Book 55 Chapter 12 – Meeting Face to Face on a Narrow Path
Xu Ziling entered the city from the East Gate. Xie Hui withdrew the martial law, the main street gradually returned to life, some shops even rushed to open their doors for business. Although people and vehicles were still sparse, compared to a moment ago, where it looked like a ghost town, it was a different atmosphere. Translated by foxs
Xie Wenlong changed back to his normal warrior outfit and waited for him at the city gate. He spoke gratefully, “Bashu is averted from the ravage of war, it is entirely due to Xu Xiong supporting Feixuan Xiaojie. Otherwise, if Shaoshuai accepted the challenge, the situation would be too horrible to contemplate.”
The two men strolled on the long street side by side, Xu Ziling smiled and said, “It’s due to Xie Xiong did not know Kou Zhong’s personal character that there was a misunderstanding. Even if I was not here, Kou Zhong would still rather withdraw his troops rather than fight with Feixuan. However, I wonder how’s the situation on the Ba Meng’s [Sichuan Alliance] side?”
Xie Wenlong replied, “Bashu maintains its neutrality again, Die went to the south of the city to have a talk with the four major tribes’ tribal chiefs, this matter should be resolved peacefully. Since Shaoshuai gave his nods, we are all people who understand reasons, plus we always had a good relationship, there shouldn’t be any new problem arising.”
And then he said, “If Xu Xiong is not in a hurry, Yuhua could have the honors to be the host.”
Xu Ziling noticed Lei Jiuzhi appearing across the street, signaling an inquiring sign with his hand; thereupon he responded apologetically, “I came back into the city to meet up with three good friends, and then we’ll leave immediately. Xie Xiong’s kind intention is appreciated! Please send my respect to Sao Furen.”
Xie Wenlong also noticed Lei Jiuzhi; reluctant to part, he shook hands with Xu Ziling and bade him farewell, saying, “Next time you are coming to Chengdu, Xu Xiong must come to visit us, to let Xiaodi and Yuhua act as the host.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling had a favorable impression toward his frank and straightforward manner, he shook his hands and bade him farewell.
Kou Zhong rushed along the river at full speed; he threw out all worries and anxiety, no longer thought about how Shi Feixuan was going to deal with him in the future, he only thought about good things.
The fact was that he and Song Que were well aware that even though they had the wonder move of the Duke Yang’s Treasure to besiege the city, to put Li Yuan in order would still be a very difficult bloody battle, and the cost would be extremely high.
Just as Song Que pointed out, Yang Jian obtained the imperial throne by usurping the previous dynasty, so he had to guard against his own subordinates, no matter what. Yang Guang even became more severe, he focused on the possibility of internal treason and reinforced the city’s defense, especially putting emphasis on the imperial city’s power to counterattack. Even if Kou Zhong was able to establish a staunch stronghold inside the city, the counterattack from the Imperial City would still be very difficult to resist. One day he was still unable to capture the defense of the imperial palace at the Xuanwu Gate, one day Chang’an would still be in Li Yuan’s hands. Translated by foxs
The final victory in the Battle of Chang’an might belong to them, but inevitably the injuries and deaths would be extremely disastrous, their vitality would be greatly damaged. At that time, they would have to face Li Shimin, who was no longer under Li Yuan’s control. The opponent would not need to strike back hastily, they could change direction to the south and expand to the north, and established a powerful new empire with Luoyang as the center. In this kind of situation, the initiative would fall back into Li Shimin’s hands, he could foresee that the situation would develop into a long-term confrontation and continuous chaos of war.
Therefore, looking from this angle, their plan of utilizing the Duke Yang’s Treasure-house being destroyed by Shi Feixuan might not necessarily be a bad thing. As long as they could capture Luoyang and defeat Li Shimin, Li Yuan would be forced to defend Guanzhong to the death, while they could calmly clean up all the land outside the Pass, and then when the fortunate timing has ripened, they would enter the Pass and put Guanzhong, which no longer had famous commander-in-chief to take charge – in order.
This thought made Kou Zhong feel relieved inwardly, he no longer felt frustrated. What’s more, Bashu could keep their peace, the Song and the Xie, two families did not need to be in conflict, Zhizhi must be pleased, and perhaps her perception of him might change slightly.
I, Kou Zhong, will definitely not lose.
Letting out a long whistle, Kou Zhong increased his speed as he flew in the direction of Luchuan.
Xu Ziling, Hou Xibai, Lei Jiuzhi, and Yin Xianhe, four men were about to leave the city from the North Gate, when someone from behind called out, “Xu Xiong!”
The four looked back in surprise. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “Turns out it’s Zheng Xiong.”
Panting for breath, the ‘Mad Scholar of Henan’ Zheng Shiru came to the four men, he spoke cheerfully, “Were it not for I am well-informed, I would have missed linking arms with Ziling. Are you in a hurry to get out of the city? How about we talk as we walk?”
Xu Ziling introduced Lei Jiuzhi and Yin Xianhe to Zheng Shiru, and they left the city together.
Lei Jiuzhi, three men, tactfully walked ahead to let the two men talk about former times.
Zheng Shiru said, “I have just seen Xie Shao Baozhu [young/junior fort/castle master], he told me which direction Ziling was going. Ha! Zaixia did not say wrong! As soon as Song Que came out, the situation in the world is immediately reversed.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “Zheng Xiong indeed has original insight.” Translated by foxs
Zheng Shiru responded modestly, “Only because Ziling is in the inside, your mind is in disorder, unlike me, a spectator on the outside, who can see thing with cool eyes. From what I hear from Shao Baozhu, sounds like you guys have reached an agreement: Bashu will remain neutral, and you will not touch Bashu.”
“Indeed,” Xu Ziling replied.
Lowering his voice, Zheng Shiru said, “Does Ziling know that the Fat Merchant An Long has been driven away from Bashu by Xie Hui, and he is not allowed to enter Shu territory even for half a step?”
Astonished, Xu Ziling asked, “What has An Long done that Xie Hui severed all relations with him like this?”
Zheng Shiru said, “According to Shuming, An Long was secretly colluding with the Western Tujue, and also threaded a needle for Tongyehu to hook up with Li Yuanji. This incident violated a big taboo of Xie Hui, hence he secretly deployed his troops and took over a hundred of An Long’s wine factories within Shu borders overnight. He even issued an ultimatum to those with close relationship to An Long, to have them drawing a clear dividing line with An Long in the future. An Long is powerless to fight back, he had to leave Shu in despair.”
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “This is supposed to be a classified information, how did it leak out?”
Zheng Shiru said, “It should have something to do with Fu Qian of Tuyuhun. he came to Chengdu to pay homage to Xie Hui, his retinue immediately caused sensation in Bashu Wulin.”
Stunned, Xu Ziling said, “Fu Qian?”
Zheng Shiru nodded and said, “Precisely Fu Qian, the son of Tuyuhun tribal chief Fu Yun, with approximately fifty attendants, they stay at the Wumen Inn on Wumen Feng Street. Accompanying him coming in and out on his left and right are two barbarian girls with countenance of a flower, face like the moon, their figure is attractive, extremely eye-catching, they have become a topic of discussion in the city in the past few days, greatly diluting the with-swords-drawn-and-bows-bent atmosphere between the Ba Meng and Duzun Bao.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
This moment they were already far from the city. Xu Ziling stopped on the official road and said, “I have friendly relations with Fu Qian, now that I know he is in the city, I should go back and pay him a visit. It’s funny, but Kou Zhong and I falsely believed the rumor, thinking that they were Tongyehu’s people, and that Li Shimin colluded with the Western Tujue, turns out it is Li Yuanji.”
Lei Jiuzhi and the others stopped ahead, they wanted to see what Xu Ziling was going to do.
Zheng Shiru laughed and said, “Recently, rumors in Chengdu are flying all over the sky. Rumor like that, Xiaodi already heard, naturally I laughed it off. If Ziling wants to reminisce with Fu Qian, instead of going back to the city, you ought to rush forward. Fu Qian and his party left the city from the North Gate this morning. I heard that their destination is Chang’an. If Ziling hurry up, you should be able to catch up with them in Hanzhong.” Translated by foxs
Xu Ziling spoke cheerfully. “In that case, I will bid farewell to Zheng Xiong here; another day, when we are brought together by fate, we will sit down and drink and chat, I hope at that time the world will be peaceful, there won’t be any disturbing chaos of war anymore.”
After Zheng Shiru went back to the city, Xu Ziling said to Hou Xibai, “This time we are going to Chang’an, it is only to inquire of Ji Qian clearly; no matter what the result, we must leave immediately. In Bashu, Xibai is an old horse who knows the way home, it would be better if you accompany Lei Jiuzhi some more, until we get to the hiding place Han Zenan mentioned and get the account books out, and then we will meet up in Hanzhong; what do you think?”
Hou Xibai cheerfully said, “I am thinking the same thing. In order to save time, we might as well go back to Liangdu; at that time, we will discuss the operation to deal with the Xiang family.”
Lei Jiuzhi said, “Very well, it’s settled then. Ziling and Xianhe must be a bit more careful, after all, Chang’an is a dangerous place. If you see the situation is not right, you must run away immediately.”
The four men laughed aloud and went their separate way.
Kou Zhong arrived in Luchuan at dusk. The guards at the city gate recognized Kou Zhong; in a great rush, they sent messenger on fast horse to notify the army commander of the Song Clan, the Great General Song Faliang, while at the same time they took Kou Zhong into the city.
Luchuan was a famous city in Bashu; it was located by the Great River, the traffic was flourishing, the city was prosperous and thriving, endless stream of horse and carriages flowed on the streets, there was not the least bit of tense atmosphere of the war, there was no trace of sovereignty-change even more. It showed that on the one hand, Song Faliang’s method to placate the people was brilliant, on the other hand, the Song Family Army discipline was strict and impartial, so that they did not disturb the stable livelihood of the city residents. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Song Faliang greeted him outside the mansion [or seat of government] gate. After entering the main hall, Song Faliang, following Kou Zhong’s instructions, dismissed all his attendants, until only the two of them left.
Kou Zhong asked, “How many ships can Faliang deploy for combat immediately?”
Song Faliang thought he was going to attack Chengdu immediately, he replied with confidence, “Our navy in Luchuan have two hundred battleships, water and land, amphibious fighters fifteen thousand men. We only need about one day, and can immediately depart for the battlefield. However, …”
Kou Zhong smiled and said, “Did he, the Senior give instructions about the strategy to besiege Chengdu and take Hanzhong?”
Song Faliang respectfully replied, “Shaoshuai, please note clearly, that is indeed the case. However, Fazhu said that Shaoshuai‘s orders are absolute orders. As long as Shaoshuai give the orders, Faliang will not have the slightest hesitation.”
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, “Not only I lost Hanzhong, I also lost Chengdu, so I have to find some compensation to make my heart to feel a bit more comfortable.”
Astonished, Song Faliang said, “We haven’t fought yet, how do you know we have lost Bashu?” Translated by foxs
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “This is hard to explain in a few words, I want you to fully evacuate Luchuan within two sichen, and then advance downstream along the river toward Jiangdu. As long as we can capture Piling on the opposite bank from Jiangdu, Li Zitong will break down without a fight, and after Jiangdu, whether Shen Faxing or Fu Gongyou, it will be up to us to decide who will be finished first.”
Song Faliang nodded and said, “Shaoshuai wants us to withdraw from Bashu, that’s not a problem, but Xiashu [subordinate] must be clear about Bashu’s situation, for example, whether the Tang Army will enter Shu or not, and whether when we retreat they are going to pursue and attack us; only then will Xiashu be able to determine the retreat plan.”
Kou Zhong cheerfully said, “I really appreciate Faliang’s this kind of conscientious manner. The Tang Army will not enter Shu, Xie Hui will remain neutral as long as victory or defeat between Li Shimin and us is not decided yet.”
As if relieved from a burden, Song Faliang said, “Finally Xie Hui is able to rein in the horse at the edge of the precipice, we all need not damage a good relationship.”
Kou Zhong said, “I thought that the order to withdraw the troops would make you dissatisfied in your heart, but it seems that Faliang is very happy with the changes and development of the situation!”
Song Faliang’s handsome face slightly blushed, he said in embarrassment, “How can Faliang dare to have any dissatisfaction toward Shaoshuai. In our hearts, Shaoshuai is an unequalled commander-in-chief who led military operations with extraordinary skill, able to move unhindered across the world; carrying out your order, we definitely will not suffer losses.” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “No need to flatter me, we all are on the same side, what is it that you cannot say to me? Why is it that withdrawing from Bashu makes you appear that you are heaving a sigh of relief?”
Appearing to be in some difficulties, Song Faliang sighed and said, “Da Xiaojie is the person we respect and admire, only because Faye [‘fah yay’, lit. Clan Master (as in master and subordinate)] issued the order, who dares to speak up even half a word?”
Blurted out laughing, Kou Zhong said, “Faye! It’s unusual, but very fitting, ha! I understand!”
Song Faliang spoke solemnly, “Attacking Piling is a trivial matter, Shaoshuai give your order and it will be done, Faliang will not let Shaoshuai down.”
Kou Zhong spoke indifferently, “Fa Liang, do you have any previous experience in leading the troops on real combat?”
Song Faliang revealed an admiring and submitting expression; only veterans on the battlefield knew that not one thread loose in this important key point. He solemnly replied, “Faliang was cultivated by Faye, I have had three consecutive years of experience in leading battles at the western borders. For nearly two years, I was in charge of training the navy to fight against Lin Shihong, and the initial preparation strategy for attacking Hainan Island, it was me who helped Song Zhi Er Ye [second master] drafted it, then submitted it to Faye for approval. Shaoshuai, please note clearly.” Translated by foxs
Kou Zhong’s pair of eyes emitted penetrating divine light, he stared at Song Faliang without blinking, to test his guts. “Do you know Jiangdu’s situation clearly?” he spoke heavily.
Upright and unafraid, Song Faliang met Kou Zhong’s gaze; submitting cheerfully, he said, “Shaoshuai may rest assured, just as Faliang know my navy fleet clearly, I can count how many ships we have left and how many men are on each ship. Faliang dare to receive the military order!”
Kou Zhong raised his thumb and roared in laughter; he said, “I believe you; carry on then. I want a boat to take me to Liangdu to see your Faye.”
Song Faliang stood up and saluted; he walked away with dragon walk, tiger step.
Kou Zhong watched his figure from the rear, all sorts of feelings welled up in his heart.
There was never a moment when he felt the enormous power he possessed more than now; just a few words could determine the fate of a city, even a city of Jiangdu’s level could not be spared. Thinking back to himself as a little pickpocket in Yangzhou in the past, would he dare to think about a day like today? Song Family Army was indeed a strong contingent of elite troops. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
After rushing day and night without stopping for two days, Xu Ziling and Yin Xianhe arrived in Hanzhong City. This city was of great importance, it was the gateway to Guanzhong, with Xie Sheng, Xie Hui’s younger brother as the commanding officer. Due to its superior geographical location, it was the road one must follow for the businessmen to travel between the two places. In term of prosperity, it was not inferior to Chengdu. After the first snow fell, it was white everywhere, which gave the city another deep impression.
Upon entering the city, Xu Ziling was about to find a hotel to settle in first, before trying to find information about Fu Qian and his party, when Yin Xianhe said, “I want to drink two cups of watered wine.”
Recalling his bad past record, Xu Ziling was shocked, “Yin Xiong had just recovered from a serious illness, alcohol can harm you, if you can avoid it, you’d better avoid it.”
Yin Xianhe insisted, “I promised Xu Xiong that I will only drink two cups, there should not be any mishap. Don’t worry! For Xiaoji, I know how to restrain myself.”
Seeing a tavern on the left, Xu Ziling said, “How about this one?”
Yin Xianhe stopped, he spoke apologetically, “Xu Xiong, please don’t take offense, I want to drink alone. For a long time, I am used to coming and going alone, I want to think on my own.” Translated by foxs
Xu Ziling was helpless against him, although he was worried that without anybody watching for him he would drink his fill to his heart’s content, yet it was difficult to stop him. Without any better option, he said, “You go drink your wine, I am going to look for the inn to stay the night, and then I’ll come back to meet you again. Yin Xiong, please wait for me in the tavern, don’t drink more than two cups.”
Yin Xianhe nodded his agreement and went on his own.
Xu Ziling sighed inwardly, knowing that it was because they were about to reach Chang’an that Yin Xianhe was worried about personal gains and losses, he was worried that this trip would be for nothing. In his effort to find his little sister, he has experienced countless failures, so this feeling was understandable.
A hotel with quite a scale appeared ahead, on the right side, the golden lacquered signboard read ‘Gao Peng Kezhan’ [lit. high/honorable friend inn], glistening brightly under the illumination of four lanterns. Ordinarily, Xu Ziling would not choose this kind of located-at-high-traffic-main-street, high-concentration-of-stream-of-people hotel, this moment, however, because he was eager to return to the tavern to ‘watch over’ Yin Xianhe, without any second thought he stepped into the small plaza inside the courtyard gate, and walked towards the main entrance.
Before he had a chance to step inside the hotel, a hotel employee rushed out, shouting ‘full house!’, while hanging the ‘No Vacancy’ sign by the door. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, “Is Hanzhong this prosperous?”
Noticing his outstanding outward appearance, the hotel clerk wanted to fawn on him by explaining further, “With the war in Guanzhong, and the manyi [non-Han people] in Bashu making trouble, business is down considerably. However, this time someone booked the hotel in advance, Keguan [polite appellation for hotel/restaurant guests], why don’t you take a couple of steps farther? The Wang Tai Luguan [lit. gazing at Mount Tai hotel] at the other end of the street is second only to us in Hanzhong, they could be considered quite good.”
His heart was moved, Xu Ziling asked, “I wonder if the guests booking your honorable inn are from Tuyuhun?”
Knitting his brows, the hotel clerk asked, “What is Tuyuhun?”
Xu Ziling explained, “Tuyuhun is an ethnic group in the western border, laoxiong’s [old chap] guests …”
The hotel clerk caught on, “Are they Gongzi’s friends? Gongzi is right; although they dress up in Han attire and speak Han language, but we who do hotel business have the sharpest eyes, a little bit foreign accent can’t hide from us. At first, we were guessing that they were from northern border, turns out they are from western border’s something Hun, I can immediately pass on a message for Gongzi. Gongzi’s honorable surname and great given name?”
Xu Ziling thought if he told him the truth that he was Xu Ziling, he could almost guarantee that the man’s face would be like a dead man’s, thinking that the Shao Shuai Army has entered the city; thereupon he smiled and said, “I still have some business to attend to, when I am done, I will come again to trouble laoxiong.”
He was just about to leave when he heard footsteps coming from behind.
Xu Ziling turned around, the two sides came face to face, both were stunned.
Meiyan Furen [see Book 39 Chapter 7], wearing Hu attire, which was popular in the northern part of the Central Earth, multicolored beautiful Tuyuhun hat on her head, pink and green turndown collared gown, milky white trousers, milky yellow long-sleeved outer robe, black leather boots, under escort of four warriors plus one Duan Chu – walked in with myriad of bearings. In the blink of an eye, her pretty face returned to calm, her beautiful eyes were gleaming with sly, bright light, her fragrant lips lightly spat out, “Surprisingly, it is Xu Xiong; what a coincidence!” Translated by foxs
No matter what Xu Ziling think, he would never expect that he would be in an enemies-on-a-narrow-road situation, coming across this identity-and-background-vague-and-mysterious Meiyan Furen in here. His mind traveled at the speed of light, he had an idea. Laughing calmly, he said, “Furen coming to the Central Plains, you ought to say hello to Zaixia first, so that Zaixia do not need to waste so much time tracing Furen’s whereabouts.”
Meiyan Furen’s countenance changed slightly, evidently Xu Ziling intimidated her, since she did not expect to come across him. Carrying a whiff of fragrance as she walked past him, she said with a cold laugh, “Turns out Xu Xiong is just like other men, greedy kittens, seeing women unwilling to let go.”
Duan Chu, who was already so scared that his face was devoid of any blood, trembling with fear, accompanying Meiyan Furen walking past Xu Ziling’s side. The other four warriors, everybody showed hostility, their hands were pressing the hilt of their sabers. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
It was only this moment that the hotel clerk knew what kind of relationship Xu Ziling had with them; trembling with fear, he was the first person to slip into the inn.
Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, “Stop!”
Meiyan Furen, who was about to cross the threshold of the hotel door, halted her steps and turned her body around slowly. Laughing tenderly, she said, “I was just joking with you! Xu Gongzi need not take it seriously, who does not know that you are a sitting-with-your-bosom-not-troubled upright gentleman?”
Xu Ziling’s pair of eyes emitted sharp rays of light, he spoke calmly, “If Furen does not immediately hand over the Five-Colored Stone that does not belong to you, I guarantee that you will regret it.”