Chapter 7 – Father and Son Reunion
Book 6 Chapter 7 – Father and Son Reunion
Stepping into the main street leading to the southern suburbs, the two boys immediately felt at ease. They saw millions of people hurriedly moved in the same direction. People and carts fighting over each other for the right of way, the sound of crying and shouting shook the sky. It was not clear anymore who were the soldiers and who were the thieves, everybody just wanted to rush somewhere else to avoid the calamity.
Xu Ziling was helping Kou Zhong walking through the crowd, groping in the dark, forging ahead. The sky was covered with the thick smoke and the debris blown by the wind from the direction of the imperial city. The grand city of Yangzhou has turned into the terrifying hell of Asura.
When they reached another intersection with a small alley, the crowd ahead of them was suddenly thrown into confusion; they heard someone yelled, “Hear the newly-appointed Commander-in-chief Yuwen Huaji’s order: go back immediately, otherwise you will be killed without any pardon.”
Everybody shouted together; ignoring the order, they walked even faster toward the port. Soon afterwards the flow of crowd was moving freely. Nobody knew where the renegade troops’ captain, who had just made the announcement, had gone to.
Kou Zhong spoke in Xu Ziling’s ear, “This is the power of the masses. As long as you know how to use it, it can display previously unimaginable efficacy.”
Xu Ziling let out a bitter laugh and said, “How about leaving some spiritual talk behind? I am having a hard time helping you walk.”
Before he even finished talking, a crowd of men and women pushed them from behind that they had no choice but to stagger along for a dozen paces. And when they looked up, they were already in the wilderness outside the city.
The two boys followed the tide of people, suffering untold hardships to leave the Jiang County behind, walking along the river toward Danyang. As long as they could find the biggest brothel along the Yangtze River, there was a good chance they would find information about Xiang Yushan, Susu and the others.
Kou Zhong’s internal injury was actually rather heavy. Fortunately, after taking a rest in the forest by the road for two days, Xu Ziling recovered his strength first, and then he put his hand to help Kou Zhong treating his injury.
After ten days, the two boys continued their journey. While nearing Danyang, they came face to face with a group of refugees and found out that Du Fuwei’s partner, Fu Gongyou has captured Danyang, so that Danyang residents fled out of the city to take refuge in the rural areas and other towns and counties nearby.
By the time the two boys arrived at a little town called Dingshi northeast of Danyang, nine out of ten houses were vacant; a dismal atmosphere just before a great catastrophe about to strike.
After finding someone he could ask, Kou Zhong came back and said, “Turns out five days after Yang Guang was killed, Li Zitong received the news and promptly brought his force to attack Yangzhou. That coward Yuwen Huagu did not dare to meet the enemy, he took a boat and slipped away. I heard that instead of going back to Luoyang, he went to Chang’an.”
After laughing aloud, he went on, “This kid still did not dare to be the emperor, he embraced Yang Huang’s nephew Qin Wang [king of Qin], and made him the emperor, so they are going to Chang’an to seek only ease and comfort.”
Xu Ziling, who was sitting by the well, sneered and said, “The road is long, the soldiers are weary; Yuwen Huaji’s reputation has never been good, everyone regards him as the emperor’s hunting dog, and now just the evil rebel dogs’ master. Basically he does not enjoy popular support. I don’t believe he can achieve any great things. Humph! Let’s not talk about Chang’an, even if he went to Luoyang, would Li Mi be willing to let him off?”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “Of course he is going to Chang’an! I heard the Li Clan is marching on to Chang’an, I just don’t know whether they won or they lost? That kid Li Shimin is really not a simple person.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, “Why do you care about so many things? Right now I am most concerned over Su Jie. Danyang is a mess, that need not be mentioned, I don’t know whether they have met some mishaps. Ol’ Die is not a lay practitioner of Buddhism. If he found out that we are in the city, it would not be much different than bumping into Yuwen Huaji.”
Kou Zhong said with a wry smile, “Even if everybody in Danyang has turned into a tiger, we still have to go there; otherwise we will lose contact with Su Jie.”
Having made up his mind, the two boys continued their journey.
The towns and villages closer to Danyang have all become disaster area after the fire. Their guess was that it was all the good craftsmanship of the defeated Sui troops who were running away from Danyang. Just these batches of defeated thief soldiers returning to the north have brought about such enormous suffering to the common people.
The two boys’ heart grew very heavy.
When the city of Danyang was in sight, the two boys discussed the best way to enter the city. Xu Ziling said, “Although Danyang city wall is a bit lower than Jiangdu’s, it is still at least several zhang high. Without hooks and ropes, even if we trained the Bird Crossing Technique for ten more years, we would still be unable to jump over it. So what do we do?”
By this time the two boys’ clothes were soiled and raggedy, their hair messy and their faces dirty. In this kind of critical period, no matter how much money they had, it would be useless.
Kou Zhong has been eating only wild fruits for the last twenty days, he lost the sense of taste in his mouth already, so he was dying to get into the city. “Nobody would expect we came to Danyang,” he said, “Plus right now we can’t even recognize ourselves. We might as well swagger into the city.”
Knitting his brows, Xu Ziling said, “The city guard is most strict in wartime, my fear is that there will be spies mingling among the people going into the city. If we simply crash in through the gate, I am afraid something wrong might happen.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Are you forgetting that we are Wulin martial art masters now? If we can’t crash in, we’ll simply run away, and then think of other ways to enter the city. Throw your ghost-headed saber first, let’s go!”
Surprisingly enough, when the two boys entered the city, they saw Du Fuwei’s Jianghuai Army were interrogating everybody at the gate; however, they only asked a couple of questions to the two boys. After finding out that they were refugees from Jiangdu, they simply let the two boys entered without any further questions.
As soon as they were inside, Kou Zhong excitedly said, “Finally our bad luck days are over. Ever since we came to Zhai Rang’s Big Boss Mansion, I don’t know whether it was because we were affected by his rotten bad luck, but we always had bad luck, so much so that we almost lost our lives in Jiangdu.”
Xu Ziling laughed and said, “All Zhai Rang’s people are dead, what else there is to say? You ought to look at it the other way: after so many calamities we did not die, our flood of good fortune is really the same as the heavens.”
Thinking that soon they were going to see Susu, Kou Zhong readily admitted, “Right, right! Our flood of good fortune is the same as the heavens. Oh, something is not right here! Didn’t Xiang kid say that after going into town, we need to walk straight for three hundred steps or so, and then we will see his mother’s something courtyard? We have walked for over a thousand steps, why didn’t we see that ghost signboard?”
Xu Ziling halted his steps in shock, “Oh no!” his voice trembled, “Did you remember we saw several buildings that were burned through the top? I am afraid it was right there.”
Like a couple little beggars the two boys sat on the street, staring blankly at the passers-by sparsely gracing the street, with occasional Jianghuai army soldier galloping on horseback, yet nobody paid any attention to these two boys. For the last few years there were people fleeing from calamity everywhere, this kind of sight no longer surprised them.
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “I really feel like ‘seeing one Sui soldier kill one, seeing two Sui soldiers kill a pair’. If they wanted to leave just leave! No one is stopping you; why would they burn everything before leaving? If they wanted to rob, why did they have to burn and kill?”
Xu Ziling indifferently, “Blaming the Heaven and blaming the Earth is useless. Logically speaking, that Xiang kid is highly intelligent, he must have a way to contact us.”
Kou Zhong dejectedly said, “We have been sitting here for half a day, not even half a person came to contact us. I wonder if we should just wait here forever, or should we go buy some clothes that are a bit brighter and neater, and then find a cure for our hungry tummy, and finally find a place to stay for the night?”
Xu Ziling straightened up and rose, “I know you don’t have the patience,” he said, “Just go!”
Xu Ziling was lying on the bed, practicing his internal energy cultivation. He only stopped when Kou Zhong came back.
This place was not a hotel or an inn, rather, it was a house abandoned by its master, who fled the calamity with his entire family, so that the two boys could use it as their temporary shelter.
Xu Ziling sat up. “Any news?” he asked.
Kou Zhong sat down beside him and said, “I left Beautiful Shifu’s markings all over the city. If that Xiang kid sees it, he will know that we are here.”
“How’s the situation outside?” Xu Ziling asked.
Kou Zhong shook his head, “Daytime is still all right,” he said, “But as soon as it is dark, everyone is afraid to go out into the streets. The shops are either closed for the day or closed for good. Ol’ Die’s men are truly disappointing, from time to time they break into the citizens’ houses to commit their evil deeds, angering the heavens and grieving the people. No wonder hearing the Jianghuai Army’s arrival, everybody ran away.”
“In my opinion,” Xu Ziling said, “That Xiang kid ought to be gone someplace else with Su Jie. Ol’ Die has so many enemies, Baling Bang could be one. Naturally Xiang kid wanted to preserve his head.”
While Kou Zhong was deep in thought, suddenly there was a knock on their door.
The two boys shivered in fear, they looked at each other in dismay.
Kou Zhong immediately sprang up and said, “Perhaps it’s Xiang kid, because I left secret marks to point out that we stay in this place.”
Xu Ziling was greatly delighted; he dashed toward the main gate, and standing behind the door, he called out, “Who is it?”
No response from the other side of the door.
Kou Zhong had a very bad feeling; he darted toward Xu Ziling and whispered in his ear, “Something’s wrong, let’s get out of here!”
But suddenly they heard a sigh coming from the middle of the hall.
The two boys’ scalp went numb; they turned around immediately, and saw their tall and thin old dad, still wearing his tall hat, with his hands behind his back, was standing in the middle of the hall, with his face devoid of any expression, he was coldly sizing the two boys up and down.
Among the people that Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling feared to meet, Du Fuwei ought to be on the top of the list; even meeting Li Mi or Yuwen Huaji was not as dreadful.
Thinking that this time Du Fuwei has come prepared, he must have prepared inescapable net before making personal appearance for this father and son reunion, the two boys were groaning even harder in their hearts.
Letting out a dry cough, Kou Zhong said, “This is Ol’ Die’s territory, just call your men out!”
Du Fuwei could not help laughing, “Good kid!” he said, “Still so cunning. You are trying to sound out what your Ol’ Die has prepared this time, aren’t you? Let me tell you straight! After receiving the information that the two of you have entered the city this morning, Die immediately rushed for more than forty li nonstop to see you, these two little demons. Right now I don’t have even half an attendant by my side. If you want to escape, just escape!”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Die is the number one martial artist in the world, you have a reputation to keep, and now your children do not have a single weapon we could lay our hands on; is it possible for Die to give us three days grace period, so that we can make appropriate arrangement, before we and Ol’ Die go somewhere out of the city to have a his mother’s battle?”
Du Fuwei looked up at the beam; he said indifferently, “I want to speak alone with you, Kou Zhong.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly stunned; they both thought that perhaps he wanted to deal with them one person at a time. But it was unnecessary, because even with the two boys fighting together, to defeat this world-caliber martial art expert was simply lunatic ravings.
Deep in his heart Xu Ziling had a feeling that things were taking a turn for the better. Besides, if they were going to die anyway, there was no harm in taking his mother’s gamble a little bit. Thereupon he nodded and said, “In that case I’ll wait outside the door!” Finished speaking he climbed out the window.
Du Fuwei’s expression was serene; he sat down in a chair at the southern end of the room and said in a soft voice, “Xiao Zhong! Have a seat!”
A bit flattered by the courtesy, Kou Zhong sat down in an imperial tutor chair [high back with arm rests] on his right hand side.
Du Fuwei was silent for half a day. Finally he said calmly, “Yuwen Huaji has been with Yang Guang for too long, a lot of his bad habit cannot be changed. Going to Peng Cheng, because the waterway is blocked by Li Mi, he has to make a detour toward Chang’an, hoping that he could beat Li Yuan by one step in gaining control over the Capital. Unexpectedly he ordered his men to rob common people’s more than two thousand ox carts. More foolishly, he used those carts to transport palace maids and treasures he plundered from Yang Guang’s palaces, while weapons, equipment and food provision he had ordinary soldiers to carry on their back, provoking the soldiers that they are rebelling. The leader was precisely Sima Dekan, who once joined hands with him in killing Yang Guang. Although he managed to pacify the rebellion, his strength took a big hit. Ay! Yuwen Huaji has always been known for his wisdom and scheming ability, it’s hard to imagine that he would commit such an unwise move.”
Kou Zhong did not understand why the vicious and extremely wicked Du Fuwei would want to chat with him; he had no choice but to endure patiently and listen respectfully.
Chapter 7, Part 2
Du Fuwei went on, “His stupidity benefited Li Mi, who had Xu Shiji and Shen Luoyan prepare an ambush at Liyang, and inflict defeat on Yuwen Huaji; countless soldiers surrendered, women, money and goods were lost. Relying on his exceptional martial art skill, Yuwen Huaji led twenty thousand remnants toward Weixian at the north; his reputation will be difficult to maintain.”
Kou Zhong blurted, “Won’t that mean Li Mi’s prestige is flourishing?” He could not help thinking about Li Mi’s ‘Duke of Pushan’s Decree’ to have him and Xu Ziling hunted and killed. Their unfavorable situation has made a turn to the worse. Moreover, thinking back to Du Fuwei in front of him, whom he had no hope of overcoming, unless there was divine intervention, there would not be any narrow and lucky escape this time.
Du Fuwei turned his attention to Kou Zhong; gazing deeply into his eyes, he said, “Between you and Xiao Ling, two boys, I like you, this kid, better. Do you know why?”
Kou Zhong thought that he was being sarcastic; he sneered and said, “Toward Die’s misplaced kindness, Child will be eternally grateful [orig. hard to forget even after one’s teeth fall out].”
A hint of smile escaped from the corner of Du Fuwei’s mouth; he said softly, “Does Child want to know the reason?”
“Speak up then!” Kou Zhong grudgingly replied, “Even if Child does not want to listen, I can’t.”
Du Fuwei did not pay any attention to Kou Zhong’s frigid irony and scorching satire; he said indifferently, “Because you, this little demon, are a lot like me.”
Stunned, Kou Zhong looked at him; for the first time he could feel that Du Fuwei was sincere.
Du Fuwei averted Kou Zhong’s gaze. Looking straight ahead he said slowly, “Yuwen Huaji did not look into the mirror; his martial art skill is abundant, but his popularity is insufficient. When the news of that fatuous ruler got killed reached Luoyang, Yang Shichong [sic, I think it was supposed to be Wang Shichong] immediately threw his support to King of Yue, Yang Dong to be a puppet emperor. Nowadays, whoever has control over the military will have control over the general situation. Otherwise, even if you have unrivalled martial art skill, you will become no more than an outstanding warrior or perhaps super assassin.”
Listening to the implication of what he said, Kou Zhong started to get a feel of the purpose of this one-on-one conversation Du Fuwei wanted to have with him.
Du Fuwei explained further, “Li Yuan can’t be considered anything; however, this dog father unexpectedly begot a tiger cub Li Shimin. In succession he swindled the Tujue and Liu Wuzhou not to attack Taiyuan, so that the Li Clan won’t have fears of trouble in the rear, furthermore, it enabled him to launch sudden attack to defeat Song Laozheng [venerable old man], capture Chang’an, and support King of Dai, Yang You to be the emperor, and nearly angered Li Mi to death.”
Du Fuwei’s eyes returned to Kou Zhong as he spoke in heavy voice, “Right now the Sui Dynasty’s name remains, but the reality is gone. Although one after another their later generations are receiving support to become the emperor, it is nothing more than the final radiance of the setting sun; a little bit of excitement here and there before it is thrown into oblivion. Those with aspiration, who make unifying the world [China] as his mission, who are carrying thousand different schemes, who are surveying the world, other than Li Mi, who could possibly contend with me, Du Fuwei?”
Kou Zhong’s tiger-eyes lit up; his eyes exuded incomparable passion, but he did not say a single word.
Boldly and powerfully Du Fuwei slapped a small table by his chair, the solidly built table immediately disintegrated and crumpled to the floor.
Kou Zhong jumped in fright and turned his eyes on him.
Du Fuwei’s eyes exuded a spirited ray that Kou Zhong has never seen before. Staring at Kou Zhong, he said, “If you are willing to earnestly and sincerely recognize me, Du Fuwei, as your father, and change your surname to my Du surname, I, Du Fuwei, will treat you like my own, and will help you become the new dynasty’s emperor.”
Kou Zhong was stunned, “You don’t want to be the emperor?” he asked.
Du Fuwei threw his head back and let out a long laugh; he said, “Li Mi wants to be the emperor, Yuwen Huaji wants to be the emperor, Dou Jiande wants to be the emperor, although he has no guts Li Yuan also wants to be the emperor. Everybody wants to be the emperor, but what about me, Du Fuwei? It’s only this: with my martial art skill, I am unwilling to be left out.”
Kou Zhong looked at him incredulously; he sounded him out, “You are really willing to yield the emperor position to me?”
Du Fuwei replied in a heavy voice, “The fish and the bear’s paw, you can’t have both at the same time [idiom from Mencius]; both are difficult to attain. If I forced you to help me becoming the emperor, someday I will be killed by you. You and Xu Ziling are the type of person who innately unwilling to accept an inferior status. The first time I talked to you, I already knew it.”
Kou Zhong’s tiger body shook severely; he awkwardly said, “If I really admit you as my father, how could I possibly harm you?”
Du Fuwei sighed and said, “In the struggle over the throne, nobody has any relationship with anybody else; compassion, duty, propriety and integrity are totally useless. Those who want to achieve big things do not attach any importance to reality, it’s easy for them to say empty words, and in everything they do, they must be vicious and merciless. The reason why the Ol’ Du thinks highly of you, is precisely because you are that kind of person. You have ambition, and you have the capability. So when everybody in Jianghu say that you are simply lucky, only the Ol’ Du is deeply aware that the two of you are really formidable. Just ask anybody, who has not fallen under your trick and fallen under your control? And who has really been able to deceive you?”
After a short pause, he continued, Xiao Ling and you are two different types of people; even if I killed him, he would never admit me as his father.”
His expression turned serious as he went on, “As soon as you make your decision, we, you and I, have the world in our bag.”
Kou Zhong thought hard for half a day; he suddenly said, “Supposing I am unwilling, are you going to kill me?”
Du Fuwei smiled wryly and said, “Originally I did have such intention, but on second thought, if you are not delighted to do so, later on you will guard against me, and I guard against you, what’s the point in that? But I am quite surprised you asked me that; it seems to me that you are not going to accept.”
Kou Zhong’s eyes were gleaming with unusual shine, as if he was entering a beautiful dream world. Brimming with vision for the future, he slowly said, “If I obtained the world by relying on you, Ol’ Die, then it’s really to unexciting. Yes, I do have ambition to win over the world, but what I am really looking forward to is the course of events. Before achieving the goal, I want to empty-handedly experience the challenge and blood and sweat of invigorating the country. Die, do you understand?”
Du Fuwei straightened up and rose; laughing wildly, he said, “Do you know that by calling me Die repeatedly, you have saved your and Xu Ziling’s little lives? Just now I was ready to make my move. So be it! I want the two of you to leave town immediately, I guarantee that no one will stop you. Next time we meet, don’t blame me for being ruthless.”
And then looking back, he smiled and said, “You’d better find a good place to hide, get out of the limelight and the intensity of the fire; otherwise you would become ghosts who died unjustly under the ‘Duke of Pushan’s Decree’.”
After another loud laugh, he disappeared.