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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 45

Chapter 45
Remaining bamboo piece used as a pole, can be used to check out the net of hearts in a deep pool.

Kangxi seemed to know everything about the inside information of Wei Xiaobao’s conduct and deeds in Tian Di Hui; he was even able to recite fluently the code word and secret exchange within the organization. Yet Kangxi was completely oblivious to the fact that Wei Xiaobao had stolen the Forty-two Chapter Sutra or that he was the White Dragon Envoy of the Divine Dragon Cult. Wei Xiaobao thought it over carefully, he was convinced that the spy must be of Tian Di Hui; not only that, this person must be very close to him. But all Green Wood Hall friends had red-bellied devotion and profound yi qi; it was unthinkable that one of them could become a spy and sell out their friends. For this reason, although all along there was a very heavy suspicion in his heart, he did not have the least bit of clue; he only thought that this matter was very strange and was very difficult to solve.

This moment, as Feng Jizhong said those things, Wei Xiaobao suddenly realized, “I really deserve to die,” he thought, “Why have I never thought about this person? That day the young Emperor wanted me to bombard the Bojue [Earl] Mansion; all Tian Di Hui people were there, only he alone was not there. It should have been very clear to me, those who were in the Bojue Mansion could not be the spy; otherwise, when the cannon were fired, who would be able to escape with their live? Only because he had had the information in advance that he went away first. Ay, I am indeed a silly big melon; if he did not say anything, I would still be kept inside a drum.”

Feng Jizhong was a quiet and uncommunicative person, he appeared to be an extremely honest man; although his martial art skill was high, he always carried the mannerism of a ‘stupid head wooden brain’ country bumpkin. Occasionally when Wei Xiaobao was thinking about who the spy might be, he was always thinking about a person with ‘quick mouth and teeth’, perhaps an unscrupulous businessman like Qian Laoben; or perhaps someone who was light on his feet, shrewd and street-smart Xu Tianchuan; or perhaps a thorough, competent and experienced Gao Yanchao; or perhaps a hot-tempered, wine lover Priest Xuanzhen. Even the experienced and knowledgeable, outspoken and straightforward, honest and frank Fan Gang, as well as the aging Li Lishi, whose health had been deteriorating for the past few years, and sharp and cynical Qi Qingbiao, were all suspects in his mind. Only toward this did-not-look-like-a-spy Feng Jizhong he did not have the least bit of suspicion.

Suddenly he thought of something else, “That time Shuang’er was also not in the Bojue Mansion; could it be that she … she is also a spy, she is also going against me?” Thinking about this, he could not help but was heartbroken. But then he immediately understood, “Feng Jizhong must have intentionally taken Shuang’er out. He knew this girl is my lifeblood; if she was blasted to death, and later on this matter is exposed, I would have hated him for the rest of my life. He is no more than the spy sent by His Majesty to report some information in secret; as soon as Tian Di Hui is wiped out, His Majesty would not have any use of him. If in His Majesty’s presence I gave him some trouble, he would not be able to withstand it; hence he really did not dare to offend me.”

This thought was complicated and not easy to express succinctly, but in Wei Xiaobao’s mind it was a brain-wave that happened in a flash and he understood immediately. “Feng Dage,” he said, “Thank you for taking Shuang’er out of Bojue Mansion so that the cannon blast would not kill him.”

“Ah!” Feng Jizhong exclaimed; his countenance changed instantly, and he backed off two steps with his hand on the hilt of his saber. “You … you …” he said.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You and I have a tacit mutual understanding; His Majesty has already told me everything since long ago.”

Feng Jizhong knew the Emperor doted on him very much, he must be telling the truth. “Why didn’t you obey the imperial edict then?” he asked. As soon as he asked that question, it was the same as if he openly admitted everything.

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Feng Dage, why are you asking a question that you already know the answer? This is called ‘loyalty cannot satisfy both sides’. The way His Majesty treated me is without question really overflowing with imperial kindness; but Shifu’s treatment toward me was not bad either. Right now Shifu is already dead, what other apprehensions do I have left? It’s just that I do not know whether His Majesty would pardon my capital offence.”

Feng Jizhong said, “Now is a good chance to atone for your offense by meritorious acts. Just now I said that His Majesty is determined to get rid of three thorns in his side; other than Wu Sangui and Chen Jinnan, the third person is precisely Zheng Jing who occupies Taiwan illegally. We capture Zheng Jing’s son, and take him to Beijing; who knows? Maybe we can force Zheng Jing to surrender. If His Majesty is happy, even if Wei Dutong committed gargantuan offense, His Majesty may pardon everything.” Since he no longer concealed his real identity in front of Wei Xiaobao, the way he was addressing Wei Xiaobao had also changed; now he called him ‘Wei Dutong’. Even toward the Zongduozhu he now referred him by his given name.

In his heart Wei Xiaobao was very angry, “This traitor does not have any yi qi, unexpectedly he calls my Shifu by name.” But thinking about the possibility of reconciliation with Kangxi, he was quite happy. It did not matter to him whether he could be government official or not, but thinking about the time he could spend chatting with the young Emperor was enough to give him unending delight.

Feng Jizhong continued, “Wei Dutong, when we return to Beijing, we must keep everything in secret. If those Tian Di Hui people knew that Chen Jinnan is dead, most likely they would push you to become the Zongduozhu. Your yi qi is profound, you are willing to discard glory, splendor, wealth and rank; you did not want to be Bojue, you did not want to be Dutong, all because you wanted to save Tian Di Hui friends’ lives. This very moment this fact has been spread throughout the world. Right now Jianghu is bubbling and gurgling, everybody is talking about this matter; which one does not admire Wei Dutong’s heroic spirit?”

Wei Xiaobao was very proud of himself; he asked, “Did everybody really say that? You are not lying to me?”

“No, no …” Feng Jizhong replied, “Lowly officer definitely does not dare to lie to Dutong Daren.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Now he calls himself ‘lowly officer’; I wonder what is his official rank?” Although curious, he did not dare to ask, because if he did, he would expose the horse’s feet immediately; ‘His Majesty has already told me everything since long ago’ would then be a lie. But then he had a second thought, “There’s no harm in asking which rank he had been promoted to.” Thereupon he smiled and asked, “You have rendered such a great merit, His Majesty must have promoted your rank; right now which official position are you holding?”

Feng Jizhong said, “By His Majesty’s grace, he bestowed lowly officer the position Dusi.” [都司 – Vice Brigade Commander.]

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Turns out ‘sesame seed mung bean’ lowly military official position; with Laozi the difference is damn seventeen twenty-eight levels.”

In the Qing Dynasty’s bureaucratic system, Bojue was beyond ‘pin’ rank high-level officers. As the ‘Dutong’ (commander) of the Valiant Cavalry Brigade, Wei Xiaobao was a ‘one-pin’ rank officer. Han people’s Green Standard Army[1] military official’s highest rank Tidu [local commander, provincial governor] was also ‘one-pin’. Zongbing [regional commander] was ‘regular two-pin’, below this were Fujiang [deputy general], Canjiang [Administrator], Youji [Brigade Commander], and then Dusi [Vice Brigade Commander]. But looking at Feng Jizhong’s appearance, although his face still showed an extremely honest expression, there was a very proud look in his eyes. Thereupon Wei Xiaobao raised his cupped fist and said with a laugh, “Congratulations, congratulations! This is His Majesty’s personal promotion, you are definitely standing out from the masses.”

Feng Jizhong returned the propriety and said, “Later on I will rely on Daren to cultivate me.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “We are on the same side, why did you say such thing? In term of working for His Majesty, your skill greatly surpasses mine.”

“How can lowly officer be compared to even a ten-thousandth of Daren?” Feng Jizhong replied, “Reporting to Daren, His Majesty has instructed lowly officer that if I see Daren, no matter what I must bring Daren back to Beijing, I must not disobey the imperial edict. Listening to His Majesty’s tone, lowly officer knew that His Majesty cares about Daren greatly; I can say that he miss you very much. This great merit of bringing Taiwan rebel’s son back to Beijing will make His Majesty happy; he will definitely raise Daren’s official position.”

“Um,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In that case you should be promoted to Youji.”

Feng Jizhong said, “Lowly officer only wish to do my best for His Majesty. When His Majesty sees Daren, he will be happy, as his servants we will also greatly rejoice. Whether we are promoted or not, it’s entirely by His Majesty’s grace.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “I have always thought you were an honest person, turns out you really know how to talk in official jargon.”

Feng Jizhong continued, “If Daren assumed the Zongduozhu position of Tian Di Hui, you can gather the eighteen provinces Halls’ Xiangzhu and every place’s leaders together; we’ll say it’s the memorial ceremony for Chen Jinnan. At that time we’ll catch everything in one net, so that these conspirators against the law, the rebel thieves who commit heresy, will be unable to escape. This great merit will be ten times greater than when we bombarded the Bojue Mansion the other day. Daren, just think, if that day you obeyed the Emperor’s decree and killed Chen Jinnan, Li Lishi and those people, Tian Di Hui has rebel thieves in each province, one Zongduozhu is killed, another Zongduozhu will rise; we can’t wipe them out. Only by Daren yourself become the Zongduozhu will we be able to cut the weeds and eliminate the roots, and then the big worry weighing His Majesty’s heart will disappear forever.”

Hearing this, cold sweats began to form on Wei Xiaobao’s back; he thought, “This evil scheme is really difficult to deal with, I don’t think even you can come up with this plan, I am 90% sure that this is the young Emperor’s stratagem. If I return to Beijing, most likely the young Emperor will pardon my great offense, but he will definitely want me to eradicate Tian Di Hui. This is a clever way with which he is dealing with me, I won’t be able to escape from his clutch anymore.”

The more he thought about it, the more terrified he was; he thought, “The young Emperor wants me to surrender, he wants to beat my buttocks, those are not a big deal; but he wants me to be Tian Di Hui Zongduozhu and kill all the brothers’ heads; this I must not do, not in a million years. If I did it, all the heroes throughout the world will f*ck my eighteen generation ancestors; when I die, I won’t be able to see Shifu. All the big girls, little girls in here will also look down on me from the bottom of their hearts. Even if other people don’t care, even if Wei Xiaobao’s conscience is not much, in the end I still have a little bit.”

He cast a glance toward Feng Jizhong, while his mouth uttered, ‘Oh, oh,’ repeatedly; he thought, “If I don’t answer, he might become hostile to me immediately. If it comes to using force, a number of us might not necessarily lose to him, but this servant’s martial art skill is exceptionally strong, if one or two of my big girls, little girls are killed by him, it will be desperately serious. There’s no harm in me playing ‘Han Sha She Ying’ again.” He said hesitantly, “I will be very happy to go see His Majesty, it’s just that … it’s just that to kill that many Tian Di Hui brothers, it’s inevitably going to violate yi qi too much. We must discuss it carefully before we trespass our friends.”

Daren is right,” Feng Jizhong said, “But there is a common saying, ‘Those who measure small things are not people of noble character; a great man has to be ruthless’ [orig. no poison, no great man].”

“Right, right!” Wei Xiaobao said, “A great man has to be ruthless … hey, aiyo, how can that fellow Zheng Keshuang escape?”

Feng Jizhong was startled; he turned around to look. Wei Xiaobao aimed his chest to him, he was about to reach down to activate the mechanism to release the poisonous needle when suddenly Shuang’er rushed over and called out, “Xianggong, what is it?”

Turned out all along she was watching these two men talking endlessly, and was very concerned; thereupon she slowly crept near. When she suddenly heard Wei Xiaobao cried out ‘aiyo’, immediately she leaped forward. If Wei Xiaobao released the ‘Han Sha She Ying’, Feng Jizhong would be hit for certain, but Shuang’er would also be affected. Although this moment his hand had already reached the mechanism, he did not dare to press the mechanism.

When Feng Jizhong turned his head around, he saw Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan were still standing on the beach, they had not moved at all. Immediately he knew something was not right; he ducked down and reached backward to grab Shuang’er and pulled her in front of his body as a shield. Based on Shuang’er’s martial art skill, Feng Jizhong should not necessarily be able to succeed in one grab; it’s just that he moved so suddenly, and Shuang’er did not guard against him at all, so that the main artery on her wrist was caught, her upper body went numb, she was unable to move a single step. In a deep voice Feng Jizhong said, “Wei Daren, please raise your hand.”

The golden opportunity to launch a sneak attack had gone, Shuang’er fell under the opponent’s control, Wei Xiaobao was put under disadvantageous position; he giggled and said, “Feng Dage, what kind of joke are you playing?”

Feng Jizhong said, “Wei Daren’s no-shadow no-trace secret projectile is indeed too formidable, lowly officer is very afraid of it; please raise your hands, otherwise, lowly officer will have no choice but to offend you.” While saying that, he pushed Shuang’er forward, while he himself hid behind her, so that Wei Xiaobao would not be able to release the secret projectile.

From the other side Su Quan, Fang Yi, Ah Ke, Zeng Rou and the others saw the unforeseen event, one after another they rushed over. Feng Jizhong thought, “This kid loves this girl the most, he won’t dare to make his move; but those other women might not cherish her life as much, the one they cherish is this kid.” With his left hand he pulled the steel saber hanging on his waist; stretching out his hand, he placed the edge of the blade on Wei Xiaobao’s throat. “Nobody come near!” he shouted.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao in danger, Su Quan and the others came to a halt. They were all anxious, but were also baffled; this Feng Jizhong was obviously Wei Xiaobao’s friend, they had just fought the enemy side-by-side, how could in an instant, as soon as they had disagreement, he immediately made his move? They supposed it must be because Wei Xiaobao wanted to release Zheng Keshuang, while Feng Jizhong wanted to kill him to avenge Chen Jinnan.

Wei Xiaobao tipped his head backward slightly, the tip of Feng Jizhong’s saber followed forward. “Wei Daren,” he shouted, “Please don’t move. Steel saber don’t have eyes; don’t blame me if I offend you. Please raise your hands.”

Wei Xiaobao had no choice, he slowly raised both hands while saying with a laugh, “Feng Dage, you want to rise to high-ranking official position, you want to get rich, you should be a bit more polite to me.”

“While it’s true that to be promoted and gain wealth is important, the first step is till protecting my own life,” Feng Jizhong replied. Suddenly his body slightly leaned sideways, he rushed behind Wei Xiaobao, reached out to draw the dagger in Wei Xiaobao’s boot, and pointed it to his back. “Wei Daren,” he said, “Your dagger is very sharp, lowly officer has seen you using it several times.”

Wei Xiaobao could only smile wryly. He felt slight pain on his back, and knew that the tip of the dagger had pierced his outer clothing. Although he was wearing his treasured protective vest, it would not stop the treasured dagger.

Feng Jizhong shouted, “Everybody turn around and throw your weapon down.” Seeing this turn of events, Su Quan and the others did not have any choice but to follow his order; they turned around and tossed their weapons to the ground.

Feng Jizhong saw there were still six Tian Di Hui brothers standing on the side; he shouted to them, “Come here, I have something to say.” The six people did not know what was going on, they came over.

Feng Jizhong raised his right elbow, ‘slam’ the point of his elbow struck the ‘da zhui’ [big spine] acupoint on Wei Xiaobao’s back; the steel saber in his left hand swept, accompanied by a series of ‘cha, cha, ah, ah, aiyo’ sound, all six Tian Di Hui brothers were hit by the saber. In an instant he had hacked these six people to their deaths, each saber chop hit a vital point on a man’s body. His saber was swift, his attacks were fierce; it was indeed rarely seen.

Hearing the miserable scream, Su Quan and the others turned around and saw the bodies of those six people scattered around on the ground; from the wound on either their heads, necks, chests, backs, waists, or flanks, blood was gushing out. None of the women did not cry out in fear, none of their faces did not change.

Turned out that as Feng Jizhong saw that his face was exposed, he immediately made his move; he was alone, hence he had to strike first by killing these six Tian Di Hui brothers; first, to intimidate with his power so that Wei Xiaobao and the women would not dare to rebel; second, so that he had six less enemies. This way, although his opponents were numerous, they were no more than one youngster and seven women.

He swung the saber in his left hand, turned around and pressed it against Wei Xiaobao’s neck. “Wei Daren,” he said, “Let’s go down to the boat.”

He was thinking to take only Wei Xiaobao and Zheng Keshuang, two people, under arrest and presented them to the Emperor, and thus rendering a great service. These seven women would be left on the island, so that they would not add trouble to him on the boat. By being lenient and not kill these seven women, he was actually preparing a room for action for himself, to avoid incurring Wei Xiaobao’s hatred too much. How the Emperor would deal with this youngster later would be beyond anybody’s guess.

When the women saw Wei Xiaobao was under his control, they were all alarmed and frightened; nobody knew what to do. Princess Jianning cursed loudly, “What kind of ‘thing’ are you? Why do you dare to be this rude? Quickly throw your saber down!” [I know the better translation would be ‘who do you think you are?’ but I thought preserving the word ‘thing’ is more fun.]

“Humph,” Feng Jizhong only snorted without paying her any attention. He had come with Wei Xiaobao escorting her to Yunnan to get married, so he knew she was the Princess, hence he did not dare to argue with his superior.

Seeing he did not take notice of her, the Princess was even more angry; in this earth, other than the Empress Dowager and the Emperor, plus Wei Xiaobao and Su Quan, four people, she had no regard of anybody else. Stooping down to pick a saber on the ground, she leaped forward to hack down on Feng Jizhong’s head.

Feng Jizhong leaned sideways to evade. ‘Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!’ the Princess hacked three times in a row, Feng Jizhong dodged left and right. If it were another woman, he would have used his leg to kick her down. But the one holding the saber was the Emperor’s imperial younger sister, the golden branch, jade leaves Princess. The desire in his heart was only to render merit and get promoted, to repay the kindness of the imperial family; how could he dare to offend the Princess? Thereupon right now he could only dodge.

“Stinky b@stard servant,” the Princess cursed, “Stand still, don’t move! I want to chop your head. Why do you keep your stinking head running around in circles so that I cannot chop it down? I will tell Huangdi Gege, to have him make mincemeat of you!”

Feng Jizhong was stunned; he thought that this woman was capable of doing what she was capable to say, she and the Emperor were brother and sister, while he himself was just a sesame seed mung bean little military official, how could he fight the Princess? But if he obeyed her command by keeping his stinking head steady and unmoving to let Her Highness the Princess’ ten thousand gold body’s precious hand’s saber chop it, he seemed to have difficulty in obeying it.

While her mouth was busy hurling curses, the Princess’ saber hacked to the left and chopped to the right continuously. Feng Jizhong slightly sidestepped and leaned his body sideways, he lightly and easily evaded the attack; although the saber always flashed by a few cun away from his body, it was never able to chop him. The Princess became impatient; sweeping the saber horizontally, she hacked across his waist.

“Careful!” Feng Jizhong shouted, and leaped up. It was obvious that the Princess would not be able to stop the momentum of the saber, it would chop Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder. While his body was still midair, Feng Jizhong’s left foot kicked on Wei Xiaobao’s body, throwing him down to the ground, while at the same time he borrowed the momentum to leap several more zhang away.

Shuang’er pounced forward, grabbed Wei Xiaobao, and flew several steps away. Feng Jizhong was greatly alarmed; he rushed over with a saber in his hand. Shuang’er’s martial art was superb, but after all, her strength was still lacking. She was half a head shorter than Wei Xiaobao, carrying him in her arms like that she was only able to run several zhang when Feng Jizhong had already come near.

The acupoint on Wei Xiaobao’s back was sealed, his four limbs did not obey his command; he could only said, “Put me down, let me release the secret projectile.” But Feng Jizhong came really fast; Shuang’er wanted to let Wei Xiaobao down so that he could release the ‘Han Sha She Ying’ secret projectile, but it was already too late. In desperation she threw him away.

Feng Jizhong was greatly delighted; he rushed forward and stretched out his hand to catch Wei Xiaobao. Suddenly he heard a light ‘click’ behind him, like the sound of fire-knife struck against a flint stone, followed by a loud ‘Bang!’ His body was flying midair, suddenly it dropped down to the ground. He twisted several times, and then stopped moving altogether.

Wei Xiaobao’s body landed on the sandy beach, he did not suffer any injury; he struggled for some time to crawl up, but was unable to do so. He saw a wisp of smoke in front of Shuang’er, her hand was holding a short gun; it was precisely the gift she received from Wu Liuqi the day they swore to become brother and sister. It was a refined firearm made in the Luocha Country; it was formidable beyond compare. Although Feng Jizhong possessed an extraordinary martial art skill, his flesh and blood body was simply unable to withstand it.

Shuang’er herself was so scared that she could only stared blankly. When the gun went off, it shook her hand and arm that she felt numb and painful. Her hand trembled, the gun fell to the ground.

For fear that Feng Jizhong had not died yet, Wei Xiaobao scrambled several steps forward, press the mechanism on his waist, and a cluster of steel needles shot out; all of the needles hit Feng Jizhong’s body. But Feng Jizhong did not budge at all; as soon as the gun went off, he was already dead.

The women cheered in chorus and swarmed forward. Seven women plus one Wei Xiaobao, it was literally ‘seven openings eight mouths’ [chaos (idiom)]; a hundred-percent ‘you speak, I talk’, everybody wanted to know what was going on. Wei Xiaobao briefly explained to them.

Shuang’er had been in contact with Feng Jizhong for quite a long time, on the journey he always displayed his honest, generous and simple character, treating her with respect and consideration. He was indeed a model of a man, who always did his duty without offending anybody; who would have thought that he was extremely shrewd? The more she thought about it, the more scared she was.

She turned around to pick up the gun from the ground. Suddenly it dawned on her the profound meaning behind Wu Liuqi’s desire to swear brotherhood with her that day: this extraordinary Wulin talent was hoping that in the future Wei Xiaobao would take her as his wife, but she was only a servant girl, in term of status, they did not match. After becoming the sworn sister of Tian Di Hui’s Red Banner Xiangzhu, she would be fit to marry the Tian Di Hui’s Green Wood Hall Xiangzhu. Remembering her sworn brother’s good intention, also that he died in injustice, she could not stop tears from flowing down her face.

Wei Xiaobao turned around and saw Zheng Keshuang and the other four people were walking toward the beach to board the skiff. He thought, “He has killed Shifu; if I let him leave safe and sound, it would be too easy for him.” Therefore, with a dagger in his hand, he ran after them and called out, “Hold on!”

Zheng Keshuang stopped and turned his head around; his countenance turned ash-grey. “Wei … Wei Xiangzhu, you promised to let me … let us go,” he said.

With a cold laugh Wei Xiaobao said, “I promised not to kill you. I have not promised not to chop your leg.”

Feng Xifan was furious; he was about to lash it out, but as soon as he raised his hand, his whole body felt limp and painful, he was unable to exert even half a part of strength.

By this time Zheng Keshuang was already scared out of his wits, his knees went weak, and he dropped on the ground. “Wei … Wei Xiangzhu,” he said, “If you chop my leg, I … I will definitely not able to live.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “Whether you live or not, it’s not my concern. You owe me one million taels of silver, you said you want to use Ah Ke as the guarantee. But she and I have bowed to the Heaven and the Earth, she is my lawfully-wedded wife; in her belly she has my child, and she voluntarily wanted to come with me. How can you use my wife as your guarantee? How could there be such logic in the world?”

By this time Su Quan, Fang Yi, Zeng Rou, the Princess, and the others were already standing by Wei Xiaobao’s side. “It’s preposterous!” they said in chorus.

Zheng Keshuang’s mind was already in chaos, but he had a nagging feeling that something was just not right. “What … what should I do then?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “I’ll chop your arm and your thigh first as the guarantee. When you pay me the one million taels of silver in the future, I will return your cutoff arm and leg to you.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “Just now you said that I could sell Ah Ke off to you, the ten thousand taels … ten thousand taels of silver I owed you is already written off at one stroke.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head vehemently. “Can’t do,” he said, “Just now my head was muddled, and I fell into your big trick. Ah Ke is my wife, how can you sell my wife back to me? Alright, I will sell your mother back to you, she is worth one million taels of silver. I will also sell your father back to you, worth another million taels of silver. And then your paternal granny, worth one million taels of silver, plus your maternal granny, also at one million taels of silver …”

Zheng Keshuang said, “My maternal grandmother has already passed away.”

“I can still sell dead people,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I will sell your maternal grandmother’s corpse to you; dead people only worth 80%, make it eight hundred thousand taels. The coffin is included, there’s no additional charge for it.”

The more he talked the more preposterous he was; Zheng Keshuang thought that he even wanted to sell dead people. If he had to buy his great-grandfather, his great-great-grandfather, his great-grandmother, his great-great-grandmother, even if the dead people were valued at 80%, or even 70, or 60%, he would not be able to tolerate it; but he did not dare to say that he was unwilling to buy. Without any choice he could only plead, “I … I really cannot afford it.”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Since you can’t afford it, I’ll spare you. But those you already bought you cannot return. You owe me three million eight hundred thousand taels of silver. How are you going to pay?”

The Princess laughed and said, “That’s right, three million eight hundred thousand taels. Quickly pay up.”

Scowling miserably, Zheng Keshuang said, “I don’t even have one thousand taels with me, where can I get three million eight hundred thousand taels?”

“Never mind!” Wei Xiaobao said, “You don’t have any money, I’ll let you return the merchandise. Quickly give me back your father, mother, (paternal) granny, and dead (maternal) granny. Not a hair less.”

Zheng Keshuang knew that if this unreasonable argument continued, in the end there would still be no solution. He looked at Ah Ke, hoping that she would say something on his behalf, but against expectation she stood some distance away, turning her back on him, determined not to get involved. He was very anxious, looking at Wei Xiaobao, he seemed to be determined to chop his hand his foot; Zheng Keshuang did not have any choice but to repeatedly kowtow and said, “Wei Xiangzhu, I … I killed Chen Junshi, it was really a crime deserving ten thousand deaths. I beseech your magnanimity to spare Xiaoren’s life. Even if I owe you, Senior, three million eight hundred thousand taels of silver, I … I will definitely try to pay you back.”

Seeing that he managed to torment Zheng Keshuang so that he was in such a sorry state, Wei Xiaobao’s hatred was somewhat diminished; he said, “In that case you must write an I.O.U.”

Zheng Keshuang was greatly delighted. “Yes, yes,” he busily said. Turning to his bodyguard he said, “Get some pen and paper.” But in that uninhabited island, where could they find any pen and paper?

The bodyguard was quite quick-witted; he tore a piece of his own long gown at once, and said, “There are many dead bodies over there, we can write using their blood as the ink.” Finished speaking he wanted to drag Feng Jizhong’s body immediately. Wei Xiaobao reached out with his left hand to grab Zheng Keshuang’s right wrist. White light flashed, he sliced his dagger to cut one section of Zheng Keshuang’s right hand index finger.

Zheng Keshuang screamed loudly. Wei Xiaobao said, “Use the blood from your finger to write.”

Zheng Keshuang was in so much pain that his whole body trembled; momentarily he was at a loss of what to do. Wei Xiaobao said, “Just write slowly, if your blood dry out, I’ll just cut your second finger.”

“Yes, yes!” Zheng Keshuang busily said. How could he dare to write slowly? Clenching his teeth he wrote with his cut finger on the piece of cloth, “I owe three million eight hundred thousand taels of silver exactly. Signed, Zheng Keshuang.” After writing these thirteen characters, the pain was unbearable that he nearly passed out.

With a cold laugh Wei Xiaobao said, “Shame on you as a magnificent Prince’s Mansion’s Gongzi, you did not work hard on your penmanship; the I.O.U you wrote, these several characters are trembling scrawls, all are faulty strokes, not a single one shows good penmanship.” Taking the piece of cloth from Zheng Keshuang, he handed it over to Shuang’er, saying, “Take this, see if the amount is correct. This man is treacherous and sly, don’t let him write several taels less.”

Shuang’er said, “Three million eight hundred thousand taels of silver, no less.” While saying that, she put the I.O.U. written in blood into her pocket.

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud; he kicked Zheng Keshuang’s chin and shouted, “Get your dead (maternal) granny out of here!”

Zheng Keshuang tumbled down and rolled away. His bodyguards rushed over to help him up and wrap his cut finger. Two bodyguards separately helped Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan to board the skiff, and rowed it out to the sea.

Wei Xiaobao’s laughter continued; suddenly he remembered his Shifu’s tragic death, and could not help bursting into tears.

After the skiff was rowed several dozen zhang away from the beach, panic started to settle into Zheng Keshuang’s heart; he said, “Let us seize the big boat and get away with it, I don’t think those goddamn male and female dogs will be able to pursue.” But as they sailed toward the big boat, they found out that the boat was without the rudder and without any sailing equipment.

Feng Xifan hatefully said, “Those goddamn male and female dogs have already taken care of it.”

They look at the vast and obscure ocean, at the billowing waves, while the skiff was without provision and water; how could they make a distant sea voyage? Zheng Keshuang said, “Let us beseech that little thief again, ask him to lend us their boat. At most I will have to write another three million eight hundred thousand taels of silver I.O.U.”

Feng Xifan said, “It’s their only boat, how can they lend it to us? I’d rather be buried inside the fish’s belly that begging that little thief.”

Hearing his tone was resolute and decisive, Zheng Keshuang did not dare to disobey; he had no choice but to heave a sigh and instructed his three bodyguards to row the skiff into the ocean.

Wei Xiaobao and the others watched as Zheng Keshuang and the others rowed their skiff toward the big boat, and after finding out that the big boat was not sailable, they finally rowed the skiff away; Wei Xiaobao and the others could not help finding it hilarious.

Su Quan saw Wei Xiaobao was crying and laughing, apparently he still could not get over his grief over his Shifu’s death; she wanted to say something to please him, thereupon she said, “This Zheng Family’s Er Gongzi is devious to the extreme, obviously he wanted to steal our big boat. Xiaobao, in my opinion, he won’t pay you the three million eight hundred thousand taels of silver he owes.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Su Quan laughed and said, “Whatever you do, usually you are very astute, but just now that fellow sold you your own wife for ten thousand taels to pay his debt. You did not think about it and simply agreed. You must love Ah Ke Meizi so much that you turned silly. At that time, if he wanted you to find ten thousand taels to pay him, I think you might readily agree.”

Wei Xiaobao used his sleeve to wipe the tears from his eyes; and then he laughed and said, “I don’t care if he said ‘three sevens are twenty-one’ [i.e. the facts of the matter], I would have agreed first and talked later; I will slowly settle the account with him.”

Fang Yi asked, “And then what happened? Why did you suddenly remember that you have suffered a big loss?”

Wei Xiaobao scratched his head. “After we killed Feng Jizhong, I did not have anything to worry about, suddenly my brain became very clear,” he said.

Actually, he had never had any suspicion against Feng Jizhong; it’s just that in the deepest part of his heart he had a nagging feeling that he had a great root of trouble nearby, but as for what kind of trouble, he himself was unclear, only he felt fear without any reason. When Feng Jizhong was killed, immediately he felt as if a heavy load had just been released, and he felt entirely free from worry. He thought, “Perhaps early on I was already afraid of this thief, only I did not realize it.”

They had just undergone a series of strange dangers, until now, where the powerful enemies were either dead or had run away. Now the island was back to peace and quiet. Everybody felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. Wei Xiaobao felt as if his legs weighed a thousand catties, he was unable to stand and hence he lay down on the sandy beach to rest. Su Quan rubbed his back to unseal the acupoint sealed by Feng Jizhong earlier.

The water reflected the setting sun, swayed by the waves the surface of the sea looked like tens of thousands golden snakes crawling and leaping one over another; the scenery was singularly beautiful beyond compare. One by one the women sat down. Shortly afterwards, Wei Xiaobao was the first to snore, and not to long after that, one by one the women also fell asleep.

More than two hours later, Fang Yi was the first to wake up. She went to the thatched hut that was used by Wei Xiaobao as his command tent in the past to prepare some food, and then she called everybody else to eat. In the main hall they lighted two pine torches so that the room was bright. The eight of them sat in a circle. After dinner, Fang Yi and Shuang’er cleaned up the bowls and the chopsticks.

Wei Xiaobao swept his gaze on Su Quan, Fang Yi, the Princess, Zeng Rou, Mu Jianping, Shuang’er and Ah Ke, seven women’s faces one by one. Some were tender and beautiful, some were gentle and soft, some were lively, some were extremely beautiful, each one had her own strength; he could not help but was greatly delighted. This moment he ‘leaned on red and cuddled on green-jade’, his heart felt so peaceful. Compared to the ‘heaven and earth in confusion’ time at the Lovely Spring Courtyard when he was under the large blanket with seven women, he felt a lot more safe, peaceful, and happy. He laughed and said, “That day I called this small island ‘Tong Chi Island’ [eat ‘em all, gambling], turns out I already have foresight, knowing that seven Jiejie Meimei would be willing to be my wives; it was indeed a mystery of the underworld, the Will of Heaven, that even if we ran, we cannot escape. From this day onward, the eight of us will live on this Tong Chi Island, our long-life the same as the heaven’s, enjoy immortal good fortune forever.”

“Xiaobao,” Su Quan said, “These eight characters [shou yu tian qi, xian fu yong xiang] are ominous, later on you must not say it.”

Wei Xiaobao immediately realized his mistake, he knew she did not want to hear anything related to the Cult Leader Hong. “Right, right!” hastily he said, “I was talking rubbish.”

Su Quan said, “When Shi Lang and Zheng Keshuang are home, most likely they will bring troops back here to take revenge, we must not live on this island for too long.”

Everybody agreed. Fang Yi said, “Quan Jiejie, where do you think we should go?”

Su Quan cast a glance toward Wei Xiaobao and said with a laugh, “Why don’t we hear Zhi Zunbao’s [most honorable/senior treasure] idea?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You call me Zhi Zunbao?”

Su Quan replied with a laugh, “If not Zhi Zunbao, how can you sweep ‘em all [tong chi]?”

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter. “I do have a ‘bao’ [treasure] in my name,” he said, “Actually it was a tiny pair of treasure. Pair of fives or two wooden bench tiles, now those are the real Zhi Zunbao.”

Seeing the seven women’s eyes were fixed at him, he pondered a while and then said, “The Central Plains is definitely out of question. Shen Long Island is too close to this place, it’s not a good place either. We must go someplace comfortable but no people around.”

The problem was that desolate places with no people around are not comfortable, comfortable places surely have a lot of people in it. Besides, ‘comfort’ in Wei Xiaobao’s eyes means gambling, opera, storytelling, many different kinds of sights, singing, good dishes, light refreshments, and good-looking young women; not a single one of these was not ‘the more the merrier’. Other than good-looking young women, which, by the way, he already had quite a few by his side, those things could be found only if not in Beijing, then in Yangzhou or other first-class flourishing city in the world; exactly the places where it would be difficult for them to live in happiness.

As he was thinking about these romantic and bustling places, his filial piety heart was suddenly moved. “We gather together in here, it can be considered very exciting,” he said, “But I wonder how is my mother doing, all alone and helpless on her own.”

These women had never heard him mentioning his mother, they all thought that he had a filial heart, which was hard to come by. “Where is your mother right now?” they all asked. Some of them even thought, “Your mother is my mother-in-law, we ought to try to be together with her, to care for her, the Senior.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “My mother is at the Lovely Spring Courtyard in Yangzhou.”

When the women heard the Lovely Spring Courtyard in Yangzhou, five characters, other than the Princess, the other six immediately felt as if flying red clouds suddenly hit their faces. Some of them turned their heads away, some lowered their heads down.

“Ah, Lovely Spring Courtyard in Yangzhou,” the Princess said, “You have mentioned it before, that is the most fun place in the world; you promised to take me there to play.”

Fang Yi smiled and said, “He was swindling you, don’t believe him. That is the most indecent place on earth.”

“Why is it indecent?” the Princess asked, “Have you played there? Why all of you have such a strange expression on your faces?”

Fang Yi stifled her laugh and was unable to reply. The Princess wrapped her arm around Mu Jianping’s shoulder. “Good Meizi,” she said, “Tell me, what is it?”

Mu Jianping blushed deep red; she said, “That is … that is a brothel.”

The Princess still did not understand, “What is his Mama doing in a brothel?” she asked, “I heard that is the place where men come to have fun.”

Fang Yi laughed and said, “He always loves to talk rubbish, if you believe just half a sentence of what he said, it will be enough to give you headache.”

That day in the Lovely Spring Courtyard, Wei Xiaobao slept under the same blanket with seven women; other than the Princess and the old wh0re Mao Dongzhu, the remaining six women at this moment were sitting in front of him. In term of viciousness and roughness, the Princess was not inferior to Mao Dongzhu, but she was not as sinister, ruthless and dangerous as her mother, plus she was a lot younger and prettier than her mother. Wei Xiaobao was secretly congratulating himself, this time the switch was perfectly reasonable; if right now the one accompanied him was not the Princess but her mother, he would not have any idea of what to do. Perhaps after getting hold of her, he would become like the Old Emperor, he would want to leave home to become a monk on Mount Wutai. But if he absolutely must become a monk, he surely would want to have these seven wives coming with him.

Looking at the blushing six women, he presumed they were thinking of the situation that night. He mused, “That night in the dark, I was just fooling around randomly, I don’t know which one I slept with. Ah Ke and Quan Jiejie have my child inside their tummies; that’s two. I remember one more, but I don’t know which one. I have to find out slowly.” Smiling happily he said, “Even if we have to live on this Tong Chi Island forever, we won’t be lonely. Quan Jiejie, Princess, Ah Ke, the three of you have my child in your tummy; I wonder if someone else also has my child inside your tummy.”

As soon as they heard that, Fang Yi and the others, four women’s faces turned even redder. Mu Jianping hastily said, “I don’t have it, I don’t have it.”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao was looking at her, Zeng Rou shot him a malicious look, “Not me!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Good Shuang’er, it must be that we are highly successful.”

Shuang’er sprang up and hid in the corner of the room. “No, no!” she said.

Wei Xiaobao turned to Fang Yi, “Yi Jiejie,” he said, “What about you? When you were at the Lovely Spring Courtyard, you stuffed a pillow on your belly, pretending to be pregnant; you must have foresight.”

“Pft!” Fang Yi stifled her laugh, but then could not help laughing. “Pei!” she spat, “Dead eunuch, you and I have not … how can I have …”

“Oh yeah,” Mu Jianping said, “Shijie, Zeng Jiejie, Shuang’er Meizi and me, four people have not bowed to the Heaven and the Earth with you to get married, how can we have a baby? Xiaobao, you deserve to die; you bowed to the Heaven and the Earth with Quan Jiejie, the Princess and Ah Ke Jiejie, yet you did not tell me, you did not invite me to drink the wedding wine.” In her mind, it was the tying of the knot in the ritual of bowing to the Heaven and the Earth that enable people to have children.

Listening to her naiveté, everybody laughed. While still laughing, Fang Yi wrapped her arm around her waist and said, “Xiao Shimei, in that case, tonight you and he should bow to the Heaven and the Earth to be husband and wife.”

“No way,” Mu Jianping replied, “There is no marriage sedan on this barren island. I have seen that the brides are always wearing crimson wedding gown, and phoenix crown with red clouds cape; we don’t have any of those.”

Su Quan laughed and said, “It won’t be a big deal if you are willing to put up with it a bit. We can pick some flowers and braid it into a flower garland, and consider it phoenix crown.”

Hearing the women chatting and joking, Wei Xiaobao was inwardly very anxious. “Who was the other one?” he mused, “Could it be Ah Qi? I remember carrying her in and out, after that I sat her on a chair, I did not bring her into the bed. But that night there were too many girls there, perhaps I muddle-headedly did bring her back into the bed. If she has my child inside her belly, this little fellow will be Mongolian ‘zheng ge er hao’ [see Chapter 39] prince in the future. Aiyo, not good! Could it be the old wh0re? If it was her, my child might be killed by Gui Xinshu and the others as well.”

He heard Mu Jianping said, “If we have to bow to the Heaven and the Earth in here, Fang Shijie must bow first.”

“No,” Fang Yi said, “You are the Junzhu Niangniang [lady princess, see also Chapter 10], it’s only natural that you bow first.”

Mu Jianping said, “We are the people of a perished nation, why do you even mention Junzhu or not Junzhu?”

Fang Yi smiled and said, “In that case, Shuang’er Meizi should bow to the Heaven and the Earth with him first; you have been with him the longest, you have been through life and death together, a friend in times of tribulations, you stand out from the masses.”

Shuang’er blushed. “If you say more, I am going to leave,” she said, while walking toward the door; but Fang Yi laughed and hugged her.

Su Quan turned to Wei Xiaobao and said with a laugh, “Xiaobao, you decide.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Bowing to the Heaven and the Earth can be discussed slowly. Tomorrow we must bury Shifu first.”

When the women heard that, they were immediately filled with respect; nobody expected this man’s reverence toward his master was this heavy that he could utter such righteous phrases. Who would have thought that what he said next exposed his true nature: “The seven of you are all my dear good wives, there is no distinction between early or late, older or younger. Later on, every night all of you will throw dice to decide winning or losing. Whoever wins, that one will accompany me.” While saying that, he took the two dice from his pocket, blew it, and rolled it on the table.

“Pei!” the Princess spat, “Do you think you are that sweet-smelling? Whoever loses is the one who should accompany you.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Right, right! Just like playing finger-guessing game, whoever loses must drink a cup of wine as a forfeit. Alright, who will roll first?”

That night in the thatched hut on the inhabited island thoughts of love and warmth abound; there is no need to describe in details the throwing of dice, who won or who lost. From that day on, the throwing of dice among the women of the Wei family became usual practice. Originally Wei Xiaobao loved to throw dice with people to gamble, using gold, silver, money and valuables as the stake. The excitement of winning or losing always brought him abundant delight, but this time he decided on a method that from now on the women would have him as the stake, he would be compelled to stay out of the game. Although there was tenderness and happiness in his heart, the excitement of gambling was gone. Thus it was clear that ‘the flowers do not always bloom, the moon has its full and crescent phases, the affairs of the world cannot be expected to always follow the people’s expectation’.

The next day the eight of them slept until the sun was on top of the three poles before they got up. Wei Xiaobao led the seven women to bury Chen Jinnan’s remains. Seeing the yellow sandy soil covering his Shifu’s body, Wei Xiaobao could not help bursting in tears again. The women kneeled down together and did obeisance in front of the grave.

The Princess really did not want to do it, she thought I am the Princess of the magnificent Great Qing, how can I kowtow to you, a rebel thief? But it was clear to her that although she was a ‘golden branch, jade leaves’, perhaps in Wei Xiaobao’s eyes her rank was the lowest instead; in term of closeness, she was not as devoted as Shuang’er, in term of beauty she was not as pretty as Ah Ke, in term of martial art she could not beat Su Quan, in term of capability she was not as smart Fang Yi, in term of naivete and purity she was not as innocent as Mu Jianping, in term of gentleness she was not as refined as Zeng Rou. One day her shortcomings would catch up, she was nothing more than a harsh and unreasonable, rough and mean woman. If she did not pay her respect, perhaps henceforth Wei Xiaobao would view her in a new light, and might cheat on the dice; every night when they tossed the dice, he would cause her to achieve great victory. Therefore, feeling aggrieved as she was, she also kneeled down, while saying in her heart, “Rebel thief, oh rebel thief, I, Her Highness the Princess, bow to you, which you have never had the good fortune of receiving, until you go to the underworld, I am afraid you will suffer for your actions.”

When they finished paying their respect, they all stood up and turned around. “Aiyo!” Fang Yi suddenly cried out, “Where’s the boat? Where did it go?”

Hearing her terrified cry, everybody turned their eyes toward the sea, and saw that the boat moored on the beach had vanished without a trace; none was not shocked. They looked to the distant and only saw the boundless bluish green sea all the way to the horizon where it met the blue sky, with several dozen white birds swooping up and down on the surface of the water. Su Quan ran up the overhanging cliff to survey the island all around, north, south, east and west, she did not see even the shadow of the boat. Fang Yi rushed to the cave to look at the rudder, sail, and other sailing gear, as expected, those things had gone missing.

They all got back together and looked at each other in dismay; no one could stop fear from creeping into their hearts. Last night the eight of them were having too much fun and did not sleep until very late at night; they completely forgot to set up night guard duty, unexpectedly the boatmen stole the sailing gears and took the boat away. From now on they were trapped on an isolated island and would not be able to escape anymore. Wei Xiaobao thought about the possibility of Shi Lang and Zheng Keshuang returning with troops to take revenge, how could the eight of them fight the enemy? Even if Su Quan, the Princess and Ah Ke gave birth to three children without delay, their number would be no more than eleven.

Su Quan comforted the rest, “Things have come to this, worrying is useless. Let us slowly think of a plan.”

Back to the thatched hut, everybody hurled curses toward the boatmen with different mouths, same voice; but after swearing and cursing for a couple of hours, they could not come up with any fresh cursing words anymore. Su Quan said to Wei Xiaobao, “Right now we must guard against the Qing troops coming here in large number. Xiaobao, what do you think?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “If the Qing troops are coming, their number will not be a few for sure, we won’t be able to fight them. All we can do is hide, hoping that if they can’t find us in a short while, they would think that we have already sailed away.”

Su Quan nodded. “That’s true,” she said, “The Qing Troops will never have guessed that our boat was stolen.”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. “If I were Shi Lang,” he said, “I won’t come again. He would presume that without a doubt we would immediately anoint oil on the soles of our feet; it would be foolish for us to stay here. Why would we want to wait for him to come back and arrest us?”

The Princess said, “If he reported to Huangdi Gege, Huangdi Gege might send people to look for us. Even if we already left, they would search carefully for clues to see where we went.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “Shi Lang will not report to the Emperor,” he said.

With eyes open wide the Princess asked, “Why not?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “If he did, naturally His Majesty would ask why he did not arrest and take us away. And then he would be forced to admit that he had been defeated in battle; wouldn’t he be inviting trouble for himself then?”

Su Quan laughed and said, “Very true, very true. Xiaobao’s skill as government official is superior. Conceal from superior do not conceal from subordinate; that is government official’s most important trick.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “If Quan Jiejie became government official, I guarantee you will be promoted to a high-ranking position and gain great wealth.”

Su Quan smiled. She thought, “The trick that those people in the Shen Long Jiao used in doing their job, isn’t that more or less the same as the one used by the government official?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “As soon as Shi Lang speaks up, His Majesty will blame him as useless; that’s still all right, but His Majesty will definitely send him up with the troops to arrest us. Shi Lang thought we have already run away, where would he find us? Won’t that mean he is just inviting trouble for himself? It would be better for him to just shut up and gain wealth.” When the women heard that, they agreed that it made a lot of sense, their anxiety diminished a bit.

“What about that kid Zheng Keshuang?” the Princess asked, “From the tone of his voice, don’t you think he is unwilling to swallow his defeat just like that?” While saying that, she cast a quick glance toward Ah Ke. Everybody understood her meaning; she was saying, “A woman as delicate as a flower, as refined as a precious jade like Ah Ke, how could he give her up and not bring troops to seize her back?”

Ah Ke’s face blushed deep red; she lowered her head and said, “If he comes back, I … I will kill myself; I will definitely not go with him.” Her voice was filled with determination.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he thought that Ah Ke had always been heartless toward him, it was he who resorted to all kinds of scheme, stealing, snatching and swindling just to get her. This time as he heard her, he was happier than if obtained ten big boats at once. Unable to restrain his joy, he wrapped his arms around her, and ‘smack!’ he landed a kiss on her face. “Good Ah Ke,” he said, “He won’t dare to come back. He still owes me three million eight hundred thousand taels. Even if he has gargantuan guts, will he dare to meet his creditor?”

“Aiyo, how corny!” the Princess said, “He will bring the troops to catch you, snatch the I.O.U. from you, and seize Ah Ke away. And then he will sell your dad, mama, granny [nainai – paternal], and granny [waipo – maternal] to you; altogether seven million six hundred taels of silver. He will also cut your finger and tell you to write an I.O.U. saying that you owe him money.”

The more Wei Xiaobao listened to her, the more annoyed he got. If he was able to deal with it, he would not be so angry, but if Zheng Keshuang really did that, dealing with him in the same muddled manner, selling him back his own dad, mama, (paternal) granny, and (maternal) granny, mama was not a problem, but he never knew who his dad was. And if he did not know his dad, naturally he would not know his (paternal) granny. If Zheng Keshuang sold him these two people, who he himself did not even know, hence the starting price was raised by a hundred percent, how could he afford to pay? In rage, he spoke harshly, “Shut up! If that kid Zheng Keshuang comes with the troops, I won’t sell anybody else, except the most valuable person in the world, the Emperor’s imperial sister to him. The child she is carrying in her belly, I will price at ten million taels; so he will have to pay me two million four hundred thousand taels! Then the deal is done.”

“Wah!” the Princess cried, she covered her face and ran away. Mu Jianping quickly ran after her and consoled her, she told her that Wei Xiaobao would never do such thing, that he was just trying to scare her, that no need for her to feel sad.

Even after lashing out his anger like that, Wei Xiaobao still felt that he had his hands bound and he was unable to do anything about it. In the end everybody listened to Su Quan’s direction. They found a large cave in the dense forest on the island, they swept and fixed it up as a place where they could take shelter and live their daily life. From that day onward, they never set foot inside the thatched hut anymore, hoping that if Shi Lang and Zheng Keshuang really came back, they would see that there was no human footprint on the island, and think that they had gone long ago; hence they would not search carefully.

At first everybody was still scared and was on edge; day and night they took turn to watch the sea. After several months, not only they did not see a single Qing navy or Taiwan battleship, they did not even see a single fishing boat; everybody started to relax, thinking that Shi Lang did not dare to be meddlesome, and since Zheng Keshuang was riding a skiff, he must have been sunk by the stormy sea.

On the island the eight of them spent their days fishing, hunting, shooting birds and picking fruits in peace and quiet. Fortunately the island did not lack birds and beasts, the sea was abound with fish and shrimp. Plus all eight of them knew martial art, hence they were able to fish and hunt quite easily; therefore, they never lacked any food.

Autumn passed, winter came, the weather was growing colder as the days went by. Su Quan, the Princess and Ah Ke, three women’s bellies were also getting bigger as the days went by. Fang Yi and Shuang’er were busy skinning animals and sewing the hides to make winter clothes, they had also prepared enough infant clothing for the three babies.

Another half a month passed, suddenly a big snow came, in one day and one night, the entire island was covered in pure white snow. The eight of them were prepared; they had abundant supply of cured fish, cured meat, firewood and dried fruit in the cave. Day in and day out they chatted with each other, each time the topic always drifted back to the three babies about to be born.

One night the snow stopped falling, the north wind blew very strong, and cold wind continuously crept into the cave via the wooden plank door. Shuang’er added dry firewood to the bonfire. Wei Xiaobao took out the dice and let the women roll. After five women rolled the dice, Mu Jianping threw a three-dot, the lowest combination; it looked like tonight her lost was decided. Zeng Rou laughed and said, “Jianping Meizi lost; I don’t need to throw.”

Mu Jianping laughed and said, “Quickly throw, quickly throw! Maybe you’ll throw a two-dot.”

Zeng Rou picked the dice and held them in her hand; imitating Wei Xiaobao, she gently blew the two dice in her palm. She was just about to throw when a burst of north wind blew; in the midst of the wind they faintly heard something that sounded like human voice. Everybody’s countenance changed. Actually, Su Quan was already asleep, but suddenly she sat up. Eight people were ‘you look at me, I look at you’, in that instant everybody’s face was drained of any blood. Mu Jianping cried out softly and buried her head into Fang Yi’s bosom.

A moment later, the wind carried a loud shout; this time they could hear it clearly, the cry was, “Xiao Guizi, Xiao Guizi, where are you? Xiao Xuanzi is thinking about you!”

Wei Xiaobao sprang up. “Xiao … Xiao Xuanzi is coming to look for me,” he said in a trembling voice.

“Who is Xiao Xuanzi?” the Princess asked.

“He is … he is …” Wei Xiaobao replied. Only he alone knew that ‘Xiao Xuanzi’, three characters, was Kangxi, he had never told anybody else, naturally Kangxi himself would not let anybody know; yet suddenly people were shouting this name, plus the voice was this loud and clear? His whole body trembled, he felt this matter was very strange. Kangxi must be dead, his ghost was thinking of him, and had come to Tong Chi Island to find him. For a moment he could not stop his eyes from brimming with tears of excitement; from he cave he rushed out and called, “Xiao Xuanzi, Xiao Xuanzi, are you looking for me? Xiao Guizi is here!”

He heard the voice called again, “Xiao Guizi, Xiao Guizi, where are you? Xiao Xuanzi is thinking about you!” The voice was very loud, it did not sound like it came from one person’s mouth, but it sounded like several thousand or several hundred people were shouting together. But several thousand or several hundred people shouting together can’t possibly shout this clearly; however, if it was one person shouting, no matter how outstanding his internal energy was, it would not sound like shaking thunder. Hence, it must be Kangxi’s ghost.

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was extremely grieved, tears flooding out from his eyes as he thought that Xiao Xuanzi’s yi qi to me was indeed very profound; after he is dead, his ghost is still coming to look for me. Usually he was extremely scared of ghosts, but this moment he simply must meet Xiao Xuanzi’s ghost no matter what. Thereupon he urged his feet to run faster, straight toward the voice, while calling out, “Xiao Xuanzi, don’t go, Xiao Guizi is here!”

The ground was covered with ice and snow, it was extremely slippery, Wei Xiaobao fell tumbling down, twice, but each time he simply crawled back up and ran again. Rounding a hillside, he saw the beach was full of specks of flame clustered together like a vast sky full of stars. Several hundred people with lanterns and torches in their hands were standing in a neat and tidy formation. Wei Xiaobao was shocked. “Aiyo!” he cried out, turned around and ran away.

From the crowd a man rushed out and called, “Wei Dutong, finally we found you!”

Wei Xiaobao only took two steps before realizing the situation; his track had been discovered. The opposite side had several hundred people, if they searched this tiny Tong Chi island, he would not be able to hide at all. Besides, he thought the voice sounded familiar. Therefore, he halted, braced himself, and slowly turned around.

The man called, “Wei Dutong, we all miss you very much. Thank the Heaven and thank the Earth, finally we find you.” The voice was brimming with joy and full of emotion. The man lifted up high the torch in his hand and rushed over in quick steps. When he got near, Wei Xiaobao recognized the man was Wang Jinbao.

To come across an old friend, Wei Xiaobao was also very happy. He remembered that day in Beijing outskirts under the imperial order Wang Jinbao was sent to arrest him, but he deliberately pretended not to see him, in complete disregard of his future career, even his own life, he let Wei Xiaobao go, indeed his yi qi was profound. He brought the troops today, although it was dangerous, there was still room for negotation. Thereupon Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Wang San Ge, your plan is marvelous, you can trick me to come out.”

Wang Jinbao threw his torch to the ground; bowing, he said, “Subordinate did not dare to play a trick, I really did not know Dutong is on the island.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Then it must be His Majesty’s imperial instruction from his brocade sack of miracle plans, isn’t it?”

Wang Jinbao said, “The day His Majesty found out that Dutong had fled overseas, he sent subordinate with three sea-going ships bearing imperial order to search each and every small island for you. Each time we went ashore, we shouted like that in accordance with His Majesty’s imperial edict.”

By this time Shuang’er, Su Quan and the others arrived; they stood behind Wei Xiaobao. A moment later, Fang Yi, the Princess and Ah Ke, three women also arrived. Wei Xiaobao turned toward the Princess and said, “Your Huangdi Gege’s ability is really good, finally they found us.”

Wang Jinbao recognized the Princess; he kneeled down to pay his respect. The Princess asked, “Did His Majesty send you to arrest and take us back to Beijing?”

“No, he did not,” Wang Jinbao hastily replied, “His Majesty only sent Xiao Jiang [little/lowly general] to sea to look for Wei Dutong, we are completely unaware that Your Highness the Princess is also here.” The Princess lowered her head to look at her bulging belly; her face blushed.

Wang Jinbao turned to Wei Xiaobao, “Subordinate has left to sea for more than four months ago, and has come ashore, shouted and searched more than eighty small islands. Tonight we finally meet Dutong, I am really very happy.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “I am a big criminal, an offender to the throne, long ago I am not your superior anymore, let us get away from calling each other ‘Dutong’ and ‘subordinate’.”

Wang Jinbao said, “His Majesty’s idea, after Dutong hear the imperial edict, naturally you will understand.” Turning around, he beckoned to someone in the crowd. “Wen Gonggong [see Chapter 3],” he called, “Please come here.”

Someone stepped out from among the crowd, it was actually Wei Xiaobao’s old acquaintance, the eunuch of the Upper Study Room, Wen Youfang. He walked over and said in a loud and clear voice, “Hear the imperial edict.”

Wen Youfang was a gambling friend Wei Xiaobao met when he first entered the Palace; he could not cheat in playing dice, a ‘cattle’, who owed Wei Xiaobao countless amount of money. After Wei Xiaobao rose straight up in a clear sky [i.e. rapid promotion], each time they met, eighty times out of a hundred Wei Xiaobao always give him some tips.

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard the three-character ‘hear the imperial edict’ [you sheng zhi], he kneeled down. Wen Youfang said, “This is a secret edict, other people must withdraw.”

As soon as Wang Jinbao heard that, he withdrew far away. Su Quan and the others also withdrew. But the Princess asked, “Huangdi Gege’s imperial edict, even I cannot hear it?”

Wen Youfang replied, “His Majesty’s order: this is a secret imperial edict, only Wei Xiaobao, one person may know; if it leaks even for a character or half a sentence, your servant will be executed along with my whole family unto the third generation.”

“Humph,” the Princess snorted, “How fierce! You’d better be executed along with your whole family unto the third generation then.” But thinking that if she stayed nearby, he would not be willing to read the imperial decree anyway, hence without any choice she also withdrew.

From his pocket Wen Youfang took out two yellow envelopes. Wei Xiaobao kneeled down immediately. “Servant Wei Xiaobao receives the imperial decree,” he said.

Wen Youfang said, “His Majesty’s order: this time you are to receive the imperial decree by standing up, you are not allowed to kneel down and kowtow, and you are not allowed to call yourself a servant.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly surprised, “Where’s the logic in that?” he said.

Wen Youfang said, “His Majesty ordered me just like that, and now I am telling you just like that, whether there is a logic or not, you can ask His Majesty yourself when you see him.”

Wei Xiaobao had no choice but to respond in loud and clear voice, “Yes, thank you Your Majesty for your grace.” And then he stood up.

Wen Youfang handed one yellow envelope to him and said, “You may open and look at it.”

Wei Xiaobao received with both hands, tear the envelope, and took out a sheet of yellow paper. Wen Youfang raised the lantern in his left hand to illuminate the yellow paper. Wei Xiaobao saw six pictures on that piece of paper. The first picture depicted two boys rolling and wrestling on the floor, it was the scene of he and Kangxi in the past wrestling and having martial art competition. The second picture depicted a bunch of boys catching Oboi; Oboi pounced on Kangxi, Wei Xiaobao stabbed Oboi with a dagger. The third picture depicted a little monk carrying an old monk on his back, running away like flying, with six or seven lama holding sabers in their hands pursuing from behind; it was the scene of him rescuing the old Emperor at Qingliang Temple. The fourth picture depicted a nun wearing white clothes pouncing down from high in the air, with sword straight down to assassinate Kangxi, Wei Xiaobao blocked in front of his body, taking the sword on his behalf. The fifth picture depicted Wei Xiaobao at the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful, with a foot on the fake Empress Dowager lying on the ground, while helping the real Empress Dowager get off the bed. The sixth picture depicted Wei Xiaobao with a Luocha woman, a Mongolian Prince, and and old lama, together they grabbed the braid of an old general; looking at the old general’s attire, he must be Ping Xi Qin Wang. It must be about Wei Xiaobao using a ruse to break up Wu Sangui’s three-way coalition forces.

Kangxi was very adept at painting, the six pictures were very elegant and vivid; only because he had never seen Wu Sangui, Prince Galdan, Sangjie Lama, and Princess Sophia, four people, the picture did not look like their actual appearance, but the rest of the characters in his drawing were very much like the originals, particularly Wei Xiaobao’s mischievous and naughty expression, it was remarkably true to life.

The six pictures did not have a single character on them, but naturally Wei Xiaobao understood that those are six of his great merits. Playing and fooling around and having martial art competition actually could not be considered any meritorious service, nevertheless Kangxi always remembered it in his heart. As for bombarding the Divine Dragon Island, capturing the fake Empress Dowager, arresting Wu Yingxiong and the other meritorious services, they were not worth mentioning in comparison to these six.

Wei Xiaobao looked at the pictures in a daze; he stared blankly with tears streaming down his face. He mused, “He spent this much effort in drawing these six pictures, remembering my meritorious services, that means he does not blame me anymore.”

Wen Youfang waited for a moment before asking, “Have you looked at it clearly?”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Wen Youfang opened the second yellow envelope and said, “I’ll read His Majesty’s secret imperial decree.” Taking out a sheet of paper, he read, “Xiao Guizi, damn it, where have you gone? I miss you very much; you, this stinky fellow are heartless and inconsiderate, have you forgotten laozi?”

Wei Xiaobao mumbled in reply, “I have not, I really have not.”

Ever since there were ‘three sovereigns and five emperors’ in China, the Emperor using the word ‘damn it’, three characters [ta ma de], or the Emperor calls himself ‘laozi’, apparently Kangxi’s secret imperial edict was not only unprecedented, it was also never to be repeated in the future.

Wen Youfang paused for a moment, and then continue reading, “You did not obey my order, you were unwilling to kill your Shifu; moreover, you kidnapped Princess Jianning and ran away. Damn it, aren’t you taking advantage of me to become your dajiuzi [wife’s older brother]? But your meritorious services are so great, plus you are very loyal to me, whatever crime you have committed, I forgive them all. I am going to get married, if you don’t come to drink the celebratory wine, laozi will really not be happy. Let me tell you, you surrender obediently, and come to Beijing immediately, I have already prepared another Bojue [Earl] Mansion for you, a lot bigger than the previous one …”

Wei Xiaobao was bursting with joy, “Alright, alright!” he said in a loud voice, “I am coming immediately to drink the celebratory wine.”

Wen Youfang continued reading, “Let us get some things straight first, from this day onward, if you are not being obedient, I will definitely chop your head, don’t ever say that I swindle you to come to Beijing to kill you. Your Shifu surnamed Chen is already dead, Tian Di Hui has nothing to do with you anymore. You gain a bit more power, and destroy Tian Di Hui completely. I will also send you to fight Wu Sangui. I will give you Princess Jianning as your wife. In the future I will bestow you the title Gong [Duke] or Wang [King], you will be promoted and gain wealth, you will have a lot of fun. Xiao Xuanzi is your good friend, also your Shifu, raw bird fish soup [see Chapter 14], the words that I said, dead horses cannot chase it. You must come back for me as soon as possible!”

Finished reading the secret imperial decree, Wen Youfang asked, “Have you understood everything?”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I have understood everything.”

Wen Youfang put the secret imperial decree into the lantern, lighted it with the candleflame; when he pulled it out, it was burning into ashes.

Wei Xiaobao watched as the secret imperial decree caught fire and turned into flame, and then slowly turned into ashes; myriads of thoughts surging in his mind as he squatted and fiddled with the ashes a little bit.

With smiles all over his face Wen Youfang paid his respect and said with a laugh, “Wei Daren, His Majesty doted on you so much, nothing could be better. Henceforth Xiaode [little/lowly one] will completely rely on you for my promotion.”

Wei Xiaobao sadly shook his head; he pondered, “He wanted me to wipe out Tian Di Hui. This matter will let down my friends too much. If I do such things, won’t I be the same as Wu Sangui, Feng Jizhong, that kind of people, become big traitor (to China), a turtle b@stard? Xiao Xuanzi’s bowl of rice is really not easy to eat. This time he spared me and did not kill me, but he said it clearly, next time he won’t spare me anymore. If I don’t go back, I wonder how he is going to deal with me?” He asked, “If I don’t go back to Beijing, what will His Majesty do? Did he tell you to arrest me and bring me back? Or did he tell you to kill me?”

Wen Youfang’s face showed complete astonishment. “Wei Daren will not accept the imperial order?” he asked, “This … how can there be such thing? This … isn’t that … ay, disobedient against the imperial decree? That kind of thing must not be even mentioned.”

“Tell me the truth,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If I disobey the imperial decree, then what happens?”

Wen Youfang scratched his head and said, “His Majesty only ordered Xiaode to do two things: the first is to deliver a secret imperial decree to Wei Daren, the other one is that after Wei Daren looked at the first imperial decree, to open the second secret imperial decree and to read it out loud. As for the contents of the secret imperial decree, Xiaode did not understand the least bit. About other things, naturally I do not know even more.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded his head; walking over to Wang Jinbao, he said, “Wang San Ge, in His Majesty’s secret imperial decree, he wants me to return to Beijing and do something for him. But … but you see, the Princess’ belly is getting very big, I really cannot leave now. If I do not follow the imperial edict to return to the Capital, how did His Majesty want you to deal with me?” He thought, “I need to hear the opposite party’s setting price first. If he says to kill without negotiation, I will surrender. Otherwise, there’s no harm in haggling over the price.”

Wang Jinbao replied, “His Majesty only sent subordinate to visit each and every island on the sea to look for Wei Dutong; after we found you, to have Wen Gonggong to read the imperial decree. As for what happens afterward, naturally subordinate will follow Wei Dutong’s instruction.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “So His Majesty did not order you to arrest me, kill me?”

“He did not, he did not,” Wang Jinbao busily said, “How can there be such thing? His Majesty holds Wei Dutong in such a high regard. When Wei Dutong enters the Capital, naturally you will be put in powerful position; if not Shangshu [equivalent to department head], then it must be great general.”

“Wang San Ge,” Wei Xiaobao said, “To be honest with you, His Majesty wants me to return to the Capital so that I can lead people to wipe out Tian Di Hui. I am a Tian Di Hui Xiangzhu, this kind of ‘murdering friends’ matter, I absolutely cannot do.”

Wang Jinbao had always upheld yi qi, he had already understood clearly what happened to Wei Xiaobao; hearing him said so, he could not refrain from nodding his head repeatedly, thinking that selling out friends for the sake of promotion and wealth was worse than a dog or pig.

Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty’s kindness to me is as heavy as the mountain, but the thing that he commanded me to do, I just can’t do it. I do not dare to see His Majesty’s face, I have no choice but to work like an ox or like a horse in my next life to repay His Majesty’s great kindness. When you see His Majesty, please explain to him my difficulty. I know that loyalty cannot satisfy both sides, putting on a play ought to commit suicide to repay the master, although cutting the neck will be frighteningly painful, I have no way out, I might have to display utter loyalty by sacrificing myself to the service of my country.”

Wang Jinbao examined his own heart; if he was faced with this difficult problem, there would be only one way out, i.e. committing suicide to repay his lord and emperor for the kindness to recognizing his worth and employing him, but he would not be able to bear crossing over his friends and righteousness. Thereupon he hastily advised him, “Wei Dutong must not take this path, we can slowly think of a way out. Let subordinate report Dutong’s predicament to His Majesty. These past several months Zhang Tidu, Zhao Zongbing, Sun Fujiang several people have rendered some meritorious service, His Majesty are holding them in high regard. Disregarding our future prospects, all of us will kowtow and plead for leniency on behalf of Wei Dutong.”

Seeing he was flustered and exasperated, Wei Xiaobao was secretly amused, “To have Wei Xiaobao kills himself is just like expecting the sun to rise from the west. Forget suicide, laozi can’t even cut my own little finger. Besides, if Xiao Xuanzi wanted to kill me he would kill me immediately, if he wanted to spare me he would simply spare me; nobody knows how much idea he has in his head. Relying on you, several people, kowtowing to him, what good will it bring?” However, seeing Wang Jinbao’s profound yi qi, he was deeply grateful. Holding Wang Jinbao’s hand, he said, “If that’s the case, I will have to toil Wang San Ge to present a memorial to the Emperor, tell him that Wei Xiaobao has difficulty left and right, and was about to swipe a sword across my own throat, luckily you are here to rescue me that I did not die.”

“Yes, yes!” Wang Jinbao said, while in his heart he thought that eunuch Wen was standing on the side, he had witnessed everything; if Wang Jinbao was to deceive their lord like this, perhaps he would expose this trickery. Wang Jinbao’s face could not help showing awkward expression.

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter and said, “Wang San Ge need not take it seriously, I was only joking. His Majesty is fully aware of Wei Xiaobao’s conduct, committing suicide I am very afraid of the pain. Just report back everything according to the facts.” Wang Jinbao was relieved.

Wei Xiaobao thought that if he rode on Wang Jinbao’s ship and returned to the Central Plains, and then disappeared without a trace, the Emperor would definitely put the blame on him, most likely he would kill him. If Wei Xiaobao earnestly asked him, most probably Wang Jinbao would not refuse; but unavoidably Wei Xiaobao would wrong him too much. He said, “Our business is done. Wang San Ge, Xiongdi has not gambled on this uninhabited island for too long; it’s really so boring, what do you say we throw a couple of dice?”

Wang Jinbao was greatly delighted, he was a serious gambler, his gambling urge was not below that of Wei Xiaobao’s; when he did not have any opponent, oftentimes his left hand would gamble against his right hand. Thereupon he immediately agreed and could not wait to start immediately. He ordered his soldiers to move a large rock with flat top over, six soldiers stood around with lanterns raised high, shouting and cheering while Wang Jinbao and Wei Xiaobao threw the dice. Before long, Wen Youfang, as well as several Canjiang [regimental commander] and Youji [brigade commander] joined in. The number of people standing around the large rock grew larger and larger.

Mu Jianping watched all this dubiously; she quietly asked Fang Yi, “Shijie, why do they throw dice? Could it be that the loser will … will … but they are all men.”

“Pft,” Fang Yi stifled her laughter; she said in a low voice, “Whoever lost the game will have to accompany you.”

Although Mu Jianping did not understand worldly affair, she knew there was no such thing. Stretching out her hand, she tickled Fang Yi’s armpit. The two women broke into giggles.

The gambling continued until daybreak. The money in front of Wei Xiaobao had become three high piles, first, his luck in gambling was really good, second, he was playing a trick; from these crowd of officers and men, nine out of ten had lost to him. Wei Xiaobao was in high spirits; when he turned his head around, he saw the Princess, Ah Ke and Mu Jianping, three women had already fallen asleep crouching on the rocks, while Su Quan, Fang Yi, Shuang’er and Zeng Rou, four women, were struggling hard to keep their sleepy eyes open while they accompanied him on the side. He could not help feeling bad and apologetic toward them. He pushed the three large pile in front of him forward and said, “Wang San Ge, these several thousand taels, please bestow it on my behalf to the Xiongdi. Everybody has come to this barren island, I do not have anything to entertain you; I feel really bad.”

Originally the officers and men who lost had their countenances ash-grey; as soon as they heard him, thunderous happy shouts arose, they all expressed their gratitude in chorus. Wang Jinbao ordered the officers and men to row the skiffs back to the ships, and bring back from the ships rice grains, pork and lamb, good wine, medication, as well as bowls and chopsticks, tables and chairs, pots and pans, kitchen knife, and so on, skiff by skiff. He also ordered the soldiers to build several large thatched huts in the forest. Many people worked together, several hundred officers and men exerted their strength, in just several days everything was in place on the Tong Chi Island; only then did they bade their farewell from Wei Xiaobao.

As he was about to leave, Wen Youfang found out that this island was called Tong Chi Island; he could not help stomping his feet and heaving deep sigh, saying that if he had known earlier, he would have asked Wei Xiaobao to let him be the banker for several rounds. On Tong Chi Island leisurely be a banker, how could he not eat ‘em all?

More than ten days later, Ah Ke gave birth to a baby boy first, the next say Su Quan also gave birth to another boy. It was more than a month later when the Princess gave birth to a baby girl. Seeing the other women gave birth to baby boys, while she gave birth to a baby girl, the Princess was angry; she cried repeatedly for the next several days. Wei Xiaobao constantly comforted her, telling her that he prefer a daughter over a son; only then did he coax her and turn her tears into laughter.

For the three babies there were seven mothers. Although not a single mother had any experience with babies, with a lot of ‘seven hands eight feet’ and hundreds of jesting, the three infants were healthy, strong and lively.

The women respectfully asked Wei Xiaobao to give the babies names. Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I am blind and do not know any letters, you want me to give my sons, my daughter names, that means you are giving me great difficulty. Let’s do it this way, we throw dice, whatever the result, that will be their names.” Immediately he picked up the dice, with his mouth mumbling some prayers, “God of gambling Bodhisattva please bless, give me three good names. The first one!”

He threw the dice, one produced six dots, the other five dots, a ‘tiger head’ combination. Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Ah Da’s [basically it means ‘the first’] name is not bad, he will be called Wei Hutou [tiger head].”

The second throw produced one-dot and six-dot combination, a ‘copper-hammer’. Thereupon Lao’er [ol’ second] was named Wei Tongchui [you guessed it: copper hammer].

The third throw. The first die rolled to two dots; the second die was rolling continuously, finally it stopped at also two dots, a ‘wooden bench’ combination. Wei Xiaobao was taken aback, but then the burst out laughing. “Our Da Guniang’s [big/oldest miss] name is very strange; she will be called Wei Bandeng [wooden bench]!”

The women were all shocked. The Princess angrily said, “So unpleasant to hear! Such a nice girl, how can you call her ‘Bandeng, Bandeng’? Quickly pick another name.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “It is the name picked by the God of gambling and Bodhisattva, how can we casually change it at random?” Picking up the baby girl, he landed a kiss on her face, ‘smack!’ and then he said with a laugh, “Dear one Wei Bandeng little treasure, this name sounds so pretty.”

The Princess angrily said, “No way, no way! No matter what I don’t want to call her Bandeng. I was the one giving birth to the child; such an ugly name, I don’t want it.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You gave birth to the child, are you the only one who produced the child?”

The Princess snatched the dice away and said, “I’ll throw. Whatever I throw, that will be her name.”

Wei Xiaobao had no choice; he was helpless against her. “Alright,” he said, “This time you cannot renege! What if you also throw a tiger-head or a copper-hammer?”

“Just like her Gege, we’ll call her Hutou or Tongchui,” the Princess replied. Shaking the dice continuously in her palm, she said, “God of gambling Bodhisattva, if you don’t give my daughter a good name, I am going to smash your two stinking dice.” And then she rolled the dice.

The two dice rolled around several times before they finally stop. Unexpectedly there is indeed such coincidence in the world, both dice produced two dots, it was still the ‘wooden bench’ combination. The Princess’ eyes grew big as she stared blankly before ‘Wah!’ she broke into tears.

Everybody was amazed and amused at the same time. Su Quan laughed and said, “Meizi, don’t worry! Two dots make a pair, a pair of two-dots is Shuangshuang; our daughter will be called Wei Shuangshuang. What do you think?”

The Princess turned the tears into laughter; immediately she perked up. “Good, good!” she said with a laugh, “The name is very interesting, it’s almost the same as Shuang’er Meizi’s name.”

Shuang’er was also very happy; she picked up Wei Shuangshuang and hugged her in her bosom with full affection. Mu Jianping laughed and said, “Shuang’er Meimei, since you love her that much, quickly feed her milk.”

Shuang’er blushed. “Pei!” she spat, “You’d better feed her yourself!” Reaching out, she tried to unbutton Mu Jianping’s clothes. Mu Jianping quickly ran away. The women roared in laughter.

With the addition of these three babies, Tong Chi Island was even more lively. Since Wang Jinbao left a large quantity of foodstuff and appliances, they had more than enough of everything, there was no need to go fishing and hunting every day. Only whenever they felt like eating some fresh fish, shrimp or game did they go out to get some.

At first everybody was still anxious that since Kangxi summoned Wei Xiaobao and he did not answer, there would be cataclysmic mishap, or perhaps bad repercussion to them. But after several months without any news, they gradually pushed this matter out of their minds.

The next summer, Wang Jinbao suddenly reappeared, leading several big ships, with another imperial edict. This time the imperial edict was like ‘four pair of horses pulled side by side and six steed’; the wording was profound. Wei Xiaobao did not understand a single sentence, he relied on Su Quan to explain everything. [Translator’s note: thank God Jin Yong did not quote the entire edict. Phew!] Turned out Kangxi did not mention a single sentence about the past events, he only sent a Canjiang, leading five hundred soldiers, to be stationed on the island to protect the Princess. Other than that, he also sent sixteen menservants and eight female servants, eight servant girls; the three big ships were packed with various appliances and food.

Wei Xiaobao was secretly worried, “Xiao Xuanzi is giving me these many things, I am afraid he wants me to live on this Tong Chi Island for the rest of my life.” His natural disposition was restless; although he passed the time on the Island carefree and without worries, plus he had seven ‘delicate as flower, refined as precious jade’ wives to accompany him, but he had passed the peace and quiet days for quite a long time, he was really bored. Every now and then he would recall past events, thinking about the time when he was still at the Lovely Spring Courtyard, where people grabbed his little braid and beat and cursed him, yet he felt alive and invigorated.

The twelfth month of the same year, Kangxi sent Zhao Liangdong with yet another imperial decree, the Emperor appointed his second son Yun Reng to be the Crown Prince, general amnesty was proclaimed throughout the world, Wei Xiaobao’s nobility title was raised one rank, he was bestowed the title Second Class Earl of Tong Chi. Wei Xiaobao invited Zhao Liangdong for dinner and wine. During the banquest Zhao Liangdong told him about the crusade against Wu Sangui, saying that Wu Sangui’s troops and generals were formidable, various elite troops had suffered defeat.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Zhao Er Ge, when you are back, please report to His Majesty that I feel stifled in here and am very bored, I want to ask His Majesty to send me go fight that old fellow Wu Sangui.”

Zhao Liangdong said, “His Majesty has foreseen that Jueye is loyal to the ruler and love his country, when you find out about rebel Wu running wild, you would definitely volunteer to go into battle. His Majesty said, if Wei Xiaobao wants to fight Wu Sangui, he can, but he must destroy Tian Di Hui first. Otherwise, he’d better stay on Tong Chi Island fishing and catching turtles.” Wei Xiaobao was on the verge of tears, he almost broke out crying.

Zhao Liangdong said, “His Majesty said that once upon a time when the Han Dynasty’s Han Guangwu was young, he had a good friend called Yan Ziling[2]. After Han Guangwu became the Emperor, this Yan Ziling did not want to become a high-ranking officer, but lived in Fuchun River [in Zhejiang] to fish. His Majesty also said that in the past King Wu of Zhao had a high-ranking minister called Jiang Taigong [Jiang Ziya], who also loved to fish on the bank of Wei River. King Wu of Zhou and Han Guangwu were good emperors of the ancient times. Therefore, it is clear that every good emperor always has a high-ranking officer who loves to fish. His Majesty said that he wants to be raw bird fish soup. If Wei Jueye did not catch bird or fish for him, how can His Majesty become raw bird fish soup? Wei Jueye, subordinate is an uncouth man; why His Majesty wants Wei Jueye to catch bird and fish in here, I really do not understand. But His Majesty is very wise, there must be a very good reason behind it.”

“Yes, yes!” Wei Xiaobao replied. He could only smile bitterly. He knew Kangxi was joking with him; apparently because he did not agree to wipe out Tian Di Hui, the Emperor condemned him to catch fish in here for a lifetime. These five hundred officers and men were supposedly to protect the Princess, but they were actually prison warden, prison guards to monitor them strictly, so that he could not leave the island even for a single step. The more he thought about it, the more depressed he was. The banquet ended in haste, unexpectedly after drinking he did not even want to gamble. Returning to his room, he stared blankly with tears falling down his face.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao crying, his seven wives were astonished; they came together to console him. He told them what Kangxi had said. The Princess angrily said, “That’s right! Huangdi Gege really wanted to raise your official ranking and nobility, from third-class earl to second-class earl, so be it. But where’s the logic behind ‘Tong Chi Bo’? Our Great Qing only has Zhao Xin Bo [bright trust; ‘bo’ means Earl], Wei Yi Bo [staunch prestige], or else Xiang Qin Bo [help/assist hardworking/industrious], Cheng En Bo [continuing grace/kindness]. You are originally Zhong Yong Bo [loyal and brave], which was very good. These three characters ‘Tong Chi Bo’ are clearly to make fun of you. He … he … does not care about me at all.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Earl of Tong Chi is not a big deal; I was the one who picked the name ‘Tong Chi’ for this island, you cannot blame His Majesty. I am the Island Master of the Tong Chi Island, naturally my title is Earl of Tong Chi, which is a lot better than ‘Earl of Tong Pei’ [‘pei’ means paying for loss (in gambling)]. Quan Jiejie, can you think of a way to return to the Central Plains? I … I really miss my Mama.”

Su Quan shook her head and said, “This is a really difficult matter, we can only wait patiently for an opportunity.”

Wei Xiaobao picked up a teacup, ‘crash!’ he threw it down to the floor and it shattered into pieces. “You just don’t want to think of a way,” he angrily said, “Fine, I will quietly sneak away alone in the future, you must not blame me. I … I … I would rather be at the Lovely Spring Courtyard, become a turtle who pick up the teapots; I don’t want to be a damn Earl of Tong Chi. The boredom really stifles me to death.”

Su Quan did not get angry; she smiled and said, “Xiaobao, don’t worry, there will come a day His Majesty is going to send you on a mission.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he stood up and bowed deeply. “Good Jiejie, I apologize to you. Please tell me quickly, His Majesty may send me on what mission? As long as it’s not to strike Tian Di Hui, I … I will do anything.”

The Princess said, “What if Huangdi Gege sends you to the outhouse to wash the chamber pot?”

“I will do it,” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “But every day I will send you to do it for me.” Seeing he was in such a bad temper, the Princess did not dare to say anything anymore.

Mu Jianping said, “Quan Jiejie, tell him quickly. Xiaobao is extremely anxious.”

Su Quan hesitantly replied, “Doing what, I do not know. But reckoning the Emperor’s mind, inevitably there will be one day he may call you back to Beijing. He wants to force you to surrender, he wants you to wipe out Tian Di Hui. For each day you did not agree, he is wasting one day of his time with you. Xiaobao, you want to be a hero or a warrior, you must give careful consideration to yi qi toward your friends, this little bit of suffering is the price you have to pay. You want to be a hero, but you also want to hear a ‘powder head’ singing the Eighteen Touches. This hero thing is not easy to do.”

Wei Xiaobao thought what she said made a lot of sense; he stood up and said with a laugh, “I can be a hero, and sing the Eighteen Touches myself, do you think that’s possible?” And then he started to sing, “One touch, two touches, touching the edge of Quan Jiejie’s hair …” while reaching out to stroke Su Quan’s hair. Everybody giggled; the little disturbance vanished without a trace.

Since then, day after day, year after year, Wei Xiaobao and the seven women lived on Tong Chi Island. Each year on the twelfth month, Kangxi always sent people with gifts. He bestowed Wei Xiaobao a set of crystal dice, green-jade emerald Paijiu, and various gold-inlaid jade gambling equipment; so many that their number could not be counted. Fortunately there were five hundred officers and men on Tong Chi Island that Wei Xiaobao never lacked gambling opponent.

One particular year Sun Sike came to deliver the gifts. Wei Xiaobao saw the red ruby on his hat, an insignia of a one-pin rank military officer, so Wei Xiaobao knew that he had been promoted to a Tidu [local commander]; hastily he congratulated him, “Sun Si Ge, congratulations on your promotion!”

With smile all over his face, Sun Sike saluted and paid his respect, “It’s all because of His Majesty’s grace and Wei Jueye’s cultivation.”

He opened the imperial edict and read it out loud. Turned out it was about the imperial court pacifying the three border defenses: one after another Yunnan’s Ping Xi Wang [king who pacifies the west] Wu Sangui, Guangdong’s Ping Nan Wang [king who pacifies the south] Shang Zhixin, and Fujian’s Jing Nan Wang [‘jing’ also means peace/tranquil/pacify] Geng Jingzhong, were subdued. Kangxi evaluated everybody’s merit and bestowed reward accordingly. The Second-class Earl of Tong Chi Wei Xiaobao was nominated to be a great general; based on his distinguished service, which was very commendable, he rose in nobility rank to First-class Earl of Tong Chi. Even his eldest son Wei Hutou was granted the title ‘Yun Qi Wei’ [lit. cloud rider military officer[3]].

Finished expressing his gratitude, Wei Xiaobao received various gifts sent by Kangxi, among which was unexpectedly a large marble screen, which he had seen in the study room at Wu Sangui’s Wuhua Palace, one of Wu Sangui’s three treasures. Zhang Yong, Zhao Liangdong, Wang Jinbao, Sun Sike and the others have also sent generous gifts.

That evening during the banquet, Sun Sike told Wei Xiaobao about the effort of pacifying Wu Sangui. Turned out Zhang Yong inflicted heavy damage on Wu Sangui’s main force in Gansu and Ningxia region, repeatedly rendered great merits. By this time he was conferred the title First-class Marquis and Shaofu [young tutor], the official tutor to the crown prince; his titles and honors were far above Wei Xiaobao’s. Sun Sike said that after Zhang Houye [master marquis] was struck by Gui Xinshu’s palm in the past, he had never recovered fully; he could not ride horse, he could not even stand, during the battle he always commanded his main forces sitting on sedan chair.

Wei Xiaobao clucked his tongue in amazement; he said, “The sedan chair carriers must also be considered warriors; otherwise, when Zhang Laoge [old brother] cried out ‘Charge!’ and the four sedan chair bearers retreated, won’t that be terrible?”

“That’s right!” Sun Sike said, “Just before the battle, Zhang Houye always had an attendant behind the sedan chair carrying his axe-saber. If the sedan chair wanted to turn around, the big axe-saber would immediately chop down.”

Sun Sike also told him how Zhao Liangdong took over Yangping Pass, broke Hanzhong, subdued Chengdu, and attacked down to Kunming. His meritorious service was very great. The Emperor conferred him the title ‘Yonglue Jiangjun’ [brave and cunning general], and appointed him the Zongdu [governor-general] of Yunnan and Guizhou, also appointed him to be the Shangshu [department head] of Ministry of War. Wang Jinbao and Sun Sike himself were also promoted to be Tidu due to their ardor in battle.

Seeing Sun Sike was radiant with delight, while he did not personally participate in the excitement, Wei Xiaobao could not help feeling discontented and was not happy at all; but thinking that all four of his good friends had rendered great merit and were conferred titles as high-ranking officials, he was quite happy for them.

Sun Sike said, “Several of us often talked about how these past few years we fought the battles, we really enjoyed it. There is a saying, ‘when you drink water, think of its source’; it was all because of His Majesty’s grace in recognizing our worth and employing us, and because of Wei Jueye’s kindness in recommending us. If only Wei Jueye was appointed the Grand Marshal to Pacify the West, leading the four of us to fight Wu Sangui, then everything is perfect. Zhao Er Ge and Wang San Ge often quarrel with each other, their quarrel has reached His Majesty’s imperial presence; even Zhang Dage is helpless to keep them under control. Several times His Majesty mentioned Wei Jueye, saying that if they always quarrel like this, it means that there are letting you down. Only after that did they finally not dare to quarrel anymore.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Those two always quarrel as soon as they see each other; even after they become great generals, why don’t their temperaments change?”

“Isn’t that so?” Sun Sike replied, “The two of them individually submitted memorial to the Emperor, I say you are wrong, you say I am wrong. Luckily His Majesty is magnanimous, he did not investigate; otherwise, I am afraid both of them would face disciplinary action against them.”

“What happened to that old fellow Wu Sangui?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Did you grab his braid and kick that damn fellow several times?”

Sun Sike shook his head, “That old fellow’s luck was really good …”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked. “He escaped?” he asked.

“It’s not that,” Sun Sike said, “He suffered defeat everywhere, he lost the area he occupied one by one; seeing that he could not hold his ground anymore, just before his death he wanted to satisfy his craving of becoming an emperor. Thereupon he put on yellow gown, and ascended the great treasure, and called his capital Hengzhou. We heard that when he became an emperor, he made a big ruckus. After several big defeats, frightened and angered, he took his own life.”

“I see,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That old fellow had it easy.”

“After the rebel Wu died,” Sun Sike continued, “Various generals under his command threw their support to his grandson, Wu Shifan, to succeed the throne, and retreated to Kunming. Zhao Er Ge attacked Kunming, he captured rebel Wu’s great generals Xia Guoxiang and Ma Bao and beheaded them. Wu Shifan committed suicide. The world is peaceful once again.”

“There was a national treasure in Kunming,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I wonder what happened to her?”

“Which national treasure?” Sun Sike asked, “Subordinate has never heard about it.”

“It’s actually a living national treasure,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “The Number One Beauty in the World, Chen Yuanyuan.”

Sun Sike laughed and said, “Turns out it’s Chen Yuanyuan. I did not hear anything about her whereabouts. I don’t know whether she died in the confusion of the battle, or whether she escaped alive.”

“What a pity, what a pity!” Wei Xiaobao repeatedly exclaimed. He thought, “Ah Ke is my wife, that means Chen Yuanyuan is my genuine goods at fair prices Senior, mother-in-law. If Zhao Er Ge captured her, and knew that she was my mother-in-law, he would undoubtedly send her to Tong Chi Island, to let her and Ah Ke, mother and daughter, have a reunion. They, mother and daughter, have a reunion is not a big deal, but we, mother-in-law and son-in-law having a reunion is significantly different. Forget everything else, just listening to her plucking her pipa, and singing ‘Song of Yuanyuan’, ‘Tune of Fangfang’ [yuan means round, fang means square], it’s really no small matter. On Tong Chi [eat ‘em all] I cannot eat my wife’s mother, but I wonder if ‘son-in-law looking at mother-in-law, greedily swallow my saliva into my belly’, is allowed?”

When the feast was over he returned to the inner hall, and told everything to his seven wives. As Ah Ke heared that her mother’s whereabouts was unknown, although since childhood she was stolen by Jiu Nan, hence she was not by her mother’s side, but she still had the mother-daughter affection; inevitably she was grieved. Wei Xiaobao comforted Ah Ke by telling her not to worry, saying that no matter which place her mother went, that ‘Bai Sheng Dao Wang’ [Hundred Victory Saber King] Hu Yizhi [see Chapter 33] would definitely follow and attend upon her by her side, keeping close to her all the time.

“Ah Ke,” he said, “This Hu Dage’s martial art skill is very high, you have personally seen it. To protect your mother, one person, is as easy as a hand’s turn.” Ah Ke thought he was right, her knitted eyebrows spread out somewhat.

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and called out, “Aiyo, not good!”

Ah Ke was startled. “What is it?” she asked, “Do you think my Niang [mother] is in danger?”

“Your Niang is not in danger,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “But I am in great danger.”

Ah Ke was puzzled, “What danger are you in?” she asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Hu Dage and I have sworn brotherhood. If in the turmoil and chaos of war he fool around and snuggle close to your Niang, won’t he be my father-in-law? This might be really confusing.”

“Pei!” Ah Ke spat and shot him a malicious look. “This Hu Bobo [uncle, older than one’s father] is the most upright and honest man I know, and you think all men in the world are just like you, as soon as you see a woman you’ll immediately fool around and snuggle close to her?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Come, come, come, let us fool around and snuggle close to each other!” While saying that he spread his arms wide to embrace her.

After Wei Xiaobao was promoted to be the First-class Earl of Tong Chi, the number of cooks, menservants and maidservants on the Island increased by the dozens. Wei Hutou was still in diapers, yet he had already been conferred the title ‘Yun Qi Wei’. Life on the barren island unexpectedly became full of luxury [orig. brocade garments, jade meals], with all the glory, splendor, and wealth according to his rank. It’s just that it was too easy and comfortable that Wei Xiaobao was bored. He tried with thousand ways, a hundred plans to create trouble and play some pranks; he came up with some weird tricks and preposterous plans, in total disregard of his own career. Unfortunately, the seven madams were deadpan in opposing him; day and night they watched over him closely. Even the Princess, who simply loved to act willfully and make a scene, this time refused to accompany him to incite trouble. This First-class Earl of Tong Chi was bound hands and feet; he could only heave a deep sigh dejectedly.

He recalled Sun Sike’s story about the punitive expedition against Wu Sangui, big and small battles, some of them were full of all kinds of thrillers, some were saturated with delight, yet he was not involved at all, he did not have any chance to display his full capabilities; he was extremely disappointed. If he was in involved battle, he would not have let Wu Sangui to die that easily; he would think of a way to catch him alive, put him in a cage, from Hengzhou in Hunan all the way to Beijing, he would charge five qian to whoever wanted to see him, and one tael to whoever wanted to spit on him, children paid half-price, beautiful women free. Common people all over the world hated this big traitor to the bones, why should I, Wei Xiaobao, not take advantage to gain some spending money?

Wu Sangui was defeated, there was no more war to fight; but other than fighting a war, there were so many interesting things in the world, as long as he was able to come to a place with many people, someplace bustling with noise and excitement. In short, he had to leave Tong Chi Island first. But with seven wives, two sons and one daughter, who would follow him closely, it was like ten large stones were hanging on his neck. If they wanted to stealthily leave Tong Chi Island together, it would be more difficult than difficult. It would be better to cast these ten people away, and then he could attempt to escape alone.

Ever since he sent Sun Sike off, not a single day passed where he did not mule over this idea. Sometimes he would sit on a rock, fishing, imagining that he was sitting on the back of a big sea turtle, braving the wind and the billows, leisurely heading toward the Central Plains; wouldn’t that be pleasant?

It was almost Zhongqiu [mid-autumn, the fifteenth of the eighth lunar month], the weather was blisteringly hot, Wei Xiaobao took his fishing pole and bait, and went fishing for a while. He was quite fidgety that day. Leaning on a big rock his mind went blurry as he was about to fall asleep. Suddenly he heard a voice speaking, “Reporting to Wei Jueye, Ocean Dragon King request the pleasure of seeing you!”

Wei Xiaobao was surprised; focusing his eyes, he saw a big sea-turtle on the surface of the ocean, with its head raised high, but its mouth uttered human speech, “The Senior, Dragon King of the Eastern Sea is lonely and bored in the Crystal Palace, he especially sent Xiao Jiang [little/lowly general] to come and respectfully invite Wei Jueye for a feast, with gambling after the feast. Sea Dragon King will use coral and crystal to lay a bet, but everything is interchangeable with banknote used on land.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Wonderful, wonderful!” he cried out, “This distinguished gentleman is so polite, naturally I have to accompany him.”

The big turtle said, “In the Crystal Palace there will also be theatrical troupe, who are very good at playing ‘Qun Ying Hui’ [meeting of heroes], ‘Ding Jun Shan’[4], ‘Zhong Kui married off his younger sister’, ‘White Water Beach’, and all kinds of good stories. There will also be Mr. Storytellers, good at telling the Great Ming’s Legend of Heroic Deeds, Water Margin, and other great books. There will also be countless courtesans, who can sing all kinds of new folksongs, like ‘Tan Wu Geng’ [sighing before dawn (fifth watch period, 03:00-05:00)], ‘Eighteen Touches’, or ‘Si Ji Xiang Si’ [missing each other throughout four seasons]; not a single one cannot sing. Sea Dragon King’s seven Princesses all have countenance of a flower, face like the moon. They have long admired Wei Jueye’s distinguished and accomplished intelligence, and all are looking forward to seeing you.”

There was an unbearable itch in Wei Xiaobao’s heart. “Good, good, good!” he repeatedly exclaimed, “Let’s go.”

The big turtle said, “Would Jueye please sit on Xiaode’s [little/lowly one] back, I will take you to the Crystal Palace.”

Wei Xiaobao leaped down and sat on the big turtle’s back. The big turtle left the beach and swam steadily toward the Crystal Palace. The Dragon King of the Eastern Sea personally welcomed him outside the Palace, hand-in-hand they entered the Palace. The Dragon King of the Southern Sea had already been waiting inside.

During the feast, more guests arrived in an endless stream; there were Zhu Bajie [The Pig of Journey to the West] and Cow Demon King, two evil spirits, and then there were Zhang Fei, Li Kui[5], Niu Gao[6], and Cheng Yaojin, four great generals, King Zhou and Hegemon Chu, Emperor Yang of Sui, and Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Zhengde, four Emperors. These four Emperors, four generals, the pig, the cow, and two dragons, four divine demons, were the most muddleheaded ‘cattle’ [see Chapter 3] among the celestial, underground, and bottom of the ocean creatures since time immemorial.

After the feast they started gambling; Wei Xiaobao became the banker. He casually grabbed the tiles, practiced fraud over and over, each set of his tiles was either supreme treasure [one, two, two, four], or pair of heavens [all sixes]. He won so big that those twelve people let out ‘Wah, wah!’ cry. Gold, silver, money and valuables they lost piled up in front of Wei Xiaobao. Finally even King Zhou’s Daji[7], Emperor Zhengde’s older sister Lie Feng, as well as Zhu Bajie’s rake and Zhang Fei’s a zhang-long eight-serpent spear were also won over.

When General Li Kui’s pair of broad axes was won over, Li Kui’s gambling character was not good, his black face was bulging dark red, he shouted, “Thief servant bird, as human being when you see something good you ought to restrain yourself. You won someone else’s women, it’s not a big deal, but you even want to have the tool with which laozi eat, you ignore yi qi too much.” Grabbing Wei Xiaobao’s chest, he brought his vinegar-bowl-size fist up and punched down. ‘Bang!’ he hit Wei Xiaobao above his ear, shaking him so much that his ears were buzzing.

Wei Xiaobao screamed and raised both of his hands, the fishing line was flung upward, the hook hit him at the back of his neck, so that when he jerked the fishing pole up, the hook entered his flesh and his whole body was also jerked upward. In an instant Li Kui, Zhang Fei, Sea Dragon King and so on disappeared without a trace. Suddenly he realized it was just a dream of Nanke [i.e. dreams of grandeur, empty dream]. But he heard another loud ‘Bang!’ from the direction of the sea.

[1] Green standard army – standing infantry during Qing Dynasty; originally formed from Ming and other Chinese army units.

[2] Yan Zi Ling (ca. 40 BC to ca. 40 AD) is one of the most famous examples of a scholar who declined public life in favour of honourable reclusion. Around the year 14 AD, Yan studied at the state academy in Changan. He was then about 40, having spent a number of years in retirement, together with other honorable men, in the Shaoxing area, due to the turmoil that took place while the usurper Wang Mang was in power (6-23). At the academy Yan met Liu Xiu, who later ruled as the Han dynasty Guang Wu emperor. Although Liu Xiu was then about 20 years younger than Yan, they became very close friends, and several stories attest to their strong personal relationship. When Liu Xiu became emperor he was able to persuade Yan Zi Ling to visit him in the capital, but he could not persuade him to take office. Instead Yan went into retirement again, this time in a secluded spot up the Fu Chun River about 100 km. southwest of Hangzhou, spending his time enjoying nature. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[3] Commandant of Fleet-as-Clouds Cavalry was the eighth in order of precedence out of nine grades of the peerage awarded for valor, achievement and distinction. It was not divided into subclasses unlike the top seven. It was equivalent to a fifth rank position in the nine ranks system. It was also a rough equivalent of Companion or Commander of a chivalric order. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[4] Mount Ding Jun – referring to Battle of Mount Ding Jun – Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

[5] Li Kui is a fictional character in the Outlaws of the Marsh. He ranks 22nd of the 36 Heavenly Spirits of the 108 Liangshan heroes and is nicknamed Black Whirlwind. Li Kui is one of the most memorable characters in Outlaws of the Marsh, often ridiculed and used for comedic effect. He represents both a light and dark side of the outlaws. His exploits with Taoist Luo and his journeys with Yan Qing represent the most humorous side of the novel. He is perhaps the most controversial character in the story. Often depicted as reckless, violent and cannibalistic, he kills indiscriminately whenever his blood lust is aroused. Men from even his own combat unit were sometimes afraid to go near him during battle. At the behest of Song Jiang and Wu Yong, he once killed a four-year-old child to force Zhu Tong to become an outlaw. Taoist Luo nonetheless describes Li Kui as a Heavenly Spirit sent to Earth to destroy the wicked. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[6] Niu Gao was a very capable general under Yue Fei. He is sent to relieve Ou Yang Pass which is besieged by a powerful Jurchen army. After he routs the besiegers, the garrison commander offers him his sister-in-law as wife. The woman is also an expert in martial skills, so on their wedding night the husband and wife engage in a friendly duel in their bedchamber. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[7] Daji (c. 11th century BC), mythical fox spirit and concubine of the last Shang Dynasty Emperor Zhou Xin.

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