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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 21

Chapter 21
Golden scissors silently utter winding ground, treasured hairpin dreams of swallow clinging to a man.

One day the boat reached Qinhuangdao [Hebei]; they came ashore and continued to Beijing. Wei Xiaobao said, “I must think of a way to sneak into the Imperial Palace, but I don’t know which day I will succeed. We all must find a place where we can take shelter.” Quickly Lu Gaoxuan rented a house at the Xuanwu Gate, Hair Alley, in a quiet neighborhood; they moved in immediately.

After settling down, Wei Xiaobao went out alone to the Water Well Alley, to look at Tian Di Hui’s temporary lodging. He saw that the place had been turned into a tea-leaves shop. He tried to ask several questions according to the secret code of the Society, but the man was just staring at him not understanding what he was talking about; obviously the Society had moved out of that place.

Next he strolled around the Heavenly Bridge area, thinking that even if the Eight-arm Ape Xu Tianchuan was also forced to join the Divine Dragon Cult and was no longer at Heavenly Bridge, he might come across the rest of the brethrens like Gao Yanchao, Fan Gang, Qian Laoben and the others. Who would have thought that after strolling back and forth around the Heavenly Bridge several times he unexpectedly did not see anybody he knew. Thereupon he went to Xizhimen [main northwest gate of Beijing], to the inn he stayed at the last time he came to Beijing. He took out three taels of silver and tossed it to the counter, saying that he wanted the best room.

Seeing how liberal he was with money, the innkeeper greeted him very respectfully. Wei Xiaobao took out five more qian, and stuffed it into the inn servant’s hands, insisting that he wanted the Heaven Wing, room number three on the second floor. By coincidence this room was unoccupied, so it can be considered that the servant had made an easy five qian.

Wei Xiaobao drank a cup of tea, then he lay down and closed his eyes to rest. After making sure there was no noise everywhere, he pulled his dagger out and pried the hole on the wall. The copy of sutra Emperor Shunzhi gave him was still nicely tucked inside the hole. He unwrap the oilcloth to inspect the book. Finding nothing out of ordinary, he put the brick back on the wall. Fat Toutuo had become his subordinate; therefore, there was no need for him to summon the Imperial Bodyguards to escort the sutra. Putting the book into his bosom he walked toward the Forbidden City.

When he reached the Palace, the Imperial Bodyguard on duty saw a young man in civilian clothes walking toward the Palace gate; he shouted, “Little fellow, what are you doing?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You don’t recognize me? I am Gui Gonggong of the Palace.”

The Imperial Bodyguard looked at him carefully, and recognized him, it was indeed the Gui Gonggong, His Majesty’s most favored eunuch. Quickly a big smile appeared on his face as he said, “Gui Gonggong, you are wearing this kind of clothes, hee … hee …”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “His Majesty sent me out on an important assignment, I was hurrying to go back and did not have time to change.”

“Yes, yes,” the Imperial Bodyguard said, “Gui Gonggong’s face is glowing with good fortune, naturally this assignment is completed without any trouble at all, His Majesty will definitely reward you handsomely.”

Wei Xiaobao returned to his own residence to change into his eunuch uniform. He wrapped the sutra using a piece of old cloth and then went directly to the Upper Study Room to see the Emperor. As soon as Kangxi heard that Xiao Guizi was seeking an audience, he said delightedly, “Come in quickly, come in quickly.”

Wei Xiaobao quickly entered in and saw Kangxi, filled with joy, was waiting at the inner study room’s door. “Damn it,” he said, “Xiao Guizi, roll in quickly, why have you gone so long this time?” He only said those three character ‘damn it’ [ta ma de] in front of Wei Xiaobao, he had suppressed his desire to say those words for very long.

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down and kowtowed; he said, “Congratulations Your Majesty, it’s an enormous happiness.”

As soon as he heard it, Kangxi knew his Fu Huang [father emperor] was indeed still alive; emotion surged in his heart, his body swayed several times, he reached out to hold the door frame as he said, “Come in and tell me slowly.” His chest ached, tears nearly flowed down his face.

Wei Xiaobao entered the inner study room, turned around to close the door and put on the door bolt. He looked around the bookshelves and after making sure there were no other eunuchs who usually serve the Emperor, he said in a low voice, “Your Majesty, I saw the Old Emperor on Mount Wutai.”

Kangxi grabbed his hand tight; he said in a trembling voice, “Fu Huang … really became a monk on Mount Wutai? He … what did he say?”

Thereupon Wei Xiaobao narrated how he met the Old Emperor in the Qing Liang Temple, how the Tibetan Lama intended to harm the Emperor, how summoning up courage and determination he had rendered his assistance, staking out his life to escort the Emperor, how luckily the Eighteen Luohan of Shaolin had come to their rescue; he told him everything one by one. This matter was already very thrilling, as it was being narrated by Wei Xiaobao, the excitement grew thirty percent, his own loyalty and gallantry grew by fifty percent.

He heard Kangxi was rubbing his cold-sweated hands and repeatedly saying, “How dangerous, how dangerous!” Kangxi also said, “We must send a thousand Imperial Bodyguards immediately to go up the mountain to protect the Emperor.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Most probably the Old Emperor won’t want that.” Thereupon he repeated everything Shunzhi had told him.

Kangxi heard how his father did not want him to go up Mount Wutai, and how he had praised him with these words, “He is a good emperor, thinking about the important matters of the imperial court first, not like me …” He could not bear and broke in loud cry as he wailed, “Definitely I must go, definitely I must go!”

Wei Xiaobao waited until he had cried for a while before he took out the sutra and presented it with both hands, saying, “The Old Emperor wanted me to tell you: ‘In the matters of the world, he must let nature take its course, nothing can be forced. It would be best if he could benefit the common people of the Central Plains. But if the common people wanted us to leave, then from the place we came, there we should come back to.’ The old emperor also wanted me to tell you: ‘If he wants the whole world at peace, ‘never raise taxes’, these four words [yong bu jia fu] should be firmly planted in his mind. If he can accomplish these four words, it is good enough for me, my heart will be happy.’”

Kangxi listened in daze, tears flowing down his face and dripped onto the cloth wrapper of the sutra; with trembling hands he received the bundle, opened up the wrapper, and saw a copy of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’. Turning the cover, he saw on the first page four large characters ‘Never Raise Taxes’ [yong bu jia fu]. The brush stroke was delicate yet supple, it was indeed his father’s handwriting. With a sob he said, “Fu Huang’s admonition, child will never dare to forget.”

He calmed himself down, and then asked in details whether Shunzhi was in good health, how was his appearance now, whether he was suffering greatly in the Qing Liang Temple. Wei Xiaobao reported everything according to the facts. Kangxi was overwhelmed with grieve again and broke out crying.

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao had an idea, “Damn it,” he mused, “I’d better accompany him crying for a while, then he would definitely give me more rewards; tears are free anyway.” As soon as he had that thought, he started to sob, tears flowing copiously from his eyes. ‘Boo hoo hoo …’ the more he cried, the more miserable he sounded.

Although Kangxi’s grief was hard to endure and he cried audibly, but he had a reputation to maintain and must not demean himself, thereupon he constantly tried to suppress his emotion. Wei Xiaobao, on the other hand, intentionally putting an act and wailed loudly. This particular skill was developed when he was still in Yangzhou, and he was quite an expert on this. Before his mother’s feathered bamboo clappers even reached his bottom, he was already crying an earth-shattering cry; moreover, although he was not really crying, but real tears would cascade down his face. It would be very difficult for other people to tell whether he was really crying or not.

Kangxi cried for a while, and then he wiped his tears and asked, “I miss my Fu Huang, hence I cried. But you are crying even sadder than I am; why is that?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “I saw how grieved you are, and I remember the Old Emperor’s gentle affection; he commended me repeatedly, saying that without giving any thought of my own life I protected him. He likes me very much, and thus I feel even more grieved.” While saying that, he did not stop whimpering. He continued, “If I did not know how much you were concerned over this matter and wanted to rush back to report to you, I really wanted to stay on Mount Wutai to attend to the Old Emperor, so that I won’t be worried over bad people bullying him.”

“Xiao Guizi,” Kangxi said, “You are very good, I will definitely reward you heavily.”

Wei Xiaobao’s tears had not stopped flowing; sobbing and sniffling he said, “Your Majesty is already very good to me, I don’t want any reward. I only hope that the Old Emperor is safe and sound, we, as the servants, will be very happy.” On the Divine Dragon Island he had heard people shouting loudly, ‘Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life will be the same as the heaven’s’, and thought nothing of how shameful they were; inevitably his face grew thicker and thicker, his boot-licking skill made a tremendous progress. The more the Cult people wanted to make their Cult Leader happy, the more exaggerated their talk become.

Kangxi, however, accepted his speech as the truth. He said, “I am also deeply concerned that Fu Huang has nobody to attend to him. You said that that Monk Xing Dian is rude and impetuous, he is very clumsy; Fu Huang has no competent people by his side, it really makes me more anxious. Xiao Guizi, it’s beyond my expectation that Fu Huang likes you …”

Hearing this, Wei Xiaobao’s jaw dropped and he could not close it up; while groaning inwardly, “Aiyo! Aiyo! This time Laozi is in a very big trouble; Laozi is blowing my horn a bit too hard.”

He heard Kangxi continued, “… actually, I don’t want to lose you either, but as a son, I have to have filial piety toward my father. Whatever I have in my hands, always give the best to my father. You are my most competent subordinate; although you are young, you are actually very competent, and very loyal and devoted to us, father and son …”

Wei Xiaobao cried out in his heart, “Obedient my @ss! Mother! You send laozi to Mount Wutai to accompany the old monk, it’s the same as sending me to prison.”

Sure enough, he heard Kangxi continue, “Let’s do it this way: you go to Mount Wutai, be a monk at the Qing Liang Temple and take care of my Fu Huang …”

Wei Xiaobao realized the urgency of the situation: not only he had to accompany the old monk, he himself must become a little monk; the situation was far from encouraging, nothing could be worse than that. Thereupon without waiting for Kangxi to finish, he hastily said, “Taking care of the Old Emperor is very good, but you want me to be a monk, this … I don’t want to!”

Smiling slightly, Kangxi said, “I did not mean for you to be a monk forever. It’s just that Fu Huang has wholeheartedly decided to meditate; if you become a monk, it will be somewhat more convenient to serve him. In the future …. in the future, if you want to leave the monastic order, it will be up to you.” The implication was clear: someday Shunzhi would grow old and die [the original world denotes ‘the dying of Buddhist monk or nun’], if at that time you don’t want to be monk anymore, nobody can stop you.

It does not matter if Wei Xiaobao had a hundred excuses, right now he had his hands bound and was unable to do anything about it. Although he knew that the young emperor was very good to him, since the Emperor had issued an order, if Wei Xiaobao resolutely refused to go, not only his previous merit would go down the drain, the Emperor might become hostile to him and immediately had his head chopped off; now that would not be fun. Thereupon he sullenly said, “I … I hate to part with you … Wah …!” he broke into crying. But this time it was not a fake cry, he was crying for real. Only it was not because he was loyal to his lord or he loved his master, but because he really did not want to be a little monk.

Kangxi was greatly moved; he gently patted Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder and warmly said, “How about this: you become a monk for several years, serve my Fu Huang well. Later I will send someone else to take your place so that you can return to my side; won’t that be good? Fu Huang does not allow me to have audience with him, I simply cannot come to him. It does not have to be too long before you can come back and see me again. Xiao Guizi, be a good boy and listen to me, in the future I will make you a good government official.”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao did not stop crying, he said consolingly, “When you have time in the temple, you may study and learn to read, so that when you take an official post someday, you can be a high-ranking official.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Whether I be a government official in the future or not, it does not damn matter, but right now, I am afraid me being a little monk has already been decided.” But then he had a second thought, “If I go to Mount Wutai, I can talk nonsense and making a ruckus so that the Old Emperor will let me go; I think it won’t be difficult. I will say that without me serving the young emperor, he does not feel like eating, this time I left him for a month or two, he already lost several catties and grew thin. The Old Emperor cherishes his son, certainly he would send me back to the Palace.”

With this plan formed in his mind, he slowly stopped crying. He said, “Whatever mission you send me, I will go through water and tread on fire for you, under no circumstances I will decline. Let’s not say being a monk, even if you ask me to be a turtle son of a b1tch, I will gladly do it. Your Majesty, set your heart at ease, I will definitely do my utmost to serve the Old Emperor, to make him, the Senior, strong and healthy, that he will reach a hundred years … and … and enjoy the immortal good fortune forever, his long-life will be the same as the heavens.”

Kangxi was greatly delighted; he laughed and said, “You left Beijing for several months, unexpectedly your knowledge also progressed, your use of the idiom is not bad. Why did you tarry on Mount Wutai for so long? It was not easy to meet the Old Emperor, was it?”

Wei Xiaobao thought that it would be best if he did not say anything about the Divine Dragon Island. “That’s right,” he replied, “No matter what, the Abbot of Qing Liang Temple, also that Old Yulin Fashi, did not want to admit that the Old Emperor was in the Temple, while I felt it was inappropriate to point it out bluntly; I had no choice but to rove around at another temple on the mountain while thinking of a plan. Today I went to Xian Tong Temple to perform sacrifice, tomorrow I go to Fo Guang Temple to feed the starving ghosts. From among several thousand big monks, little monks on Mount Wutai, I know at least a thousand of them. If not for those evil Lama coming to harass the Old Emperor, perhaps I would still be donating Buddhist robes and vegetarian meals even today.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “You must have spent a lot of money! To get reimbursement of your expense, go to the office of the internal affairs.” He did not even ask the amount, thinking that Wei Xiaobao had already set up great merit, plus he was willing to be a little monk; he thought that even if Wei Xiaobao wanted to embezzle some money, he would simply let him.

Unexpectedly Wei Xiaobao said, “To tell Your Majesty the truth, the last time you sent me to search and seize Oboi’s home, your servant had already taken quite a bit of advantage. At that time I was embarrassed to report to you, so this time I went to Mount Wutai, after seeing the Old Emperor and receiving the Senior’s lesson, I understand that I must not commit any dishonesty toward Your Majesty, thereupon I donated all the money I previously acquired to the temple. Just consider your servant is helping Your Majesty to amass secret virtue, hoping that Bodhisattva will bless and protect, so that the Old Emperor and Your Majesty will reunite sooner. That money originally belonged to Your Majesty, you do not need to reimburse me.” He thought that if you, father and son, reunite sooner, the time I have to become a little monk would be reduced by several days; while at the same time he was covering his own back, just in case someday someone lodged an accusation against him by saying that during the search of Oboi’s home he embezzled a huge sum of money, then he would say, “I have already donated the money on Mount Wutai on your behalf, what else do you want to investigate about?”

When Kangxi heard this, he was even happier; he nodded his head repeatedly and asked, “Is Mount Wutai fun?” Immediately Wei Xiaobao described the scenery of Mount Wutai. Kangxi listened with keen interest; he said, “Xiao Guizi, you go first, I will come soon. We have to think of a way to get Fu Huang back to the Palace. If the Senior is determined not to return to normal life and regain the throne, he could meditate in the Palace; won’t that be the same?”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “I am afraid that would be very difficult …”

Suddenly they heard the sound of boots outside the door, followed by a sharp and clear female voice calling out, “Huangdi Gege [Older brother the Emperor], why didn’t you come to have a martial art competition with me?” While saying that, ‘bang, bang bang!’ she knocked the door as hard as she could.

Kangxi’s face showed a faint smile as he said, “Open the door.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Who is that? Could it be she is Princess Jianning?” Walking to the door, he lifted up the bolt and opened the door.

Like a whirlwind a girl wearing crimson embroidered clothes rushed in; she said, “Huangdi Gege, I have waited for a long time, you did not show up. You must be afraid of me, aren’t you?”

Wei Xiaobao saw this girl was approximately fifteen, with an oval face and thin lips, her facial feature showed that she was quick-witted, there was a hint of heroic spirit in her mannerism.

Kangxi laughed and said, “Who’s afraid of you? I’ll say you can’t even beat my disciple, you are not even worthy to fight me.”

The young girl was surprised. “You have received a disciple?” she asked, “Who is it?”

Kangxi winked his left eye to Wei Xiaobao and said, “This is my disciple, Xiao Guizi; his martial art came from me.” Turning to Wei Xiaobao he said, “Quickly pay your respect to your Shigu [martial aunt] Princess Jianning.”

“Indeed she is Princess Jianning,” Wei Xiaobao mused. He knew that the Old Emperor fathered six daughters; five died in childhood, only this princess grew up. [Author’s note: Actually, Princess Jianning was Qing Taizong’s[1] daughter, or Shunzhi’s younger sister. The title Head Princess Jianning was bestowed only during Kangxi’s sixteenth year. Shunzhi’s daughter, Princess Heshuo, was actually Kangxi’s older sister, who married Oboi’s nephew. But in this novel, everything does not necessarily have to fit with historical fact; scholars and well-learned people do not need to perform an in-depth investigation.] She was the daughter of the Empress Dowager. Wei Xiaobao was extremely afraid of the Empress Dowager, normally he would not go to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful, while the Princess had never been to the Emperor’s study room. Consequently, today was the first time that they met each other.

Listening to Kangxi, Wei Xiaobao knew that the brother and sister loved to play around; thereupon he readily complied to please them. With a tee-hee giggle he stepped forward to pay his respect, “Shizhi [martial nephew] Xiao Guizi kowtowed in salute to senior Shigu; wishing Shigu ten thousand golden good fortunes …”

Princess Jianning also giggled; but suddenly her foot flew up and hit Wei Xiaobao right on his chin. This kick arrived without the least bit or warning, Wei Xiaobao was bending one leg, bowing in front of her foot, how could he evade? He had not finished speaking, his chin suddenly got heavy kicked; his lower jaw closed, biting his own tongue. “Ah!” he cried out in severe pain. When he opened his mouth, fresh blood streamed down the front of his lapel.

Kangxi was shocked. “You … you …” he stammered.

Princess Jianning laughed and said, “Huangdi Gege, your disciple’s martial art skill is totally useless; I kicked him to test his skill, unexpectedly he could not evade. I think your own martial art skill is more or less just like this.” Finished speaking, she giggled happily.

Wei Xiaobao was furious, in his heart he cursed several dozen times, ‘stinky little mother, rotten little miss’; but in the Palace, Princess was his master, how could he dare to curse openly even for a word?

Expressing his sympathy, Kangxi asked Wei Xiaobao, “How is it? Your tongue is bitten? Is it very painful?”

With a forced laughed Wei Xiaobao replied, “Not too bad, not too bad!” But since his tongue was bitten, he could not talk clearly.

Copying his voice, Princess Jianning said, “Not too bad, not too bad! Most of my life has gone bad!” And then she broke out in laughter. Pulling Kangxi’s hand, she said, “Come on, let’s have a martial art match.”

When the Empress Dowager taught Kangxi martial art earlier, Princess Jianning was watching with keen interest, so she nagged at her mother to teach her as well, and the Empress Dowager taught her a little bit. Seeing her mother was half-hearted, only taught her with far less attention she gave to her brother, in her desire to outdo others, she went to the Palace’s Imperial Bodyguards and asked them to teach her boxing. Learning several moves from the east, training several styles from the west, she had been practicing diligently for two, three years, unexpectedly she made some progress.

These past several days she had learned several moves of qin na [grab and capture/grappling] techniques and had tested the new skill against the Imperial Bodyguards. Naturally everybody was yielding to her, they all put on an act and the little princess managed to rout them out completely. Yet she knew these Imperial Bodyguards were trying to make her happy, and was dissatisfied instead, thereupon she came to her Huangdi Gege to get him to have a martial art match with her.

Kangxi has not had any sparring with Wei Xiaobao for quite a long time, his hands and feet were itching, so he agreed to indulge his imperial younger sister and happened to have a match with her once. The two of them sparred in the small palace hall. Kangxi was half-hearted, half yielding and half serious; from five rounds, he won four. Princess Jianning was unbearably angry; she came back to her mother and badgered her to teach her some new moves.

The Empress Dowager was just recovering from her heavy injury, her vitality had not yet returned, so she expelled her out. Princess Jianning had no alternative but went to find Imperial Bodyguards again and learned qin na some more, and made an appointment with Kangxi today to have a match.

Unexpectedly Wei Xiaobao returned to the Palace and had a long talk, so that Kangxi forgot about this martial art match altogether. Obtaining news about his father emperor, Kangxi had mixed feelings of grief and joy, his heart and spirit were perturbed, how could he have any interest to play with his sister? He said, “Right now I have a very important matter to attend to, I don’t have time to play with you. Go and train some more, we will have a match in a few days.”

Knitting her pair of curved eyebrows Princess Jianning said, “When the heroes of Jianghu made an appointment for a martial art competition, they are dead set on not leaving until they meet. You don’t come to keep your appointment, won’t you be the laughingstock of the warriors under the heavens? You don’t come to have the match; that means you admit defeat.” It was the Jianghu’s custom, which she learned from the Imperial Bodyguards.

“Alright,” Kangxi said, “Just consider I concede. Princess Jianning’s martial art skill is number one in the world, punching the fierce tiger of the southern mountain and kicking the legendary dragon [orig. ‘legendary dragon with the ability to control rain and floods’] of the northern sea.”

Princess Jianning laughed and said, “Kicking the caterpillar of the northern sea!” Her foot flew up again toward Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao leaned sideways to evade; her foot kicked empty air.

She knew that the Emperor was not willing to have a martial art match with her today, while the Imperial Bodyguards were all tall and powerfully built, if she fought them for real, she knew she was not their match. This little eunuch, both in terms of age and height, was about the same as she was, plus his movement was very agile, he was just the right person to test her martial art skill. “Alright!” she said, “Your Shifu is scared of me, he does not dare to fight me. You come with me.”

Kangxi had always been very fond of this vivacious and witty younger sister, he could not bear to sweep down her excitement. “Xiao Guizi,” he ordered, “Go accompany the Princess to play, tomorrow you may wait on me again.”

Princess Jianning suddenly shouted, “Huangdi Gege, en garde!” She threw both fists toward Kangxi’s temples [orig. ‘sun’ acupoints] in ‘bell and drum sounding simultaneously’.

“Good move!” Kangxi called out. He raised one hand to block, while turning his wrist and leaning sideways, executing the move ‘pushing the window to look at the moon’, pushing her back lightly. The Princess staggered and tumbled several steps forward.

“Pfft!” Wei Xiaobao stifled his laughter.

The Princess’ shame turned into anger, “Dead eunuch,” she cursed, “What are you laughing at?” Reaching out, she grabbed his right ear and dragged him out of the study room. If Wei Xiaobao really wanted to evade, the Princess would not be able to catch him, but in the end he did not dare to be rude and had no choice but to let her twist his ear.

Still twisting his ear Princess Jianning dragged him along the corridor. Outside the study room stood a large number of Imperial Bodyguards and eunuchs who were serving the Emperor. Seeing the two people, no one did not find it amusing, but being afraid of Wei Xiaobao’s power and influence, nobody dared to laugh audibly.

“Alright, alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let me go; wherever you want to go, I’ll come with you.”

The Princess said, “You are the leader of a gang of bandits who were running amuck lawlessly; today I managed to catch you, how can I easily let you go? I will seal your acupoint first and then we’ll talk.” Stretching out her forefinger, she stabbed Wei Xiaobao’s chest and lower abdomen several times. She did not know how to seal acupoints, naturally these several stabs were merely random poking.

Wei Xiaobao cried out loudly, “My acupoints are sealed!” He dropped sitting down, acted stunned, and thus motionless.

The Princess was startled but delighted. She lightly kicked him, Wei Xiaobao did not budge. The Princess shouted, “Get up!” Wei Xiaobao was still motionless. The Princess still thought that she accidentally did seal his acupoints; she said, “Let me unseal your acupoints!” She gave his lower back a kick.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “If this stinky little mother sees that she can’t unseal my acupoints, she will kick me again.” Thereupon he cried out, “Ah!” and sprang up and said, “Princess, your acupoint sealing skill is excellent, I am afraid even His Majesty cannot do it.”

“You, this little eunuch, is very crafty and sly,” the Princess said, “Since when do I know how to seal acupoints?” However, seeing his well-intention to please her, she was happy. “Come with me!” she said.

Wei Xiaobao went along with her, to the room where he and Kangxi used to have their martial art competition in the former days. “Bolt the door,” the Princess said, “Don’t let anybody steal my boxing style.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, while in his heart he mused, “Just with your meager martial art skill, who would want to steal your boxing style?” Immediately he turned toward the door and closed it. The princess picked up the door bolt, as if she was going to give it to him, but suddenly there was a loud ‘Bang!’ on Wei Xiaobao’s ear, with a severe pain on the top of his head, he passed out instantly.

When he regained his consciousness, he opened his eyes and saw the Princess was standing in front of him with arms akimbo, grinning, “What a good-for-nothing trash. People who learn martial art will pay particular attention to the eyes watching the six pathways and the ears listening to eight directions. I struck you this time, why didn’t you guard against it? What kind of martial art did you learn?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I … I … I …” he felt a splitting headache; suddenly he realized his left eye was wet and sticky, he could not open this eye. His nose smelled blood, and suddenly it dawned on him that he had been struck with the door bolt that his head was broken and his blood flowing.

The Princess waved the door bolt in front of him and shouted, “If you have guts, quickly get up.” ‘Whoosh!’ she swung the door bolt toward his shoulder.

“Ah!” Wei Xiaobao cried out and sprang up.

The Princess swept the door bolt horizontally, aiming toward his leg’s bone. Wei Xiaobao sidestepped while reaching out to snatch the door bolt away.

“Good move!” the Princess called out. The door bolt went up, fiercely jabbing the pit of his stomach. Wei Xiaobao dodged to the left, unexpectedly the door bolt made a turn and ‘Bang!’ it hit his right cheek heavily.

Wei Xiaobao saw golden stars dancing randomly before his eyes, he staggered several steps. The Princess called out, “You are a big bandit of Lulin [Lit. ‘green wood’ – a reference to the criminal world], I must exterminate you immediately.” The door bolt swept across violently, Wei Xiaobao threw himself onto the floor. The Princess was greatly delighted, she raised the door bolt and heavily swung it toward the back of his head.

Wei Xiaobao only heard the strong and swift wind at the back of his head. In his shock, he quickly rolled away. ‘Bang!’ the door bolt struck the floor. “Aiyo!” the Princess cried out. She had used too much force that the door bolt jolted the palm of her hand and gave her severe pain. In her rage, she kicked his waist as hard as she could.

“I surrender! I surrender!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, “Don’t hit me!”

The door bolt shot down, this time the Princess hit his lower abdomen. ‘Crack!’ luckily it hit the Five Dragon Command hidden inside Wei Xiaobao’s pocket. Wei Xiaobao was just about to spring up, but was thrown down again.

Again and again the Princess swung the door bolt trying to hit him, while cursing in rage, “Dead eunuch, I want to hit you, you dare to evade?” Although her strength was not too big, she was dealing with Wei Xiaobao without any leniency, as if she wanted to beat him to death on the spot.

Wei Xiaobao was scared and angry at the same time, he did everything he could to turn around and leap. The Princess raised her door bolt directly toward his face. Wei Xiaobao raised his left hand to block. ‘Crack!’ the bone of his arm nearly broke. His mind was racing, “Obviously Princess is not playing with me, why would she want to kill me? Ah, right, she must be under the Empress Dowager’s order to take my life!” Thinking to this point, he no longer wanted to allow her to beat him. Stretching out the two fingers of his right hand, he swiftly aimed the Princess’ eyeballs using the move ‘a pair of dragons fights over a pearl’.

“Aiyo!” the Princess cried out and took a step backward. Wei Xiaobao swept away with his left foot, the Princess hit the ground head first. “Dead eunuch,” she yelled, “You hit me for real?”

Wei Xiaobao clamped his hands over the door bolt and seized it, he wanted to strike the top of her head, but seeing the fear in her eyes mixed with anger on her face, he was startled, “This is the inner courtyard of the Imperial Palace, once my door bolt strike down, it will be a matter of treason and heresy. Unless I kill her and use transforming corpse powder to pulverize her, it will cause no end of trouble.” With this slight hesitation, the door bolt in his hand stopped midair.

“Dead eunuch,” the Princess cursed, “Pull me up.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “She really want to kill me, but it won’t be easy.” Instantly he reached down to pull her up.

The Princess said, “Your martial art skill is not as good as mine, it’s just that I was not careful and I tripped; that’s all. Just now you called out you want to surrender, why did you hit me? As a real man, why didn’t you keep Wulin’s custom?”

Wei Xiaobao’s forehead was drenched with blood, it covered his eyes. He reached up to wipe it with his sleeve. The Princess laughed and said, “You lost, such a useless thing. Come, let me wipe the blood off you.” From her bosom she took out a snow white handkerchief, and took several steps closer.

Wei Xiaobao took a step back and said, “Your servant does not dare to accept the honor.”

The Princess said, “As the heroes and warriors of Jianghu, we must enjoy blessings and endure misfortune together.” She then used her handkerchief to wipe the bloodstain on his face.

Wei Xiaobao could smell a delicate fragrance coming out of her body; his heart was slightly shaken. Right now the two of them stood very close to each other, he could see her beautiful face and very fair skin; he thought, “This little princess is actually very pretty!”

The Princess said, “Turn around, let me have a look at the wound at the back of your head.”

Following her instruction, Wei Xiaobao turned around, thinking, “Previously I was over suspicious; turns out the little princess is really playing, it’s just that her desire to outdo others is too strong, when making her move, she did not realize the gravity of things.”

The Princess gently ran her hand over the wound at the back of his head; she asked with a laugh, “Is it really painful?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Not bad …” Suddenly there was a sharp pain on Wei Xiaobao’s back, she swept his feet away and sent him tumbling down on the floor. Turned out the Princess quietly took out a short dagger she had hidden inside her small boot and caught him off guard with a sneak attack.

Her left foot treaded on his back, she raised her blade and stabbed his left and right legs. And then she laughed and said, “Is it really painful? Since you said ‘not bad’, I added several stabs with my dagger.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly astonished; he groaned inwardly, “Laozi is about to die!” His back was protected by the treasured clothes he was wearing, the blade could not stab him there, the cuts on his legs were not serious injury, but the pain made him hover between life and death. He wanted to unleash the second move ‘Little Lian lies in disarray’, which was taught by Madame Hong, to escape, but because of his previous injury, he did not have any strength. Besides, he had not trained this move to perfection. He struggled hard trying to crawl in between her legs toward her back, but his movement was way too slow, he had just started moving when his buttocks suffered another stab. He heard her giggling as she said, “Is it really painful?”

“Very painful,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Princess’ martial art skill is superior, your servant is not the Senior’s match. The … heroes of Jianghu, the great warriors, after they seize people, they would definitely spare their lives.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Capital offence might be forgiven, but living hell is difficult to spare.” Squatting down, she sat on his buttocks and shouted, “If you move, I will stab you dead immediately.”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your servant cannot move half an inch.” But the Princess happened to sit right on the wound; he could not bear not to groan loudly.

The Princess loosened his belt and used it to bind his legs together, and then using the dagger she cut the front piece of his jacket and used it to bind his hands together. She laughed and said, “You are my prisoner, we are going to practice a new move, called … called ‘Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times’.” Everybody in the imperial family of Manchurian Qing was very familiar with the stories of the ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’; in fact, she had read the story three times.

Wei Xiaobao had also seen the play of this story; “Yes, yes,” he hastily said, “Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times and released him seven times; Princess Jianning captures Xiao Guizi, but she has caught him only once and released him only once. If you release me, I am not going to revolt against you. Compared to Zhuge Liang, you are seven times more formidable.”

“That won’t do!” the Princess said, “Zhuge Liang must burn down the rattan-armored troops.”

Wei Xiaobao was scared out of his wits; he hastily said, “Your servant does not … does not wear rattan armor.”

The Princess laughed and said, “In that case, burning your clothes is just the same.”

“No, don’t! You can’t do that!” Wei Xiaobao shouted.

The Princess angrily said, “What do you mean I can’t do that? Zhuge Liang wanted to burn, he just burned, the rattan-armored troops did not have anything to say.” Seeing a candlestick and a fire-blade flint next to it on the table, she immediately made fire and lighted the candle.

Wei Xiaobao screamed, “Zhuge Liang did not burn Meng Huo to death. You want to burn me to death. You are not Zhuge Liang, you are Cao Cao!”

The Princess grasped the corner of his clothes with her fingers; she was just about to light it with the candle flame when suddenly she saw his glossy and shining black braided hair, she had an idea, and used the candle flame to light the tail of his braided hair.

Hair is extremely easy to catch fire. As soon as it was lighted, it immediately burned, making a ‘chi, chi’ sound. A burning smell filled the room. Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his soul flew to the outer sky. “Help, help!” he cried out, “Cao Cao is burning Zhuge Liang to death!”

Grasping the root of his pigtail, the Princess swung it back and forth while laughing heartily and said, “It’s a torch, it’s much more amusing.” In the blink of an eye the flame burned toward the head. The Princess let it off her hand. In an instant Wei Xiaobao’s head would caught fire. In this desperate situation, his strength suddenly increased greatly. He struggled free and rammed his head toward the Princess’ bosom.

“Aiyo!” the Princess cried out, it was too late for her to dodge, Wei Xiaobao had already struck her lower abdomen, unexpectedly the flame on his head died out. With both hands the Princess swatted the ashes and burning hair from her clothes, her lower abdomen felt very painful. She was startled and frightened at the same time, and raised her foot to kick several times randomly on Wei Xiaobao’s head. After a few kicks, Wei Xiaobao fainted.

In his daze, Wei Xiaobao felt severe pain on the wounds all over his body. When he regained his consciousness, he realized he was lying on his back on the floor. His chest was bare, his clothes, vest, and undergarments were unexpectedly undone. The Princess, with her left hand holding some kind of white powder, was cutting a three, four fen [about one, one and a third centimeter] deep cut on his chest using her short dagger, and then scattered the white powder on the wound. “What are you doing?” Wei Xiaobao screamed.

The Princess laughed and said, “The Imperial Bodyguards told me that when they capture bandit or evil thief and the thief did not confess, they would put salt on his wound. The thief would then scream for his life and he would definitely confess. Therefore, I brought along this salt to especially deal with you, a Jianghu big thief.”

Wei Xiaobao felt his wounds were throbbing with pain; he screamed, “Help! Help! I confess, I confess!”

The Princess giggled and said, “You are useless; you readily confess, where’s the fun in that? You should say: ‘Today laozi has fallen into your hands, you want to kill me, you want to cut me into pieces, if I frown I am not a real man.’ I’ll cut some more wounds and put a bit more salt on you. And then you can beg for your life; now that should be interesting.”

Wei Xiaobao was furious. “Damn it,” he cursed, “You are a stinky little mother … hey, hey, I wasn’t cursing you; I … I am not a real man. I confess, I confess!”

The Princess sighed. She was about to throw the salt away when suddenly she had a second thought; scattering the salt to his wounds, she grimly said, “I am the Zhangmen [sect leader/head master] of Jianning Pai [Sect], my martial art skill is number one in the world. I have just captured this big bandit who does not shrink from any crime …”

“Alright, alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am the big pirate of the rivers and oceans, today my skill is inferior to others, and am being caught by the Zhangmen of Jianning Pai, whose martial art skill is number one in the world, my lot is death, not life. The saying in the Jianghu is right: It’s all exaggeration, you don’t need to take it seriously. Since zaixia has already submitted, so be it.”

Hearing him speaking the Jianghu lingo, which was similar to what Zhang Kangnian and the other Imperial Bodyguards had told her, the Princess was very happy. “Now you are talking,” she praised, “Since we want to pretend, we must do it properly.”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao cursed ‘stinky little mother, rotten little miss’; he felt like the pain he suffered had entered his bone and marrows. In that instant he could not tell whether she had received the Empress Dowager’s order to take his life, or she was simply imitating the way of life of Jianghu’s heroes. He thought that this stinky little mother was so vicious; even if she was simply playing with me, laozi‘s life would be gone under her hands for sure. Suddenly he recalled the effective scheme he played on Mu Jianping when he was trying to threaten her: young misses are always afraid of ghosts. Thereupon he suppressed his pain and said, “On second thought, Laozi does not want to submit. Senior Master Zhangmen, if you have guts, let me go, we’ll compete again. If you are afraid of Laozi‘s superior martial art skill and do not dare to fight with me, then kill me with a stab of your dagger. I will die in injustice and become a ghost; I will follow behind your back during the day, and will enter your quilt during the night, to grip your neck and suck your blood …”

“Ah!” the Princess screamed. “Why would I want to kill you?” she said in a trembling voice.

“Quickly let me go, then,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“I won’t let you go!” the Princess said, “Dead eunuch, you scared me.” Picking up the candlestick, she put the flame on his face.

As soon as the flame made contact with the face, there was a ‘chi’ sound; Wei Xiaobao suffered a terrible pain, he threw he head backward and used his right shoulder to bump her arm as hard as he could. The Princess’ arm was jolted, the candlestick fell to the ground and the flame died instantly. In her anger, she picked up the door bolt again, and swung it toward the back of his head.

Wei Xiaobao’s pain was unbearable; he was extremely terrified, “This time I won’t live anymore,” he thought, and cried out loudly, “I am dead.” Pretending to be dead, he lay down motionless.

The Princess was angry, “You pretend to be dead!” she said, “Quickly wake up, accompany me playing!” Wei Xiaobao did not move at all. The Princess lightly kicked his foot. Seeing he did not budge the least bit, she said in a gentle voice, “Alright, I won’t hit you anymore, please don’t die.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “When I am dead, I am dead; how could I not die? Dog’s fart nonsense.”

The Princess tore off the precious hairpin for her hair and poked his face and neck several times. Wei Xiaobao tried hard not to move. The Princess said in gentle voice, “Please, please … don’t … don’t scare me. I … I did not mean to kill you, I only wanted to have a martial art match and fight with you, who told you … who told you to be that useless and unable to defeat me …” Suddenly she realized that there was a very light sound of breathing coming from Wei Xiaobao’s nose, she was very happy; reaching out toward his chest, she felt that his heart was still beating. She laughed and said, “Dead eunuch, turns out you are not dead yet. This time I’ll spare you. Quickly open your eyes.”

Wei Xiaobao was still motionless. But the Princess did not fall into his trick; she shouted, “I’ll dig your eyes, so that after you are dead, you will become a blind ghost and can’t find me.” Picking up the short dagger, she placed the tip of the dagger on his right eyelid.

Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he rolled away to evade immediately. The Princess angrily said, “Spoiled little demon, you scared me. I … I must prick your eyes blind.” Leaping over, she stretched her foot and slammed it onto his chest, while raising her dagger and jabbed it toward his right eye. This time she was not pretending, she threw her body along to increase the momentum of the stab. If Wei Xiaobao was hit, not only his eye would be blinded, undoubtedly the dagger would be thrust straight into his brain.

Wei Xiaobao hurriedly bent his legs and struck her chest with his knees. ‘Bang!’ the Princess staggered and slowly fell down. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, bending his body over, he extracted the dagger from his boot and cut the cloth binding his legs first. As soon as he was able to stand, he kicked the top of the Princess’ head heavily, to make sure that she would not awake for a while. Only then did he stick the dagger into the table’s leg, turned around, and gently ran the belt binding his hands over the edge of the blade. He only needed to run the belt twice, and it was instantly cut.

He heaved a deep sigh; after a narrow escape, his heart was unspeakably happy, momentarily the painful wounds all over his body were forgotten. He thought, “How am I going to handle this stinky little mother? This is an extremely difficult matter. Listening to her tone, apparently she really wanted to play with me; if she received the Emperor Dowager’s order to take my life, why would she be afraid to see I pretended to be dead? But if this is merely child’s play, why would she have to be that vicious? Ah, I get it: she is the Princess, she has never considered eunuchs and palace maids as humans; people die or live, she does not care, in her eyes, it’s like pinching an ant.”

The more he thought, the angrier he was, and he landed another kick on her chest. Unexpectedly, this kick had opened up the breathing passage that was blocked before. The Princess moaned softly and woke up. She slowly propped herself up while cursing, “Dead eunuch, you …”

Wei Xiaobao was still angry, he reached out and slapped her face twice, and punched her chest once; still not enough, his right foot swept across, the Princess tumbled down again. Wei Xiaobao leaped and sat astride her back, and then, like beating a drum, his fists kept punching her legs, her back, her buttocks, as hard as he could, while shouting, “Dead little mother, stinky little mother, daughter of a wh0re, Laozi is going to beat you to death.”

“Don’t hit, don’t hit!” the Princess yelled, “You are not following the rule, I am going to have the Empress Dowager kill you, I will have … have the Emperor kill you, to … to put you to death by a thousand cuts.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart turned cold; his hands immediately stopped moving. But then he had a second thought, “I will keep beating you, you might as well enjoy it.” Moving his fists, he started beating her again, while cursing, “Laozi f*ck your eighteen-generation ancestors, I will beat you, stinky little mother, to death!”

After being beaten several times, suddenly the Princess giggled. Wei Xiaobao was greatly surprised, “I beat her this hard, how come she did not cry, but she is laughing instead?” he thought. He pulled the dagger from the table leg and pointed it to her neck, with his left hand he turned her body over and shouted, “What are you laughing at?”

He saw her silk-like brows and eyes, there was a smiling expression on her face, as if she was really happy, so she was not pretending at all. With a tender voice she said, “Don’t hit too hard, but don’t hit me too light either.”

Wei Xiaobao was unable to make any sense of it; he was afraid she would suddenly play a trick on him, so he planted his right foot firmly on her chest and shouted, “Whatever trick you are playing on me, Laozi will not fall into it.”

The Princess struggled, while making grunting noise, twice, with her nose, as if she wanted to spring up. “Don’t move!” Wei Xiaobao shouted. He pushed her forehead, hard, the Princess fell back down instantly.

Wei Xiaobao felt his wounds were throbbing with pain, his rage was blazing again. ‘Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!’ he slapped her face left and right four times. The Princess moaned a few more times, her chest was heaving up and down, the expression on her face was that of an unspeakable pleasure. “Dead eunuch,” she said softly, “Don’t hit my face. If you injure my face and the Empress Dowager asked about it, I am afraid I cannot conceal it from her.”

“Stinky little mother,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “You rebellious s1ut, the more you are beaten the happier you are, right?” Reaching out, he heavily pinched and twisted her left arm, twice. “Aiyo, aiyo!” the Princess cried out; her eyebrows were knitted, but there was a smiling expression in her eyes.

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Does it feel good?” The Princess did not reply. Slowly she closed her eyes, but suddenly her foot flew up, kicking Wei Xiaobao’s thigh, right on the dagger cut earlier.

Feeling severe pain, Wei Xiaobao threw himself onto her shoulder and violently pinched and twisted her arms, shoulder, chest, and abdomen. The Princess giggled incessantly and cried out, “Dead eunuch, little eunuch, good gong-gong, good Gege, please spare me, I … I can’t take it anymore.”

Her voice was so tender that Wei Xiaobao’s heart was shaken; he thought, “Her cry sounds just like Miss Fang when she was pleading to me on the boat.” His anger greatly subsided, but as for her real intention, he really had no idea; therefore, copying her action earlier [orig. ‘draw a gourd from the model’ – to copy something mechanically without attempt at originality.], he loosened her belt and bound her hands and feet.

The Princess laughed and said, “Dead little demon, what are you doing?”

“So that you won’t get any bad idea of harming others,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He stood up with a labored breathing, his body was hurting all over that he felt he was about to pass out.

The Princess laughed and said, “Xiao Guizi, I had so much fun playing with you today. Are you going to hit me again?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “If you don’t hit me first, how could I dare to hit you?”

“I can’t move,” the Princess said, “If you want to hit me, there is nothing I can do.”

Wei Xiaobao spat and said, “You are not a princess, you are a s1ut.” And then he kicked her bottom again.

“Aiyo!” the Princess cried out, “Are we still playing?”

“Most of Laozi‘s life has gone from your playing; why would I want to continue playing?” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Right now I am Zhuge Liang, I want to burn down the rattan-armored troops, I am going to burn your hair and your clothes.”

“You must not burn my hair …” the Princess said anxiously. Suddenly she giggled and said, “It’s alright for you to burn my clothes; even if you burn me until my body blisters, I am not scared.”

“Pei!” Wei Xiaobao spat, “You are not afraid of death, Laozi will not accompany you return to heaven. I must go to tend to my injuries, you have put salt on my wounds, do you think it is fun?” It was only now that he was convinced that the Princess really did not have any intention to kill him; thereupon he loosened the belt binding her hands and feet.

“You really don’t want to play anymore?” the Princess asked, “How about tomorrow?” There was earnestness in her voice.

“If the Empress Dowager and His Majesty found out,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Do you think I will still live?”

The Princess slowly stood up; she said, “As long as I did not say anything, how could the Empress Dowager and His Majesty find out? Tomorrow you must not hit my face. More bruises on my body are not a big deal.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “I can’t come tomorrow. You have beaten me really bad. One or two months will not be enough for me to recuperate from my wounds.”

“Humph,” the Princess snorted, “You won’t come tomorrow? Just now you curse me what? You said you were going to f*ck my eighteen-generation ancestors. My eighteen-generation ancestors are exactly Huangdi Gege‘s eighteen-generation ancestors, my Emperor Grandpa’s seventeen-generation ancestors, Taizong Huangdi‘s [posthumous name given to the second emperor of a dynasty] sixteen-generation ancestors, Taizu Huangdi‘s [posthumous name given to the first emperor of a dynasty] fifteen-generation ancestors …”

Wei Xiaobao was dumbstruck; he groaned inwardly. But suddenly he had a bright idea; he said, “You are not the Old Emperor’s daughter, I was cursing your ancestors, it has nothing to do with His Majesty, the Old Emperor, or some Taizong Huangdi and Taizu Huangdi.”

The Princess was enraged; “What do you mean I am not the Old Emperor’s daughter?” she shouted, “You dead eunuch is talking nonsense. Tomorrow afternoon I am going to wait for you here, if you, dead eunuch, do not come, I will tell the Empress Dowager that you beat me.” While saying that, she stretched out her arm and pulled her sleeve, showing patches of black and blue bruises on her white, tender arm, from his pinching and twisting earlier.

Wei Xiaobao was secretly alarmed, “How could I beat her that heavy a moment ago?”

“Humph,” the Princess said, “If you don’t come tomorrow, I want to see if you can keep your life.”

Things have come to this, even if Wei Xiaobao did not want to yield, he simply did not have any choice. He nodded and said, “I will come to accompany you playing tomorrow, but you must not hit me.”

The Princess was greatly delighted; she said, “It’s great that you are going to come. If I hit you, you can hit me back. We, the heroes of Jianghu, make a clear distinction between gratitude and grudges.”

With a bitter smile Wei Xiaobao said, “If you beat me again, I will turn from a hero to a malicious ghost.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I can’t possibly kill you for real.” After a short pause, she continued, “At most I will beat you half-dead and half-alive.” Seeing his changed countenance, she smiled sweetly and said in a gentle voice, “Xiao Guizi, there are a lot of eunuchs and Imperial Bodyguards in the Palace, but I only like you, one person. Those other fellows are too lacking in courageous spirit, even if I beat them to death, they would not dare to curse me any ‘stinky little mother, s1ut …’” she was imitating his accent, “… daughter of a wh0re! Hee … hee … no one has ever curse me like that.”

Wei Xiaobao was happy, but also amused, “You like to be cursed?” he asked.

The Princess laughed and said, “Only if you curse me like that. The Empress Dowager would also reprimand me with a wooden face, telling me to abide by the rules. I don’t like that kind of cursing.”

“In that case,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You’d better go to the Lovely Spring Courtyard.” He was thinking, “If you become a wh0re, there will be a lot of people cursing you. The pimp [orig. ‘female brothel keeper’] will curse and hit you, the brothel’s patron may burn you, or beat you and curse you.”

The Princess’ spirit was aroused; she asked, “What kind of place is the Lovely Spring Courtyard? Is it a fun place?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed in his heart; he said, “It’s a very fun place, but it is in Jiangnan, you can’t go there. If you stay in the Lovely Spring Courtyard for three months, I guarantee you will be awfully happy that you won’t want to be a Princess anymore.”

The Princess sighed; her thought wandered far away as she said wistfully, “When I grow up, I must go there.”

With a straight face Wei Xiaobao said, “Good, good! In the future I will definitely take you there. A real man gave his words, dead horses cannot chase it.” He could never remember the phrase ‘a team of four horses cannot chase it’, but instead of saying ‘some horses cannot chase it’, he said ‘dead[2] horses cannot chase it’.

The Princess grabbed his hand and said, “When I fight with those eunuchs and Imperial Bodyguards, everybody always intentionally yields to me, it’s not fun at all. Only yesterday when Huangdi Gege had a martial art match with me, he really hit me 30%, but he was not willing to hit too hard to hurt me, to pinch too hard to hurt me. Good Xiao Guizi, you are the only one who hit me for real. Don’t you worry, I definitely will not kill you.” Puckering her mouth, she landed a kiss on his lips. Her face blushed, and she dashed out of the room.

In that instant Wei Xiaobao felt the sky spun, the earth turned over; he fell sitting down on the floor, thinking, “I am afraid this Princess is a little bit insane, the more I hit her and curse her, the happier she is. Damn it, could it be that the Old Wh0re’s little girl really take a liking on a fake eunuch like me?” Recalling her beautiful face, his heart was befuddled. Slowly he stood up and walked back toward his residence. He was so exhausted that as soon as he touched the bed, he fell asleep instantly.

He slept for more than ten hours [orig. 5 shichen] straight. By the time he woke up, the sky had turned dark. Feeling the pain on his entire body, he could not bear not to groan. He got up, thinking that he was going to wash the salt from his wounds. Who would have thought that as he tried to take off his clothes, the blood from his wounds had congealed and stuck firmly onto his clothes? When he tried to pull it, it was so painful that unavoidably he rained curses again, ‘stinky little mother, rotten little miss’. Finally he washed off the salt and spread metal-cut wound medicine on his injuries.

When he went to see the young emperor the next day, Kangxi saw his nose was blue and his eyes swollen, his hair and his eyebrows were burned, everything was broken and in disarray. Kangxi was shocked; he immediately guessed that it must be his precious imperial younger sister’s masterpiece. “Did the Princess beat you?” he asked, “Is the injury heavy?”

With a forced smile Wei Xiaobao said, “Not too bad. Shifu, your disciple has brought disgrace to you [orig. ‘throw away your face’], Senior. I will have to painstakingly train for three more years before I can retrieve it back and bring honor to you, Senior.”

At first Kangxi was worried that in a towering rage Wei Xiaobao would ask Kangxi to stick out for him. It’s just that although his imperial sister was in the wrong, it had always been her right as the master to beat up the slaves. However, if Kangxi ignored him, he was afraid when Wei Xiaobao went up Mount Wutai to serve his father emperor, he would not do so with all of his heart. While he was feeling awkward, suddenly hearing Wei Xiaobao say so, i.e. he did not complain over this matter, but consider it as child’s play, Kangxi was ecstatic. He laughed and said, “Xiao Guizi, you are really good! I must reward you well. Tell me, what do you want?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Shifu did not reproach disciple for being not proficient in my training, disciple is already very grateful, I do not need any reward.” After a short pause, he continued, “Shifu may pass on to me some brilliant moves, so that when I meet with danger in the future, I won’t be bullied by others. That’s all I want.”

Kangxi burst out laughing; he said, “Alright, alright!” Thereupon he taught him several exquisite moves the Empress Dowager had bestowed to him.

Although these several qin na techniques were quite extraordinary, they were far inferior compared to the six moves Hong Jiaozhu, husband and wife, had taught him. When Wei Xiaobao was having martial art match with Kangxi previously, he had seen Kangxi use these moves. Now that he had special instruction, he managed to master the moves without spending too much time.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “When I fought with him earlier, we were wrestling as friends. But he is the Emperor, I am a slave, this friendship will not last too long. This time I return to Beijing, I can see that although physically he did not grow too much, his power and prestige have actually grown considerably. I can’t call him ‘Xiao Xuanzi’, three characters, anymore; but if I simply change the way I address him, it will be no more than an ingenious way of flattering him.” Thereupon he kneeled down, ‘dong, dong, dong’ he knocked his head against the floor eight times, and said, “Shifu, disciple Wei Xiaobao is your, Senior’s first disciple [orig. ‘first disciple of cutting into a mountain’ – a reference to opening a monastery].”

Kangxi was startled; but he understood his intention immediately. On one hand, he felt it would be fun, on the other hand, he also felt that the appellation ‘Xiao Xuanzi’ was no longer appropriate. He laughed and said, “Being a ruler I can’t go back on my own words! Since I have had you call me Shifu, I have no choice but to receive you as my disciple.” Then he called out, “Guards!”

Two eunuchs and two Imperial Bodyguards entered the study room. Kangxi said, “Turn around.”

“Yes,” the four people complied. But the rule said that subjects should never turn their backs toward the Emperor, otherwise, it would be extremely disrespectful. The four people did not understand Kangxi’s intention, they only turned their bodies slightly, no one dared to turn his back.

From his desk Kangxi picked up a pair of golden scissors and walked toward the four people’s backs. Again the four of them turned their bodies slightly. Kangxi looked at the four people’s braided hair, and saw a court eunuch had the most glossy and shiny black hair. His left hand grabbed the pigtail, ‘crash’ he cut the braid down from the base.

The eunuch was so scared that he felt his soul had flown to the outer sky. Instantly he kneeled down and kowtowed repeatedly, saying, “Your servant deserves to die, your servant deserves to die!”

Kangxi laughed and said, “Don’t be afraid, I reward you ten taels of silver. Everybody get out!” The four of them were bewildered; they only thought that the power of Heaven was hard to fathom, they walked backward out of the room.

Kangxi gave the pigtail to Wei Xiaobao and said with a laugh, “You are going to be a monk, the Princess has burned your hair, it seems that this is the will of Heaven. The Heaven is borrowing the Princess’ hand to tell you to shed your hair and become a monk. You may tie this false braid on your head first, otherwise you will look unsightly.”

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down and said, “Yes, Shifu cherishes your disciple, you are very considerate.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “You have done obeisance, taking me as your master, you must not mention it to anybody else. I know you are tightlipped, very prudent and careful, and that was the reason I agreed. If you act ostentatiously outside, as the Zhangmen, I will cripple your martial art skill and expel you from my school.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao repeatedly promised, “Disciple will not dare.”

When Kangxi had martial art match with Wei Xiaobao, other than the Empress Dowager and Hai Dafu, nobody else in the Palace knew about it. He thought that by playing along and taking him as disciple, as long as nobody else knew, he would not lose face as the Emperor. But his natural disposition was cautious, hence he repeatedly warned Wei Xiaobao.

Kangxi sat down and mused, “The Empress Dowager is sinister and ruthless, she can’t be teaching me martial art with all of her heart; otherwise, she knew a formidable martial art that can break people’s bones in pieces, why didn’t she teach me even for half a move? Although I am the Shifu, in reality I am not much stronger than this kid, I don’t have any superior martial art that I can teach him. The monks of Shaolin Temple have extremely high martial art skill, I only hope that when Fu Huang is in trouble, they would come to help him again …” Thinking to this point, a plan started to formed in his mind. He said, “Go and take a rest, take care of your wounds, come again tomorrow to see me.”

Wei Xiaobao returned to his residence, he ordered the eunuch working for him to invite the imperial physician to treat his injury. Although his wounds were painful, they were actually flesh wounds, his muscles and bones were not harmed at all. The imperial physician said that after recuperating for ten days to half a month, he should be healed completely, so he told him not to worry.

After eating his lunch, Wei Xiaobao went out to keep his appointment with the Princess. His mind was in a mess; he was afraid she would beat him up again, but he was also excited to see her again.

As soon as he pushed the door open, the Princess yelled and pounced on him. This time Wei Xiaobao was prepared; with his left arm he blocked, with his right foot he hooked, while grabbing the back of the Princess’ neck with his right hand and pressed her body that she was bending forward.

The Princess laughed and cursed, “Dead eunuch, how come you are so formidable today?”

Wei Xiaobao grabbed her left arm and twisted it behind her back; he said in a low voice, “If you don’t call me ‘Good Guizi, Good Gege‘, I am going to twist your arm broken.”

“Pei!” the Princess cursed, “You are a dead slave!”

Wei Xiaobao twisted the Princess’ arm heavily and shouted, “You don’t call, I will twist and break this arm of yours.”

The Princess laughed and said, “I won’t call.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “This little mother’s skin [小娘皮 – see Chapter 10] is indeed a rebellious s1ut. The more I beat her, the happier she is.”

‘Slap!’ he heavily slapped her buttocks with his left hand. The Princess jumped, but she was giggling incessantly. “Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Turns out you love to take a beating.” With all his might he punched her repeatedly. It was so painful that the Princess curled on the floor, unable to get up. It was only then did Wei Xiaobao halt his hand.

The Princess panted. “Alright,” she said, “Now it’s my turn to beat you.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head. “No,” he said, “I won’t let you beat me.” He thought that this little miss was so ruthless, if he let her beat him, he might lose his life at any time. The Princess pleaded with him in gentle voice, but Wei Xiaobao simply refused.

The Princess threw a fit, she pounced on him, beat him and bit him. Wei Xiaobao slapped her on the face, sending her tumbling to the floor. He pulled her hair and hit her buttocks, thinking that since he had hit her buttocks, he did not need to be polite anymore, thereupon he pinched and twisted randomly all over her body.

The Princess crouched by his feet, hugging his two legs. She gently rubbed her face against his calves, in a coquettish and lithe manner, and said in a flirtatious way, “Good Guizi, Good Gege, let me beat you just once, I promise not to hit you too hard.”

Wei Xiaobao thought she looked like a timid and helpless little girl, and he heard her affectionate request, his heart was shaken. He had the urge to consent. The Princess added, “Good Gege, I love nothing more than to see blood coming out of your body.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; “That is out of the question!” he angrily said. Lifting his left foot, he kicked her head and said, “Let me go, I must leave. If I stay around you, inevitably there will come a day when I die in your hands.”

The Princess sighed and said, “You don’t want to play with me anymore?”

“It’s too dangerous,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I may lose my old life any time.”

The Princess giggled. She stood up and said, “Fine! In that case, help me back to my room. You have hit me too hard that I cannot walk.”

“I won’t help you,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Propping herself against the wall, the Princess slowly hobbled out, saying, “Good Guizi, will you come again tomorrow?” Suddenly her left leg gave up, she almost fell down. Wei Xiaobao rushed forward to hold her.

The Princess said, “Good Guizi, sorry to bother you, but could you get two eunuchs to help me go back to my room?”

Wei Xiaobao thought that if he called the eunuchs, the Empress Dowager would probably find out, and then she would investigate why the Princess was injured. As soon as this matter was leaked ever so slightly, he would be charged with capital offense punishable by beheading. Having no other choice, he supported her and said, “I will help you back to your room.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Good Guizi, thank you very much.” Leaning on his shoulder she walked westward.

The Princess’ residence was located west of the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful, right next to the Shou Kang [Abundant Long-live] Palace. The two of them slowly approached the garden of Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful. Recalling the Empress Dowager’s manner, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was trembling with trepidation. When they reached the corridor, the Princess suddenly blew air into his ear.

Wei Xiaobao blushed. “No … don’t,” he stammered.

With a gentle voice the Princess said, “Why? I am not hitting you.” While saying that, she gently bit his earlobe; she stuck out her tongue and licked his ear slowly.

Wei Xiaobao felt the itch was unbearable, he said in a low voice, “If you bit and hurt my ear, I am not going to see you again, ever. A real man gave his words, dead horses cannot chase it.”

The Princess actually wanted to bite a piece of his earlobe off, but listening to his words, she did not dare to continue, she only laughed softly. This laugh made Wei Xiaobao flushed with excitement, his whole body turned limp and aching.

Finally they reached the Princess’ personal quarter. Wei Xiaobao turned around to leave. The Princess said, “I want you to come in, I have something interesting to show to you.” At that time, there were four eunuchs and four palace maids standing outside the door of the Jianning Palace, to wait upon her. Wei Xiaobao did not dare to blatantly disobey, he had no choice but to follow her.

Pulling his hand, the Princess took him straight into her own bedroom. Two palace maids followed in, they presented hot towel for the Princess to clean her face. The Princess took one towel and handed it over to Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao took it, and wiped the sweat on his face.

Seeing the Princess unexpectedly broke the rule by giving this little eunuch a deferential treatment, the two palace maids could not help but stare in disbelief. She had never been this polite even toward the Empress Dowager or the Emperor, and the little eunuch also unexpectedly accepted it calmly, which was considered extremely rude.

The Princess caught a glance; she glowered and said, “What are you looking at?”

“Yes, yes!” the two palace maids replied. Bending their waists, they withdrew immediately. Who would have thought that it was already too late? The Princess stretched out her hand to dig the eye of the palace maid nearer to her. The palace maid dodged slightly, and let out a miserable cry. Although her eyeball was safe, her face was drenched with blood, from her forehead down to her chin, as four nail marks appeared. The two palace maids were scared out of their wits and hastily withdrew from the room.

The Princess laughed and said, “Did you see that? Those slaves could only shout, begging for mercy; where is the fun in that?”

Seeing the ruthlessness of her action, Wei Xiaobao thought that this little wh0re was too violent, she was more or less the same as her mother, the old wh0re, it would be best for him to get away from her at the earliest possible time. “Princess,” he said, “His Majesty sends me out to do something for him, I must go.”

“What’s the rush?” the Princess asked. She turned around, closed the door, and bolted it. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was pounding, he wondered what kind of strange thing she was going to do. The Princess laughed and said, “I have been the master for fifteen years, I always have people serving me, it’s getting quite tasteless. Today we change roles, you are the master, I am the slave.”

Wei Xiaobao waved his hands wildly, “That won’t do, that won’t do,” he said, “I don’t have that good fortune.”

The Princess’ pretty face sank, she said, “You don’t want to? I am going to scream, I will say that you are being rude to me, and beat me black and blue.” Suddenly she raised her voice and called out, “Aiyo, it hurts!”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly bowed with cupped fists and said, “Don’t shout, don’t shout, I’ll listen to your instruction.”

This was the Princess’ personal chamber, there were many eunuchs and palace maids standing outside to wait on her, she only had to call several times, there would be a throng of people rushing in; it was completely different from the small room where they were having the martial art match, where there were nobody around.

The Princess smiled and said, “Miserable wretch! I talked to you nicely, you did not want to listen; you insist on refusing a toast only to be forced to drink a forfeit.”

“You are the miserable wretch,” Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “You don’t want to be the master, you want to be the slave instead.”

The Princess bent her knees and respectfully paid her respect to him, saying, “Prince Gui[3], do you want to sleep now? Your servant will help you change your clothes.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao snorted, “I don’t want to sleep. You may give me a gentle pound with your fist on my legs.”

“Yes!” the Princess replied. She sat on the floor, lifted his right foot and placed it on her own legs, and then gently pounded it with her fists, being careful not to touch the wounds on his leg.

“What a good servant,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are serving me exceptionally well.” Stretching out his hand, he gently pinched her cheek.

The Princess was very happy, “Thank you for Master’s praise,” she said in low voice. Taking off his boot, she kneaded his foot for a while, then she started working on his left foot. After pounding it for half a day, she took the boot and massaged his foot. “Prince Gui,” she said, “Lie on the bed, I will pound your back gently.”

Massaged by her, Wei Xiaobao was very comfortable; he thought that if I did not satisfy this miserable wretch’s craving of being the slave, she would not let me go anyway. Thereupon he climbed on her bed and lay down. His nostrils were assaulted by bursts of fragrance. “This miserable wretch’s bed is so gorgeous,” he mused, “Even the top wh0re in the Lovely Spring Courtyard did not have this kind of pretty bedding and pillow.” The Princess pulled a thin quilt over his body and then gently beat his back with her fists.

Wei Xiaobao was in a daze. While he was enjoying being the Prince Gui, suddenly he heard the voices of many people outside the door, “The Empress Dowager has arrived!” His shock was really not a small matter, hastily he sprang up.

The Princess’ face also showed terrified expression. “No time to escape,” she said in trembling voice, “Don’t move, get into the quilt.” Wei Xiaobao pulled his head and sank into the quilt; he heard faint knocking on the door, and was so scared that he almost fainted.

The Princess pulled down the mosquito net before turning around and unlatched the door. As soon as she opened the door, the Empress Dowager strode into the room. “Clear sky in the middle of the day, why did you close the door?”

The Princess laughed and said, “I am very tired, I was about to take a nap.”

The Empress Dowager sat down and asked, “What kind of trick are you playing? Why is it that your face does not have any color of blood?”

“I said I am very tired,” the Princess replied.

The Empress Dowager looked down and saw a pair of boots in front of the bed, she also saw the embroidered screen was moving slightly; she knew something was different. Turning toward the eunuchs and palace maids, she said, “Go wait outside.” When everybody was out, she said, “Close the door, put the bolt on.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Empress Dowager also wants to play some trick?” Obeying her order, she closed the door. She then followed the Empress Dowager’s vision and saw the boots; she could not stop her countenance from changing greatly. With a forced laugh she said, “I was going to put on men’s clothing, I want to dress up as a boy and show it to the Empress Dowager. I want to know when I put on the men’s clothing, whether you think I will look handsome or not.”

The Empress Dowager coldly said, “Is the boy on the bed handsome or not?” Suddenly she stood up and walked toward the bed.

The Princess was greatly shocked, she pulled the Empress Dowager’s hand and called out, “Empress Dowager, he and I are just playing games …”

The Empress Dowager flung her hand to throw her several steps away; she opened the screen, pulled the quilt away, grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s neck, and lifted him up.

Wei Xiaobao kept his face facing the inside of the bed, he did not dare to turn his head around and see her, he was already so scared that his entire body was trembling.

“Empress Dowager,” the Princess called out, “This is the little eunuch Huangdi Gege likes the most, you … you must not harm him.”

“Humph,” the Empress Dowager snorted; she thought that her daughter was growing up, her interest in the opposite sex had opened, she was hiding a little eunuch in her bed, it was no more than a shady business of playing fake (male) phoenix and empty (female) phoenix, so it could not be considered a big deal. Her right hand circled, she turned Wei Xiaobao around, ‘slap, slap’, she slapped his face twice, and shouted, “Get lost! If I ever see you fooling around with the Princess again …” Suddenly she saw his face clearly and was startled, “So it’s you!”

Wei Xiaobao turned his face away, “It isn’t me,” he said. These three characters were an oxymoron [orig. unfathomable mystery], but while his heart alarmed, he was trembling in fear, what else could he say?

The Empress Dowager firmly grabbed the back of his neck and slowly said, “There are many roads in the heavens but you don’t want to take, there is no gate in hell but you insist on breaking in. You are being rude to the Princess, today you cannot blame me.”

“Empress Dowager,” the Princess anxiously said, “It was me who wanted him to sleep in here, you must not blame him.”

The Empress Dowager lightly patted Wei Xiaobao’s forehead with her left palm; raising her left arm, she concentrated her strength on her hand ready to shoot it down, to kill him instantly with one palm strike.

In this extremely critical situation, Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered the move ‘Di Qing subduing the dragon’, which was taught by Hong Jiaozhu. His hands reached backward to grope the front of the Empress Dowager’s chest. The Empress Dowager was startled, she pulled her chest back and scolded, “You are asking to die!”

Wei Xiaobao kicked on the bed with both feet, he made a somersault backward, and landed astride the Empress Dowager’s neck, with both his forefingers on her eyes, and both his thumbs on her temples. “If you move,” he shouted, “I am going to dig your eyeballs out!”

He had not trained this move to perfection, so it was actually difficult for him to use it properly; fortunately, he was standing on the bed, while the Empress Dowager was standing on the floor. One on higher position, the other on lower position, so it was easier for him to ride on her. Moreover, the fingers with which he threatened to dig her eyeballs should be the middle fingers, but he was using forefingers instead; and when he somersaulted, the tip of his foot caught the mosquito net. Indeed he executed the move sloppily [lit. ‘wading in mud and water’], and it looked very awkward. If Hong Jiaozhu personally witnessed this, he would have been angered half dead. However, although the execution was incorrect, the style was indeed ingenious; the Empress Dowager still fell under his control, although she reacted hastily, unexpectedly it was still hard for her to ward off.

The Princess burst out laughing and called out, “Xiao Guizi, don’t be rude. Quickly let the Empress Dowager go.”

Wei Xiaobao raised his right leg, he drew the dagger with his right hand and pressed it against the middle of the Empress Dowager’s back; it was only then did he slide down from her neck. Suddenly ‘splat!’ a multi-colored, glittering object fell onto the floor; it was exactly the Divine Dragon Cult’s Five-Dragon Command.

The Empress Dowager was very shocked. “This … this … thing … where did it come from?” she said.

Wei Xiaobao remembered that the Empress Dowager was secretly in collusion with Divine Dragon Cult’s fake palace maid, Deng Bingchun and Liu Yan; perhaps he could use this Five-Dragon Command to force her into submission. “What do you mean this thing or that thing?” he said, “This is our Cult’s Five-Dragon Command, don’t you know it? What a nerve!”

The Empress Dowager’s entire body trembled, “Yes, yes!” she said.

Hearing her deferential tone, Wei Xiaobao could not help bursting with joy; he said, “Seeing the Five-Dragon Command is like seeing Jiaozhu in person. Hong Jiaozhu enjoys immortal good fortune forever, his long-life is the same as the heaven’s.”

With a trembling voice the Empress Dowager repeated, “Hong Jiaozhu enjoys immortal good fortune forever, his long-life is the same as the heaven’s.” She stooped down to pick the Five-Dragon Command and lifted it up high above her head.

Wei Xiaobao reached out to receive it. “Are you going to obey my command?” he asked.

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “I will respectfully obey your command.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable!”

The Empress Dowager respectfully followed, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable!”

It was only now did Wei Xiaobao let out a sigh of relief; he loosened the dagger, and haughtily sat down on the edge of the bed.

The Empress Dowager turned toward the Princess and said, “Go outside, don’t say anything, otherwise I will kill you.”

The Princess was startled. “Yes,” she replied. She cast a glance toward Wei Xiaobao, her heart was filled with doubts. “Empress Dowager,” she said, “Is this Huangdi Gege’s imperial edict?”

As Kangxi gradually grew older, his power and authority gradually grew bigger; when eunuchs, palace maids, as well as Imperial Bodyguards, were talking about His Majesty, their fear and respect also grew steadily. The Princess also knew earlier that the Empress Dowager was rather afraid of the Emperor. The Empress Dowager nodded and said, “Yes, he is the Emperor’s trusted aide, there is some important matter he needs to talk to me. You must never, ever reveal this secret. In front of the Emperor, you must never mention it even more, so as to avoid … to avoid the Emperor getting angry at you.”

“Yes, yes,” the Princess replied, “I am not that stupid.” While saying that, she went out of the room and closed the door behind her.

As she sat face-to-face with Wei Xiaobao, the Empress Dowager’s heart was filled with doubts. After a while, she said, “The walls have ears, this is not a good place to talk. Would it be better if you please go to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful to discuss it further?”

Hearing her using the word ‘please’, plus her tone was asking for opinion, not authoritatively making a one-sided decision, Wei Xiaobao felt even more relieved; but he was still thinking, “This old wh0re is vicious and merciless, I wonder if she is luring me to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful to use some crafty scheme to harm laozi?” Thereupon he nodded and said in a low voice, “I am the newly-appointed White Dragon Envoy of our Cult, under Hong Jiaozhu’s order to bear this Five-Dragon Command.”

The Empress Dowager immediately felt deep veneration toward him, she bowed and said, “Subordinate pays her respect to the White Dragon Envoy.”

Although Wei Xiaobao had long suspected that since the Empress Dowager was in collusion with the Black Dragon Gate’s people, she was bound to have utter veneration toward Hong Jiaozhu, so this Five-Dragon Command most probably would have some effect on her; but never in a million years would he guess that she herself was a member of the Divine Dragon Cult. Based on her status as the Empress Dowager, there was nothing in the world that she could not get, yet shockingly she still entered the Divine Dragon Cult. Not only that, her rank was far below that of his own, which was really unthinkable. Seeing her respectfully making her salutations, he could not help but was shocked and at a loss of what to do.

Seeing him sitting silently without saying anything, the Empress Dowager thought that he was still thinking of the former hatred, she was very frightened and said in a low voice, “Previously subordinate did not know honorable envoy’s status, and thus has offended you a lot, and now I am very terrified, only hoping for the honorable envoy’s magnanimous forgiveness.”

She saw that he was very young, yet was holding a very high position within the Cult, in the end it was still hard to believe. But then again, for the past few years Jiaozhu and Madame had promoted young people to higher position on a large scale, the older brethrens of the Cult were either slaughtered, or were met with suspicions, their power were gradually reduced. Therefore, this little child being the newly-appointed White Dragon Envoy was absolutely not an unusual happening. She thought further, “Even if he is really the White Dragon Envoy, if I kill him right now, nobody in the Cult would know. This little demon bears an extreme grudge toward me, if I let him live, it will only cause no end of trouble for me.”

Her murderous intention aroused, her eyes could not help but revealing a malicious look. Wei Xiaobao immediately caught it, and said in his heart, “Not good, the old wh0re is going to kill me.” He said in a low voice, “The technique I used to capture you just now, obviously you know who had taught me that, don’t you?”

The Empress Dowager was startled; she recalled the technique used by this little demon a moment ago, and found it to be immeasurably secretive, just in one move he was able to subdue her. It was precisely the Cult Leader’s technique. “Could it be … could it be that Jiaozhu has personally taught you?” she asked in a trembling voice.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Jiaozhu taught me thirty killer moves, Madame Hong taught me thirty qin na techniques. Comparing the two of them, naturally Jiaozhu’s techniques are a lot more formidable. It’s just that each one of the Senior’s moves will take the human’s life. I did not want to kill you, therefore, I only used the move that Madame taught me, the ‘the flying swallow circle around overhead’.”

Since bragging did not need any capital, he multiplied the number of moves by a factor of ten. But the Empress Dowager did not have the slightest doubt. She knew that the moves Madame Hong used all have ancient beauties’ name in it; she could not help but broke into cold sweat. She thought, “Luckily he used Madame Hong’s move to deal with me. If he had used the move Jiaozhu taught him, I would have been dead by now.” This moment, how could she still have the intention to harm him? She said respectfully, “Thank you for honorable envoy’s kindness in not killing me.”

Feeling very proud of himself, Wei Xiaobao said, “I did not dig out your eyeballs, compared to Madame’s instruction, I was being lenient to you thirty percent.” These words were actually the truth, if he really wanted to dig the Empress Dowager’s eyes, he could do that. It’s just that when she was severely injured, she would strike back with all of her strength, and then she would definitely want to take his life.

The more the Empress Dowager heard him, the more she was afraid. “Thank you for being lenient to me,” she said, “Subordinate appreciates it very much. I will certainly repay honorable envoy’s benevolence.”

Originally, each time Wei Xiaobao saw the Empress Dowager, it was like a mouse seeing a cat, he could not stop his entire body from trembling; who would have thought that this time unexpectedly he managed to control her that she became docile, standing in front of him in fear and trepidation. He was very pleased with himself, and it was very hard to contain. He lifted his left leg and crossed it above his right, and swayed it several times. He said in a low voice, “This time, we have Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan, two people following the Envoy from Shen Long Jiao coming to Beijing.”

“Yes, yes,” the Empress Dowager said. She thought that Fat and Lu, two people were martial art experts from their Cult, unexpectedly they were second to him. It was really fortunate that she was not being reckless a moment ago; if she did kill him, forget that she would have to face the Cult Leader’ investigation later, as soon as Fat and Lu, two people find out, death would be her only way out. She saw the finger marks on his face from her slaps earlier, and said in a trembling voice, “Subordinate has committed all kinds of heinous crimes in the past. I am hoping for honorable envoy’s magnanimous, generous and boundless good fortune.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “The White Dragon Envoy Zhong Zhiling betrayed Jiaozhu, Jiaozhu and Madame have him killed, and ordered me to take over the White Dragon Gate. The Black Dragon Envoy Zhang Danyue did not do his best in handling his assignment, Jiaozhu and Madame are very angry. The mission to fetch the sutras now becomes my responsibility.”

The Empress Dowager’s entire body trembled. “Yes, yes,” she said. Recalling the several copies of sutra that she had just obtained but then lost, day and night she had been feeling uneasy these past few days, and now finally the matter was brought to light. She said in a trembling voice, “This matter is complicated and not easy to explain succinctly. Would honorable envoy take the trouble to visit the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful? Subordinate will present detail reports to you.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said, “Very well.” He thought that there were too many things he did not understand about this matter, and was about to question her anyway; thereupon he stood up.

The Empress Dowager turned around, pulled the door bolt, and opened the door. And then she stepped aside to let him walk out first. Wei Xiaobao said loudly, “The Empress Dowager is leaving!”

“Excuse me!” the Empress Dowager said in a low voice, as she went out the door. Wei Xiaobao followed behind her. Dozens of eunuchs and palace maids followed from a far.

The two of them arrived at the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful. The Empress Dowager led him into her bedroom. After sending out the palace maids, she closed the door, and then personally poured a bowl of ginseng soup, which she offered to Wei Xiaobao with both hands. Wei Xiaobao accepted it and drank several mouthfuls; he thought, “My prestige today is comparable to the Old Emperor Shunzhi in the past. I don’t think the Empress Dowager would treat the young Emperor with this kind of respect.” He was very happy in his heart.

The Empress Dowager opened a trunk and took out a brocade box. From the box she took out a small jade bottle; she said, “Reporting to honorable envoy: there are thirty ‘snow ginseng jade moon pills’ in this bottle, it was a tribute from King of Korean Joseon dynasty, incomparably priceless. After taking this, the body will be invigorated, it will not be invaded by a hundred poisons. From these, would honorable envoy please forward twelve pills to Jiaozhu, ten pills to Madame Jiaozhu, and would honorable envoy take the remaining eight pills for yourself, as a token of … a token of subordinate’s negligible appreciation.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “Thank you very much,” he said, “But I wonder if these pills will clash with the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’?”

“It won’t clash at all,” the Empress Dowager replied, “Congratulations, honorable envoy, on receiving Jiaozhu’s gracious gift the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’. I wonder … I wonder if Jiaozhu has instructed honorable envoy to bring subordinate’s antidote for this year.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “This year’s antidote?” he asked, but then he immediately understood. The Empress Dowager must have had taken the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’. Jiaozhu bestowed her the antidote every year, which would not eradicate the poison thoroughly, and thus it has to be taken once every year, so that it would not flare up. Otherwise, she was deep in the Palace, with countless martial art master Imperial Bodyguards, even if Jiaozhu had a higher skill, he would not be able to control her. Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You and I both have taken the ‘leopard embryo pill’, how can I bring the antidote with me?”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “But honorable envoy enjoys special favor from Jiaozhu, how can subordinate be compared to you?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “She is really terrified, I must comfort her a little bit.” Thereupon he said, “Jiaozhu and Madame said that as long as you display utter loyalty to Jiaozhu, and will not have any infidelity, you work on his behalf with all your might, Jiaozhu will never treat you unfairly. Don’t worry.”

The Empress Dowager was greatly delighted; she said, “Jiaozhu’s benevolence is as heavy as the mountain, subordinate cannot repay it even with ten thousand deaths. Jiaozhu enjoys immortal good fortune forever, his long-life is the same as the heaven’s.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “You are originally the Empress, and now you are the Empress Dowager, other than the Emperor, no one in this world has a higher rank than you. Even if Shen Long Jiao is more formidable, it still can’t be compared to you; why would you want to enter the Cult and take orders from Jiaozhu? Aren’t you being a rebellious s1ut? Ah, right, maybe you are just the same as your daughter, you are both miserable wretch, you won’t be happy unless other people beat you and curse you.” He was still too young, his life experience was limited; for the time being, he was unable to grasp the importance of the information he had just received.

Seeing he was hesitating, the Empress Dowager thought that he was about to ask her about the sutra; therefore, without waiting to be asked, she volunteered, “Subordinate has sent Deng Bingchun and Liu Yan, two people, to forward those three copies of sutra to Jiaozhu. Has he, the Senior, received it?”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; he thought, “The fake palace maid Deng Bingchun was killed by Tao Gugu, Liu Yan was stabbed to death by Miss Fang’s sword; what sutra has been forwarded to Jiaozhu?” Unclear of her real intention, he asked, “Did you say three copies have been forwarded to Jiaozhu? I have never heard about it. Jiaozhu said that the Black Dragon Envoy took too long to get hold of the sutra, yet he has not gained anything. Jiaozhu was very angry, he almost forced him to commit suicide.”

The Empress Dowager showed an astonished expression. “That’s strange,” she said, “Subordinate clearly sent Deng Bingchun and Liu Yan, two people to make a special trip to Divine Dragon Island to deliver those three copies of sutra. Naturally it was before honorable envoy put Liu Yan to death.”

“Oh,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Is there such thing? Deng Bingchun? Was he your bald Shixiong?”

“Exactly,” the Empress Dowager replied, “When the honorable envoy return to the Divine Dragon Island in the future, please ask him, you will understand everything.”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly realized; he mused, “That’s right, Deng Bingchun was killed by Tao Gugu, this old wh0re thinks I know nothing of it. She lost three copies of sutra, for fear that Jiaozhu would blame her, she pushes all the blame on to those two dead people; this is called ‘dead men tell no tales’, she is really smart. She would not know that those three copies are actually in Laozi‘s hands. If she used this lie to swindle others, it is indeed a damn top-notch lie; unfortunately, whatever trick she is performing, she cannot deceive Laozi. I’d better not expose your trickery for the time being.” He said, “You have already obtained three copies, your merit cannot be considered small. On the other five, you must make the extra effort.”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “From dawn to dusk subordinate always thinks about how to get the other five copies of the sutra, to repay Jiaozhu’s benevolence.”

“That’s very good!” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are actually this loyal, the poison in the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ has been dissolved one time for you, you should not have any problem. I will see Jiaozhu soon, I will definitely speak several words of praise on your behalf.”

The Empress Dowager was ecstatic; she bowed to salute and said, “Honorable envoy’s great kindness, subordinate will never dare to forget. It will be best if subordinate can transfer to the White Dragon Gate, to follow honorable envoy’s leading; it will be my greatest good fortune.”

“That can be done easily,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “But about you entered the Cult and everything you went through, you must tell me in detail, don’t conceal anything at all.”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “Subordinate will not dare to speak even half a sentence of incomplete, untrue words toward our Gate’s Envoy …”

Suddenly there were footsteps outside the door, a palace maid coughed and said, “Reporting to the Empress Dowager: His Majesty summoned Gui Gong-gong, saying that there is an urgent matter, to have him return immediately.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said in a low voice, “Don’t worry about anything, we’ll continue later.”

The Empress Dowager replied in a low voice, “Thank you honorable envoy.” And then in loud and clear voice said, “His Majesty summons you, you may go now.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I wish the Empress Dowager ten thousand good fortunes and peace like gold.”

As he went out the door, he saw eight Imperial Bodyguards standing outside the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful; he was slightly shocked, thinking, “What urgent matter could it be?” So he rushed toward the Upper Study Room.

“Good, you are alright,” Kangxi happily said, “I heard the old traitor took you away, so I was worried, I was afraid she might harm you.”

“Many thanks for Shifu’s concern,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That old … old … she asked me where have I been these past several days? I thought that I must never say anything about the Old Emperor, I must not even mention Shanxi or Mount Wutai, but I also am not a good liar. When pressed by her, an inspiration appeared in a moment of desperation, I said that Your Majesty sent me to Jiangnan to see if there is any amusing gadget, to be bought and brought back to the Palace. I also said that Your Majesty instructed me not to let the Empress Dowager find out, so that the Empress Dowager would not blame Your Majesty being the Emperor, yet still loves to play like a child.”

Kangxi laughed aloud, while patting his shoulder and said, “It’s best that you said it that way. Let the old traitor thinks that I am still like a child who love to play; that way she won’t guard against me. So you are not a good liar? What you said is very interesting.”

“Do you think so?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant was worried that Your Majesty won’t be happy to hear it.”

“Very good, very good,” Kangxi said, “Just now I was afraid the old traitor would harm you, so I sent eight Imperial Bodyguards to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful. If the old traitor was unwilling to let you go, I ordered them to break into the Palace and get you out of there. I know I would have had direct confrontation with her, but it was a desperate situation.”

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down and kowtowed. “Emperor Shifu’s kindness is as heavy as the mountain, your servant disciple cannot repay even if I have my body crushed to powder.”

Kangxi said, “If you serve the Old Emperor well, then you are repaying my kindness to you.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Kangxi picked up a large sealed yellow envelope from his desk and said, “This is an imperial edict to the monks of the Shaolin Temple. You pick forty Imperial Bodyguards and two thousand valiant cavalry’s officers and men, and go to Shaolin Temple to announce the imperial decree for them to do something for me. What it is that I want them to do, everything is written in the letter, which you may open when you arrive at the Shaolin Temple. You are to obey and act accordingly. And now I promote your official position to the Vice Commander of the Plain Yellow Banner’s Valiant Cavalry, which is a 2a rank[4]. You are actually a Han, but now I bequeath you the status as a Manchu, we call it ‘entering the Manchurian’s Flag Bearers’. The Plain Yellow Banner is the Emperor’s personal Manchurian Banner men, the Valiant Cavalry is the Emperor’s personal elite soldiers. You are still holding the Imperial Bodyguard Deputy Chief.”

He knew Wei Xiaobao was without learning or skills, plus he was still too young, he could not serve as a real official, consequently, both positions were deputy position.

Wei Xiaobao said, “As long as I can always be at the Emperor Shifu’s side, high ranking or low ranking position, your servant disciple does not care.” While saying that, he kowtowed vigorously to express his gratitude. He mused, “I am fine being a Han, now I have to change shape in a single shake and become a Manchu Tatar.” He thought further, “Emperor Shifu did not order me to hasten to the Qing Liang Temple and become a little monk there, but to lead the troops to Shaolin Temple first to deliver the imperial edict, to reward those Dashi [great master] who rendered meritorious service in saving the Old Emperor. Most likely he is simply letting me to enjoy the limelight. This is called ‘sweet first, bitter later’, I become the master first, and then he would spank my bottom later.”

Kangxi had the Commander of the Plain Yellow Banner’s Valiant Cavalry Chalju [orig. Cha’er Zhu] summoned. He made him aware that Xiao Guizi was not a court eunuch at all, but he was actually the Imperial Bodyguard Deputy Chief, and his real name was Wei Xiaobao. For the purpose of capturing Oboi, he was ordered to disguise himself as a eunuch. And now he was bestowed the status as a Manchu, under the Plain Yellow Banner, and was promoted to be the Vice Commander of the Plain Yellow Banner’s Valiant Cavalry.

When Oboi was still in power, Chalju had suffered greatly from the internal strife, so much so that he was put in prison, and day and night his life was in danger. Fortunately for him, Oboi was defeated and he was released from prison, hence early on he has had deep gratitude to Wei Xiaobao who had killed Oboi. Hearing that the Emperor had assigned Wei Xiaobao to be his own deputy, he was greatly delighted. Immediately he congratulated Wei Xiaobao, saying, “Wei Xiongdi, the two of us are going to work together, there is nothing better than that. You are a young hero, from now on our Valiant Cavalry will show our face.”

Wei Xiaobao uttered some modest remarks. Chalju had made up his mind: this Wei Xiaobao had received great favor from the Emperor, although officially he was his assistant, in reality Chalju was the one who ought to be the assistant. As long as Chalju could win Wei Xiaobao’s favor, there would be no problem for him to make a rapid career advance in the future.

Kangxi said, “I am sending Wei Xiaobao on a mission. You two may carry on, prepare your troops. Wei Xiaobao is to leave Beijing tonight, no need to take your leave from me.” He took the golden seal, the symbol of authority to maneuver Valiant Cavalry troops and gave it to Wei Xiaobao.

Wei Xiaobao received the golden seal and kowtowed to bid Kangxi farewell. He thought, “I have not investigated clearly why the old wh0re entered Shen Long Jiao. It’s not a big deal, most likely it was because she is a s1ut. I will ask her again next time I return to the Palace.” He thought further, “Last night I was beaten by the Princess, my body aches all over, and I slept until the sky was bright, thus I was unable to go see Tao Gugu. I wonder how she is doing, living the Palace. Next time I return, I must meet with her.”

The two of them immediately went to see the Imperial Bodyguard Chief Dolong. Wei Xiaobao produced the imperial decree Kangxi gave him earlier, the one where he was appointed the Imperial Bodyguard Deputy Chief, and showed it to Dolong. Dolong repeatedly congratulated him, saying, “Wei Xiongdi can freely select whichever Imperial Bodyguards you want. As long as His Majesty nods his approval, I can even accompany you on this mission.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I do not dare to accept the honor. Protecting His Majesty is a great responsibility. Dolong Zongguan may find strolling around the Capital is not an easy thing for you to do.”

Dolong laughed and said, “Next time I will ask His Majesty, the two of us can change our duties, you become the chief, I become your deputy. And then whenever there is good assignment going out of the Capital to catch the autumn breeze, you can let your Gege to go.”

Wei Xiaobao selected Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian, two Imperial Bodyguards, telling them to select a group of Imperial Bodyguards who were close to them. Chalju selected two thousand Valiant Cavalry officers. Each officer was ordered to pay their respect to their new Deputy Commander.

The articles Kangxi wanted to give to the Shaolin Temple’s monks were prepared promptly; everything was loaded into several dozen carriages. Whatever the Emperor wanted, his shout and his sigh, would be done immediately. In about more than four hours, everything was completely ready.

Actually, Wei Xiaobao was supposed to wear the Valiant Cavalry military uniform, but such a small-sized general uniform was not readily available. Chalju came up with an idea: he gave Wei Xiaobao his own set of uniform, and sent for four highly-skilled tailors to come along. He ordered them to work on altering the uniform inside the large carriage, told them not to sleep that night, and would not allow them to return to Beijing unless the uniform was ready. If they goofed off, the reward would be heavy flogging with army stick.

Wei Xiaobao found the time to go back to the Hair Alley, and told Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo, “Today I managed to sneak into the Palace, the plan of stealing the sutra has begun to materialize.” He instructed the two of them to stay quietly in the house, waiting for his news; they must not go out recklessly, to avoid revealing their secret. As Lu and Fat, two people saw that Wei Xiaobao had handled this matter without a hitch, that he managed to obtain a clue in just two days, they were both very happy, and thus repeatedly expressed their gratitude and promised to follow his instruction.

Wei Xiaobao had Shuang’er changed into men’s clothing, to disguise herself as his attendant and travelled together with him.


[1] Posthumous title of Hung Taiji (1592-1632), eighth son of Nurhaci; reigned 1626-1636 as Second Khan of Later Jin dynasty, then founded the Qing dynasty and reigned 1636-1643 as Emperor.

[2] In original Chinese, the word ‘a team of four horses’ sounds like the word ‘dead’ (si).

[3] Orig. Gui Bei Lei, ‘a prince with blood ties to the royal family’ – see footnote 15 of Chapter 13.

[4] A fudutong (副都统) actually was a 2a rank (正二品; zhengerpin). It was equal in rank to a Regional Commander (总兵; zongbin). During the Qing Dynasty, the system of nine pin-ranks (品) was used. Each pin-rank was divided into upper class (zheng [正]/a) and lower class (cong/b) (Courtesy of Ace High).

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