Legend of Great Tang’s Twin Dragons - Volume 49 C2
Book 49 Chapter 2 – The Assembly of the Upper Forest
The carriage left the lane of the district to join the stream of people and carriages and horses, slowly galloping toward Shang Lin Yuan [reminder: Upper Forest Park], with Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, in their Taihang Shuang Jie identity as the drivers, carrying Lei Jiuzhi, three men inside. Translated by foxs
Watching the bustling scene of Chang’an under the illumination of the decorated lanterns, which had just been ignited, the two boys were overwhelmed with emotional stirring.
Kou Zhong leaned closer and said, “After the battle of Liyang, I had just sent Xiuning Gongzhu [princess] off, that night I felt extreme loneliness and desolation that made me nearly cry. Bubbling up in my mind was everything that went wrong, I felt that I have let other people down even more. I just wanted to kneel and ask forgiveness to Yuzhi, Xiufang, Chuchu … That kind of suffocating pain.”
Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, “Have there been similar situation afterwards?”
Kou Zhong shook his head with blank expression on his face. Smiling ruefully, he said, “How could I have the time?”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “I thought so. It was because Li Xiuning evoked the feeling buried deep in your heart that this weakness surfaced. Afterwards, you might become a man with the heart of stone, no longer under control of your own emotion; in everything, you will have victory as your goal.”
Kou Zhong spoke in astonishment, “Your analysis is very strange, but I feel that I am still the same person, only my mind is shifted toward the war, I have no time for anything else.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling said, “Last night I had a strange feeling. Listening to Shi Zhixuan, witnessing his ruthlessness in massacring Da Ming Zun Jiao people, I felt I was no longer able to use the orthodox-heretic definition to determine what kind of person he is. But I was certain that in order to achieve his goal, he would, by fair means or foul, disregard everything that hinders or entangles him, believing that his action is morally right if the majority of people benefit from it. His only flaw is the deep affection he has toward Bi Xiuxin, which he has been unable to sever. If he did not have this weakness, he would have done everything in his power to get rid of me last night, to not allowing us any chance to scheme against him.”
Shaken, Kou Zhong said, “Are you implying that in order to seek success, I will have to do everything in my power and become a ruthless person?”
Xu Ziling replied solemnly, “War is to seek victory by doing whatever it takes; since you already chose this contending-for-hegemony path, you must follow the rules of this game; otherwise, you might as well go home and sleep.”
Shaking his head, Kou Zhong said, “I will never become that kind of person. In fact, in term of emotion, I am very vulnerable.”
Xu Ziling said, “You were just being vulnerable for one night, ay! How could you, this kid, be this muddleheaded? If you are really vulnerable, you would not have let Shang Xiufang go to Gaoli, you would not have passed through the doorway without coming in to avoid seeing Chuchu; furthermore, you would not have disregarded Song Yuzhi’s wish not to drag the Song Clan into the conflict, also, you would not have become enemies with Li Xiuning. After selecting the unifying-the-world as your desire, you have never flinched under this big question.” Translated by foxs
Kou Zhong stared blankly in deep thought for a moment; he spoke with pained expression, “Am I really a man with the heart of stone [orig. iron and stone heart and intestine]?”
Xu Ziling replied, “Frankly, you are not that formidable yet, hence the reason I have been worried about you.”
Kou Zhong said, “I don’t want to be that kind of person at all; do you think I made the wrong choice?”
Smiling bitterly, Xu Ziling said, “Only Laotianye knows. Coming to Chang’an this time, what I see and hear have thoroughly changed my way of thinking, my previous convictions, a lot; I even doubt the correctness of Feixuan’s choice of Li Shimin. Because in light of the current development, Li Shimin’s victory would only give convenience to the demonic school or the Tujue people.”
And then he shook his head and added, “I don’t know! Oh! We are here!”
Ren Jun’s Situ Furong, Song Shidao’s Shen Wenjiang, and Lei Jiuzhi as the Housekeeper, were received politely by Shang Lin Yuan’s receptionist, and were led into the Park.
Following instruction, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling parked the carriage in a corner of the vast square. As they fetched water and fodder to take care of the horses, the two boys could not help thinking fondly of their beloved horses Thousand-Li Dream and Ten-thousand-Li Spots. To avoid risk, the two darling colts were left outside the Pass. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong said, “I wonder which hallowed figure Shang Lin Yuan’s big boss is? And who might be the supporter behind their back?”
Xu Ziling said, “If you want to know that kind of things, you ought to ask our Hou Gongzi.”
This moment, there was a carriage galloping into Shang Lin Yuan. Sweeping his gaze, Kou Zhong spoke in low voice, “This kid’s character won’t change even if he died; he is still engrossed in living a life of music and song every night.”
Following his gaze, Xu Ziling looked over, he saw a gorgeously dressed, hedonistic-son-of-rich-parents-style figure, “That fellow looks very familiar?” he asked.
“He is the Sha Family’s Er Shaoye [second young master] Sha Chenggong,” Kou Zhong replied, “Together with Sha Chengjiu, one is a gambling addict, one loves to visit prostitutes. Fortunately, they still have the San Shaoye [third young master] Sha Chengde supporting the family business.”
Xu Ziling said, “It’s almost time, I’ll go see Er Wenhuan and Qiao Gongshan, you stay here to monitor the general situation.” Translated by foxs
“There’s nothing to do here,” Kou Zhong hurriedly said, “All I can do is just asking the bird to come out. Let me come with you.”
“Absolutely not,” Xu Ziling replied, “Because I am going to tell them that tonight we are up to our ears in work; if unexpectedly both of us are able to slip out, it would be strange indeed if they are not suspicious. Brother! Be patient!” Finished speaking, he laughed and left.
Kou Zhong was so upset that his mind returned to the battle of Luoyang. After leaving Cijian, he tried his best not to think about this matter but focused his mind on Shi Zhixuan instead, because he threatened his brother, Xu Ziling’s life. This matter was more important than the contention over the world. Therefore, although this moment Luoyang was caught in deep water and scorching-fire situation, he still had to put everything behind him and go to Chang’an to deal with Shi Zhixuan.
When his business here was done, he must immediately rush back to Pengliang to receive Yang Gongqing’s men and horses withdrawing toward Pengliang, and then, following the rules of the game, he would do everything he could to seize Jiangdu from Li Zitong’s hands, a place with which he was most familiar. However, his by-hook-or-by-crook approach was targeted at the enemy only; toward the innocent common people, he definitely could not harden his heart. This was his bottom line and his principle.
Thinking to this point, he heard footsteps coming from behind. Listening to the intensity of the power, it ought to be an expert. Kou Zhong deliberately waited until the newcomer got close before he pretended to be startled and turned around to look. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
In just one glance he was certain that the other side was Chi Shengchun. Although he was taller and bigger than Xiang Yushan, with that kind of self-confidence, clear and slim body and soul, he had about 40-, 50% similarity with him. His bearing elegant, without any Jianghu boorish manner, a confident, seasoned smile was hanging on the corner of his mouth, a clear sign that he was sociable. He could not be considered handsome, but his appearance was amiable and pleasing to the eye.
Seeing Kou Zhong turning around and sizing him up, Chi Shengchun cupped his fist and said with a laugh, “This gentleman must be Cai Xiong, whose name shook Taihang! Xiaodi Chi Shengchun; how come I don’t see Kuang Xiong?”
Noticing Chi Shengchun was without any attendants, free and easy, Kou Zhong suddenly understood that Chi Shengchun must have walked over from the Six-Happiness Casino across the street. But he still could not figure out why he was trying to ‘curry favor with’ Kou Zhong? Pretending to be shocked, he hastily cupped his fist to return the greeting and said, “Turns out it’s the Six-Happiness Da Laoban Chi Ye. Our Furong Ye is inside. As for Wentong, he has something to do and had to come back.”
Chi Shengchun walked over toward Kou Zhong in easy manner. Lowering his voice, he said, “Yesterday I heard Er Wenhuan Daren mentioning Cai Xiong and Kuang Xiong, the two Daren admire two gentlemen very much, saying that two gentlemen are good in making friends. I, Chi Shengchun love to make friends with heroes and real men the most. Come! Let’s get inside the Park to talk. When you are in Chang’an, how could you hang around outside Shang Lin Yuan’s door without coming in?” Translated by foxs
Kou Zhong assumed an overwhelmed-by-favor-from-superior look; humming and hawing a little, he spoke in embarrassment, “This … hey! I don’t know if that will be all right? Currently Xiaodi is working for Furong Ye, hey!”
Chi Shengchun pulled him toward the door, he spoke cheerfully, “I have admired Situ Xiong’s reputation for a long time, I am coming tonight precisely to get a glimpse at Situ Xiong’s elegant manner. As far as I’m concerned, Situ Xiong is a friend. Cai Xiong and Kuang Xiong are also my friends. If Cai Xiong have something in Chang’an that Xiaodi can help, please feel free to ask, Xiaodi will do it for Cai Xiong.”
‘Formidable,’ Kou Zhong cried inwardly; Chi Shengchun’s skill in winning other people over was straightforward and enthusiastic, if he were the real Cai Yuanyong, it would be strange indeed if he would not be elated and surrender completely receiving such flattery, which was delivered with respect and honor.
The people they met along the way, whether Shang Lin Yuan staffs or other guests, none did not greet and pay respect to Chi Shengchun. Evidently Chi Shengchun had a vast network of friends, he was smooth and slick in establishing social relations.
Chi Shengchun said with a laugh, “Don’t think that the City of Chang’an is so big, but any wind blowing or grass moving, it will immediately spread widely across the whole city. Guanzhong Jian Pai’s men love to meddle in other people’s business the most, Xiaodi included, a lot of people already cannot stand by idly and watch. Qiu Wensheng, that old fart [orig. old but still alive] relies on his own first disciple Duan Zhixuan working under Qin Wang, he is arrogant and despotic, relying on strength to go on the rampage. I am not using frightening words to scare people, but that day, although the Guanzhong Jian Pai’s men were forced to say that they won’t harass two Laoxiong anymore, I am so sure they cannot take this resentment, after all, Chang’an is their territory. This is called fierce tiger is not as good as local bug. Cai Xiong must be careful.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong came to realize that their Taihang Shuang Jie have already been drawn into the internal struggle in the City of Chang’an. The reason Er Wenhuan was willing to let Xiao Xiuming and Xie Jiarong go was because he wanted to catch the even bigger fish; the ultimate goal was naturally to grab Qiu Wensheng’s weakness, and destroy the entire Guanzhong Jian Pai, so that Li Shimin became isolated and without help.
Assuming a frightened expression, he spoke heavily, “What the hell do they want from us?”
This moment the two were stepping into the middle garden. Chi Shengchun pulled Kou Zhong toward the lotus pond on the side. He stopped and then spoke with serious expression, “Qiu Wensheng’s conduct is vicious and merciless, he would act as soon as he made up his mind, it could be said that you can’t guard against it. I, Chi Shengchun, have always been dissatisfied with the way he is running amok, plus toward Cai Xiong, I have familiarity at first sight. This matter, I cannot simply sit idly and watch. Later on, let me discuss this matter carefully with two Daren, as long as we could have Qi Wang acting on two gentlemen’s behalf, I guarantee Qiu Wensheng will have to pack his bag and leave before he finishes eating. Ha! It’s not appropriate to talk about such a blot-on-the-landscape matter tonight, let us enjoy ourselves to the full and appreciate Chang’an’s number one famous courtesan Ji Qian’s singing art first, tomorrow I will have good news to tell Cai Xiong.” Translated by foxs
Suddenly hearing the name Ji Qian, Kou Zhong was shocked inwardly, but was also glad that Xu Ziling was not being forced by Chi Shengchun to attend the banquet.
Chi Shengchun pulled him to continue walking while saying, “When Kuang Xiong is back from his business, the gatekeeper will let him in. We will all chat in cheerful and optimistic atmosphere tonight, no one is allowed to go home before drunk.”
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly, Ji Qian had a close relationship with Xu Ziling, if, based on women’s keen intuition toward men, she was able to see through him, then in the meeting this time they would surely fall head first.
Inside the restaurant, finished listening to Xu Ziling’s excuse, Er Wenhuan said with a laugh, “Forgive me for speaking forthrightly, in Chang’an, Situ Laoban’s safety will have no problem. The City Guards and I have actually paid our visit. Unless it’s Song Que coming personally, otherwise, ha!”
Qiao Gongshan joined in, “Currently the Song Family is too busy to care about other things, the threat toward Situ Laoban must be empty words, Kuang Xiong need not take it to heart. On the other side, Kuang Xiong and Cai Xiong must watch for other people plotting against you.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, “Other people are plotting against us?”
Leaning forward a little, Er Wenhuan lowered his voice and said, “According to the rumor we heard, Guanzhong Jian Pai’s people are harboring evil intention, they determine to put two gentlemen to death; in this matter, they still need Qin Wang’s Tian Ce Fu’s people’s support. Once they make their move, it will be with ten-thousand-jun-thunderbolt-momentum. Resolute people [orig. people with heart] plotting against unsuspecting people [orig. people without heart], it will be very easy for two gentlemen to fall into their scheme.”
Just like Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling understood immediately. He felt big headache due to this new-branch-grows-out-of-a-knot affair, only regretfully he must not make any ‘proper’ response. His pair of eyes emitting a look of misgivings, he said, “If Yuanyong and I met with some unexpected misfortune, anybody would guess that it must be their doing; do they have that kind of big guts?”
Qiao Gongshan spoke seriously, “Without Tian Ce Fu supporting them in secret, even if Qiu Wensheng had guts as high as the sky, they would not dare to touch a strand of two gentlemen’s hair. However, two gentlemen need not be worried, we will find a way on two gentlemen’s behalf to deal with this matter.”
Er Wenhuan spoke heavily, “Gaining the initiative by striking first, whoever moves later will fall under the other side’s control. Kuang Xiong is accustomed to the Jianghu way, naturally you understand this principle.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Fortunately this time we came across Er Xiong and Qiao Xiong, two gentlemen of high rank. Ay! Should we notify Furong Ye about this matter?” Translated by foxs
Qiao Gongshan replied, “You are working for Situ Laoban, both in terms of situation and reason, you ought to let him know, but no need to say it too seriously.”
Patting his shoulder, Er Wenhuan said, “This is a small matter, we will keep our eyes open as well, I guarantee that those Guanzhong Jian Pai brats will fall with their head and face filthy with grime. Six-Happiness is open all night, if two gentlemen can slip out, we can make proper arrangement at any time.”
Qiao Gongshan laughed and said, “Last time was Six-Happiness, this time we must go to Ming Tang Wo to broaden our horizons. Historically, Ming Tang Wo is the oldest business with a long-established reputation in Chang’an, it was built during the construction of Chang’an’s new city.”
Xu Ziling pretended to be emotionally touched; he sighed and said, “Coming back a bit later shouldn’t be a problem, but slipping away the whole night to gamble is inexcusable, no matter what, we’d better go to Ming Tang Wo to gain fist-hand experience tomorrow. Ay! I don’t have any hobby, it’s just that my gambling addiction is a bit bigger.”
Letting out an evil laughter, Er Wenhuan said, “Kuang Xiong only have gambling addiction?”
Xu Ziling ‘recalled’ his character’s swindling-wealth-cheating-beauty, he let out a mischievous laughter and said, “To love pretty girls is men’s innate tendency, it can’t be considered a hobby. Ha!” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Er Wenhuan and Qiao Gongshan accompanied him in evil laughter, brimming with some kind of sharing-vile-habits delight.
Xu Ziling made the appointment with them to meet again the next night, when and in which street, and then he stood up and bade goodbye. Surprisingly, Er Wenhuan and Qiao Gongshan did not try to stop him, they simply let him leave.
The banquet was located at the Huang Ju Ting [lit. yellow chrysanthemum hall] inside the west garden of the Shang Lin Yuan. The banquet tables were arranged to one side, leaving a wide space for the singing and dancing performances.
When Chi Shengchun and Kou Zhong arrived, the more than a dozen singing and dancing performers, dressed like lovely scene of blossoming plants swaying in the breeze, were just exiting from the Tianmen [heavenly gate]; seeing the two, they threw repeated flirtatious glances, but it was mostly targeted at Chi Shengchun, accompanied by coy calls, ‘Chi Daye’, so that even Kou Zhong on the side could also feel the tender feeling that made people’s heart swept away and their mind went soft.
Chi Shengchun stepped across the threshold, immediately he let out a long laughter and said, “I’ve long looked forward to meeting Situ Xiong, today you have finally fulfilled my, Chi Shengchun’s cherished desire. Nice to meet you!”
One after another the people sitting around the table stood up to welcome him. Ren Jun, dressed as Situ Furong, maintaining his attitude and expression, responded with a laugh, “Turns out it’s Chi Da Laoban, who single-handedly establish the Six-Happiness; it had not occurred to me that you are so young. Casino business is not something that any rich person can do; those who can do it with sound and color [idiom: dazzling] that gain everybody’s praises are even less.” Translated by foxs
Yin Zuwen spoke cheerfully, “By the casino, there must be a pawnshop nearby. What Shengchun is doing surpasses sound and color, and Situ Laoban’s business is growing even bigger, therefore, how could we miss Shengchun and our Da Xian, the Senior, today?”
Kou Zhong flashed back behind Chi Shengchun, simply because as soon as he swept his gaze around, he immediately drew out a mouthful of cold air, afraid that people might recognize his build and bearing; it was indeed a thief lacking in confidence mentality.
Yin Zuwen was occupying the south, the host – position. On his right were Ren Jun’s Situ Furong and the ‘Great Immortal’ Hu Fo, in that order. On Hu Fo’s right was surprisingly the Second Young Master of the Sha Family, Sha Chenggong.
When this lustful second-generation member of a powerful family first came to Chang’an, no one paid him any attention at all. Although the influential officials of the House of Tang relied on his Ol’ Die Sha Nantian for support, they did not care about this pampered son of a wealthy family who has achieved nothing. But today he was able to attend this banquet, apparently it was Yin Zuwen who particularly coaxed him. Naturally they were not interested in him as a person, but the weapon and mineral resources business that his Sha Family had in their hands.
Kou Zhong was not afraid that he might be able to recognize him as the ugly Divine Doctor Mo Yixin, simply because Sha Chenggong did not have such a brilliant eyesight. What he was afraid of was Xue Wanche, who was sitting to Sha Chenggong’s right. This man was a great general, a trusted aide of Li Yuanji. Both in terms of intelligence and martial art skill, he was not inferior to Li Yuanji at all. Moreover, at this moment Xue Wanche’s attention was focused on him, so Kou Zhong’s fear was not unfounded. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Sitting by Xue Wanche was Song Shidao’s Shen Wenjiang. On the other side of him was an empty seat, directly opposite to Yin Zuwen’s postion; it must have been reserved for Chi Shengchun. Next to this seat was Lei Jiuzhi’s Su Guanjia [housekeeper]. This old kid was staring at Kou Zhong with total displeasure, his reaction was completely appropriate.
The person on Lei Jiuzhi’s other side was also an acquaintance, the minister of the foreign affairs Wen Yanbo. His specific responsibility was to receive foreign guests; therefore, attending this kind of occasion was not surprising at all.
Beyond him were two more empty seats. Kou Zhong guessed that one of these must be reserved for Ji Qian, the famous courtesan with highest status in Chang’an. But he could not guess whom the other seat was reserved for.
Looking at the guests’ seating arrangement, he could see Yin Zuwen’s brilliance. If Kou Zhong and the others did not know Yin Zuwen’s real identity, plus they were coming to deal with Chi Shengchun, they would not be able to see that this banquet was the first step in Yin Zuwen and Chi Shengchun’s conspiracy. Translated by foxs
Things have come too fast and too suddenly; all of a sudden the two sides have entered the game, the pitting-themselves-against-each-other situation.
This was the first time that Kou Zhong saw Hu Fo. This grandmaster-level figure of the gambling world carried some kind of alert, elegant and refined air that ordinary Jianghu people lacked, there was quite a resemblance with Hou Xibai’s personality traits. Perhaps it was due to their mutual love of calligraphy and painting art that two entirely different men exuded a similar temperament.
The ‘Great Immortal’ Hu Fo laughed aloud and responded, “The presence of a pawnshop by a casino is a widely known fact. But by a pawnshop, there may not necessarily be a casino; how could mine and Shengchun’s small businesses be compared to Situ Xiong’s? Ha!”
The crowd burst into laughter to accompany him.
Chi Shengchun noticed Lei Jiuzhi’s gaze toward Kou Zhong; in full understanding, he reached back and pulled Kou Zhong forward toward the banquet. He laughed and said, “We, businessmen, open our mouth and talk business, we close our mouth and talk business, but Shang Lin Yuan is not a place where we should talk business. This gentleman is the renowned Taihang Shuang Jie’s Cai Yuanyong Xiong.”
And then he turned to Shang Lin Yuan’s pretty maid, who was standing respectfully by the door to wait upon everybody, and said, “Can you add two seats for me? The other seat is for Kuang Xiong.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Hardening his scalp, Kou Zhong followed him and took his seat, while slightly restrained his eyes. He could only beseech the gods and worship Buddha in his heart, hoping that Xue Wanche and Wen Yanbo, these two acquaintances would not see through his disguise. Otherwise, everything would be finished.
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