Chapter 9 – Deep Love between Sister and Brothers
Book 7 Chapter 9 – Deep Love between Sister and Brothers
Susu’s gentle voice came from the inner hall. She seemed to be talking with someone else.
Even until now, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling have not been able to accept the fact that Susu had been married into the Xiang family. Especially since her husband was this Xiang kid.
Even if they thought until their brains burst, they could not find anything good in Xiang Yushan that would attract the opposite sex, something that could make Susu fall in love with him.
The one she loved should be Li Jing.
Like a whirlwind Xiang Yushan entered the inner hall and cried out, “Madame, Bangzhu, look who’s here?”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who halted their steps outside the door, were greatly astonished; who did Xiang Yushan call ‘Gang Leader’?
“Ah!” Susu’s tender voice was heard, followed by another woman’s voice, “Let me look for Su Jie.”
Unexpectedly it was the Jukun Bang’s Gang Leader, the Beautiful Shifu Yun Yuzhen.
She rushed to the door and upon seeing Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, her pretty eyes lit up instantly, while her countenance showed that she was pleasantly surprised. “Heavens!” she cried out in her tender voice, “You are finally here!”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and took a stride forward, reaching out toward her face, he stroked her cheek and said with a laugh, “Beautiful Shifu has lost some weight, could it be it was because you missed your disciples?”
Yu Yuzhen revealed a complicated look on her face; both angry and happy, she stared fiercely at this frivolous ‘disciple’ of hers. In the meantime, Xu Ziling already flitted past these two persons and rushed inside the hall.
Susu was being helped by Xiang Yushan to rise up from her chair, her face revealed a mixture of disbelief and delight as she cried out in her tender voice, “Xiao Zhong! Xiao Ling!”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s eyes immediately fell onto her bulging tummy. Everything seemed to be impossible and unreal. It was as if they were deeply lost in some fantastic, bizarre dreamland.
Finished crying, Susu laughed. Finished laughing, Susu cried again. She was so overwhelmed with emotion that she scared Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, who used everything they knew to console her before she was slowly calming down.
Xiang Yushan ordered his servants to prepare a sumptuous banquet, and let the two boys gorging themselves. Susu, Yun Yuzhen and Xiang Yushan also accompanied them eating a little bit.
Talking about what happened after they parted, they chatted endlessly.
Xiang Yushan sighed and said, “We escaped the very night just before Danyang fell to Fu Gongyou, Madame adamantly refused to leave, leaving Bangzhu with no choice but to seal her sleeping acupoints. Du Fuwei has always been like fire and water with us; if we were captured by him, we would surely lose our lives. We left a mark outside the brothel door; didn’t you see it?”
“What mark?” Kou Zhong said with a bitter laugh, “The building had been burned to the roof.”
Yun Yuzhen said, “We waited at Yongshi for the whole month, last thing we heard was that you inflicted great damage to Haisha Bang and Shen Faxing consecutively at Yuhang and Changre. By the time we sent people over to find you, the two of you have already slipped away to who knows where.”
Susu’s eyes turned red again, she said accusingly, “Don’t you know how to come looking for me a bit earlier?”
Xu Ziling hastily apologized, “We are wrong. We have never thought that you would return to Baling.”
Trying to change the subject, Kou Zhong asked Xiang Yushan, “How’s your current situation?”
“Our situation is really not bad,” Xiang Yushan excitedly replied, “We have just taken Yulin and Cangwu, and right now our Right Marshal Dong Jingzhen are fighting over Panyu against the Tieqi Hui. The victor will be the overlord of the South.”
Kou Zhong’s spirit was greatly aroused; he said, “I was just looking for Ren Shaoming to test my saber. Where is that guy?”
Xiang Yushan and Yun Yuzhen were stunned; they stared blankly at him.
“Xiao Zhong always love to do dangerous things,” Susu said with displeasure, “In the south, Ren Shaoming’s martial art is second only to ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que, he is equally famous with Lin Shihong. Can’t you consider it carefully? Jiejie wants you to stay to accompany me. Ay! You don’t know how hard it was to worry over you.”
Kou Zhong laughed but did not say anything. Underneath the table he kicked Xu Ziling’s foot.
Xu Ziling shook his head slightly, he was unwilling to stick his head out for him.
Kou Zhong had no choice but to turn to Xiang Yushan to probe further, “If you could deal with Ren Shaoming, Panyu would be yours.”
Knitting his brows, Xiang Yushan said, “Let’s not talk about Ren Shaoming, merely the Left and Right Law Protectors under him, the Evil Monk Fa Nan and the Amorous Nun Chang Zhen are all first class martial art masters. On top of that, nowadays everyone is afraid of being assassinated, so their guard is extremely tight. Even if Ning Daoqi agreed to personally assassinate him, his chance of success would still be extremely low.”
After a short pause, he went on, “Tomorrow I am going to submit memorial to His Highness, he has always had deep appreciation toward two Dage, he will certainly put you in important position, and this Madame will not have to worry about two Dage anymore.”
Kou Zhong said indifferently, “No need to bother you! We, two brothers, are accustomed to free and easy life, we are not used to listen to anybody else’s order.”
And then, ignoring Xiang Yushan’s disappointed look, he turned toward Yun Yuzhen and said, “Beautiful Shifu, what kind of business you are running now?”
Casting a coquettish glance toward him, Yun Yuzhen said, “Just menial job delivering goods here and there. Kou Gongzi can’t possibly be interested.”
Hearing that, Kou Zhong immediately guessed that having acquired Xiao Xian as big supporter, Jukun Bang’s power enjoyed tremendous boost, and now they were bearing the heavy responsibility of transporting supplies for him.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “What a coincidence, we are also in the cargo industry now. Ha! I almost forget to tell Xiang kid … I mean, General Xiang.” And then he told Xiang Yushan about Duan Yucheng and the others might arrive at Baling any time soon.
“Why didn’t you guys travel together?” Yun Yuzhen asked in surprise.
Kou Zhong replied nonchalantly, “That muddled-egg Ba Fenghan chased the two of us for several hundred li, how could we go together with them?”
Xiang Yushan and Yun Yuzhen were greatly shocked. “Ba Fenghan?” they blurted together.
“Is there a problem?” Xu Ziling asked in astonishment.
Susu’s flowery countenance lost its color, “You guys really did not know the immensity of heaven and earth. Ever since Ba Fenghan entered the Central Earth, he consecutively defeated several dozens of martial art masters from famous schools; he triumphed in every battle, his reputation flourishes even above the Four Major Clans. Several times several big schools sent their martial art masters to join hands besieging him, last I heard he was able to leisurely escape while still managed to kill a lot of them. How could you possibly provoke him?”
“We are not scared of him,” Kou Zhong sneered, “Were it not for him joining hands with that Korean Fu Junyu, we could have had him bag his food and leave before he finish it.”
Xiang Yushan and the others were dumbstruck.
Yun Yuzhen asked in disbelief, “Korean woman Fu Junyu is even more superior to Luocha woman. If she really joined hands with Ba Fenghan, how did you two escape with your lives?”
Kou Zhong stroked her thigh underneath the table, making her charming body trembled slightly. And then he shrugged his shoulders and said, “What’s so strange about it? Being hunted and nearly killed was not a proud thing to say, why would we want to toot our horn?”
It was still hard for Xiang Yushan to believe; he asked, “Did you fight with them openly?”
“Of course we did,” Kou Zhong replied, “Otherwise we did not need to run his mother’s several hundred li, until finally we came to this place.”
While Xiang Yushan and Yun Yuzhen were looking at each other, Susu reproached him, “Xiao Zhong! Can’t you be a bit more polite? You still can’t change your bad habit of using foul language.”
Kou Zhong giggled and said, “I intentionally used foul language just to hear Jiejie’s touching tone in reproaching me. Ha!”
Although she was happy inwardly, she glowered at him and said, “Xiao Ling is much better than you! So naughty!”
Momentarily the banquet table was rippling with the sincere love between the sister and brothers. The beautiful circumstances when they first met in the past seemed to return this very moment.
When Xu Ziling woke up the next morning, he felt his entire body, from head to toe, was full with qi. Seeing Susu was safe and sound, and that she had found the home of her own choice, Xu Ziling seemed to put down the big stone weighing his heart.
Last night as he lay in bed cultivating his internal strength, his mind, qi and spirit entered an unprecedented level of cohesiveness.
As he lay down, looking at the top of the mosquito net, his mind was focused on the Yijian Sword inspired by Fu Junyu, which was the ideal realm during combat where one was able to grasp all the changes and the constant elements of the overall situation.
When the two sides were facing each other, it was just like they were scrutinizing each other, inevitably they would be able to home on the hidden clue. It was the insight that one could only gain via real combat experience, something that would match his own strength.
Just like the other day Fu Junyu’s seemingly random and non-threatening sword strikes toward Kou Zhong, yet Kou Zhong was flustered and could only run in circles; simply because she had the insight to gain initiative, just like in chess, each move could make the opponent struggled to cope.
While he was deep in thought, Susu’s voice was heard outside the door, “Xiao Ling! Are you awake?”
Xu Ziling hastily jumped down the bed, put on his outer robe, and pulled the door open to let Susu in.
Chapter 9 – Part 2
After seated properly, Susu sighed and said, “Are you guys angry that Jiejie married Yushan? I don’t know why it happened but it did; even though I know that you don’t like him, but his character is actually very good.”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “Jiejie is oversensitive. At first we did not like him just because there was a bit misunderstanding, that’s all! Afterwards we understood, the sky is already clear after the rain, and now we are happy that Jiejie has found a husband according to your wishes.”
Things have come to this, what else could he say?
He and Kou Zhong were different.
Kou Zhong did not like Xiang Yushan because he was unpleasant to the eye; but Xu Ziling did not have favorable impression toward him because he was too smooth and evasive worldly-wise.
Susu gloomily said, “Other than Yushan, Jiejie only has the two of you as my close relatives. But Jiejie knows that your aspiration is a thousand li away, and very soon you will leave me. Ay! Does it have to be like this? Why don’t you stay and nurture your career here?”
How could Xu Ziling tell Susu that Kou Zhong’s aspiration was to vie over the world and become the emperor? And that while he watched all these changes, his real hope was to roam the world like the wild crane in the clouds?
While he was at a loss on what to say, Susu went on, “Other than Li Mi and Dongming Pai, right now the number of people outside who want to get the ‘Duke Yang Treasure’ from you is really beyond counting, but you don’t give the least bit of thought to your own safety. Tell me, what should Jiejie do?”
Xu Ziling felt a big headache coming. Letting out a forced laugh, he said, “I am afraid the number of people who want to kill Ba Fenghan is no less than those who want to kill us, but isn’t he still pretty much alive and well? Can’t Jiejie not worry about us too much? Just assist your husband and educate the children [idiom] well, when we have spare time, we’d definitely come to visit you. Have you thought about your child’s name?”
Immediately Susu’s pretty eyes shone. She laughed and said, “Why don’t you think for me? See if you can come up with a good name.”
And then as if she suddenly remembered something else, she lowered her voice and said, “Does Xiao Zhong really like Yun Bangzhu?”
Xu Ziling found it was getting harder and harder to tell Susu the truth, because the fact was that Kou Zhong was only toying with Yun Yuzhen’s feeling, just like Yun Yuzhen used to toy with their emotions. You lied to me, I cheated on you, the one to emerge victor has yet to be seen.
Without any better option he replied vaguely, “I am not too clear about what happened between them.”
Susu knitted her beautiful eyebrows anxiously; she said, “Although Yun Bangzhu is very competent, she is not an honorable woman; she has a hopelessly muddled relationship with one of the Gongzi of the Dugu Clan, while she also has a secret affair with Hou Xibai. When you have a chance, go talk to Xiao Zhong! You are the only one he would listen to.”
While with his mouth Xu Ziling said yes, in his heart he could only smile bitterly. This sister of his had a very good intention, but her thought was just too naïve; she still thought Kou Zhong as a little child. While the real Kou Zhong in front of their eyes was not someone who could be pushed around by anyone, including Xu Ziling.
Meanwhile Kou Zhong pushed the door and came in. Seeing the two people inside, he immediately roared in laughter and said, “I thought Xiao Ling was still asleep, turns out he is already chatting with Su Jie who plays favorite. You are not talking about me, are you?”
Having a guilty conscience, Susu’s pretty face blushed; she was somewhat at a loss to know what to do.
Kou Zhong was astounded, “You are talking about me!” he said.
Xu Ziling sneered, “What if we talked about you?” he said, “Su Jie is very concerned about you, she is afraid you might fall into some bad guys’ trap.”
Kou Zhong immediately understood. Laughing involuntarily, he walked over to an empty chair and sat down. “Finally we, the three sister and brothers, meet again!” he said with a sigh.
With a slightly trembling voice Susu said, “Can you stay here for a few days longer? Just consider it Jiejie is beseeching you.”
Kou Zhong smiled wryly and said, “Tonight we are going by boat to Jiujiang. Supposing everything went well, we will be back in a few days.”
Susu was stunned, “What are you going to do at Jiujiang?” she asked, “Does Yushan know?”
Jiujiang was a strategic town at the confluence of Lake Poyang and Yangtze River. Currently it was under Lin Shihong’s power. Going downstream from Baling, it could be reached within two days’ time.
Naturally Xu Ziling was able to guess that Kou Zhong wanted to take the advantage while the salt goods was still on its way to accomplish the assassination mission of the unapproachable Ren Shaoming without making any noise.
If he could really kill Ren Shaoming and afterwards could escape safely, undoubtedly he would gain formidable renown to give him authority over the world.
And after gaining the reputation, naturally everything would go smoothly and easily [orig. what the heart wishes, the hand accomplishes].
Moreover, this way he could also crush Lin Shihong and Ren Shaoming’s alliance in dominating the south. Kou Zhong indeed had ‘rigorous schemes and deep foresight’.
If the South really fell into Kou Zhong’s hands, he would advance to Guanzhong and seize it, and then the various powers in the north could only clench their fists in envy.
Kou Zhong revealed a confident smile as he spoke softly, “At the end of the day I am doing this for Su Jie. Both Lin Shihong and Ren Shaoming could go to Jiujiang to formalize their alliance. If this matter is accomplished, their first order of business would be to forge ahead and take down Baling; therefore, this matter must be broken at the earliest possible time. It was Jiejie’s fujun [lit. husband lord] who told me, he also made the arrangement for us. Do you think he is aware of it or not?”
Susu’s countenance changed, “How could Yushan let you brave this danger?” she said, “No! I am going to talk to him.”
Xu Ziling pulled her tender lily-white hand, and said in all earnestness, “Jiejie please don’t worry, what Xiao Zhong said is right; if we don’t break Lin-Ren alliance earlier, the South will become a one-sided situation. Even the Song Clan who is far away south at Lingnan will be powerless to stand on their feet, let alone your Baling Bang.”
Xu Ziling very rarely parroted Kou Zhong. Although he knew that it was mainly for Susu’s sake, Kou Zhong was still very happy, “Xiao Ling is right!” he said excitedly, “Su Jie! Trust us! After cutting of Ren Shaoming’s stinky head, we will come back to accompany Jiejie for several days before heading north.”
Someone knocked the door. Xiang Yushan came in and said, “After breakfast, we will go to the Palace to see His Highness. Two Dage, what do you say?”
Under the escort of a dozen or so Xiang Yushan’s personal guards, Kou Zhong, along with Yun Yuzhen, Xiang Yushan and Xu Ziling, divided into two rows, galloped their horses out of the General Mansion toward the Imperial Palace, which was originally the Zongguan Mansion that the Liang Dynasty’s Emperor Xiao Xian rebuilt and refurbished.
Because Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were so eager to see Susu the previous day, plus it was already evening, they did not pay any attention to the city’s scenery. It was only this morning that they found the city to be remarkable.
On the north, the city stood against the Yangtze River, on the west it bordered the large commercial hub of Dongting city. The scale was quite grand. The city was square-shaped, with the crossing main street as the central axis. The streets, alleys, and buildings were neat and orderly, most of the houses facing the street had covered veranda, which functioned as a shade in hot summer days and protection from rain during rainy season. Not only it provide convenience for the pedestrians, it also gave cozy and intimate feeling.
All houses had façade with decorative carved pattern, which showed that the residents were well off, everybody lived in peace and worked happily.
Because Baling Bang has always had close relationship with the Sui Dynasty, they enjoyed the domination over the county towns in the surrounding area. Xiao Xian himself was originally a local official, hence he enjoyed the support of the local rich families and members of the gentry.
Since Emperor Yang has died, it was only natural that Baling Bang took control over the local situation, while the county citizens were only too happy to celebrate; therefore, unlike the other gangs and societies who had to go through struggle and the fire of war, the county was able to preserve its strength, and has become the most advantageous condition for the Baling Bang’s newly founded Liang Dynasty in their contend for hegemony over the world.
Currently there were six big powers in the South.
The one with the most flourishing prestige was Du Fuwei and Fu Gongyou’s Jianghuai Army, which occupied Liyang and Danyang, two big strategic towns. But since for the time being they had to deal with the powers from the north, they had no time to expand southward.
Although Li Zitong occupied Jiangdu, but since Emperor Yang and the Sui Army made a mess of things, their strength suffered a huge setback, so that they appeared strong, but in reality was quite weak.
Shen Faxing’s Jiangnan Army was at the Southeast, but since the northwest route was blocked by Li Zitong and Du Fuwei, and the south was prominently under Guangdong’s Song Clan’s control, it was difficult for him to make any move.
Therefore, the conflict in the South has become the stage for the two big powers, Lin Shihong and Xiao Xian, who refused to concede to each other. Presently the balance of power was leaning toward Lin Shihong, simply because he had Tieqi Hui’s help. From this, it was clear that the ‘Green Dragon’ Ren Shaoming was a crucial factor in the southern arena.
Kou Zhong was able to see through this, hence he came to Song Yuzhi to strike a deal.
If it were any other condition, the Song Clan would not be interested.
This moment everybody was riding along a span of street lined with two-story buildings on both sides. Xu Ziling looked up to enjoy the richly ornamented, carved with fancy patterns, windows and eaves. While the bustling atmosphere of the city gave him an unspeakable feeling, there was another extremely familiar sensation that suddenly bubbled up in his heart.
The same sensation that he felt just before the ‘Shadow Assassin’ Yang Xuyan mounted a sneak attack.
That instant he knew that Yang Xuyan has arrived.