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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 50 (End)

Chapter 50
Fish hawk soared high in the clouds gallantly, eastern bean goose flew to the outer sky mysteriously.

Wei Xiaobao returned to his mansion, he sat in the side room feeling depressed. By the afternoon, an imperial edict arrived, the Emperor was summoning him to the Palace. Wei Xiaobao went to the Upper Study Room and kowtowed. Kangxi asked, “Feng Xifan is suddenly missing, what is going on here?”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he thought, “Why ask me?” He said, “Reporting to His Majesty: the night Feng Xifan went missing, all along your servant was having fun with Duo Zongguan and the Imperial Bodyguards. Later on I heard Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong was looking for Feng Xifan. I don’t know for a fact, but this Feng Xifan was then gone without a trace. These surrendering people from Taiwan are sneaky, their behavior is very strange, we don’t want them to conspire against the law in secret, let your servant investigate carefully.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “Very well, I give you the task of investigating this Feng Xifan’s whereabouts clearly, come back here in a few days to report. I promised the surrendering people of Taiwan that I will protect them thoroughly. This man suddenly disappeared mysteriously, if I cannot give a clear account, it would mean that I break my promise to the world.”

Cold sweats suddenly appeared on Wei Xiaobao’s forehead; he thought, “His Majesty is this serious, could it be that he knew I killed Feng Xifan?” Without any choice he responded, “Yes, yes.”

Kangxi asked further, “Earlier today you went to Yinxing [Ginkgo] Alley, was it fun?”

Wei Xiaobao was taken aback, “Yinxing Alley?” he asked. Immediately he recalled that at the mouth of the alley where Tian Di Hui warriors had their temporary lodging there were two big ginkgo trees; apparently that alley is called ‘Ginkgo Alley’. The Emperor even knew the name of the alley, what else could he conceal from him? This time the cold sweat appeared on Wei Xiaobao’s entire body, his legs went weak, he kneeled down at once, kowtowed and said, “Your Majesty can see clearly for ten thousand li. All in all, your servant is loyal to you.”

Kangxi sighed and said, “Those rebel thieves forced you to harm me, but you refused to comply no matter what. You are holding yi qi toward me very much; however … however, Xiao Guizi, in your whole life, will you always have your feet on two boats like this?”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly kowtowed; he said, “Your Majesty please understand, becoming the Tian Di Hui Zongduozhu, your servant will never do. Your Majesty may set your hundred and twenty hearts at peace.”

Kangxi sighed again. Looking up, he stared blankly for half a day, and then slowly said, “I become the Emperor of China, although I am not as good as Yao Shun Yu Tang [See Chapter 14], I cherish common people, I strive for good governance. Among the emperors of the Ming Dynasty, which one was better than I am? Now three feudatories rebellion has been crushed, Taiwan has been taken over, Luocha country won’t dare to violate the border anymore, from now on the whole world is at peace, common people live in peace and work happily. Tian Di Hui’s rebel thieves still determine to restore Zhu family’s Ming Dynasty, do you think under an emperor surnamed Zhu common people’s daily life will be better than today?”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao said, “This, I do not know.” He said, “Your servant heard Fengyang [county, Chuzhou, Anhui] flower-drum[1] people sang about ‘ever since Zhu Emperor came out, there was scarcity nine out of ten years. Rich families sold their land, poor families sold their children.’ Right now the wind changes, the rain’s favorable, the country prospers, the people at peace, Your Majesty is raw bird fish soup [see ‘yao shun yu tang’ above], Zhu emperors were 108,000 li apart from you, even patting the horse’s bottom they would not be able to chase after you.”

Kangxi smiled slightly and said, “Stand up.” He also stood up and paced back and forth in the Upper Study Room. He said, “Fu Huang [father emperor] is a Manchu, but my birth mother Empress Xiao Kang was a Han army banner person, so I am half Han. I treat common people under the heavens equally, I have never treated Han people unfairly the slightest bit, why do they hate me that much, and determine to kill me?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “These rebels commit treason and heresy, they are totally muddleheaded, Your Majesty must not take them to heart.”

Kangxi shook his head, suddenly there was a depressed and lonely expression on his face. After quite a long time, he said, “There are good and bad Manchu people, there are also good and bad Han people. Bad people in the world are too many, we can’t kill them all, but to guide them back to the path of righteousness, I do not have that kind of ability. Ay, becoming an emperor is very difficult.” He stared at Wei Xiaobao for half a day before finally he said, “You may go!”

Wei Xiaobao kowtowed and took his leave. He felt his entire body was cold. Turned out just now he was so scared that his undergarment and underpants were soaked with cold sweats. It was not until he was out of the Palace that he took a deep breath. “There is a spy infiltrating Tian Di Hui,” he pondered, “We killed one Feng Jizhong, another one appeared in his place. Otherwise, how could he know that they wanted me to assassinate the Emperor? But I wonder who is this spy?”

Returning to his mansion, he sat down and pondered carefully, but he could not find any clue. He thought further, “His Majesty gave me the task of investigating Feng Xifan’s whereabouts, looking at His Majesty’s expression, he suspects that this is my doing, it’s just that he does not have any incriminating evidence. How am I going to fob him off in this matter? Just now at the Yinxing Alley Shuang’er mentioned how I swapped people at the execution ground to save Mao Dage’s life; fortunately I have not told her that I swapped him with Feng Xifan. Otherwise, this naïve girl would certainly blurt it out, and then the spy would report it to His Majesty. If my First-class Duke of Luding did not repeatedly demoted seventeen or twenty eight levels, my surname is surely not Wei.”

Thinking to the east, pondering to the west, he was deeply troubled. Prior to entering the service in the Palace, he and Kangxi could chat and laugh, the two of them were very happy. Now they all grew up, the Emperor was very imposing; Wei Xiaobao talked a lot of nonsense, he got so scared that he was not able to talk anymore. All these high-ranking positions, Great General Fuyuan, First-class Duke of Luding, are not fun to do anymore, not as interesting as when as a kid he became a little servant at Lovely Spring Courtyard; so free, unfettered and happy.

He thought, “Tian Di Hui brothers are forcing me to assassinate the Emperor, the Emperor is forcing me to wipe out Tian Di Hui. His Majesty said, ‘Xiao Guizi, in your whole life, will you always have your feet on two boats like this?’ His granny, Laozi won’t do it anymore! I won’t have anything to do with everything anymore!” As soon as these five characters ‘Laozi won’t do it anymore’ emerged in his heart, he felt unspeakably relax and at ease.

Taking dice from his pocket, he threw the dice on the table and shouted, “If I have to quit, let me throw a ‘hall full of red’ [i.e. success across the board]!” Four dice rolled around, three dice landed with red dots facing up, but the fourth die landed on six dots; nothing can be blacker than that. Actually, when he threw the dice, he already cheated, but still he was unsuccessful.

“Damn it!” he cursed. Picking up the dice, he threw several more times; it was not until the eighth throw that he managed to get all dice landed on red. He cheerfully said, “Turns out Laotianye [God] wants me to do seven things for His Majesty before I quit.” He mused, “I have accomplished seven things early on. Killing Oboi was the first, saving the Old Emperor was the second, blocking in front of His Majesty’s holy self on Mount Wutai was the third, rescuing the Empress Dowager was the fourth, contacting Mongolia and Tibet was the fifth, destroying Shen Long Jiao was the sixth, capturing Wu Yingxiong was the seventh, recommending Zhang Yong, Zhao Liangdong, and the others for service that they defeated Wu Sangui was the eighth, capturing Yakesa was the ninth … too many, too many. If I don’t count the small things, the big things must be exactly seven. No more, no less.” But this time he did not feel like thinking of which seven things could be considered big things. In short, “Laozi won’t do it anymore!”

“One, I won’t be government official; two, I won’t rebel. So what is Laozi going to do?” Thinking back and forth, he still thought that he was happiest back in Yangzhou. As soon as he thought about returning to Yangzhou, he could not help bursting with joy. “Guards!” he called loudly.

He ordered his personal guards to fetch food and wine. He drank alone while figuring out what he ought to do so that there would not be any future danger, that Kangxi could not send anybody to capture him, Tian Di Hui also could not pressure him to rebel. He thought that if he asked the Princess to come with him to Yangzhou, to spend her life in drinking and pleasure, she would definitely refuse. But if he wanted to open a brothel in Yangzhou, very likely Su Quan, Ah Ke, Fang Yi, Mu Jianping and Zeng Rou would not agree. “Alright,” he thought, “We’ll take it one step at a time. Laozi has several million taels of family property, not opening a brothel will not starve me to death; it’s just that I won’t have anything fun to do.”

During the family dinner at the mansion that night, the seven wives saw him smiling in high spirit, he talked cheerfully and wittily, totally different from his frowning and always on the edge these past several days; they all asked, “Why are you so cheerful?”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed.”

The Princess asked, “Did Huangdi Gege [emperor older brother] promote you again?”

Zeng Rou asked, “Did you win big in gambling?”

Shuang’er asked, “Tian Di Hui matter did not trouble you anymore?”

“Pei,” Ah Ke spat, “Most likely this fellow fancies some young lady and wants to take her as the eighth wife.”

Wei Xiaobao simply shook his head.

After all his wives had stopped asking questions, Wei Xiaobao said, “Originally I did not want to tell you, but you all insist on knowing; I have no choice but to tell you.”

The seven madames stopped whatever they were doing and listened attentively. With a serious expression Wei Xiaobao said, “I have become a high-ranking officer, become a Duke, but am unable to distinguish good from bad, it is indeed too inappropriate. Starting tomorrow, I am going to study literature, take the exam to be a zhuangyuan [top scorer in imperial exam] and enter the Hanlin Academy.”

The seven wives looked at each other, followed by all of them roared in laughter. Everybody knew that this husband of theirs could kill and burn, steal, rob and swindle; he could do anything in the world but one thing: he definitely could not study and learn to read.

Early morning the next day, Shun Tian Fu [see Chapter 49] came to pay a visit, saying that they received instruction from their superior and were informed that the Emperor appointed Duke Wei to investigate the missing of Earl of Zhongcheng Feng Xifan; therefore, they especially came to await instruction.

Frowning, Wei Xiaobao asked, “Your Shun Tian Fu yamen has captured criminals and obtained information a lot, what clue did you find these past few days?”

The prefectural magistrate replied, “Reporting to Gongye [duke]: Feng Bojue [Earl] went missing, the circumstances are very peculiar. Day after day lowly officer supervised, direct and led the operation, opened enquiries and secret search, but failed to obtain the slightest clue; indeed we are extremely anxious. Today we found out His Majesty issued special decree appointing Wei Gongye to be in charge, lowly officer is happier than obtaining promotion three levels in a row. Wei Gongye is our Dynasty’s number one brilliant and competent high-ranking minister, on the horseback you manage the army, down the horseback you manage the people; regardless how thorny the big problem that fell into Gongye’s hands, the bamboo will split upon contact with the knife’s edge [i.e. solved immediately]. To be able to work for Gongye in a case like this, truly my ancestors had accumulated a lot of merit. In lowly officer’s yamen, everybody is overjoyed, saying that this time we are very fortunate to take a shelter under the big tree’s shade. When Wei Gongye went into action, even Luocha demons were defeated and driven away in confusion, would we be afraid of not finding Feng Bojue’s whereabouts?”

Wei Xiaobao was aware that although the prefectural magistrate’s flattering words surged like the tide, everything he said was very pleasant to hear, in actuality he was pushing the responsibility on Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder. He thought, “I don’t know where that Feng Xifan’s body was hidden, tonight I must use the ‘Corpse Transforming Powder’ on it, don’t let it fall into other people’s hands. As long as there is no evidence, nobody can point fingers at me. I should have transformed the corpse early on, these past few days I have been too busy and did not expect this matter. But how am I going to explain it in His Majesty’s presence? His Majesty assigned me to do it. I, Xiao Guizi, am not bragging, but there is not a single mission I failed to accomplish.”

The prefectural magistrate continued, “Every day Madame Earl of Zhongcheng sends people to lowly officer’s yamen, and will not leave until they get an answer. Lowly officer really have a hard time dealing with them. Yesterday the Feng Mansion people came to report another case to the authorities, saying that one of Bojue’s concubines by the name of Lan Xiang [orchid fragrance] ran away with some stable boy; they stole quite a few of gold, silver and jewelry. If the Earl of Zhongcheng did not reappear, perhaps one by one all the concubines, maidservants and menservants in the house would leave and none would remain.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao snorted, “I don’t know where this Feng Xifan is hiding, having fun with women. Send more people to search low-grade brothels everywhere. Perhaps he is dining, wining, whoring and gambling and forget to go home. His mistress eloped with another man, he deserves it.”

“Yes, yes,” the prefectural magistrate replied, “It is reasonable to say that if Feng Bojue is enjoying himself in the red-light district at Willow Lane, it has been many days, he ought to be home by now.”

“It’s hard to say,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That fellow Feng Xifan is an old pervert, he is not like Laoxiong here, who is an upright gentleman; if you stroll into a low-grade brothel, you will only visit for a day or half a night.”

With a forced laugh the prefectural magistrate hastily said, “Lowly officer does not dare, lowly officer does not dare.”

Just then Earl of Zhongcheng’s Madame Feng sent her brother to deliver eight kinds of gifts, saying they wanted to kowtow to Duke Wei, thanking Duke Wei for striving to investigate this case. Wei Xiaobao instructed his guards to stop the visitor, he did not wish to see them, and he did not wish to receive the gifts either.

The personal guard reported back, “Reporting to Daren: the man from Feng family is very rude, ever since he arrived he did not stop sneering, saying something like grievance will be recompensed, enmity will be avenged; saying that His Majesty is already aware of this matter, in the end it will be ‘as the water recedes, the rocks appear’, that other people must not think his hand will cover the heaven, concealing everything from the Enlightened Sage, the Son of Heaven. Reporting to Daren: this man has the audacity to come to our door and display shockingly bad behavior, Xiaode [lowly one] really wants to give him several slaps on the ear.” This personal guard also took part in swapping people at the execution ground the other day, hearing the Feng mansion people’s fierce speech, as if he already guessed the inside story, the guard could not help feeling nervous.

Wei Xiaobao also felt guilty as a thief; he could not stop his countenance from changing. He thought, “If they continued making noise like this, I am afraid the hanky-panky would be exposed. Your granny, Feng Xifan himself was killed by Laozi, could it be that Laozi is afraid of your, dead demon’s wife?”

Suddenly he thought of an idea, immediately his face was all smiles. He said to the prefectural magistrate, “There’s no hurry in your honor leaving now, please wait here for a moment.” Returning to the inner shall, he summoned the captain of his personal guards and gave him detailed instructions. The captain received the order and left.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the main hall and said, “His Majesty sends me to handle this matter, we as his servants must spare no effort to repay our holy lord. Let us go right now to the Feng house to have an on-site survey.”

The prefectural magistrate was startled; he thought, “Earl of Zhongcheng went missing, what is there to survey in his house?” Yet his mouth repeatedly agreed.

Wei Xiaobao said, “This case is very difficult, we need to interrogate Feng family people, from big to small, one by one, carefully. Perhaps we can find some prospect of solution.”

“Yes,” the prefectural magistrate replied, “Gongye’s opinion is very true. Lowly officer is stupid to the extreme, from beginning to end did not think of doing it.”

Actually, since he was a lowly prefectural magistrate, how could he dare to go to the Earl of Zhongcheng’s mansion and conduct comprehensive cross-examination? While at the same time, the people of Shun Tian Fu yamen, from top to bottom, knew that Feng Xifan was the Great General Fuyuan Duke Wei’s arch-enemy. This man disappeared, nine out of ten it was Duke Wei who sent people to kill him. Duke Wei was the most favorite person of the reigning sovereign, he held the seal of authority over the military, who would have the gall to grow hair on his side, have the guts to swat the fly on the tiger’s head? Therefore, in investigating this case, nobody was taking it seriously; they all hoped to stretch this case as long as possible until finally they could settle this matter by leaving it unsettled.

This moment the prefectural magistrate thought, “Wei Gongye murdered Feng Bojue, and still want to make things difficult for his family. That Madame Feng is really not being too tactful, she is sending people here to talk rubbish; no wonder Wei Gongye is angry.”

Accompanied by Shun Tian Fu prefectural magistrate and his people, Wei Xiaobao arrived at the Earl of Zhongcheng mansion in an eight-man big sedan chair. He saw the mansion was already surrounded by several hundred personal guards all around. Upon entering the mansion, the captain of the personal guards stepped forward to report, “Reporting to Daren: There are altogether 79 people in the Feng family, men and women; they are all waiting in the western hall to be questioned by Daren.” Wei Xiaobao nodded. The Captain added, “Reporting to Daren: the court of law is being held in the eastern hall.”

Wei Xiaobao went to the eastern hall, and saw the courtroom was duly prepared, with a judge’s desk arranged in the middle. Thereupon he took his seat, and ordered the prefectural magistrate to sit in the right-hand seat to accompany him.

The personal guards took a young woman in, approximately twenty-three or twenty-four years old, her appearance and demeanor was really not bad; delicately and gracefully she kneeled down before the Court. “Who are you?” Wei Xiaobao started the cross-examination.

The woman replied, “Humble woman is Bojue Daren’s fifth young concubine.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Please sit down, please sit down; I do not dare to accept you kneeling down in front of me.”

The woman did not dare to stand up. Wei Xiaobao stood up and said with a laugh, “You won’t stand up, I will have to kneel down in front of you.” The women smiled sweetly and stood up. Wei Xiaobao sat back down.

The prefectural magistrate thought, “Wei Gongye does not treat the Feng family viciously, it’s just that his lecherousness is not too dignified.”

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

The woman replied, “I am called Ju Fang [lit. chrysanthemum fragrance].”

Wei Xiaobao sniffed around a few times and said with a laugh, “Good name! No wonder as soon as you came in, there’s a whiff of chrysanthemum flower’s fragrance in here.”

Ju Fang also laughed and said in a tender voice, “Gongye is making fun of me.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head while staring at her intently for half a day before asking, “I heard that a concubine has run away from your precious home?”

“That’s right,” Ju Fang replied, “She is called Lan Xiang. Humph, that s1ut has no sense of shame.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Husband suddenly disappeared, she followed the second man. Um, that is quite understandable, not altogether … not altogether …” Turning to the prefectural magistrate he asked, “Not altogether what is it?”

The prefectural magistrate replied, “Reporting to Gongye: not altogether inexcusable.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud; he said, “That’s it, not altogether inexcusable. Ju Fang Jiejie, why didn’t you run away?”

Hearing this, the prefectural magistrate frowned immediately; he mused, “This is more and more inappropriate; how could he use this appellation ‘Jiejie’ [older sister]?”

Ju Fang lowered her head. But she cast Wei Xiaobao a coquettish glance. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he felt as if he was visiting a low-grade brothel. He laughed and asked, “Can you sing ‘eight …’” the word was right at the tip of his tongue, but in the end he swallowed it back. Turning to his personal guards he ordered, “Reward this Miss Ju Fang twenty taels.”

Several personal guards responded in chorus; they called out, “Daren gives reward, thank him for the reward!”

Ju Fang was pleasantly surprise for the good fortune; she charmingly said, “Thank you very much Daye [big master]!” Turned out originally she was a prostitute in a brothel; as soon as someone gave her tip, out of habit she called him ‘Daye’ instead of ‘Gongye’.

Wei Xiaobao summoned the Feng family people one by one to be cross-examined, all females. The young and good-looking ones he questioned and cajoled a bit; the old and ugly ones he reprimanded a bit, saying that they did not serve the Earl well, to such an extent as to drive him out to find merriment outside and unwilling to go home.

When the questioning had been going on for almost an hour, the captain of his personal guards entered the hall and stood behind Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao continued giving two more people cursory questioning before he stood up and said, “We shall examine all places.” He took the prefectural magistrate, Shun Tian Fu (legal) clerk, special force chief [lit. ‘capture quick’], and his personal guards to examine each pavilion, hall, and room.

When they entered the third western side room, as usual the personal guards opened the trunks and turned the storage baskets upside down to be searched. A personal guard suddenly cried out, “Ah!” and picked up a saber from underneath the trunk. The blade was stained with quite a bit of dried blood. Bending one knee in half-kneel posture he raised he saber with both hands and said, “Reporting to Daren: we found the murder weapon.”

“Um,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Continue the investigation.” Turning to the prefectural magistrate he said, “Laoxiong, please look at this. Is this stain really blood?”

The prefectural magistrate received the saber, brought it to his nose and sniffed a bit. Sure enough, it was still reeking of blood albeit faintly. “Reporting to Gongye,” he said, “It seems to be blood.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There’s a hole on the head of this saber, what kind of saber is this?”

The Shun Tian Fu clerk examined the saber carefully and then said, “Reporting to Gongye: this is a lever-style guillotine to chop fodder, it is used mainly in stables.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “I see,” he said.

The captain of personal guards ordered his subordinates to get a bucket of water and sloshed it on the ground. “What are you doing?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The captain replied, “Reporting to Daren: if there is any place that was dug, the soil is not solid, the water will seep quickly in.” Before he finished talking, they saw that under the bed the water quickly seeped into the soil. The personal guards cheered in chorus. They lifted up the bed, took pickaxe, hoe and shovel and dug the earth. Shortly afterwards, a body was dug out.

The corpse’s body was intact, but the head was missing. It was already rotten, obviously it had died many days. The body was wearing earl attire. As soon as the prefectural magistrate saw it, he exclaimed, “This … this is Feng Jueye!”

“Is it Feng Xifan?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “How do you know?”

“Yes, yes,” the prefectural magistrate said, “We must find the head, and then we can reach a verdict.” Turning his head he asked the special force captain by his side, “Whose room is this?”

The captain said, “Xiaoren will find out immediately.” He went to the western hall and called a Feng family member to be questioned. Turned out that room used to be the run away Lan Xiang’s room.

The captain returned and said, “Reporting to Gongye, reporting to Futai [inspector general] Daren: the murder weapon is the machete used to slice fodder in the barn, the one who took Lan Xiang along with a bundle of valuables and ran away was this mansion’s stable hand Xing Si [lit. ‘Xing the fourth’]. Let Xiaoren go to the stable and investigate.”

Everybody went to the stable to search. As expected, from underneath the trough they dug out a head. They asked Madame Feng to identify the corpse; there was no doubt that it was Feng Xifan. Immediately the coroner tested and determined: Feng Xifan was wounded with the saber, his body and head were separated and he died.

By this time the Feng mansion people had been released from the western hall, the cries of grief in the mansion shook the heavens, everybody cursed Xing Si and Lan Xiang as heartless for killing their master. The news spread out; in less than half a day, the city of Beijing was bubbling and gurgling, everybody was talking about this matter.

The prefectural magistrate was both ashamed and grateful, thinking that were it not for Duke Wei rapidly solving the case, perhaps his own future prospect would be greatly hindered. He profusely expressed his gratitude, while issuing the order to capture the ‘fugitive who killed his master’, Xing Si and Lan Xiang, and composing the report to his superior.

Only the special force captain was suspicious; he noticed that the cut wound on the neck was neat, apparently it was cut by a sharp blade, it did not look like it was cut by a fodder machete. He also noticed that in both places, the soil in which the body and the head were buried was relatively fresh, obviously the holes were dug not too long ago; the holes did not look like they were dug more than ten days ago. But Duke Wei had helped him solve this major case, the reward he received was generous, the Feng mansion also rewarded him with quite a lot of money, asking him to wrap up the case as quickly as possible, so that close relatives of the Feng mansion would not make a fool of themselves in yamen. Even if he had gargantuan suspicion, how could he dare to expose even half a sentence? He could only pondered in his heart, “During the investigation in the Feng mansion, Wei Gongye’s personal guards were everywhere, nobody was allowed to move around, if they wanted to move corpse and plant evidence, it would be very easy. Forget about burying one corpse, even if they wanted to bury a hundred or eighty corpses, it’s not difficult at all.”

Wei Xiaobao took the Shun Tian Fu prefectural magistrate’s closing document and went to see Kangxi to report the details of the conclusion of this case. Kangxi smiled and said, “Xiao Guizi, your ability in solving a case is not bad, everybody praised you as the reincarnation of Bao Longtu [see note 9, Chapter 39].”

Wei Xiaobao said, “It was all due to Your Majesty’s flood of good fortune, your servant just happen to uncover a criminal plot.”

“Humph,” Kangxi snorted. He stared at Wei Xiaobao and coldly said, “Grafting flowers onto a tree has nothing to do with my flood of good fortune.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; he thought, “How did His Majesty know?” But he immediately understood, “Of course, it is only natural that His Majesty has a secret agent within my personal guards.”

He was still thinking of how to respond when Kangxi sighed and said, “The case is closed this way, it’s also very good, so that there won’t be any criticism from the people outside. It’s just that you have brazenly taken rash action, I really don’t know what to do with you.” Wei Xiaobao was relieved; he knew the Emperor spared his life this time. Immediately he kneeled down and kowtowed repeatedly.

Kangxi said, “Presently all four oceans are peaceful, there is no need of troop movement, your title of Great General Fuyuan may be removed.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. He knew that the Emperor was punishing him for acting willfully and making a scene; he added, “Your servant’s First-class Duke of Luding may also be degraded.”

“Alright,” Kangxi said, “I demote you to be a second-class duke.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant made a lot of trouble, my heart is uneasy, would Your Majesty please degrade me to be a third-class duke.”

Kangxi burst into loud laughter. “Damn it,” he said, “I am surprised that your heart can be uneasy; the sun must be rising from the west.”

When Wei Xiaobao heard the three-character ‘tamade’, he knew the Emperor’s anger had subsided; he stood up and said, “Although your servant does not have too much conscience, I always have a little.”

Kangxi nodded and said, “Precisely it was because I saw that you still have a bit of conscience; otherwise, I would have chopped your head early on and bury it under your wives Ah Ke, Shuang’er’s bed.”

Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “This must never happen.”

Kangxi asked, “What must never happen?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Ah Ke and Shuang’er will never run away with the stable hand.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “They won’t run away with a stable hand, they might run away with …” Speaking to this point, he stopped talking; thinking that if this talk continued, inevitably it would turn frivolous and senseless. Besides, although Wei Xiaobao had disregard of the law and natural morality, after all is said and done, he was very loyal to him. A ruler and his minister may chat and laugh with each other, but must not bring dishonor upon himself. Momentarily at a loss of what to say, Kangxi decided to ignore him. Lowering his head, he flipped through the memorial on his desk.

Wei Xiaobao stood on the side with hands hung down. He saw Kangxi’s brows were slightly knitted, he looked to be in deep concern. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Oftentimes His Majesty is not happy. Although being the Emperor one has an awesome prestige, it is not necessarily a fun thing to do.”

Kangxi thumbed through the memorial for a while; he lifted up his head and sighed. Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty, whatever it is, please send your servant to deal with it. Let your servant atone for his crimes by meritorious acts, repaying my master’s dragon kindness.”

“In this matter,” Kangxi said, “I cannot send you. Shi Lang presented the memorial, saying that Taiwan has been hit by a hurricane, on the plain the water is four chi deep, common people’s houses are damaged, families went bankrupt and the people died, the disaster is very serious.”

Wei Xiaobao saw that while talking, Kangxi’s eyes were glistening with tears; he thought, “We are good friends since childhood, I cannot not helping him.” He said, “Your servant has a way.”

“What way?” Kangxi asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “To be honest with Your Majesty, when your servant served as an officer in Taiwan, I made a small fortune. More recently, I recovered a number of old debts from a Taiwan moneybags. By Your Majesty’s grace your servant was able to hold with both hands the golden rice bowl that was damaged and was restored. For a lifetime I will not die of starvation. Too much money is useless, I would rather present it as an offering, asking Your Majesty to comfort and give relief to the victims of disaster in Taiwan.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “The number of people affected by the disaster is a lot, your small fortune, no matter what, cannot be used. I will issue an edict at once, the Palace will cut down on palace maids and eunuchs, reduce the clothes, reduce the meals, let the Palace Internal Affairs make a plan to save four, five hundred thousand taels to be used as emergency relief for the victims.”

“Your servant deserves to die,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Indeed it is desperately serious.”

“What is it?” Kangxi asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “As a government official, your servant has committed corruption, in Taiwan I got one million taels, recently the debt I collected, which was from Zheng Keshuang actually, amounted to another million taels …”

Kangxi was shocked. “That much?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao lightly slapped his own mouth and cursed, “Xiao Guizi deserves to die!”

Yet Kangxi laughed and said, “Your ability in debt collection is really superior; I had no idea at all.”

Wei Xiaobao cursed again, “Xiao Guizi deserves to die!” But his face showed that he was pleased with himself. He mused, “When a government official reaches out to take money, how can he let you as the Emperor, know? You planted a spy among my subordinates, you can only investigate whether I dare to revolt or not. Your Meifu [younger sister’s husband] collect money with his right hand, put money in the bag with his left hand, even your Da Meizi [oldest younger sister] does not know, you, this Da Jiuzi [wife’s older brother], absolutely cannot know.” In his mouth he called himself ‘your servant’, in his heart he considered himself ‘meifu’.

Kangxi pondered for half a day. He said, “You have a heart that is loyal to your lord and loving to the people, it is indeed hard to come by. Let’s do it this way: you contribute one million five hundred taels, I will add five hundred taels. We, the ruler and his minister, collect two million taels. Taiwan victims number about ten thousand or so households, each family will receive more than a hundred taels, that will be plenty.”

Impulsively Wei Xiaobao was feeling generous and wanted to donate, but just as quickly his heart ached and he already regretted it; when he heard that Kangxi would save five hundred taels for him, immediately he was overjoyed and hastily said, “Yes, yes. Your Majesty love common people as your own children, Laotianye bless and protect Your Majesty with favorable weather, the country prospers, the people at peace.”

Because of serious disaster in Taiwan, this past half day Kangxi’s heart was heavy; now that without rhyme and reason he suddenly obtained a lot of money, he was truly happy. He smiled and said, “Also bless and protect you to be promoted and gain wealth, lots of good fortune and long life.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Thank you very much for Wanshui Ye’s [Lord of Ten Thousand Years] golden mouth. Your servant will be promoted and gain wealth, lots of good fortune and long life, it is entirely due to Your Majesty’s grace. Besides, your servant’s small fortune originally belonged to Taiwan people, now that we return it to the common people of Taiwan, it is no more than returning the jade annulus to … to Tai.”

Kangxi roared in laughter and said, “It’s the saying ‘returning the jade annulus to Zhao’ [i.e. return something intact to its rightful owner]. Damn it, you change it to ‘returning the jade annulus to Tai(wan).’”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It was ‘returning the jade annulus to Zhao’. Just now I could not recall this character ‘Zhao’. Zhao Qian Sun Li, Zhou Wu Chen Wang. The ‘Hundred Family Names’ lists ‘Zhao’ as the number one, no wonder they are flourishing so much, turns out the jade annulus and what have you are all returned to their Zhao family.”

Kangxi was even more amused; he thought that this man was ‘without learning or knowledge’, and he could not be taught too much either. Kangxi laughed and said, “Very true, very true. There is another saying, ‘Wei bian san jue’ [lit. the leather binding of the bamboo scrolls has broken three times; fig. to study diligently.]. It speaks about your Wei family being industrious in studying. Their learning is very good. You, surnamed Wei, are also very remarkable.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant’s learning is very lacking, I am letting my old Wei ancestors down.”

(Book note: In the saying ‘the leather binding of the bamboo scrolls has broken three times’, the character ‘Wei’ [which is Wei Xiaobao’s surname, ‘wei’ itself means ‘soft leather’] points to the leather strap boring through and joining the bamboo writing slips in ancient China. Kangxi deliberately distorted it to make fun of Wei Xiaobao.)

Kangxi said, “This time going to Taiwan for disaster relief effort …” Originally, according to reason, he should have sent Wei Xiaobao to handle this matter; but then he had a second thought, “This man contributes this large amount of money, only because he holds yi qi toward me, not necessarily because he really has love toward common people. I am afraid that as soon as he is out of the Palace’s gate, he would immediately regret it. If he went to Taiwan to distribute two million taels disaster relief, most probably he would want to recover his capital to avoid suffering loss. Perhaps he would even add one percent or two as the interest.” He knew Wei Xiaobao as well as he knew himself, immediately he changed his statement, “… is a very easy mission; there is no need for you to handle it personally. Xiao Guizi, your First-class Duke of Luding need not be degraded. Let my sister’s son light the lantern, business as usual.”

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down to express his gratitude. After kowtowing, he stood up and said, “Your servant donate a little bit of money, it is only returning the jade annulus to … to Zhao Qian Sun Li, but Your Majesty consider it as meritorious service. Your Majesty reduces the clothes, reduce the meals, that is real saving, and that is really not easy to do.”

Kangxi shook his head and said, “Wrong. Everything in the Palace, each tael of silver comes from common people under the heaven. Common people supply my brocade garments, jade meals. I lord over all the people, I should spare no effort in working for the common people. You eat official salary from your ruler, you should be loyal to your master. I eat official salary from the people, I should be loyal to the people. The ancient book says, ‘four oceans exhausted, possession of the empire will be used up’. If common people are destitute, that means the Emperor is no good, the Heaven will be furious, then I can’t be the Emperor anymore.”

“That must not happen,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Absolutely must never happen.”

Kangxi said, “You became a high-ranking minister, it was due to my grace. I became the Emperor, it was due to the Heaven’s grace. If you are not being loyal, I will chop your head. If I don’t become a good Emperor, the Heaven may replace me with someone else. The ‘Book of History’ says, ‘Heaven and Earth will correct their primary son’. Primary son [yuan zi] here means the Emperor. If the Emperor is not good, the Heaven might oust him.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are called Xiao Xuanzi; turns out ‘xuan zi’ means the Emperor.” [See also note 3 of Chapter 42: in Cantonese, ‘xuan’ and ‘yuan’ are homophone.]

Kangxi said, “This character ‘xuan’ [玄] is not the same as that character ‘yuan’ [元].”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. But in his heart he thought, “In round dumpling [圆子 – yuanzi] soup, all the dumplings look the same.” In any case, he did not know the character ‘yuan’ [元] from ‘xuan’ [玄], so why bother explaining it to him?

From his desk Kangxi picked up a book and said, “The inspector-general of Zhejiang presented a book to me, called ‘Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu’ [investigative record of Ming-barbarians dealing][2], written by Zhejiang man Huang Lizhou just recently. Zhejiang’s inspector-general reported that the book contains a lot of treason and heresy, and is asking for stricter investigation. I was just looking at the book, but I think this book makes a lot of sense. I have already written my comment on the report to Zhejiang’s inspector-general, telling him not to be meddlesome.”

While saying that, he opened the book and said, “In his book he said that as a ruler, ‘one man receives order from the world’, and not ‘the world receives order from one man’; this idea is well said. He also said, ‘The Son of Heaven is not necessarily right, the Son of Heaven is not necessarily wrong.’ This is also very true. Which man is not? The Son of Heaven is also a man, how could as soon as he became the Emperor, ‘everything is right, he is never wrong’?”

After speaking for a while, Kangxi noticed that although Wei Xiaobao repeatedly voiced his agreement, his face showed that he was at a loss; he could not help feeling amused inwardly. Kangxi thought, “I am talking about big principles with this little ruffian, how can he understand? If I continued on, I am afraid he would yawn repeatedly.” Thereupon he waved his left hand and said, “You may go.” But his right hand was still holding the book, his mouth was still reading aloud, “To think that the authority over the land under the heavens, good or bad, is in my hand, I must not use the world’s goodness entirely for myself, and use the world’s badness entirely for the people. I must not dare being selfish in employing the people under the heavens, must not dare to use it for my own benefit. If I use my private life to be fair to the world, only then will the shame gone, and long-term peace come, regarding the world as the most important estate, to be passed on to my offspring, for endless enjoyment.”

To Wei Xiaobao, all these were unfathomable mystery; but the Emperor was reading a book, so he had no choice but to repeatedly praised him, how could he not sing Kangxi’s praise from the side? Seeing Kangxi putting down the book, he asked, “Your Majesty, what is the book talking about? What is so good about it?”

Kangxi replied, “He said that the person who became the Emperor was calling the people under the heavens not to be selfish, must not seek their own benefit, only he, the Emperor, may have no regard for others, as well as have everything for self and selfish profit; he could go as far as saying that he was the great ruler of the world. At first the person who became the emperor did not feel right, he felt rather ashamed instead, but later on the habit became nature, unexpectedly he thought he was absolutely right, other people were wrong.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This man must be talking about bad emperor. Applied to a raw bird fish soup emperor like Your Majesty, what he said is wrong.”

“Hey, hey!” Kangxi said, “Everybody who became the emperor thought that he was a raw bird fish soup; who has ever resigned himself to be called a cruel, tyrannical ruler? To say nothing of by each muddleheaded ruler’s side, there must be a lot of shameless high-ranking ministers to sing him praises, elevating the muddleheaded ruler to be a raw bird fish soup.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Fortunately Your Majesty is genuine goods at fair prices, an unalterable raw bird fish soup. Otherwise, your servant would become one of those shameless high-ranking ministers.”

Kangxi’s left foot stomped the ground and he said with a laugh, “You have a lot of shame; get your egg out of here!”

“Your Majesty,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant wants to ask for your grace, would Your Majesty grant your servant a leave, so that I can go to Yangzhou to see my mother.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You have this filial piety; that is how it should be. Besides, ‘riches and honor do not return to the homeland, it is like wearing brocade clothes on a night walk’. You ought to go back in grandiose. The sooner you leave, the sooner you will return. Bring your mother back to Beijing. I will have an imperial decree to confer your mother the title of one-pin rank grand madame. Your deceased old man’s name, submit a report to the Ministry of Appointments, let him be conferred an official position posthumously. We should have had this matter dealt with the last time you went to Yangzhou, it’s just that Wu Sangui happened to rebel at the same time that it is delayed until now.”

He thought that most likely Wei Xiaobao did not know how to write his father’s name, and thus he did not inquire. Although Kangxi was brilliant, in this matter he only ‘knew one but did not know two’. While it was true that Wei Xiaobao did not know how to write his father’s name, the actual fact was: he did not even know who his father was.

Wei Xiaobao thanked Kangxi for his grace, and left the Palace. He returned to his mansion to fetch the million and a half taels banknotes, and handed it over to the Ministry of Revenue’s ‘silver warehouse’. And then he went to the Ministry of War to return the official seal of authority of the ‘Great General Fuyuan’. Lastly, he asked Su Quan to pick a name of his father on his behalf, as well as names of his ancestors up to the third generation, along with their wives and concubines. He had everything copied clearly, and then he submitted it to the Ministry of Appointments to be conferred posthumous, inherited, government-appointed hereditary official title of ‘Yan Feng Si’ [lit. officer in charge of examining titles bestowed by the imperial court].

Everything was settled, travel preparation was completed. Wei Xiaobao was quite popular in the imperial court, plus he was a grand relative of the holy family; princes, dukes and high-ranking ministers held a send-off banquet for him, it was very lively. At the point of departure Wei Xiaobao remembered the million and a half taels he donated, and his heart ached; thereupon he sent his personal guards to extort more than ten thousand taels from Zheng Keshuang as the ‘old debt’. Only then did they leave the Capital.

From Han Lu [Han Street] they reached Tongzhou [district, east of Beijing], where they boarded boats, and sailed along the canal southward, passing Tianjin, Linqing, crossing the Yellow River, passing Ji Ning, and one day arrived at Huaiyin [district, Jiangsu]. The official boat anchored at Siyangji [county, Jiangsu] to spend the night there.

Wei Xiaobao and his seven wives sat on the boat, chatting while having dinner. Su Quan said, “Xiaobao, tomorrow we will arrive at Huaiyin. In the old days, there was one man whose nobility title was Marquis of Huaiyin …”

“Um,” Wei Xiaobao said, “His rank was not as high as mine.”

Su Quan smiled and said, “That is not so. His original title was King, he was conferred the nobility title King. Afterwards the Emperor was afraid he might revolt, he removed his King title and changed it into Marquis of Huaiyin. This man was surnamed Han, given name Xin[3]. He was very famous.”

Wei Xiaobao slapped his thigh and said, “I know him. ‘Chasing after Han Xin under the dreary moon’, ‘Ambush from ten sides’, ‘Overlord need not worry about concubine’. All those plays have Han Xin in them.”

“Exactly,” Su Quan said, “This man was very capable, his meritorious service was very big, even a hero like the Overlord of Chu was defeated under his hands. It’s a pity that his end was not good, he was killed by the Emperor and the Empress.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “What a pity, what a pity! Why did the Emperor kill him? Did he want to rebel?”

Su Quan shook her head and said, “No, he did not. The Emperor was jealous of his ability, he was afraid he might rebel.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Fortunately my ability is very low, in everything His Majesty is better than I am, and thus he can’t possibly be jealous of me. I have only one thing better than His Majesty, apart from this, in everything else I absolutely fall short of him.”

Ah Ke asked, “In which aspect you are better than the Emperor?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I have seven wives as flower as jade, in all the world, you won’t find the eighth of such beautiful women. His Majesty’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens, I, Wei Xiaobao has romantic good fortune that fills the heaven. We, the ruler and his minister, two people each has his own strength, hence we are somewhat even.” He had thick skin and loved to toot his horn; the seven wives roared in laughter.

Fang Yi said with a laugh, “The Emperor’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens, you are the Great Sage the Equal of Heaven[4].”

“Right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am the Beautiful Monkey King of Shuilian [water curtain] Cave, leading a bunch of female monkeys and little monkeys, passing the days freely and leisurely.”

While they were chatting and laughing, outside the cabin a servant said in a loud and clear voice, “Reporting to Gongye: there are guests requesting an audience.”

The maid entered to present four visiting cards. Su Quan received the cards and said in low voice, “The visitors are Gu Yanwu, Zha Jizuo, Huang Lizhou, and Lu Liuliang, four gentlemen.”

“It’s Mr. Gu and his friends,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I must see them.” After instructing his servant to receive the guests in the large boat’s cabin and serve them tea, he immediately changed his clothes and came out to meet them.

In the past, Gu, Zha and Huang, three men were arrested by Wu Zhirong in Yangzhou and nearly lost their lives; fortunately Wei Xiaobao saved them. As for Lu Liuliang, it was the very first time that they met. Behind him there were two young men in their twenties; they were Lu Liuliang’s sons, Lu Baozhong and Lu Yizhong. After greeting each other, they sat down as host and guests. Lu Baozhong and Lu Yizhong stood behind their father.

Gu Yanwu spoke in low voice, “Wei Xiangzhu, this time we came to pay you a visit, there is one very important thing we’d like to discuss with you. There are numerous eyes and ears in Siyangji, it’s inconvenient for us to talk. Is it possible to ask you to instruct the boat to sail out several li and anchor in some secluded, uninhabited place where we can talk?”

In the Turtle-slaying Assembly in Hejianfu that year, Gu Yanwu was elected the Chief Military Counselor by the heroes of various paths; in Jianghu, his reputation was very resounding, Wei Xiaobao had always been admiring him. He immediately went back to tell Su Quan and the others about their plan. Su Quan said, “We can’t be overly cautious. Our boat will follow. Anything happen, we can provide good support.”

Thinking about he was going with Gu Yanwu and the others to ‘some secluded, uninhabited place’, in his heart Wei Xiaobao was actually rather scared. With the seven wives escorting him, he felt he had something to depend on; thereupon he repeatedly agreed and ordered the boatmen to sail southward, telling them that they wanted to drink wine and admire the full moon amidst the elegant scenery along the canal. When Duke Wei was in a refined and elegant frame of mind, he might come up with some good poems. The remaining boats stayed in Siyangji, waiting for their return.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the big boat to accompany the guests. The two boats sailed south for about seven, eight li; they saw flat and empty land on both sides of the river, illuminated by the bright moon in the sky, no other human beings everywhere they looked. Wei Xiaobao ordered the boatmen to drop the anchor and told the boatmen and the attendants to go to the stern, so that they would not spoil Duke Wei and the six gifted scholars’ mood in creating poetry.

When there were no other people around, Gu Yanwu and the others expressed their gratitude once again for Wei Xiaobao’s great kindness in saving their lives in the past. Wei Xiaobao modestly responded, and then he told them about how Wu Liuqi and Chen Jinnan met their ends one after another. Everybody sighed endlessly. Gu Yanwu said, “The rumors floating around in Jianghu all said that Wei Xiangzhu coveted riches and honor and murdered your master to gain glory. But Huang Xiong, Zha Xiong and Xiongdi knew that it was not true. The three of us were total strangers to Wei Xiangzhu, yet unexpectedly Wei Xiangzhu was willing to brave great danger by killing that servant Wu Zhirong and saved our lives. How can someone whose righteousness reaches the clouds and the sky murder his benevolent master?”

Zha Jizuo said, “When we heard Jianghu friends mentioning this matter, we always do our best to defend Wei Xiangzhu against the accusation. But they said that Tatar Emperor’s imperial edict said so, how could it be false? Yet we know that Wei Xiangzhu live in Cao camp but have your heart in Han camp, you cannot always explain everything to the outsiders. From the beginning all heroes and warriors must undertake a task despite criticism. In order for Duke of Zhou to be a great sage great virtuous person, he still had to manage Cai spreading rumors, much less other people? For this reason, Wei Xiangzhu need not take it to heart.” Wei Xiaobao did not understand what he was talking about, the Duke of Zhou managing Cai and so on; he could only say ‘yes, yes’.

Lu Liuliang said, “Wei Xiangzhu made painstaking effort in planning great undertaking, actually you do not need to seek the people of the whole world’s understanding. As long as in the end you come out with a world-shaking achievement, everybody will understand that previously they have accused you wrongly.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “What kind of world-shaking achievement I can possibly do? Aiyo, not good, they want to persuade me to assassinate the Emperor. How can I ‘refuse three obstruct four’ [i.e. use all sorts of excuses], refuse five obstruct six toward them? My way out is already bolted.” He said, “Xiongdi does not have any ability, literary knowledge is even less, whatever I attempted to do, I always did not get the desired outcome on both sides. Xiongdi is very discouraged, this time I am ‘announcing old age and returning home’ [i.e. to retire from public life]; later on I won’t do anything.”

“Pft,” Lu Yizhong saw that Wei Xiaobao was a few years younger than himself, yet unexpectedly he spoke about ‘announcing old age and returning home’, he stifled a laughter, but in the end could not help bursting in laughter. Gu Yanwu and the others were also amused; they looked at each other with smile on their faces.

Huang Lizhou smiled and said, “Wei Xiangzhu is a young hero, your future prospect is immeasureable. Ignorant people’s temporary misunderstanding needs not be bothered about.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This one comparatively has to be regarded as important. Mr. Huang, you wrote a good book, called … called … Ming … Ming something something Huahualulu?”

Huang Lizhou was greatly surprised, “This man’s eyes cannot recognize the letter ‘T’, how did he know about my book?” He said, “It’s ‘Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu’.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In your book there are a lot of words reprimanding the Emperor, is that right?”

Huang Lizhou and the others where shocked; they all thought, “Even this man knew about it. I’m afraid there will be another big literary inquisition.”

Gu Yanwu said, “It’s not reprimanding the Emperor. In his book Huang Xiong wrote his clear and penetrating opinion, he explained which road the ruler ought to take.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “These days His Majesty read Mr. Huang’s book every day, he did not stop praising you for writing the book so well, maybe he is going to invite you to become a Zhuangyuan, become the prime minister.”

“Wei Xiangzhu is making fun of me,” Huang Lizhou said, “How can there be such thing?”

Thereupon Wei Xiaobao explained how Kangxi greatly praised the ‘investigative record of Ming-barbarians dealing’; only then did everybody feel relieved. Huang Lizhou said, “Turns out the Tatar Emperor is able to distinguish right from wrong.”

Wei Xiaobao seized the opportunity by saying, “That’s right. The Young Emperor said, although he is not a raw bird fish soup, compared to those Ming Dynasty Emperors, he is not necessarily inferior; perhaps he is even a bit better. With him being the Emperor, common people throughout the world pass their days better than during the Ming Dynasty. Xiongdi is unlearned, I have no knowledge and experience, I don’t know if what he was saying is right.”

Gu, Zha, Huang, and Lu, four people ‘you look at me, I look at you’, recalling each emperor of the Ming Dynasty; from the founder of the Dynasty, Ming Taizu all the way to the last emperor of the dynasty, Emperor Chongzhen. If not a cruel tyrant, then it must be a muddleheaded emperor; which one was as good as Kangxi? These four people were the great scholars of the present age, they were well acquainted with history. Unwilling to rule out conscience, they could not help but nodding their head silently.

“Therefore,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “The Emperor is good, Tian Di Hui is also good. The Emperor wanted me to exterminate Tian Di Hui, I determined not to do it. Tian Di Hui brothers wanted me to assassinate the Emperor, I also made up my mind not to do it. The outcome is that both sides are blaming me. Xiongdi has thought it through from different angles, hence I want to ‘announce old age and return home’.”

“Wei Xiangzhu,” Gu Yanwu said, “We came this time, not to ask you to assassinate the Emperor.”

“That’s very good,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “As long as it is not assassinating the Emperor, Xiongdi will not shirk without dishonor in everything else. I wonder what four senior gentlemen, two young gentlemen want me to do?”

Gu Yanwu pushed the cabin’s window open, looked out, and saw that all around them was peace and quiet. He looked back and said, “We came to persuade Wei Xiangzhu to be the Emperor!”

‘Bing, bang!’ the teacup in Wei Xiaobao’s hand fell down to the floor and shattered. He was shocked. “This … this is not a joke?” he asked.

“Definitely not a joke,” Zha Jizuo replied, “A few of us have been deliberating over this matter for several months, we all feel that the Great Ming’s fortune is gone, common people throughout the world will not go back to the previous Ming. In all honesty all the emperors of the former Ming had caused too much suffering to the common people, everybody remembers them with hate. But the Tatars are occupying our Han family’s rivers and mountains, they want Han people all over the world to have our heads shaved and tie a braid, changing our clothes to barbarians’ attire; this is always hard to swallow. Wei Xiangzhu holds the power over the military, plus you are the Tatar Emperor’s trusted aide. As long as you are willing to raise the righteous banner and stand on your own feet as the Emperor, the people throughout the world will certainly look at you for direction.”

Wei Xiaobao was still in panic mode; he repeatedly shook his hand and said, “I … I don’t have that kind of good fortune, I cannot be the emperor.”

Gu Yanwu said, “Wei Xiangzhu always uphold justice, your good fortune is even more profound. Look around the world, if not you becoming the emperor, among the Han people there is nobody that has this kind of good fortune.”

Lu Liuliang said, “We, Han people, are a hundred times more numerous than the Manchus. One hundred people against their one person, how can we not achieve victory? That day Wu Sangui rose in rebellion, it was only because he forfeited the Great Ming’s rivers and mountains and became a big traitor that the Han people all over the world gnashed our teeth in bitter hatred and thus he could not succeed. Wei Xiangzhu has the heaven and the people on your side, recently you pacified Luocha, setting up an amazing merit to China, your prestige is rising, like the sun in the middle of the day. As soon as Wei Xiangzhu nod your head, we will immediately contact the heroes and warriors of Jianghu, together we draw a plan for this great undertaking.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was thumping madly, not even in his wildest dream would he expect that anybody would exhort him to be the Emperor. After staring blankly for half a day, he finally said, “I came from a small hoodlum background, my expertise is in cursing people and gambling. I became a general and a high-ranking officer, already other people are not happy about it; how can I be the Emperor? The Son of Heaven is ordained by the Heaven, he has to have gargantuan good fortune. My birthdate characters[5] [used in fortune-telling] are not right, the fortune-teller has already calculated that if I became the Emperor, I will not live pass three days.”

Hearing him talking nonsense, Lu Yizhong stifled another laughter. Zha Jizuo said, “What are Wei Xiangzhu’s birthdate characters? Let us find a brilliant fortune-teller and have him make calculation.” He knew that Wei Xiaobao did not have any profound knowledge, hence reasoning with him, they could only speak about little righteousness, not big righteousness. Describing virtuous cause to him, he would only understand little potential, and would not understand big potential. But if they bribed a fortune-teller to say that he was indeed the Son of Heaven ordained by the Heaven, that he received the mandate of Heaven to sit on the Dragon Throne, he might believe instead.

Who would have thought that Wei Xiaobao said, “The time of my birth and my birth characters are known only to my mother. When we get to Yangzhou, I am going to ask her.”

Everybody knew he did not mean it; he was merely making excuses. Lu Liuliang said, “Among the heroes and warriors, most do not confine themselves to particulars. Han Gaozu [first Han emperor Liu Bang] was open-minded and generous; compared to Wei Xiangzhu he was a lot more easygoing.” In his heart he said, “You came from a small hoodlum background, it is nothing. Han Gaozu came from big hoodlum background; he cursed people and gambled, compared to you he was a lot more troublesome, yet in the end he became the King who founded the Han Dynasty.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his hand and said, “We all are good friends, let me tell you the truth.” While saying that, he stroked his own head. “This guy here has a mouth,” he continued, “This mouth still want to eat damned several dozen of years of rice. This guy also has a pair of eyes, they like to watch a play and look at beautiful women. On it grew a pair of ears, they want to listen to stories, listen to songs. If I became the Emperor, this guy most likely cannot be protected, once it is chopped down, everything will collapse silly. Besides, becoming an emperor is not much fun. Taiwan suffers a hurricane, he was anxious; someone in Yunnan rose up in rebellion, he had to mind him. The job as an emperor is exhausting but not fun. I absolutely don’t want to do it.”

Gu Yanwu and the others looked at each other in dismay; they felt what he said made a lot of sense. Since Wei Xiaobao did not have any ambition in his heart, and he was unwilling to step forward bravely for the sake of the country and the people, to move his heart was indeed a very difficult matter.

After half a day, Gu Yanwu said, “This is a big matter, it is not easy to make decision in such a short time …” Speaking to this point, suddenly they heard faint hoof beats, several dozen of riders approached from the north along the western bank; in the dead of the night, the sound was twice as clear.

Huang Lizhou said, “Very late at night, how can there be a large group of riders?”

Lu Liuliang said, “Could it be the night patrol?”

Zha Jizuo shook his head and said, “Can’t be. Night patrol will ride their horses very slow, not galloping like this. Could it be Jianghu visitor?”

While they were still talking, they heard several dozen more riders on the eastern bank. The canal was not too wide, when there were horses galloping on both sides of the river, the people on the boat could hear it clearly. The boatmen of the boat on the rear received order to use the punting pole to get two boats close to each other. Su Quan and Shuang’er leaped onto the bow.

Xianggong,” Su Quan said, “I am afraid the incoming people harbor malicious intentions, let’s gather everybody together.”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Mr. Gu and the others are old gentlemen, they don’t look like lechers. Everybody come in, even if they see them it won’t be a big deal.”

In their hearts Gu Yanwu and the others said, “Rubbish!” They felt it was inappropriate for them to meet the females in Wei Xiaobao’s family; therefore, they moved to the stern. The Princess, Ah Ke and the others, seven women, carried their children into the bow cabin.

They heard over the dike of the eastern and western banks the whistling sound of bamboo whistle calling and answering each other. Wei Xiaobao happily said, “It’s Tian Di Hui whistle.”

Several dozen of riders on both sides galloped toward the official boats. From the western bank someone called out, “Wei Xiaobao, come out!”

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao cursed in low voice, “No respect for seniors at all, they don’t even call ‘Wei Xiangzhu’ once.”

He was about to walk toward the bow, Su Quan pulled him back and said, “Let me question them clearly.” Walking toward the door of the cabin she asked, “Which heroes are here to see Wei Xianggong?”  Looking toward both banks, she saw all riders were wearing dark green cloth headband, while holding weapons in their hands.

The leader of the people on the western bank said, “We are from Tian Di Hui.”

Su Quan lowered her voice, “What is the secret code when you meet Tian Di Hui people?”

Wei Xiaobao went to the cabin’s door and said in a loud and clear voice, “Five men separately compose a poem, nobody knows the Hong Ying [lit. great courage. See also Chapter 8 for more info on Tian Di Hui.] on their body.”

The man on the horse replied, “That is Tian Di Hui’s old secret code. Ever since Wei Xiaobao betrayed the Society and surrendered to the enemy, murdered his master to seek honor, all the secret code of the Society have been changed.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Who are you?” he asked, “How can you say such thing?”

The man said, “Are you Wei Xiaobao?”

Wei Xiaobao thought there was no use in denying; he said, “I am Wei Xiaobao.”

The man said, “Then I can tell you this: I am from Great Transformation Hall of Tian Di Hui, my surname is Shu.”

“Turns out it’s Shu Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “There is a lot of misunderstanding here. Is your honorable Hall’s Li Xiangzhu around?”

The man surnamed Shu hatefully said, “Your evil crimes fill the heavens. Li Xiangzhu died of anger because of you.”

The people on the western bank shouted loudly, “Wei Xiaobao betrayed the Society and surrendered to the enemy, murdered his master to seek honor; Shu Dage does not need to talk to him too much. Today we are going to chop his body into ten thousand pieces, to avenge Chen Zongduozhu and Li Xiangzhu.”

When the people on the eastern bank heard this, they also shouted in loud voices. Suddenly ‘whoosh!’ someone threw a piece of flying locust rock. Wei Xiaobao hastily withdrew into the cabin, while groaning inwardly, “Turns out Great Transformation Hall’s Li Xiangzhu has passed away; without distinguishing red-blue or black-white these brothers are acting recklessly, what should I do?”

He heard a series of ‘pi pi pai pai’ on the sail of their boat, secret projectiles from both sides continuously arrived. Finally the official boat stopped in the middle of the canal, the distance from either side was equally far, some secret projectiles fell into the water, even if they reached the sail, the momentum was very weak. Wei Xiaobao said, “This is ‘straw boat to borrow arrows’, I … I am Lu Su, I can only trembling with fear. Which one of you is Zhuge … Zhuge Liang? Quickly … quickly think of a plan.”

Seeing the secret projectiles were shot one after another, Gu Yanwu and the others, along with the boatmen, were hiding in the hold of the boat. Suddenly a flame flickered, several flaming arrows were shot toward the sail. Immediately the sail caught fire. “Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, “It’s desperately serious, Wei Xiaobao is on fire!”

Su Quan shouted loudly, “Mr. Gu Yanwu is in here, you must not be rude.” She thought that Gu Yanwu’s prestige in Jianghu was quite resounding, presumably Tian Di Hui people would not dare to offend him. But amid the noise over the river, her voice was drowned.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Wives, let us shout together, ‘Mr. Gu Yanwu is here!’ One, two, three!”

Seven madams followed after Wei Xiaobao, “Mr. Gu Yanwu is here!”

After they had shouted three times, the noise of the people ashore gradually died down, the secret projectiles attack also stopped at once. The man surnamed Shu asked in loud voice, “Is Mr. Gu Yanwu on the boat?”

Gu Yanwu stood on the bow, cupped his fist and said, “Xiongdi Gu Yanwu is here.”

“Aiyo!” the man surnamed Shu cried out, and hastily issued his order, “Brothers with water skill, quickly jump into the river and tow the boat to the shore.”

They heard continuous splashing noise as dozens of Society members jumped into the canal and pushed and pulled the official boat toward the western bank. By this time the fire on the boat was burning high. Shuang’er pulled Wei Xiaobao and took him jumping to the shore, the remaining people also went ashore one after another. With unsheathed weapons in their hands, Tian Di Hui people surrounded them all around.

The man surnamed Shu cupped his fist and bowed to Gu Yanwu; he said, “Zaixia Tian Di Hui Great Transformation Hall’s Shu Hualong paying his respect to Mr. Gu Yanwu.”

Gu Yanwu cupped his fist to return the salute. An old man from Tian Di Hui bowed and said, “That year in the Turtle-Slaying Assembly of Hejianfu, the heroes all over the world elected Mr. Gu as Zong Junshi [Chief Military Counselor], Zaixia has seen Mr. Gu’s face once. We brothers are being reckless, please pardon our offense.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are indeed too reckless.”

The old man said in stern voice, “I am talking to Mr. Gu; who spoke to you, this little traitor?” Stretching out his hand, he wanted to grab Wei Xiaobao’s chest. Su Quan blocked with her left hand, followed by a hand-flip, she caught and twisted the man’s wrist; borrowing the momentum, she pushed forward. The old man was unable to hold his stand; he was thrown down outward. Two Tian Di Hui members hastily rushed forward to hold him up.

Gu Yanwu called out, “If you have something to talk, let’s talk. Don’t use force, don’t use force!”

By this time the inside of the cabin had already caught fire. Under the blazing fire the faces of the people on the shore could be seen clearly. Su Quan felt that she and Shuang’er had superior martial art skill, to protect their husband and break the siege was not a difficult matter. Tian Di Hui people only wanted to deal with Wei Xiaobao, one person; all they need to do was to ensure he could escape, these Jianghu warriors would certainly not give trouble to women and children. Thereupon she and Shuang’er stood on Wei Xiaobao’s left and right. They already had their eyes on three horses, as soon as the talk reached a deadlock, they would immediately make their move to snatch the horses.

Gu Yanwu pulled Shu Hualong’s hand and said, “Shu Dage, please step aside to talk.” The two of them walked off several zhang. Shu Hualong listened to Gu Yanwu’s explanation, and then with a loud voice he called six or seven names to come forward. Looking at their appearance, these men were the leaders of this group. The old man who was thrown down by Su Quan was one of them, the remaining forty or so men were still surrounding Wei Xiaobao all around.

Wei Xiaobao said, “My valuables in the boat are indeed not a few, you burned it down. Hey, hey, if the Great Transformation Hall wants to compensate for my loss, it will break your money coffer big time.” Some of the people raised their sabers to threaten; some opened their mouths in cursing. Wei Xiaobao did not pay them any attention; he expected Gu Yanwu would explain the truth to Shu Hualong.

As expected, when Shu Hualong and the other Great Transformation Hall leaders heard Gu Yanwu’s explanation, they found out that there were many twists and turns in this story, Wei Xiaobao worked as a high-ranking officer in the imperial court, although they did not understand everything, but the murder of Zongduozhu Chen Jinnan was not done by him, hence the bitter hatred in their hearts disappeared.

They came together to him. Shu Hualong cupped his fist and said, “Wei Xiangzhu, just now we misunderstood you. If not for Mr. Gu’s enlightenment, we all nearly committed an offense.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “To really offend me is not that easy.” While saying that, he leaned sideways, unleashing the ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ [divine line hundred changes] he charged to the left, passed through to the right, went up and down twice or three times, and already he was about five, six zhang away from the Great Transformation Hall’s encirclement, and then with one leap he landed on a horseback.

Shu Hualong and the others were shocked; nobody expected that his lightness skill was surprisingly marvelous beyond measure. This man had such an outstanding martial art, no wonder although he was young, he had become Tian Di Hui Green Wood Hall’s Xiangzhu. Admittedly famous master would produce brilliant student, Zongduozhu’s direct disciple indeed was not a small matter. That old man from Great Transformation Hall’s martial art was also very strong, the brothers had always admired him, but with one twist and one push by Su Quan, he had no room to parry, and was narrowly thrown down to the ground. It appeared that each and every one of the other six ladies was also martial art expert. If they really had to fight, although their sides had more people, perhaps they would be beaten and had their heads and faces filthy with grime.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Excuse me, I must leave now!” Raising the reins, he galloped the horse away. But after rushing to the west about a dozen zhang, he swiftly leaped down from the horse and charged northwest; slipping to the left ducking to the right, somehow he returned to the encirclement and stood at his original spot with a grin on his face. Nobody could see clearly when did he come in.

Tian Di Hui members looked at each other, overwhelmed with amazement. Shu Hualong cupped his fist and said, “Wei Xiangzhu’s martial art is superb. My utmost admiration, my utmost admiration.”

Wei Xiaobao also cupped his fist and said with a laugh, “It was just a shameful display.”

Shu Hualong said, “Mr. Gu has explained to us that Wei Xiangzhu live in Cao camp but have your heart in Han camp, and is about to attempt a world-shaking great undertaking, to raise aspiration of the Han people throughout the world. When Wei Xiangzhu is ready to stage an uprising, although we, the Great Transformation Hall’s brothers, do not have much skill, as long as Wei Xiangzhu has anything for us to do, we will go through water and tread on fire, under no circumstances will we decline to do it.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Shu Hualong noticed Wei Xiaobao’s unenthusiastic expression. Suddenly he raised his right index finger, ‘pop!’ he poked his own left eye. Immediately blood flowed out. Everybody screamed in fright. Wei Xiaobao, Gu Yanwu, and the others asked in alarm, “Shu Dage, what … what are you doing?”

Upright and unafraid Shu Hualong replied, “Xiongdi has offended Wei Xiangzhu, violating our Society’s commandment against disrespecting superior. I should have poked both of my eyeballs as a reprimand that I have eyes but failed to see. But Xiongdi wants to leave the other eye, I want to see how will Wei Xiangzhu accomplish the world-shaking great undertaking in the end.”

The old man said awe-inspiringly, “Supposing Mr. Gu and the others were deceived, Wei Xiangzhu only talked without actually doing it, all along he covets riches and honor, and only wanted to be a high-ranking officer; then what?”

Shu Hualong said, “Then Wei Xiangzhu also has to dig his own eyeball to compensate for mine.” Finished speaking he turned to Gu Yanwu and Wei Xiaobao, bowed and saluted, and said, “We are waiting for good news from Wei Xiangzhu.” Waving his left hand, everybody withdrew, mounted their horses and galloped away.

The old man turned his head around and called out, “Wei Xiangzhu, when you are home, ask your Niang [mother], is your Laozi [old man] a Han, or a Manchu? As a human being you must not forget your own ancestor.”

The bamboo whistle was blown, the crowd of warriors on the eastern bank also galloped away southward. In a short period of time, the riders on both banks had completely gone. The boat on the water was still burning.

Gu Yanwu sighed and said, “These brothers are still suspicious toward Wei Xiongdi. They are warriors of the wilderness, inevitably their speech is boorish, but they have loyal and righteous hearts, other people cannot help but feeling respect. Wei Xiangzhu, we have not finished what we wanted to talk to you about. We only hope that you will not forget the Great Han’s descendants. We are taking our leave now, I am sure we’ll meet again some day.” Finished speaking he cupped his fist, and then with Huang, Zha and the Lu’s they bade farewell.

Wei Xiaobao stood dejectedly at the riverbank, the autumn wind was bringing slight chill, the fire on the official boat gradually died down, occasionally the burning boat emitted some crackling noise, the flame roared for a moment, and then slowly getting smaller and smaller. He mumbled to himself, “What should I do? What should I do?”

Su Quan said, “Luckily we have the other boat. Let us go back to Siyangji, we’ll think about it and make decision later.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That old man told me to go home and ask my Niang, my Laozi is a Han or a Manchu. Hey, hey, it’s not a bad idea.”

“Xiaobao,” Su Quan consoled him, “This kind of uncouth people’s random talk, why do you take it seriously? Let us get on the boat.”

Wei Xiaobao stood motionless, his heart was in turmoil. Looking down, he saw drops of blood on the ground, blood from Shu Hualong’s self-inflicted wound on his left eye. Suddenly he cried out, “Laozi don’t want to do it, Laozi don’t want to do it!”

The seven madams were startled. Wei Shuangshuang was already fast asleep in her mother’s arms, because of his loud shout, she woke up with a start and cried.

Wei Xiaobao said in a loud voice, “The Emperor forces me to strike Tian Di Hui, Tian Di Hui forces me to strike the Emperor. Laozi’s feet are treading on two boats, both sides do not give me any fruitful outcome to reward my labor. One side wants to chop my head, the other side wants to dig my eyeball. How many heads and how many eyeballs can one person have? You come to chop, I come to dig, what else will Laozi have left? I quit. No matter what Laozi don’t want to do it anymore!”

Seeing his abnormal expression, Su Quan advised him in tender voice, “Becoming an imperial court official, your days are spent in fear and always on edge, there is nothing fun about it. Becoming a Tian Di Hui Xiangzhu is also not fun to do. You decide to quit, nothing can’t be better than that.”

Wei Xiaobao happily said, “So all of you advise me to quit?”

Su Quan, Fang Yi, Ah Ke, Zeng Rou, Mu Jianping, and Shuang’er, six women nodded their heads. Only Princess Jianning said, “You have only achieved dukedom, how can you think of quitting your government position? You must be conferred the title King, becoming chief assistant great learning scholar [not sure, 首辅大学士], have both civil and military authorities, and then it would be a good time to announce your retirement. Besides, if you resign your post right now, I am sure Huangdi Gege won’t allow it.”

Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “I don’t want to be government official, I don’t need the Emperor to care about it. He is no more than my Dajiuzi [wife’s older brother]. Damn it, why bother and talk too much? I don’t even want this Dajiuzi anymore.” Not wanting the Emperor as Dajiuzi means he did not want the Princess to be his wife. The Princess was scared; how could she dare to talk too much?

Seeing his seven wives did not have anything else to say, immediately Wei Xiaobao was happy and excited. He said, “The Great Transformation Hall burned my boat, they really burned it well, burn it swell, burn it all the way to hell. We can quietly hide, the local officials will report to the imperial court, they will say that I am burned to death by the bandits. From now on my Dajiuzi can’t find me anymore.”

Su Quan and the others clapped together, only the Princess was silent. Immediately the eight of them discussed a plan. Wei Xiaobao, the Princess, and Shuang’er, three people would change their clothes, go to Huaiyinan inn and wait there. Su Quan would lead Fang Yi, Ah Ke, Mu Jianping and Zeng Rou, four women, to go back to Siyangji to collect the gold, silver and valuables, as well as other things they wanted to take from the remaining boats, and then spread rumor that Duke Wei’s official boat was attacked by a gang of bandits in the night, the boat was burned, the people perished. However, those several boatmen saw that Wei Xiaobao did not die; they would create danger later. In Su Quan’s opinion, they should be killed to shut their mouths, and have their bodies abandoned at the riverbank; then it would be even more believable. Mu Jianping could not bear to do it, she insisted on not murdering the innocent.

“Very well,” Su Quan said, “Jianping Meizi has good conscience, Laotianye will bless you with many healthy sons. Xiaobao, I’ll lift my sword to kill you, you run into the woods, scream loudly, pretend that I am killing you.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are a brutish woman, you want to murder your own husband?” Raising his voice he cried out, “Murder, murder!” And started to run. After running in circle several times, he fled to the woods. With a sword in her hand, Su Quan ran after him into the woods. They heard Wei Xiaobao screamed, “Help, help! He …” the last ‘help’ was abruptly cut-off and then suddenly he went silent.

Mu Jianping was fully aware that they were pretending, but hearing Wei Xiaobao’s mournful cry, she could not refrain her heart from thumping madly. “Shuang’er Meizi,” she asked in a low voice, “It’s … it’s not real, is it?”

Shuang’er said, “Don’t be afraid. Nat … naturally it’s not real.” But she could not help feeling afraid herself.

They saw Su Quan walked out of the woods with the sword still in her hand; she called out, “Kill all the boatmen!”

All along the boatmen were squatting on the shore. Seeing Tian Di Hui people set the boat on fire, and Su Quan killing Wei Jueye, they were already trembling with fear. Seeing Su Quan came with sword in her hand to kill them, they scattered in all directions to protect their lives; instantly they all disappeared without a trace.

Shuang’er was worried over Wei Xiaobao, she rushed toward the woods, and saw him lying on the ground, motionless. Shuang’er was so scared that her body and soul separated, thinking how could she kill him for real? Throwing herself on him she called out, “Xianggong, Xianggong!”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao’s body was stiff, she panicked even more. Hastily she reached out to lift him up. Suddenly Wei Xiaobao opened up his arms and embraced her tightly, while calling out, “Great success, you deserve a kiss!”

Husband and wives, eight people proceeded according to plan; they fetched their belongings, and continued on to Yangzhou in disguise. After picking up Wei Xiaobao’s mother, the whole family went to Yunnan. Henceforth they lived incognito, spending their free and leisure days in Dali city.

In his free time, Wei Xiaobao often felt bored, and remembered the huge amount of treasures hidden in Mount Luding under the city of Yakesa that had not been dug yet. He thought that if he could be the richest man in the world, he would be perfectly satisfied. However, remembering his friendship with Kangxi, he could not bear to sever his dragon’s vein.

Kangxi was well aware of Wei Xiaobao’s character and ability; he knew he would not be easily harmed by the bandits, let alone even though they searched, they could not find his body. Hereafter Kangxi unceasingly sent people on open enquiries and secret search, yet there were no result.

Later generation historians wrote an account on Kangxi went down to Jiangnan six times, with the purpose of inspecting the work on Yellow River. But he had never been to Jiangnan before; why was it that as soon as Wei Xiaobao went missing, that very same year he went to Jiangnan? If he was inspecting the river work, why did he go as far as Hangzhou? Why did each time he stop over in Yangzhou for so long? And why did each time he send out a large number of Imperial Bodyguards to every brothel, casino, teahouse and wine shop to inquire about Wei Xiaobao? When the inquiry failed to get any result, why was he depressed?

Based on later generation research, the ‘Hong Lou Meng’ [Dream of Red Mansions] author Cao Xueqin’s paternal grandfather Cao Yin was originally an Imperial Bodyguard, who was once serving under Wei Xiaobao’s command. Later on Kangxi sent him to Suzhou’s weaving industry, and also appointed him to be in charge of Jiangning’s weaving industry, ordering him to set his headquarters in a bustling city in Jiangnan, to enable him to search for news of Wei Xiaobao in the neighboring areas.

That day when Wei Xiaobao finally reached Yangzhou, he brought his wives, sons and daughter to Lovely Spring Courtyard to see his mother. Mother and child met in person, their joy was unbearable. Wei Chunfang saw her seven daughter-in-laws were all as beautiful as flower and as jade; she thought, “Xiaobao, this little thief’s eyesight in selecting women is not bad. If he opened up a courtyard, he would certainly make a lot of money.”

Wei Xiaobao pulled his mother into her room and asked, “Ma, actually, who is my laozi?”

With eyes opened wide Wei Chunfang said, “How do I know?”

Knitting his brows, Wei Xiaobao said, “Before you got me in your belly, what kind of visitors did you receive?”

“At that time your Niang was a very pretty woman,” Wei Chunfang replied, “Every day I received several visitors. How could I remember that many people?”

“Were all those visitors Han people?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Wei Chunfang replied, “Naturally there were some Han, but there were some Manchu officers, and some Mongolian military officers too.”

“Were there any foreign demons?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Wei Chunfang was angry. “You think your Niang is a rotten wh0re that I would receive foreign demons? ” she said, “Hot piece mama, if Luocha demons, red-haired demons came to Lovely Spring Courtyard, Laoniang would swat them out with a big broom.”

Wei Xiaobao was relieved. “That’s very good!”

Wei Chunfang looked up, recalling past events. She said, “At that time there was a Hui kid, he often came here looking for me; his appearance was very handsome. I often said in my heart, my Xiaobao has a good nose, it looks a bit like him.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There were Han, Manchu, Mongol and Hui men; was there any Tibetan?”

“Why not?” Wei Chunfang proudly said, “That Tibetan Lama, before he went to bed, he always chanted Buddhist scripture. While chanting, his eyeballs ran all over me. Your eyes are wily and too happy, just like that Lama’s!”

THE END.

[1] Fengyang flower-drum: folk art involving singing and dancing.

[2] Waiting for the Dawn (明夷待訪錄; Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu) was a summary of ideas about political reform that had been advanced by various scholars since the reign of Wan Li (1573–1619). The political tract begins with a condemnation of selfish autocratic rule, and declares that the world should belong to the people.

The third and fifth section of the work, “On Laws” and “Schools”, respectively, are particularly famous. In the former, Huang declares that all laws and regulatory bodies should be an outgrowth of local needs, not imposed by leaders with a political agenda. In the latter, he advocates using the education system as a semiofficial forum for educated opinion on public affairs.

In the sixth and seventh sections of the work, entitled “Selecting Good Men”, Huang also lays out his ideas for reform of the Imperial examination system. In later sections, he discusses equitable distribution of landholdings, the division between men of civil and military background, fiscal reform, and the problem of eunuch power during the Ming dynasty. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[3] Han Xin (-196BC), famous general of first Han emperor Liu Bang.

[4] Great Sage the Equal of Heaven was the self-proclaimed title of the Monkey King Sun Wukong (Journey to the West).

[5] Eight Characters of Birth Time or the Four Pillars of Destiny is conceptual term that describes the four components creating a person’s destiny or fate. The four components within the moment of birth are year, month, day, and hour. It is called BāZì (八字), Eight Characters, because each of the four pillars (representing the year, month, day, and hour of one’s birth respectively) is represented by two characters; one character for a Heavenly Stem and one character for an Earthly Branch. There are 10 Heavenly Stems (天干; TiānGān) and 12 Earthly Branches (地支; DìZhī). (Courtesy of Ace High)

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