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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 49

Chapter 49
Good government official adorned the carriage by strengthening it with fur coat, lone visitor suspected the heart of an old friend.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the capital in triumph. When the main force arrived outside the city of Beijing, the high-ranking ministers of the imperial court greeted them at the city gate. Wei Xiaobao led Tong Guogang, Songgotu, Ma La, A’erni, Ma Qi, Peng Chun, Sabusu, Lang Tan, Ba Hai, Lin Xingzhu, and the others to have an audience with Kangxi. The Emperor spoke to them warmly, he encouraged and exhorted everybody. He issued an edict, promoting Wei Xiaobao to be the First-class Duke of Luding [deer and cauldron]; Tong Guogang, Songgotu and the other high-ranking officials, as well as military officers and common soldiers, all received promotion and reward.

In the next several days, Kangxi repeatedly summoned Wei Xiaobao, asking him the details about the capture of Yakesa, about the talk to define the boundary, and so on. Wei Xiaobao reported everything according to the fact, surprisingly he did not exaggerate or blow his horn. Kangxi was extremely delighted; he praised Wei Xiaobao by saying that he had made a lot of progress. Kangxi also bestowed rewards to his seven wives and two sons.

One day Kangxi held a banquet in honor of the Great General Fuyuan, the Duke of Deer and Cauldron Wei Xiaobao and various ministers who had rendered great merit. During the banquet Kangxi discussed two poems, all the members of the Hanlin Imperial Academy who attended the banquet respectfully joined the discussion, celebrating the heroic deed and magnificent triumph.

After the feast, carrying the precious things bestowed by the Emperor, immensely proud of himself, Wei Xiaobao went out of the Palace. With an officer shouting in front of him and his personal guards thronged behind him, he went home in a ceremonial procession. Suddenly by the main street someone shouted, “Wei Xiaobao, you are a dog thief who forget favors and violate justice!”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked, especially since he thought the voice sounded familiar. Turning his head sideways, he saw a big man ran from under the eaves to the middle of the street, pointed his finger to him and cursed, “Wei Xiaobao, I want to hack you, this little thief, to pieces. You are a Han, yet you surrendered to the Manchurian Qing, becoming Tatar’s hunting dog and slave. You murdered your own Shifu, you killed your own good Xiongdi, today the Tatar Emperor bestowed you the title Duke and Marquis, you have glory, splendor, wealth and rank, you are showing off your air. Your granny, laozi will stab a white blade into you, and it will be red on exit, I will stab your little thief’s body using your Ma’s blade seventeen or twenty eight times. I want to see if you can still be a Tortoise Duke, a Turtle Duke?” The big man was naked from the waist up, his chest was covered in long, shaggy black hair, his eyebrows were thick, his eyes big, his expression looked fierce and malicious; he was none other than Mao Shiba, who had taken Wei Xiaobao to Beijing in the past.

While Wei Xiaobao was stunned, a dozen or so personal guards already surrounded Mao Shiba. From his leg wrappings Mao Shiba pulled a short blade to fight back. The personal guards moved together, some placed their blades on Mao Shiba’s neck, some snatched away the short blade in his hand, some pounced on him and dragged him down to the ground and tied him up.

Mao Shiba was still cursing incessantly, “Wei Xiaobao, you little thief, son of a wh0re, that year laozi took you to Beijing, it was my biggest mistake. I have wronged Chen Jinnan, Chen Zongduozhu, I have wronged the heroes and warriors of Tian Di Hui. Today laozi no longer wish to live, I want to let everybody in the world know that you, Wei Xiaobao has betrayed your friends to seek glory, a dog thief who forget favors and violate justice; in your desire to be promoted and gain wealth, you have become the Tatar Emperor’s hunting dog …”

The personal guards struck his mouth, Mao Shiba was still cursing incessantly. Wei Xiaobao hastily shouted his personal guards to stop, he told them not to use violence. A personal guard took out a handkerchief and stuffed it into Mao Shiba’s mouth. Mao Shiba was still grunting endlessly, presumably he was still cursing.

Wei Xiaobao ordered his personal guard, “Bring this man inside, guard him well, don’t give him trouble, give him wine and food, in a moment I will interrogate him personally.”

When he was back at his mansion, Wei Xiaobao arranged a feast in his study room, and invited Mao Shiba to accompany him. Afraid that he might resort to violence, he asked Su Quan and Shuang’er, two women to accompany him, dressed as personal guards. His personal guards dragged Mao Shiba inside. Wei Xiaobao ordered them to remove the shackles on Mao Shiba’s hands and feet, and then he ordered the personal guards to withdraw.

With a smile on his face Wei Xiaobao said, “Mao Dage, long time no see, how are you?” [reminder: in Chinese, ‘how are you?’ is ‘ni hao?’ – ‘are you good?’]

“What’s so good or not good about me?” Mao Shiba angrily replied, “Originally I was perfectly all right, but ever since I met you, I became not good.”

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “Mao Dage, please sit back and relax, let Xiongdi toast you three cups of wine to cool your temper first. How did Xiongdi offend Mao Dage, you may curse me after drinking; it won’t be too late by then.”

Mao Shiba took a large stride forward and shouted, “I will beat you, this little thief to death first before I drink the wine.” Swinging his rice-bowl size fist, ‘whoosh!’ he punched Wei Xiaobao’s face.

Su Quan darted forward and stretched out her left hand to grab Mao Shiba’s wrist. She lightly twisted it, and then using her right hand she tapped his shoulder twice. Instantly half of Mao Shiba’s body went numb; he could not help but fell sitting down into a chair. He was shocked and angered at the same time; struggling hard he leaped up and cursed, “Little thief …”

Su Quan stood behind him, with both hands she seized the ‘jian zhen’ [shoulder chaste] acupoints on his shoulder, and then she lightly pressed downward. Mao Shiba was unable to withstand, he fell back into the chair again. He was a big and tall man, he was at least twice as big as Su Quan, but with her profound martial art she was able to control him; it was as if with hands and feet tied he was forced to sit down. He was even more enraged as with a loud voice he said, “Today laozi cursed you, this little traitor (to Han), in the middle of the street, I have already given up any hope of staying alive. I just want the people throughout the world to know that you are a despicable and shameless man who betrayed your master and your friends …”

“Mao Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I was away on a mission for His Majesty, it was to attack the Luocha demons, not to kill any Han people; you can’t call me a traitor to Han.”

Mao Shiba said, “Then … then why did you kill your Shifu Chen Jinnan?”

“How could I kill my Shifu?” Wei Xiaobao anxiously asked, “My Shifu was clearly murdered by that fellow Zheng Keshuang.”

“You still deny it?” Mao Shiba angrily rebuked him, “The Tatar Emperor’s damn imperial edict cannot state it more clearly than that.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, “His Majesty’s imperial edict?” he said, “How … how can it say that I killed my Shifu?” Totally confused, he turned his eyes toward Su Quan.

Su Quan said, “A few days ago His Majesty promoted you to be a first-class duke, he issued a statement listing your meritorious service as the basis of granting you the title. I don’t know who wrote the statement, but it says that you ‘recommending able generals, sweeping away and pacifying the rebel Wu, recovering Taiwan as our territory, leading the army into battle, capturing cities, propagating the national prestige in foreign country’, which are true. However, there are a few words like, ‘Capturing and beheading Tian Di Hui rebel leaders Chen Jinnan, Feng Jizhong, and the others, successfully crumbling the pillar, creating setback leading to total collapse, putting the bandits into confusion, leading them to renew their faces and wash their hearts’. Those words are incorrect.”

Wei Xiaobao frowned. “What exactly is renewing the faces and wash the hearts?” he asked.

Su Quan said, “The statement says you captured Chen Jinnan, Feng Jizhong, and the others, and killed them, scarring Tian Di Hui people so that they do not dare to rebel anymore.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped and cried out, “How … how can there be such thing? Isn’t this wrongly accusing me?”

Su Quan slowly shook her head. “Feng Jizhong was a spy, we did kill him, the imperial edict was not wrong,” she said, “However, it has three extra characters: ‘Chen Jinnan’.”

Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “Chen Jinnan was my benevolent master, I … how could I harm him, the Senior? His Majesty … His Majesty’s imperial edict … ay … when you saw the imperial edict, why didn’t you tell me?”

Su Quan said, “We discussed this matter over, the imperial edict has three extra characters ‘Chen Jinnan’, if you knew about it, you would be greatly unhappy.”

Wei Xiaobao understood that ‘we discussed this matter over’ means his seven wives talked it over together; turning his head, he looked at Shuang’er. Shuang’er nodded. Wei Xiaobao said, “Mao Dage, my Shifu was definitely not harmed by me. Feng Jizhong was Tian Du Hui’s traitor, he secretly disclosed information to the Emperor …”

With a cold laugh Mao Shiba said, “So you are actually the good guy?”

Wei Xiaobao dejectedly sat down and said, “I will explain to His Majesty, I will ask him to change … to change … to change …” He said the words ‘to change’ three times, but knew for sure that just because there were three extra characters ‘Chen Jinnan’ in the imperial edict, Kangxi would not issue another imperial edict to amend it. He thought, “I wonder which dog thief blabbed too much and told His Majesty that I killed Shifu. In His Majesty’s eyes, it was the evidence of my loyalty, but … but … how can I, Wei Xiaobao, still be considered a human being?” His heart was anxious, “Wah!” he suddenly cried. “Mao Dage, Quan Jiejie, Good … Good Shuang’er,” he called out, “I did not kill my Shifu!”

Seeing him suddenly broke into crying, the three people were stunned. Su Quan hastily came over and wrapped her arms around his shoulder, she said tenderly, “That Zheng Keshuang killed your Shifu at Tong Chi Island, all of us have seen it with our own eyes.” She took out a handkerchief and helped him wiping his tears. It was only now that Mao Shiba saw that this ‘personal guard’ with strong martial art skill was actually a woman; he could not help feeling greatly amazed.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered something. “Mao Dage,” he said, “That fellow Zheng Keshuang is also in Beijing; let us confront him directly. I’ll say he will not dare to deny. Right, right! Let us go now …”

Right this moment, suddenly they heard outside the door the personal guard loudly said, “Imperial edict is here. Imperial Bodyguard Duo Zongguan has arrived to announce the Imperial Decree.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up and went to the door to welcome the guest; he saw Dolong walked in with a smile on his face. Wei Xiaobao kowtowed to the north, while respectfully wishing the Holy Sage well. Dolong waited until Wei Xiaobao finished the ceremony before saying, “His Majesty’s instruction: he wants to personally interrogate the rebel thief who cursed you on the street.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart turned cold; he said, “That … that man? Xiongdi has already arrested him and questioned him in details; turns out he is a mad man. This man babbled about Jade Emperor, Taishang Laojun [Taoist deity], that kind of nonsense. Xiongdi could not make any sense of it. After I had him flogged for a while, I let him go. How did His Majesty find out about this matter? Actually it’s not a big deal …”

Listening to this point, Mao Shiba could not bear anymore; he slapped the table so hard that the bowls and cups jumped up and crashed onto the floor, ‘bing bing bang bang!’ “Damn Wei Xiaobao,” he cursed loudly, “Who is the mad man? The man who cursed the Tatar Emperor on the street today was Laozi! Laozi is not afraid to be hacked to pieces, do you think Laozi is afraid to see the damn Tatar Emperor?”

Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly; he was hoping he could fool Kangxi and Dolong, and then he would let Mao Shiba go. Who would have thought that this man was completely oblivious of his intention to protect him; he insulted the Emperor in public, even if Mao Shiba had eighteen heads, he would not be able to protect even one. [Reminder: the ‘shiba’ in Mao Shiba’s name means ‘eighteen’.]

Dolong sighed and said, “Xiongdi, you have exceptional yi qi toward Jianghu friends, for that I am full of admiration. In this matter you have done your best, it can be considered extreme benevolence, utmost duty already. Let’s go.”

Mao Shiba walked to the door in large strides; suddenly he turned back and shot a mouthful of saliva toward Wei Xiaobao’s face. Wei Xiaobao’s mind was tumultuous, it was too late for him to dodge, ‘slap!’ the saliva hit right between his eyes. Several personal guards immediately pulled their weapons and rushed toward Mao Shiba. Wei Xiaobao waved his hand and sadly said, “Forget it, don’t give him any trouble.” Dolong’s men took out a pair of handcuffs and shackled Mao Shiba.

Wei Xiaobao pondered, “His Majesty personally interrogates Mao Dage, I guarantee before he even asks three questions, he would have him pushed out and beheaded. I must go to see His Majesty immediately. No matter what I have to think of a way to save him.” He said to Dolong, “I want to go asking His Majesty, to explain everything clearly; don’t let this crude man come across His Majesty.”

The party arrived at the Palace. Wei Xiaobao heard that the Emperor was in the Upper Study Room, immediately he went over asking for an audience. Kangxi summoned him in. Wei Xiaobao kowtowed several times before standing up.

Kangxi said, “The man who cursed you and cursed me on the street today, he is your good friend, isn’t he?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your Majesty can see clearly for ten thousand li, there is nothing that you need to guess twice.”

“Does he belong to Tian Di Hui?” Kangxi asked.

“He has not officially joined the Society,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “But he knew quite a number of people in the Society. He admires my Shifu very much. Your Majesty’s imperial edict says that I killed Shifu, as soon as he heard that he was very angry, hence he reprimanded me severely. As for toward Your Majesty, he did not dare to be disrespectful even for half a word.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You have made a clean break with Tian Di Hui, from now on you won’t have any dealings with them, is that right?”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “This time I went to fight the Luocha demons, your servant did not bring any Tian Di Hui people.”

Kangxi asked, “If later on your old Tian Di Hui friends come to find you, what are you going to do?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your servant simply will not see them, so that everybody will not feel uncomfortable.”

Kangxi nodded and said, “For that reason in that statement I personally added Chen Jinnan and Feng Jizhong, two names, to spare you a lot of trouble in the future. Xiao Guizi, one man cannot always have his feet on two boats. If you are loyal to me, single-mindedly work for the imperial court, you must not tread the muddy water of Tian Di Hui anymore. If you are determined to become Tian Di Hui’s Xiangzhu, then you must single-mindedly rebel against me.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; he kowtowed and said, “Your servant definitely will not rebel. When your servant was little, I was muddleheaded, I did not understand reason; but now I have a high notion of my duty, I have ‘washed my face and renewed my heart’, I am completely different now.”

Kangxi nodded and said with a laugh, “That’s very good. The lunatic who cursed you on the street today, I want you to personally supervise his execution tomorrow. Just kill him.”

Wei Xiaobao kowtowed and said, “Your Majesty please understand, your servant came to Beijing and was able to see Your Majesty’s golden face, it was entirely due to this man. Your servant has not repaid his kindness, I boldly beg Your Majesty to spare this man. Your servant would rather … would rather my contribution of defeating the Luocha demons, Your Majesty take back everything. Your servant is willing to go back to become Marquis of Luding.”

With a wooden countenance Kangxi said, “The nobility granted by the imperial court, you treat it as a trivial matter? You are conferred the title First-class Duke of Luding, it was by my grace, yet you use the rank and benefit of nobility to bargain with me, to haggle over the price; what a nerve!”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly kowtowed; he said, “Your servant is reaching out to the sky asking for grace, Your Majesty may reach down and grant me my request. If Marquis of Luding does not work, how about move me back to Count of Tong Chi or Viscount of Tong Chi?”

Kangxi wanted to scare him, he wanted to let him know some imperial court rules and regulations; who would have thought that this man was a lowly person of the marketplace? Although he achieved the titles First-class Duke, Great General, his hoodlum character did not change the least bit. Kangxi could not help feeling angry, but was amused at the same time. “Damn it!” he shouted, “Stand up!” Wei Xiaobao kowtowed and stood up.

Still maintaining a wooden expression Kangxi said, “Your granny, Laozi reaches down to you, you ask me to spare this rebel, so I want to have your head in exchange of his head.”

Frowning and worried, Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty’s counter offer is too aggressive, please rise it some.”

“Alright,” Kangxi said, “I will yield one step. You cut your own egg, and enter the Palace as a real eunuch.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Please Your Majesty rise your offer more.”

Kangxi said, “That’s my final offer. If you don’t kill him, that means you are not loyal to me. When one is loyal, he is loyal to the end; if he is not loyal, then he is not. How can there be any bargaining?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant is loyal to His Majesty, holding righteousness to my friends, filial to my mother, loving to my wives …”

Kangxi laughed aloud; he said, “Unexpectedly you, this fellow are everything: loyal, filial, and holding to moral integrity and righteousness. Alright, my utmost admiration. By this time tomorrow, get a head to show me. If it is not that rebel’s head, then it must be your own head.”

Wei Xiaobao had no choice; he kowtowed and withdrew. When he reached the door, Kangxi said, “Xiao Guizi, are you thinking of escaping?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This time I do not dare. Your servant is going home, put a pillow under my head, lie down and think it over carefully. It would be best if I could make Your Majesty happy while upholding yi qi toward a friend, and keeping your servant’s head firmly attached to my body at the same time.”

Kangxi smiled, “Very good,” he said, “I have not seen Princess Jianning for a long time, I miss her very much. I have already had her brought into the Palace.” After a short pause, he continued, “Your other six wives, three children, will also accompany the Princess to the Palace to have an audience with the Empress Dowager. Empress Dowager said that your contribution is not small, she wants to reward your wives and children well.”

“Thank you very much for the Empress Dowager and Your Majesty’s grace,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Even if my body turns to dust your servant finds it difficult to repay.” Retreating two steps, he could not bear not to say, “Your Majesty, your servant once said to you, you are the Tathagata Buddha, I am Sun Wukong. No matter what your servant cannot jump out of your palm.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You possess great magical power, there is no need to stand on ceremonies.”

Wei Xiaobao went out the study room; he could not help but moaning and groaning in his heart, “His Majesty detains all my seven wives and three kids, even if I have the guts to run away, I cannot bear to part with them.”

When he reached the long corridor, Dolong came over to meet him with a laugh, “Wei Xiongdi, Empress Dowager summoned your wives, young masters, young miss; the reward must not be a few. Congratulations to you.”

Wei Xiaobao cupped his fist and said, “Thanks to your lucky influence, thank you.”

Dolong smiled and said, “This time before Xiongdi led the troops into battle, you instructed me to demand payment for you. To date, we have had seventy, eighty percent. Two million six hundred and some taels of banknotes, I will have it delivered to your mansion.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Dage’s ability is not small, unexpectedly you managed to extract that much.” Immediately he said hatefully, “That fellow Zheng Keshuang murdered my Shifu, until today, he is still giving me a lot of headache. His granny, that mad man who cursed me on the street, I bet you it was Zheng Keshuang who planted the root of trouble.” The more he thought, the more hateful he became. “Dage,” he said, “Please get more men, let us go to demand payment.”

Dolong heard that they were going to the Zheng mansion to demand payment, it was the number one pleasure of his heart. Today they had the Great General Fuyuan, the First-class Duke of Luding Wei Gongye leading the troops, the way they handle this matter would be even more unrestrained. At once he repeatedly agreed and ordered the Deputy Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards to take over his duty in the Palace, while he took a hundred Imperial Bodyguards to escort Wei Xiaobao to the Zheng mansion.

Although Zheng Keshuang was also conferred the title duke, compared to Wei Xiaobao’s dukedom it was like heaven and earth apart. One was a surrendering rebel of border defense king, the other was a high-ranking minister who has given outstanding service, the Emperor’s personal favorite. Both had duke mansions, but the size, as well as the style, were substantially different. The four characters ‘Hai Cheng Gong Fu’ [Mansion of the duke who settled the ocean] written on the horizontal inscribed board above the main gate were in black, not as good as Wei Xiaobao’s gold lettering of ‘Lu Ding Gong Fu’. When Wei Xiaobao saw it, he was somewhat happy; he said, “The signboard on this fellow’s door is not as good as my gold lettering signboard.”

The Imperial Bodyguards were accustomed with visiting the ‘Hai Cheng Gong Fu’ every two, three days to demand payment. Without waiting for the doorkeeper to announce their arrival, they simply burst into the mansion. Wei Xiaobao sat on a chair in the middle of the main hall, Dolong sat next to him. When Zheng Keshuang heard about the Great General Fuyuan’s arrival, which was his number one nemesis, he could not help but panicked, but he did not dare not to meet him. Without any choice he changed into his duke attire; trembling with fear he came out to meet them. Taking a step forward he cupped his fist and greeted, “Wei Daren!”

Wei Xiaobao did not stand up; he sat unmoving, with head held high he snorted and said to Dolong, “Duo Dage, this Zheng Keshuang is very rude. We have been here for half a day, he neither pay attention nor care about us; isn’t he looking down upon people?”

“That’s right!” Dolong said, “Killing people one must pay with his own life, owing money one must pay back. Always shrinking his head like a turtle, in the end he still won’t be able to hide.”

Zheng Keshuang was furious; it’s just that ‘under other people’s eaves, one must lower his head’. One of his guests was the great general holding power over the military, the other was the Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards, while Zheng Keshuang was not only without power without authority, he was always under suspicion. Although he had the honor and glory of nobility, actually his plight was even worse than common people; without any choice he struggled hard to contain his anger. He coughed lightly and said, “Wei Daren, Duo Zongguan, how are you two gentlemen?”

Wei Xiaobao slowly lowered his head. He saw standing before him was an old man with bent waist and crooked back, his hair grizzled, his countenance unbearably haggard. After looking at the man carefully, Wei Xiaobao realized that this man was not too old, it’s just that he was frowning and worried, the corner of his eyes were wrinkled, the short beard under his chin was also grizzled. Upon more concentrated look, Wei Xiaobao recognized the man; who else but Zheng Keshuang? They had not seen each other for several years, unexpectedly he had aged twenty, thirty years. At first Wei Xiaobao was greatly surprised, but then he understood. For the last several years Zheng Keshuang lived in torment, no wonder he suddenly aged. Wei Xiaobao could not help feeling pity, but then he recalled how in the past with his own hand Zheng Keshuang viciously killed Chen Jinnan at Tong Chi Island. Wei Xiaobao’s anger immediately bubbled up. With a cold laugh he said, “Who are you?”

Zaixia Zheng Keshuang,” Zheng Keshuang said, “How can Wei Daren not recognize me?”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Zheng Keshuang? Isn’t Zheng Keshuang the Yanping Jun Wang of Taiwan? How can he be in Beijing? You must be a fake.”

Zaixia surrendered to the Great Qing,” Zheng Keshuang replied, “I received His Majesty’s grace and was conferred the rank and emolument of nobility.”

“Oh, so that’s how it is,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In the past you blew your horn in Taiwan, saying that you wanted to attack Beijing and seize the throne, saying that you wanted to do this and that; do those words still count?”

Zheng Keshuang’s back was wet with cold sweats; he thought, “He wants to put criminal charge on me, fabricating some words indiscriminately. His Majesty always listens to him, he can’t possibly listen to me.”

Ever since Dolong led the Imperial Bodyguards and Valiant Cavalry Brigade’s sergeants came to cause trouble unceasingly, for Zheng Keshuang, a day dragged on like a year. The large sum of money, his family property that he brought from Taiwan, eight or nine parts out of ten had been extorted by these men. In order to raise some two million taels, which was a huge amount of money, he had already sold off his pearls, jewels, everything, until practically nothing left. In his heart he already repented several hundreds or thousands times: he should not have surrendered. When Shi Lang came to attack, if he did everything he could to lead the troops and fight to the death, they might not necessarily be defeated. Besides, even if they failed and he died in battle, he would not have let his (paternal) grandfather and his father’s spirits in heaven down. Not in such a way that after he surrendered, he would suffer this endless distressing humiliation. This time as he heard Wei Xiaobao, he felt even more dejected and really wanted to die.

“Duo Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In the past, this Zheng Wangye’s prestige was very impressive. Recently Xiongdi heard people say that some people want Zheng Wangye back to Taiwan and establish his kingdom there. Zheng Wangye, I wonder what did those people who want to join you say? Xiongdi wants to investigate this matter clearly, so that I can report it to His Majesty.”

With a trembling voice Zheng Keshuang said, “Wei Daren, please be magnanimous. Those things that you are talking about, those are completely … completely non-existent …”

“Huh? That’s odd,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Duo Dage, didn’t we arrest a rebel yesterday? He cursed His Majesty, he also scolded Xiongdi. This man said that he was Zheng Wangye’s old subordinate, he said that in Beijing Zheng Wangye is being bullied, so he wanted to avenge him, he wanted to wipe out Manchurian Qing Tatars or something like that.”

Listening to this point, Zheng Keshuang could not bear any longer; he bent his knees and dropped to the ground, and said in a trembling voice, “Wei Daren please have mercy! In the past Xiaoren has offended you, Senior; I deserve to die ten thousand deaths. You, Senior, is magnanimous, please leave me a path of life, I pray Laotianye will bless you and grant your ten thousand generations to be duke and marquis.”

With a cold laugh Wei Xiaobao said, “When you murdered my Shifu that day, did you ever imagine that a day like today will come?”

Suddenly from the rear hall a man walked in in big strides; his stature was slim, his expression swift and fierce. He was none other than the ‘One Sword Without Blood’ Feng Xifan. He rushed to stand by Zheng Keshuang’s side, and stretched out his hand to pull him back. Turning his head toward Wei Xiaobao he said, “The murder of Chen Jinnan that day was entirely my idea, it has nothing to do with Zheng Gongzi. If you want to avenge your Shifu, please feel free to come to me.”

Wei Xiaobao had always been very afraid of Feng Xifan; seeing his fierce and intimidating expression, he could not help shrinking back into his chair. “You … you want to hit people?” he said in a trembling voice.

Dolong sprang up and called, “Guards!” Immediately more than ten Imperial Bodyguards rushed over and surround him.

Seeing his side had many men and great force, Wei Xiaobao was relieved; he said in a loud voice, “This man dared to commit violent crime in the Capital, arrest him.” Four Imperial Bodyguards immediately reached out to grab Feng Xifan’s arms.

Feng Xifan did not resist; he said in a loud and clear voice, “We surrendered to the Imperial Court, His Majesty conferred Zheng Gongye the title of ‘Duke of Hai Cheng’, he conferred me the title of ‘Earl of Zhongcheng’ [lit. devoted, loyal]. His Majesty’s golden mouth has said it, this matter has been sealed with one stroke of a pen, it is not something that can be disputed. Wei Daren, you want to use official authority for private interest, wrongly accuse good people, we have no choice but to appeal before His Majesty to explain everything clearly.”

With a cold laugh Wei Xiaobao said, “You are a good person, hey, hey, turns out ‘One Sword Without Blood’ Feng Daren is a very good person. This is the first day that I have ever heard about it!”

Feng Xifan said, “Ever since we arrived in Beijing, we have never seen outsiders, we do not dare to violate half a law even more. These Imperial Bodyguards Daren unceasingly came to demand payment, we dealt with it by losing our family fortune, it was nothing. Wei Daren, you want to put criminal charge on us, His Majesty can see clearly for ten thousand of li, I am afraid he will be beyond your control.”

This man had guts and knowledge, he was far superior compared to Zheng Keshuang, he spoke with confidence and matter-of-factly, it was difficult for Wei Xiaobao to refute. He thought that although these two men were surrendering people of Taiwan, they were conferred nobility titles by the imperial court; while it was true that it was not difficult to bully them, if he really wanted to drag them down, the Emperor only needed to ask a few questions, hs true colors would be exposed immediately. The Emperor had already anticipated that Wei Xiaobao would want to avenge his Shifu; he would definitely put the blame on Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao’s heart had softened, but in his mouth he was still extremely unyielding. He said, “Yesterday we arrested a rebel, he personally confessed that he wanted Zheng Wangye back to Taiwan; could it be that he was lying?”

Feng Xifan said, “This kind of people casually make presumptous claim, how can we consider that their words count? Daren please bring this man over, we will have direct confrontation in front of the Ministry of Justice.”

“You want direct confrontation?” Wei Xiaobao said, “That’s great, wonderful, very nice, very exciting.” Turning his head he asked Zheng Keshuang, “Zheng Wangye, the money you owe me, when are you going to pay back?”

Feng Xifan noticed that left and right Wei Xiaobao was trying to evade him subtly, and his countenance had changed; he guessed that Wei Xiaobao was afraid the Emperor would find out. He thought that since he had gained this piece of farmland, he might as well enlarge his courage and raise a ruckuss in front of the Emperor. He thought that although the Emperor was young, he was very brilliant, definitely he would be able to differentiate right from wrong. If Feng Xifan did not seize this opportunity, this matter would drag on endlessly. He really thought that he should not yield to this fellow surnamed Wei anymore, a cornered dog will jump the wall, a cornered man will hang from the beam. If you force me to hang myself, I would fight back desperately. Having made up his mind, he said, “Wei Daren, Duo Zongguan, let us appeal to the imperial court.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; he thought that if this matter was reported to the Emperor, he himself would have to bear endless responsibility, but he simply could not back off. “Very good!” he said, “Take this surnamed Zheng along! Take both of them into the jail first and keep them in confinement, let them live enjoy a happy and prosperous life for a year or a half, and then we will slowly present the memorial to explain everything to His Majesty.”

Dolong was hesitant, Zheng Keshuang was a duke by the Emperor’s appointment, there was no harm in demanding payment from him; but arresting him would definitely require an imperial edict. He said in a low voice, “Wei Daren, we must go present the memorial to His Majesty first, and then come back to take them away.”

Zheng Keshuang was relieved; he hastily said, “That’s right, I have no crime, how can you arrest me?”

To see the wind and setting his sails was actually Wei Xiaobao’s expertise. He immediately said, “Whether you have crime or not, it is not yet known. The money you owe me has not been paid in full, what are you going to do about it? You pay me back, or you want to come with me?”

Hearing that he might be saved from arrest, he repeatedly exclaimed, “I will pay, I will pay!” Hastily he went inside and returned with a stack of banknotes, followed by two servants holding trays filled with gold, silver and jewelry.

Zheng Keshuang said, “Wei Daren, lowly officer has turned over the chest and flipped the sack upside down, I managed to find thirty or forty thousand taels, I really cannot come up with anything anymore.”

“You can’t come up with anything anymore?” Wei Xiaobao said, “I don’t believe you. Let Xiongdi accompany you inside to look.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “This … this … this is not too convenient.”

Feng Xifan said in a loud voice, “We did not violate any law, Wei Daren wants to search our home, do you have an imperial edict, or do you have any official document from the Ministry of Justice’s main hall?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “This is not a search. Zheng Wangye said he can’t come up with anything anymore, I say he still have a lot to present. Perhaps among his gold, silver, pearls and jewels there are still a large quantities of sabers, spears and firearms, perhaps there are dragon chair and dragon robe hidden in the secret rooms in the basement. Since he could not find anything, everybody will help him look.”

Zheng Keshuang busily said, “What sabers, spears and firearms, dragon chair and dragon robe? I … How can I dare to hide those things secretly? Besides, lowly officer is just … is just a duke. This ‘Wangye’ appellation, I really dare not accept it.”

Wei Xiaobao said to Dolong, “Duo Dage, please count for me, how much money in total?”

Dolong and two Imperial Bodyguards counted the banknotes; they said, “The banknotes are thirty four thousand and three hundred taels, and then there are some jewelry of little value, I don’t know how to value them.”

Wei Xiaobao reached out to rummage through the jewelry, he picked up a golden phoenix hairpin and pretended to be shocked. “Aiyo,” he said, “Duo Dage, this is a forbidden object, His Majesty is the dragon, the Empress is the phoenix; how … how can Zheng Wangye’s Wangfei [king’s wife] also wear golden phoenix hairpin?”

Feng Xifan was even more enraged. “Wei Daren,” he loudly said, “You want to pick a bone from an egg, the one surnamed Fan will stake everything against you today. Among the gold, silver and jewelry stores throughout the world, which one does not have golden phoenix hairpin? All the women of the official families in Beijing, which one does not wear golden phoenix hairpin?”

“Turns out Feng Daren have looked at the women of the official families around Beijing,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Mm, what do you think, which family’s Taitai, Xiaojie [madame, miss, respectively] is the most good-looking? Tsk, tsk, tsk, awesome, awesome; you have looked at a lot of womenfolk from different families, such a treat for your eyes, you are lucky. Prince Kang’s Wangfei, Ministry of War Shangshu Daren’s young lady, have you seen them?”

Feng Xifan was so angry that he could not say anything; in his heart he was rather afraid, knowing that this young man had a good relationship with each and every one of the influential officials of the imperial court. If he added some oil and paste and spoke these words openly, Feng Xifan would definitely be in a lot of trouble.

Zheng Keshuang repeatedly bowed with cupped fist and said, “Wei Daren, please be lenient, lowly officer beseech you.”

Wei Xiaobao knew that his words had scared Feng Xifan that he did not dare to make any noise. Feeling that he has had enough tail wind, he laughed aloud and said, “Duo Dage, Xiongdi’s face is actually not as good as yours. Duo Dage came to demand payment, you managed to get more than two million taels, Xiongdi personally came, I only got such a meager amount.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “Lowly officer really does not have anything left in my house, it’s not that … it’s not that I dare to renege on my debt.”

“Off we go then!” Wei Xiaobao said, “I’ll wait ten days, half a month, after Zheng Wangye get more gold and silver from Taiwan, I will be back to settle the account.” While saying that, he stood up and walked out of the hall.

When Feng Xifan heard that, he knew that Wei Xiaobao was framing Zheng Keshuang up, saying that he conspired against the law by still maintaining contact with his former subordinates in Taiwan; which was a capital offense punishable by extermination of the entire family. If they did not explain clearly, for the rest of their lives they would live under forced submission, it would be difficult for them to conduct themselves. Thereupon he said in a loud and clear voice, “We are law-abiding citizens, we do not dare to take even half a step on the path of fault. Today what Wei Daren, Duo Zongguan have spoken in here, we must present in a memorial to His Majesty systematically and in full details [orig. ‘count by fives and tens’]. Otherwise, although the Heaven and the Earth is big, we will not have a place to set out feet on.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You want a place to set your foot? There is, there is. If Zheng Wangye and General Feng return to Taiwan, won’t you have a lot of land to set your feet on? If the two of you want to discuss about establishing your foothold, we are not going to bother you.” Pulling Dolong’s hand along, he walked out the door with his head held high.

When Wei Xiaobao was back in his mansion, immediately he prepared a feast; he invited the Imperial Bodyguards to drink wine. Dolong had his subordinates, the Imperial Bodyguards to fetch four big chests and opened them; all were full of gold, silver, pearls and jewels, as well as stacks of banknotes. He laughed and said, “After several months of collecting the debt, most of this fellow Zheng Keshuang’s family property is in here. Wei Xiongdi, you double check it.”

Wei Xiaobao took a stack of banknotes, worth about more than a hundred thousand taels; he said, “This dog thief murdered my Shifu, yet His Majesty conferred nobility title to him, my enmity cannot be avenged. Thank you very much Dage and all Xiongdi for making his life miserable, and vent this anger on Xiongdi’s behalf. My Shifu did not have either wife or children, Xiongdi wants to take some of this money and have people go to Taiwan to build a grand memorial hall to enshrine and worship my Shifu. As for the rest of the money, I’d like Dage and all Xiongdi to divide it among yourselves.”

Dolong repeatedly shook his hand, “No, can’t do; no, can’t do!” he repeatedly said, “This is the money Zheng Keshuang owed Xiongdi. You only need to send out several Qing troops, every day pay a visit to demand payment, I am not afraid he won’t pay up. We are only doing you a tiny favor, we all are family, how can we covet your money?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “To tell you the truth, Xiongdi’s family property is already too much that I cannot use it up my entire life. A good friend is well-off, everybody can use it together, why bother about mine or yours?”

But Dolong was adamant, he simply refused to receive it. The two of them strived to best each other until their faces were flushed with excitement. Finally it was decided that the Imperial Bodyguards would receive one million taels as the ‘debt collection fee’. The other three hundred thousand taels were given to the Valiant Cavalry Brigade brethren to be divided among themselves. Dolong took the rest and personally brought it to Wei mansion’s inner hall.

All the Imperial Bodyguards, even those who were on duty in the Palace, received their share, about several thousand taels per person. Everybody was happy and excited, they ate and drank to their hearts’ content, and then they opened up Pai Jiu and dice tables in the Duke mansion’s reception hall. Since he was playing against the brethren, Wei Xiaobao did not practice any cheating.

They gambled until the second watch of the night [between 9-11pm]. Wei Xiaobao said to Dolong, “Duo Dage, Xiongdi has another favor to ask you.”

Dolong’s gambling luck was flourishing, he was in a very good mood. “Alright,” he said with a laugh, “No matter what, you only need to instruct me.” But he immediately recalled something; he said, “Only one matter I cannot do! That lunatic who cursed you on the street, His Majesty commanded me to have strict custody over him; early in the morning tomorrow you and I will supervise his execution. If for personal gain I let him go, His Majesty will definitely have my head chopped.”

The favor Wei Xiaobao was going to ask was precisely this matter; who would have thought that before he even mentioned it, Dolong had already shot him down. He thought, “His Majesty indeed has supernatural foresight, he has anticipated everything. Even one million taels of silver cannot buy Mao Dage’s life.” He was angry and his heart was full of grievances, thereupon he wanted to come back to Zheng Keshuang’s house to demand payment. But then he recalled Zheng Keshuang’s dejected appearance, he felt that to bully such a pitiful creature was not the conduct of a hero. He thought better of it and said, “It was His Majesty himself who give us the order concerning that lunatic, even if I had gargantuan guts I would not dare to let him go. Today we went to demand payment, that fellow Zheng Keshuang is alright, but his subordinate, that Feng Xifan was really annoying, he took unfair advantage of us. When Xiongdi remembers this, I really cannot swallow.”

Several Imperial Bodyguards nearby heard him, they all parroted his words, “When we saw that today, everybody was angry. Wei Daren need not be worried, let us all pay him a visit. He is a surrendering soldier of defeated army, unexpectedly he has the audacity to flaunt his prestige inside the city of Beijing. This kind of disregard of the law and natural morality, do we still need to tolerate?” The more they talked about it, the angrier they got; the Imperial Bodyguards all said that they would leave immediately to tear down Feng Xifan’s earl mansion.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If we are going to deal with this son of a turtle, we must not come publicly and let the imperial censor finds out and submits a memorial to the Emperor. It won’t be too good for the Imperial Bodyguards’ reputation.”

“Yes, yes,” Dolong hastily said, “Xiongdi’s apprehension is very true.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Duo Dage do not need to act personally, let’s just have Zhang Dage and Zhao Dage take several men to do it.” Turning to Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian he said, “Disguise yourselves as Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong’s [commander] subordinates. Pretend that you have an urgent official business, ask Feng Xifan that son of a turtle for a discussion. Even if he has suspicions in his heart, he won’t dare not to come out. Somewhere along the way, put his hands and feet on shackles, cover his eyes with black cloth, stuff his mouth with rags, take him in circle to the east of the city and the west of the city, finally bring him here. We all then beat him severely, strip off his clothes, and send him to Tai Dutong’s concubine’s bed.” All the Imperial Bodyguards roared in laughter; they repeatedly praised it as a brilliant scheme.

Imperial Bodyguards and Vanguard Battalion had always been at odds with each other; when they came across each other, oftentimes they would fight. The Vanguard Battalion’s commander was originally Ajichi; that day Wei Xiaobao schemed against him and put him in prison, although later on he was released, Kangxi blamed him as useless, did not do his job properly, thereupon he was deposed from his position. Nowadays the Dutong was a man surnamed Tai. Dolong and Chief Tai were ‘struggling in the light and fighting in the dark’; the animosity had been going on for a long time, but neither one could overcome the other.

Dolong was even more elated; he said, “That fellow Ol’ Tai is afraid of his wife, he took maids and concubines, but did not dare to take them home. His newest concubine, the number eight concubine, lives at the Tian Shui Jing [Sweet Water Well] Alley, Ol’ Tai does not stay overnight there. We strip Feng Xifan stark naked and then put him in the new concubine’s bed, Ol’ Tai will definitely be half-dead angry. Even if he suspects it was us who play him trick, as long as all of us keep our mouths shut, he won’t be able to do anything.”

Immediately the Imperial Bodyguards took off their uniforms and insignias before going out the door, giggling and laughing. Wei Xiaobao and Dolong waited in the hall, drinking.

Wei Xiaobao’s subordinates, his personal guards constantly made discreet inquiry and came back to report the progress of the operation: the Imperial Bodyguards had arrived at the door of ‘Zhongcheng Earl Mansion’ and identified themselves as Vanguard Battalion, they knocked the door asking for an audience. Feng Xifan came out to greet them and invited everybody in for some tea. Zhang Kangnian said that they received Tai Dutong’s order, there was an urgent military intelligence from Taiwan, asking for his presence for immediate consultation. Feng Xifan climbed into a sedan chair, the Imperial Bodyguards escorted him to the western city. The Imperial Bodyguards put Feng Xifan in shackles, they even arrested the people who came with him. The group then went to the northern city; the Tidu [local commander] of Jiu Men [Nine Gate] on night duty shouted questions, Zhao Qixian loudly replied that they were Vanguard Battalion, inside the sedan chair Feng Xifan definitely could hear the exchange clearly. The crowd was heading back here to this mansion …

After the time needed to burn an incense stick, the Imperial Bodyguards with Feng Xifan in custody came in. Zhang Kangnian said in loud voice, “Reporting to Tai Dutong: the rebellious officer Feng Xifan is here.”

Wei Xiaobao’s right hand clenched into a fist, he made a gesture to beat him. The Imperial Bodyguards called out, “Rebellious officer Feng Xifan colludes with the rebels, he conspires against the law. Tai Dutong’s order: beat him severely.” Punches and kicks flew toward him at once.

Feng Xifan’s martial art skill was extremely high, he was also very perceptive; when the Imperial Bodyguards, posing as the Vanguard Battalion, came to get him, he immediately saw something was amiss. If he wanted to escape, although the Imperial Bodyguards were superior in number, they would never be able to capture him. However, since he surrendered and was conferred the title Earl, he thought that although the opponents intentionally wanted to frame him, the Emperor was wise, he was always able to distinguish right from wrong. If Feng Xifan ran away, inevitably he would be charged with the offense of escaping arrest, henceforth his honor and glory, his rank and emolument of nobility, would go down the drain. Therefore, all along he did not resist. Just because he coveted riches and honor, this martial art master of the present age had unexpectedly fallen into the hands of these Imperial Bodyguards and was beaten until he was hovering between life and death.

Seeing his bleeding nose, and knowing that his internal injury was quite heavy, Wei Xiaobao was overjoyed; at last the enmity of the murder of his Shifu was avenged to some degree. If the beating continued, he was afraid Feng Xifan would die; thereupon he shook his hand to stop them. He then ordered his personal guards to strip Feng Xifan naked, and wrap him inside a felt blanket. By this time Feng Xifan was at his last gasp, he had already lost consciousness.

Dolong laughed and said, “Take him to the Ol’ Tai’s eighth concubine’s house.”

Zhao Qixian said with a laugh, “It would be best if we also strip the Ol’ Tai’s eighth concubine naked and tie the two of them together.”

The Imperial Bodyguards were greatly delighted; they all roared in cheers. Dolong wanted to see the Ol’ Tai’s eighth concubine being stripped; he laughed and said, “This time I am going to lead the troops.”

His party carried Feng Xifan and was about to leave when suddenly two personal guards came in in quick steps and reported to Wei Xiaobao, “Reporting to Daren: there is a fight going on outside Tai Dutong’s residence in Tian Shui Jing Alley right now, the sky and the earth are turning upside down.”

Everyone was shocked, thinking, “How did the secret leak out? Tai Dutong already guards against it, this matter could turn bad.”

“What kind of people are fighting?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

A personal guard said, “Eight of us, Xiaoren received Daren’s order to scout out the Tian Shui Jing Alley, suddenly we saw a group of armed women, about thirty or forty of them …”

Wei Xiaobao frowned, “What armed women?” he wondered aloud.

The personal guard said, “Reporting to Daren: this large group of people consists of women with big feet, some carry bread rollers, some carry laundry sticks, and then there are some carry door bolts and shoulder poles; they all stormed into Tai Dutong’s residence. ‘Bing, bing, bang, bang!’ they ransacked the place and dragged a young woman who did not have time to escape and lashed her fiercely with a whip.”

“That’s strange!” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed, “Go and find out more.” Two personal guards received the order and left.

The second team of scouts arrived and reported, “Reporting to Daren: riding on fast horse Tai Dutong arrived at the Tian Shui Jing Alley, his clothes was in a mess, his left foot was wearing a boot, his right foot was bare. Turns out the leader of the armed women attacking Tian Shui Jing Alley was Madame Tai Dutong.”

As soon as they heard it, the whole room roared with laughter. It was only then did they realize that Madame Tai Dutong drank vinegar [i.e. jealous] and went to attack his ‘outside’ residence.

When the personal guard spoke to this point, he also could not help laughing before continuing, “That Madame grabbed Tai Dutong and ‘slap, slap!’ she slapped him on the face, followed by a kick; she was really formidable. Tai Dutong bowed respectfully and repeatedly said, ‘Madame, calm down!’”

Dolong waved his hands in excitement; he said, “This time Ol’ Tai received what he deserved.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Dage, quickly lead the troops to urge them to stop fighting. This time you can grab the Ol’ Tai’s pigtail, I guarantee that from now on the Vanguard Battalion will never dare to go against us, the Imperial Bodyguards.”

Reminded by Wei Xiaobao, Dolong was greatly delighted. He slapped his own forehead and said with a laugh, “I am such a muddle head! Such a good opportunity and I almost miss it. Brothers, let us all go to watch the excitement.” Leading the Imperial Bodyguards, he rushed toward Tian Shui Jing Alley.

Wei Xiaobao looked at Feng Xifan who was still lying on the floor; he pondered, “How am I going to handle this fellow? If I release him, he would definitely report to His Majesty. Even if he did not mention my name, His Majesty would definitely guess that I have something to do with it.” With his hands behind his back he paced back and forth in the hall. He thought further, “Come dawn, Mao Dage will be executed. How can I save his life? A big name mansion attacking the execution ground, that won’t do. Execution ground, execution ground …” Suddenly he remembered the opera ‘exchanging a child on the execution ground’. “That’s it! Xue Gang ran into misfortune, he was executed along with his whole family unto the third generation. There was a white-bearded old man, Xu somebody, who took his own child to the execution ground and exchanged the child with the baby Xue somebody and took him out …”

The number of opera he watched was indeed not a few, he might not be able to metion the names of the character in the play, but he remembered the stories very well. As soon as he recalled the ‘exchanging a child on the execution ground’, another opera came into his mind, “The ‘Searching alone saving alone’! This story is also not bad, there was this black-bearded man called Cheng Ying, who exchanged his own son with his master’s son, he let his own son be beheaded in order to save his master’s son’s life. It’s desperately serious. Fortunately Mao Dage’s age is not the same as my son’s. Otherwise, I would have to deliver Hutou, Tongchui to the execution ground to be beheaded in exchange for Mao Dage’s life. Although yi qi to a friend is most important, I can’t ever do this kind of matter. Very good, very good!” He kicked Feng Xifan, who was still lying on the floor, heavily and said, “Your luck is not bad, Wei Daren hereby accept you as my adopted son. Wei Daren’s real son I can’t bear to exchange, adopted son I can exchange as I wish.”

Immediately he summoned the captain of his personal guards and gave him secret orders, he gave him one thousand taels, and another thousand taels to be divided among the other personal guards who were going to handle this matter. The captain bowed to express his thanks; he said, “Daren set your heart at ease, everything will be handled properly, there will be no mistake.”

Finished making arrangement, Wei Xiaobao entered the inner hall. His seven wives and sons and daughter were summoned into the Palace by the Empress Dowager, the house was cold and cheerless. Still fully clothed he lay down in his bed for a while, soon dawn would arrive.

By the chenpai hour [5th earthly branch, 7-9am] the Palace issued an imperial edict, “Jiang Yang Da Dao [notorious criminal, see also note 6 of Chapter 2] Mao Shiba has committed treason and heresy, insulted a high-ranking minister, he is to be beheaded. The Great General Fuyuan, First-class Duke of Luding Wei Xiaobao is hereby ordered to supervise the execution.”

Wei Xiaobao received the imperial decree. Outside his mansion’s gate he selected several personal guards to accompany him. He saw Dolong, leading several dozen Imperial Bodyguards with Mao Shiba in custody, arrived. Mao Shiba’s eyes were blue, his nose swollen, his face was full of blood. It was obvious that he had received quite a beating. As soon as he saw Wei Xiaobao, he cursed and scolded, “Wei Xiaobao, you are a shameless traitor (to China). Today you become the supervising officer of Laozi’s execution, Laozi will die without any regret. Who told me that day to be so blind, that from a wh0re nest in Yangzhou I took you, this little traitor all the way to Beijing?”

The personal guards shouted at him, but Mao Shiba’s cursing was growing more vicious. Wei Xiaobao did not pay him any attention, he asked Dolong, “How was Ol’ Tai?”

Dolong laughed and said, “Last night I rushed over there, Ol’ Tai has already been grabbed by his Madame, his face was full of blood traces. As soon as he saw me, his face looked very awkward. I persuaded using all possible arguments, urging his Madame. I also took his eighth concubine into my home, and let my two concubines accompany her. Ol’ Tai showered me with a thousand thanks and ten thousand gratitudes, his appreciation was boundless.”

“What does the eighth concubine look like?” Wei Xiaobao asked with a laugh.

Dolong raised his thumb and said, “Hey, hey, amazing!”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You must not ‘seing a beauty conceive a scheme’, taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune!”

Dolong laughed aloud and said, “Xiongdi, set your hundred and twenty hearts at ease, how can your Dage be like that? Although Ol’ Tai is my longstanding opponent, this kind of shady business your Dage will definitely never do.”

Presently the two of them brought Mao Shiba to the execution ground at the mouth of the food market. Dolong rode a horse, Wei Xiaobao rode a large carriage. Mao Shiba sat on an open top ox cart, his hands were tied behind his back, a piece of wooden signboard was on his neck; it said, “Offender to the throne: Mao Shiba.”

The ox cart travelled along the main street from the horse and mule market westward, common people crowded by the street to watch. Along the way Mao Shiba was shouting and yelling, “After eighteen years, Laozi is still a hero, that’s why I am called Mao Shiba. I already knew that I was going to be beheaded.”

The common people by the street cheered; they praised him, “He has guts, a really tough man.”

They reached the execution ground at the mouth of the food market, at the intersection between the horse and mule market and the Xuan Wu Gate main street. That same night Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards had erected raised canopy. In front and at the rear of the canopy the security was very tight. Dolong received Kangxi’s instruction that there was a possibility Tian Di Hui would attack the execution ground, thereupon he had the Jiu Men Tidu deployed two thousand officers and men to guard all around the execution ground.

Mao Shiba stood boldly at the center of the execution ground; he shouted, “We all are the people of the Great Han, our beautiful rivers and mountains are occupied by the Tatars. There will come a day that the Tatars will be wiped out completely!”

Wei Xiaobao got down from his carriage and entered the canopy. The carriage was parked right next to the canopy. Wei Xiaobao took his seat, and then he invited Dolong to sit right next to him. Dolong knitted his brows and said, “This criminal is shouting treason and heresy, he is inciting the people in here. We must chop his head as quickly as possible.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He shouted, “Bring the prisoner!”

Four personal guards pushed Mao Shiba into the canopy and pushed him down to kneel, but Mao Shiba refused to kneel no matter what.

“No need to kneel,” Wei Xiaobao said. Turning to Dolong he said, “Dage, please identify the prisoner, is he the one?”

“He is!” Dolong said.

“He is identified,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Offender to the throne: Mao Shiba.”

Picking up a vermillion brush he drew a large circle on the wooden signboard, and threw it out. A personal guard picked up the signboard and dragged Mao Shiba out.

“Duo Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I want to show you something interesting.” While saying that, he took out a fold of handkerchiefs from his sleeve pocket and showed it over in front of Dolong’s face.

The handkerchief was embroidered with erotic picture. The man and woman featured in the picture looked beautiful and handsome, their posture was vivid. As soon as Dolong saw it, his eyes were glued to it. He flipped the handkerchief over, underneath was another embroidered handkerchief with different erotic picture, the posture was very strange. Dolong laughed and said, “This style looks very weird.”

Flipping the handkerchiefs over, he found more embroidered erotic pictures, the posture in each picture was weirder than the previous ones; there was one man with two women, two men and three women, and so on. Dolong just looked on and his blood was boiling. “Xiongdi,” he said with a laugh, “Where did you get this treasure? Please buy another set for your Gege.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “This is Xiongdi’s gift to show filial respect to Dage.”

It was as if Dolong had just acquired the most precious treasure, smiling broadly he repeatedly said thanks, while folding the handkerchiefs and carefully put it into his pocket.

Right this moment, they heard ‘bang, bang, bang!’ the cannon fired three salvos. The captain of Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards came to report, “The time has come. Daren please supervise the execution.”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao replied. He stood up and pulled Dolong’s hand to walk out of the canopy together.

They saw Mao Shiba kneeling in the execution ground with his head hung dejectedly, as if he had lost his consciousness. The drummer began to beat the drum. When the drum stopped, the executioner, draped with red hood over his head, raised his arm, and swung the ghost-headed saber down. Immediately the convict’s head rolled. The executioner’s left foot flew, he kicked the head away. The convict’s body slumped forward with blood gushing out of his neck.

“It’s done,” Dolong said, “Let us part now. I am going to see His Majesty to report the completion of the imperial decree.”

Wei Xiaobao choked with sobs. “Duo Dage,” he said, “This man had deep friendship with me. It’s just that His Majesty’s order was very strict that I was not able to save him. Ay!” While saying that, he used his sleeve to wipe the tears; sobbing and sniffling, he cried loudly.

Dolong sighed and said, “Xiongdi indeed has enough yi qi. You may prepare his body for burial well; give him proper burial, this way you are not letting the dead down.” Wei Xiaobao complied, then he continued crying.

When Wei Xiaobao used his sleeve to wipe the tears, he actually had fresh ginger in his sleeve, with which he rubbed his eyes. The pungent ginger made his eyes red and made him shedding tears continuously, but in his heart he was laughing, delighted that his scheme was successful. Dolong comforted him some more and walked him to his carriage before he himself mounted his horse and left. Surrounded by his personal guards he rode the carriage back to his duke mansion. Several personal guards rolled the convict’s body in a straw mat and placed the body in a coffin that was prepared earlier on the side, and then they nailed the coffin’s lid solid.

The common people who were witnessing the execution expressed their opinions. They all said that at the death’s door Mao Shiba still dared to swear and curse, he was a real hero. Yet some who were afraid of getting involved reprimanded the others, saying that the offender to the throne spoke treason and heresy, hence they should not praise him to avoid any disaster befalling them.

When Wei Xiaobao reached his mansion, he got off the carriage; but the carriage quietly continued southward, out of Beijing, all the way to the south, heading toward Yangzhou. Wei Xiaobao then went to the Palace to report the completion of the imperial decree. Kangxi immediately granted him an audience.

Kangxi had received Dolong’s report, and knew that when supervising the execution of Mao Shiba, Wei Xiaobao did not stop crying. This time, seeing Wei Xiaobao’s red eyes, Kangxi felt sorry and rather uneasy; he thought that Wei Xiaobao attached most importance to loyalty, it was a rare trait. After consoling him warmly for a bit, Kangxi said, “Xiao Guizi, those Luocha troops you captured, the majority asked me to set them free to return to their country. I have already released them, but there are about two hundred who wish to remain in China.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Beijing is livelier and more fun compared to Moscow. Following His Majesty and working for you will be a lot better-off than working for those two unfit for anything Luocha young Tsars.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “I organized these Luocha troops into two ‘Russian Companies’, and put these two companies under your command. You must control them well, don’t let them create any trouble in the Capital.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he kneeled down to express his gratitude. Outside the Palace, the two Luocha companies had already been waiting outside the Gate of Supreme Harmony by the Jinshui [golden water] Bridge. The Luocha troops were wearing new Qing troop uniform, bright, neat and well-fitting; they looked really impressive. Wei Xiaobao issued his order: each man received twenty taels and was granted three days furlough. The Luocha troops cried out, “Wula!” incessantly.

Until the end of Kangxi’s reign, these Luocha troops were serving in the Qing army, they were loyal and were not double-minded. When foreign nation’s ambassador came to Beijing, they saw Chinese Emperor employed Luocha officers and men, no one was not impressed. It was not until these Luocha troops gradually died of old age that the ‘Russian Company’ organizations began to dissolve.

(Book note: Concerning the details of the captured Luocha troops serving in the Qing army, please see Yu Zhengxie’s ‘Guizi [thirtieth year of the 60 year cycle] Class Manuscript’ volume IX, ‘Examining the Russian Company’. In Xiao Yishan’s [1902-1978] ‘General History of the Qing Dynasty’, it was written that ‘the prisoners were offered to stay in the Capital, to receive the Emperor’s pardon and were organized into companies, comprised solely of Russian ethnicity. Their offspring still exist today.’ These Russian men intermarried with Chinese women and produced children.)

Back to his mansion, Wei Xiaobao saw that the Princess, along with his six other wives and three sons and daughter, had returned from the Palace. Every one received not a few rewards from the Empress Dowager, but the Princess did not look happy. Wei Xiaobao asked, and learned that the Empress Dowager treated everyone equally favorably, although the Princess was her own daughter, she did not utter half a word of affection to her. Naturally Wei Xiaobao understood the reason behind it; he thought, “Empress Dowager did not particularly treat you badly, it was because she was looking at your husband’s face.” He said, “Empress Dowager is very thoughtful, she was afraid that if she is particularly good to you, the six Meimei would be jealous.”

The Princess angrily said, “She is my own mother, if she is a bit good to me, how can they be jealous?”

Wei Xiaobao embraced her and said with a laugh, “I am particularly good to you, let’s see if they are going to be jealous or not?” The women chattered continuously, they all laughed together. The Princess was a frank person, as soon as everybody broke into chatting and laughing, she felt better already.

Hereafter in the next ten days or so, one after another the princes, dukes and high-ranking ministers invited Wei Xiaobao for a banquet to congratulate him on his meritorious service. He went to the opera, he gambled; not a single evening he was idle.

One day Dolong paid him a visit, telling him that Feng Xifan had been missing for more than ten days. His family had already reported to Shun Tian Fu[1]. Dolong asked in a low voice, “Xiongdi, what happened after we beat him up that night?”

“Afterwards I sent him home,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I wonder where has that fellow gone?”

“You didn’t kill him, did you?” Dolong asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “If I sent people to kill him, you would be standing at the side, watching. Duo Dage, did you see me doing that?”

“No, no,” Dolong said, “We only beat him up severely; when did we kill him?”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Ever since Xiongdi received the imperial order to lead the troops, although I have given up the Fu Zongguan [deputy chief] position, but as long as it is related to the Imperial Bodyguards, no matter what kind of responsibility, Xiongdi will definitely face it together with Dage.”

Dolong smiled and said, “Nothing’s wrong. The Feng family insists that that night it was the Vanguard Battalion’s Ol’ Tai who sent his men to pick him up, but he never returned. Shun Tian Fu personally paid a visit to Ol’ Tai, asking him about that night. Ol’ Tai was very embarrassed, he hummed and hawed but was unwilling to tell the truth. Later on Ol’ Tai became angry and lost his temper, Shun Tian Fu did not dare to investigate further.” While saying that, he stood up and patted Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder. “Xiongdi,” he said with a laugh, “You are a good-luck general. Who would have thought that in this matter you can be so lucky? Madame Ol’ Tai did not come earlier or later, but right that night she was prompted by a sudden impulse to lead the armed women going to attack Tian Shui Jing Alley. This way, everything will fall into Ol’ Tai’s responsibility.”

He was certain that Feng Xifan must have been killed in secret by Wei Xiaobao. Although in this matter he shared some responsibility, putting the blame on the Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong fit very well with his own intention. Naturally he did not know that the fact that Madame Tai Dutong did not come earlier or later and sent out her troops right that moment was actually not a coincidence at all. Wei Xiaobao had calculated the precise moment and sent people to tip her off. Naturally Dolong would never know that when Wei Xiaobao dispatched the Qing troops to supervise the execution, he had the canopy constructed with double wall, and hid Feng Xifan inside. Once Mao Shiba was identified, when he was dragged away from the canopy, Wei Xiaobao took out the handkerchiefs with erotic pictures to divert Dolong’s attention, while Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards immediately swapped Mao Shiba and Feng Xifan. By this time Feng Xifan was still unconscious, his face was full of blood, the guards put the exact same clothes as Mao Shiba’s on him; he was made to kneel down on the execution ground with head hanging low, and was immediately beheaded. Although Feng and Mao, two men’s appearances and statures were not the same, nobody detected the difference. The head the executioner chopped actually belonged to Feng Xifan.

In the meantime, the personal guards locked Mao Shiba inside Wei Daren’s carriage, which was parked next to the canopy; they gagged his mouth, and then carried him nonstop to Yangzhou. It was after they crossed the Yellow River that they explained everything to him clearly; they also gave him three thousand taels. In mortal danger Mao Shiba escaped alive, his acute spirit was dampened; he also realized that Wei Xiaobao staked his own life to save him, that Wei Xiaobao was not a person who violated yi qi. Henceforth he went into hiding and did not appear in public anymore.

Day after day Wei Xiaobao exchanged toasts, he was somewhat tired; he was also concerned about Tian Di Hui brethren. The Emperor was more and more formidable, while Wei Xiaobao lived comfortably in his mansion, he knew that he must not let the Emperor catch the Green Wood Hall brethren in one net; therefore, he must discuss a plan to guard against this. As a result, he disguised himself as a young master of a rich family, with Shuang’er disguised as his personal attendant.

The two of them went to the Heavenly Bridge, and mingled with the crowd there for an hour before they saw Xu Tianchuan, carrying a medicine box on his back, sitting in a small teahouse, drinking tea. Wei Xiaobao entered the teahouse at once and sat down in front of Xu Tianchuan. “Xu Dage!” he greeted in a low voice.

Xu Tianchuan stood up suddenly, and strode out with an angry look on his face. Wei Xiaobao was startled; he followed out, and saw Xu Tianchuan was heading toward a secluded spot. Immediately he and Shuang’er followed from a distant.

Xu Tianchuan passed through three lanes, two small streets, and came to an alley; at the end of the alley there were two big ginkgo trees. He entered the alley, and knocked on the gate of the fifth house several times. The wooden door opened, Fan Gang came out to greet him. As soon as Fan Gang saw Wei Xiaobao, he was startled, but immediately anger filled his face.

Wei Xiaobao stepped forward and said with a laugh, “Fan Dage, how are you?”

“Humph!” Fan Gang snorted, but he did not reply.

With a wooden face Xu Tianchuan asked, “Wei Daren, do you bring troops to catch us all?”

Wei Xiaobao hastily said, “Xu San Ge, how can … how can you joke like that?”

Fan Gang quickly walked to the mouth of the alley and looked. Back to the house, he quickly closed the door. Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er followed the two of them across the courtyard and into the main hall. They saw Li Lishi, Qi Biaoqing, Priest Xuanzhen, Gao Yanchao, Qian Laoben and the others were congregating in the hall. As soon as they saw Wei Xiaobao, everybody let out an ‘Ah!’, and sprang up.

Wei Xiaobao cupped his fist and said, “Gentlemen, Gege, how are you all doing?”

Priest Xuanzhen angrily said, “We haven’t been killed by you, I consider our situation not too bad!” ‘Shua!’ he pulled the saber hanging on his waist.

Wei Xiaobao took a step back and said in a trembling voice, “Why are you … you like this to … to me? I did not do … do anything to wrong you.”

Priest Xuanzhen loudly shouted in anger, “Zongduozhu was killed by you, Feng Er Ge was also killed by you, just a few days ago you killed Mao Shiba! I … we really wish we could rip your tendon and peel your skin.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly anxious. “There’s no … no such thing,” he hastily said, “Those are all lies.”

Xuanzhen rushed one step forward; with his left hand he grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s lapel, and said sternly, “We couldn’t figure out how we are going to kill you, today you … you this little traitor drop in to deliver your own life. Indeed Zongduozhu’s spirit in heaven has blessed us.”

Seeing the situation turned from bad to worse, Wei Xiaobao turned his head around; he wanted to unleash his ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ [divine walk hundred changes] skill to escape, but he saw Xu Tianchuan and Fan Gang, both with weapons in their hands, were standing right behind him. He had no choice but to say, “We are all brothers, why be … why be this impatient?”

“Who wants to be brothers with you, little traitor?” Xuanzhen said, “Your, this little demon, graceful words, flowery speech, we don’t want to hear it. I want to cut open your heart of wolf and lungs of dog to be offered as sacrifice to Zongduozhu and Feng Er Ge first, and then we’ll talk later.” Withdrawing his left arm, he pulled Wei Xiaobao closer.

“Injustice, injustice!” Wei Xiaobao cried out.

Seeing the situation was critical, Shuang’er took the Luocha short gun from her pocket and fired it toward the roof. ‘Bang!’ the room immediately filled with smoke. She grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s back and tore him off Priest Xuanzhen’s grab. In the past Xuanzhen had suffered greatly under western firearms; his father and brothers had died from guns. As soon as he heard the gunshot, his heart was shaken, and Wei Xiaobao was snatched away by Shuang’er.

Shuang’er leaped to the corner of the room and stood in front of Wei Xiaobao. Pointing the muzzle of the gun to the crowd she shouted, “Are you going to listen to reason or not?”

Xuanzhen’s eyes turned red; he cried, “Everyone, charge! We’ll fight them to the death!”

Raising his sword, he wanted to charge forward. Qian Laoben reached out to pull him back; he said, “Daozhang [priest], hold it!” Turning to Shuang’er he said, “What reason you want to talk, speak up, let us hear it.”

“Alright!” Shuang’er said. Thereupon she narrated in details how Wei Xiaobao went into exile because he tried to save Chen Jinnan and the heroes in his house; how he was captured by Divine Dragon Cult and ended up on Tong Chi Island; how Chen Jinnan was killed by Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan, two people; how Feng Jizhong’s plot fell through and his treachery was exposed, and how he was killed by Shuang’er’s gunshot; how Kangxi repeatedly ordered Wei Xiaobao to destroy Tian Di Hui, but he simply refused to follow orders; and finally how recently he saved Mao Shiba’s life by swapping him with someone else. She was not an articulate person, her story was not particularly pleasant to hear, but this group of warriors had known her for a long time, they all knew that she was honest and never committed fraud; plus she was speaking casually, without the slightest hint of hesitation. They knew she did not have the ability to fabricate all these things in intricate details. Besides, in order to save them all Wei Xiaobao had lost his official position, his earl mansion was blasted flat, these people had experienced it firsthand. Now that they thought about Feng Jizhong’s conduct, everything fit together; they could not help but to believe.

Xuanzhen said, “Since that’s the case, in Tatar Emperor’s imp … imp … damn it, imperial edict, why did he say that Wei Xiangzhu killed Zongduozhu?” By changing the way he addressed Wei Xiaobao as Wei ‘Xiangzhu’, it goes to show that in his heart he had 90% believed.

Shuang’er shook her head and said, “This, I don’t understand either.”

Qi Biaoqing said, “It must be the Tatar Emperor’s plot. He wanted Wei Xiangzhu to make a clean break with our Society; hereafter his mind would be firmly made up, with no possibility to change, to become Tatar high-ranking official.”

“Qi Xiongdi is right,” Xu Tianchuan said. Returning the saber into its sheath, he bent his knees in front of Wei Xiaobao and said, “We are a bunch of muddleheaded maggots and were hot-headed to the extreme, we have offended Wei Xiangzhu, a crime deserving ten thousand deaths; we are willing to receive punishment.”

The rest of the warriors also kneeled down together. Xuanzhen repeatedly slapped his own face and cursed, “Deserve to die, deserve to die!”

Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er hastily kneeled down to return the propriety. Now that Wei Xiaobao was not in panic, he said, “All Gege, please rise. There is a common saying, ‘One who does not know is not guilty.’ It was just temporary misunderstanding, what’s the big deal?”

The group of warriors stood up and repeatedly apologized. By this time Wei Xiaobao was very proud of himself, with his hands danced his feet tripped, he recounted the past events. Naturally his narrative was very lively and in full color, everything was a hundred times more exciting; but in the warriors’ ears, it was far less credible than Shuang’er’s.

The group of warriors huddled together and talked in low voices for a while. Li Lishi said, “Wei Xiangzhu, Zongduozhu was unfortunate and died under the crafty scoundrel’s hands. Tian Di Hui is like a dragon without a head, the brothers of the ten Halls have been in deliberation to elect a new Zongduozhu. We, the brothers of the Green Wood Hall, want to nominate you as the Zongduozhu. It’s just that we are afraid the other nine Halls’ brothers would not accept, or perhaps they would be suspicious. We all agree to ask you to set up a great merit.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his hand repeatedly. “I definitely don’t want to be Zongduozhu,” he said. But his curiosity was piqued; he asked, “I wonder what great merit you want me to accomplish?”

Li Lishi said, “The three feudatories rebellion have been crushed, Taiwan has fallen into the Tatars’ hands, in the north, Luocha people have been repelled by Wei Xiangzhu. Our great undertaking of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming has been increasingly more difficult.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “That’s right.” But in his heart he mused, “Since it is very difficult, let’s everybody just sit back, relax, and not doing fighting the Qing restoring the Ming.”

Li Lishi said, “Although the Tatar Emperor is young, he is very able and efficient, plus he is able to win the people’s hearts. The common people throughout the world gradually forget about the previous dynasty. If this situation drags on for several more years, I am afraid Tatars’ rivers and mountains will be more stable.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed again and said, “That’s right.” In his heart he said, “Xiao Xuanzi stabilizing the rivers and mountains, there is nothing bad about it.”

Li Lishi continued, “The Emperor dotes on and trusts Wei Xiangzhu very much, we all want to ask you to think of a plan, to bring the brothers into the Palace to assassinate the Emperor.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly alarmed. “This … this is impossible,” he said in a trembling voice.

Fan Gang said, “May I ask Wei Xiangzhu, what’s the difficulty?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There are too many Imperial Bodyguards in the Palace, and then there is Valiant Cavalry Brigade, Vanguard Battalion, Hu Jun [Protecting-Army] Battalion, Firearm Brigade, Jian Tui [Strong and Acute] Battalion, Tiger Spear Battalion, and so on, to protect the Emperor; it’s desperately serious. Just the Imperial Bodyguards alone, there are Yu Qian Shiwei [lit. Bodyguards in front of the Imperial], Gan Qing Men Shiwei [lit. Imperial Bodyguards in charge of Qing Gate], San Qi Shiwei [lit. Imperial Bodyguards of the Three Banners]. That day heroes like Shen Quan Wu Di [divine fist without equal] Gui Xinshu Laoyezi and the others still failed and met violent death, much less me? To assassinate His Majesty is difficult above difficult.”

Hearing he flatly refused, the crowd of warriors was displeased; plus the way he mentioned ‘His Majesty’, which showed that he had enough slave mentality, put an angry look on everybody’s face.

Fan Gang cast a glance toward the brethren and then said to Wei Xiaobao, “Wei Xiangzhu, assassinating the Tatar Emperor is without a doubt very difficult; however, we have you to take charge of the operation, so it’s not like we do not have any hope of success. We, brothers, who are going into the Palace, not a single one of us is hoping to come out alive, but whatever happens we will protect Wei Xiangzhu and keep you safe and sound. You have rendered not a few of great merits for our Society, among the tens of thousands brothers in our Society, in all honesty not a single one is as good as you. Tian Di Hui and the Tatars cannot live under the same sky. Hereafter the great undertaking of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming will rely solely on Wei Xiangzhu’s inspiration.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “This matter I definitely don’t want to so. His Majesty wanted me to wipe out Tian Di Hui, I was unwilling, because I am holding up yi qi. Now all of you want me to assassinate the Emperor, I am also unwilling, because I am holding up yi qi still.”

Xuanzhen angrily said, “You are a Han, yet you are holding up yi qi for the Tatar Emperor; won’t that make you … make you a Han …” He was about to curse him the ‘Hanjian’ [traitor to China], two characters; but in the end he forced himself to hold back.

Fan Gang said, “This matter is extremely important. It’s hard for Wei Xiangzhu to agree immediately, that is very reasonable. Please give it a careful consideration and then give us your instruction.”

“Very well, very well,” Wei Xiaobao busily said, “I will think about it carefully, I will think about it carefully.”

Seeing that he was not being sincere at all, Xu Tianchuan said, “I hope Wei Xiangzhu will not forget the late Zongduozhu’s aspiration, you must not forget the terrible tragedy of our vanquished nation. We are Han people, we must never be Tatars’ slaves.”

“Right, right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “We must not forget that.”

The crowd of warriors knew that he was speaking without meaning it; they all fell silent.

Wei Xiaobao looked this way, and then he looked that way; finally he laughed and said, “Why are all Gege not talking?” The group of warriors stayed silent.

Wei Xiaobao felt extremely awkward; it was as if there were thorns and brambles on his back. He said, “In that case, let us part for the time being. I will go back and think about it carefully, and then I will discuss it with all Dage.” While saying that he stood up.

The crowd of warriors walked him off to the mouth of the alley, respectfully saluted him, and then took their leave.

[1] See Note 13, Chapter 34. Shuntian Fu can be used to refer to either Shuntian Prefecture or the prefect’s office, or even the prefect himself. Prefect of Shuntian Prefecture title was fǔyǐn (府尹) and of rank 3a. Prefects of other prefectures such as Yangzhou and Huizhou title was zhīfǔ (知府) and of rank 4b. Jin Yong used zhīfǔ for Prefect of Shuntian. (Additional info courtesy of Ace High)

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