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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 35

Chapter 35
Once following the road east, west, south and north, there is only a fate of ice, frost, rain and snow.

More than two hours later, the sun was slanting to the west; a personal guard came to report that several boats carrying prisoners were heading toward Tong Chi Island. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he sprang up and rushed to the shore. Sure enough, he saw five boats were sailing to the island. Wei Xiaobao ordered the personal guard to shout the question, “Who are the prisoners?”

The people on the boat shouted back the answer, “These are the women; the men will come later.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “Shi Lang indeed works reliably.” Focusing his eyes, he tried to look for Fang Yi’s beautiful figure. Naturally it would be best if they could capture the old wh0re alive; if they also caught the ‘thousand-tender hundred-charm’ Madame Hong, so that he could look at her several times a day on the boat, it would be too wonderful for words.

After waiting for a good while, the five boats reached the shore. The Valiant Cavalry Brigade troops cheered; they have captured more than two hundred women. Wei Xiaobao looked at them one by one, he noticed that these women were the young girls of the Scarlet Dragon Gate. They all hung their heads dejectedly, some had tattered clothes, some were injured. But after looking at all of them, Wei Xiaobao did not see Fang Yi at all. Wei Xiaobao was quite disappointed. “Are there any more women?” he asked.

A zuoling [company commander] replied, “Reporting to Dutong Daren: there are more coming. We have three teams searching around the Island, it’s just that there are too many poisonous snakes, the search was quite slow.”

“Has the Shen Long Jiao’s Jiaozhu been captured?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “How did the battle go?”

The zuoling replied, “Reporting to Dutong Daren: early in the morning today, thirty battleships approached the shore, while firing the cannon at the same time. Everybody was following Daren’s instruction; we fired the cannon three times, and then paused. We only hit empty space on the Island. When the people of the Island went out to fight the enemy, we fired repeatedly. Dutong Daren predicts things like a deity, using this technique, we only need to fire three times, four, five hundred Cult bandits died of the explosion. Afterwards there was a large group of young men who were not afraid of death came charging in, their mouths shouted something like ‘Hong Jiaozhu emerge victorious in every battle, he lives as long as Mount Nan …”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “Wrong,” he said, “It’s Hong Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life the same as the heaven’s.”

“Yes, yes,” the zuoling said, “Turns out Dutong Daren has already had thorough understanding of the Cult bandits, no wonder as soon as we deploy the troops, we make a clean sweep of the enemy. The Cult bandit shout was indeed ‘his long life the same as the heaven’s’. Lowly officer has spoken incorrectly.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and asked, “And then what happened?”

The zuoling said, “Those young men acted like they were crazy, they charged toward the beach and got into their boats, thinking that they could board our big ship and seize the cannon. We did not pay them any attention; we waited until the several dozen small boats sailed into the ocean, then we fired the cannon. ‘Bang, bang, bang’, more than thirty small boats sank into the ocean, more than three thousand boys, the Cult bandits, were buried at the bottom of the ocean. At the death’s door, those little bandits was still shouting Hong Jiaozhu’s long life the same as the heaven’s.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “You exaggerate military intelligence. Shen Long’s young disciples are at most eight, nine hundred people; how can there be more than three thousand boys? Fortunately, killing more enemy means bigger merit, even if you reported four thousand, five thousand, what harm is there in doing that?”

The zuoling continued, “After the children Cult bandits were gone, there was a large group of people fleeing to the west, they got on the boats and ran away. Following Dutong Daren’s directive, our battleships chase after them. Lowly officer led my team searching on the Island. Men and women, we caught about three, four hundred of them. Shi Daren instructed us to send the women Cult bandits to Tong Chi Island first for Dutong Daren to interrogate.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. Although this battle was a great success, not being able to see Fang Yi, he felt quite uneasy; he wondered if she was killed by the cannon blast. Turning around, he scanned the group of women again. Suddenly he saw a young girl with round face; immediately he remembered that when he was summoned by the Cult Leader to the general assembly the other day, this young girl had said that Wei Xiaobao was Fat Toutuo’s b@stard son; she also pinched his cheek and kicked his butt. Recalling these past events, his mischievous intention was aroused. Walking toward her, he reached out and pinched her cheek as hard as he could.

The young girl screamed and cursed, “Dog Tatar, you … you …”

Wei Xiaobao giggled and said, “Ma, don’t you remember your son?”

The girl was greatly surprised. She started at him, and vaguely felt that his face looked familiar; but no matter what she could not remember that this Qing troops’ commander was their own Cult’s White Dragon Envoy.

“What’s your name?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Quickly kill me,” the girl said, “Whatever you want to ask, I won’t answer one word.”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You don’t want to talk? Guards!”

“Cha!” several dozen personal guards immediately responded.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Take this girl down, strip her clothes, her pants, everything, flog her butt a hundred times.”

The personal guards chorused again, “Cha!” And stepped forward to drag the girl away.

The girl was so scared that her face was devoid of any color. “No, don’t!” she hastily said, “I’ll talk, I’ll talk!”

Wei Xiaobao waved his hand to stop the guards; he smiled and said, “Alright, what’s your name?”

For a few moments the young girl was extremely terrified; only now did she burst into tears. “I … I am called Yun Sumei,” she said.

“You are Scarlet Dragon Gate disciple, aren’t you?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Yun Sumei nodded. “Yes,” she said in a low voice.

“In your Scarlet Dragon Gate there is a certain Fang Yi, Miss Fang, who later on joined the White Dragon Gate. Do you know her?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“I do,” Yun Sumei replied, “After joining the White Dragon Gate, she was promoted to be a platoon leader.”

“Good for her, she is promoted,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Where is she now?”

“This morning,” Yun Sumei said, “When you … when you opened fire, I still saw Fang Jiejie; afterwards … in the chaos that follows, I did not see her anymore.

Hearing that Fang Yi was still on the Island that morning, Wei Xiaobao felt slightly relieved. Thinking that that day you kicked my @ss, today this b@stard son of yours was going to return this one kick to you. Thereupon he circled behind her and lifted his leg. He was just about to kick her when outside the tent a personal guard reported, “Reporting to Dutong Daren: another batch of prisoners arrived.”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted; his leg did not continue. Rushing toward the beach, he saw a small battleship sailed toward the island. He ordered his personal guard to shout, “Are the prisoners women or men?”

At first, since the distance was still too great, the men on the ship did not hear. A moment later the battleship was close enough that a military officer standing on the bow responded, “There are men and women.”

Another moment later, Wei Xiaobao was able to see clearly that there were three or four women standing on the bow, he could vaguely recognize one of them as Fang Yi. In his great delight, he rushed to the water until the water reached his knees. Focusing his eyes, while the battleship was several zhang closer, he could see that the woman was indeed Fang Yi.

To say that his delight this time was mild would be a gross understatement. “Quick, quick, make the ship move faster!” he called out.

Suddenly the battleship shook; unexpectedly it spun around. The sailors on the ship cried out, “Aiyo, we hit a shoal, we run aground!”

Suddenly Fang Yi’s voice was heard, “Xiaobao, Xiaobao, is that you?”

By this time Wei Xiaobao had already forgotten all about his status as Dutong Daren; he called out, “Good Jiejie, it’s me, Xiaobao is here.”

“Xiaobao,” Fang Yi called out, “Come quickly and save me. They tie me up. Xiaobao, Xiaobao, come quickly!”

“Don’t worry,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I am coming to save you.” Jumping into the skiff used to pass on military intelligence, he ordered the sailor, “Quickly row, quickly row.” The four sailors on the skiff raised the oars and immediately rowed away.

Suddenly someone jumped from the shore into the skiff; it was Shuang’er. “Xianggong,” she said, “I am coming with you to take a look.”

Wei Xiaobao was elated. “Shuang’er,” he said, “Do you know who she is?”

Shuang’er smiled and said, “I do. You told me that she is Shaonainai [wife of the young master]. That day I called her ‘Shaonainai’, but … but this Shaonainai was unwilling to respond.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “She was just bashful at that time,” he said, “This time you call her, she will definitely respond.”

The battleship was still spinning slowly, the skiff was rowed rapidly toward it. Fang Yi called out, “Xiaobao, it is really you.” Her voice was brimming with happiness.

“It’s me,” Wei Xiaobao called back. He shouted to the military officer standing next to her, “Quickly remove the Miss’ binding.”

“Yes,” the military officer responded. He leaned over to untie the rope on Fang Yi’s hands.

Fang Yi opened her arms wide, waiting for Wei Xiaobao to come over. As the two boats getting closer to each other, the military officer on the battleship said, “Dutong Daren, please be careful.”

Wei Xiaobao leaped up, the military officer reached out to pull him up. As soon as Wei Xiaobao reached the bow, he threw himself into Fang Yi’s embrace. “Good Jiejie,” he said, “I miss you so much that I feel like dying.” They hugged each other tightly.

Holding Fang Yi’s soft body, smelling the fragrant perfume on her body, Wei Xiaobao’s mind went blurry, he did not know where he was. The last time he came to Shen Long Island with Fang Yi, it was the first time he began to be interested in the opposite sex; also, he did not understand the matter between men and women too clearly yet. Later on during his journey to Yunnan, he recklessly fooled around with Princess Jianning. This time he was back in Fang Yi’s embrace, he could not help but was flushed with excitement [orig. ‘face red, ears scarlet’].

Suddenly the hull rocked. Wei Xiaobao was too busy to think about it, he simply held Fang Yi tighter, and even wanted to kiss her lips. Suddenly he felt the back of his neck tightened, someone was grabbing his collar. A sweet and charming voice spoke, “White Dragon Envoy, how are you? This time you brought people to destroy Shen Long Island, your merit is indeed not small.”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard this, he recognized it as Madame Hong’s voice; he felt his soul was flying to Heaven. Knowing that the turn of events was far from good, he struggled hard to free himself, but Fang Yi was holding him tight that he was unable to move a single step. And then there was a stab of pain on his waist, someone sealed his acupoint.

This unforeseen event happened so suddenly, all along Wei Xiaobao felt it was like a dream; the only thought in his mind was, “Bad, bad, this little wh0re Fang Yi swindled me again.” However, with his mouth he yelled, “Guards, guards! Come and help me!”

Fang Yi gently let him go and retreated to the side. Since his acupoint was sealed, Wei Xiaobao was not able to stand, he fell dejectedly in sitting position to the deck. He suddenly noticed that the battleship had hoisted its sail and was sailing rapidly to the north; while the skiff he took earlier had already more than ten zhang away. Vaguely he could hear the officers and soldiers on the beach were shouting and yelling.

He secretly prayed, “Thank Heaven and thank the Earth, let Shi Lang and Huang Zongbing quickly send boats to intercept, just don’t let them fire the cannon.” However, he heard the voices from Tong Chi Island gradually diminished, until finally he could not hear them anymore. Looking at four directions, what he saw was boundless ocean, unexpectedly not a single ship was in sight. Although the ships under his command were numerous, all of them were sent to attack Shen Long Island, some were stationed between Shen Long Island and Tong Chi Island to intercept the enemy. Let’s not say that they did not know that their Commander-in-chief was captured; even if they did, they were separated several dozen li away, how could they possibly catch up with him?

Sitting on the cabin’s deck he slowly raised his head, and saw several Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers was looking at him with cold laugh on their faces. His brain was muddy; he tried to clear his head, and was able to see clearly. He saw an ugly, fat and round face of Thin Toutuo’s, a lean and slim face of Lu Gaoxuan, an extremely long face, almost like a horse’s, of Fat Toutuo. He was baffled, “The short winter melon is tied up behind my command tent; he must be rescued by Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo. But these two are clearly in Beijing; how can they be here?” Turning his head the other way, he saw the beautiful, sweet and pretty face, which belonged to Madame Hong.

She was looking at Wei Xiaobao while chuckling gently; reaching out, she pinched his cheek and said with a laugh, “Dutong Daren, you are young yet you are very formidable.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Jiaozhu and Madame will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the heaven’s. This time subordinate did not do my job properly, I did not render any merit.”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “It’s very appropriate, nothing is improper. Jiaozhu, the Senior, greatly commended you, saying that you are leading the Qing troops to blast the Shen Long Island’s trees and houses to ashes. He, the Senior, has always prophesied with supernatural accuracy, yet this time unexpectedly he was mistaken. He is very full of admiration to you.”

Wei Xiaobao understood the trouble he was in; he knew that his life was in their hands, begging for his life would be useless; thereupon his only chance presently was to make up wild stories and act according to the circumstances. He laughed and said, “Jiaozhu, the Senior, has the good fortune of always in good health, I long to see him again very much. These days subordinate has always been thinking about Madame; every day I pray that you will grow younger and younger and more good looking, so that when Jiaozhu is in your company, he will enjoy immortal good fortune forever!”

Madame Hong giggled and said, “You, this little monkey, are still acting recklessly until now, you are still being oily mouthed and smooth talking to me. Tell me, am I growing younger and younger and more beautiful?”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “Madame, you deceived me so much that I have to suffer like this.”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “In what matter did I deceive you?”

“Just now the Qing troops captured a group of sisters from the Island,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “All are Scarlet Dragon Gate’s young ladies. And then I was told that there was another boat-load of sisters coming. I stood on the beach to look; I saw Madame, but temporarily could not recognize you. I said to myself, ‘Aiyo, since when did the Scarlet Dragon Gate have this kind of young and pretty lady as new member? Is she Madame Jiaozhu’s younger sister? Such a beautiful woman, I would have seen her earlier.’ Madame, I was so flustered and my heart was in turmoil that I scrambled on to the boat to look at this beautiful girl. Who would have thought that it was you, yourself, Madame.”

Hearing this, Madame Hong let out a peal of laughter, her body was shaking uncontrollably. Although she was wearing Valiant Cavalry Brigade’s officer’s uniform, the clothes could not conceal her outstandingly graceful figure.

Thin Toutuo lost his patience; he shouted, “You, lecherous little demon, in front of Madame you still dare to talk rubbish. Let’s see if I don’t pull your tendon apart and peel you skin!”

“You are such a muddle head,” Wei Xiaobao retorted, “I don’t have any desire to talk rubbish with you.”

“How can I be a muddle head?” Thin Toutuo angrily said, “You are the muddle head. I pretended to be a corpse floating on the sea, you could not see through my ploy; unexpectedly you rescued me and inquired about the affair of Shen Long Island. I follow Jiaozhu’s instruction and talked nonsense to you, yet you accepted it as the truth.”

Wei Xiaobao cursed in his heart, “Muddle head, muddle head! This fellow, Wei Xiaobao really deserves to die; how could you not think that Thin Toutuo’s internal energy is profound, to pretend to be floating corpse is very easy. Yet unexpectedly I believed his words firmly and had no doubt at all; I believed that on the Shen Long Island an internal strife did indeed arise. I did not guard against him at all.” He said, “I have fallen into Jiaozhu and Madame’s scheme; it was not that I am a muddle head.”

“Humph,” Thin Toutuo said, “You are not a muddle head, are you saying that you are smart?”

“Naturally I am very smart,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “But let me tell you this: even the smartest man in the world, as long as he falls into Jiaozhu and Madame’s hands, nobody can escape. This is Jiaozhu and Madame’s divine strategy and wonderful calculation, none of their calculations failed, sweeping with irresistible force, a great success …” When he spoke about ‘great success’ four character [da gong gao cheng], he could not help but casting his glance toward Madame Hong’s red-like-cherry small lips, which was slightly trembling.

Madame Hong laughed, exposing a row of spotlessly white fine teeth. “White Dragon Envoy,” she said, “You are after all a lot smarter than Thin Toutuo; he will never win arguing against you. Why do you say he is a muddle head?”

“Madame,” Wei Xiaobao said, “This Thin Toutuo has seen you, a young woman whose beauty is like the immortals. Actually, whoever has seen Madame one time, how could he look at the second woman? I said he is a muddle head because I know that in his heart he always remembers and is anxious for the second woman. Thin Toutuo, who is this woman? Do you want me to say it?”

Thin Toutuo roared; he shouted, “You cannot say it!”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “You don’t want me to say it, then I won’t,” he said, “Your Shidi is a lot smarted than you are; ever since he saw Madame, he said that henceforth he will have no interest in looking at the second woman.”

Fat Toutuo’s horse face blushed; “Nonsense,” he muttered, “How can there be such matter?”

“There isn’t?” Wei Xiaobao asked in surprise, “Are you saying that after you see Madame, you still want to see the second woman?”

Fat Toutuo lowered his head and said, “Lao Na [old cassock] has left my home, six purifying from defiling illusion, four elements are vanity, since long ago there is no more man-woman affair in my heart.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk!” Wei Xiaobao clucked his tongue, “Old Monk recites sutra, but gives lip-service. Your Shige is just the same as you are, he is also a Toutuo; but why does he remember his good friend daily?” While in his heart he said, “I clearly ordered him and Mr. Lu to stay in Beijing waiting for me, how did they get together with Madame? It’s very strange.”

Fat Toutuo said, “Shige is Shige, I am me, you cannot lump two different matters together.”

“I’ll say the two of you are more or less the same,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Although your Shige is more muddleheaded than you are, but he is comparably more honest than you. However, you two martial brothers have spoiled Jiaozhu and Madame’s important matter; indeed your crime is great, your evil extreme.”

“Rubbish!” Fat and Thin, two Toutuo said together, “How did we spoil Jiaozhu and Madame’s important matter?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed coldly, but did not reply. Actually, for the time being he could not find any false accusation to be charged to those two men; however, he needed to lie low first, he had to understand how Fat and Lu, two men could go from Beijing to Shen Long Island before he could fabricate something to accuse them, to rise Madame Hong’s suspicion.

He turned his head around to look at the ocean; unexpectedly there was not a single ship to be seen on that vast and boundless ocean. Occasionally he would hear the sound of cannon from a distant, presumably Shi Lang and Regional Commander Huang were still leading the battleships to surround and annihilate the escaping boats from the Divine Dragon Island.

Seeing his twinkling eyes, Lu Gaoxuan said, “Madame, this man is a big criminal of our Cult. Let’s report to Jiaozhu and then throw him into the ocean to feed the ocean dragon.”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he mused, “I, the Little White Dragon, am a western cowrie goods [i.e. a fake]; fake white dragon enters the sea, I will lose my life.”

Madame Hong said, “Jiaozhu still wants to talk to him.”

“Yes,” Lu Gaoxuan replied. He pushed Wei Xiaobao’s back and said, “Go pay your respect to Jiaozhu!”

Wei Xiaobao secretly groaned, “In front of Madame, I can still give her graceful words, flowery speech, I can make her roar in laughter. Turns out Jiaozhu is also on board, today if the Little White Dragon did not enter the Palace of the Dragon King, it would be indeed an offense to Heaven and to reason.”

Casting a glance toward Fang Yi, he saw her wooden expression, completely devoid of any emotion. “Stinky wh0re,” he cursed in his heart, “Little mother skin!” But in his mouth he said, “Miss Fang, congratulations!”

“For what?” Fang Yi asked.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You have set up great merits for the Cult; didn’t Jiaozhu give you promotion?”

“Humph,” Fang Yi snorted, but did not say anything.

Madame Hong said, “Everybody come in.” Lu Gaoxuan grabbed the back of Wei Xiaobao’s neck and carried him into the cabin.

He saw Cult Leader Hong was sitting grandly in the cabin. With his body still hanging in the air, Wei Xiaobao seized the opportunity to say, “Jiaozhu and Madame will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the heaven’s. Subordinate White Dragon Envoy pays his respect to Jiaozhu and Madame.”

Lu Gaoxuan put him down. Fang Yi and the others bowed together and chorused, “Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the heaven’s.” Although they also wanted to win Madame Hong’s favor, but they were accustomed to say these words, they did not have the thicker face to add the three characters ‘Madame Hong’ [Hong Fu Ren].

Wei Xiaobao noticed that Cult Leader Hong’s eyes were gazing at the ocean outside the cabin, as if he did not hear anything. He also noticed that there were four men standing by his side, namely, Scarlet Dragon Envoy Priest Wugen, Yellow Dragon Envoy Yin Jin, Blue Dragon Envoy Xu Xueting, and Black Dragon Envoy Zhang Danyue. Wei Xiaobao had a sudden inspiration. Turning toward Thin Toutuo he shouted, “You, this fellow blindly fabricated rumor, saying that Jiaozhu and Madame were in danger. Disregarding everything I rushed over to save their honorable selves; who would have known that Jiaozhu and Madame are not in the least bit of trouble? Why did you say that these several Zhangmenshi were revolting?”

“What did you say?” Cult Leader Hong coldly asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Subordinate received Jiaozhu and Madame’s order to infiltrate the Imperial Palace. I obtained two sutras, and later on I went to Yunnan, Wu Sangui Ping Xi Wang’s mansion, and obtained three more.”

Cult Leader Hong raised his eyebrows slightly. “You obtained five sutras? Where are they?” he asked.

“The two I obtained in the Imperial Palace,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Subordinate has already sent Lu Gaoxuan to present them to Jiaozhu and Madame. Jiaozhu and Madame said that subordinate handled this matter reliably, and sent Lu Gaoxuan to bestow the immortal medicine.”

Cult Leader Hong nodded. Wei Xiaobao continued, “The three copies that subordinate obtained in Yunnan, I keep it in a very secure place in Beijing, and ordered Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan to guard …”

Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan’s countenances immediately changed greatly, “Did … did not,” they said, “How can there be such thing? Jiaozhu, you Senior should not listen to this boy’s nonsense.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Altogether there are eight copies of sutra. Subordinate has found the trail, I am optimistic to get my hands on the other three. I was prepared that as soon as I obtained the rest, I will present them all together to Shen Long Island. After obtaining those three copies, subordinate was afraid someone might steal them; for that reason I hid them inside the wall. I ordered Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo to keep an eye on them. Lu Gaoxuan, Fat Toutuo, I ordered you to guard inside the house, you must not come out, why did you come here? If the treasured sutra is lost, we will spoil Jiaozhu and Madame’s important matter; who would bear this heavy responsibility?”

Fat and Lu, two people looked at each other in dismay, they were at a loss. After a while, Lu Gaoxuan was able to open his mouth, “You did not say anything about sutra inside the wall; how could we know?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The matter that Jiaozhu and Madame entrusted to me, the more secretive it is the better. One more person knows about it, the danger of the secret being revealed will increase by one part. To be frank with you, I do not trust the two of you too much. Every day I wake up I always recite aloud, ‘Jiaozhu and Madame will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the heaven’s.’ Every day before I eat, every day before I sleep, I always recite one time. But ever since the two of you left Shen Long Island, you have never praised Jiaozhu’s extensive magical power, ‘raw bird fish soup’ [niao sheng yu tang].” He did not know that the phrase ‘yao shun yu tang’ was only applicable to be used in singing praises to the Emperor. But although he said it, nobody else understood his meaning anyway.

Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo’s faces alternated between green and white; they both were secretly shocked. After they left Shen Long Island, they indeed had never recited ‘Jiaozhu and Madame will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the heaven’s’; they did not expect that this boy would use it against them. But when did this boy ever recite it?

Lu Gaoxuan said, “You have committed a monstrous crime, yet at this time still uttering graceful words, flowery speech, desiring to win Jiaozhu and Madame’s favor so that they would spare your life. Humph, this time the casualties among our brothers on the Island, young and old, are serious. Jiaozhu’s dozens of year’s painstaking effort in establishing the Cult, everything is destroyed in your hands. You still think of escaping alive? Dream on!”

“You are greatly mistaken,” Wei Xiaobao said, “As we throw our lives to be Jiaozhu and Madame’s subordinates, early on our lives already did not belong to us anymore. Whatever Jiaozhu and Madame send us to do, everybody ought to do it with loyalty and dedication, ten thousand deaths should not prevent us. Jiaozhu and Madame want us to die, then we will die; Jiaozhu and Madame want us to live, then we will live. If you want to make decisions for yourself, that means you are not ‘heart is dead, no plans for anything new’ enough toward Jiaozhu and Madame, you are not displaying utter loyalty enough toward Jiaozhu and Madame.”

Hearing his speech, Hong Jiaozhu stroke his beard and nodded slowly. Turning to Fat and Lu, two people, he said, “You said that White Dragon Envoy led the navy to do some harmful business toward our Cult; what did actually happen?”

Lu Gaoxuan caught the displeased tone in the Cult Leader’s voice; he hastily said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: the two of us received the order to keep a close watch over the White Dragon Envoy, to be very careful toward his every movement, to be in constant alert; we did not dare to have the least bit of negligence. The day the Emperor promoted his official position, Navy Tidu [local commander] Shi Lang came to pay him a visit. Subordinates, two people listened to their discussion closely. We have reported this matter to Jiaozhu. Not many days later, the White Dragon Envoy went to take Shi Lang on an official business, but he wanted him to pretend to be a lowly official in the Valiant Cavalry Brigade, plus he did not want subordinate and Fat Toutuo to accompany him. In my heart subordinate was very suspicious.”

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “Good; turned out Jiaozhu sent the two of you to spy on me.”

He heard Lu Gaoxuan continued, “Several days earlier, subordinate searched the wastepaper basket in White Dragon Envoy’s room to find out what’s going on; I found a lot of torn scrap papers. When I pieced them together, I saw that it was actually names of places in Liaodong, written in Manchurian and Han characters. The White Dragon Envoy is illiterate, even more, he did not know Manchurian script; naturally these names of places were written by the Emperor for him. Later on I also found out that in this journey, he is to bring many cannon. The two of us subordinates talked it over, and came to the conclusion that White Dragon Envoy received the Emperor’s order to travel to Liaodong region, accompanied by high-ranking naval officers, and to bring cannon; naturally he did not have any favorable intention toward our Cult. Therefore, as soon as the White Dragon Envoy left the Capital, subordinates two people rode on fast horses, we travelled day and night to hurry back to the Shen Long Island to report. Madame still said that White Dragon Envoy is devoted and loyal, he could not possibly do this. Who would have thought that one may know a person for a long time without understanding his true nature? This White Dragon Envoy has the heart of wolf and the lungs of dogs [i.e. cruel and unscrupulous]; he failed to live up to Jiaozhu’s trust.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed; he shook his head and said, “Mr. Lu, you think you are intelligent and competent, but how can you reach ten-thousandth of Jiaozhu and Madame’s intelligence? Let me tell you: you are wrong. Only Jiaozhu and Madame are eternally right.”

Lu Gaoxuan angrily said, “You speak non …” As soon as those words came out of his mouth, he knew he had committed a blunder. Although he did not continue, everybody knew that after the word ‘non’, the next word must be ‘sense’.

“Did you say I spoke nonsense [orig. ‘hu shuo’]?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “I said you are wrong, only Jiaozhu and Madame are eternally right. You are not convinced? Could it be that Jiaozhu and Madame are eternally wrong, and only you, Mr. Lu is eternally right?”

Lu Gaoxuan’s face turned beet-red. “That’s not what I mean,” he said, “It was you who said it, I didn’t say it.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Jiaozhu and Madame said that I, the White Dragon Envoy am loyal and devoted, and can’t possibly defect. The two Seniors predict like deities, how could they be wrong? Let me tell you, the Emperor sent me to bring naval cannon and go to Liaodong, we said we are going to Changbai Mountain to offer sacrifice, but actually … actually … humph, what do you know?” While his mind was racing, “What should I say, the Emperor sent me to do what?”

“So?” Hong Jiaozhu asked, “The Emperor sent you to do what?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This matter is actually top secret, no matter what I cannot say it; once it leaks, the Emperor would want my head. But since Jiaozhu asked, in subordinate’s heart, Jiaozhu and Madame are a hundred times higher than the Emperor; he is ‘ten-thousand years’, you are ‘million-years’. He is ‘long live, long, long live’, you are ‘hundred times longer live’. Jiaozhu wants me to say, naturally I cannot conceal it.” While thinking, “How should I say it so that Jiaozhu and Madame will be convinced?”

Listening to Wei Xiaobao’s wave of flattery, Hong Jiaozhu did not have the slightest suspicion; he twirled his moustache with a slight smile on his face. Looking happy and content, he slowly nodded.

Wei Xiaobao continued, “Reporting to Jiaozhu and Madame: by his side, the Emperor has two red-haired foreigners. These two men, one is called Tang Ruowang, the other Nan Huairen. They were bestowed official position as supervisors of the Imperial Observatory.”

Hong Jiaozhu said, “This name Tang Ruowang, I have heard about it. I heard he understands astronomy, geography, yin and yang calculation, and such science.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Wei Xiaobao clucked his tongue in praise, “Jiaozhu did not go out, yet you know the matter of the world. After much calculation, this Tang Ruowang has calculated that on the north there is a Luocha Country, who is planning to do some harmful things to the Great Qing.”

Hong Jiaozhu’s eyebrows rose up. “And then what happened?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao had heard the big beard Mongolian Hantiemo mentioned that Wu Sangui was colluding with Luocha Country and Divine Dragon Cult. Wu Sangui was in the far away Yunnan, he could not use him to his advantage; however, Luocha Country was next to Liaodong region. Sure enough, at the mention of the three words ‘Luocha Country’ [luo cha guo] Hong Jiaozhu’s expression changed at once. Wei Xiaobao knew that this subject fit the opposite party’s concern; he was greatly delighted.

“When the young emperor heard this,” he continued, “He was immediately being cautious and worried. He immediately asked Tang Ruowang to calculate the auspicious day, to quickly offer sacrifice. Tang Ruowang presented a memorial to the Emperor: ‘Let your minister go back and look at the heavens at night, calculate yin and yang during the day, and calculate everything carefully.’ Several days later, he came back to present a memorial: Luocha Country’s dragon vein is in Liaodong, on something like ‘hu tamade’ [shout his mother/crying ‘damn it’] mountain, and some ‘ama’er’ [amah] river.”

Hong Antong had lived in Liaodong for a long time, he was very familiar with local mountain and river. Hearing Wei Xiaobao’s explanation, he turned to Madame Hong and said with a laugh, “Madame, did you hear this boy said some amusing things? He changed Huma’erwoji Mountain to ‘hu tamade’ mountain and Amur River [amu’er] to ‘ama’er’ river. Ha ha, ha ha …!” Madame Hong also squealed in laughter.

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “There is nothing that Jiaozhu did not know, there is no place you did not understand; subordinate greatly admires you. That foreign red-haired demon also said a lot other things, which subordinate could never remember. The young Emperor then wrote everything down in Manchurian and Han scripts, and handed it to me. But subordinate is illiterate, these ‘hu tamade’ mountain and ‘ama’er’ river, I can never remember.”

Hong Jiaozhu burst into a ‘hee hee’ laughter. He turned his head, and shot a sidelong glance toward Lu Gaoxuan, his gaze was harsh. Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo groaned inwardly.

Wei Xiaobao said, “That Tang Ruowang said that we must quickly manufacture ten red-haired cannon, and transport them to Liaodong via the ocean, and aimed them at that whatever river and whatever mountain and fire two hundred times to destroy the Luocha Country’s dragon vein; and hereafter for the next two hundred years the Great Qing will have peace and security without any trouble. It is called ‘one cannon shoot guarantees one year of peace and security’. The young Emperor said, ‘In that case, if we fire one thousand cannon, won’t we have one thousand years of peace and security?’ Tang Ruowang replied, ‘On the contrary, too much cannon fire will not work’. He also said something like ‘mysteries of heaven must not be revealed’, yellow way and black way[1], and some other gibberish for half a day. Subordinate did not understand even half a word; listening to them I was bored to death.”

Hong Jiaozhu nodded. He said, “That Tang Ruowang authored the book ‘Great Qing Constitution Period Calendar’; there is indeed only two hundred years. Apparently the Manchurian Qing destiny will last at most for two hundred years.”

Wei Xiaobao knew that there is a trick in lying; all the little details must be comprehensive, furthermore, they must be completely verifiable. Only in the significant juncture he could talk a bit of rubbish. He learned this technique from when he was still living in brothel. By lucky coincidence, Hong Antong was a very learned man; he knew the content of Tang Ruowang’s ‘Great Qing Constitution Period Calendar’. Hence Wei Xiaobao’s lie was unexpectedly fit together with the truth.

Madame Hong said, “In that case, the young Emperor is sending you to Liaodong to fire the cannon?”

Wei Xiaobao pretended to be amazed. “Uh,” he exclaimed, “How did Madame know?”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “I’ll say that what you said is not a complete truth. The young Emperor is sending you to Liaodong; how did you end up at Shen Long Island?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That foreigner said: Luocha people’s dragon vein is an ocean dragon; for this reason these ten cannon must be transported by the ocean. When the cannon are aimed at the dragon’s mouth, and after careful calculation of the best time, waiting for the right time when it just about to take water from the ocean, the cannon will be immediately fired. The dragon’s body will be seriously injured, and it will not be able to move. If the cannon are fired from land, the dragon will eat one cannon and immediately fly to the sky. One cannon guarantees one year of peace and safety, next year we must comeback and fire another one; that would be very troublesome. He said that our cannon must be transported by the ocean, taking the long way around, so that we won’t alert the dragon vein.”

From the beginning, when fengshui and divination are mentioned, people always pay particular attention to ‘dragon vein’. But when talking about terrains that look like a dragon, it is not a real ‘dragon’. Therefore, the dragon vein could be alerted and flee to the sky and so on was entirely Wei Xiaobao’s fabrication. When Hong Antong heard this, he could not help feeling half believing and half doubting.

Seeing his changed countenance, Wei Xiaobao realized that he was not too convinced; thereupon he busily said, “That foreign demon can speak Chinese; he drew quite a few pictures to show to the young Emperor. He took several measurements, drew a circle here, a line there, explaining how the dragon vein could flee. Subordinate was too stupid, I did not understand the least bit. But actually the young Emperor was listening with keen interest.”

Hong Antong nodded; he thought that when foreigners practice fengshui, they must have different technique, which was superior to Chinese fengshui.

Seeing he accepted his explanation, Wei Xiaobao was relieved. He thought, “As soon as this matter passes, later the Buddhist conch will go ‘whoo hoo hoo’; it definitely won’t break!” [Translator note: This is literal translation, I am not sure what it means, I guess he was thinking that his lie wouldn’t be exposed.]

He said, “One day the young Emperor ordered the Imperial Observatory to select a yellow way propitious day, he issued an imperial decree sending me to Changbai Mountain to offer sacrifice to the Heaven. There was a Fujian Navy Tidu Shilang, who surrendered from Taiwan, came over. He said that even Zheng Chenggong had suffered defeat under his hands. This man is adept at firing cannon from the ship. The young Emperor sent him to go with me. He warned repeatedly ten million times that this affair must be kept in the strictest confidence; if it is leaked out, this important matter will be spoiled, maybe the Luocha Country would send seagoing ships to intercept. We were to go out to sea from Tianjin, going around the longer distance, to quietly go to Liaodong. Who would have thought that yesterday afternoon we saw a lot of floating corpses on the sea; some were fake, and among the fakes was this Thin Toutuo. With good intention I rescued him. He said the situation was freakily and desperately serious; the fighting on the Shen Long Island has turning the sky and the earth upside down, Hong Jiaozhu has sent someone to murder Blue Dragon Envoy Xu Xueting.”

“False!” Thin Toutuon yelled, “I did not say Jiaozhu murdered Blue Dragon Envoy!”

Madame Hong’s beautiful eyes glowered at him. “Thin Toutuo,” she said, “In front of Jiaozhu, do not shout and quarrel.”

“Yes,” Thin Toutuo said.

“You said that the Blue Dragon Envoy was murdered, didn’t you?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Yes,” Thin Toutuo replied, “It was Jiaozhu who instructed me to deceive you like that.”

Jiaozhu told you to play a joke on me; that is possible,” Wei Xiaobao said, “But you said that in order to take revenge, Jiaozhu has murdered Blue Dragon Envoy and Scarlet Dragon Envoy. Jiaozhu puts the common good above everything with no regard for personal interests, he has great kindness and great righteousness, there is no way he would bear grudges toward his subordinates!”

For each sentence that he said, Thin Toutuo yelled one word, “False!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You said that in order to take revenge, Jiaozhu has murdered Blue Dragon Envoy and Scarlet Dragon Envoy!”

Thin Toutuo said, “False! I did not say that.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Jiaozhu puts the common good above everything with no regard for personal interests.”

Thin Toutuo said, “False!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “He has great kindness and great righteousness!”

Thin Toutuo shouted, “False!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There is no way he would bear grudges toward his subordinates.”

Thin Toutuo said, “False!”

Lu Gaoxuan knew that Thin Toutuo was hot-tempered and naïve, he had already set foot in Wei Xiaobao’s trap; he did not stop yelling ‘False!’, each time he shouted that, Jiaozhu’s countenance turned one degree uglier. Lu Gaoxuan was afraid that if Thin Toutuo continued yelling, the Cult Leader might lose his temper, it would be beyond redemption; therefore, he tugged Thin Toutuo’s sleeve and said, “Just listen to him reporting to Jiaozhu, don’t interrupt his train of thought.”

“This boy spouts nonsense,” Thin Toutuo said, “Are you saying that I should let him continue endlessly?”

Jiaozhu is intelligent and wise,” Lu Gaoxuan said, “There is nothing he did not know, nothing he did not understand, you don’t have to worry, naturally Jiaozhu understands clearly.”

Thin Toutuo said, “Humph! That may not necessarily …” As soon as he said those words, his mouth stayed open but nothing came out of it; his entire face looked terrified.

Wei Xiaobao’s pair of eyes was gazing fixedly at him; suddenly he made faces. Both of them were short, but Thin Toutuo was shorter. When he made faces, Wei Xiaobao was looking down, hence nobody else saw it, but Thin Toutuo could see it clearly. Immediately his temper flared, but he was afraid to enrage the Cult Leader, hence he struggled hard to curb it. His expression looked awkward. In that instant the cabin was quiet, save for Thin Toutuo’s labored breathing.

After quite a while, Hong Jiaozhu asked Wei Xiaobao, “What else did he say?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: he also said that Jiaozhu stirred up trouble, inciting disharmony between the Scarlet Dragon Gate and Blue Dragon Gate …”

“I didn’t say that …” Thin Toutuo called out.

Hong Jiaozhu glowered at him; he spoke harshly, “Can’t you shut your beak for me? You squawk one more time, I am going to split you, this short winter melon, into two damn sections.”

Thin Toutuo’s face bulged purple; Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo were also overwhelmed with shock that their faces turned white. Everybody knew that Cult Leader Hong was very reserved; ordinarily, whether he was happy or angry, he would not show it on his face. It was very seldom that he spoke roughly or threw a fit. That he cursed Thin Toutuo harshly like that, he must be extremely angry.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he thought that since Thin Toutuo could not open his mouth anymore, whatever Wei Xiaobao said, he could not refute at all. Thereupon he said, “Jiaozhu, please stop being angry. This Thin Toutuo did not say anything that dishonor Jiaozhu; he only said that Jiaozhu was narrow-minded. Last time everybody plotted rebellion but failed, that important matter was spoiled by subordinate, one child; everybody was indignant, but Jiaozhu wanted to seize the chance to take revenge. He said that Jiaozhu was sending someone named He Sheng to do the deed. This man was Priest Wugen’s head disciple. Your disciple actually did not know if there is indeed someone by that name in our Cult.”

“There is indeed someone named He Sheng,” Madame Hong said, “So what?”

Wei Xiaobao had an idea, “This He Sheng is Priest Wugen’s disciple, he must be a young fellow.” He said, “Thin Toutuo told me that this He Sheng saw Madame’s beautiful appearance, these past several years he always do this and that to Madame; he said many things that are unpleasant to hear. Your disciple was furious, I was angry that he was being disrespectful toward Madame behind her back; I ordered my men to slap his mouth. At that time he was still tied with leather rope, hence he could not resist. After we beat him more than a dozen times, he did not dare to speak anymore.”

Madame Hong was so angry that her countenance paled. “Did he really drag me down like that?” she hatefully asked.

Thin Toutuo said, “I … I did not say it.”

Jiaozhu did not let you open your mouth, you should not speak,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I ask you: did you or did you not tell me about this man called He Sheng? If yes just nod your head, if no just shake your head.” Thin Toutuo nodded.

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You told me that He Sheng and Xu Xueting were fighting over jealousy, they strived to win Madame’s favor by fawning on her; thereupon this He Sheng had killed Xu Xueting, and Madame was very happy. He also said that Jiaozhu was kept hoodwinked inside a drum; he did not know anything. You said that Blue Dragon Envoy was killed by He Sheng, and that a saber was found lying on the floor inside the room, and that the saber belonged to He Sheng, isn’t that so? Did you or did you not say those things?”

Thin Toutuo nodded his head and said, “But the front …”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since you already admitted it, that’s enough.” Actually, Thin Toutuo only said the last half, the front half was added by Wei Xiaobao. However, by nodding his head, Thin Toutuo seemed to admit that he did say the whole thing.

Wei Xiaobao said, “You said the Blue Dragon Gate, Scarlet Dragon Gate, Yellow Dragon Gate, Black Dragon Gate, plus my White Dragon Gate, were fighting each other silly. Jiaozhu had already lost his authority, that he was completely helpless to put down the fight, yes or no?”

Thin Toutuo nodded his head. Wei Xiaobao said, “You said that everybody on the Shen Long Island revolted, that Jiaozhu and Madame were being captured, that Madame’s clothes were stripped clean and she was paraded publicly on the Island. You said that Jiaozhu’s beard were pulled clean, and that he was dangled upside down on a tree, and that he was deprived of any food or drink for three days and three nights. These words, I am sure nowadays you are unwilling to admit; isn’t that so?”

To this question, nodding his head would be wrong, shaking his head would also be wrong; Thin Toutuo’s face was bulging very red, as if the blood inside his skin was about to burst. Wei Xiaobao said, “This moment you certainly want to deny, and don’t want to admit that you have said those words; isn’t that so?”

Thin Toutuo angrily said, “I did not say those words.”

“You said that you fought with Jiaozhu,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You kicked Jiaozhu twice, and struck Jiaozhu’s face three times, but Jiaozhu’s martial art skill was higher than yours, you were unable to defeat him, hence Jiaozhu tied you up and throw you into the ocean, didn’t you? You said that our Cult was in complete chaos that they sky and earth were turning upside down, and that it has collapsed silly. You said that the people, more than half were tied up by Jiaozhu and were thrown into the ocean, the rest were you kill me, I kill you; Jiaozhu and Madame were already in an extremely sorry condition that even if by now they had not died, they would not live much longer; didn’t you?”

“I … I … I …” Thin Toutuo stammered. He was so confused by Wei Xiaobao that he did not know what to say. He definitely said that he was unable to defeat the Cult Leader, and that the Cult Leader had tied him up and thrown him into the ocean; he also said that on Shen Long Island, the Five Dragon Gates were massacring each other that the Cult had collapsed silly. However, it was definitely not the same as what Wei Xiaobao had said.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: Subordinate was originally leading the navy ships toward Liaodong, to blast away the Luocha Country’s dragon’s vein, but as the ships reached here, subordinate was concerned about Jiaozhu and Madame, plus that Miss Fang. Because subordinate is thinking … is thinking of taking her as my wife, I wanted to see her; it would be best if Jiaozhu and Madame would allow me to take her go. Consequently, I ordered the ships to slowly proceed near the Isand; even if I could only look from the distant, I would be satisfied. If I could see Jiaozhu and Madame one time …”

Madame Hong smiled and said, “And that Miss Fang.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “This is subordinate’s selfish desire, I was not wholeheartedly loyal and devoted to Jiaozhu and Madame. I indeed deserve to die.”

Cult Leader Hong nodded. “You may continue,” he said.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Who would have thought that Thin Toutuo was rescued from the sea, I did not know what thought he harbored, unexpectedly he unreservedly reviling Jiaozhu and Madame. Subordinate was a muddle head; as soon as I heard him, I panicked, and wished very much that I could grow wings and fly to Shen Long Island, to stand by Jiaozhu and Madame’s side, and fight to the death against all those renegades. Subordinate immediately opened my mouth to curse, saying that that day Jiaozhu has solemnly commanded us that the matter of the past should not be regarded as bad debts, that we are not supposed to even raise it up; how could they harbor hard feelings and rebel against Jiaozhu? Subordinate was only worrying about the danger Jiaozhu and Madame were in, I thought about Jiaozhu, who was hung upside down by the rebels, I thought about Madame, who was stripped naked by them; I could not bear to wait even for a second more. I was really muddleheaded and deserve to die, all along I have never thought that Jiaozhu’s magical power is extensive; if some people are rebelling against their superior, Jiaozhu only needs to stretch out several fingers, and they would be pinched dead like ants. How could Jiaozhu be possibly humiliated by the rebels? It’s just that subordinate was anxious, immediately I ordered all our ships to go out to sea to attack Shen Long Island. I instructed them: the good people on the Island are being caught by the bad people, if anybody come out to resist, you may fire at will to bombard them. As soon as you come ashore, quickly search for one majestic Senior, whose appearance grand, who looks like the Jade Emperor, who look like the deity Bodhisattva; that is precisely the Shen Long Jiao’s Hong Jiaozhu, everybody must listen to his command. Subordinate also told them: the women on the Island must not be offended, especially the young woman who is as delicate as a flower, as refined as a precious jade, whose appearance is beautiful, who looks like immortal descending to the world, who is precisely Madame Hong; everybody must be even more respectful.”

Madame Hong giggled and said, “So from what you said, the only reason you sent the troops to attack Shen Long Island was because of your loyalty to Jiaozhu? Not only you are innocent, you have rendered merit instead?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Subordinate does not have the least bit of merit; it’s just that seeing Jiaozhu and Madame are safe and sound, several Zhangmenshi are still loyal and devoted, and still serving Jiaozhu and Madame well, my heart is very happy. Subordinate’s first hope is that Jiaozhu and Madame will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the heaven’s. The second hope is that in our Cult, everybody will display utter loyalty and dedicate ourselves to the service of our country; whatever Jiaozhu says, everybody will act accordingly. The third hope … the third hope …”

Madame Hong laughed and said, “The third hope is to have Miss Fang as your wife.”

“This is a minor matter,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Subordinate has already decided in my heart that as long as I perform my duty with every effort to Jiaozhu and Madame’s liking, Jiaozhu and Madame naturally will not treat your subordinate unfairly.”

Hong Antong nodded. “Your mouth surely can talk really well,” he said, “But you said you were concerned about me and Madame; why didn’t you lead the troops personally to the Shen Long Island? Why did you send people to open fire and shoot randomly, while you yourself hid faraway in the back?”

This question actually hit the key point, Wei Xiaobao was agape and tongue-tied, momentarily he was speechless, knowing that as long as his answer was not completely convincing, Hong Jiaozhu would be suspicious, and then the previous big lie would be exposed, and then even his little life would be difficult to protect. In a moment of desperation, he had no choice but to say, “Subordinate really deserves to die; in all honesty, I was not loyal enough to Jiaozhu and Madame. When I heard from Thin Toutuo how vicious the people on the Island were, that even Jiaozhu and Madame were caught by them, subordinate was terrified. Last time … last time they betrayed Jiaozhu, it was subordinate who spoiled their major effort. If they caught me, they would definitely pull my tendon apart and peel my skin. Subordinate is afraid of death, hence I hid myself faraway in the back and only sent the troops under my command to save Jiaozhu and Madame. This … this … I really deserve to die.”

Cult Leader Hong and Madame looked at each other, and nodded slowly. They both thought that since this child admitted that he was afraid of death, he must be telling the truth. Cult Leader Hong said, “Whether you are telling the truth or you are lying, I will examine carefully. If I find out that you are lying, humph, humph, you know what’s coming.”

“Yes!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Whatever punishment Jiaozhu and Madame decide, subordinate will accept it delightedly. However, please do not hand subordinate over into Fat Toutuo, Thin Toutuo, and Lu Gaoxuan’s hands. This time … this time they set up an ingenious plan, swindling the Qing troops into bombarding Shen Long Island, killing not a few brothers and sisters; it was a huge plot. In my subordinate’s opinion, this Lu Gaoxuan surely wants to be Lu Jiaozhu. When we were in Yunnan, he said, ‘I don’t want to enjoy immortal good fortune forever, your long life the same as the heaven’s; as long as I can enjoy his fifty years of good fortune, it would suffice very much …’”

Lu Gaoxuan roared angrily, “You … you …” Waving his palm, he struck toward Wei Xiaobao’s back.

Priest Wugen rushed a step forward with outstretched arm to block. ‘Bang!’ Lu Gaoxuan was jolted back two steps. Priest Wugen was only shaken that his body swayed. “Lu Gaoxuan,” he shouted, “How could you dare to commit violence to injure someone in front of Jiaozhu?”

Lu Gaoxuan looked deathly pale. He bowed and said, “Jiaozhu please forgive me, hearing this fellow fabricated a lie, subordinate could not hold back; it was indeed very disrespectful.”

“Humph,” Hong Jiaozhu snorted. He said to Wei Xiaobao, “You may go down.” Turning to Priest Wugen, he said, “You guard him personally, don’t let anybody harm him, and don’t let him wander about aimlessly. Don’t speak with him. This child is full of devilish tricks and cunning stratagems, you must be particularly careful.” Priest Wugen bowed in compliance.

Henceforth for the next several days Wei Xiaobao stayed in the same cabin with Priest Wugen day and night. Early morning every day he saw the sun was rising up on the starboard and setting down on the port side, hence he knew the ship was sailing north. The first day or two he was still hoping that Shi Lang and Huang Fu’s navy ships would be able to catch up and rescue him, but as time went by, he lost all hopes. “My nonsense talk,” he mused, “Jiaozhu and Madame believed about ninety percent; it’s just that I led the troops to blast Shen Long Island that it collapsed silly, even if it stemmed from good intention, in the end I am still guilty. Fortunately that short winter melon deceived me by pretending to be floating corpse was Jiaozhu’s own idea. Otherwise, there is a good chance that in his anger he might lump me together with the short winter melon and kill us, and make a pot of little treasure [xiao bao] winter melon soup.” He also thought, “This ship is sailing to the north; could it be heading toward Liaodong?”

He tried to ask Priest Wugen several times, but Priest Wugen always replied, “I don’t know.”

Wei Xiaobao teased him to talk, Priest Wugen said, “Jiaozhu’s order, I must not talk to you.” He also did not allow Wei Xiaobao to leave the cabin even for one step.

Wei Xiaobao was bored, he thought, “That dead girl Fang Yi is clearly on the ship, yet she did not come to accompany laozi to divert my mind from boredom.” He recalled that this time he got captured by Divine Dragon Cult was also because of Fang Yi who lured him. “If laozi could escape this time,” he mused, “If later on I cast even a glance toward that little mother skin Fang Yi, laozi is not surnamed Wei. I have fallen into her trick twice, how could I let myself to fall again the third time?” Yet thinking about Fang Yi’s tender and beautiful appearance, her gentle manner, he could not restrain his heart from being moved. On the second thought, he mused, “So what if I am not surnamed Wei? Laozi does not even know my father, what is my real surname anyway?”

The ship continuously sailed northward, the weather was getting colder and colder. Priest Wugen had profound internal energy, he was not affected by the cold. Wei Xiaobao, however, felt so cold that he did not stop shivering, his teeth chattered, making ‘click-click’ noise.

Several days later, the north wind roared, the sky was dark, suddenly heavy snow fell. “I am freezing to death here,” he called out. He thought, “Songgotu Dage sent me a mink fur robe, too bad I left it in the camp and did not bring it here. Ay, if I have known that Fang Yi, that little mother skin, was going to swindle me again, I should have worn that mink fur robe when I embraced her, so that I would not freeze to death on the ship. Frozen White Dragon Envoy; it’s terrible indeed.”

The ship sailed into the night. Suddenly he heard continuous clanking noise. After listening carefully, Wei Xiaobao realized that it was the sound of ice on the surface of the sea breaking; he was shocked. “Aiyo, not good!” he cried out, “If the ship freezes in the middle of the ocean, won’t that be terrible?”

Priest Wugen said, “The ocean can’t possibly freeze; we must be nearing land.”

“Have we arrived in Liaodong?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Humph,” Priest Wugen snorted, but did not say anything.

The next morning, when he pushed open the cabin window to look outside, Wei Xiaobao saw vast expanse of whiteness; the ocean was full of ice floe, with white snow accumulated on the ice. In the distant he vaguely saw land. That evening, the battleship sailed toward the shore and dropped anchor; it appeared that the next morning they were going to ride the skiff to come ashore.

That night myriads of thought surging through Wei Xiaobao’s mind: how would Hong Jiaozhu deal with him? It was not easy to guess. He seemed to believe Wei Xiaobao’s explanation, but did not seem to believe it either. Why did they go to this world of ice and snow?

After thinking for a while, he finally fell asleep. In his sleep he saw Fang Yi suddenly sat by his side; he reached out to embrace her. In his daze, he seemed to hear Fang Yi said, “Don’t make trouble!”

“Dead wife,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I want to make trouble.” He felt Fang Yi was struggling in his embrace.

Still half-asleep, he heard the person in his bosom said in a low voice, “Xianggong, we have to leave quickly!” It sounded like Shuang’er’s voice.

Wei Xiaobao was startled, and sobered immediately. He felt there was indeed a soft and tender body in his embrace, but since it was dark, he could not see who she was. “Is it Fang Yi? Is it Madame Hong?” he wondered in his heart. There were only those two women on the battleship. He thought, “I don’t care if it is Fang Yi or Madame Hong, I would kiss her first and talk later; I’d better take this advantage!” He held the person in his bosom tighter and tried to kiss her lips. The person laughed softly and turned her head to avoid. This time, although the laugh was soft, it was very clear that she was indeed Shuang’er.

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised; he whispered on her ear, “Shuang’er, how did you get here?”

“Let’s go quickly,” Shuang’er said, “I will tell you slowly.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I am freezing to death, you quickly get into my quilt, you are so warm and nice.”

“Ay,” Shuang’er said, “Good Xianggong, you really love to make trouble, and you also don’t want to think about what time it is.”

Wei Xiaobao held her even tighter. “Where are we going to flee?” he asked.

Shuang’er said, “We are slipping away from the aft, and row the skiff to come ashore. Even if they find out, they won’t be able to pursue.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Brilliant scheme, brilliant scheme!” he called out, “Aiyo, how about that priest?”

Shuang’er said, “I sneaked into the cabin and sealed his acupoint.”

The two of them tiptoed out of the cabin. A burst of cold wind assaulted their faces. Wei Xiaobao’s entire body nearly froze; he quickly turned back into the cabin, peeled the Taoist robe from Priest Wugen’s body and wrapped it around his own. The sky was cloudy, the moon and stars did not shine, heavy snow was still coming down incessantly. The two of them stealthily went toward the stern, their ears did not hear any noise anywhere. The ship had already dropped anchor, even the helmsman who operate the rudder had also went into the cabin to sleep.

Holding Wei Xiaobao’s hand, Shuang’er led him step-by-step to the aft. She said in a low voice, “I jump down first, you follow!” Taking a deep breath, she quietly jumped into the skiff tied behind the ship.

Wei Xiaobao looked down; it was pitch-black and he was scared. Closing his eyes, he jumped down. Shuang’er raised her palms to catch his back and his buttocks. She had to circle around on the skiff to break the momentum of the fall before she could finally set him down.

Suddenly from the hold of the ship someone shouted, “Who’s there?” It was the Cult Leader Hong’s voice.

Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er were shocked; they crouched at the bottom of the skiff, did not dare to make any noise. They heard a clatter, then saw flame from the window of the cabin. Shuang’er knew that Hong Jiaozhu had heard the noise and lighted a candle to look. Hastily she picked up the wooden oar on the skiff and rowed furiously.

She only rowed twice when Hong Jiaozhu’s was shouting loudly, “Who is it? Don’t move!” Suddenly the skiff shook and stopped moving forward. Turned out in their panic they forgot to untie the mooring rope of the skiff. Wei Xiaobao hastily reached out to untie; it was ice-cold. Actually, the skiff was tied to the ship with iron chain.

They heard quite a number of people shouting on the big ship, “White Dragon Envoy disappeared!” “This boy has run away!” “Where did he go? Pursue quickly, pursue quickly!”

Wei Xiaobao pulled the dagger from his boot and swung it forcefully. ‘Shua!’ the iron chain broke, the skiff immediately shot forward. As soon as the noise was heard, one after another Hong Jiaozhu, Madame Hong, Fat and Thin Toutuo, Lu Gaoxuan, and the others rushed to the stern. Under the reflection of the light from the ice and snow, they could see the skiff was already several zhang away from the big ship. Hong Jiaozhu reached out to grab a piece of wood from the ship’s side and hurled it toward the skiff. Although his internal strength was deep, the wood was too light, it was two chi short from the skiff. ‘Splash!’ it plunged into the water.

At first Lu Gaoxuan, Fat Toutuo, and the others were unclear of Hong Jiaozhu’s intention, they did not dare to shoot secret projectiles for fear that they would harm the White Dragon Envoy and would have to bear the responsibility instead; but when they saw the Cult Leader grabbed the block of wood from the ship’s side and threw it out to strike, they understood his intention. Those with secret projectiles in their possession immediately shot their weapons. However, in such a short period of time the skiff was already rowed two more zhang forward. Secret weapons were usually small, it was difficult to reach far. Arrows, steel dart, flying locust stone, and various heavy objects were not close at hand; people could only shoot spring-loaded arrow concealed in their sleeve, poison needles, and so on, which all fell into the ocean.

Thin Toutuo said, “This boy is so sly, I knew it all along that he is not a good person; we should have just kill him with a chop, by letting him alive we only ask for trouble.”

Hong Jiaozhu was already furious; with this cynical remark Thin Toutuo was obviously mocking him for not able to see the matter clearly. Reaching out with his left hand, he grabbed the back of Thin Toutuo’s neck and shouted, “Quickly go and catch him back for me.” His left hand went up, he lifted Thin Toutuo up into the air, with his right hand he grabbed Thin Toutuo’s buttocks, and shouted, “Quickly go!” He pulled his arms slightly, and then exerting all the internal energy into his arms, he hurled him out.

Shuang’er gave everything she had to paddle. “Aiyo, not good!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, “Incoming human cannonball!” His cried had not finished, ‘splosh!’ Thin Toutuo plunged into the ocean. He fell only a few chi behind the skiff. As soon he resurfaced, his left hand managed to grab the edge of the skiff.

Shuang’er lifted up the oar and smashed it down as hard as she could, she struck his skull. Thin Toutuo grunted out in pain, but his right hand also grabbed the edge of the skiff. Shuang’er was greatly anxious; she struck down again, ‘crack!’ the wooden oar broke into two, the skiff immediately spun around. Thin Toutuo was dizzy, he shook his head to clear it up. Wei Xiaobao scratched with his dagger, four of Thin Toutuo’s right hand fingers were cut clean. In severe pain, he was unable to hold himself; his right hand loosened, his body bobbed up and down in the water, as he screamed and cursed.

Shuang’er picked up the remaining oar and paddled desperately; the skiff once again sailed toward the shore.

After sailing for a while, they left the big ship far behind, and knew that those people could not possibly overtake them. The big ship only had one skiff. Although Hong Jiaozhu and the others possessed high level of martial art skill, they would not dare to jump into the sea and swim to pursue them, not in this weather where the cold penetrated their bones and marrow. Besides, even if they swam faster, they would still be unable to catch up with the skiff.

Wei Xiaobao took out a plank from the bottom of the skiff and helped paddling. They heard the faint noise of people on the big ship cursing angrily. But a moment later, the north wind finally masked the people’s voices. Wei Xiaobao let out a deep breath and said, “We finally escaped!”

The two of them rowed for almost an hour before they finally reached the shore. Shuang’er jumped into the water. The water reached her knees. She pulled the skiff by the remaining half of the iron chain to get it closer to the shore. “It’s enough!” she said.

Wei Xiaobao jumped out of the skiff and landed on the shore. “Great success!” he called out.

Shuang’er giggled and retreated a few steps. “Xianggong, please don’t fool around,” she said, “We must leave quickly, don’t let Hong Jiaozhu and the others catch up with us.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “What kind of ghost place is this?” he asked with knitted brows. He looked around, but all he could see was brilliant white snow covering a boundless plain. In the dark of the night he could see nothing else.

“I don’t know what kind of place this is,” Shuang’er replied, “Xianggong, where do you think we should go?”

Wei Xiaobao was so cold that he did not stop trembling, his brain seemed to be frozen stiff as well, unexpectedly he could not think of even half of a good idea. “His granny,” he cursed, “It’s all Fang Yi, that dead little mother skin’s fault; she harmed us so that we’ll freeze to death in this snowy place.”

“Let’s go,” Shuang’er said, “Walking will make our body warmer.”

The two of them started to walk toward the snowy area. The snow accumulation was about a chi thick, as they stepped into it, their entire calf was submerged; hence taking stride was very difficult.

Although it was a hard going, Wei Xiaobao pressed on, remembering that Hong Jiaozhu’s magical power was extensive [i.e. resourceful], he would find a way to come ashore. But on this snowy ground their footprints were really deep, where could they escape? Even if they continued running for several days, most likely that in the end they would still be captured; therefore, he did not dare to pause even for a moment. While they were rushing along, he asked Shuang’er how she ended up in the ship.

Turned out when Wei Xiaobao saw Fang Yi that day, with ‘lost soul, dropped spirit’ he rushed over to talk to her, while Shuang’er was following him on the skiff. When Wei Xiaobao fell and was captured, while everybody’s attention was on him, Shuang’er was very sharp-witted; she immediately hid on the stern. This battleship was seized by Hong Jiaozhu and the others from Qing troops’ hands, the helmsman, the sailors, everybody on the ship was Qing troops. Shuang’er was wearing Valiant Cavalry Brigade officer’s uniform; mingled among the other officers and soldiers, nobody detected her. It was only after the ship reached the shore that she came out in the middle of the night to rescue him.

Wei Xiaobao greatly praised her intelligence and quick-wit; he said, “Fang Yi that dead girl always swindles me, always do me harm; Shuang’er this sweet treasure always saves my life. I do not want her to be my wife, I want you to be my wife.”

Shuang’er hastily pulled her hands away and drew back several steps. “I am your little servant girl,” she said, “Naturally with one heart one mind I will take care of you.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “To have you as my little servant girl, my previous generation ancestors must have tapped four times seven, twenty-eight wooden fish[2], read over three by seven, twenty-one ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’ until they rot. Only then would I have such a good fortune in this life.”

Shuang’er giggled and said, “Xianggong always know how to talk.”

When the dawn arrived, they had walked far away from the shore. Looking back, they saw two sets of clear footprints on the snow, stretching out to the horizon. Looking forward, the plain seemed to be vast and limitless. Although Hong Jiaozhu and the others had not caught up with them, it seemed to be just a matter of time.

Wei Xiaobao was very anxious in his heart. “Even if we walk ten more days and nights, in the end they will still overtake us,” he said.

Shuang’er pointed to the right and said, “That looks like a forest; if we enter the forest, it would not be easy for Hong Jiaozhu and the others to find us.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “If that is indeed a forest, it would be great, but it does not look like a forest.”

The two of them changed their course; picking up speed, they walked uphill toward the snowy mound. But after walking for two hours, they could see clearly that it was nothing more than a knoll rising up in the middle of the great plain; it was not a forest at all.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s go around the hill, perhaps we’ll see some place we may hide.” By this time he was already panting, his strength had almost gone.

After walking for another hour, they reached the back of the hill, but all they saw was still a vast white plain, just like a snow-covered ocean; there was no place to hide. Wei Xiaobao was weary and was very hungry; he plopped himself down on the snowy ground and said, “Good Shuang’er, if you don’t hug me, give me a kiss, I won’t have any strength to walk anymore.”

Shuang’er blushed; she thought about complying, but she also thought that this matter was very improper. While she was hesitating, suddenly ‘crack’, they heard a noise behind their backs. Turning their heads, the two of them saw seven, eight big deer appeared from behind the small hill.

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. “My tummy is starving to death!” he said, “Do you happen to know a way to catch a deer and kill it? Then we’ll have roast venison to eat.”

“Let me try,” Shuang’er said. Suddenly she leaped toward those several big deer.

Who would have thought that with their four extremely long legs, these Spotted Deer [orig. ‘plum blossom deer’] were able to leap as if they were flying; as soon as they turned around and ran, they already rushed several dozen zhang away. It was impossible to run after them. Shuang’er shook her head and said, “I can’t catch them.”

Actually, these spotted deer were not afraid of human; seeing Shuang’er stopped, they also stopped and turned their heads. Wei Xiaobao said, “Let us lie down on the ground, pretend to be dead. Let’s see if the deer would come over or not.”

Shuang’er laughed and said, “Alright, I’ll give it a try.” Finished speaking she immediately lay down on the snowy ground.

Wei Xiaobao said, “I am already dead, my wife good Shuang’er is also dead. The two of us are buried in the grave, cannot move anymore. Good Shuang’er and I had eight sons and nine daughters, they all are in front of the grave, crying loudly, ‘Ah my father, oh my mother …’”

“Pfft,” Shuang’er let out a giggle, her entire small face blushed bright red; she said, “Who is going to give birth to that many sons and daughter for you?”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Eight sons and two daughters are too many, then we’ll have three!”

Shuang’er laughed and said, “Not …”

Several spotted deer slowly walked toward the two, apparently they were very curious. In the animal kingdom, deer’s intelligence is very low, far inferior to dogs, horses and foxes; as a result, there is a saying, ‘stupid like deer and swine’. These several spotted deer lowered their heads to scratch and sniff Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er’s faces with their nose, while letting out some noises.

Wei Xiaobao called out, “Turn over and get on the horse, Di Qing subdued the dragon!” He sprang up and mounted the deer’s back, while reaching out to hold onto the antler. Shuang’er lightly and deftly also jumped onto another spotted deer’s back.

The flock of deer was startled, they kicked their hoofs and leaped away. Shuang’er called out, “Use your dagger to kill the deer!”

“No hurry to kill,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “We ride the deer and run for our lives, Hong Jiaozhu will never catch up with us.”

“Yes, absolutely right,” Shuang’er said, “But we must not separate.” She was afraid that the two deer, one would run to the east, the other rush to the west, then it would be bad for them. Fortunately spotted deer are usually in flocks; these eight big deer ran together for quite a while. And then there were other seven or eight big deer joined the flock. Spotted deer has tall body and long legs, when they run, their speed is not inferior to that of fine horse; it’s just that riding on a deer was very rough, they were jolted and shaken very bad.

The flock ran northwesterly and covered a stretch of several li before slowing down. The two deer with riders on their backs were bucking and kicking, trying hard to shake their riders loose, but Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er held on to the antler tightly, whatever happened they won’t be thrown down. Wei Xiaobao called out, “Once we get down, it would be difficult to get back up; we might as well run away the farther the better. This is called ‘A real man gave his words, live deer cannot chase.’”

That day, although the two of them were so hungry that they almost fainted with blurred vision, they still held on tight to the deer’s neck and grabbed the antler, letting the flock of deer galloped on the vast and obscure, limitless snow-covered plain. They knew that the longer the flock of deer ran, the farther away they were from Hong Jiaozhu and the others, while at the same time the snow would not have their footprints anymore.

By nightfall, the flock of deer entered a forest. Wei Xiaobao said, “Good enough! Let’s get down!” Pulling his dagger, he ran it across the male deer’s neck. The deer ran a few steps before it collapsed to the ground.

Shuang’er said, “One deer is enough, let’s spare my deer.” And she leaped down from the deer’s back.

Wei Xiaobao’s body was weary, his strength exhausted, the bones in his entire body felt like they were about to disintegrate. He was lying on the ground, gasping for breath for quite a while. Finally he crawled toward the stag’s neck and put his mouth on the cut. ‘Glug, glug’ he drank several mouthful of the warm blood. “Shuang’er,” he called out, “Come and drink some.” Quite a bit of deer blood entered his stomach, his spirit was revived, his body was also slowly warming up.

Shuang’er also drank the deer blood. She sheared a deer leg with the dagger, gathered some dry sticks, and built a fire to roast it. “Oh deer,” she said, “You have saved our lives, but we kill you and eat you instead. We have really wronged you.”

After eating the roasted deer leg, the two of them were in high spirit. “Good Shuang’er,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You and I should live in this forest as a pair of huntsman and huntswoman; let’s not return to Beijing.”

Lowering her head, Shuang’er said, “Wherever Xianggong go, I will follow and serve you. I don’t care if you return to Beijing to be a high-ranking official, or live here as a hunter. I will always be your little servant girl.”

The flame shone on her face, Wei Xiaobao saw a rosy, tender, beautiful and cute face. He laughed and said, “In that case, didn’t we achieve great success?”

“Ah!” Shuang’er cried out and leaped onto the pine tree above her head. She laughed and said, “We did not, we did not.”

That night the two of them huddled up by the bonfire, and slept peacefully for the whole night. The next morning they woke up, Shuang’er roasted some more deer meat. The two of them ate to their hearts’ content. During the riding on the deer’s back the previous day, Wei Xiaobao’s hat fell down. Shuang’er peeled some deer skin and made one for him.

Wei Xiaobao said, “We ran away for a whole day yesterday, it won’t be easy for Hong Jiaozhu and the others to find us, but there are still some dangers that they would. We’d better ride the spotted deer and rush to the north three, four more days, then I, Wei Jiaozhu and you, Madame Shuang’er, would enjoy immortal good fortune forever, our long lives would be the same as the heaven’s.”

Shuang’er laughed and said, “What Madame Shuang’er? So unpleasant to hear. You want to ride the deer? That won’t be difficult, isn’t that another flock of deer coming over?”

Indeed they saw more than twenty big deer and little deer from the east strolling over the snowy ground. They stretched out their necks to chew the tender leaves of the trees. Human’s footprints were rare in this forest, when the flock of deer saw these two, they were not afraid at all.

“Deer are very good-natured,” Shuang’er said, “It would be best if we don’t kill them too much. This big deer of yesterday is enough for us to eat for a dozen of days.” She cut several large chunks of meat from the dead deer, and using deer skin as ropes she wrapped the meat and divided it between Wei Xiaobao and herself to be carried on their backs; and then they walked slowly toward the deer.

Wei Xiaobao reached out to gently pet a big deer. The deer turned its head around and licked his face; it was not scared at all. Wei Xiaobao called out, “Aiyo! This deer has achieved great success with me.”

Shuang’er giggled and said, “You get up first.” Only after the two humans leaped onto their backs that the two deer were startled and ran.

The flock of deer ran along the forest. The two humans held on to their antler to steer them to the north, leaving Hong Jiaozhu and the others farther and farther away. By this time Wei Xiaobao had learned how to ride the deer; it was not difficult at all. After riding more than four hours, he and Shuang’er jumped down and let the flock of deer run on their own.

Traveling this way, they rode the deer in the forest for more than ten days. Occasionally they did not meet any deer, in which case they would go on foot slowly. When hungry, they would eat roast venison. Their original clothes were already unbearably tattered by the thistles and thorns of the forest, Shuang’er made new sets of upper garment and underpants from deerskin. Even their shoes were made of deerskin now.

One day they were out of the forest, suddenly they heard the rumbling noise of water. After walking for a while, they reached the bank of a big river. They saw in the river the water was surging up violently, the current was very strong. The two of them had been in the dense forest for more than ten days, suddenly seeing this big river, they felt that the darkness in their heart was suddenly lifted up.

After walking for several hours northward along the river, they suddenly saw three men wearing animal skin clothing; they had hoe and iron fork in their hands, from their appearance, they seemed to be hunters. Wei Xiaobao had not seen any other people for quite a while, he was greatly delighted. Hurriedly he came forward and asked, “Three Dage, where are you heading?”

A man about forty something replied, “We are going to the market at Mudanjiang[3]. Where are you going?” His accent sounded very strange.

“Aiyo,” Wei Xiaobao said, “So Mudanjiang is that way? We took a wrong turn. Nothing can be better than following the three Dage.” Immediately they followed the three hunters.

Bit by bit Wei Xiaobao tried to strike conversation with them. Turned out the three men were Tungus people who made a living by hunting and gathering ginseng. They always went to the market at Mudanjiang to do their business with Han people, hence they knew a little bit of Han language.

Mudanjiang was actually a small town of considerable size. Wei Xiaobao had always had the banknotes, he never lost it; he invited the three Tungus men to an inn to drink some wine. While they were still drinking, suddenly he heard someone on the adjacent table said, “This wooden club of yours looks very fine. Last month, there is someone who came down from Huma’erwoji Mountain …”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er heard the words ‘Huma’erwoji Mountain’, their hearts were shaken. They looked at each other, and then turned toward the speaker. They saw two old men fiddling with newly picked ginseng, tied with a strip of leaf, in their hands. Wei Xiaobao took out an ingot of silver and handed it over to the waiter, telling him to get more wine and meat, and a large slice of cooked beef, two catties of white wine, and deliver everything to the next table.

The two ginseng pickers were greatly surprised; they wondered why this young hunter was so hospitable, immediately they expressed thanks repeatedly. Wei Xiaobao went over to their table and toasted them several cups. With his eloquence, in just a few words he was able to find out the location of Huma’erwoji Mountain. Turned out it was located due north of where they were, still two, three thousand li away; but those two ginseng pickers had never been there either. Wei Xiaobao called Shuang’er over, and told her to ask about some mountain and river’s names on the map. The two ginseng pickers gave direction to those places one by one, along with the general situation of those places. Indeed their explanation did not the slightest bit disagree with the information from the map.

After drinking wine and eating their meal, they took their leave from the Tungus men and the ginseng pickers. Wei Xiaobao pondered in his heart, “Turns out that Lu Ding Shan [deer and cauldron mountain] is still several thousand li from this place. But since we don’t have anything else to do, we might as well go dig some treasure.”

Actually, whether to dig or not to dig the treasure, he did not care too much. In the deepest part of his heart, he was afraid to meet Hong Jiaozhu, Thin Toutuo, and that bunch of people. Since Hong Jiaozhu and the others were in the south, if he went north two, three thousand li, no matter what Hong Jiaozhu would not be able to find him. He thought further, “If Shuang’er and I wait for him in the wild, mountainous country for ten or eight years, Hong Jiaozhu will definitely die. Could it be that his long life is as long as the damn heaven’s?”

Thereupon he went to a leather store and bought two sets of fine mink fur coat, which he and Shuang’er put on immediately. Afraid that Hong Jiaozhu would still be able to overtake them, outside the mink fur coat they were still wearing the coarse deerskin clothing. They also used soot to blacken their faces, so that even if they were overtaken, he hoped that they would not be recognized. He hired a large carriage, and travelled north. Inside the carriage he chatted with Shuang’er. Occasionally he would ‘achieve great success’; their relation was warm and happy.

They rode the carriage for more than twenty days. The farther north they went, the colder the weather got, until finally the road was covered with ice and snow that the large carriage could not continue. The two of them then bought horses and continued north, until even the horses could not continue anymore, hence just like in the forest before, they continued on foot on snowy ground.

Luckily treasure hunting, along with seeking refuge, was what Wei Xiaobao was good at; seeing the barren hills and treacherous rapids, uninhabited open plain everywhere, he felt safer instead. Shuang’er’s memory was very good, following the direction on the map, they searched slowly to the north. Whenever they met hunters or ginseng pickers, they would inquire about the name of the place to verify their location based on the map. The map had eight small circles in four colors, which marked the location of Lu Ding Shan, where two great rivers converged.

One particular day, according to their calculation they were not too far from their destination. The two of them were walking hand in hand in a pine forest. Suddenly there was a loud bang from the northeast direction, it sounded like a firearm was being shot. Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Aiyo, not good!” he cried out, “Hong Jiaozhu has caught up with us.” Hastily he pulled Shuang’er and hid in the long thick patch of grass behind a tree. And then they heard more than a dozen people were shouting and screaming as they rushed over toward them, followed by the sound of hoof beats.

Wei Xiaobao was only afraid that Hong Jiaozhu was coming to capture him, to pull his tendon and peel his skin; this moment, as he heard the noise had nothing to do with Hong Jiaozhu, he felt slightly relieved, and looked out from among the thick patch of grass. He saw more than a dozen Tungus hunters screaming wildly while running for their lives. Suddenly there were unending ‘bang, bang, bang’; the Tungus hunters fell down, rolled around several times, and died, blood was seeping out from their bodies. Wei Xiaobao gripped Shuang’er’s hands; he thought, “This is foreign devils’ firearms.”

Following the sound of hoof beats, seven or eight riders charged in; the riders were indeed yellow-bearded, blue-eyed foreign troops. Each and every one of them was tall and powerfully built, with fiendish expression. Some were holding guns, some brandishing their cutlass wildly. In just a short period of time the rest of the Tungus hunters were all hacked to death.

The foreign troops laughed aloud, jumped down from their horses, and started raiding the hunters’ belongings; they took away several sheets of mink fur, six or seven silver fox fur, talked gibberish for a while, and then mounted their horses and left.

Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er waited until the sound of hoof beats go far away before they slowly came out of the thick patch of grass. When they looked at the hunters, they found not one person was alive. The two of them looked at each other in dismay, they both saw abject terror on each other’s eyes. Wei Xiaobao said quietly, “Those foreign devils are robbers.”

“They are more vicious than robbers,” Shuang’er said, “After robbing their belongings, they also killed the people.”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered something. “How could there be foreign robbers?” he wondered aloud, “Could it be that Wu Sangui already arise in rebellion?” He knew Wu Sangui and Luocha Country had made a pact; as soon as Yunnan sent their troops, Luocha Country would attack from the north. This moment they suddenly saw a lot of foreign troops, could it be that for several weeks they did not hear any news from outside, Wu Sangui had already made his move? Thinking about the troops and horses under Wu Sangui’s command were numerous, he could not help feeling anxious for Xiao Xuanzi. Looking at the bodies scattered around on the ground, he only felt worry.

Shuang’er sighed and said, “These hunters are really pitiful; right now their father and mother, wife and children at home must be waiting for them to come back.”

“Oh,” Wei Xiaobao mumbled. Suddenly he said, “I want to see the young Emperor.”

Shuang’er was greatly surprised, “You want to see the young Emperor?” she asked.

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Wu Sangui is sending his troops to revolt, the young Emperor must have a lot of things he wanted to talk to me. Even if I cannot offer any ideas, I can still talk to him to relieve his boredom. Let us go back to Beijing.”

“We are not going to Lu Ding Shan?” Shuang’er asked.

“Not this time,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “We’ll go again next time.” Although he was eager to find the treasure, but he had already amassed gold, silver, money and valuable that he did not even know to spend it all. Thinking that Lu Ding Shan was related to Xiao Xuanzi’s dragon vein, in all honesty he did not really want to unearth it; he was afraid that as soon as he dig it out, he would jeopardize Xiao Xuanzi’s life.

He searched and discover the eight copies of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’, found the pieces of sheepskin, assembled the pieces into a map, ascertained the mountains and rivers’ names on the map, all along he was enthusiastic; but by the time he had really arrived on Lu Ding Mountain, suddenly fear overcame his enthusiasm. He was only hoping to find an excuse to go as far as possible. If he said that he really wanted to give careful consideration of yi qi toward Kangxi, it might not necessarily be the truth, it’s just that this ‘digging treasure on Mount Lu Ding’ business was simply too great. He only had Shuang’er, one person, by his side; at the last moment, he could not stop cowardice from taking over. If he were leading several thousand of Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers and men, perhaps by this time he would yell, “His granny, send the troops to Lu Ding Shan!”

Shuang’er did not have any idea, naturally she would follow obediently. Wei Xiaobao said, “We go back to Beijing, but must be careful not to bump into any foreign robbers. We’d better follow the riverbank and see if we can catch a boat.”

Immediately they entered the forest and walked toward the east. Traveling until the afternoon, they reach the bank of a big river. In the distant they saw a fortified city wall. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he thought, “When we reach the city, we can either hire a boat or ride on horses. Having money makes everything easy.” Thereupon he walked faster.

After walking several li, they saw another big river winding from the northwest and merged with this turbulent-water big river. Shuang’er suddenly said, “Xianggong, these are Amur River and Heilongjiang [river], and that … that … that must be Lu Ding Shan.” While saying that, she pointed to the fortified city.

“Are you sure you remember correctly?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “This is such a happy coincidence.”

Shuang’er said, “The map is indeed drawn like this, but on the map there were only eight colored circles, it did not say anything about fortified city.”

“There is a fortified city on Lu Ding Shan; that’s really strange,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I’ll say this city cannot be trusted. Let’s not go in there.”

“What do you mean the city cannot be trusted?” Shuang’er asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Look, there is a demon cloud above the city, apparently there is a big demon inside the city.”

Shuang’er jumped in fright. “Aiyo!” she hastily said, “I am most afraid of demon. Xianggong, let’s go quickly.”

Right this moment, suddenly they heard sound of hoof beats, several dozen riders were galloping along the riverbank from the south. All around them was open plain, there was no where they could hide. Wei Xiaobao pulled Shuang’er, the two of them rolled away from the river shore and withdrew behind a large rock by the riverbank. Not too long afterwards, they saw a group of horses sweeping past; the riders were indeed foreign officers and men.

Wei Xiaobao stuck out his tongue; he followed the foreign troops with his eyes until they disappeared into the city wall. “Didn’t I tell you?” he said, “I said this city cannot be trusted, and I was right. Turns out that is not demon cloud, those are foreign cloud.”

Shuang’er said, “We have found Lu Ding Shan with great difficulty, who would have imagined that this mountain has been occupied by foreign robbers?”

“Aiyo,” suddenly Wei Xiaobao exclaimed; he sprang up and cried out, “Bad, bad!”

Seeing the huge change on his face, Shuang’er busily asked, “What is it?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The foreign robbers must have found out the secret of the map, otherwise how can they be here? The hidden treasure and the dragon vein cannot be guaranteed.”

Shuang’er had never heard him mentioning anything about hidden treasure and the dragon vein, but the map was constructed with great difficulty, hence she had already guessed that the secret of Lu Ding Mountain must be concerning something of grave importance. Seeing the deep frown on Wei Xiaobao’s face, she said consolingly, “Xianggong, if the foreign soldiers have found the secret first, there is nothing we can do. Foreign robbers have firearms, they are very ferocious, the two of us cannot fight with them.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “I just feel strange, after we put the map together, it was only a few days before we burned it; how did the secret leak? I wonder if the foreign robbers have dug the hidden treasure and broken the young Emperor’s dragon vein. We must investigate clearly.”

Thinking about the viciousness and ruthlessness of the foreign soldiers when they massacred the people in the woods a moment ago, he could not help but shiver. “I want to go to Lu Ding Shan to investigate clearly,” he muttered to himself, “But it’s too dangerous. I must think of a better way. Good Shuang’er, let’s wait until it is dark before going, that way it won’t be too easy for the devils to detect us.”

[1] Yellow way [huang dao] – the ecliptic (plane of the solar system); Black Way [hei dao] – usually refer to underground/clandestine operation.

[2] Wooden percussion instrument used in Buddhist meditation.

[3] A prefecture level city in Heilongjiang province, northeast China.

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