Chapter 10 – Clues
Book 15 Chapter 10 – Clues
The four men got off the carriage outside the gate of a building. After looking around to make sure the place was secure, they flipped over the front of the roof, and after scurrying past several buildings, soon afterwards their target, the courtyard, appeared in front of them, across a small alley ahead.
As soon as they saw it, they knew the situation was not good.
Although there was a horse-drawn carriage at the open space in front of the house, there was no horse to pull it.
The complex consisted of three sections, with two courtyards connecting them, but the doors and windows were tightly shut. It looked like there was not a single soul living in it.
“Oh no!” Kou Zhong said dejectedly, “All the witches, warlocks and female demons [yao fu, yao gong, yao nu] are scared of us and ran away.”
Song Shidao was surprisingly quiet; he spoke in low voice, “Let’s go in and take a look, maybe we’ll find something.”
Ba Fenghan said with a sigh, “I say it’s just a waste of energy; Yin Gui Pai has always been known for their secrecy, they can’t possibly leave any clues to be found, otherwise other people would have caught up with their old nest.” [Translator’s note: here, and in subsequent paragraphs, the word ‘they’ was feminine.]
Shaking his head, Song Shidao said, “This time it’s different. I am almost certain that it was only after Shangguan Long’s identity was uncovered last night that they moved out in a hurry, for fear that others might find their whereabouts. Granted that they must be very careful and took necessary safety measures, but anything can be easily overlooked. With this thinking, it was hard to avoid an oversight. This is what we are looking for.”
All three men were emotionally moved. Suddenly they had a whole new level of respect toward Song Shidao, this Second Young Master.
With a ‘Come on!’ Song Shidao took the lead by jumping down into the courtyard.
The hall was exquisitely arranged, there were even paintings and calligraphy hanging on the walls, but just as Ba Fenghan anticipated, everything was neat and clean; other than ordinary household utensils, nothing was left behind.
Yet Song Shidao was unwilling to neglect even one cun square. When the other three lost interest, he picked up pieces of tealeaves from the floor and brought it to his nose. Taking a sniff, he said, “If I am not mistaken, this ought to be yellow sprout leaf, the shape is straight, in terms of color and luster, there is green within yellow, as delicate as a brush, similar in shape and appearance as duck tongue; it is a gourmet tea.”
Listening to that, the three were dumbfounded, thinking that only children and disciples of large and influential family like him would be able to tell that much from a single tealeaf.
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, “Even if we know what kind of tea this is, what can we do about it?”
Kou Zhong joined in, “In my opinion, Yin Gui Pai’s female demon can’t possibly carry these tealeaves around, it must be Shangguan Long who prepared the tea to show filial respect to them.”
Song Shidao happily said, “That possibility is very high. The Heavenly Street has several tea stores, three of those carry yellow sprout tea, but only Shan Jing Ju [House of Mountain Scenery] sells first-class yellow sprout tealeaves from Jin Gang Tai [lit. diamond plateau]. I have been hanging around their boss quite often these days, it would be very easy to find out if Shangguan Long is addicted to this kind of tea. If that is the case, we have one more trail to pursue.”
Listening to him, the three were sincerely convinced and ready to concede.
Tea can be addictive as well; when one is used to drink some kind of tea, although occasionally they can substitute their personal preference, but in the end it would be difficult to completely change their taste in such a short period of time.
This time, Shangguan Long must be recuperating; if he happened to send someone to buy tea, then they would have a chance to find him.
Song Shidao went another round, but did not find any new discovery, so he walked toward the inner hall.
Since the three already regarded his ‘investigation’ ability like a deity, they hurriedly followed behind him.
Song Shidao entered one of the bedrooms. The gauze bed screen was down, inside, the bedding was in disarray, which corresponded with their expectation: not only the people left in a hurry, they left in the middle of the night. If it were during the day, the bedding would be tidied up.
Copying Song Shidao earlier, the three examined everything carefully. But Song Shidao lifted up the screen and sat on the bed. Picking up the pillow, he sniffed at it with full concentration.
The three followed him blindly; they waited patiently for him to speak.
Seeing the three were staring at him blankly, Song Shidao put the pillow down and said with a smile, “Actually, there’s nothing serious about it. It’s just that I always pay particular attention about families’ livelihood, and as luck has it, in this aspect, Yin Gui Pai people are also rather particular, hence I am able to pick up some things out of it.”
Emotionally moved, Ba Fenghan said, “What Er Gongzi said is extremely useful. All along Jianghu people always thought that Yin Gui Pai is hiding deep in the mountains or some remote valley. But now it looks like their old nest might be in the heart of bustling downtown area of the Big Capital, which is outside other people’s expectation. Otherwise, they would not pay particular attention to these kinds of thing.”
Kou Zhong also humbly asked, “What exactly are they paying particular attention to?”
Song Shidao replied, “This bed screen and the beddings are scented with certain perfume, but the pillow smells of different fragrance, and that must be the perfume this particular woman like to use.”
“In that case,” Ba Fenghan said, “The woman sleeping here can’t be Junyu, because she has never used perfume.”
Song Shidao said, “The scent from the bed curtain is taken from the Masson pine rosin [Pinus massoniana, Chinese red pine, horsetail pine]. Don’t think that this is merely for pleasure, in fact, the rosin added moisture proof, rot proof, and bug-repellant characteristic to the fabric.”
He added, “As for the pillow, the perfume is derived from the extract of best quality orange osmanthus flower; ordinary people cannot afford it. Although there are more than a dozen perfume stores in Luoyang, only Ping Fu Lao Dian [lit. peaceful happiness old store] sells this kind of expensive goods.”
Ba Fenghan asked in surprise, “Er Gongzi really knows Luoyang businesses like the back of your hand.”
Smiling, Song Shidao said, “I have been to Luoyang five times. Whenever I have time to spare, I always stroll along the street, while also helping Luoyang’s economic development; you know what I mean?”
Xu Ziling said, “Now that we have tealeaf and perfume, these two clues, what do we do next?”
Song Shidao said, “Let’s look around everywhere else first, then we’ll talk! But Ba Xiong was right, anything that can be carried, they can’t possibly leave it behind.”
※ ※ ※
The carriage moved out speedily toward the Heavenly Street.
In this pursuit of Fu Junyu, Song Shidao has ‘changed shape in a single shake’, and has become their de facto leader.
“I still don’t understand,” Kou Zhong wondered aloud, “How come several times we fought against Wanwan, she has never used Yu Yi to threaten us?”
Song Shidao said, “That is indeed a proof that Junyu has really fallen into their hands; they are afraid others might know about it. Even if Zhu Yuyan is without the slightest scruple, she still inevitably has misgivings toward Fu Cailin. Unless she is really forced into a corner, she would never use Junyu to bargain with you to get the ‘Secret to Duke Yang’s Treasure’.”
The afternoon sun penetrated the clouds. After raining for more than half of the day, people felt the outdoor was bright, fresh and clean.
Song Shidao took this opportunity to close his eyes to restore his spirit. The three did not dare to disturb him; they simply sat quietly, while taking a peek at the scenery along the way.
Arriving at the Heavenly Street, Song Shidao slipped off the carriage, while the driver pulled the carriage to wait in a side street.
Ba Fenghan took the opportunity to ask the driver for a favor to find the lodging of the Tiele people.
The driver proudly said, “Ba Ye, rest assured. This kind of trivial thing, Xiaoren [the lowly one] will definitely handle it properly for you.”
Finished speaking, he jumped down the carriage and left.
The three stayed at the carriage to wait.
Recalling the unfinished conversation with Kou Zhong earlier, Xu Ziling asked, “You said Dong Shuni was deceiving you, what’s going on?”
Kou Zhong hatefully replied, “This matter is complicated and not easy to express succinctly.”
And then he explained the full story around Wang Shichong’s fake assassination scheme. When he was done, he said, “In order to maintain and reinforce Wang Shichong’s confidence, I brought Zhai Jiao and Tu Shufang to see him. This old fox was immediately full of smile, and discussed with me the assassination plot. Humph! His mother! Do you know what he proposed?”
Naturally the two could only scratch their heads to indicate that they had no idea.
Imitating the tone of Wang Shichong’s voice, Kou Zhong said, “The day after tomorrow Rong Fengxiang is going to have his birthday party at his mansion. Anybody in Luoyang who has head and face would join the fun. Originally I was thinking of not going, but now I simply have to go, otherwise that old man Huang won’t have the opportunity to assassinate me.”
Hearing that, Xu Ziling and Ba Fenghan looked at each other. The latter said, “What’s going on? Didn’t Rong Fengxiang have his birthday party last night?”
Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong said, “That’s why I said that lass was deceiving me. But I really don’t know why she harbored evil intentions toward me.”
Xu Ziling spoke heavily, “She was laying out a trap to kill you, but this matter has nothing to do with Wang Shichong.”
Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, “But why does she want to kill me? It could be that she is merely trying to get away from here, but by doing this, what good would it bring her? Won’t she be afraid Wang Shichong would be angry at her?”
Ba Fenghan laughed in spite of himself; he said, “Other than Dong Shuni herself, I am afraid only Laotianye would be able to answer your questions. What kind of utterly heartless thing did you, this kid, do to other family’s Miss?”
Kou Zhong cried out to Heaven for the wrong he received; he said, “What’s that supposed to mean? Besides, it was she who took the initiative. Don’t look at her young age, she has more experience than the three of us combined.”
Seeing the two men’s burning gaze at him, Kou Zhong spread out his hands and said, “What? I am a man! Taking advantage of an opportunity is just a human nature; right?”
Xu Ziling said, “Based on Dong Shuni’s character, this matter must have something to do with man-woman relationship.”
Ba Fenghan laughed and said, “It’s possible that you came across a jealous husband. Dong Shuni happened to be carrying out her natural instincts, which is always regarding romantic love as a game, and believe it or not, you came.”
Kou Zhong was about to speak, when Song Shidao returned with excitement on his face. “We finally see the light!” he said.
※ ※ ※
 Clues – orig. Spider’s thread and horse track.
The small boat sailed speedily toward the confluence of the Luo River and the Yun Canal. To their west was the pontoon bridge, one of the three big bridges crossing the Luo River.
Several dozen docks, big and small, lined both sides of the river, where approximately three hundreds ships and boats of all shapes and sizes were moored, while on the river itself ships and boats were coming and going. It was a very busy waterway traffic.
The small boat stopped between two cargo ships.
Due to limited space, plus the waterway had to remain open for the traffic, the ships and boats were moored very close to the dock; therefore, their movement would not attract unduly attention.
Looking at the bustling scene of cargo ships’ loading and unloading activities, Kou Zhong asked in astonishment, “Just by looking at the bustling scene before our eyes, who would have thought that there are people proclaiming themselves king everywhere, and there is unending fire of war?”
Song Shidao said, “This kind of trade can bring the locals huge revenues, while meeting the balance between supply and demand; therefore, everybody try to facilitate it as much as they can. Supposing someone is not tactful and block the waterway, or perhaps confiscate the goods, the traveling merchants will simply go elsewhere to do their business. In the end they themselves would be the one suffering the loss.”
Ba Fenghan slowly swept his gaze across the multitude of boats; feeling a big headache, he said, “Which boat is it?”
Just now, he inquired Ren En, the Gang Leader of the Qingshe Bang, about the tea store and fragrance store. As expected, early morning the previous day, someone was placing an order for certain perfume and tealeaves. Song Shidao’s guess that the tea and fragrance were yellow sprout tea and orange osmanthus perfume was right on.
The best thing was that because Ping Fu Lao Dian did not have enough orange osmanthus perfume in stock, they had to get it from their warehouse at the eastern part of the city. The man placing the order asked them to have the goods delivered to a certain dock, to be brought to its final destination by boat, hence the reason they followed the trail to this place.
Kou Zhong spoke up, “Although they might receive the goods on this dock, they could transfer it to any boat on this vast river area. Ay, this is indeed a stratagem to trap us by using the boats. Yin Gui Pai really know how to pick a good place.”
But Song Shidao has already anticipated this situation; he said, “My family has always been in waterborne transportation business, we are most familiar with this kind of situation. The boats here can be categorized as merchant ships, passenger ships, and fishing boats, three types. Due to the fear of enemy infiltration, inspection of people and goods in and out of the boats is very strict, it is well documented. I have already asked favor to the authority to check which boat, in term of scale, is rather big, which has been mooring here for at least two days, but without any loading/unloading activity. This way, although we might not hit bull’s eye, it won’t be too far.”
Kou Zhong conceded willingly. “No wonder before coming here Shi Feixuan looked for Er Gongzi,” he said, “This is the first time that I ever met a man whose thought is as thorough and precise like you.”
Smiling wryly, Song Shidao said, “I, Song Shidao, can’t be considered anything. I can’t even protect my beloved.”
Afraid that under grief Song Shidao might mess up their mission, Xu Ziling hurriedly said, “I have a thought: this boat, just like ours, must be moored at the outermost dock, so it will be ready to sail any moment.”
Ba Fenghan’s tiger body slightly shook, his eyes quickly turned toward the three-mast ship that attracted his attention earlier. He said, “That boat is particularly suspicious; it seems to be moored in the middle of two big ships, but not even half a shadow of people is seen on all three ships. It is completely different from the busy situation of the other ships.”
The other three followed his gaze.
On one of the docks on the opposite bank, there were three ships moored side-by-side. The one in the middle looked twice as big as the other two. It had two-tiered deck. And as Ba Fenghan noted, they did not see any activity on all three ships.
Song Shidao said, “Looks like we don’t need to waste time. I am going to ask Ren En to check these three ships immediately; I am sure we will get something soon.”
※ ※ ※
The four men sat on the second floor of a multi-story building by the river. From the window they were able to watch the loading/unloading activities on the docks below, not far to their left were the three suspicious ships.
Downstairs was the store specializing in salt business, own by the Qingshe Bang. In fact, all gangs and societies throughout Luoyang ran big waterborne transportation business.
All along, each gang or society had their own specialized business, monopoly and profit center; each one had their own sphere of influence.
The reason Luoyang Bang was provoking outrage among the gangs and societies was precisely because it often stepped into other gang’s business, relying on their power to demand other gangs and societies to respectfully offer presents to them every month, and thus destroying the rules which say that these organizations would have nothing to do with each other.
Ren En’s business was salt; naturally he was linked in countless ways with the Song Clan.
Kou Zhong suddenly asked, “If Zhu Yuyan and Wanwan are on the ship, what are we going to do?”
“We’ll scuttle their ship first,” Xu Ziling replied, “And then, in the ensuing chaos, we grab her.”
Ba Fenghan said, “In that case, we must draft a good escape plan: how and which route to take; otherwise, if any of us is left alone and overtaken by the enemy, things would be bad, not only we’d fail to rescue Junyu, perhaps we’d lose our little lives as well.”
Based on Ba Fenghan’s haughty and conceited character, unexpectedly he expressed some concerns, evidently his confidence in meeting Zhu Yuyan and Wanwan and still being able to escape alive was quite lacking.
Song Shidao smiled and said, “Under this kind of situation, it can be said that you are in confusion because of the concern in your heart. Assuming Zhu Yuyan and Wanwan are the upper class thoroughbred, we are at most only middle-class thoroughbred. Using middle-class thoroughbred against first-class thoroughbred, defeat is guaranteed.”
Kou Zhong said, “It’s not that I did not think of this issue, but we practically do not know whether those two women are on the ship, and we do not dare to investigate recklessly. Therefore, we have no choice but to use the strategy of using middle-class thoroughbred to deal with first-class thoroughbred.”
Remaining tranquil and calm, Song Shidao said, “That was the reason I said that you are in confusion because of the concern in your heart. At Man Qing Yuan tonight, Qu Ao and Fu Qian are going to continue their unfinished battle. Even if Zhu Yuyan and the others do not support any side, they can’t possibly miss this kind of rare opportunity to see what Fu Qian was made of. That will be our opportunity!”
Nodding, Kou Zhong said, “This is the only feasible way. Ay! I have no choice but to miss my appointment!”
Frowning, Xu Ziling asked, “Appointment with whom?”
Kou Zhong replied, “Just by listening to his name, we know that this person has some ambitions. He is called Song Jingang. Will you concede to him?” [Translator’s note: JinGang literally means diamond, also Vajra, a thunderbolt or mythical weapon/guardian deity (in Buddhist iconography).]
Song Shidao and Ba Fenghan were emotionally moved.
The former said, “Not only this man is a rare martial art master of the northern Wulin, he is also both intelligent and brave. He is the first rate fierce general under Liu Wuzhou.”
Ba Fenghan said, “I have heard his name as well. In the north, he and Liu Heita are on par; both are famous generals whose name shakes their respective region, and both have never tasted defeat.”
After a short pause, he continued contemplatively, “He must be coming here with Tu Li. What did he look for you for?”
Kou Zhong said with a laugh, “He did not mention anything good. Although he did not say it out loud, I can assume that he is going to ask me to assassinate Du Fuwei; you think he was going to ask me to lead the troops to war?”
Although the four of them were talking, they were all sitting facing the window; never for one moment had their eyes left the suspicious ship.
Song Shidao said, “How could Song Jingang use a talented person like you in an insignificant position? Besides, if Du Fuwei is that easy to be assassinated, he would have died a hundred times over; even Yang Xuyan also returned without any achievement. In my opinion, he must have some other meticulous plan; he would definitely not let a figure like you go to waste.”
Ba Fenghan’s heart was moved; he asked, “Did Er Gongzi know that Yang Xuyan is Li Shimin’s man? He is also coming here with him, and we have had some exchange with him.”
Song Shidao was stunned. “I did not know that he is related to Li Shimin,” he said, “I only know that he is infatuated with the big personage of local casino Rong Fenxiang’s daughter, Rong Jiaojiao. This information is highly classified; we have spent considerable effort just to obtain it.”
Kou Zhong was shaken; he said, “Dong Shuni did mention that Rong Jiaojiao is her bosom friend. Could it be … hey …”
Ba Fenghan nodded and said, “Based on Dong Shuni’s wantonness, two women serving one man is hardly unusual. The Eastern Capital has always been the place where the old Sui imperial family resides, and Yang Xuyan is one of those; hooking up with those two women is an easy matter that only require a lifting of his finger.”
Slapping his thigh, Xu Ziling said, “Only after seeing that you did not fall into the trap did that fellow Yang Xuyan come to look for you to fight.”
Listening to this, Song Shidao was baffled, “What are you guys talking about?” he asked.
Fortunately, this moment Ren En, with happy expression on his face, walked in. He sat down and said, “Fortunately I did not disgrace your trust; I guarantee we’ve found the correct ship!”
Song Shidao was delighted; he said, “Ren Xiong is that confident; it must be quite a finding.”
Ren En looked to be around forty, short in stature, his outward appearance was like real businessman, but he looked fully capable to be the leader of a gang.
Showing a sincere smile, he nodded and said, “Indeed it was. Because there have been people who witness women, wearing gauzed face covering, came down from the ship, and it only happened last night. Although they had seen it only once, but due to the young women have extremely fine figure, it has left a very deep impression.”
Ba Fenghan said, “But I can be sure that they are not Zhu Yuyan or Wanwan. With their skill, how could they easily let others see them?”
Song Shidao spoke calmly, “Ren Xiong, please arrange some vegetables and meat dishes for us, but please skip the wine; we are going to compete against Yin Gui Pai’s witch and female demon [yaofu, yaonu] in patience!”
After acknowledging the request, Ren En turned to Ba Fenghan and said, “I also have information on Tiele people: the place Qu Ao is staying is a house at Xing Yi Lane at the northeast part of the city. The place belongs to Du Ganmu of Lüliang Pai. And Du Ganmu is King Dong of Yue’s subordinate.”
Ba Fenghan sighed and said, “Thank you for your honorable Gang’s trouble! But right now I cannot be in two places at once. I hope Qu Ao can defeat Fu Qian, otherwise, I have no interest to pick a fight with the defeated army in the future.”
Ren En’s eyes showed deep veneration; he withdrew downstairs.
All along the four men’s eyes have never left those three ships.
 I might misunderstand the text, but I think Song Shidao was referring to the story of Sun Bin helping Tian Ji in a horse race against the King of Qi. In Divine Eagle Gallant Knight (aka Return of Condor Heroes) Huang Rong related this story to Guo Jing in Chapter 12 (The Heroes’ Feast). The story can also be found here: http://chinese-story-collection.blog...ji-sai-ma.html