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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 30

Chapter 30
Small town of the southern dynasty leans to be domineering, troops of western provinces are the most light and nimble.

Wei Xiaobao and the Princess wished that the journey to Yunnan would not reach the end forever, but although the road was long, and the journey was slow, there would be a day when they arrived at the destination. Guizhou province was Wu Sangui’s territory; a massive military force was stationed at Luodian [county], Guizhou. Princess Jianning’s party had just entered the border of Guizhou province, Wu Sangui had already dispatched his troops and horses to meet them. By the time they entered Yunnan, Wu Yingxiong himself came out to welcome them. Seeing Wei Xiaobao, he did not stop expressing his gratitude.

According to the royal court protocol, he and the Princess could not see each other before the wedding ceremony. By this time however, the Princess and Wei Xiaobao had been stuck together as by glue; hearing about Wu Yingxiong’s arrival, immediately her willow-like eyebrows went straight up, and she threw a fit.

That night the Princess told Wei Xiaobao to think of a way to send Wu Yingxiong to see Yan Wang, so that the two of them could live forever as husband and wife. Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; he thought that there was no harm in sneakily being a fake consort in the night, but he must never be a real consort.

Seeing him frowning and muttering to himself irresolutely, the Princess angrily said, “Why aren’t you saying anything? Sending that fellow Wu Yingxiong to see Yan Wang was your own idea, it wasn’t mine.”

“We must send him all right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “But we must wait for a good opportunity before making our move. We must not raise anybody’s suspicion.”

“Alright,” the Princess said, “I’ll listen to you for the time being. In short, I only want to be with you, I will definitely not share my bed with this fellow. If you don’t send him out to see Yan Wang, if what we are doing is revealed to the world, I will tell Wu Sangui that you have raped me. Even if Huangdi Gege favored you more than this, I am afraid Wu Sangui will still chop you into seventeen or twenty-eight pieces. You are going to see the old man Yan Wang first; just consider it you are preceding Wu Yingxiong as his advance party officer!”

Wei Xiaobao was enraged; he waved his hand in a slapping motion, and shouted, “Nonsense! When did I ever rape you?”

The Princess giggled and chuckled, she stretched out her arm to embrace him, while saying in soft voice, “You are such a heartless, short-lived little lover; you slapped me that heavily, aren’t you afraid you might hurt me?”

One day they arrived at Kunming [prefecture, capital of Yunnan]; they heard bugle horns and a military officer announced, “Ping Xi Wang welcomes Princess’ phoenix[1]-self.”

Wei Xiaobao urged his horse to move forward, he saw a team of soldiers in bright shining armor, riding on tall horses, galloping to meet them. They dismounted together, and arranged themselves on either side of the road. Amidst the sound of bamboo flute and string instruments, several hundreds young boys wearing red gown with banners in their hands preceding a general stepping out in front of the troops. A herald loudly announced, “Your servant Ping Xi Qin Wang Wu Sangui pays his respect to Your Highness Princess Jianning.”

Wei Xiaobao looked up and down carefully, sizing up Wu Sangui. He was a man of grand stature, with deep red, almost purple face, he had more white than black in his hair and beard; although he was old, his gait was still strong and healthy as he walked over in big strides. Wei Xiaobao mused, “People all over the world are talking about this old turtle’s reputation, turns out he has this kind of appearance.”

Seeing he walked to the Princess’ carriage, kneeled down and kowtowed, Wei Xiaobao stood by his side, and said in his heart first, “The old turtle Wu Sangui pays his respect.” But he waited until Wu Sangui finished kowtowing before announcing, “Ping Xi Qin Wang pays his respect.”

Wu Sangui stood up, walked over toward Wei Xiaobao, and said with a laugh, “And this must be the brave warrior who captured Oboi, the world famous Wei Jueye [master viscount]?”

Wei Xiaobao paid his respect and said, “I do not dare to accept the honor. Humble officer pays his respect to Wangye.”

Wu Sangui laughed aloud, grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s hand, and said, “Wei Jueye is kind and virtuous, Xiao Wang [little king, referring to self] has been looking forward to meeting your illustrious self for a long time; please disperse with this perfunctory propriety. Henceforth Xiao Wang, father and son, will rely on Wei Jueye to preserve our existence. If you think we are worthy to receive the favor, please consider us your own famiy.”

Wei Xiaobao noticed the Yangzhou accent in his speech, and was thirty-percent happy. “Hot piece Mama,” he mused, “Looks like you and I are fellow townsmen.” He said, “I really do not dare to accept the honor; how can humble officer dare to claim connections with people of higher social class?” He also added several percent of Yangzhou accent into his speech.

Wu Sangui laughed and asked, “So Wei Jueye also from Yangzhou?”

“Precisely,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

“That’s even better,” Wu Sangui said, “Xiao Wang’s official residence is Liaodong, but my ancestral home is actually Gaoyou, Yangzhou. We are actually real kinsmen.”

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “Hot piece Mama, turns out you are Gaoyou’s salted duck egg. Yangzhou could produce a big traitor like you, laozi is actually quite ashamed.”

Wu Sangui and Wei Xiaobao rode side-by-side; they rode in the front, leading the Princess entering the city. The people of Kunming heard that the Princess was about to marry Ping Xi Wang Heir Apparent, the street was already lined with a sea of people, the city was bustling with noise and excitement. There were lanterns everywhere, archways were decorated, houses and building were adorned with celebratory hanging scrolls; the sound of gongs and drums, mixed with firecrackers, shook the heavens.

Wei Xiaobao and Wu Sangui entered the city side-by-side. Seeing people were bowing to welcome them, he was very proud of himself. But then he had a second thought, “A princess as pretty as the flower and jade, coquettish and coy, for no reason is given to that fellow Wu Yingxiong to be his wife, and laozi has to escort his bride for thousands of li, this stinky fellow’s luck in love is indeed too good.” Therefore, he also felt indignant.

Wu Sangui welcomed the Princess at the Anfu[2] Garden west of the City of Kunming, which was Ming Dynasty’s Qian Guo Gong[3] Mu Family’s former residence. It was a lofty multi-story building, overlooking a garden pavilion with splendid view. As soon as Wu Sangui learned about the Princess was given into marriage to his son, he carried out a large-scale construction effort to renovate the building that it looked completely new. After Wu Sangui, father and son, paid their respect to the Princess from behind a hanging curtain, they accompanied Wei Xiaobao to the Ping Xi Wang Mansion.

Ping Xi Wang Mansion was located on Mount Wu Hua[4], which was the former palace of Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Yong Li. The palace encompassed a vast area of several li square. After Wu Sangui occupied the palace, over the last few years he constantly added multi-story expansions and pavilions. By this time, the lofty towers and engraved walls, the red pavilions and jade-green ponds, hardly differed from the inner courtyards of the Imperial Palace.

A grand banquet was already prepared in the main hall. All civil and military officials under Wu Sangui’s banner came to accompany the guests. Naturally the Imperial Envoy, high-ranking official Wei Xiaobao sat at the seat of honor.

After three rounds of drink, Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Wangye, back in Beijing, I often heard people say that you wanted to rebel …” Wu Sangui’s countenance turned ashen instantly, the countenance of a hundred or so officials also changed, only to hear Wei Xiaobao continued, “… as I came to the Mansion today, I knew that those people were talking rubbish.”

Wu Sangui calmed down somewhat. “Please Wei Jueye understand,” he said, “Despicable and lowly people are jealous of me and always trying to plant false evidence against me; you must never believe them.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I think that the reason you wanted to rebel is no more than to be the Emperor. But His Majesty’s Palace is not as magnificent as yours, his clothes are not as beautiful as yours. His Majesty’s food was under my management, but I am very ashamed to say that it is not as delicious as your mansion’s. Being the Ping Xi Wang, you live a much more comfortable life than His Majesty; why would you want to be the Emperor? When I get back to Beijing, I will report to His Majesty that Ping Xi Wang is definitely not going to rebel. Even if you are asked to be the Emperor, you, Senior, would never be willing.”

In that instant, the main hall was quiet, all the officials halted their cups in the air and did not drink, they all stared at him, not understanding his ‘neither fish nor fowl’ speech; their hearts were pounding. Wu Sangui’s face alternated between red and white; he was at a loss of how to respond. He thought, “From what he said, obviously the Emperor has already suspected that I intend to rebel.” With no other choice, he let out a hollow laugh and said, “His Majesty is wise and filial, he always makes determined efforts to govern. Indeed, of all the virtuous Emperors of the past, no one is as good as him.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “‘Raw bird fish soup’ [niao sheng yu tang, see Chapter 14], stepping down gracefully.”

Wu Sangui was startled; after a while, he understood that Wei Xiaobao meant to say ‘Yao Shun Yu Tang’ [also Chapter 14]. He said, “Humble minister admires His Majesty’s frugal virtue, actually I do not dare to live a sumptuous life every day; it’s just that the holy graciousness has swept vast, the Princess is here to marry, we do not dare to be negligent in hospitality, and have to put our heart and soul in serving the Princess and Wei Jueye. After the wedding is over, we will have to save greatly.” He thought that when this fellow returned to Beijing, he would report to the Emperor that I indulge in a life of luxury in here, of course the Emperor will get mad; it would be best if I can close his mouth.

Who would have thought that Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Still, having money to spend, live an indulgent life is better. You are the Wangye, if you do not live off your wealth, why bother being a Wangye? If you dislike having too much gold and silver, afraid that you won’t be able to spend it, I can help you spending it, why can’t I? Ha ha!”

As soon as he said those words, Wu Sangui was greatly delighted, as if a large chunk of rock in his heart had just fallen to the ground; thinking that if you are willing to accept money, won’t that be easy?

Hearing him openly asking for money during the banquet, the civil and military officials were beaming from ear to ear, they all thought that he was just a kid after all, dealing with him should be easy. Everybody was drinking merrily, while in their hearts they were thinking of how to present the bribe. The former awkward and terrified atmosphere was swept clean, everyone sang the praises of his achievements and virtue, tooted their horns and licked his behind, and then dispersed after a happy time.

Wu Yingxiong personally escorted Wei Xiaobao back to Anfu Garden. They entered the main hall and were seated. Wu Yingxiong presented a brocade box with both hands, saying, “Here are some change; would Wei Jueye please accept to cover your incidental expenses? When your honorable-self is returning to the north, Fu Wang [father king] will have another way to compensate for Wei Jueye’s trouble.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “There is no need to stand on ceremonies. When I left the Capital, His Majesty said to me, ‘Xiao Guizi, everybody says that Wu Sangui is a treacherous court official. Go and personally investigate for me whether he is a loyal minister or a treacherous official. You must a bit more cautious, don’t make any mistake.’ So I said, ‘Your Majesty, please set your heart at ease, your servant will open my eyes wide, from start to finish I will investigate clearly.’ Ha ha, Xiao Wangye, don’t you agree that loyal or treacherous will be decided in just a mouth?”

Wu Yingxiong could not help but was secretly enraged, “Your Great Qing’s rivers and mountains were handed over by my father so that you could lay your foundation. After the great undertaking, you forget favors and violate justice by coming to investigate whether we, father and son, are loyal or treacherous. In that case, it seems that the Princess is given to marriage is not necessarily out of good intention.” He said, “We, father and son, are loyal and devoted in working for His Majesty. Even if we became dogs or horses, we could not ever repay His Majesty’s benevolence.”

Wei Xiaobao crossed his leg and said, “That’s right, I always knew you are most loyal. If His Majesty did not trust you, he would never have you as his Meifu [younger sister’s husband]. Xiao Wangye, as soon as you become the Emperor’s Meifu, you will rise eight levels, your promotion will come very quickly.”

“That is due to His Majesty’s vast and mighty heavenly grace,” Wu Yingxiong said, “I can’t thank Wei Jueye enough for helping me maintaining my social circle.”

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “I am helping you to be the little turtle, I wonder if you will be deeply grateful.”

After sending off Wu Yingxiong, he opened the brocade box to see the contents. Inside there were ten packs of banknotes, each pack consisted of forty sheets, each sheet worth five hundred taels; altogether there were two hundred thousand taels of silver. Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised; he mused, “He is very extravagant with gifts, two hundred thousand taels for incidental expenses. If laozi needs large spending money, how much will I get? One million, two millions?”

The next day Wu Yingxiong invited the Imperial Minister Marriage Envoy to visit the military drill ground to inspect the troops. Wei Xiaobao and Wu Sangui stood side-by-side on the reviewing platform. Two Dutong [Commander/Lieutenant General] under Ping Xi Wang’s command led several dozen Zuoling [Company Commander] in full battle gear, with helmet on their heads and full armor, dismounted in front of the platform and saluted. Following which, team-by-team troops and horses performed demonstration under the platform.

After the border guards came the newly organized Wu Ying Zhong Yong [five-battalion loyal and brave] troops and Wu Ying Yi Yong [five-battalion righteous and courageous] troops; each battalion was led by a Zong Bing Tong [regional commander]. From the formation and the demonstration, it was obvious that these troops were ‘strong soldiers and sturdy horses’, a well-trained and powerful army.

Although Wei Xiaobao was completely without any knowledge of military affairs, seeing the majestic display of the troops, with unending flow of one team after another, he said to Wu Sangui, “Wangye, today I really submit to you. I am the Commander of the Valiant Cavalry Brigade, our Valiant Cavalry Brigade is His Majesty’s personal troops, but I am ashamed to mention it. If we were to fight your Zhong Yong Brigade and Yi Yong Brigade, our Valiant Cavalry Brigade would be routed, would definitely flee to the wilderness.”

Wu Sangui was very proud of himself; he said with a laugh, “Wei Jueye’s compliment, I am ashamed and dare not accept. Xiao Wang was born of military family; training troops is my original occupation.”

They heard the booming artillery sound, the troops shouted together, their voice shook the four corners of the field. Wei Xiaobao was greatly shocked, his knees turned to jelly, his buttocks dropped into his chair, and his face turned ashen immediately.

Wu Sangui snickered inwardly, “You are merely a puppet minister by the Emperor’s side, relying on graceful words and flowering speech to coax the young Emperor’s favor; other than that, what fart do you have? A yellow-mouthed little kid whose smell of mother’s milk not yet dried, unexpectedly can become a Viscount, the Valiant Cavalry Brigade Commander, and Imperial Envoy Minister. Clearly the young Emperor is confused; how can he assign you as his trusted aide?” He did not have any regard toward Kangxi to begin with, and now that he had seen Wei Xiaobao’s worthless appearance, he was even more delighted, thinking that the imperial court did not have any capable person, there was nothing to worry about.

After the troop inspection was finished, Wei Xiaobao took out the Emperor’s Imperial Edict and handed it over to Wu Sangui, saying, “This is His Majesty’s Imperial Edict, why don’t Wangye read it for everybody to hear?”

Wu Sangui kneeled down to receive it; he said, “It is His Majesty’s Imperial Edict, it would be better if the Imperial Envoy read it out loud.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “It recognizes me, but I do not recognize it. I am totally illiterate; how can I read?”

Wu Sangui laughed; he held the Imperial Edict with both hands, turned toward the troops and read it out loud. His voice was clear and sonorous, backed with abundant chi, sentence-by-sentence reached far away. The tens of thousands troops on the field bent their knees to kneel; they listened in absolute silence [orig. the crow and peacock made no sound].

The Imperial Edict commended Ping Xi Qin Wang’s excellent service and heavy merit, his diligence in handling the royal matter, in guarding the border, in pacifying the non-Han ethnics. Without exception all the generals and soldiers under his command had rendered merit, all were to be promoted one level and to be granted some rewards. After the reading of the Imperial Edict was done, Wu Sangui kowtowed to the north and called out, “Respectfully thank Your Majesty’s grace, long live Your Majesty!”

All the troops echoed, “Respectfully thank Your Majesty’s grace, long live Your Majesty!”

This time Wei Xiaobao was prepared, he was not startled; but as tens of thousands troops shouted their earth-shattering shout, his heart was shaken, he could not stand steadily.

Returning to the Ping Xi Wang Mansion, Wu Sangui consulted with him the Princess’ wedding day. Wei Xiaobao knitted his brows and looked very unhappy.

Wu Sangui said, “The fourth of next month is the ecliptic propitious day, having a wedding would have great luck, great profit. What does Wei Jueye think about that date?”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Once the Princess is given in marriage to Wu Yingxiong, I can’t be the fake consort anymore.” He said, “Don’t you think it is too soon? The Princess getting married is not a small matter. Wangye should give everything thorough consideration. Let me be honest with you: Empress Dowager and His Majesty the Emperor dote on this Princess very much. If there is anything less than perfect, it won’t be too convenient for us as the servants.”

Wu Sangui was apprehensive; he thought, “You deliberately make things difficult, are you not trying to extort bribe?” He laughed and said, “Yes, yes. I leave it all to Wei Jueye’s discretion. Whatever it is that you think is inappropriate, please give us direction, we will strive to do it for you. If the fourth is too rushing, the sixteenth of next month is also an extremely good day, it does not clash with the Princess and my son’s birth date, all taboos are off.”

“Very well!” Wei Xiaobao said, “I will ask for instructions from the Princess; let’s see what she has to say.”

Returning to Anfu Garden, he found a lot of Yunnan officials were already waiting to have an audience with him. Wei Xiaobao received their gifts, spoke some perfunctory words, and sent them away. Remembering that ever since his arrival in Yunnan he had not seen his sworn brother Yang Yizhi, he sent a messenger to Wu Yingxiong, asking him to sent Yang Yizhi over to see him.

Yang Yizhi did not appear, it was Wu Yingxiong who personally came to see him, saying, “Wei Jueye, Fu Wang has sent Yang Yizhi on a mission and he has not returned yet; he cannot come to serve Jueye.”

Wei Xiaobao was quite disappointed. “I wonder where he is going?” he asked, “And when is he coming back?”

Wu Yingxiong’s countenance changed slightly; he said, “He … he went to Tibet, it’s far away from here; this time … I am afraid Wei Jueye won’t be able to see him.”

Noticing his vague answer, Wei Xiaobao thought, “His words is incomplete and not honest; what trick is he playing?” He asked, “I wonder what mission Yang Xiong is doing in Tibet? How long has he been gone?”

“Nothing important,” Wu Yingxiong replied, “The Tibetan Lama sent someone to deliver a gift, Fu Wang then sent Yang Yizhi to send a gift in return. He left a few days ago.”

“It’s very unfortunate,” Wei Xiaobao said.

After sending Wu Yingxiong off, the more he thought, the more he felt something was amiss. They knew very well that he was a good friend of Yang Yizhi; why was it that as he arrived in Yunnan, Yang Yizhi happened to be sent away on a mission, and not a moment later or a moment sooner? Wei Xiaobao had just arrived in Yunnan, Wu Sangui sent Yang Yizhi away, it seemed like Wu Sangui intentionally did not want Yang Yizhi to meet Wei Xiaobao. Immediately he summoned Zhao Qixian and Zhang Kangnian, two people, and ordered them to have a drink and gamble with Wu Sangui, father and son’s bodyguards, to try to make discreet inquiry about Yang Yizhi.

When he met the Princess that evening, he mentioned to her that the wedding date had been set to be the sixteenth of the next month. The Princess said, “I want you to send this fellow Wu Yingxiong to see Yan Wang before the wedding day; otherwise, during the ritual [of kneeling to heaven and earth] I will scream and yell. I don’t want to marry him no matter what.”

Wei Xiaobao’s mood was already bad, hearing her like that, his temper flared. He stomped his feet and stormed out of the room. The Princess grabbed and pulled his hand, but he flung her away heavily, and rushed out of the room. The Princess screamed and yelled, but he pretended not to hear.

After sitting alone for half a day, he was bored; thereupon he called for a dozen or so Imperial Bodyguards to throw dice and gamble with him; only then did he feel better.

Gambling to the middle of the night, Zhao Qixian and Zhang Kangnian entered the room. Wei Xiaobao had the dice in his hand, but had not tossed it down yet; seeing the two of them, he laughed and said, “Right now the banker is lousy, if you want to lay your bet, better do it early.”

Zhao Qixian said, “The matter which Fu Zongguan [deputy chief] ordered us to do, subordinates have found some information.”

“Good!” Wei Xiaobao said, and tossed the dice. He got heaven’s gate. After paying the upper and lower gates, he pulled the two men’s hands and took them to the side room. “What is it?” he asked.

Zhao Qixian said, “Reporting to Fu Zongguan: that Yang Yizhi really did not go to Tibet. Turns out he violated something and Ping Xi Wang locked him up.”

Wei Xiaobao knitted his brows. “What did he do?” he wondered aloud.

Zhao Qixian said, “Subordinates had some drink with some mansion’s guards, we mentioned that we knew this man surnamed Yang, and wanted to invite him to drink and gamble with us. A guard said, ‘So you are looking for Yang Yizhi? He has gone to Hei Kanzi [lit. black/dark raised ground, or simply black hole in the ground].’ I asked him where Hei Kanzi is. Another guard scolded the first guard as talking rubbish, saying that he loves to joke, telling me not to believe him.”

“Hei Kanzi?” Wei Xiaobao muttered to himself.

“We knew something’s fishy here,” Zhao Qixian continued, “After drinking with them for a while, we excused ourselves. On the way back here, we asked around and found out that Hei Kanzi is a big prison. It was then that we know Yang Yizhi has been locked up by Ping Xi Wang. As for what crime he did, I was afraid I might arouse suspicion, hence I did not dare to ask too much.”

“Where is Hei Kanzi?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“About five li southwest of Wu Hua Palace,” Zhao Qixian replied.

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “Right,” he said, “Both Dage have worked hard. Go back outside to play, be the bankers on my behalf.”

Zhao and Zhang, two people, were greatly delighted; they went out to gamble. They knew that to be bankers on Wei Xiaobao’s behalf means if they lost, it would be considered his loss, if they won, they would enjoy their share. Either way, it was an assignment with great benefit.

Wei Xiaobao was depressed. “Yang Dage must have committed a grave offense, otherwise Wu Yingxiong would not have lied to me by saying that he was sent to Tibet. If not grave offense, those two, father and son, would probably look at my face and let him out. Since Wu Yingxiong has already lied to me, if I plead on his behalf, they might adamantly deny, perhaps they would immediately kill him and destroy his body to eliminate the trace; henceforth the dead cannot testify. If I want to rescue him, I must use brute force. Even if Wu Sangui is angry, laozi is not afraid of him, I think he won’t dare to be hostile to me.”

Immediately he sent for Li Lishi, Feng Jizhong, Gao Yanchao, Qian Laoben, Priest Xuanzhen, Xu Tianchuan, and the other Tian Di Hui warriors. He explained the situation and asked them how to save Yang Yizhi.

“Wei Xiangzhu,” Li Lishi said, “We have to do it! If we can rescue this Yang Dage, that’s the best. If we cannot, Wu Sangui would think that you want to deal with him, naturally he would think that you are under the Emperor’s order. If we do not scare him half dead, we might force him to rebel sooner.”

“Precisely,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am only afraid that he might rebel right away, and then he might grab our heads so that all of us will spend our time gambling inside the big jail Hei Kanzi; that might be far from good.”

Priest Xuanzhen said, “As soon as we see something is amiss, all of us must jump onto fast horses and make a dash.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I want you to think of a way to rescue people, I will invite this fellow Wu Yingxiong and detain him here. We can use him as a hostage so that Wu Sangui will not dare to act rashly.”

Qian Laoben said, “Wei Xiangzhu’s move is brilliant. Tomorrow we will scout around Hei Kanzi’s surrounding, and then dressed as Wu Sangui’s attendants, we will break into the prison and take the prisoner out.”

In the afternoon of the next day, Wei Xiaobao sent a messenger to invite Wu Yingxiong for a feast and discussion about the wedding. The main hall of the Anfu Garden was filled with the sound of string and woodwind instruments, with wine and meat in abundance. The Tian Di Hui warriors had already changed into Ping Xi Wang Mansion Guards’ uniform and went to the Hei Kanzi jail.

Wei Xiaobao secretly ordered Valiant Cavalry Brigade sergeants and the Imperial Bodyguards to secure the perimeter and keep an eye on Wu Yingxiong’s guards; while he and Wu Yingxiong were drinking wine and watching the opera. The troupe presented a Kunqu opera [see note 11, Chapter 1], ‘Zhong Kui[5] married the younger sister’. Five little demons tumbled around, crawling in and out the tables, displaying various martial art skills. It was very lively. Wei Xiaobao cheered and applauded again and again, and gave the troupe a generous tip.

While the show was in progress, someone sneaked behind him, and lightly tugged his sleeve. Wei Xiaobao turned his head around and saw that it was Gao Yanchao. Gao Yanchao nodded slowly. Wei Xiaobao knew the mission went well. He was greatly delighted. “Xiao Wangye,” he said to Wu Yingxiong, “Please continue watching, I want to go pee.”

Wu Yingxiong mused, “This little rascal is so vulgar.” He laughed and said, “Jueye, please do as you wish.”

Wei Xiaobao went to the rear hall, and saw not one of Tian Di Hui warriors was missing; he said happily, “Very good, very good, all Xiongdi did not suffer any harm; did you manage to get him out?” Seeing everybody’s grim expression, he knew there must be something else.

Full of hatred Gao Yanchao said, “That traitor Wu Sangui is really ruthless!”

“What is it?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Gao Yanchao and Xu Tianchuan turned around and left the room. They returned carrying someone wrapped in felt blanket. Seeing the felt blanket was full of blood, Wei Xiaobao was startled and scared; he rushed forward, and saw that the man wrapped inside the felt blanket was indeed Yang Yizhi. But his eyes were tightly closed, with no trace of blood on his face at all.

“Yang Dage,” Wei Xiaobao called out, “It’s your Xiongdi rescuing you out.” Yang Yizhi slightly nodded, but it was not clear if he heard him or not. “Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Are you injured?”

Xu Tianchuan gently opened the felt blanket. Wei Xiaobao cried out in alarm, and withdrew two steps back. His body swayed, he nearly fell down. Qian Laoben reached out to hold him. Turned out Yang Yizhi’s hands were severed from the wrist, his legs were also severed from the knee down. Xu Tianchuan said in a low voice, “His tongue was cut, and his eyes were gouged out.”

Wei Xiaobao had never seen anything more devastating than the pitiful condition in front of his eyes. He was deeply shaken and broke into wailing. Although originally he did not have too close of a friendship with Yang Yizhi, he did enjoy congenial conversation with him, plus they had already sworn brotherhood with each other, vowing to enjoy the blessing together, and to endure the hardship together.

Seeing his limbs were severed, Wei Xiaobao’s grief and indignation was difficult to bear. He pulled his dagger and shouted, “I am going to cut Wu Yingxiong’s four limbs.”

Feng Jizhong pulled his arm and said, “Need to make further consideration.”

This man did not talk a lot, but every time he spoke he hit the nail on the head. Wei Xiaobao was thirty percent afraid of him. Immediately he calmed down, nodded his head and said, “Feng Dage is right.”

Xu Tianchuan closed the felt blanket; he said, “This matter really is our concern. Wu Sangui blamed Yang Dage for making friends with Wei Xiangzhu and swearing brotherhood with him; he accused him of betraying the former master, of coveting riches and honor, of relying on the Imperial Court, and thus punished him like this, hovering between life and death, so that none of the high-ranking military officers under his command would dare to have any intention to revolt.”
With tears in his eyes Wei Xiaobao said, “All eighteen-generation ancestors of Wu Sangui are dead turtles! Yang Dage became sworn brothers with me does not mean that he was betraying him. That big traitor himself is harboring ill-intention, yet he blindly suspicious of others doing so. To have Yang Dage look like this is the clear proof of his intention to rebel. Even if Yang Dage indeed wanted to rely on the Imperial Court, what’s wrong with that?”

“Exactly,” Qian Laoben said, “Wei Xiangzhu should take Yang Dage back to Beijing, let him submit an accusation to the young Emperor.”

Wei Xiaobao turned to Xu Tianchuan, “Wu Sangui committed this evil deed because he accused Yang Dage of making friends with me; how did Xu Dage know about it?”

Xu Tianchuan turned around and went out the room. When he returned, he carried a man, whom he threw heavily to the floor. This person was wearing a seventh-pin rank uniform; he had fair skin, and rather plump. He crawled on the floor, and then stayed motionless.

“Wei Xiangzhu,” Xu Tianchuan said, “You have heard this fellow’s name for a long time, but has never met him. He is none other than Lu Yifeng.”

“Aha!” Wei Xiaobao said with a cold laugh, “Turns out it is Lu laoxiong [old chap], you were brazenly being unbridled in Beijing, and then Wu Yingxiong had your dog legs broken; how come you are here now?”

Lu Yifeng was so scared that he could only say, “Yes, yes, Xiaoren does not dare!”

Xu Tianchuan said, “It was indeed ‘the enemies on a narrow road’ [i.e. inevitable clash between opposing factions], turns out this fellow is the big jail Hei Kanzi’s warden. Even if he turned into ash, laozi will always recognize him. Dressed as Wu Sangui’s personal bodyguards, we carried Yang Dage out; this fellow was putting some air, he said he wanted official document, he also said that we had to have Ping Xi Wang’s personal decree. Damn it, his own dog life is the Ping Xi Wang’s personal decree.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “It was such a lucky coincidence,” he said, “Meeting this fellow would make rescuing Yang Dage easier.” He presumed that the Tian Di Hui warriors put a saber on his neck, hence it was an effortless victory [orig. ‘no blood on the men’s swords’], they managed to bring Yang Yizhi out without much trouble. In any case, the Eight-armed Ape had many arms; and while he was at it, he simply brought Lu Yifeng along.

Xu Tianchuan said, “It was this old fellow who informed me the confidential matter of Yang Dage offending Wu Sangui.”

As soon as Lu Yifeng heard the word ‘inform’, he busily said, “It was you … the Senior, who … who compelled me to tell you that; I … I would never dare to divulge Ping Xi Qin Wang’s confidential matter.”

Wei Xiaobao kicked him and three of his front teeth fell off. “I am going back to Wu Yingxiong,” he said, “I don’t want him to get suspicious. Gentlemen, please interrogate this fellow carefully. If he does not want to talk, just cut both his hands and both his legs.”

With mouth full of blood Lu Yifeng hastily said, “I talk, I talk.” He knew these people did not have any regard for the law or natural morality; thinking about Yang Yizhi’s tragic condition, he nearly fainted.

Wei Xiaobao went toward Yang Yizhi and called, “Yang Dage!”

Yang Yizhi heard the call, he wanted to sit up, but as soon as he raised his upper body, he fell back down. Seeing his miserable condition, the crowd of warriors was filled with hatred. This man was the lackey of a traitor, he actually did not deserve their pity, but unexpectedly Wu Sangui, father and son, were capable of cruelly treating a loyal subordinate like this; it was obvious how vicious their heart was.

Wei Xiaobao wiped his tears dry, calmed himself down, and returned to the hall. He burst into loud laughter and said, “Very interesting.” He saw the actors of the opera stood frozen in front of the banquet table. As soon as they saw Wei Xiaobao came back, the gongs and drums resounded, the opera ‘Zhong Kui married the younger sister’ resumed.

Turned out when he went inside, Wu Yingxiong ordered the opera to stop, to wait for his return before continuing, so that he would not miss anything. Wei Xiaobao apologize to Wu Yingxiong, saying that when the Princess heard that the prince consort was here to drink wine, she summoned him and meticulously asked him about the prince consort’s day-to-day habit, what kind of clothes he liked to wear, what kind of food he loved to eat, that sort of things, and did not let him go for a long time, so that he had to tire Wu Yingxiong, who was waiting in the hall. Wu Yingxiong was greatly delighted, he repeatedly said that it was not a problem.

As soon as Wu Yingxiong left, Wei Xiaobao went back to the side room, but he did not see any Tian Di Hui warrior. Upon asking around, he was told that they went out. He felt strange, wondering what they were up to.

It was quite late into the night before the warriors returned; this time they also brought somebody along. What happened was that Xu Tianchuan interrogated Lu Yifeng, and found out that the reasons Wu Sangui punished Yang Yizhi like that were: one, he was undoubtedly suspicious that after becoming sworn brothers with Wei Xiaobao, Yang Yizhi might betray him; two, it actually had something to do with the Mongolian Prince Galdan.

For the last several years, this Galdan and Wu Sangui had developed quite a close relationship; they unceasingly sent gifts to each other, until recently Galdan sent an emissary to Kunming to deliver gift. This emissary was called Hantiemo. He had a lengthy conversation with Wu Sangui every day for several days. Somehow, Yang Yizhi found out the inside story; apparently he confronted Wu Sangui and thus incited his wrath. Lu Yifeng’s official position was very low, he did not know the details; he only heard bits and pieces from Wu Sangui’s bodyguards’ mouths. Under Tian Di Hui warriors’ torture, he did not dare to conceal anything and thus had spilled out everything he knew.

After quick discussion, the warriors decided to carry it through to the end [orig. one don’t do, two don’t rest]; while they were still dressed as Wu Sangui’s personal bodyguards, they might as well go to kidnap the Mongolian emissary Hantiemo.

Wei Xiaobao had met Galdan at Shaolin Temple, that man was arrogant, harsh and unreasonable; he made his warriors to shoot him with golden secret projectiles, if not for the treasured vest protecting his body, he would have lost his life long ago. He thought Galdan’s emissary must not be a good person. He saw Hantiemo was about fifty something years old, with a light yellow beard under his chin, his eyes flickered indefinitely, obviously he was a crafty man.

“Let him see Yang Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Gao Yanchao complied, and pushed Hantiemo to the room next door. They heard Hantiemo screamed, his voice was brimming with terror; seeing Yang Yizhi’s tragic condition, he was scared out of his wits. Gao Yanchao dragged him back. They saw his face was completely drained of color, his body was trembling unceasingly.

“Have you seen the man next door?” Wei Xiaobao asked. Hantiemo nodded. Wei Xiaobao said, “I asked that man, but his answers were vague and not honest, he lied to me several times. I always have a rule, anybody who told me a lie, I would cut one of his legs, told me two lies, cut his both legs. How many lies did that man tell me?”

Gao Yanchao said, “He told seven lies.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head. “Ay,” he sighed, “That man told too many lies, I had no choice but to also cut both of his hands, both of his eyes, and his tongue. Only his head is spared.”

Pulling his dagger, he leaned over and waved the dagger lightly, cutting one leg of a wooden stool in front of him, and then he played with the dagger in his hand. “My dagger can cut human’s hand and leg cleanly and neatly,” he said with a laugh, “Do you want to try?”

Hantiemo was actually a Mongolian brave warrior, but after seeing Yang Yizhi’s devastation, he was so scared that his soul flew away and scattered. He stammered, “Whatever DarenDaren ask, Xiaode [little/lowly one] … Xiaode will not dare to conceal … conceal even half a word.”

“Very good,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Ping Xi Qin Wang wanted me to ask you: everything that you told Wangye, are they actually the truth, or a lie? Was there any empty word?”

Daren please understand,” Hantiemo said, “How can XiaodeXiaode dare to deceive Wangye? Indeed there is not a single empty word.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Wangye did not believe it; he said that you, Mongolians are very crafty, the words you said oftentimes cannot be trusted, you love to cover up things the most.”

Pride mixed with anger appeared on Hantiemo’s face; he said, “We are Genghis Khan’s descendants, we always say one as one, two as two …”

Wei Xiaobao nodded, “Right,” he said, “You say three as three, four as four.”

Hantiemo was startled; he was very fluent in Han language, but his knowledge of idioms and Chinese expressions [see also note 5 of Chapter 29] was very limited; he did not know that what Wei Xiaobao said was tongue-in-cheek, he was simply teasing him. He thought there was a different meaning, which he did not know about; thereupon momentarily he did not know how to respond.

Wei Xiaobao’s countenance sank as he said, “Do you know who I am?”

Hantiemo said, “Xiaode does not know.”

“Go ahead and guess,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Hantiemo saw that the construction Anfu Garden was magnificent and beautiful, he was brought in by Ping Xi Wang Mansion’s attentands, Wei Xiaobao was very young, but he was wearing a first-pin rank uniform, and yellow magua, with a piece of ruby and a pair of peacock plumes on his hat; it was the attire of high-ranking official, nobility of the Imperial Court. Plus the yellow magua was the sign of outstanding honor and glory. Hantiemo’s mind was very quick, he pondered, “You are very young, yet have achieved this high-ranking of officialdom, you must be relying on the shade of your father’s good fortune. Within the Kunming city wall, other than Ping Xi Qin Wang, who else has this kind of fame and power? Plus Ping Xi Wang’s personal bodyguards are so respectful to you. Right, that must be it.” Thereupon he respectfully said, “Xiaode has eyes but failed to see; turns out Daren is Ping Xi Wang’s Xiao Gongzi [little young master].” He had met Wu Yingxiong. Now that he saw Wei Xiaobao, he noticed the similarity of his clothes to Wu Yingxiong’s; hence he came to that conclusion.

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Damn it,” he cursed, “What did you say?” In his heart he said, “You think I am the big traitor, the old turtle’s son; won’t that mean laozi is a little traitor, a little turtle?” Immediately he laughed aloud and said, “You are indeed smart, no wonder Prince Galdan sent you to handle this kind of important mission. Your Prince’s friendship with me is not bad.” He then described Galdan’s appearance and the clothing he wore; he added, “That day your Prince and I discussed martial art, he demonstrated these several moves to me. His martial art skill is really superb.” While saying that, he demonstrated the several moves Galdan used at Shaolin Temple.

Hantiemo was greatly delighted, immediately he paid his respect and said, “Xiao Wangye is a good friend of our Prince. Turns out we are of the same family.”

“Is your Prince well?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Wasn’t he with Sang Qi Lama recently?”

Hantiemo said, “Sang Qi Lama is precisely staying at our Prince’s mansion as an honored guest right this moment.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded, “I thought so,” he said. And then he asked, “There was also a young Han lady who loves to wear blue skirt; I think she is called Ah Qi. I wonder if she is also staying at your Prince’s mansion?”

Hantiemo’s eyes grew big, his face revealed a pleasantly surprised expression; he said, “Turns out … turns out even this … this matter Xiao Wangye also know; indeed … indeed … amazing.”

Wei Xiaobao was only blurting whatever was on is mind, he was simply guessing randomly, yet surprisingly his guess was correct. Feeling very pleased with himself he laughed aloud and said, “Your Prince did not conceal anything from me, Miss Ah Qi is your Prince’s good friend; his Shimei, Miss Ah Ke is my good friend[6]. Won’t that make us really belong to the same family? Ha ha, ha ha …!”

The two of them laughed together, the barrier between them vanished. Wei Xiaobao said, “Fu Wang sent me to ask you really well, the things you told my Fu Wang, are they really with all sincerity, and there is no other conspiracy?”

Xiao Wangye,” Hantiemo said, “You have such friendship with our Prince, how can you still have such suspicion?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Fu Wang said that when someone is telling lies, what he says the first time might not be the same as when he says it the second time. This matter is really of too great an importance, once we are not careful, everybody will fall with head and face filthy with grime, will be in an extremely difficult situation; therefore, Fu Wang wanted you to repeat to me everything from head to tail, to see if there is any ‘mortise and tenon that won’t fit with each other’. Hantiemo Laoxiong, it’s not that I don’t believe your Prince, but with you, it is our first meeting; I don’t really know you. I must, therefore, question you carefully; please don’t blame me.”

“That, you should,” Hantiemo said, “If this matter ever leaks out, there will be fatal consequences. Ping Xi Wang is handling this matter very carefully, this is an absolute must. Xiao Wangye, please report back to Wangye, after our four families form an alliance, we will send troops together, and divide the land under the heavens [referring to China] into four parts. The rivers and mountains of the Central Plains will entirely belong to Wangye. The other three families will not be envious or have any change of mind.”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he thought, “Four-part domination! I wonder which four families? But if I ask him, I would appear not knowing what he is talking about, and then my cover will be blown away.” He then chuckled and said, “This matter has actually been discussed several times by your Prince and I. But as far as how this matter will be accomplished, how to divide the land under the heavens into four parts, after much negotiation we have never reached any agreement. What did your Prince say this time?”

“Our Prince says that it’s not that he has a mind to demand too much favor,” Hantiemo said, “But the matter of contacting the Luocha[7] Country to send their troops is the result of His Highness …”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard the word ‘Luocha Country to send their troops’, his heart shivered in fear. In the meantime, Hantiemo continued, “… is the result of His Highness’ effort after he suffered untold hardship before he succeeded. Luocha Country’s firearms are incomparably fierce, when the firearms shoot, the Qing troops will have countless difficulties to resist. As long as the Luocha Country is willing to send the troops, this important matter will succeed. Ping Xi Wang will become the Great Emperor of China, Xiao Wangye will become the Crown Prince.”

Luocha Country is Russia, the country where the people have yellow hair and jade green eyes, and exceptional stature. The Chinese regarded these people as the demon ‘luocha’, the evil spirit in Buddhism; consequently, at that time the country was called Luocha Country.

During Shunzhi’s reign, the Cossack Cavalry of Luocha Country had had several confrontations with the Qing troops; although each time the Qing troops were beaten, they also managed to inflict serious damage to the Cossacks. Wei Xiaobao did not understand the affairs between nations, but when he was in the Palace, he had heard that the Luocha Country’s troops were brutal and violent; their firearms were swift and fierce, and were difficult to withstand. He thought, “My, my, this is serious; selling his own country has become Wu Sangui’s second nature, this time he collude with Luocha Country. I must report this to the young Emperor immediately, we must think of a way to resist Luocha Country’s firearms and canons.”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao was hesitating without saying anything, with his face showing a displeased expression, Hantiemo asked, “I wonder if Xiao Wangye has any advice?”

“Um,” Wei Xiaobao’s mind flashed like a lightning, trying to think how to conceal what he was really thinking. Suddenly he recalled Zheng Keshuang’s strive with his older brother over their father’s position that he sent Feng Xifan to assassinate his Shifu Chen Jinnan. Immediately he bitterly said, “Damn it, what other advice I may have? Fu Wang becomes the Emperor, in the future it will be my Gege who succeed him to the throne, I will only be a prince; what good will it be?”

Hantiemo suddenly saw the light; he walked over and said in a low voice, “Since our Prince is already a good friend of Xiao Wangye, when Xiaoren return, I will explain to the Prince Xiao Wangye’s desire. When this great undertaking is accomplished, our Mongolia and Luocha Country, plus the Living Buddha of Tibet, three families, will seek to protect Xiao Wangye. In that way … in that way Xiao Wangye will have nothing to worry.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Turns out the four families who will deploy troops are Mongolia, Tibet, Luocha Country, plus Wu Sangui.” Immediately his face showed a delighted expression as he said, “If the three of you will really strive for me, when I have the power in my hands, naturally I will reward you heavily; definitely I won’t forget you, laoxiong, for your help.” Casually he took out four banknotes, worth five hundred taels each, from his pocket and handed it over to Hantiemo, saying, “Please take this first for your incidental expenses.”

Seeing how generous he was with reward, Hantiemo was overjoyed at the unexpected fortune; immediately he bowed to express his gratitude. The little bit of suspicion he originally had in his heart, at this moment it vanished completely. He was certain that this Xiao Wangye wanted to vie for the Emperor position with his older brother Wu Yingxiong; his master Prince Galdan and Hantiemo himself just happened to be in the middle of the raising and lowering of their hands, hence they occupied a very advantageous position.

Wei Xiaobao said, “According to your Prince, after our success, how are we going to divide the land under the heavens?”

Hantiemo replied, “The beautiful rivers and mountains of the Central Plains naturally will belong to your Wu family. Sichuan will return to the Living Buddha of Tibet, the roads north and south of Tianshan[8], the Inner Mongolia’s four eastern and two western leagues[9], Chahar, Jehol, and the city of Suiyuan will return to our Mongolia.”

“That’s quite a vast expanse of land,” Wei Xiaobao said. Actually, he did not know the size of any places mentioned, but listening to Hantiemo mentioning a lot of places, he guessed the area must be quite substantial.

Hantiemo smiled and said, “The effort our Mongolia will spend on Wangye’s behalf will also be very substantial.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “How about the Luocha Country?” he asked.

Hantiemo replied, “The Great Emperor of Luocha Country said that Luocha Country and Wangye’s territory will have the Shanhai Pass [the Eastern Pass of the Great Wall] as the border. They will not tread a single step into the inside of the Pass. Outside Shanhai Pass originally belongs to Manchurian Tatars; the Luocha Country will occupy the Manchu people’s land, they will not occupy even a cun of Chinese people’s land.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “In that case, I think it is fair,” he said, “Have your Prince made a schedule on when we are going to raise our arms?”

Hantiemo said, “In this great undertaking, Wangye is the leader, the other three families will merely respond by launching converging attack; naturally we will wait for Wangye’s thought.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Fu Wang really wants to know, after we deploy our troops, how are the three families going to respond?”

Hantiemo said, “In this matter, we ask that Wangye not to worry. As soon as Wangye’s large force is out of Yunnan and Guizhou, our Mongolian elite troops will be deployed from the west to the east, the Cossack elite cavalry of Luocha Country will move from the north to the south, and attack Beijing from two directions. The Living Buddha’s Tibetan army will immediately sweep Sichuan border, plus Shen Long Jiao’s surprise-attack force …”

“Ah!” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed, and slapped his thigh. “You … you know about Shen Long Jiao?” he said, “Hong Jiaozhu … what did he say?” Hearing that the Divine Dragon Cult was unexpectedly also involved in this conspiracy, his heart was shaken; he could not prevent his voice from quivering.

Seeing the change in his countenance, Hantiemo asked, “Has Wangye told Xiao Wangye about Shen Long Jiao?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud; he said, “Why hasn’t he? Twice I have had long talk with Hong Jiaozhu and Madame Hong; I have even met with the Five Dragon Envoys of the Cult. I thought your Prince did not know about this matter.”

Hantiemo smiled and said, “Hong Jiaozhu of Shen Long Jiao has already received an imperial appointment from the Great Emperor of the Luocha Country. As soon as the Luocha Country deploys its troops, naturally Shen Long Jiao will have no choice but to respond. In the future, China’s coastal islands, including Taiwan and Hainan Islands, will become Shen Long Jiao’s territory. Not only that, Fujian’s Geng Jingzhong, Guandong’s Shang Kexi, Guangxi’s Kong Sizhen, everybody may respond. Once Wangye gives a shout, from the east, south, west and north everybody will move together, won’t this Manchurian Qing’s dominion fall into Wangye’s hands?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud. “Wonderful, wonderful!” he said, while in his heart he groaned, “Bad, bad!” He was, after all, still very young; telling lies here and there, he was capable of not revealing any flaw. But encountering national affair like this, he could not help but secretly feeling worry for the young emperor. Those words, ‘wonderful, wonderful’ did not sound very joyous at all.

Hantiemo was very astute; he could tell the deep concern behind what Wei Xiaobao did not really mean what he said. “Xiao Wangye’s friendship with our Prince is out of ordinary, you are also treating Xiaoren generously; even if my body is crushed to dust Xiaoren cannot repay it. Whatever difficulty Xiao Wangye might have, there is no harm in giving me clear direction. If Xiaoren can do anything to serve you, I will not balk at ten thousand deaths.”

“I was just thinking,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If everybody takes one piece on the east, one piece on the west, when I become the Emperor in the future, my territory will be broken and in disorder; that will be very disappointing.”

Hantiemo mused, “Turns out you are concerned over this matter. It makes sense.” He said in a low voice, “Xiao Wangye please understand, after this great undertaking is accomplished, those cronies Geng Jingzhong, Shang Kexi and Kong Sizhen will be eliminated. At that time, if you want us, Mongolian to send troops to help, naturally we won’t decline.”

Wei Xiaobao delightedly said, “Thank you very much, thank you very much. You may bring these words of mine back to your Prince. You are Prince Galdan’s trusted aide; your promise is just the same as if the Prince personally gives me his words.”

Hantiemo felt a bit awkward, but then he thought that it would be a future problem, there is no harm to carelessly make a promise right now. Patting his own chest, he said, “Xiaoren will definitely do my utmost for Xiao Wangye; I definitely will not turn my back on you.”

Wei Xiaobao questioned him some more for quite a long time, but did not get any new useful information; hence he said, “Just take a rest in here, I will go back to report to Fu Wang.” And then he continued in low voice, “Whatever we talked about today, if you ever leak even half a word, my Gege will definitely strike a vicious blow to kill me; I am afraid even Fu Wang will be helpless to save me.”

Hantiemo had seen quite a lot of brothers struggling for position and killing each other within the Mongolian tribal clans; he knew this was indeed not a small matter. Thereupon he bent his knees immediately and raised his hands toward the heaven to make a vow.

Wei Xiaobao went out of the room; he instructed Feng Jizhong and Xu Tianchuan to strictly guard Hantiemo, and then he went to visit Yang Yizhi. As soon as he pushed the door open, he could not help but was greatly shocked, for half of Yang Yizhi’s body was rolled on the floor. He rushed forward to help him up, but saw that Yang Yizhi’s eyes were wide open, yet he was motionless since he had already died. There were several large characters written in blood on the white sheet of the bed. Wei Xiaobao only knew a ‘three’ [San] character and a ‘cassia’ [Gui] character. He turned his head around and asked, “What characters are those?”

“Yes,” Gao Yanchao responded, “Wu Sangui zao fan [rebel/revolt] mai guo [sell country], seven characters.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “At the point of his death Yang Dage used his severed hand to write.”

“Precisely,” Gao Yanchao grimly said.

Wei Xiaobao called the Tian Di Hui warriors together and conveyed to them what Hantiemo had told him. None of the warriors was not enraged; they all cursed Wu Sangui for betraying his country the first time, and now wanted to do it the second time. Priest Xuanzhen gnashed his teeth. Suddenly he untied the front piece of his garment and said, “Gentlemen, please look!”

They saw a scar on his chest, as big as a rice bowl, where the skin wrinkled and the bone protruded; it looked really gruesome. He also had a long saber scar on his left shoulder, approximately a chi long. These people had known each other for quite a long time, yet nobody knew that he had suffered such a serious injury in the past. When they saw it, nobody was not overwhelmed with shock.

Priest Xuanzhen said, “This is precisely the wound from the devils of the Luocha Country’s firearms.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “So Daozhang [(Taoist) priest] has fought with the Luocha people?”

With a grieved expression Priest Xuanzhen said, “My father, (older and younger) uncles, nine brothers in all, have died under the Luocha people’s hands. Pindao[10] left home precisely because of this.” Thereupon he briefly narrated his story.

Originally from generation to generation his family engaged in furs business. They ran a furs business in Zhangjiakou [prefecture, in Hebei province]; they owned a hundred-year old shop there. One particular year his father’s elder brother and his father took their brothers, sons and nephew to go beyond the Great Wall to purchase silver fox, sable and other precious furs. Along the way they came across a band of Luocha people, who coveted their gold, silver and goods, and wanted to rob them. There were actually three escort masters under their employment who went along to protect them. But the Luocha people’s firearms were very fierce; as soon as they opened fire, the three escort masters died instantly. His father and uncles also died under their firearms, sabers and horses. Xuanzhen’s shoulder was cut by a saber, the pit of his stomach was fried by the gunpowder; he fainted in a pool of blood. The Luocha people thought he was dead. They plundered their gold, silver and goods, and left.

After Xuanzhen regained his consciousness, he struggled for many months in the forest of the mountain before his wounds were healed. Because of this calamity, his family property was completely gone, their furs business went bankrupt. In his discouragement he left his home to become a Taoist priest. When the country changed its master, he joined Tian Di Hui. But when he recalled how swift and fierce Luocha people’s firearm was, although it had been more than twenty years ago, he still often got nightmares in the middle of the night, he would shout loudly and woke up with a start.

Li Lishi said, “The fiercest weapon those Luocha people have is the firearm. As long as we can think of a way to break it, we don’t have to be afraid of them.”

Priest Xuanzhen shook his head and said, “When it went off, it is indeed like thunder and lightning. Even if your martial art is higher, you won’t be able to dodge it, you won’t be able to block it.”

Xu Tianchuan said, “Luocha people want to join hands with Wu Sangui to snatch away the Tatars’ realm, we can simply watch with folded arms, let them fight each other until the sky and the earth turn upside down. We can benefit as the third party and seize the opportunity to restore the Great Ming’s rivers and mountains.”

Priest Xuanzhen said, “I am afraid we will only beat the tiger from the front door only to have a wolf come from the back door. Luocha people are ten times more vicious than the Manchurian Tatars; after defeating the Manchurian Qing, they won’t stop at Shanhai Pass, they would definitely enter the Pass to occupy our land under the heavens.”

“Shall we help the Manchu Tatars instead?” Xu Tianchuan asked. The warriors made comments one after another.

Naturally Wei Xiaobao was determined to help Kangxi, but he did not dare to speak it out. “There is no hurry to make the decision right now,” he said, “We have snatched Yang Dage away, we have captured Hantiemo and Lu Yifeng; very soon Wu Sangui will find out about it, and then what are we going to do?”
Everybody pondered silently, and then some said that they had better fight with him immediately, some said they had better escape that very same night. Wei Xiaobao said, “This old turtle has many troops and horses under his command; if we have to fight, we cannot beat him. Yunnan and Guizhou are so big, we won’t necessarily be able to escape his clutch in ten days or half a month. Um, let’s do it this way: I am asking gentlemen to take that dog official Lu Yifeng, along with Yang Dage’s body, back to the big prison Hei Kanzi.”

The warriors were startled. “Send them back?” they asked.

“Exactly,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “We only need to scare that dog thief Lu Yifeng, I’ll say most likely he will not dare to announce it publicly. If he reports it to his superior, he himself will not escape the responsibility. Yang Dage is dead anyway, there is no point in keeping his corpse.”

Although the warriors had rich experience in the Jianghu, their knowledge of government officials’ character was far inferior to Wei Xiaobao’s. They all thought that his risky move[11] this time was too dangerous; breaking into jail, freeing a prisoner and kidnaping an official was quite a major event, how could Lu Yifeng not report it to his superior? Li Lishi hesitantly said, “I think this dog official Lu Yifeng is too much of a coward; I am afraid … I am afraid in this important matter he won’t dare not to report it.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I am not afraid that he is a coward, but I am afraid he is too stupid and useless, cannot do his job as a government official. In the officialdom, there is a principle ‘conceal from superior, do not conceal from subordinate’; an enormous matter will disappear when you cover it up. Nobody wants to deliberately put a black pot over his own head. Just bring that dog official over, let me remind him some.”

Gao Yanchao turned around and left, returning with Lu Yifeng in his arms, and tossed him to the floor. He had been beaten and was scared, his face had already turned ghastly pale.

“Lu Laoge [old older brother],” Wei Xiaobao began, “You must be exhausted.”

“I … I don’t dare,” Lu Yifeng replied.

“Lu Laoge is a real friend,” Wei Xiaobao said, “All Ping Xi Wang’s classified information, you have narrated it to us in full detail without concealing anything. Very well, a friend is a friend, we are going to let you go. Laoge has leaked Ping Xi Wang’s classified information, we will not tell anybody about it. Real men of the Jianghu will say one as one, two as two. If you, Laoge, like to publicize it yourself, to openly set yourself against Ping Xi Wang, it’s your own business. Ha ha, ha ha …”

Lu Yifeng shook all over; he said, “Even if XiaoXiaoren has gar … gargantuan nerve, I won’t … won’t dare.”

“Very good,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Brothers, please escort Lu Daren back to yamen. You might as well bring that prisoner’s body back with you, so that when there is any inquiry, Lu Daren will not have a hard time explaining.” The warriors complied together. Lu Yifeng was pleasantly surprised, but was also confused; with the warriors holding his arms, he was ushered out.

For the next several days, the Tian Di Hui warriors were waiting in trepidation; they were afraid Lu Yifeng would report to Wu Sangui, and then a large group of troops and horses under Ping Xi Wang’s command would storm into Anfu Garden to massacre them all; yet unexpectedly nothing was astirred. It was unclear whether that old traitor Wu Sangui was very crafty, that he waited until the time is ripe before making any movement, or contrary to what they expected, Wei Xiangzhu’s premonition was correct, that Lu Yifeng indeed did not dare to report.

The warriors were restless; day after day they talked about it over and over. Finally Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s do it this way, I am going to pay Wu Sangui a visit, to see what he has to say.”

Xu Tianchuan said, “I am afraid he will detain Wei Xiangzhu and won’t let you go back; that would be terrible.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “All of us are in his grasp anyway, if the old turtle wanted to catch me, even if I don’t go to see him, I won’t be able to escape.”

He selected several officers and soldiers from the Valiant Cavalry Brigade and several Imperial Bodyguards and went to the Ping Xi Wang Mansion. Wu Sangui personally came out to welcome him. With smiles all over his face he took Wei Xiaobao’s hand; together they entered the Mansion. “To what do I owe Wei Jueye’s visit this time?” he asked, “You only need to pass it on to my son, and then won’t everything be done for you? Why would you have to toil your honorable self?”

“Aiyo,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Wangye is too polite. Xiao Jiangguan’s [lit. little/lowly military officer, referring to self] official duty is low, compared to the Prince Consort’s it is too far below. What Wangye said, Xiao Jiang is too undeserving.”

Wu Sangui laughed and said, “Wei Jueye is the beloved general serving by His Majesty’s side that he most doted on, your future is full of promise, indeed your prospect is immeasurable. It won’t be the least bit surprising if in the future you will come to this Mansion and be the Wangye.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart skipped a beat; he could not stop his countenance from changing. Halting his steps, he said, “What Wangye said is not right.”

Wu Sangui laughed. “What do you mean not right?” he asked, “Wei Jueye is only fifteen or sixteen years old, already you are the Commander of the Valiant Cavalry Brigade, Deputy Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards, Imperial Envoy, and was granted the title of Viscount. From Zijue [viscount] to Bojue [earl/count], Houjue [marquis], Gongjue [duke], Wangjue [king/prince] and then Qin Wang [prince[12]], it won’t take more than a dozen, perhaps twenty, years. Ha ha, ha ha …”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “Wangye,” he said, “Xiao Jiang left the Capital this time, His Majesty instructed, ‘Tell Wu Sangui to serve well. In the future this Ping Xi Qin Wang title will belong to my meifu [husband of younger sister] Wu Yingxiong; after Wu Yingxiong died, the Qin Wang title will belong to my waisheng [sister’s son or wife’s sibling’s son], when my waisheng dies, it will belong to my waisheng’s son. In short, let Ping Xi Qin Wang title belongs to the Wu family forever.’ Wangye, when he said that, His Majesty was extremely sincere.”

Wu Sangui was very happy in his heart. “Did His Majesty really say that?” he asked.

“Why would I lie to you?” Wei Xiaobao said, “But His Majesty also said that there is no hurry for me to tell you this, he wanted me to investigate carefully; if Wangye is indeed a very loyal minister, then I should tell you that. Otherwise, hey, hey, won’t that mean you are saying that the Lord of Ten-thousand Years’ words does not count? That once he gave his words, dead horses cannot chase?”

“Humph,” Wu Sangui said, “Since today Wei Jueye have just told me that, you have decided that I am a loyal minister?”

“Are you not?” Wei Xiaobao said, “If Wangye is not a loyal minister, nobody in this world is. If someday Wei Xiaobao can really have a golden mouth like Wangye, to be granted the title Zheng Dong Wang, Sao Bei Wang, Ding Nan Wang[13], or whatever, but can stay here in Ping Xi Wang Mansion in Yunnan, ha ha … I will be the guest for the rest of my life; I don’t want to act as the host forever.”

The two of them were talking and walking inside. Wu Sangui was very happy to listen to Wei Xiaobao; pulling Wei Xiaobao’s hand, he said, “Come, come, let us sit in my private study room.” Walking through two garden courtyards, they arrived at Wu Sangui’s private study.

Although this room was called a study room, the walls were full of sabers, spears, swords and halberds, there was not a single bookshelf or a book. There was a large round-backed wooden armchair in the middle of the room, draped in tiger skin. Ordinary tiger will have black stripes on yellow background, but this tiger skin had black stripes on white background; it was really unusual.

“Aiyo, Wangye,” Wei Xiaobao said, “This white tiger skin must be very rare. Xiao Jiang has never seen anything like this in the Palace. Today my horizon has been broadened.”

Wu Sangui was very proud of himself; he said, “When I was guarding the Shanhai Pass in the past, I went hunting in the vicinity of Ningyuan, and caught it. This kind of white tiger is called ‘Zouyu’ [mythical animal]; it is indeed very rare, to get this tiger means great luck, great profit.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Every day Wangye is sitting on this white tiger skin, you will gain promotion and wealth forever without an end. Tsk, tsk, tsk, it’s really amazing.”

He saw next to the tiger skin chair there were a couple of marble screen, about five or six chi tall. The picture of mountain, water [together means ‘landscape], wood and rock on the screen seemed to be alive. On one of the screen, there was a picture of mountain peak, on the mountain peak there seemed to be a black-naped oriole. By the water there was a tiger, the posture looked beautiful and alive. Wei Xiaobao praised, “These two screens must be very valuable too. I have never seen something like this in the Palace. They say that Laotianye [God/Heaven] was gifted this kind of painting, to whomever’s hands it falls, it will be an omen.”

Wu Sangui smiled, “What about these two screens? I wonder what omen they might have?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “In Xiao Jiang’s opinion, this aloof and remote little black-naped oriole can only chirp ‘jijizhazha’, quite useless. Underneath is actually a big tiger, majestic, very formidable. This big tiger is naturally Wangye.

Wu Sangui was very happy; immediately he thought, “He said that the little black-naped oriole is standing aloft, can only chirp ‘jijizhazha’, and is quite useless; isn’t he referring to the young Emperor? By saying those things, is he testing me?” Thereupon he asked, “This little black-naped oriole, I wonder what it is referring to.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “What does Wangye think?”

Wu Sangui shook his head, “I don’t know,” he said, “Would Wei Jueye give me your advice?”

Wei Xiaobao smiled. He pointed to the other screen and said, “Here we have mountains and we have water, of course it is referring to ‘ten thousand li of rivers and mountains’. Ha ha, good omen, good omen!”

Wu Sangui’s heart jumped; he was about to ask, but in the end he did not dare. In that moment he felt his lips were dry, his tongue parched.

With the corner of his eyes Wei Xiaobao suddenly caught a glimpse of a sutra laying on the desk, it was precisely the ‘Forty-two-chapter sutra’ with which he was very familiar. It’s just that the sutra had blue silk cover. Immediately his heart jumped. “The eighth copy,” he said in his heart, “Indeed it is in the old turtle’s place. Wonderful, wonderful!”

Immediately he turned his eyes away from the sutra, and looked at the sabers and spears on the wall. He laughed and said, “Wangye, you are indeed a great hero, a great warrior, even your study is full of weapons. Frankly speaking, Xiao Jiang cannot tell the good from the bad, when I heard the word ‘study room’, my head was getting big; who would have thought that your study room is this magnificent? Indeed, my utmost admiration.”

Wu Sangui laughed heartily; he said, “Each one of these weapons has its origin. Xiao Wang hang them here just for old time’s sake.”

“So that’s how it is,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In those years Wangye swept the east and shook the west, struggled in the south and fought in the north, establishing enormous heroic deeds [orig. to ride a laboring horse to great deeds]. These weapons must be the ones Wangye had used?”

Wu Sangui smiled. “Exactly,” he said, “In defending the border, throughout my life I have fought several hundred battles, big and small; from the cradle to the grave, this Wang [king] title came from struggling with everything I have.” The implication was that I was not like you, the little baby who was lucky to obtain the Emperor’s favor and was promoted to Viscount.

Wei Xiaobao nodded in agreement; he said, “When Wangye defended Shanhai Pass, I wonder which weapon did you use? Which great merit did you render?”

Wu Sangui’s countenance changed quickly. When he defended Shanhai Pass, the battle was against the Manchurians, which means the more he killed Manchurians, the bigger his merit was. By asking this question, Wei Xiaobao was obviously mocking him as a traitor (to Han people). In that moment his hands trembled slightly, he nearly was not able to suppress his anger.

Wei Xiaobao continued, “I heard that the Emperor Yongli of the Ming Dynasty was pursued by Wangye from Yunnan all the way to Burma, until finally he was caught and hung by Wangye with a bowstring …” While saying that, he pointed to a long bow on the wall, and asked, “I wonder if that was the bow?”

When Wu Sangui killed Emperor Yongli of Ming, he had made up his mind to show his loyalty and devotion to the Qing Dynasty, that he would not be double-minded; however, deep down in his heart he was actually quite ashamed. Nobody in his mansion had ever dared to mention this matter; unexpectedly Wei Xiaobao brought it up on his face, and thus unmasking his scar. In that instant the fury in his breast was difficult to endure; he said sternly, “Today Wei Jueye has repeatedly mocked me, I don’t know what is your intention?”

Wei Xiaobao said in consternation, “I did not! How can Xiao Jiang dare to mock Wangye? Back in Beijing, Xiao Jiang heard everybody in the Palace said that Wangye even hang the Ming Emperor, showing your utmost loyalty toward our Great Qing. I heard that when Wangye hang Emperor Yongli, you acted personally, the bowstring tightened around his neck, ‘zhi, zhi, zhi’, Emperor Yongli groaned ‘ai, ai, ai’, and Wangye laughed heartily. Very good, very good, that was very loyal!”

Wu Sangui sprang up, clenched his fists, but then he had a second thought, “How can a little kid like this have this kind of guts, have the impertinence to provoke me like this? Must be that little muddle-headed lord incited him, ordering him to test me; or perhaps my other opponents in the Imperial Court intentionally prompted him to speak provoking words, trying to control me.” Being a wily old fox, immediately he suppressed his angry look and chuckled. “Those ‘defending our border and rendering great merits’ and so on are not worth mentioning,” he said, “Actually, only being loyal and devoted to His Majesty can be considered a little bit of my strong point. Xiao Xiongdi, you want to be Zheng Dong Wang, Sao Bei Wang, you must learn how to be loyal and devoted to His Majesty like your Lao Gege here.”

“Yes, yes!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Absolutely, I cannot afford not to learn it! It’s a pity Xiao Jiang was born several decades too late, the Ming Dynasty Emperors have all been killed by Wangye, so that Xiao Jiang has nowhere to put my hands into.”

Wu Sangui cursed in his heart, “There will come a day when you will fall into my hand, and then I will make a mincemeat of you!” He laughed and said, “If Wei Jueye wants to set up a merit, why worry you won’t get any opportunity?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “It would be good if someone revolts,” he said.

Wu Sangui’s heart turned cold. “Why?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If someone revolts, His Majesty will send me to battle, Xiao Jiang will do what Wangye has done, I will fight with everything I have and kill the enemy, catch the rebels, and may break open the border region.”

“Wei Xiongdi,” Wu Sangui grimly said, “This kind of talk is irresponsible and must not be mentioned. With the current Holy Son of Heaven on the throne, the whole world’s heart is converted, every person gives his allegiance, who might want to revolt?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “So according to Wangye, nobody will revolt?”

Wu Sangui was taken aback; he said, “If we say nobody will revolt, naturally it may not be necessarily true. The former Ming Dynasty rebels, or followers of renegades everywhere, those who wish to create disorder, I am afraid there are some.”

“If someone revolts,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “Will it mean that the Holy Son of Heaven is not on the throne anymore?”

Wu Sangui struggled hard to suppress his anger. “Hey, hey, hey,” he let out some dry laughed, and then said, “Xiao Xiongdi’s talk is very interesting.”

Actually, after seeing the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ on the desk, Wei Xiaobao was constantly trying to infuriate Wu Sangui, hoping that in his anger, he might brush off his sleeve and storm out of the room, so that Wei Xiaobao might have a chance to steal the sutra. Unexpectedly Wu Sangui was extremely shrewd, although his anger flared several times, he was able to control his temper and thus he did not fall into Wei Xiaobao’s trick.

Seeing Wu Sangui could not be provoked, Wei Xiaobao knew he would not have the opportunity to reach out and snatch the sutra away; immediately he changed his tactic, he said several things that Wu Sangui would love to hear. But while his mouth was busy licking Wu Sangui’s behind, his mind was racing, trying to find a way to get hold of the sutra. He thought, “Supposing I faked an Imperial Edict, saying that His Majesty wanted to have this sutra, I have no doubt that the old turtle would not dare not to offer it. Much less His Majesty did indeed want to have the sutra, and did tell me to take the opportunity while I am in Yunnan to look for it. If I said that I want the old turtle to hand me the sutra, I am not faking an Imperial Decree. However, I am afraid that while the old turtle would readily agree, he would rig up a scam in secret, perhaps he would be like Prince Kang, who forged a ‘western shellfish goods’ [there’s this phrase again: 西贝货儿 see chapter 29] to the Emperor, then I could not get the pieces of skin inside.”

As soon as he thought about forging the sutra, he had an idea. Suddenly he lowered his voice as he said, “Wangye, His Majesty has a secret edict for you.”

Wu Sangui was startled; he stood up instantly and said, “Minister Wu Sangui respectfully hear and obey the Imperial Decree.”

Wei Xiaobao pulled his hand and said, “No rush, no rush, let me tell you the background information first.”

“Yes, yes,” Wu Sangui said, but he did not sit down.

Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty understands very well that you are a loyal minister of the Great Qing, yet he repeatedly instructed me to ascertain whether you are loyal or a traitor, does Wangye know why?”

Wu Sangui scratched his head and said, “I don’t know.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Actually, His Majesty has an important matter he wants you to do, but somehow he does not feel reassured yet whether you would or would not strive to do your best. He is sending Princess Jianning down to marry your Heir Apparent, actually his intention was to … to … that …”

“He wants to encourage me?” Wu Sangui asked.

“Right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty said his intention was to encourage you. My literary knowledge is too lacking, I could not remember that word.”

Wu Sangui said, “Whatever mission His Majesty has for me, laochen [the old minister, referring to self] will do my utmost, I will toil as his dog or his horse. I am just wondering what mission might His Majesty has for laochen to do.”

“This mission concerns a matter of utmost importance,” Wei Xiaobao said, “By this time tomorrow, I am asking Wangye to wait for me in the Mansion, Xiao Jiang will come back to pass on His Majesty’s secret order.”

“Yes, yes,” Wu Sangui said, “His Majesty has a decree, laochen will go to Anfu Garden to receive it.”

With a low voice Wei Xiaobao said, “Too many eyes and ears in Anfu Garden, this place is more dependable.”

Finished speaking he took his leave. Wu Sangui wondered what trick he was playing, he respectfully walked Wei Xiaobao out.

The next day Wei Xiaobao returned about the same time, the two of them went into the study room.

Wangye,” Wei Xiaobao began, “What I am about to tell you is a matter of utmost importance, you must never divulge it in any way, even when you present a memorial to the Emperor, you must not mention it a character or half a word.”

“Yes, yes,” Wu Sangui complied, “Naturally I will not dare to divulge the secret.”

Wei Xiaobao lowered his voice, “His Majesty obtained a secret report, Shang Kexi and Geng Jingzhong is about to rebel!”

As soon as Wu Sangui heard it, his countenance changed greatly. Ping Nan Wang [king who pacified the south] Shang Kexi was guarding Guangdong, Jing Nan Wang [peaceful south king] Geng Jingzhong was guarding Fujian; together with Wu Sangui, they were known as the three border defenses. These three defenses shared glory and disgrace, their rise and demise were interrelated. Wu Sangui’s rebellion plot actually involved a joint large-scale military movement with Shang and Geng, two defenses. When he heard that the Emperor was aware that Shang and Geng, two people were about to revolt, naturally Wu Sangui was thrown into extreme panic. “Is … is that true?” he asked in a trembling voice.

The previous day he concocted a story that he had a secret order from the Emperor to scare Wu Sangui so that he would lose his head out of fear, and thus Wei Xiaobao would have an opportunity to steal the sutra. However, he was, after all, only a young kid whose knowledge of military or country affair was limited. He thought that if he babbled nonsense, first, Wu Sangui might not necessarily believe him, second, when the lie was exposed, perhaps the repercussion would be so significant that Kangxi might blame him; therefore, he decided to return to Anfu Garden and discuss it over with Tian Di Hui warriors first before returning on the next day to pass on the imperial edict. Qi Biaoqing suggested that they framed Shang and Geng, two defenses, saying that they plotted a rebellion, to frightened Wu Sangui in a big way, since in effect they were exposing his own rebellion plot. Sure enough, as Wei Xiaobao brought it up, Wu Sangui was so scared that he was at a loss of what to do.

“Actually,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “His Majesty kept hearing that the three defenses were planning a rebellion, but it sounded like a fabricated fact, just like the later generation of Mu Family trying to frame you; His Majesty never believed such thing.”

“Yes, yes,” Wu Sangui said, “His Majesty is an enlightened sage, His Majesty is an enlightened sage.”

“But this time, about the Shang and Geng, two defenses’ conspiracy, His Majesty has finally acquired reliable evidence,” Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty said: right now the two defenses’ rebellion plot is not out in the open yet, we must not beat the grass to scare the snake; however, he wants the Wu defense to deploy massive military force to be stationed at the Guangdong, Guangxi borders. As soon as those two defenses rise up, the Wu defense is to immediately dispatch the troops to Guangdong and Fujian, to arrest those two traitors and send them off to Beijing. That will be an enormous meritorious service.”

Wu Sangui bowed and said, “I solemnly receive the Imperial Edict. If Shang and Geng, two defenses are acting against the law, laochen will immediately deploy troops to capture those two people and present them to Beijing.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty said: Shang Kexi is a muddle-head, Geng Jingzhong is a useless fellow, they are definitely not Wu defense’s match. As long as Wu defense agrees to deploy troops, the Imperial Court will not need to send a single soldier, this matter will be solved just by stretching a hand and grab it.”

Wu Sangui smiled and said, “Please tell the Lord of Ten-thousand Years to set his heart at peace. Laochen drills the troops in here, I do not dare to be negligence the least bit, especially to serve the Emperor on a special mission. All the soldiers and generals under laochen’s banner, each one is comparable to three bannermen soldiers, and they all pledge their lives in loyalty and devotion to His Majesty.”

“I am going to report what Wangye is saying today back to the Emperor,” Wei Xiaobao said, “When His Majesty hears it, he will be very happy.”

Wu Sangui was secretly delighted, “This way I can move an army and send a general, even if the little muddleheaded lord knew about it, he won’t be suspicious.”

Wei Xiaobao pointed to a rifle hanging on the wall. “Wangye,” he said, “Is that a westerners’ firearm?”

“Exactly,” Wu Sangui said, “That is Luocha Country’s firearm. It was obtained during the battle our Great Qing and the Luocha Country had outside the Pass, it is indeed a very sharp weapon.”

“I have never had any firearms before,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Can you let me borrow it for a moment?”

Wu Sangui smiled and said, “Naturally you can! This kind of firearm is used during the battle; although it can reach far, it is rather inconvenient to use. Luocha people have some other short gun.” Walking toward a wooden cabinet, he pulled open the drawer, and took a red wood case out.

Wei Xiaobao was standing right by the desk. As soon as he saw Wu Sangui turning around, he also turned around, lifted the front piece of the yellow magua he was wearing, took out a copy of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ from the pocket of the magua, put it on the table, took the copy of sutra that was originally on the table, and put it into the pocket of his magua. This swapping was done in an extremely fast and nimble manner; even if Wu Sangui was watching helplessly, his vision would be blocked by Wei Xiaobao’s back and it would be hard for him to know what’s going on, much less Wu Sangui was also turning his back to fetch the gun. All eight copies of the sutra had exactly the same appearance, only the book jackets had different colors. The previous night Wei Xiaobao took the Bordered Blue Banner’s copy, tore off the red border, and swapped it off with the Plain Blue Banner’s copy.

He saw Wu Sangui opened the wooden case and took out two short guns, about a chi long each. From the muzzle he stuffed some gunpowder, and packed it using an iron rod. He also put three iron bullets inside the muzzle. And then he took a fire knife and ignited a piece of paper, and handed the gun and the paper to Wei Xiaobao and said, “Light the fuse, the iron bullet will shoot out.”

Wei Xiaobao received the gun, and aimed the muzzle at the rockery outside the window. He blew the lighted paper to ignite the fuse. There was a loud explosion, a burst of hot air hit his face, his arm was violently jolted, the gun fell to the floor, smoke arose before his eyes; he could not help but to retreat two steps backward.

Wu Sangui laughed aloud and said, “This gun’s power is very formidable, isn’t it?”

Wei Xiaobao’s arm was numb from the shock. “Damn it,” he cursed, “Western people’s toy is indeed demonical.”

Wu Sangui laughed and said, “Look at the rockery!”

Wu Sangui focused his eyes and saw the a small corner of the rockery had been exploded, there were fragments of rocks scattered on the ground; he could not help but sticking out his tongue, and did not pull it back for half a day. “If this gun explode on someone,” he said, “Even if you have copper muscle and iron bone, you won’t be able to withstand it.” Stooping down, he picked up the short gun and put it back into the wooden case.

When the mansion’s guards heard the explosion, they all came to the window and looked inside. After seeing their Wangye was safe and sound, and was talking to Wei Xiaobao, they felt relieved.

Wu Sangui held the wooden case with both hands and said with a laugh, “Wei Xiongdi, please take it so you can play with it.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “This is an effective weapon to protect yourself, Wangye’s generous gift, I do not dare to accept.”

Wu Sangui pushed the box into his hand, and said with a laugh, “We are brothers, why differentiate between you and I? What’s mine is yours.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This is Luocha people’s treasure, you might not necessarily get another one in the future. Xiao Jiang absolutely cannot accept it.” But in his heart he was thinking, “You are colluding with Luocha people, you can have any number of guns you want, naturally it is not a rare object at all.”

Wu Sangui laughed and said, “Exactly because it is rare that I dare to give it to Xiongdi. If it is a common object, Wei Xiongdi would not even look at it. Ha ha …”

Thereupon Wei Xiaobao thanked him and accepted; he said with a laugh, “Hereafter if I come across people who want to harm me, I will take out the gun, ‘bang!’ I will shoot him, and explode him till his body torn and his bones crushed. Xiao Jiang’s life is actually bestowed by Wangye.”

Wu Sangui patted Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder and said with a laugh, “You don’t need to be that polite. Guns are indeed very formidable, but putting the gunpowder, loading the bullets, lighting the flint, igniting the fuse, the procedure is really bothersome, unlike our bow and arrow, which we can shoot in rapid succession, continuously.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If the westerners’ guns are like bow and arrow, can be shot in succession, will we, Chinese, still have our lives? The Great Qing’s beautiful rivers and mountains will be difficult to protect.” Speaking to this point, he giggled and said, “Actually, there is a benefit to me to have these two guns; now I do not need to train martial art. All those martial art experts or martial art masters are not my match anymore.”

After some idle talks, took his leave and returned to Anfu Garden, where he closed the door, and opened up the sutra’s outer skin. As expected, he found a lot of sheepskin pieces inside. He mused, “I have obtained all the pieces of map hidden in the eight copies of sutra. Laozi only needs to focus my attention and slowly assemble the map together, the Tatars’ buried treasure and dragon’s vein will fall into my hand.” However, the thought of focusing his attention to put together these several thousand pieces of sheepskin into a complete picture already gave him a headache; he thought, “No need to rush, we have plenty of time.”

Immediately he stitched back the cover and put the sheepskin pieces into the pouch with the rest of the pieces, which he hid in his innermost pocket, next to his skin. Thinking about the great success of his mission, he could not help but feeling happy and contented. “The young Emperor, the old wh0re, the old turtle, Hong Jiaozhu, the big traitor, and also my Shifu, the not-old, not-young, middle-aged nun, everybody wanted to obtain these eight copies of sutra, in the end it is still I, Wei Xiaobao, who gets it. Ha ha … if they knew, one will pull my hand, the other will pull my leg, and pull me in four directions, I will be torn away from limb to limb.” He was very excited, too bad that he could not tell anybody about it. Unable to flaunt his achievement, unavoidably he felt everything was fine except for one small defect.

Crossing his legs, he hummed the little tune he learned in Yangzhou brothel, “A cup of wine, slowly being poured, I ask Qing Gege [beloved older brother], where did he come from? In that place, Yangzhou, there are twenty-four bridges, at the end of each bridge, there is a beautiful woman, Qing Gege …” While he was singing happily, suddenly he heard someone knocking his door lightly. Three knocks, stopped, two knocks, stopped, three knocks. It was precisely Tian Di Hui’s secret signal.

Wei Xiaobao stood up and opened the door, Xu Tianchuan and Gao Yanchao entered. Seeing the two people’s serious expression, he asked, “What is it?”

Xu Tianchuan said, “I heard from the Imperial Bodyguards that the Mansion’s bodyguards are searching to the east and inquiring to the west, to find a Mongolian; I am sure they are looking for Hantiemo. From what I heard, they seem to be highly suspicious of us, but they do not dare to ask us openly. Wei Xiangzhu, what do you think?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Go fetch that fellow, bind him and hide him underneath my bed; I don’t think Wu Sangui’s subordinates will dare to search my room.”

Xu Tianchuan said, “I am afraid that when Wei Xiangzhu is out, the big traitor’s guards will use whatever excuse they can find to force their way in to search.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “No matter what we won’t allow them to come in; if we really reach a stalemate in discussion, we will fight them. Could they be brazen enough to resort to violence and kill us?” Xu Tianchuan and Gao Yanchao nodded in agreement.

Suddenly Qian Laoben rushed in and said, “The big traitor is going to set this place on fire.”

The three of them were shocked. “What?” they asked in chorus.

Qian Laoben said, “These past few days I patrolled the Anfu Garden all around, to guard against the big traitor playing tricks on us. Just now I saw some people sneaked into the woods to our west. I secretly followed them, and saw more than a dozen people hiding in the woods, carrying quite a lot of kerosene, saltpeter, sulfur, and other materials to light a fire.”

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “The big traitor has the guts to burn the Princess to death?”

“I don’t think so,” Qian Laoben said, “They suspect we kidnapped Hantiemo, but do not dare to enter the Garden to search. When the fire breaks, they will swarm in to fight the fire, while seizing that opportunity to search.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “Right,” he said, “That must be it. Dage, what is your wise opinion?”

Xu Tianchuan gestured by running his hand across his neck; he said, “Kill him to close his mouth, destroy his body to leave no trace!”

When Wei Xiaobao heard ‘destroy his body to leave no trace’, he thought, “That is one trick I am an expert at, nothing can be easier, I guarantee that in just a short time that big beard Mongolian will turn into a pool of yellow liquid. But this fellow has the inside information on the collusion between the big traitor and the Luocha Country, I must send him to the young Emperor so that he can personally interrogate him.” He said, “This big beard Mongolian is the biggest proof of the big traitor’s rebellion conspiracy. We must send him to Beijing; even if the big traitor does not rebel, he will be forced to rebel. This Hantie somebody is the magic weapon to guarantee that the Mu Family will obey our Tian Di Hui’s orders.”

How to force Wu Sangui to revolt, and how to force the Mu Family to obey Tian Di Hui’s orders, were precisely the two important matters that were always in the Tian Di Hui warriors’ mind. As soon as the three men heard this, their countenance changed greatly; they chorused their agreement. Xu Tianchuan said, “If not for Wei Xiangzhu’s reminding us, we nearly harm this important matter.” In their hearts their admiration toward this glib-tongued teenager grew.

Qian Laoben said, “The problems at hand are: how to deal with the big traitor’s subordinates in setting this place on fire to do their searching, and how to get this Hantiemo out of the big traitor’s territory. The borders of Yunnan and Guizhou, two provinces are tightly guarded; leaving Kunming is even more difficult.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Boss Qian [Qian Laoban, see Chapter 13], you can smuggle a Huadiao Fuling pork into the Palace, can’t you smuggle another big fat pig out of Kunming?”

Qian Laoben laughed and said, “To get a big, fat pig out of town, I am afraid we can’t go pass the gate; we must think of some other method. Hiding a corpse inside the coffin is also an old trick, I am afraid it will be difficult to conceal the truth.”

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “If faking a dead person is not good, let him pretend to be a live person. Boss Qian, you shave his big beard, put some kind of flour, plaster or whatever on his face, to change his appearance, let him wear the Valiant Cavalry Brigade hat and coat. I am going to select a squad of Valiant Cavalry Brigade sergeants and send them back to Beijing, saying that the Princess is sending her respect to His Majesty, reporting the wedding date to the Empress Dowager and the Emperor. Let this big beard without the beard mingled among the Valiant Cavalry Brigade troop, seal his mute acupoint so he can’t shout. Would the guards, Wu Sangui’s subordinates ask the Emperor’s personal guards to announce their names one by one before letting them pass?” The three people cheered and praised his ingenuity, they all agreed that it was a brilliant plan.

“Is there any brothel in Kunming?” Wei Xiaobao suddenly asked.

Qian Laoben and the others, three people, looked at each other; they thought, “Wei Xiangzhu wants to visit a prostitute?” Qian Laoben laughed and said, “Naturally there are some.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “If we invite Priest Xuanzhen to take a stroll in a brothel, will he be willing to go?” he asked.

Qian Laoben shook his head and said, “Daozhang has left home, I am sure he won’t want to go. If Wei Xiangzhu has an interest, subordinate may keep you company.”

“You will definitely go,” Wei Xiaobao said, “But Xuanzhen Daozhang is big and tall; among our brothers, he is the only one with similar built as that big beard.”

As soon as the three people heard it, they understood that Priest Xuanzhen was to impersonate Hantiemo. Gao Yanchao laughed and said, “For the sake of our Society’s important matter, I am sure Xuanzhen Daozhang will follow orders to visit a brothel.” The four of them burst into laughter.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Please ask Daozhang to wear the big beard’s clothes and take the big beard’s belongings, paste the ‘genuine goods at fair prices’ yellow beard shaved from the big beard’s face on his chin. The rest of the brothers, keep the Ping Xi Wang Mansion guards’ uniform you are wearing now; pick a big brothel, go and drink and make trouble there. Everybody grabs a prostitute [orig. good-looking powder head], in the fight that ensues, Qian Laoben stabs Daozhang to death …”

Qian Laoben was startled, but he understood immediately; naturally he would not kill people for real. He laughed and said, “Wei Xiangzhu’s idea is great. Xuanzhen Daozhang and I will fight over a beauty, we will mumble something, speaking in Mongolian tongue … But we must have another corpse ready.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded, “Right,” he said, “Go look around, find a criminal in Kunming whose stature is more or less the same as the big beard, catch him and kill him, hide his body by the brothel. After Boss Qian kills Daozhang, shoo the prostitutes out. Daozhang will turn back to life, and put the big beard’s clothes on the dead body.”

Gao Yanchao laughed and said, “The dead man’s face must be chopped into pulp, and throw the clump of yellow beard under the bed, let Wu Sangui’s subordinate find it, and then they will think that the murderer intends to conceal the fact that Hantiemo is dead.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Gao Dage’s thought is more thorough than mine. Everybody, take some money, go visit the brothel! This is so much fun, too bad I cannot go with you.”

[1] Orig. ‘luan’ – a mythical bird related to Phoenix.

[2] An – calm/safe/peace, Fu – abundant/mound.

[3] Qian – abbreviation for Guizhou province, Guo Gong – State Duke.

[4] Wu – five, Hua – abbreviation for China/splendor/grand.

[5] Zhong Kui, mythological character, supposed to drive away evil spirit.

[6] The original, ‘Xiang Hao’ ( 相好 ) carries a deeper connotation that simply a ‘friend’, but not as deep as ‘beloved’ ( 亲爱 ), or (心上人).

[7] Demon in Buddhism, the same ‘Luocha’ as in Yu Luocha (White-haired Demoness), and the Yu Luocha of Luocha Cult (Lu Xiaofeng Book 4, Silver Hook Casino).

[8] Tianshan: Mountain range between Xinjiang and Mongolia and modern day Kyrgyzstan.

[9] League: a subdivision corresponding to prefecture in Inner Mongolia.

[10] Lit. Impoverished (Taoist) priest, referring to self.

[11] The original refers to a move in (a game of) chess.

[12] The character ‘qin’亲 means ‘relatives’. I think it is a prince related by blood to the royal family. Prince Kang was a Qin Wang. I don’t know why Wu Sangui was also a Qin Wang.

[13] King who attacked the East, King who swept the North, and King who stabilized the South, respectively. Reminder: Wu Sangui’s title Ping Xi Wang means King who pacified the West.

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