 - Husband and Wife Team of Evil Thieves

Chapter Book 38 - Book 38 - Chapter 3 - Husband and Wife Team of Evil Thieves

This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog

Collectively, Yuyang, Anle, Beiping, Liaoxi and Zhuojun were known as the Five Big Cities of the Northeast Frontier. Because Gao Kaidao established Yuyang as his capital, Yuyang became chief among the five cities; it became the military, economic and trade center in the region.

In term of scale, Yuyang was only half of Luoyang, Chang’an, that kind of metropolis. The commerce was concentrated on the main street connecting the north and south city gates. Spanning across the street were ten memorial arches and pavilions. Most of the buildings were single-story houses with roof tiles. The long street was simple and unadorned, but there were also layers of carved storied buildings, brimming with the atmosphere of a big city on the border.

Due to Yuyang being the biggest relay station for post horses and trade center south of Shanhai Pass, there were many traveling merchants from both the south and the area beyond the Great Wall, people from everywhere mixing with one another – at the old city, so that it was prosperous and bustling with noise and excitement.

With Xing Wenxiu leading the way, Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, and the others came to the north-south main street, where the decorated lanterns had just been lit, strolling leisurely toward Bai Hua Yuan, located in the middle section, chatting and joking along the way, in a free and relaxed manner.

The six men divided themselves into two groups, Xing Wenxiu, Zhuang Hong, and Liu Datian in front, Kou Zhong, three men behind them. It was Kou Zhong’s idea; whatever happened, the three of them could pat their butts and slipped away, while Xing Wenxiu and the others would still have to stay here to mingle, hence it would be best if they did not provoke any inconvenience. Therefore, when they arrived at the pleasure house’s main gate, Xing Wenxiu and the others went home to wait for their news.

Kou Zhong hid the Moon in the Well in the outer robe that Chuchu sewed for him, to avoid being too conspicuous. Xu Ziling swept his gaze around with great interest; the unfamiliar city gave him a novel sensation.

Kou Zhong fell back a little to talk with Ren Jun, who was walking slightly behind to show respect to his superior; he laughed and said, “Xiao Jun, have you set a goal for yourself in life, such as becoming a saber master, or perhaps taking a flowery beauty and start your family, to enjoy the happiness of the warm and delight of married life?”

Ren Jun caught up a step to walk by his side; he respectfully replied, “I used to think only to manage well whatever Da Xiaojie is instructing me to do, until I have enough savings to build a big house, to get married and have children. But now I just want to follow good examples by mastering the xinfa of martial art that two Ye’er’s imparted to me. Will this be considered a goal in life? But since I have this way of thinking, it is as if my entire person has shed my mortal body and exchanged my bones; I am indescribably happy.”

Kou Zhong laughed and said, “You are really shedding your mortal body and exchanging your bones. We can only train you according to the way that we ourselves have walked past. Compared to before, your skill now has taken a few big steps. As long as you add real combat experience to temper yourself, very soon you will join the rank of front ranking martial art masters; perhaps one day you can even catch up with Xuan Yong.”

Ren Jun busily said, “How could Xiaozi dare to be compared to Xuan Ye?”

This moment a group of men in warrior outfit was hurriedly rushing past them. Some of them constantly turned their heads to size up Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling. Looking at their attire, appearance and stature, they must be Tujue men.

Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling calmly responded to their unfriendly stare with a smile; the men then continued on.

“Do they recognize two Ye’er?” Ren Jun asked.

Shrugging his shoulders, Xu Ziling replied, “Whether they recognized us or not, we will find out very soon.”

Letting out a cold snort, Kou Zhong said, “That kind of stuff is only good for Xiao Jun to practice his saber.”

Shaken, Ren Jun said, “I am afraid it still won’t work?”

Putting his hand on his shoulder, Kou Zhong smiled and said, “Tujue men’s martial art put emphasis on dauntless approach, heavy on the imposing manner, staking their lives to fight will all they have. If you are intimidated and scared by their momentum, you’d better just return to Yulin to till the fields. Do you understand?”

Xu Ziling added, “In a decisive battle against the enemies, you must set aside life or death outside the sphere of your consideration. Only by not fearing death, daring to confront death – will you be able to surpass death itself.”

Ren Jun’s expression rose vigorously. Sticking out his chest, he said, “Xiaozi received the instruction!”

Kou Zhong said, “Since you are about to fight, let me teach you how to endure saber cut!”

Caught off guard, Ren Jun stared blankly and blurted out, “What?”

Kou Zhong calmly said, “I am not joking with you, especially when facing numerous enemies, injuries are unavoidable, but how to reduce the injury to the lightest, not to let the vital part being hurt by the enemy, down to how to recover your qi to treat the injury while taking a beating, these are actually the abstruse knowledge of our school. By learning and comprehending the know-how of those things we can recover a lot of blood loss. You must diligently study and grasp this knowledge.”

Respect arose from the bottom of Ren Jun’s heart. The more he was in contact with these two, the more he felt that they were different from ordinary people.

Going to Bai Hua Yuan this time was to persuade Jian Dashi to give up two divine bows. But the two looked as if they were not anxious at all whether they would be successful or not, they did not think about any gains and losses, neither did they discuss about how to deal with the situation when they met Jian Dashi later; instead, they took the opportunity to impart the martial art xinfa, which could be rated as outstanding in the present age – to him.

Kou Zhong whispered the gems of wisdom in his ear. Ren Jun promptly listened attentively; he did not dare to miss even half a word.

Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling and Ren Jun, three men swaggered into Bai Hua Yuan’s main entrance. Seeing Kou and Xu, two men’s build, bearing, and countenance, which looked like immortals descending to the world, the five men guarding the door did not dare to be careless, hastily they welcomed them into the inner hall, and handed them over to the flower lady procuress at the reception.

Assuming a rich patron air, Kou Zhong stuffed heavy tip into her hand, and spoke in a low voice, “Has my old friend Jian Dashi arrived?”

Clutching the silver tael in the palm of her hand, the flower lady’s eyebrows were blooming, her eyes were laughing, she said, “Of course Jian Dashi has arrived. Every day he is the first guest here. Turns out three Daye are Dashi’s old friends. How do we address Daye? Nujia will immediately pass on the news of Daye’s arrival to him.”

Kou Zhong leaned over to whisper in her ear, “Please pass it on for us, tell him that Kou Zhong is requesting an audience.”

Hearing that, the flower lady’s entire body shook severely, “Kou Shaoshuai?” she blurted out.”

Inwardly Kou Zhong mused that turned out his name was so resounding that even a flower lady of a pleasure house far away in the northern territory has also heard his fame for fighting prowess. He smiled and said, “Go on then! But don’t let anyone else know that I am here.”

Until this moment Ren Jun still did not know with what magic Kou Zhong was going to persuade the strange-tempered Jian Dashi; even more, he did not expect Kou Zhong was able to open the door of the mountain by pulling his big name and asking for an audience. He felt deeply that the two’s actions were unfathomable, like troops appearing suddenly; no wonder that by turning their hands open they could make the clouds, by turning their hands close they could make the rain, leading the various outstanding heroes of the Central Earth by their nose.

After the flower lady left, the three sat down on the chair in one corner of the reception hall. It was still quite early in the evening, the pleasure house had just opened their door to welcome the guests, so there were not too many guests around; the house was quiet.

Kou Zhong asked Xu Ziling, “Ling Shao, what do you think?”

Xu Ziling responded indifferently, “He thinks there is no better way to numb himself than going to the pleasure house every night like this; otherwise, he ought to have more time to create more divine bows like Piercing the Sun and Shooting the Moon.”

Nodding his head, Ren Jun said, “A place like pleasure house, the more you go, the more it will disgust you.”

Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Turns out Xiao Jun is also a frequent visitor to the pleasure house.”

Lowering his voice, Ren Jun said, “I’ve only been there a few times; please, you must never tell Da Xiaojie. If she finds out, I am finished.” He could not help asking, “How is Zhong Ye going to talk with Jian Dashi?”

Kou Zhong spread out his hands and spoke calmly, “I don’t know yet; when we see him, we’ll change according to the situation! She’s back!”

Twisting and swaying, wheezing lightly, the flower lady rushed back, saying, “Dashi requests the pleasure of seeing the three gentlemen!”

Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other and smiled; they felt deeply that they were no longer the General Lu Meng of the olden days. As soon as they revealed their illustrious names, even a man with strange character like Jian Dashi would have to give them a little bit of face.

Jian Dashi was actually younger than they thought; he was around forty-five, forty-six years old, half-bald, his long neck seemed to be straining to support his big head alone, he kept two slanting-down ash-colored mustache, his eyes looked tired and thoughtful, the skin on his face was loose, his belly was swollen; his uninspired appearance was like someone who indulged himself in wine and women all year long, there was not the least bit of great master who made bow and arrow air on him.

The room still had residual scent of women; obviously Jian Dashi had just sent away the ladies who accompanied him in order to receive the three men.

Seeing Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, only at first glance did his pair of eyes light up with refined light, but very quickly it turned back to that kind of every-hope-turned-to-dust, his-heart-like-a-dead-tree beaten expression. He spoke indifferently, “I am just a nobody in Jianghu; the two gentlemen toiled your good selves in vain. Have a seat!”

Kou Zhong, three men sat down. After some pleasantries, Kou Zhong took out the Moon in the Well from inside his robe, and put it down on the table in front of Jian Dashi. Smiling, he said, “Dashi, please look over.”

Without even looking, Jian Dashi took out his pipe, leisurely stuffed it with tobacco, and lit it up with his heart and soul. Taking a deep pull, he puffed out the smoke, looked apathetically at Kou Zhong, and said, “Not only I have no interest in saber, even with bow and arrow I am also fed up. If Shaoshuai came to ask me for some bow and arrow, I am afraid you will have to return in disappointment.”

Ren Jun was confused even more. He did not understand that Kou Zhong came to ask something, but unexpectedly he presented his saber for Jian Dashi to look over?

Xu Ziling gazed out of the window, as if he neither heard nor questioned, without the slightest interest on whatever was going on before his eyes inside this wing room.

Kou Zhong was unconcerned about Jian Dashi’s indifference; still smiling full of encouragement, he said, “This saber has a touching tale behind it, when Dashi look at it, you will understand.”

Jian Dashi revealed a disdain look, he coldly said, “Shaoshuai need not waste your scheme. I don’t care how much Shaoshuai is offering, I will never sell those two broken down bows, which busybodies added washes of color to a painting, exaggeratingly giving a false picture of the situation. Besides, I have already thrown away those two bows, which created distress to everybody. If Shaoshuai has nothing else to say, please let me quietly pass this night in peace.”

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “To be quite honest, with all the money I have on me, I am afraid I cannot even afford to buy half a bow from you; therefore, I basically do not want to spend any money to buy your fine bow. Moreover, in my, Kou Zhong’s eyes, those two bows of yours are not only broken down bows, they are also trash bows.”

A hint of smile escaped from the corner of Xu Ziling’s mouth; he appeared to have grasped Kou Zhong’s strategy and trick.

Jian Dashi was slightly startled, but quickly his pair of eyes shot indignant, enduring disgrace – look; he spoke heavily, “Since that’s the case, what is the real reason Shaoshuai is looking for me? Were it not for me respecting the two of you as exceptional heroes, I would immediately ask you to leave.”

Leaning back comfortably into his chair, the divine light in his pair of eyes flashing, Kou Zhong said, “This saber of mine is actually also a piece of scrap iron, once Dashi take a look, you will see it.”

Jian Dashi stared at Kou Zhong with full attention; for the first time a little bit of life and some interest to other things returned to his pair of eyes. While Ren Jun’s mind was in total confusion, Jian Dashi shook his head and said with a sigh, “Kou Zhong is indeed Kou Zhong, not someone who is ordinary people could compare to.”

His right hand grasped the scabbard, his left hand grabbed the saber hilt, he pulled the Moon in the Well out of its sheath.

Naturally the Moon in the Well’s outward appearance was something that left people less than impressed. At first Jian Dashi was stunned, but then his eyes lit up brightly. His right hand put down the scabbard, he ran his finger tips lightly long the body of the saber, he sighed and said, “How can this be a piece of scrap iron? Just by looking at the hidden, unexposed helix metal grains, I knew that this was cast by a saber master. The choice, highest quality metal material is oozing with the mysterious feel of the steel that has undergone many steps in the forging process before it was completed. And the heat control during the tempering process was just right. The dull finish hides its exquisiteness; this is indeed a rare outstanding work. The blade is formed in double-angle arc; not only it is good to be used in chopping and hacking, it’s formidable power in straight stab is also boundless. This kind of flat and level, smooth surface, even from the edge of the blade to the thick back broadsword is ground without any ridges, this fabrication technique has been lost for a long time.”

This remark finally put the ‘great master’ air of the Jian Dashi [Arrow Great Master] in full display. When he spoke, his demeanor turned lively, radiating with a burst of coming-from-beneath-the-surface zeal and pride, lofty quality, no-man, no-self [‘anatta’, a Buddhist concept]; just like Lei Jiuzhi looking at the dice and gems on the gambling table, or Hou Xibai coming across a beautiful woman.

It would be difficult for Kou Zhong and the others to associate him with a man addicted to wine and women any longer.

But then he returned the saber into its scabbard, and he was back to his previous expression of not having any interest in anything. His voice weary, he said, “That was certainly a touching tale; the saber is good, the person is better!”

Kou Zhong calmly said, “This saber is still a piece of scrap iron.”

Stunned, Jian Dashi asked, “How could such a good saber be a piece of scrap iron?”

Ren Jun started to understand a little. To move someone like Jian Dashi, one must begin with something that fascinates him.

Kou Zhong retrieved the Moon in the Well. ‘Qiang!’ he pulled the saber out. While the ringing was still lingering in the air inside the side room, Xu Ziling suddenly brushed his sleeves all around; all four lanterns inside the room went dark at the same time.

It should be noted that these four lanterns were inside lampshade protecting it from the wind. Xu Ziling’s technique in using the power was so ingenious that made others gasped in amazement.

Jian Dashi was unable to make any sense of the matter. The Moon in the Well in Kou Zhong’s hand suddenly glowed with bright yellow light. Kou Zhong spoke indifferently, “Only when this saber is in my, Kou Zhong’s hand, will the piece of scrap iron turn into heavenly arm, divine weapon. Because of me, Kou Zhong, the name of the Moon in the Well will then able to go down in history for a thousand years, a hundred generations.”

‘Qiang!’ The Moon in the Well returned to its scabbard. The yellow light disappeared. But the impression of the saber light suddenly flaring, ordinary iron suddenly becoming divine weapon – has already embedded deeply in the spectators’ heart. Ren Jun’s blood was boiling. He finally understood the method Kou Zhong was using to persuade Jian Dashi.

Combined with Xu Ziling’s cooperation, it was brimming even more with dramatic, shocking-to-the-core feeling.

The dark room turned to light again, as the moonlight from outside the window penetrating the inside, causing them to notice the beautiful scenery under the bright moon outside for the first time, which has actually been ignored before today.

Jian Dashi neither spoke nor moved. He met Kou Zhong’s intimidating gaze. The two looked at each other for half a day, neither one wanting to yield the slightest bit. Suddenly Jian Dashi shouted, “Pour wine!”

Having the lowest status, Ren Jun busily got up to pour wine for everybody.

Jian Dashi looked away to stare intently at the good wine pouring into the cup. He sighed and said, “I have never seen anybody more convincing than Kou Xiong and Xu Xiong. Have two gentlemen ever heard a place called Shiwei?”

“Shiwei?” Kou Zhong said in astonishment, “Such a strange name. Does it belong to some kingdom outside the Pass?”

Ren Jun spoke in low voice, “Shiwei is located east of Western Tiele and Tujue, and south of Qidan and Xi.”

Jian Dashi’s eyes emitted a grieving expression, he slightly nodded in praise toward Ren Jun first, and then said, “Shiwei is located at the upper reaches of Heishui [black river], occupying the lower reaches of Heishui as it is going out to sea [note: the ‘upper/lower reaches’ part does not make sense to me, but it’s what the text says]. Heishui is the biggest river outside the Great Wall. Shiwei is comprised mainly of four big tribes of Shiwei division, which is Bo [earthenware bowl/monk’s alms bowl] Shiwei, Da [big] Shiwei, Bei [north] Shiwei, and Nan [south] Shiwei.”

Kou Zhong spoke resolutely, “As long as it is not committing any crime against the law, or harming the Heaven’s harmony, Dashi may speak it out, I, Kou Zhong, will definitely do it for Dashi.”

Jian Dashi angrily said, “Defiling other people’s wife, occupying other people’s family property, the kind of man whose death is not enough to be begrudged, would killing him be considered harming the Heaven’s law?”

The more he spoke the louder he got; the more he spoke the more upset he was, until in the end his pair of eyes turned very red, as if a soluble rock hidden deep beneath the earth’s surface, pressed down again and again, was erupted out from the volcanic crater.

The three stared blankly at him. Jian Dashi turned dejected, he said, “Forget it! Forget it! There is no reason for you to risk your life for me. Buried in the ground, those two broken down bows of mine are going to be wasted anyway; good bow needs wise master, how about I give them to you?”

Xu Ziling finally opened his mouth, “Certainly everybody has the right to punish this kind of crafty scoundrel; not killing him would be violating the Heaven’s law. I wonder if Dashi could tell us a bit more details.”

Jian Dashi looked like he was aging a few more years; his face was devoid of the color of blood, he slowly said, “It was the summer of seven years ago. At that time I was at Shanhai Pass, opening a factory, specializing in manufacturing bows and arrows. I had just married a wife as beautiful as a flower, life was good. One day there was a man who called himself the Shiwei Wang Zu [king of tribe], Shen Mohuan, leading a large number of entourage, coming to buy goods from me. On the surface, I saw him as a talented man, his manner of speech was abundant with poise and generosity, plus the goods purchased was going to be used to deal with the Tujue thieves whom I detest the most. On top of that, he painstakingly fawned on me, so that I went so far as to invite him inside the house, I considered him as a close friend. Who would have thought … ay! Who would have thought that this man had the heart of a wolf and lungs of dog [idiom: cruel and unscrupulous]? Ay!”

Severely shaken, Ren Jun said, “Isn’t Shen Mohuan the Bangzhu of Shiwei Sha Bang [Shiwei sand gang]? Together with his wife Mu Ling, they are known as ‘Husband and Wife Team of Evil Thieves’? Outside the Great Wall, this man’s stinky name has spread far and wide, the bunch of robbers under his leadership come and goes like the wind, no one can do anything about them. I hear that they received Xieli’s support in the dark, wreaking havoc in Liaobei [north of Liaoning], killing countless people. How could Dashi be deceived by him?”

Full of grief, Jian Dashi said, “At that time he was indeed the Wang Zu of the South Shiwei, his evil reputation was unclear yet. It was not until the South Shiwei was defeated by the Big Shiwei that he began to sink down to dramatic banditry. One night he deliberately made me drunk, defiled my wife Xiao Juan, and robbed my collection of bows and arrows until nothing was left, before he went away like a yellow crane. Since then poor Xiao Juan fell gravely ill, and never recovered; in the end, harboring hatred, she passed away. Oh, Shen Mohuan! The enmity between me and you is such that we cannot live under the same sky.”

Listening to him Kou Zhong’s righteous indignation filled his breast; he spoke heavily, “I don’t want to carry his stinky head back with me. Is there anything that I can bring back so that Dashi can pour wine on the ground as a sacrifice for your deceased wife in heaven’s spirit, and Sao Furen [lit. madam sister-in-law] in the Nine Springs [underworld in Chinese mythology] can rest in peace?”

Shaken, Jian Dashi said, “You are really willing to demand this debt of blood back for me? This is not an easy thing at all; two gentlemen must be preoccupied by your honorable affair. Ay!”

Xu Ziling said, “We came to ask for bows and arrows this time, precisely because we want to go outside the Pass. Dashi, rest assured that even if Kou Zhong does not have time, I will definitely seek justice for Dashi.”

Jian Dashi’s pair of eyes brightened, his whole person like it was returning to life. Rising to his full height, he said, “We leave immediately to get ‘Extinguished Sun’ and ‘Perished Moon’, two bows out of their burial place. During that time, were it not for these bows were hidden separately, they would have fallen into this evil thief’s hands as well.”

Stunned, Ren Jun said, “Aren’t they called ‘Piercing the Sun’ and ‘Shooting the Moon’?”

Jian Dashi proudly said, “One day Shen Mohuan has not died, the two bows will be called ‘extinguished’ and ‘perished’.”

Kou Zhong raised his cup and said, “Dashi has not told Xiaodi the token of evidence to restore the two bows to their former names.”

With trembling hands Jian Dashi picked up the wine cup and said, “If you could bring the ‘Flying Cloud’ bow that he took away back, the name ‘Extinguished Sun’ and ‘Perished Moon’ will be changed back to ‘Piercing the Sun’ and ‘Shooting the Moon’.”

The four men raised their cups and drained it in one gulp. Their ears already heard the thunderous hoof beats of the Sha Bang [Sand Gang] bunch of thieves galloping along on the desert.

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