Use the translation feature to translate novels into different languages

The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 29

Chapter 29
Fragrant breeze suddenly arrives through the rolling curtain, new moon looks down on the bed drenched with early rain.

Wei Xiaobao went out of the Palace to see Li Lishi, Guan Anji, Priest Xuanzhen, Qian Laoben, and the others. The Tian Di Hui warriors were in high spirit. Li Lishi said, “Subordinate has just received information that Zongduozhu has arrived in Tianjin, he will reach the Capital in a day. Wei Xiangzhu has just returned to the Capital as well; this is very good!”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s very good!” Thinking that he was going to see his shifu again, his heart was inevitably frightened.

The warriors immediately bought some wine and killed some chicken to prepare a welcoming dinner for him.

When the night fell, Wei Xiaobao pulled Gao Yanchao aside and said, “Gao Dage, could you bring me an axe, an iron hammer and a chisel, please?”

Gao Yanchao complied and brought everything he asked for. Wei Xiaobao asked him to take him to the clay-walled shed in the garden where the coffin was placed. “I have to open the coffin,” he said, “To put some things inside.”

“Yes!” Gao Yanchao complied. He felt strange, but since Xiangzhu did not tell him, he felt it was inappropriate for him to ask.

“The night before last,” Wei Xiaobao explained, “This dead friend came to me in a dream, telling me that he wanted several things. Since he was my friend, I can’t possibly refuse.”

Gao Yanchao felt even stranger, but he only responded with ‘yes, yes’.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Please guard outside the door for me, don’t let anybody come in.” And he pushed the door and came in, closed the door, and bolted it.

He saw the thick dust on the coffin; apparently nobody had touched it. Using the chisel and axe he pried out the nails, and shoved the coffin lid away. He took the oil cloth bundle containing the five copies of sutra, and was about to push the coffin lid back when suddenly he heard Gao Yanchao’s voice outside, “Who’s there?”

And then he heard another voice sternly asked, “Where is Chen Jinnan?”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked. “Who’s asking for my Shifu?” he mused. The voice sounded somewhat familiar.

Gao Yanchao replied, “Who are you?”

And then someone coldly said, “No matter where he hides, we will drag him out.”

Wei Xiaobao did recognize this voice, it was Zheng Keshuang. He was even more surprised, “How could this stinky fellow be here?” Immediately he realized that the first person must be the ‘One Sword without Blood’ Feng Xifan.

He heard the clang of metals, the clash of weapons, followed by Gao Yanchao’s muffled grunt, and then ‘bang!’ he fell to the ground. Wei Xiaobao’s shock was even greater, without having much time to think he leaped into the coffin.

He heard Zheng Keshuang said, “That revolting thief must be hiding inside.” In his fright, Wei Xiaobao lifted the lid and closed the coffin, just in time before ‘crack, crash!’ the wooden door of the clay-walled shed was kicked broken. Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan walked in.

From inside the coffin Wei Xiaobao looked out, and saw a thread of light; he knew that in his rush he did not close the lid tightly. “Bad, bad!” he groaned inwardly, “They are looking for my Shifu, but find out his disciple instead.”

Suddenly outside the door someone said, “Is Gongzi looking for me? What can I do for you?” It was precisely Chen Jinnan’s voice.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “Shifu is here!”

Suddenly Chen Jinnan cried, “Ah!” Apparently he was injured. Followed by ‘clang, clang’ twice, the sound of weapons clashing. Chen Jinnan angrily shouted, “Feng Xifan, you are plotting against me? Why?”

Feng Xifan coldly said, “I am following orders to arrest you!”

Zheng Keshuang’s voice was heard, “Chen Yonghua, do you still consider me in your eyes?” His voice was brimming with anger.

“Why did Er Gongzi [second young master] say such thing?” Chen Jinnan said, “It was only the day before yesterday that subordinate found out that Er Gongzi would grace us with your presence in Beijing; that very night I rushed over from Tianjin, unexpectedly Er Gongzi has arrived first. Subordinate was not here to welcome you, please forgive my offense.”

Hearing his shifu was speaking very respectfully and sincerely, Wei Xiaobao cursed in his heart, “Dog fart Er Gongzi, what are you angry for?”

He heard Zheng Keshuang said, “Fu Wang [father king] sent me to the Central Plains on official business, did you know that?”

“Yes,” Chen Jinnan replied.

Zheng Keshuang said, “If you did, why didn’t you come earlier to escort, serve and protect me?”

Chen Jinnan said, “Subordinate has several urgent matters to be dealt with, I was unable to spare the time for a separate task, please Er Gongzi excuse me. Subordinate also knew that Feng Dage is coming along to serve by your side, Feng Dage’s divine skill is unequalled, the crowd of lowly people are afraid and succumb to him, he would be able to protect Er Gongzi safe and sound through and through.”

“Humph,” Zheng Keshuang snorted; he angrily said, “When I came to Tian Di Hui, why are the shrimp soldiers and crab generals[1], and a skulk of foxes, a pack of dogs under your commands very rude to me?”

Chen Jinnan said, “Presumably they did not know Er Gongzi. In this area around the Capital, what we are doing is a rebellion against the Tatars, everybody is particularly cautious and prudent, to such an extent as to neglect etiquette. Subordinate hereby apologizes.”

The more Wei Xiaobao listened, the angrier he was. “Why is Shifu this polite to this stinky fellow?” he mused.

Zheng Keshuang said, “By giving me all kinds of excuses, you are actually saying that I was wrong?”

“I do not dare!” Chen Jinnan said.

And then Wei Xiaobao heard the rustling of paper. Zheng Keshuang said, “This is Fu Wang’s written order, read it.”

“Yes,” Chen Jinnan said, “Wangye’s order says: ‘The order of Yan Ping Jun Wang of the Great Ming: I am sending Zheng Keshuang to the Central Plain on official business, for anything beneficial to the country, he may act at his own discretion’.”

“What does ‘act at his own discretion’ means?” Zheng Keshuang asked.

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “It simply means don’t ever suffer any loss; what’s so difficult about it? Your old man is telling you to stand up and need not be polite.”

Who would have thought that Chen Jinnan actually replied, “Wangye is instructing Er Gongzi that in all matters that benefit our country, you may forego reporting back to Wangye, and act at your own discretion.”

Zheng Keshuang asked, “Will you submit to Fu Wang’s written order or not?”

Wangye’s written order, naturally I will comply,” Chen Jinnan replied.

“Very well,” Zheng Keshuang said, “Cut your own right arm.”

Chen Jinnan was startled. “But why?” he asked.

Zheng Keshuang coldly said, “In your eyes there is no master, you do not revere me, which means you do not revere Fu Wang. I’ll say from your conduct and deeds, you do not have the heart of a loyal subject. Humph, in the Central Plains you strive to cultivate your own power, to expand Tian Di Hui, where’s your concern for the Zheng Family of Taiwan? You are thinking of making yourself king, aren’t you?”

Chen Jinnan’s voice trembled, “Subordinate has never had that thought,” he said.

“Humph! Never had that thought?” Zheng Keshuang said, “At the Hejian Prefecture congress this time, they elected me as the Mengzhu of Fujian province; did you know that?”

“Yes,” Chen Jinnan replied, “It was because the heroes throughout the world respect Wangye for his loyalty in working for the country.”

“How many provinces’ Mengzhu does your Tian Di Hui have?” Zheng Keshuang asked. Chen Jinnan was silent.

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “Turns out the reason this fellow is throwing a fit is because he had drunk Tian Di Hui’s vinegar [i.e. jealous].” He also mused, “My wife’s lover [orig. male adulterer] is my Shifu’s superior; previously, it was a bit troublesome. Now those two people are in conflict; this is wonderful. It’s just that Shifu has already fallen under their plot and is injured, I must prevent him from being killed by them.”

He heard Zheng Keshuang said in loud voice, “Your Tian Di Hui has three provinces’ Mengzhu, while I only have Fujian, one province. Compared to your Tian Di Hui, how much does my Zheng Family worth? I am only a tiny Fujian Province’s Mengzhu, but you are the Central Military Strategist of the ‘Weeding-out the Traitors Alliance’. Don’t you realize you are crawling over my head? How can there be Fu Wang in your heart?”

Er Gongzi, please reflect carefully,” Chen Jinnan said, “Subordinate founded the Tian Di Hui under the order of the late Guoxing Ye [Koxinga] with the purpose of driving off the Tatars. Tian Di Hui is an integral part of Wangye, there is no distinction between what’s ours and what’s Wangye’s. In all Tian Di Hui’s affairs, subordinate always report everything to Wangye.”

With a cold laugh Zheng Keshuang said, “Your Tian Di Hui only knows Chen Jinnan, how could they know there is still Zheng Family of Taiwan? Supposing Tian Di Hui succeeded in expelling the Tatars, the ruler of this world would be you, Chen Jinnan, not any of our Zheng family.”

Chen Jinnan said, “What Er Gongzi just said is not right. After we drive off the Tatars, together we will present the Great Ming royal family’s descendant surnamed Zhu to be the ruler.”

“Your speech is beautiful,” Zheng Keshuang said, “This moment you do not have surnamed Zheng in your eyes at all, how can you have surnamed Zhu in your eyes in the future? I want you to break your own arm, you simply don’t want to obey my command. This time I came from Hejian Prefecture, along the way I met with not a few calamities, yet I did not see a single soldier a single troop from Tian Di Hui coming to protect me. If not for Feng Shifu striving to save me, I don’t know if by this time I was still alive. You are eager to see my demise; if that’s your desire, then already death cannot wipe out your crimes. Humph, you can only lick my Gege’s behind, you don’t usually have me in your eyes.”

Chen Jinnan said, “Da Gongzi [big/first young master], Er Gongzi are brothers, subordinate serve both the same; how could I dare to be partial?”

Zheng Keshuang said, “Someday my Gege will be the Wangye. How can we, brothers, be the same in your eyes?”

Listening to this point, Wei Xiaobao understood for the most part. He mused, “This fellow is struggling over the Wangye position with his Gege, he is blaming Shifu for supporting his Gege. With Feng Xifan’s instigation, he is trying to get rid of my Shifu.”

He heard Zheng Keshuang continued, “Your power in the Central Plains is so big anyway, it would be better for you to just kill me.”

Chen Jinnan said, “Er Gongzi confronts me like this, it’s hard for subordinate to explain. Why don’t we go back to Taiwan? We’ll see Wangye, and heard what Wangye has to say. If Wangye wants to kill me, how can I dare to disobey?”

“Humph,” Zheng Keshuang snorted, seemingly at a loss on how to answer him. He was afraid to have direct confrontation with Chen Jinnan in front of his father.

Feng Xifan coldly said, “I am afraid as soon as Mr. Chen leave this place, if you don’t surrender to the Tatars and betray Er Gongzi, then you’d fly your banner on a solitary tree, declaring yourself as the king, and will no longer return to Taiwan.”

Chen Jinnan angrily said, “Just now you attacked sneakily and injured me, was it under Wangye’s command? Where is Wangye’s written order?”

Fengxifan said, “Wangye’s written order says that in the Central Plains Er Gongzi is to act at his discretion. You don’t accept Er Gongzi’s order, that means you are rebelling against Wangye, everybody has the right to punish you.”

Chen Jinnan said, “Er Gongzi is perfectly all right, it is you who sow dissension. Guoxing Ye began the undertaking with great hardship and has succeeded in establishing good foundation. I am afraid it will be ruined in the hands of lowly, treacherous people like you. Although you, surnamed Feng, have unparalleled martial art skill under the heavens, do you think I am afraid of you?”

Feng Xifan sternly said, “So, you are blatantly rebelling against the Yan Ping Wang Mansion?”

In a loud and clear voice Chen Jinnan said, “I, Chen Yonghua, have a red-bellied devotion to Wangye. The word ‘rebel’ should never be slandered against me.”

Zheng Keshuang shouted, “Chen Yonghua is rebelling, arrest him!”

“Yes,” Feng Xifan complied.

And then a series of ‘clang, clang’ was heard as the weapons collided with each other; the three of them began to fight. Chen Jinnan called out, “Er Gongzi, please move aside, subordinate cannot fight with you.”

“You cannot fight with me? You cannot fight with me?” Zheng Keshuang asked the question twice, his weapon also rang twice. Apparently with each question he hacked his blade toward Chen Jinnan once.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly anxious; quietly he raised the coffin lid about a cun so that he could look out. He saw Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan attacked Chen Jinnan from left and right. Chen Jinnan held the sword with his left hand, while his right arm drooped down with blood constantly trickling to the ground from the wound inflicted by Feng Xifan’s sneak attack earlier.

Feng Xifan’s sword moved extremely fast, Chen Jinnan resisted with everything he had. Zheng Keshuang swept his blade across repeatedly, chopping and hacking, but Chen Jinnan did not dare to parry, he was only dodging here and there. Very soon he fell into the situation where he could only take a beating without being able to strike back. Moreover, he moved the sword with his left hand awkwardly, while the wound on his right arm was clearly not light.

Wei Xiaobao was anxious, “Where are Feng Jizhong, Guan Fuzi, Qian Laoben, and the others? How come not even one come to help? If this fight continues, Shifu will definitely be killed by them.” But the outside was very quiet, the clay-walled shed was noisy with ‘bing, bing, bang, bang’ of the fierce battle, but unexpectedly the outside seemed to be turning a deaf ear.

He saw Feng Xifan thrust his sword swiftly forward, a powerful strike, Chen Jinnan raised his sword to block, two swords immediately stuck together. Zheng Keshuang waved his saber in diagonal chop, Chen Jinnan leaned sideways to evade. Zheng Keshuang’s saber swept across, ‘rip’ he made a long cut on Chen Jinnan’s left leg.

“Ah!” Chen Jinnan cried out; the sword in his hand jerked upward. Feng Xifan seized this opportunity to thrust his sword forward and hit Chen Jinnan’s left shoulder.

Chen Jinnan was drenched in blood as he fought desperately; it was hard for him to stay standing, step by step he moved toward the door, with the intention of rushing out to make his escape. Feng Xifan understood his intention, he rushed toward the door first. “Rebellious thief,” he said with a cold laugh, “You are still thinking of escaping today?”

Wei Xiaobao was hoping Feng Xifan would walk toward the coffin, so that he could thrust his dagger through the coffin and kill him just like the way he killed the lama at the inn. This move, called ‘stabbing people from behind partition board’ [ge ban ci ren], was his entire life’s special skill, it far surpassed the martial art master’s special skill ‘striking ox from behind the mountain’ [ge shan da niu]. But Feng Xifan was fighting farther and farther away, how could he stab him?

“Rebellious thief,” Zheng Keshuang shouted, “Still not throwing down your sword and letting your hands be bound?”

Seeing how critical the situation was, Wei Xiaobao decided that even if he had to lose his life today, he had to save his shifu. Tightening up his throat, he made three loud ‘zhi, zhi, zhi’ noise.

(Book note: Zheng Chenggong [real name of Koxinga] fathered Zheng Jing and the others, ten people. Zheng Jing became the Ming Dynasty’s Yan Ping Jun Wang during the first year of Kangxi’s reign. He fathered Zheng Keshang, Zheng Keshuang, and the others, eight people. Keshang was the oldest, born of a concubine, and was Chen Yonghua’s son-in-law. Later on he became the Jian Guo [country supervisor] heir apparent. The second son Keshuang became Feng Xifan’s son-in-law. When Zheng Keshang succeeded the throne, he was barely twelve years old. Our book has these matters only as background, their age are increased considerably, hence there are discrepancies with historical fact.)

When Feng Xifan and the others, three people heard it, they were startled. “What is it?” Zheng Keshuang asked. Feng Xifan shook his head, but his hand did not slow down the least bit. Wei Xiaobao cried ‘zhi, zhi, zhi’ again three times. Zheng Keshuang was afraid of ghost, he was trembling with fear. Suddenly he saw the coffin lid opened, a burst of white dust flew out. Immediately the three of them felt their eyes were burning, while an unbearably pungent smells assaulting their noses.

What happened was that usually before the body was entered into the coffin, the coffin would be lined with a large quantity of lime. When Gao Yanchao purchased the coffin, it was already loaded. This moment Wei Xiaobao grabbed a handful of lime and scattered it out. Feng Xifan knew it was not demon or ghost, he quickly jumped over with closed eyes, and leaned forward to thrust his sword into the coffin. ‘Pop!’ the tip of the sword stabbed the coffin’s lid; while he was about to pull the sword to stab again, suddenly he felt pain on the right side of his chest. He knew he had fallen into the enemy’s trick; hastily he leaped back to evade, but his back heavily crashed onto the wall. His martial art skill was superb, with his left hand pressed against the wound on his chest, he brandished the sword in his right hand so that ‘wind and rain could not penetrate’, as a shield in front of his body.

It was actually Wei Xiaobao from inside the coffin launching his move ‘stabbing people from behind partition board’. As soon as his attack succeeded, he leaped out of the coffin, clenching the dagger tightly in his hand. He saw Feng Xifan, Zheng Keshuang and Chen Jinnan, three people, were brandishing their saber and swords randomly with their eyes closed tight. He noticed that although Feng Xifan was hit by his dagger, it was not a fatal wound. He wanted to seize the opportunity and gave him another stab, but Feng and Zheng, two people moved their sword and saber in a very tight formation. He really did not dare to recklessly charge forward. The timing was critical, if he waited too long, those two would have wiped the lime from their eyes, and if they could see, it would be really bad for him. Without any definite plan, he simply grabbed another handful of lime, and as soon as he saw either Feng Xifan or Zheng Keshuang moved to wipe their eyes, he would simply scatter the lime onto them. Scattering the lime was another special skill in which he was an expert.

After only throwing several times, Feng Xifan had already figured out the direction of the lime; with the move ‘thirsty horse rushing to the spring’ he thrust this sword straight forward. Wei Xiaobao was greatly shocked; hastily he ducked down. ‘Pop!’ the sword pierced the coffin. Wei Xiaobao crawled and rolled away toward the door.

Feng Xifan raised his sword and hacked down on the coffin several times, he still thought the enemy was inside. Actually, based on his martial art cultivation, he would have detected Wei Xiaobao’s extremely clumsy exit immediately, but because his eyes were suddenly blinded and his chest wounded, for a moment his mind was in disorder. Moreover, he knew Chen Jinnan’s martial art was extraordinary, not inferior to his own at all; with a powerful enemy on the side, his situation was incomparably treacherous. In his fright, he did not realize that Chen Jinnan’s eyes were also blinded. He only wished to kill the enemy who attacked him sneakily, and made a quick escape.

After stabbing the coffin several times, he felt that he was piercing an empty coffin. With a move ‘thousand rocks vying to be the most beautiful’, the tip of his sword stabbed in a flower pattern to shield around his body. He heard to his left there was no sound of weapons splitting the air, immediately he leaped to the left. As soon as his shoulder bumped onto the wall, he stood leaning against the wall. Because of this excessive use of strength, the wound on his chest was bleeding profusely.

He tried to open his eyes a slit, the lime immediately entered his eyes, the pain was difficult to bear. Afraid that he might be blind permanently, he did not dare to open his eyes anymore. With his back against the wall he moved step-by-step, thinking that as long as he followed the wall, he would eventually find the door; as soon as he was out, the terrain would be spacious, then he would have a better chance of escaping.

Wei Xiaobao was standing at the door. Seeing Feng Xifan started to move, he knew his intention; Wei Xiaobao wanted to wait until he reached the door and then give him a stab, but remembering this man’s martial art skill was too high, even if he succeeded in stabbing him, at the point of death he might strike with his sword, and then Wei Xiaobao’s little life would inevitably be in danger. Thereupon he quietly inserted his dagger about two cun into the doorframe. Seeing Feng Xifan was no more than two chi from the door, he suddenly called out in shrill voice, “I am he …”

Before the word ‘here’ left his lips, Feng Xifan had already moved very fast. His sword slashed down, ‘dang!’ the sword met the dagger, and broke into two. The other half flew up and slash Feng Xifan’s forehead before falling down to the ground. Wei Xiaobao had already hidden by the clay-walled shed with his heart thumping wildly.

He heard Feng Xifan’s roar and saw him dashing out. Wei Xiaobao returned to the door and saw Chen Jinnan and Zheng Keshuang were still brandishing their sword and saber randomly. With the powerful enemy gone, he did not care much about the Second Young Master of the Zheng Family. “Shifu,” he called out, “I have chopped that ‘One Sword without Blood’ so that now his entire body is full of blood; he has already escaped without a trace. Please come out.”

Chen Jinnan was startled. “Who is it?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “It’s your disciple Xiaobao.”

Chen Jinnan was greatly delighted; he held the sword across his chest, no longer brandished it.

Wei Xiaobao called out, “Zhang Dage, Li Erge, Wang Sange, you have arrived! Very good, very good! This stinky fellow surnamed Zheng has not put down his weapon and surrendered, let’s come together and chop him down into pieces!”

Zheng Keshuang was shocked; he did not know that Wei Xiaobao was bluffing. “Shifu, Shifu!” he called out. But did not hear Feng Xifan’s replying. After slight hesitation, he tossed his saber aside.

“Kneel down!” Wei Xiaobao shouted. Zheng Keshuang bent his knees and kneeled on the ground. Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud. He picked up the saber and lightly pressed it against Zheng Keshuang’s throat. “Stand up!” he shouted, “Turned right, walked three steps, crawl up, get in!”

For each sentence Wei Xiaobao shouted, Zheng Keshuang followed his order, trembling with fear, until finally he crawled into the coffin. Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud, stepped forward, and pushed the coffin lid. He picked up the bundle of the sutra and slung it over his shoulder. “Shifu,” he said, “Let’s quickly wash your eyes.” Pulling Chen Jinnan’s hand, he led him out of the clay-walled shed.

They only walked for seven, eight steps when he saw Gao Yanchao lying by the flower terrace. Wei Xiaobao was startled, and rushed forward to help him up.

Gao Yanchao said, “Helping Zongduozhu is more important, subordinate only have my acupoints sealed, otherwise I am fine.” Chen Jinnan stooped down and massaged his back and his waist for a moment, the acupoints were immediately opened.

“What happened to Zongduozhu’s eyes?” Gao Yanchao asked.

“Lime,” Chen Jinnan replied.

“We must wash it with vegetable oil,” Gao Yanchao said, “Don’t use water.” Pulling Chen Jinnan’s hand, he quickly walked back to the house.

“I’ll be right there,” Wei Xiaobao said. He returned to the clay-walled shed, picked up the axe, and pounded seven, eight nails into the coffin’s lid. “Zheng Gongzi,” he said, “Just lay down and rest for several days. Consider yourself lucky, the ten thousand taels you owe me, I write off at one stroke, you don’t have to pay it back.” With another laugh he walked back into the main hall.

He saw Gao Yanchao had finished washing the lime off Chen Jinnan’s eyes with vegetable oil; he had also tended the injury on Chen Jinnan’s body. Feng Jizhong, Qian Laoben, Priest Xuanzhen, and the others were lying across the floor of the main hall, Chen Jinnan was in the process of unsealing everybody’s acupoints.

Turned out Feng Xifan launched a surprise attack. Not only his martial art skill was high, he also caught everybody off-guard. Before Feng Jizhong and the others were able to pull themselves together, he had already sealed their acupoints one by one. They were extremely enraged, but in front of the Zongduozhu they did not dare to curse.

Gao Yanchao told them how by using a trick Wei Xiaobao managed to inflict heavy damage to Feng Xifan; immediately everybody was in high spirit. They said that since that servant was so crafty and evil, they hoped that the lime would blind his eyes permanently.

Chen Jinnan’s eyes were still red and swollen, tears still streaming down his face. With a serious expression he said, “Qian Xiongdi, Gao Xiongdi, go wash the lime from Zheng Er Gongzi’s eyes, and invite him here.” Qian and Gao, two people complied.

“Ah!” suddenly Wei Xiaobao cried out and pretended to faint, his eyes were tightly shut.

Chen Jinnan reached out with his left hand to held Wei Xiaobao’s arm. “What happened?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “I … I was … scared … scared really bad just now, I was afraid they were going to kill Shifu … now … now my limbs feel weak …”

Chen Jinnan lifted him up and sat him on a chair. “Just rest for a moment,” he said.

What happened was: Wei Xiaobao knew that scattering lime on people’s eyes was a really low act; for this very reason Mao Shiba had given him a good beating in the past. Although the other warriors praised him for his resourcefulness, he thought that as his subordinates, naturally they wanted to flatter him. Shifu was a great hero, great warrior, ten times more so than Mao Shiba, he would surely give him a serious criticism. Thus Wei Xiaobao might as well pretend to faint in front of him, so that he would not punish him, or even if he did, he would be somewhat lenient.

Qian and Gao, two people rushed into the hall in a hurry; they said, “Zongduozhu, we did not find Zheng Er Gongzi; he must have left.”

Chen Jinnan frowned. “He left?” he asked, “And not in the coffin?”

Qian and Gao, two people looked at each other in dismay. There was indeed a coffin in the clay-walled shed, but how could the Second Young Master of the Zheng Family be in it?

“Let’s go take a look,” Chen Jinnan said. He led everybody toward the clay-walled shed.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly anxious, he had no choice but to follow them. His hands rubbed his own buttocks while saying in his heart, “My buttocks, oh my buttocks, if Shifu heard that I forced that stinky fellow into the coffin, you, my old friend, will unavoidably receive several flogging; I am truly sorry.”

When they got to the clay-walled shed, they saw the floor was covered with lime and blood, but indeed neither Zheng Keshuang’s body nor his shadow was around. Chen Jinnan clearly heard Wei Xiaobao forcing Zheng Keshuang to enter the coffin, but at this moment the coffin lid was firmly nailed down. His suspicion arose. “Xiaobao,” he asked, “Did you nail Zheng Er Gongzi inside the coffin?”

Seeing Shifu’s ill expression, Wei Xiaobao hummed and hawed. “I did not,” he said, “Perhaps he was afraid Shifu would kill him, he nailed himself inside the coffin.”

“Rubbish!” Chen Jinnan shouted, “Quickly open the coffin, don’t let him die of suffocation. Hurry, hurry!”

Qian Laoben and Gao Yanchao picked up the axe and chisel, and busily pried the coffin nails out. When they opened the lid, sure enough there was someone lying inside.

Er Gongzi!” Chen Jinnan called out, and reached into the coffin to help the person up.

“Ah!” when everybody saw the person, they all cried out in alarm. Chen Jinnan quickly let go and retreated two steps back. The person fell back into the coffin.

“It’s Guan Fuzi!” everybody shouted in one voice. In that split second, everybody was able to see clearly that the person in the coffin was indeed Guan Anji.

Chen Jinnan rushed forward to hold him up again, they saw Guan Anji’s eyes were wide open, but he had already met a violent death. His body was still warm though, apparently he had not died long. The people were shocked and grieved. Feng Jizhong, Priest Xuanzhen, and the others jumped outside, but did not see any trace of the enemy.

Chen Jinnan untied Guan Anji’s robe, and saw a blood red hand print on his chest. “Feng Xifan!” he said in choked voice.

Priest Xuanzhen angrily said, “It is definitely Feng Xifan! This red sand palm is his Kunlun Pai’s unique martial art skill. After suffering serious injury, that evil thief must have circled around a moment later. It’s really … damn it, it’s alright if he wanted to save Zheng Er Gongzi, but why did he have to kill Guan Erge?”

Everybody cursed in rage. Guan Anji’s brother-in-law, Jia Laoliu’s [Ol’ Six Jia] cry shook the heavens and the earth. In his grief Chen Jinnan was silent.

They returned to the hall. Qian Laoben said, “Zongduozhu, we all know about Er Gongzi and Da Gongzi’s struggle over the Wangye position. Our Tian Di Hui has always been impartial in this matter; Da Gongzi is older, naturally we support Da Gongzi. Er Gongzi has always considered you as a nail in his eyes, this time he received Feng Xifan’s instigation, and was thinking of seizing this opportunity to get rid of you. Today we have offended Er Gongzi. I am afraid Wangye might believe their slanderous report. Hereafter Zongduozhu cannot return to Taiwan anymore.”

Chen Jinnan sighed and said, “Guoxing Ye’s benevolence to me was very heavy, even with torn body and crushed bones it would be difficult for me to repay his kindness. Wangye has always been wise, plus he is very respectful toward me; he can’t possibly harm a loyal and good person.”

Priest Xuanzhen said, “As the saying goes: distant relation cannot separate flesh and blood relation. Er Gongzi has already determined that our Tian Di Hui refuses to follow Taiwan’s order. If even in the Central Plains he was already like this, would he give you any leeway in Taiwan? Their Zheng Family has altogether eight Gongzi, everybody is fighting everybody else to seize the power, our Tian Di Hui does not need to be involved. Zongduozhu, while it’s true that we are not Qin Hui, but we are definitely not Yue Fei either[2].”

Qian Laoben said, “Zongduozhu is loyal and devoted, and has always served the Zheng Family all your life, yet you were nearly killed by Er Gongzi; no matter what we cannot simply swallow this matter.”

Chen Jinnan sighed again and said, “A real man’s conduct has a clear conscience against the heaven and the earth, whatever other people say, long or short, has nothing to do with him. It’s just that I have never imagined such misfortune would befall us. Just now if it were not for Xiaobao’s resourcefulness, we all would die a violent death … ay, it’s a pity Guan Erge …”

Wei Xiaobao was relieved to hear that his shifu would not investigate the scattering of lime and the nailing of the coffin. Afraid that it was merely a momentary lapse of memory, he decided to change the subject immediately. “We have made quite some noise,” he said, “I am afraid all next door neighbors have heard it; if they report to the authorities, I am afraid … I am afraid … We must move immediately.”

“Absolutely,” Chen Jinnan said, “My mind is in turmoil, unexpectedly I haven’t thought about it.”

Right away they all went back to the garden to dig a hole and bury Guan Anji’s body. After shedding more tears and kowtowing, they carried their belongings out and left immediately. The Tian Di Hui warriors were constantly on the move around the Capital, moving their residence was a common occurrence. Wei Xiaobao was afraid his Shifu would ask him about his martial art training, he took the opportunity to take his leave and return to the Imperial Palace.

Back at his residence, he bolted the door, and opened the six copies of sutra one by one. Indeed he saw a lot of sheepskin pieces in between the cover of the sutras. He took out the pieces and stitched the cover back to its original state. But after stitching the cover of less than one book he already fed up with it; he thought, “It would be best if Shuang’er is here. Right this moment she is most likely still outside Shaolin Temple waiting for me. I was captured by Shifu Jiu Nan, this good servant girl must be extremely worried. I must send someone to tell her to come here.” Sewing several stitches later, his eyes grew very heavy; he hid the sutra well and fell asleep.

Early in the morning the next day he went to the Upper Study Room to wait upon the Emperor. Kangxi said, “I am going to issue an imperial decree tomorrow, sending you to escort Princess Jianning to Yunnan, to be married to that little b@stard surnamed Wu.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “It’s just a pity that I have not served Your Majesty for several days and I will have to be far away from you.”

Kangxi lowered his voice and said, “The Empress Dowager has told me a very important matter. This time you go to Yunnan, you may try to take this opportunity to work on it.” Wei Xiaobao complied.

Kangxi continued, “The Empress Dowager said, that evil maid servant impersonating the Empress Dowager, actually it was part of a great conspiracy: her mission was to find the location of our Manchu’s dragon vein, and try to find a way to break it.”

Wei Xiaobao blurted out without thinking, “That old wh0re’s crime is great, her evil extreme!” But then he hastily covered his mouth, realizing that he had cursed with vulgar language in front of the Emperor, unavoidably it was too disrespectful.

Who would have thought that Kangxi did not give it the slightest thought? “Correct!” he responded, “That old wh0re is indeed not a ‘thing’. The Empress Dowager had to endure disgrace and endure suffering, she would rather die than reveal the secret; only by doing that did the old wh0re’s evil scheme fail. With the Heaven’s blessing therefore the Empress Dowager is safe and sound until today, and has been able to hold on without revealing this big secret.”

Wei Xiaobao already knew the secret early on, but he said, “Your Majesty, it would be best if you do not tell me this huge secret. One more person knows about it, the danger that the secret will leak also increases by one part.”

Kangxi praised him, “You are making good progress; you understand that in everything we must be cautious. However, since the first time you work for me, you have never leaked anything. If I can’t even trust you, I can trust nobody else.”

Wei Xiaobao felt that the several hundred bones in his body, each bone was several taels several qians lighter. He kneeled down and kowtowed, while saying, “Your Majesty trust me this much, even if your servant’s tongue is cut, I will not dare to divulge half a word of what Your Majesty is going to tell me.”

Kangxi nodded; he said, “The secret of our Great Qing’s dragon vein is actually hidden in the eight copies of the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’.”

Wei Xiaobao pretended to be astonished; he repeatedly said, “Ah, strange, is there such thing? It’s absolutely unthinkable!”

Kangxi continued, “After the Shezheng Wangye [master king regent] entered the pass, he bestowed eight copies of sutra to the Eight Banners’ Banner Commander. Within the Eight Banners, the troops and horses of Plain Yellow, Plain White and Bordered Yellow, three banners are under the command of the Son of Heaven. But the farmland and material belongings of these three banners are still the Banner Commanders’ responsibility. The Plain Yellow Banner’s copy has always been in Fu Huang’s [father emperor] possession, which he took with him to Mount Wutai. Later on he sent you to bring it back and bestowed it to me. Because the Bordered White Banner’s Banner Commander committed a crime, the Bordered White Banner’s sutra ended up in the Palace, and Fu Huang bestowed it to Empress Duan Jing.”

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “The Old Emperor doted on Empress Duan Jing; naturally he wanted to give the best thing to her. If it were me, if all eight copies ended up in the Palace, I would bestow all to her.”

Kangxi continued, “The old wh0re murdered Empress Duan Jing, naturally she took hold of her sutra. Oboi was the Bordered Yellow Banner’s Banner Commander. When I sent you to search and seize Oboi’s home that day, the old wh0re wanted you to find two sutras, one was precisely the Bordered Yellow Banner’s, the other was Plain White Banner’s.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If I had known the old wh0re was bad, your servant would have reported to the old wh0re that I could not find it, and quietly presented the sutras to Your Majesty.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “At that time we did not know that the old wh0re was a fake Empress Dowager; we also did not know that there is such great responsibility inside the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’. If you were fooling around like that, I would have … I would have flogged your buttocks.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. In his heart he said, “Flogging my buttocks and that’s it? You don’t need to be polite!” He asked, “The Plain White Banner’s copy, I wonder where did Oboi get it from?”

Kangxi said, “He has killed the Plain White Banner’s Banner Commander Suksaha, and seized his family property, his belongings, including his copy of sutra. Humph, even death cannot wipe out that rebel’s crimes.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In that case, the old wh0re had three copies in her hands.”

“Only three?” Kangxi said, “She also sent the Deputy Chief of Imperial Bodyguards Rui Dong to make things difficult for the Bordered Red Banner’s Banner Commander Hechabo. At that time I did not know the reason, that fellow Hechabo had always been in collusion with Oboi, so I did not pay him any attention. Now that I think about it, naturally it was to seize his copy of the sutra. And then Rui Dong mysteriously disappeared; the old wh0re must have killed him to close his mouth.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty can see things like a deity [i.e. prophecy with supernatural accuracy; you will see shortly why I kept the literal translation].” While in his heart he said, “You are convinced that Rui Dong was killed by the old wh0re, hence I praised you that you can see things like a deity; that is striking a nail on one foot. If in the future you find out that Rui Dong was killed by me, you cannot go back on your word by questioning me. Otherwise, you are acknowledging that you cannot see things like a deity. In your capacity as the Emperor, how can you see things not like a deity, but like a demon?”

Kangxi said, “But if my guess is incorrect …”

Wei Xiaobao busily said, “Definitely correct.”

Kangxi said, “… the old wh0re had four copies of sutra in her hands. But there is one very strange thing: Fu Huang bestowed to me that copy of the Plain Yellow Banner’s sutra, all along I put it on the table in the Upper Study Room, but suddenly it disappeared. You think who has such a nerve to brazenly come to the Upper Study Room and steal something?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Can come and go the Upper Study Room, and have guts to take a book without permission, only … only …”

“Princess Jianning!” Kangxi said.

Wei Xiaobao did not dare to interrupt; he mused, “This time indeed you can see things like a deity.”

Kangxi said, “The old wh0re sent her daughter to steal my copy of the sutra. In that case, she had five copies in her hands.”

“Let us quickly go to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful to search,” Wei Xiaobao said, “The old wh0re was running away out of the Palace empty-handed, she did not bring anything.” While his heart was pounding madly, “If this moment the Emperor search my room, even if Xiao Guizi has a hundred heads, all will be chopped down.”

Kangxi shook his head, “I have already searched carefully,” he said, “I could not find anything. I only found a monk robe. The old wh0re’s good friend was actually a monk. Ha ha, ha ha …!”

Wei Xiaobao started to laugh, but after only two ‘ha’s, he felt it was extremely rude, so he hastily stopped laughing. Kangxi was still laughing heartily, however, as he said, “It’s just that when that short winter melon ran away, carrying the old wh0re with him, I saw that he had long hair, hence I was surprised. Most likely he was like that palace maid impersonator, his hair was fake. That fellow was short and fat; the old wh0re’s man was not a good steal, why did she look for such a short winter melon?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “That short winter melon’s martial art skill was very high. If he was handsome, he might not necessarily have the ability to sneak into the Palace. Last time that fake palace maid was also very ugly.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “You got that right.” After a short pause, he said, “The other three copies of the sutra are in the hands of Plain Red Banner, Plain Blue Banner, and Bordered Blue Banner, three Banners’ possession. The current Plain Red Banner’s Banner Commander is Prince Kang, I have already ordered him to present the sutra to me.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “That night someone stole Prince Kang’s sutra, and right now it is in my possession; how can Prince Kang present it to the Emperor? This time that Ol’ Kang will be a deep trouble.”

Kangxi continued, “The Plain Blue Banner’s Banner Commander Fu Deng is still young. Just now I asked him, he said that his predecessor, the Banner Commander Jia Kun died during the assault of Yunnan; the funeral arrangement was taken over by Wu Sangui. What Wu Sangui handed over to him was an official seal, several army banners, and several tens of thousands taels of silver. Other than that, there was nothing else.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The sutra must be embezzled by Wu Sangui.”

“That’s right,” Kangxi said, “For that reason, when you get to Wu Sangui’s mansion, carefully investigate this matter, think of a way to get the sutra. That servant Wu Sangui is very crafty, you must never let him know the inside story.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant will act according to the situation, will attempt to swindle him to come out.”

Kangxi knitted his brows, he paced back and forth in the Upper Study Room. “The Banner Commander of the Bordered Blue Banner, Eshuokeha is a big muddled egg, I told him to present the sutra to me, unexpectedly he said that it disappeared a few years ago. I dispatched Imperial Bodyguards to his home to search, no trace. I have already sent him to Tian Lao [lit. heaven prison], and have the people interrogate and torture him well. I want to know whether it was really stolen or did he hide it and unwilling to turn it in.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Perhaps the old wh0re sent someone to embezzle it; I wonder if it was seized by force or was stolen in secret.” He thought, “I am not slandering the old wh0re; the person who seized it by force or stole it in secret was most likely the short winter melon.” He added, “Supposing these six copies were obtained by the old wh0re, when all is said and done, where are they?” As soon as he said that, he felt a slight remorse, “I said it wrong,” he mused, “I suffer too much losses. I said it was the old wh0re who obtained the six copies of the sutra, while the one who has six copies of the sutra is actually Wei Xiaobao. Won’t that mean I am the old wh0re?”

Kangxi said, “Actually, what is the old wh0re’s background? At this moment we do not have any clue. She managed this important matter, there must be someone she conspired with. After she obtained the sutra, she must have smuggled it out of the Palace one by one. I am afraid it will be extremely difficult to recover all those six copies of sutra. Fortunately the Empress Dowager said that to find the Great Qing’s Dragon Vein location, one must have all eight copies in one’s possession. Even if someone obtained seven copies, as long as one copy is lacking, all seven will be useless. We only have to have the two copies in Prince Kang and Wu Sangui’s hands and destroy them, and then there will be peace and security without any trouble. We do not want to find the Dragon Vein; as long as nobody else finds it, that will be enough. It’s just that I lost the sutra Fu Huang bestowed to me; if henceforth I cannot find it back, I am really unfilial. Humph, Princess Jianning, that little … little …”

Kangxi could not finish his cursing, in his heart Wei Xiaobao was finishing it for him, “Little wh0re!”

Right this moment, however, in his heart Kangxi was recalling the admonition given by Shunzhi in the meditation room at the Jing’e Temple of Mount Wutai: “My son, you are astute and competent, you cherish common people; you are a much stronger emperor than I was. There is a map hidden in those eight copies of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’, it’s a map to an enormous hidden treasure. When our Eight Banners’ troops entered the pass, they plundered gold, silver, money and valuables everywhere they went in the Central Plains, and hid everything in this treasure trove. The Eight Banners have equal share on this treasure trove; therefore, the map was divided into eight parts, and were distributed to the Eight Banners, so that no single banner can keep everything for themselves. The Han people inside the pass is a hundred times more numerous than us, Manchu people; if they rose up in rebellion simultaneously, we are absolutely unable to suppress it. At that time, we have no choice but to return outside the pass, open up the treasure-trove, divide the treasure equally among the Eight Banners, and henceforth we won’t have to worry not to have enough food and warm clothes for the next several years.”

Kangxi recalled that at that time his father emperor asked Wei Xiaobao to bring back these words: ‘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.’ He also heard Shunzhi saying, ‘That our Manchurian Qing is able to conquer the land under heaven, it is solely by the Will of Heaven; in this matter, we are really lucky. We cannot harbor the thought that we will stay in the Central Plains for a long time; we must not let Manchu people destroy everything inside the Pass, because then a single horse will not be able to go beyond the Pass.”

With his mouth Kangxi repeatedly say ‘yes’, but in his heart he was thinking otherwise, “The great undertaking of our Great Qing in the Central Plains is getting more and more stable. From now on we ought to open up new territory and expand our lands, establishing a foundation that won’t pull out in ten thousand ages; why would we need to prepare a fallback plan? As soon as we have a fallback, it would only bring disaster. Father has left home, his heart is contented, he is standing aloof from worldly affair, no wonder he has that kind of thought.”

As expected, his father continued, “However, the Regent instructed all Banner Commanders: the fact that there is an enormous treasure buried outside the Pass must never be revealed. Otherwise, if the Manchurian kings, dukes and soldiers knew that there is a fallback plan, when the Han people revolt, they won’t be willing to risk their lives in fighting, and then our great undertaking will fail. For this reason, when the Banner Commanders pass on the sutras to the next generation, they can only say that the sutras hide a great secret concerning the Manchurian Qing’s Dragon Vein, that if the Dragon Vein is dug and broken, all the Manchurian people will die without a burial site. Hence, first, the later generation of the Eight Banners won’t get greedy and sneakily dig the treasure; second, if there is anybody trying to dig the treasure, the Eight Banners would rise together to attack, to do their utmost to stop it. Only the lord of the country one person is allowed to know the real secret.”

Thinking back about the past conversation, he had to admit, “The Regent indeed had great skill and strategy, his foresight is very true.” Casting a glance toward Wei Xiaobao, he thought, “Although Xiao Guizi is loyal, I can only tell him about the Dragon Vein, I cannot say anything about the treasure. Someday this boy will grow, there is no guarantee that he won’t be greedy. The Empress Dowager told me yesterday, when Fu Huang made up his mind to leave home, he entrusted this great secret to the Empress Dowager, telling her to wait for me to grow up, and then pass on this secret to me. The Empress Dowager was willing to bear humiliation to preserve her life was precisely for this reason. She did not know that I have already gone to Mount Wutai to see Fu Huang. But it was fortunate this way, the Empress Dowager was not killed by the old wh0re.”

Seeing Kangxi pacing back and forth, deep in thought, Wei Xiaobao suddenly had an idea, “Your Majesty,” he said, “If the old wh0re was sent by Wu Sangui to infiltrate the Palace, that means he … he has seven copies of sutra in his hand.”

Kangxi was startled; thinking that it was a great possibility. “Send in the Imperial Clothing Supervisor!” he called out.

After a while, an old eunuch entered the Study Room and kowtowed; he was the eunuch manager [orig. Zongguan] of the Imperial Clothing Supervisors. Kangxi asked, “Have you found out?”

The eunuch replied, “Reporting to Your Majesty: your servant has examined it carefully, the material of that monk robe was weaved in Beijing.”

“Hmm,” Kangxi mumbled. Wei Xiaobao understood, “The Emperor wants to know the short winter melon’s origin. The material of his clothing was manufactured in Beijing, so what? He did not find anything.”

The eunuch continued, “However, the man’s undergarment was made of Liaodong Peninsula’s cocoon silk, it was the product of Jinzhou [prefecture, Liaoning province] region.”

Kangxi’s countenance lit up; he nodded and said, “Dismissed.” The eunuch kowtowed and withdrew.

Kangxi said, “Perhaps you are right, this short winter melon may have some connection with Wu Sangui.”

“Your servant does not understand,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Kangxi explained, “Formerly Wu Sangui was guarding Shanhai Pass, Jinzhou was his territory. Perhaps this short winter melon was his former subordinate.”

“Exactly!” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “Your Majesty is brilliant, your premonition is definitely correct.”

Kangxi muttered to himself, “If the old wh0re returned to Yunnan, the danger of your trip may increase by one part. You must bring more Imperial Bodyguards, plus three thousand Valiant Cavalry sergeants.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty, please set your heart at ease. It would be best if your servant can catch the old wh0re and the short winter melon, we can make mincemeat of them and thus venting the Empress Dowager’s anger.”

Kangxi patted Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder; he smiled and said, “If you can render this great service, and help the Empress Dowager venting her anger, hey, hey, your age is young, your official position is big, you are going to make things difficult for me. However, we are the young emperor, the young high-ranking minister, a couple of young people managed to accomplish big matters; we let those bunch of old officials be intimidated and stupefied. It’s very amusing.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Although Your Majesty is young, your wisdom and foresight has already made that bunch of old ‘things’ full of admiration in their hearts. After you deal with Wu Sangui, it will be ‘before there is no such thing, after there is no one of ancient times’ [qian wu lai zhe, hou wu gu ren].”

Kangxi burst out laughing; “Damn it,” he said, “It’s ‘no one precedes, no one follows’ [qian wu gu ren, hou wu lai zhe]. You, this fellow, is clever and quick-witted, but without learning or skills, and not willing to study.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “Yes, yes,” he said, “When your servant has some spare time, I will study well for a few days.”

Actually, Wei Xiaobao’s uncouth and illiteracy was what made Kangxi like him more. If Kangxi wanted literate and highly educated chamberlains by his side, he could have as many as he wanted. Day in and day out he heard a lot of good poems, classical quotations and Confucius teachings. Only when talking street talk and day-to-day speech with Wei Xiaobao did he really feel carefree.

Wei Xiaobao withdrew from Kangxi presence. He had just went out of the Upper Study Room when an Imperial Bodyguard came up to him, paid him respect, and said in a low voice, “Wei Fu Zongguan [deputy chief], Prince Kang wishes to see you; he was wondering if Wei Fu Zongguan have spare time.”

“Where is Wangye?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The Imperial Bodyguard replied, “Wangye is waiting for your reply at the Imperial Bodyguard room.”

“Has he come personally?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Yes, yes,” the Imperial Bodyguard replied, “He said he wanted to invite Wei Fu Zongguan to drink wine and watch the opera. He was afraid that His Majesty might have some important matter for Wei Fu Zongguan to do that you, Senior, cannot spare a moment for him.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “Damn it,” he said, “What ‘Senior’ am I?”

Arriving at the Imperial Bodyguard room, he saw Prince Kang with a teacup in one hand, sitting on a chair with a blank expression on his face, wrinkled eyebrows, and deep worried look. As soon as he saw Wei Xiaobao, he hastily put down the teacup, scrambled up to pull Wei Xiaobao’s hand, and said, “Xiongdi, long time no see, I miss you like crazy.”

Wei Xiaobao was fully aware that Prince Kang was looking for him because of the lost copy of sutra, but seeing he was this warm, he was quite happy. “If Wangye needs anything, you can simply send someone to let me know,” he said, “You want to bestow me with food and wine, won’t lowly officer rush over to your place? You are giving me a lot of face like this, you actually come personally to see me.”

“I have prepared an opera troupe at home,” Prince Kang said, “I was only afraid Xiongdi does not have time. Can we go now?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Alright, since Wangye is going to bestow a dinner to me, as long as His Majesty did not send me to do anything urgent, even if my own old man died, lowly officer will have to disturb Wangye and eat your food first before doing anything else.”

The two of them left the Palace hand-in-hand, they mounted their horses and rode to the Prince’s mansion. Prince Kang entertained his guest lavishly, he treated Wei Xiaobao with utmost respect. This time there was no other guest in his mansion.

After dinner, Prince Kang invited Wei Xiaobao into his study room. He made small talks, praising Wei Xiaobao about being the Emperor’s proxy at the Shaolin Temple and amassing countless achievements and virtue, with good result; he also praised him as a young man, but had achieved the Deputy Chief position of the Imperial Bodyguards and Commander position of the Valiant Cavalry Brigade; his future prospect was really unlimited. Wei Xiaobao responded by some humble talk, saying that in the future he would rely heavily on the Prince’s support and guidance.

Prince Kang sighed. “Xiongdi,” he said, “You and I are family, I don’t need to conceal anything from you: your Laoge [old older brother] is facing an imminent catastrophe; I am afraid my life, as well as my family’s, will be difficult to protect.”

Wei Xiaobao pretended to be greatly astonished. “Wangye is of royal family, a Great Beilei [see note 15 chapter 13] of the Virtuous Dynasty, the Tie Maozi Wang[3], the person His Majesty put in an important position as someone he could trust; what kind of imminent catastrophe might you be facing?”

Xiongdi,” Prince Kang said, “You did not know. When we, Manchurian Qing entered the Pass, the Banner Commander of each Banner was bestowed a Buddhist sutra by the Late Emperor. I am the Banner Commander of the Plain Red Banner, hence I was also entrusted with this gift. Today His Majesty summoned me, asking me to present the sutra the Late Emperor bestowed to me. But … but my copy of sutra, somehow, unexpectedly … unexpectedly it is stolen …”

Wei Xiaobao’s entire face looked astonished. “That’s really strange!” he said, “Stealing gold and silver, I can understand. But stealing sutra? What good does it have? Is the sutra made of gold? Or perhaps fully inlaid with jade, pearls and precious stones, so that it is extremely valuable?”

“It’s not that,” Prince Kang said, “It is only a common sutra. But I was not able to safeguard the item that was bestowed to me by the Late Emperor, it is really disrespectful. His Majesty suddenly wanted me to present it to him, I am afraid he already knew that I lost this sutra and wanted to investigate this matter. Xiongdi, please help me.” While saying that, he stood up and bowed with cupped fist to Wei Xiaobao.

Wei Xiaobao hastily returned the propriety; he said, “Wangye is too polite, don’t you think Xiaoren deserve it?”

With a distressed look Prince Kang said, “Xiongdi, if you can’t find a way to help me, I will have no choice but to kill myself.”

Wangye is considering this matter too heavily,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Tomorrow I will present a memorial to let His Majesty know about this matter, at most he will punish Wangye by several months of official salary, or perhaps rebuke you openly in front of the other officials; how can there be any life and death situation?”

Prince Kang shook his head and said, “If only I can keep my life, I am willing to forego my royal status as a prince; even if I have to be a commoner, I will thank the Heaven and thank the Earth, and will be perfectly contented. Because of losing the sutra bestowed to him, the Banner Commander of the Bordered Blue Banner Eshuokeha was put into Tian Lao yesterday. I heard he received a lot of beating. His Majesty sent people to interrogate him severely, to find out where did that copy of sutra go?” While saying that, his facial muscle twitched, apparently he was imagining the miserable and ruthless torture he would experience if he was sent to Tian Lao.

Wei Xiaobao knitted his brows, “The sutra is that important?” he asked, “Ah, right, that day when I searched and seized Oboi’s home, the Empress Dowager ordered me to find two books in his house, some thirty-two-chapter sutra, forty-three-chapter sutra, or something like that. Is that the thing that Wangye lost?”

The worried look on Prince Kang’s face grew deeper. “Exactly,” he said, “It’s the ‘Forty-two-Chapter Sutra’. When you searched and seized Oboi’s house, the Empress Dowager did not want anything else, but she only wanted that sutra, thus it is clear that that thing is extremely important. Did Xiongdi find it?”

“I did,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “That servant Oboi had the sutra in his bedroom, in a hole on the floor; it took quite some efforts for me to find it. What’s so strange about this sutra anyway? I can go to any monk’s temple and ask for eight or ten copies for you, then you can present it to His Majesty.”

Prince Kang said, “The Late Emperor personally bestowed the sutra, it is totally different than ordinary Buddhist scripture from the monk’s temple; I can’t pass it for the real thing.”

With a solemn expression Wei Xiaobao said, “If that’s the case, then it’s a bit troublesome. I wonder what it is that Wangye wanted me to do?”

Prince Kang shook his head and said, “I really cannot say it; how … how can I ask Xiongdi to so something that will disadvantage our lord?”

Wei Xiaobao struck his chest, “Wangye might as well say it,” he said, “You consider Wei Xiaobao as your friend, I will deliver this little life for you; it is yi qi. Very well, you present a memorial to His Majesty, just tell him that I, Wei Xiaobao borrowed the sutra to have a look, but I was not careful and I lost it. These last few days His Majesty liked me very much, at most he will have me flogged, he might not necessarily want to chop my head.”

“Thank you very much for Xiongdi’s good intention,” Prince Kang said, “But I’m afraid it won’t work. His Majesty can’t possibly believe that Xiongdi would want to borrow the sutra to have a look.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “Although I have been a monk once, but I don’t know any character even if it is as big as a watermelon. I am afraid His Majesty won’t believe that I borrowed the sutra to read it. We must find another way.”

Prince Kang said, “I was thinking of asking Xiongdi … of asking Xiongdi … asking Xiongdi …” He said ‘asking Xiongdi’ three times but did not finish; he only looked at Wei Xiaobao, watching for his reaction.

Wangye,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Please don’t feel awkward. Your Xiongdi’s little life …” His left hand grabbed his own pigtail, his right hand moved across his own neck, and then with both hands he made a gesture as if he lifted his own head and presented it to the Prince. He continued, “… has already been given to you. As long as it’s not something that will endanger His Majesty, I will obey whatever you wish to tell me.”

Prince Kang was greatly delighted. “Xiongdi upholds yi qi in such a high regard like this, ay, your Gege don’t have anything much to say. I only wish to ask Xiongdi to go to either the Empress Dowager or His Majesty, and steal one sutra. I will prepare several dozen of master artisans to wait in here. We will start working that very night to make a copy of the sutra, so that I can pass through this crisis.”

“Can you make an exact replica?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Prince Kang busily said, “We can, we can. We simply have to make an exact replica, I guarantee it won’t have any flaw. After we finish making the copy, Xiongdi may immediately return the original, we won’t dare to make the slightest damage to it.”

Actually, he was fully aware that hastily making a copy of the sutra without any flaw was extremely difficult; he was thinking of wrapping both the real and fake sutras, and have Wei Xiaobao return the fake one to the original place, while he presented the real one to the Emperor. He presumed Wei Xiaobao did not know anything, and would have a hard time distinguishing the real from the fake. If Wei Xiaobao did not find out about it later, that would be an extraordinary good luck; however, even if he did, Prince Kang would not be implicated. It’s just that at this moment he could not openly explain his intention to Wei Xiaobao.

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “The matter should not be delayed, I am going to find a way to steal it. Wangye should just wait quietly in your mansion for my news.”

Prince Kang thanked him profusely [orig. thousand kindness ten thousand thanks], and personally walked him out of the gate. He also warned Wei Xiaobao repeatedly to be careful.

Wei Xiaobao returned to his room. He pieced together the several dozen of sheepskin fragments under the lantern; thinking that since he had obtained seven out of the eight copies of sutra, even if there would be some empty spaces, he would be able to assemble most of it. Who would have thought that after spending more than an hour he could not even locate the corners of the map? By nature he did not have the patience, and was easily bored. Thereupon he put the several hundred small pieces in a piece of wax paper and wrapped it in a layer of oilcloth.

After putting the bundle inside his inner pocket, he thought, “Old Kang is the Banner Commander of the Plain Red Banner, naturally his copy of sutra has red envelope. Tomorrow I’ll simply give him a copy with different color.”

Early morning the next day, he sewed back the outer sheepskin cover of the Bordered White Banner’s sutra, pasted the envelope, and put it in his pocket. He then went straight to Prince Kang’s mansion.

As soon as Prince Kang heard about his arrival, he hurriedly came out to greet him. Holding Wei Xiaobao’s hands, he repeatedly asked, “How was it? How was it?”

Wei Xiaobao frowned with concerned look on his face; he shook his head. Prince Kang’s heart immediately sank. “It is indeed a very difficult matter, today we cannot succeed …”

“I have it,” Wei Xiaobao said in a low voice, “I am only afraid that you won’t be able to make a replica within ten days or half a month.”

Prince Kang was ecstatic; he jumped up suddenly, gave Wei Xiaobao a big hug, and carried him into his study room. Seeing their Wangye was acting like that, the numerous attendants and family warriors could not help but were secretly amused.

Wei Xiaobao took the sutra out of his pocket and presented it with both hands, asking, “Is it this thing?”

Prince Kang grabbed the sutra tightly, his body was shaking all over; opening the envelope, he looked inside and said, “Precisely, precisely. This is the sutra bestowed to the Bordered White Banner, hence it has white envelope with red border around it. We must start working on the carved printing block immediately. Xiongdi, can you think of some excuse so that I can stall for a few more days. Um, how about I pretend to fall down from the horse, with head broken and blood flowing, and remain unconscious? When the replica is finished, I will kowtow in salute to His Majesty. Do you think it’s good?”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “His Majesty is extremely brilliant; you fell and knocked down dramatically like that, he would be suspicious instead. You present a ‘western shellfish goods’ [not sure what it means, 西贝货儿] to the Emperor, His Majesty examines it carefully, your trickery will be exposed at once. The copy of sutra that you lost, other than the color of the cover, what else is different?”

Prince Kang said, “Other than the cover, everything else is identical.”

“That’s easy,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Just replace the cover of this book, today you can present it to the Emperor.”

Prince Kang was startled and delighted at the same time. With a trembling voice he said, “This … this … book is missing from the Palace, if it is being investigated, I am afraid Xiongdi will be implicated.”

“I quietly stole it from the Upper Study Room last night,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Nobody saw it. Even if someone did, humph, humph, that puppy will not dare to say anything. I will take this responsibility from you.”

Prince Kang was very grateful; he could not stop his eyes from turning wet. Holding Wei Xiaobao’s hands tight, he could no longer say anything.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the Palace. He wanted to take two more sutra and go to see Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan. He thought that the Plain Yellow Banner’s sutra was soaked in poisoned water and was snatched away by Sangjie Lama; the Bordered White Banner’s sutra he gave away to Prince Kang, he still had five sutras left. He seized the Bordered Yellow and Plain White, two copies, from Oboi’s house. The Bordered Blue he acquired from the old wh0re. The old wh0re had seen all three copies. By now the old wh0re must be with Cult Leader Hong, hence if he presented these three copies, it would not be too good. He snatched away the Plain Red Banner’s copy from Prince Kang’s mansion. The Bordered Red Banner’s copy was from Rui Dong’s body. Although the old wh0re knew the origin of this copy, there was no harm in it. Therefore, he decided to give Fat and Lu, two people, the Plain Red and the Bordered Red copies.

Fat and Lu, two people had already been waiting eagerly for him. Seeing him suddenly appeared with two copies of the sutra their Cult Leader wanted, they were overjoyed. Wei Xiaobao said, “Mr. Lu, take these sutras and present them to Jiaozhu and Madame. Tell them that I heard that Wu Sangui knows the whereabouts of the other six. I, the White Dragon Envoy will handle this matter for Jiaozhu and Madame. I will be loyal and devoted, a hundred thousand deaths, a million deaths will not prevent me; thereupon I will go to Yunnan, I will go through water and tread on fire to find those sutras. Fat Zunzhe, I want you to come with me to set up more great merit for Jiaozhu.”

Fat and Lu, two people happily agreed. Fat Toutuo said, “Lu Xiong, the White Dragon Envoy rendered this great service, the two of us can also enjoy the benefit. If Jiaozhu bestows us the leopard embryo tendon-altering pill’s antidote, you must immediately send someone you trusted to deliver it to Yunnan.”

“Yes, yes,” Lu Gaoxuan repeatedly complied; he thought, “The White Dragon Envoy is so young, yet he is already established like this. Someday the great position of Cult Leader will definitely be his. If I don’t seize the opportunity to curry favor with him right now, what am I waiting for?” Therefore, he said, “This antidote is indeed not a small matter, subordinate will not feel at ease to hand it over to other people, I will definitely deliver it personally. White Dragon Envoy, subordinate is loyal and devoted to you. I will make sure that you take the antidote first before subordinate and Pang Xiong [Fat brother] take it. Otherwise, even is the leopard embryo tendon-altering pill flares up, and subordinate has the antidote in my hand, I would rather die than take it first.”
Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Very good, very good, you are so loyal and devoted to me, I won’t forget it.”

Lu Gaoxuan was delighted; he bowed and said, “Subordinate respectfully wish White Dragon Envoy a life of ease and comfort forever, and life as long as Mount Nan.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “My position is only a level below Jiaozhu, a life of ease and comfort forever, and life as long as Mount Nan does not sound too bad.”

He returned to the Palace. Before long, a eunuch announced the Imperial Decree: conferring Wei Xiaobao the status as first class viscount, assigning him as the marriage envoy to escort Princess Jianning to visit Yunnan, to be bestowed in marriage to Ping Xi Wang Heir Apparent Wu Yingxiong. Wu Yingxiong was conferred the title Third Class Jing Qi Ni Ha Pan[4] plus the concurrent titles of Shao Bao [young protector/guardian] and Taizitaibao [tutor to the crown prince].

Wei Xiaobao took some money and gave it to the eunuch. He mused, “That fellow Wu Yingxiong has it too easy, he is going to marry a good-looking princess and promoted as high-ranking official. The mister storyteller said that Jing Zhong Yue Chuan, Yue Fei, Yue Yeye [Grandpa Yue] was also conferred the title Shao Bao. How can you, stinky fellow Wu Yingxiong, be compared to Yue Yeye?” But then he thought, “His Majesty bestowed him a high-ranking official position, so that Wu Sangui won’t suspect anything. Sooner or later his head will be chopped. Wasn’t Oboi also a high-ranking official with the title Shao Bao? Right, right, Yue Fei, Yue Shao Bao was also killed by the emperor. Hence it is obvious that those with the title Shao Bao is going to be beheaded. Next time His Majesty wants to confer the title Shao Bao to me, I must desperately decline it.”

Immediately he went to have an audience with the Emperor to express his gratitude. “Your Majesty,” he said, “This time your servant is going to Yunnan on a mission for you, if you have some ‘brocade pouch of miracle plans’, why don’t you tell me right now?”

Kangxi burst out in laughter. “Xiao Guizi does not know how to read,” he said, “A brocade pouch of miracle plans will be sealed in a brocade pouch; mysteries of heaven must not be revealed, how can I tell you right now?”

“So be it,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Too bad I am illiterate, even if Your Majesty has a brocade pouch of miracle plans, it must be drawn into pictures. Your Majesty, last time you ordered me to Qing Liang Temple to be the head administrator, the drawings in the Imperial Decree were very beautiful.”

Kangxi laughed; he said, “Since ancient times, I am afraid only the two of us, a ruler and his minister, who use pictures in place of letters in an imperial decree.”

“This is called ‘no one precedes, no one follows’,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Kangxi laughed and said, “Very good, you remember it well. I taught you idioms[5], and you remember.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The ones Your Majesty taught me, I always remember. The ones other people taught me, some I can remember, some others I can’t always remember; I don’t know why. Just like the saying ‘once a promise is made, some horses cannot chase’. What kind of horses, I never remember.”

Right this moment, a eunuch reported the arrival of Princess Jianning who came to say goodbye. Kangxi looked at Wei Xiaobao, telling him to bring the Princess in.

As soon as Princess Jianning entered the Study Room, she threw herself in Kangxi’s bosom, while crying loudly. “Huangdi Gege,” she said, “I … I … I don’t want to be married in Yunnan, please retract your Imperial Edict.”

Originally, ever since they were little, Kangxi had always liked this younger sister; however, after he found out about the fake Empress Dowager’s evil conducts, he started to loathe and detest this younger sister. By marrying her to Wu Yingxiong, his real intention was to frame her; however, seeing her pitiful cry this moment, he could not bear not to feel pity for her. It’s just that things had come this far, he could not retract his Imperial Decree. Patting her shoulder gently, he said in tender voice, “When a girl grow up, she must be married. The husband I pick for you is really not bad. Xiao Guizi, tell Princess, that Wu Yingxiong is really handsome, isn’t he?”

“Absolutely,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Princess, the prince consort is a well-known handsome man in Yunnan province. Last time he came to Beijing, there were dozens of young women fighting outside the gate. The fight claimed three lives.”

Princess Jianning was startled. “What happened?” she asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Ping Xi Wang Heir Apparent is very handsome, he is famous throughout the world. When he entered the Capital that day, thousands and tens of thousands young women and married women throughout Beijing’s city wall were crowding the gate to have a look at him. Several dozens of young women, you squeezed me, I crowded you, they ended up fighting with each other.”

Princess Jianning laughed through her tears. “Pei,” she spat, “You lied! How can there be such matter?”

“Princess,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Do you know why His Majesty is sending me to escort you to Yunnan? And told me to bring a lot of Imperial Bodyguards, to give you adequate protection?”

The Princess replied, “It is because Huangdi Gege loves me.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “This is His Majesty’s wisdom and foresight, his deep plans and distant thoughts. Just think: the prince consort is that handsome, I don’t know how many young women want to marry him and be his wife. And now all of a sudden he will be yours, I don’t know how many vinegar vats, vinegar jugs, vinegar pots, vinegar bottles are overturned in the world. Some young women are bound to know martial arts, they might give you some trouble. Although Princess herself has an excellent martial art skill, the few are no match for the many after all; isn’t that right? For this reason, your servant is escorting Princess to the south this time, the load on my shoulder is indeed not light. Dealing with an army of sweet and sour women, just think, how difficult is that?”

Princess Jianning laughed. “What sweet and sour army of women?” she asked, “You are really good at talking nonsense.” Right now her smiling face looked like flower, while several drops of sparkling tears were still hanging on her cheeks. She turned to Kangxi and said, “Huangdi Gege, after Xiao Guizi escorting me to Yunnan, let him accompany me talking to relieve my boredom, otherwise I don’t want to go.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “Alright, alright, let him accompany you for some time, until you get used to the situation there, and then we’ll talk about it.”

Princess Jianning said, “I want him to accompany me forever, I don’t want him to go back.”

Wei Xiaobao stuck out his tongue. “That won’t do,” he said, “If your Fuma Ye [master emperor’s son-in-law] loathes seeing me, he might get angry and chop me with a saber. A headless Xiao Guizi won’t be able to accompany Princess talking to relieve your boredom.”

Princess Jianning’s little mouth flattened. “Humph,” she said, “He dares?”

Kangxi said, “Xiao Guizi, before you go to Yunnan, I have something else I want you investigate. In this Upper Study Room I have lost a Buddhist sutra; I just felt a bit strange, even in here unexpectedly someone dares to steal things!” When he said the last sentence, his tone turned rather stern.

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao complied.

Huangdi Gege,” Princess Jianning interrupted, “It was me who took your Buddhist sutra. Tee hee …”

“Why did you take it?” Kangxi asked, “Why didn’t you ask me first?”

The Princess laughed and said, “Empress Dowager ordered me to take it. Empress Dowager said, every day the Emperor must deal with thousands and hundreds military and country’s affairs, if I have to ask you for a small matter like a Buddhist sutra, it be too troublesome for you.”

“Humph,” Kangxi snorted, but did not say anything.

Princess Jianning stuck out her tongue. “Huangdi Gege,” she pleaded, “Please don’t be mad at me for this matter. Later when I go to Yunnan, if I want to come here to take your book again, I won’t be able to do it.”

Hearing her pitiful pleading, Kangxi’s heart softened immediately. He said tenderly, “When you go to Yunnan, if you need anything, just let me know.” After a short pause, he continued, “What can possibly be missing in Ping Xi Wang mansion?”

Wei Xiaobao went out of the Upper Study Room, a crowd of Imperial Bodyguards and eunuchs came to congratulate him. Each Imperial Bodyguard was hoping to be brought along to Yunnan; Wu Sangui’s riches could be compared to a country, it was a cushy job, there was a nine out of ten chance that they would make some money there.

In the middle of the evening, Prince Kang went into the Palace to see Wei Xiaobao again. Jubilantly he said, “Xiongdi, the sutra has been presented to the Emperor. His Majesty is happy, he even praised me several times.”

“That’s very good,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Prince Kang said, “You won’t leave for Yunnan in several days, today Gege will play host; first, to congratulate you of being conferred the title viscount, second, to give you a farewell dinner.” Taking along Wei Xiaobao’s hand, they left the Palace. But this time they did not go to Prince Kang’s mansion, instead, they went to an exquisite high-ranking official residence in Dongcheng district [lit. eastern city]. Although this house was not as grand as Prince Kang’s mansion, the engraved building, the painted beam, the flower, trees and mountain rocks, all the arrangement was very luxurious.

Xiongdi,” Prince Kang said, “What do you think of this house?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “Very good, very beautiful!” he said, “Wangye really knows how to live a happy and prosperous life. Is this the Xiao Fujin’s [fujin is Manchurian word for wife] residence?”

Prince Kang laughed but did not answer his question; he invited Wei Xiaobao to enter the main hall. Many nobilities and high-ranking officials had already waited in the hall. Songgotu, Dolong, and the others came out to greet him. The word ‘Congratulations’ did not stop flowing into his ears. Prince Kang said with a laugh, “Today we are congratulating Wei Daren for getting a promotion; according to reason, he should sit in the place of honor. However, since he is the host, he will have to sit in the host’s seat.”

Wei Xiaobao was surprised. “What host?” he asked.

Prince Kang laughed and said, “This house is Wei Daren’s Viscount Mansion. Your Gege has prepared it for you. The carriage driver, cook, servants, maids, we have them all. Only it was such in a hurry that I am afraid it won’t be completely satisfactory. If Xiongdi wants anything, please feel free to send someone to my home to get it.”

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised; he did help Prince Kang out of a big trouble, but it did not cost him a single wen, did not pose him the slightest risk. Although he was aware that the Prince would definitely thank him with a gift, he had never imagined that he would receive such a heavy present. Momentarily he was speechless; he could only stammered, “This … this … how can I receive it?”

Prince Kang squeezed his hand and said, “The two of us have friendship that surpasses life, why should you still distinguish between what’s yours and what’s mine? Come, come, come, everybody must drink. Whoever is not drunk cannot go home today.”

The banquet continued with wine, everyone enjoyed themselves to the full before the party broke up. Wei Xiaobao was now a viscount, everybody also knew that he disguised himself as a eunuch under imperial orders; hence he could not comeback to live at the Palace anymore.

That night he slept in a splendid, magnificent and luxurious bedroom. Looking around, he noticed that if not golden utensils or silverwares, then it must be silk or satin. He suddenly thought, “His granny, if I open a brothel in this Viscount Mansion, ten Lovely Spring Courtyards cannot compare.”

Early in the morning the next day, he went to see Jiu Nan, to report that the Emperor was sending him to Yunnan to escort the bride.

“Very good,” Jiu Nan said, “I will accompany you.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he turned his head to look at Ah Ke. Jiu Nan said, “Ah Ke is coming with us.”

Wei Xiaobao was even more overjoyed at the news. Even if the Emperor conferred him a hundred viscount titles, it still could not compare to this one good news.

After taking his leave from Jiu Nan, he went to Tian Di Hui’s new temporary lodging. Chen Jinnan hesitatingly said, “The Tatar Emperor favors Wu Sangui like that, we can’t pull him down for the time being. But this is such a golden opportunity. Xiaobao, if the traitor Wu Sangui does not revolt, we have to provoke him to rebel. If the provocation does not work, we have to frame him as a rebel. I should have gone with you, but when Er Gongzi and Feng Xifan are back in Taiwan, they will surely slander me in front of Wangye. I expect Wangye will send someone to inquire of Tian Di Hui’s affair. I must stay here to report everything according to the facts. You may take all brothers here to Yunnan.”

“I am afraid that fellow Feng Xifan will return to harm Shifu,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Better have the brothers here to help Shifu, otherwise disciple won’t feel relieved.”

Chen Jinnan patted his shoulder; he said warmly, “It’s rare to have someone as filial as you are. Although Feng Xifan’s martial art is strong, your Shifu may not necessarily be weaker than he is. Last time he simply attacked us when we expected it the least, he hid behind the door and launched a sneak attack; hence, he managed to injure my right arm first. Next time we meet, he won’t necessarily be able to occupy the advantageous position. Presently, killing Wu Sangui is the most important matter, we must try to accomplish it at all costs. I only hope that the matter in here will be resolved as quickly as possible, so that I can catch up with you to Yunnan. We can’t let the Mu Family have a head start.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said, “If we let the Mu Family make their move first, later on Tian Di Hui will have to obey their command; that won’t be too good.”

Chen Jinnan reached out to check Wei Xiaobao’s pulse, he also ordered him to pull out his tongue. He frowned and said, “How can the poison you contacted change its nature? Fortunately it won’t flare-up for the time being. You must not train the internal energy cultivation I taught you, so that the poison will not enter your channels.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he said in his heart, “You told me not to train martial art, you said so yourself; you cannot blame me in the future.” He also thought, “This leopard embryo tendon-altering pill is really fierce, even Shifu does not know what it is. I only hope Mr. Lu will deliver the antidote soon.”

Several days later, everything was prepared. Wei Xiaobao would lead the Imperial Bodyguards, the Valiant Cavalry Brigade, Tian Di Hui warriors, and Divine Dragon Cult’s Fat Toutuo. He took his leave from Kangxi and the Empress Dowager, to escort Princess Jianning to Yunnan. Jiu Nan and Ah Ke dressed up as palace maids, they mingled with the other palace maids. Tian Di Hui warriors and Fat Toutuo were also disguised as Wei Xiaobao’s personal attendants, they all wore Valian Cavalry Sergeants uniform.

Wei Xiaobao sat astride the Jade Buckskin horse Prince Kang gave him, with retinue in front and behind him, immensely proud of himself as he set off to the south. He had already sent a messenger to Henan, to tell Shuang’er to head south. He was hoping that they could meet en route. This moment everything was fine except for one small imperfection, namely he missed this gentle, soft, considerate and smart servant girl by his side.

Along the way, all government officials spared no effort in providing extravagant welcome; they were all trying their best to curry this high-ranking official, the marriage envoy’s favor, in short, they licked his behind completely. Wei Xiaobao was bursting with joy, ever since he went on mission out of the Palace, he had never experienced anything as comfortable as this time.

“The old wh0re is very disappointing,” he mused, “Why did she give birth to only one daughter? If she had seventeen, eighteen daughters, laozi will specialize in being marriage envoy, and would escort them all one by one; that way I would eat, drink, and be marry for the rest of my life. Having gold, silver and jewels to splurge sure beats everything else.”

One day they arrived at Zhengzhou [prefecture level city and capital of Henan province in central China]. The prefectural magistrate welcomed the delegation and had them take a rest and lodge for the night at the garden of a local wealthy elite resident. After the grand welcoming feast, Princess Jianning sent for Wei Xiaobao, summoning him to come and chat with her.

Ever since they left Beijing, it had always been like this. Wei Xiaobao was afraid the Princess would beat him up, each time he always had Qian Laoben and Gao Yanchao to accompany him by his side. No matter how earnest the Princess asked him, or threatened him in anger, he simply would not send these two people away to let him alone with her face-to-face.

As usual, after dinner that day, the Princess summoned Wei Xiaobao. The three of them came to the small hall in front of the Princess’ bedroom. The Princess wanted Wei Xiaobao to sit, while Qian and Gao, two people stood behind him. It was in the middle of a very hot summer weather, the Princess was wearing a thin gauze short jacket with open slits in place of sleeves. With circular fans in their hands, the two palace maids behind her were fanning her. The Princess’ face was flushed. There were tiny beads of sweats above her lips, making her look very tender and beautiful.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Although the Princess is not as good-looking as my wife, she could still be considered first class attractive woman. That fellow Wu Yingxiong can marry her, his luck in love is indeed not shallow.”

The Princess cocked her head and smiled. “Xiao Guizi,” she said, “Are you hot?”

“Not bad,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

“If you are not hot,” the Princess said, “Why is your forehead sweating a lot?” Wei Xiaobao laughed while using his sleeve to wipe the sweat.

A palace maid entered with a large multicolored porcelain jar in her hands, she said, “Reporting to the Princess: Prefectural Magistrate Meng respectfully presents this iced sour plum drink for the Princess to relieve the summer heat.”

The Princess happily said, “Good, get a bowl for me to taste.”

Another palace maid fetched a blue and white china bowl, poured the sour plum drink, and presented it to the Princess with both hands. The Princess took a soupspoon and drank several mouthfuls. She let out a contented sigh and said, “I could not imagine a tiny Zhengzhou prefecture like this can store ice.”

The sweet-scented osmanthus fragrance from the sour plum drink inundated the room, the ice cubes tinkled against the soupspoon, Wei Xiaobao and Qian and Gao, two people, could not stop their mouths from watering. The Princess said, “Everybody is hot, pour a bowl for each one of them.”

Wei Xiaobao and Qian and Gao, two people, expressed their gratitude. As the ice-cold sour plum drink entered their mouths, a burst of cool air seemed to penetrate their inner beings; it was an unspeakably comfortable feeling. In just a short time, the three of them drank their bowls dry.

The Princess said, “Hastening through this kind of hot weather is quite an ordeal. From tomorrow on, we will travel only forty li a day. We’ll leave early in the morning, and stop to rest as soon as the sun is up.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Princess is so considerate of your subordinates, everybody is very grateful. But I am afraid we will be delayed for quite a long time.”

The Princess laughed and said, “What are you afraid of? I am not in a hurry, why are you anxious? Let that fellow Wu Yingxiong wait, it’ll be good for him.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled. He was just about to reply when suddenly he felt his head was spinning, his body swayed. “What is it?” the Princess asked, “You got heat-stroke?”

“I am afraid … I am afraid I drank too much wine just now,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your highness, Princess, your servant wants to take my leave.”

“You drank too much wine?” the Princess said, “In that case you all have to drink another bowl of sour plum drink to wash the wine away.”

“Many … many thanks,” Wei Xiaobao said.

The palace maid poured three more bowls of sour plum drink. Qian and Gao, two people also felt their heads dizzy. They drank the plum drink in one go. Suddenly the two of them swayed and fell down to the floor. Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he saw stars dancing in front of his eyes, he only drank a mouthful of the sour plum, the rest of it splashed on his body, in a flash he lost his consciousness.

He did not know how long he had been unconscious, but while he was still in daze, he felt like heavy rain was falling on his head. He wanted to open his eyes, but another heavy rain drenched his head. A moment later, his brain started to clear up, he felt his body was ice-cold, suddenly he heard a laughter. When he opened his eyes, he saw the Princess was looking at him, giggling happily.

“Ah!” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed; realizing that he was lying on the floor, he hastily wanted to prop himself up. Who would have thought that his hands and feet were bound? He was shocked, and struggled for a moment, but unexpectedly he was unable to move a single step.

He saw that he had been moved into the Princess’ bedroom. His body was soaking wet. Suddenly he also realized that his entire clothes had been stripped clean, he was stark naked without wearing a single thread on him. He was even more scared. “What … what happened?” he called out.

Under the candlelight he only saw the Princess, one person, in the room; the palace maids, Qian and Gao, two people, were gone. He was even more shocked. “I … I …” he stammered.

“You … you … you what?” the Princess said, “You dare to be rude to me?”

“Where are they?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The Princess’ pretty face sank immediately. “I loathe to see your two attendants,” she said, “I have their heads chopped early on.”

Wei Xiaobao was not sure if she was telling the truth or was lying, but thinking that this Princess’ action was unpredictable and did not follow conventional reasoning and morals, he would not be surprised if Qian and Gao, two people, were indeed killed by her. He thought better of it and guessed that there was some trick in the sour plum drink. “Was there any knockout drug in the sour plum drink?” he asked.

The Princess giggled. “You are very smart,” she said, “Too bad it was too late.”

“The knockout drug … did you get it from the Imperial Bodyguards?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

When he released Wu Lishen and the others, he also asked the Imperial Bodyguards for some knockout drugs. Later on he used the knockout drug up to disable Sangjie and the other lamas. This time he was back in Beijing, he immediately asked for another big package from Zhang Kangnian, which he had it inside his traveling sack. ‘Dagger, treasured vest, knockout drug’ were three magic weapons the Little White Dragon Wei Xiaobao used to attack and defend himself. Usually Princess Jianning asked for martial art advice from the Imperial Bodyguards, she often chatted with them about the marvels and legends of the Jianghu; hence he would not be surprised at all if she asked for some knockout drugs from them to play with.

The Princess laughed and said, “You know everything. Yet you did not know there was some knockout drug in the sour plum drink.”

“Princess is a hundred times smarter than your servant,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Princess wants to do anything to me, you want to bind my hands and feet, your servant cannot resist at all.” While his mouth was busy talking, his mind was churning to find a way to escape.

With a cold laugh the Princess said, “Your shifty eyes keep turning around and around, what crafty idea are you thinking about?” Raising Wei Xiaobao’s own dagger, she said, “As soon as you shout one time, I am going to poke eighteen holes on your tummy. Tell me, at that time, will you be a dead eunuch, or a live one?”

Seeing the flickering cold ray of the dagger, Wei Xiaobao mused, “Dead girl, a pest, doing things in total disregard of the law and natural morality; if you casually scratch this dagger anywhere on my body, laozi will definitely die. I must scare her first so that she won’t dare to kill me, and then I’ll think of a way to escape.” Thereupon he said, “At that time, I will be neither dead eunuch nor live eunuch, but I will turn into a blood-sucking ghost, an evil zombie.”

The Princess raised her leg and kicked him heavily on his stomach. “Dead little demon,” she cursed, “You still think of scaring me?”

“Ah!” Wei Xiaobao screamed in pain. The Princess said, “I have not tread on your tummy and squeeze your intestine out; did it hurt? Hey, guess how many times I will have to tread on your tummy to squeeze your intestine out? If you guess correctly, I will let you go.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since people tied up your servant, my brain is getting dumb, I won’t be able to guess anything.”

The Princess said, “Since you won’t be able to guess, I will have to try it. One kick, two kicks, three kicks!” With each count, she raised her foot and kicked his belly.

“That won’t do, that won’t do!” Wei Xiaobao called out, “If you kick me one more time, you will squeeze out the smelly excrement out of my tummy.”

The Princess jumped in fright, and did not dare to kick anymore; she thought that it was not a big deal if she squeezed his intestine out, but if she squeezed his excrement, it would stink to high heavens, then it would not be fun anymore.

“Good Princess,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Please release me quickly, Xiao Guizi will obey your command, I will accompany you for a martial art match or a fight.”

The Princess shook her head, “I don’t like fighting,” she said, “I like to beat people!” ‘Shua!’ she drew a whip from underneath the mattress; ‘whack, whack, whack, whack’, successively she lashed the whip on Wei Xiaobao’s fully exposed skin more than a dozen times. Immediately strips of blood appeared. As soon as the Princess saw the blood, she could not help but beaming with joy; she stooped down and gently ran her fingers on his scars.

Wei Xiaobao was hurting so much that it was as if he was roasted over the open fire. “Good Princess,” he pleaded, “I have enough beating from you today, I have not offended you.”

Suddenly the Princess got angry; she kicked his nose heavily, immediately blood flowed out of his nose. “You have not offended me?” she said, “Huangdi Gege is giving me in marriage to that fellow Wu Yingxiong, it was entirely your crafty idea.”

“No, no,” Wei Xiaobao busily said, “It was His Majesty’s holy decision, it has nothing to do with me.”

“You still deny it?” the Princess angrily said, “Empress Dowager has always loved me the most, why is it that I am being given away in marriage far away in Yunnan, the Empress Dowager did not say anything? So much so that when I said goodbye, the Empress Dowager ignored me completely. She … she is my own mother, you know!” While saying that, she covered her face and cried bitterly.

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “The Empress Dowager has been swapped long ago; since the old wh0re swapped the real Empress Dowager, she hates you to the bones, naturally she ignored you completely. She did not curse you or scold you, she can be considered very polite to you. But I can’t tell you this secret.”

The Princess cried for a while, and then hatefully said, “It’s all because you are not good, it’s all because you are not good!” While saying that, she kicked randomly on Wei Xiaobao’s body.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly had a bright idea, “Princess,” he said, “You do not want to marry Wu Yingxiong, why didn’t you say so earlier? I have an idea.”

The Princess opened her eyes and said, “Liar! What idea do you have? This is Huangdi Gege’s decree, nobody can defy.”

“Nobody can defy His Majesty’s imperial decree,” Wei Xiaobao said, “But there is a fellow that even His Majesty cannot do anything to him.”

“Who’s that?” the Princess asked in surprise.

“Yanluo Wang [King of Hell]!” Wei Xiaobao said.

The Princess still did not understand. “What can Yanluo Wang do?” she asked.

“If Yanluo Wang came to help,” Wei Xiaobao started, “He could grab Wu Yingxiong away, then you can’t get married with him.”

The Princess was startled. “How can that happen so conveniently?” she asked, “How can Wu Yingxiong die just like that?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “If he does not want to see Yanluo Wang, we can send him go.”

“Are you saying we should kill him?” the Princess asked.

Wei Xiaobao shook his head. “Not killing him,” he said, “But some people die without any reason, nobody knows the cause of his death.”

The Princess stared at him for half a day, suddenly she shouted, “You tell me to murder my own husband? That won’t do! You told me that this fellow Wu Yingxiong is amazingly handsome, and that all the young women in the world want to marry him. If you kill him, I will deal with you and won’t let this matter rest.” While saying that, she raised the whip again and lashed it out on his body.

Wei Xiaobao could only scream in pain. The Princess laughed and said, “Did it hurt? The more it hurt the more fun it is! It’s just that you are screaming too loud, people outside might hear it. You don’t have a heroic spirit.”

“I am not a hero, I am a coward,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“F*ck your mother!” the Princess cursed, “Turns out you are a coward.”

This ‘golden branch, jade leaves’ belonging to the royal family would suddenly utter such a vulgar language. Wei Xiaobao could not help but was shocked. The Princess casually picked up a sock, which was actually taken from Wei Xiaobao’s own foot, and stuffed it into his mouth. Raising the whip again, she ruthlessly lashed it out on him.

After several lashes, Wei Xiaobao pretended to pass out; he rolled his eyes until only the whites were visible, and stayed still. The Princess cursed, “Little thief, you pretend to be dead? I am going to make three cuts on your belly; if you are really dead, you won’t move at all.”

Wei Xiaobao thought that he could not take the chance and test it out, hastily he turned and twisted to struggle free. The Princess laughed aloud; she raised the whip and lashed it out on his naked body again. ‘Whack, whack, slap, slap!’ the whip cracked sharp and clear.

After lashing the whip more than a dozen times, she tossed the whip down, and said with a giggle, “Zhuge Liang wants to burn the rattan-shield troops.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly anxious, “To meet with this insane woman today, laozi’s nineteen generation ancestors must have committed a lot of sin.”

He heard the Princess was muttering to herself, “The rattan-shield troop do not have rattan-shield on him, it won’t be too easy to burn, I must pour some oil on him.” Finished speaking, she turned around and walked out of the room to find some oil.

Wei Xiaobao struggled desperately, but the rope binding his hands and feet was simply too tight, how could he escape? In his anxiety, he suddenly remembered his shifu. “Laozi has bowed to take quite a few of shifu. The old turtle Hai Dafu was the first, and then Chen Zongduozhu Shifu, Hong Jiaozhu whose long-life-is-the-same-as the-heavens Shifu, Madame Hong the coquettish-fox Shifu, the Young-Emperor Shifu, Cheng Guan the old-monk-martial-nephew Shifu, Jiu Nan the good-looking-nun Shifu, but among these string of shifu, no one has taught me any really useful martial art. If laozi knew superior internal energy, I only need to lightly push the muscle of my hands and my feet, the rope will immediately break; why should I be afraid of that crafty girl burning rattan-shield troops?”

While he was fretful, frightened and anxious, and was busy blaming the gods and accusing other people, suddenly he heard someone outside the window was speaking in a low voice, “Quickly go in and save him out.” It was Jiu Nan, the good-looking-nun Shifu’s voice.

As soon as the voice entered his ears, Wei Xiaobao was so happy that he wanted to jump; it was a pity his hands and feet were tied that he could not jump. He also heard Ah Ke’s voice, “He … he is not wearing any clothes, I can’t save him!”

Wei Xiaobao was furious; he cursed in his heart, “Dead girl, I don’t wear any clothes, why can’t you help me? Could it be that I have to wear clothes before you can save me? If you don’t save your husband, it’s the same as murdering your own husband. You will become young widow, will you be happy then?”

He heard Jiu Nan said, “Just close your eyes, cut the ropes binding his hands and feet, won’t that work?”

“That won’t do,” Ah Ke said, “If I close my eyes, I can’t see. What if … what if I touch his body? Shifu, you save him.”

“I have left home,” Jiu Nan angrily said, “How can I do this kind of things?” Although Wei Xiaobao was young, he was a teenage boy, and he was stark naked, it was quite a disgraceful situation, how could she look?

Wei Xiaobao wanted to scream, “Just get some clothes and throw it in to cover me; won’t that mean you will not see me?” Too bad there was a stinky sock stuffed in his mouth that he could not speak; plus Jiu Nan and Ah Ke, master and disciple, were extremely lacking in their experience to meet a contingency.

The two of them were dressing up as palace maids, they applied yellow powder on their beautiful faces; usually they were afraid the Princess would question them, hence they only mingled with palace maids who did heavy work, and had never seen the Princess’ face.

That evening they heard indistinct cracking of whips and the screaming noise coming from the Princess’ bedroom, thereupon they same to the bedroom window to take a look. They saw Wei Xiaobao, completely stripped off his clothes and bound, was being ruthlessly whipped by the Princess.

While outside the window Jiu Nan, master and disciple, had not reached an agreement, Princess Jianning already returned to the bedroom; she giggled and said, “Momentarily I cannot find any pig oil, cow oil, or vegetable oil, we will have no choice but to extract some black bear oil by heat. [The original word for ‘coward’ is ‘black bear’] You said it yourself, you are not a hero [yingxiong] but a coward [gouxiong/black bear]; I have never seen what black bear oil look like. Have you seen it?” While saying that, she picked up a candlestick from the table and used the flame to burn the flesh of Wei Xiaobao’s chest.

Under severe pain, Wei Xiaobao jerked his body backward. The Princess grabbed his hair with her left hand to prevent him from moving, while with her right hand she continued burning his skin. Shortly afterwards, burning smell arose. Jiu Nan was shocked. Instantly he pushed the window open, lifted up Ah Ke and threw her into the room. “Quickly save him!” she shouted, while she herself turned around with eyes closed tight to avoid seeing Wei Xiaobao’s nakedness.

Being thrown into the room by her shifu, Ah Ke saw saw the smooth naked body of Wei Xiaobao in front of her eyes; she did not want to look, but it was too late. Without any choice she stretched out her palm to hack down the back of Princess Jianning’s neck.

“Who’s there?” the Princess called out in alarm. She used her left hand to block, but due to the sudden movement of her right hand, the candle flame went out. However, there were still four or five red candles burning on the table, hence the room was still bright enough to see.

Ah Ke successively made her move; how could the Princess be her match? ‘Crack, crack’ twice, her right arm and her left leg were twisted out of joint, and she fell by the bedside. She had quite an unyielding temperament, her mouth was still cursing in rage.

Ah Ke angrily said, “It’s you who are not good, and you are still cursing others?” Suddenly ‘Ah!’ she broke crying, in her heart she felt she was deeply wronged.

The Princess was stunned; she stopped cursing. She thought, you were the one who beat me up, why are you crying instead? Ah Ke grabbed the dagger from the floor and cut the rope binding Wei Xiaobao’s hands and feet; her face blushed deep red from shame. Tossing the dagger away, she flew out the window and disappeared. Jiu Nan followed behind her.

The commotion inside the room was like the sky and the earth turning upside down, naturally the palace maids and eunuchs outside had heard it early on. However, they had been warned by the Princess, no matter how strange the noise inside, without being summoned, nobody was allowed to come in. Whoever stuck his or her head into the room, that head would be chopped down. Everybody looked at each other in dismay; they all have a strange look on their faces.

This Princess loved to fool around since she was little; hundreds and thousands of weird tricks emerged one after another, for many years these people were used to her antics, nobody suspected anything. The Princess’ own mother was a fake goods born of the uncultivated land of the Jianghu, how could she control and guide her daughter? Shunzhi left home to become a monk, Kangxi was still young, even if Princess Jianning was more undisciplined and out of control than this, nobody cared.

A moment ago the Princess summoned the palace maids and eunuchs into the room to drag the fainted Qian Laoben and Gao Yanchao out and bind them up. Everybody knew there would be some strange occurrences tonight. Yet it never occurred in anybody’s mind that the Princess could, unexpectedly, be beaten and rendered immovable by other people.

Hearing his good-looking-nun Shifu and Ah Ke already left far away, Wei Xiaobao pulled the sock from his mouth, turned around to close the window, and cursed, “Stinky girl, have you ever seen fox-spirit oil? I haven’t. How about we extract some by heat so we can look at it?”

He kicked her twice, grabbed and twisted her hands behind her back. He ripped a piece of her skirt, and tied her hands with it. The Princess’ hand and leg’s joints were dislocated, she was in so much pain that her brow was beaded with sweat, how could she resist? Wei Xiaobao grabbed the front of her clothes and pulled it hard. ‘Rip’ her clothes was immediately ripped apart. The gauze vest she was wearing was thin to begin with, as soon as it was torn, the snow white flesh of her chest was exposed.

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was filled with hatred. He picked up the candlestick from the floor, lighted it, and put the flame on her chest. “Stinky girl,” he cursed, “The payback is coming soon. I don’t need too much fox-spirit oil, I only need to extract some by heat to fill the sour plum bowl; it will be enough.”

“Ah!” the Princess screamed in pain. Wei Xiaobao said, “Ah right, you must also taste my stinky sock.”

He stooped down to pick up the sock and was about to stuff it into her mouth. The Princess suddenly said in a soft voice, “Gui Beilei, don’t stuff the sock in my mouth, I won’t scream.”

As soon as the three characters ‘Gui Beilei’ entered his ears, Wei Xiaobao was stunned. That day, in the Princess’ bedroom in the Palace, she took the role of a servant and attended to him, she also addressed him as ‘Gui Beilei’. Right now hearing her calling him intimately with the same appellation, he could not stop his heart from being moved. He heard her speaking in a soft voice, “Gui Beilei, please spare your servant. If you are not happy, just whip your servant to vent your anger.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “If I don’t whip you ruthlessly, it will be difficult to purge the hatred from my heart.” Putting down the candle, he picked up the whip and lashed it out on her.

The Princess cried softly, “Aiyo, aiyo!” She closed her charming eyes into a slit, yet there was a hint of smile on her cherry lips, as if she was experiencing an unspeakable comfort.

“S1ut,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “Are you happy?”

The Princess replied softly, “I … your servant is a s1ut; would Gui Beilei hit me a bit harder, please? Aiyo!”

Wei Xiaobao tossed the whip away. “I won’t hit you!” he said. Turning around, he tried to find his clothes, but did not know where she had hidden them. “Where is my clothes?” he asked.

“Please,” the Princess said, “Help me fix my dislocated joints, let … let your servant attend Gui Beilei to dress.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Although this s1ut is weird, the Emperor has sent me to escort her to Yunnan. I can’t kill her.” He cursed, “F*ck your granny, you are a stinky little girl.” He continued in his heart, “Your Ma is the old wh0re, laozi does not have any appetite for her. Your granny does not have anything good in her, but laozi has never seen her.”

“Isn’t it fun?” the Princess asked.

“Your granny is fun,” Wei Xiaobao angrily replied. Lifting up her arm, he located the joint, and tried hard to fix it. But he did not know the technique to set broken bones; it was only after several tries was he finally able to fix the dislocated joint. The Princess did not stop crying ‘aiyo, aiyo!’ from the pain.

By the time her dislocated leg joint was fixed, the Princess was leaning over his back. The two people’s bare skin and flesh touched, Wei Xiaobao felt his lips dry his tongue parched, while his heart was burning. “Could you just sit down?” he said, “If you are like this, laozi might treat you as my wife.”

“But I want you to treat me as your wife,” the Princess said intimately. Her arms embraced him tight. Wei Xiaobao struggled lightly, he wanted to push her away, but the Princess pulled him and planted a kiss on his lips.

Immediately Wei Xiaobao felt his head spinning and his vision blurred, followed by his heart fluttering, as if he was inside the cloud and mist. He suddenly found out that the s1ut, fox-spirit in front of his eyes was unspeakably pretty and adorable. The red candles in the room went out one by one. Wei Xiaobao was in between asleep and awake states, his mind was fuzzy, he had no conscience where he was.

In his blurry, dazed state, suddenly he head Ah Ke’s voice outside the window, “Xiaobao, are you in there?”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, instantly he woke up from a beautiful dream. “I am here,” he replied.

“What are you doing? Why are you still here?” Ah Ke angrily asked.

Wei Xiaobao panicked. “Yes!” he said, “I am not … not doing anything.” He wanted to shove the Princess away and get out of the bed, but the Princess firmly embraced him.

“Don’t go,” she said quietly, “Tell her to get the hell out of here. Who is she anyway?”

“She … she is my wife,” Wei Xiaobao said.

The Princess said, “I … I am you wife, she is not.”

Ah Ke was ashamed and angry at the same time. She stomped her feet, turned around and left.

“Shijie, Shijie!” Wei Xiaobao called out. He did not hear any reply. Suddenly a pair of warm and soft lips closed his own, so that he could not call anymore.

The next morning Wei Xiaobao wore his clothes, and tiptoed out of the Princess’ bedroom. He asked the eunuch in-waiting outside the room, and found out that Qian Laoben and Gao Yanchao were all right, they were still bound inside a room on the eastern wing. He was relieved, but was quite ashamed as well; he did not dare to meet those two. Thereupon he ordered the eunuch to quickly release them.

Back to his own room, he was joyous, but a little afraid. He did not dare to think too much, hence he crawled underneath his quilt and fell asleep.

Later on that afternoon he came to see Jiu Nan, with head hung low, and his face blushed deep red; thinking that this time Shifu surely would punish him severely, perhaps she would beat him to death with one palm strike. Who would have thought that Jiu Nan did not know what happened at all, instead, she warmly comforted him, “That girl is so mean,” she said, “Like a mother like a daughter. Are you hurt really bad?”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly relieved. “Not bad,” he said, “Only … only … fortunately she did not injure my muscle and bones.” Seeing Ah Ke was glowering at him, he said, “I owe it to Shifu and Shijie for rescuing me; otherwise she … she would definitely burn me to death last night.”

Ah Ke said, “You … you … last night …” Suddenly she blushed and did not continue.

Wei Xiaobao said, “She … the Princess … put some knockout drug. Shijie jumped into the room to rescue me, but she … at that time the effect of the drug has not worn out, I was unable to move.”

Jiu Nan took a pity on him, she said, “Although I have accepted you as my disciple, all along I have not passed on any martial art to you; unexpectedly you were bullied by that little girl.”

If Wei Xiaobao had a mind to train excellent martial art, he should have asked her in earnest, and Jiu Nan would have gladly taught him. He only needed to train a little, and would have reaped lifelong benefit. But for anything that needs hard work, he was afraid he might fall short. When he was bound, whipped and burned by the Princess the previous night, he blamed all his shifus for not teaching him martial arts, yet right this moment when his shifu really wanted to teach him, he hummed and hawed instead. “Shifu,” he said, “I have a terrible headache, as if my head is about to split open. I also feel like the skin and muscle on my entire body is about to fall piece by piece.”

Jiu Nan nodded and said, “Just go and rest; later on just see this little girl less, if you really have to see her, take a dozen or so people with you, she won’t possibly give you any trouble publicly. When she gives you any food or drink, no matter what you must not eat or drink it.”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly said, “Yes.” He was about to withdraw when Jiu Nan suddenly asked, “Why did she beat you up last night? Didn’t she know that the Emperor is very fond of you?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “She … she did not want to go to Yunnan to get married, she said that it was my idea. It seems to me that he little s1ut knew that we, master and disciple, dealt with her mother.” By telling minor lie like that, he was pushing most of the blame of the Princess beating him last night to Jiu Nan.

Jiu Nan nodded, “Most likely her mother has told her. From now on you must be extra careful.” She thought, “When I dealt with the fake Empress Dowager at the Palace that day, I was quite ruthless; but Xiaobao did not show his face at all that time. Could it be that the fake Empress Dowager had an inkling and ordered her daughter to retaliate?”

The party slowly continued southwest. Every evening, the Princess always quietly summoned Wei Xiaobao to accompany her. At first Wei Xiaobao was still afraid his shifu and his Tian Di Hui companions might find out, but as these two young people had just found the matter between man and woman, once the extremely sweet and charming Princess wrapping her body around his, how could he be willing to give this experience up? Even a gentleman might not necessarily be able to resist, much less he had never received any proper training in human relationships or etiquette.

For the first several days he would sneak out quietly at night. Later on he would stay in the Princess’ bedroom the whole night. During the day he was the marriage envoy, in the nights he was the prince consort. All the palace maids and court eunuchs dreaded the Princess, plus Wei Xiaobao unceasingly rewarded them with large quantities of money; who would dare to utter even half a sentence about this affair?

When Ah Ke twisted the Princess’ joints that night, naturally the Princess wanted to know who was this ‘Shijie’, yet with graceful words, flowery speech Wei Xiaobao was able to skirt around this question. The Princess’ character was rather coarse, plus she was at the heat of the passion, hence she did not inquire further.

These two, a young man and a young woman, had just tasted the passion for the first time; it was like oil mixed in honey. In her cunning and reckless temperament, the Princess always playfully assumed the role of a slave, as soon as he entered the room, she would kneel down and greeted him, “Gui Beilei, Gui Fuma [consort, emperor’s son-in-law]” unceasingly.

When Fang Yi tricked Wei Xiaobao to go to the Divine Dragon Island, during the voyage, she only treated him with intimate manners and tender words, driving him crazy [orig. bewilder him until his six vital organs fail]. This time he was truly overwhelmed with joy, the Princess drove him even more crazy. The two of them only hoped that the journey would never last. Even though Ah Ke mingled among the palace maids, Wei Xiaobao knew perfectly well that she would never treat him like the Princess did; unexpectedly Wei Xiaobao did not try to curry favor from Ah Ke like he usually did.

One day they arrived at Changsha [prefecture, capital of Hunan province, south central China]. From the Divine Dragon Island Lu Gaoxuan caught up with them on fast horse, carrying with him the Cult Leader Hong’s verbal order, telling him that the Cult Leader was extremely delighted to receive the two copies of sutra, commending the White Dragon Envoy for handling this matter with dedication, that he was astute and competent, that he was indeed our Cult’s great minister who had given outstanding service. The Cult Leader especially bestowed him with the leopard embryo tendon-altering pill’s antidote.

With all the majesty of a royalty these past few days, Wei Xiaobao had already forgotten that there was an acute poison in his body. Hearing the message, he was nonetheless very happy. Immediately he, along with Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo, took the antidote. Lu and Fat, two people, bowed to express their gratitude, saying that it was entirely due to the White Dragon Envoy establishing this great merit that the two of them could enjoy the Cult Leader’s favor in the form of this legendary magic potion of the immortals, that the calamity in their bosoms was eliminated.

Lu Gaoxuan said, “Jiaozhu and Madame passed on an order to the White Dragon Envoy: the remaining six copies of the sutra must still be sought. If the White Dragon Envoy can render this distinguished merit, Jiaozhu would not be stingy in bestowing his reward.”

“Naturally I will strive to do that,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Jiaozhu and Madame’s favor is as heavy as the mountain, even if our bodies are torn our bones are crushed, it is difficult to repay.”

Fat and Lu, two people said together, “Jiaozhu will enjoy the immortal good fortune forever, his long-life is the same as the Heaven’s. White Dragon Envoy will enjoy a life of ease and comfort forever, and live as long as Mount Nan.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled without saying anything. He mused, “What’s so good about enjoying life in ease and comfort? If I can enjoy romantic good fortune every day like this forever, having a life as long as Mount Nan will make a bit more sense.”

[1] In mythology or popular fiction, the army of the Dragon King or the Eastern Sea. It simply means ‘useless troops’.

[2] Yue Fei (1102-1142), Song Dynasty’s patriot and fames general. Qin Hui (1090-1155), Song Dynasty official who betrayed General Yue Fei and had him executed.

[3] “Iron-Capped Prince”, refers to a royal title, which is hereditary, and, in theory, passed down into perpetuity. For most titles given during the Qing dynasty, the son of the person who was awarded a royal rank would inherit a “diluted” title which is one rank lower than their father’s title (and their son would inherit a title one rank lower than their own, and so on and so forth). But those princes who were awarded an “Iron-Capped” title would be able to pass their title down to their children undiluted, and so on and so forth.

[4] Manchurian for Viscount of the Third Class.Wei Xiaobao’s peerage title of Zǐ (子), was actualy only used in the 18th century onwards. Therefore,Wei Xiaobao should be a First Class Jing Qi Ni Ha Pan [一等精奇尼哈番], rather than a First Class Zi [一等子]. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[5] Set of expression, often made up of four characters, or two couplets of four characters each, often alluding to a story or historical quotation.

Post a Comment