Wandering, Sky, you are welcome. Tweety, my point exactly, Smurf thought it was her avatar, and I said it was her username. Gubrak, Smurf, I know you guys are very understanding , but I value you as part of this community, so I think it's only fair that you know what's going on. Ace, it was a classic case of amateurs vs professionals.
If other people undergo this situation, if they did not completely disheartened, broken hearted and shed some tears, then they would be determined to cut off all feeling and started to look for a better match. Wei Xiaobao, however, by nature was a hoodlum, with thick skin and very strong, tenacious personality; a thick-faced and strong-willed person.
“In short,” he continued his musing, “Laozi will hang around you for the rest of my life. If my life is spent, my soul will not go away, I will cling to you. Even if you marry eighteen times, the nineteenth time will be with laozi.”
He grew up in a brothel, he was accustomed to see the prostitutes welcoming new guests and sending off the old ones. He did not think that a woman’s heart was capable to be attached to any extraordinary important matter; all those ‘faithful unto death’, ‘chaste’ or ‘not double-hearted’, he had never heard of.
He was upset for only a short time, and then was able to giggle while walking over and said, “Zheng Gongzi, you are back; you haven’t been bitten by the barbarians?”
Zheng Keshuang was startled. “What do you mean bitten?” he asked. Ah Ke was also startled; she looked at him up and down; only after seeing that his five sense organs and fingers were whole did she feel relieved.
Feng Xifan was still sitting on the horseback. “Who is this little kid?” he asked.
“He is Miss Chen’s Shidi,” Zheng Keshuang replied. Feng Xifan nodded.
Wei Xiaobao looked up at him, he saw a slim face, yellowish, with black hair, two slanting swallowtail beard, his eyes turned into two slits; he really looked like a tuberculosis ghost. Concerned over Yang Yizhi’s safety, he asked, “Feng Shifu, you really have capability, in just a short time you are able to rescue Zheng Gongzi back. Did you kill that barbarian leader?”
“What barbarian?” Feng Xifan asked, “They dressed up.”
Wei Xiaobao was inwardly shocked; he said, “They dressed up? But they can speak barbarian tongue.”
“Fake!” Feng Xifan said. Feeling it was beneath his dignity to talk too much to this little kid, he turned to Zheng Keshuang and said, “Gongzi, you must be tired, why don’t we go to rest at that ancestral hall over there?”
Ah Ke was concerned about her shifu. “I am afraid Shifu will worry when she wakes up and did not see me.”
“Let’s go back immediately,” Wei Xiaobao said.
Ah Ke looked at Zheng Keshuang, she was hoping he would come with her. Zheng Keshuang said, “Shifu, let’s everybody go to the inn to have something to eat, and some good sleep.”
On the way Wei Xiaobao questioned Zheng Keshuang on how he escaped. Zheng Keshuang boasted on his shifu’s skill, how in just a few moves he killed the barbarians that they scattered away. Wei Xiaobao made sure he heard that ‘the barbarian leader did not lose his life’ before he felt relieved.
By the time they all arrived at the inn, the sky had already brightened, Jiu Nan was already awake for quite some time. She had already expected that Ah Ke would pull Wei Xiaobao to save Zheng Keshuang; therefore, she was not surprised to see the two of them went missing.
When Zheng Keshuang and the others arrived, he introduced Feng Xifan to her. Jiu Nan noticed his listless appearance, but occasionally his eyes would open wide, and she could see the unusual brightness of his gaze; she thought, “This man has a reputation as ‘One Sword without Blood’, apparently his name is not in vain, his martial art is indeed superb.”
After breakfast, Jiu Nan said, “Zheng Gongzi, we, master and disciples, have some business we need to take care of; we’ll have to separate here.”
Zheng Keshuang was startled; he was quite disappointed. “It’s a rare fate that brought me to see Shitai,” he said, “I was just thinking of asking a lot of guidance. I wonder where Shitai is heading; in any case junior does not have any important matter to manage, don’t you think it will be good if we travel together?”
Jiu Nan shook her head and said, “Those who have left home have many inconvenience.” Taking Ah Ke and Wei Xiaobao, she got on the carriage.
Zheng Keshuang was at a loss, he could not say anything. Ah Ke’s eyes turned red at once, she was barely able to refrain from crying. Wei Xiaobao struggled hard to maintain a straight face; he prayed silently, “May Shifu lives to be a hundred years, may she enjoys lots of good fortune and long life. Amituofo, may Buddha bless and protect her.”
“Shifu,” he asked, “Where are we going?”
“Beijing,” Jiu Nan replied.
After half a day, she said coldly, “If that surnamed Zheng is following us, nobody is to pay him any attention. Whichever of you does not obey, I will immediately kill that surnamed Zheng!”
Ah Ke was startled. “Shifu, why?” she asked.
“No reason,” Jiu Nan replied, “I love peace and quiet, I don’t like other people bothering me.”
Ah Ke did not dare to ask further. After a while, suddenly she remembered something. “What if Shidi talked to him?” she asked.
“Same thing,” Jiu Nan replied, “I will kill Zheng Gongzi.”
Wei Xiaobao could not bear it anymore; he coughed, and then snickered.
“Shifu, it’s not fair,” Ah Ke said, “Shidi might deliberately talk to him.”
Jiu Nan glowered at her. “If that surnamed Zheng did not follow us, how can Xiaobao talk to him? If he ignored my request and kept hanging around me, death cannot wipe out his crimes.”
Wei Xiaobao was bursting with joy, he felt that among good people on the earth, nobody surpasses his Shifu. Suddenly he pulled Jiu Nan’s hand and kissed the palm of her hand.
Jiu Nan shook his hand away. “Fooling around!” she spoke sternly. But for more than twenty years there had never been anyone who was this affectionate toward her; although this disciple was unbridled, he was showing a genuine affection. Her mouth was scolding, but a smile appeared at the corners of her mouth.
Ah Ke saw how partial her Shifu was, plus she was wondering when would she see Zheng Gongzi again. The more she thought about it, the sadder she was; tears streamed down on her face.
A few days later the three of them arrived at Beijing, and found a small, secluded inn in Dongcheng [lit. eastern town, a district of central Beijing] area. Jiu Nan went to Wei Xiaobao’s room, bolted the door, and said in a low voice, “Xiaobao, can you guess why we are in Beijing?”
Wei Xiaobao replied, “I am guessing that if not for Tao Gugu, then it must be for those remaining several copies of the sutra.”
Jiu Nan nodded, “Correct,” she said, “It is for those several copies of the sutra.”
After a short pause, she continued slowly, “This time I suffered a very serious injury, I got to think about a lot of things. One person, no matter how perfect he trained his martial art, inevitably his power is lacking. Ultimately, the important matters of the world need the pooling of brains and brawn of the men of great aspiration to succeed. The crowd of heroes initiated the ‘Turtle-Slaying Assembly’ at Hejian Prefecture; I have given it a careful thought: even if we managed to kill Wu Sangui, that traitor, one person, our rivers and mountains are still in the Tatars’ hands. It would be no more than we are venting our resentment for a short while; what else would it do? But if we can obtain the sutras, we can break the Tatars’ dragon vein, by appealing people aspiring to benevolence throughout the world to hold the banner of righteousness together. Only then will we have the hope to recover our Great Ming’s rivers and mountains.”
“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Shifu is right.”
Jiu Nan said, “I need another half a month to recuperate before my internal energy can fully recover. After that I can go into the Palace to investigate. Finding the whereabouts of the other seven sutras is the first and foremost.”
Wei Xiaobao said, “Let the disciple sneak into the Palace first, I will open my eyes and ears wide. Who knows? The Heaven might bless me so that I can find a clue.”
Jiu Nan nodded. “You are very smart,” she said, “Perhaps you will be able to accomplish this important matter. This big merit …” Speaking to this point, she heaved a deed sigh, her eyes were brimming with encouragement.
Wei Xiaobao had a strong impulse to reveal the truth: “The other five sutras are in disciple’s hand.” But immediately he had a second thought, “Xiao Xuanzi treated me like a true friend; if I helped Shifu, I am destroying his rivers and mountains, then he won’t be the Emperor anymore. Won’t that mean I am violating yi qi too much?”
Seeing his hesitation, Jiu Nan thought he was concerned over if he would succeed or not; thereupon she said, “This matter is indeed very difficult. We simply have to do our best, and that’s all I can ask. This is called ‘man proposes Heaven disposes’ [orig. ‘planning is with man, success is with heaven’]. Ay, I wonder if the Zhu family has reached the end of its destiny, or will there still hope? Over the past dozens of years, all my hopes have turned to dust, my worldly thoughts broken. I did not expect that after seeing Hongying and you, originally I did not want to pay attention to the affairs of the nation, but the affairs of the nation managed to get back to my head.”
Wei Xiaobao said, “Shifu, you are a princess of the Great Ming, these rivers and mountains originally belonged to your family; it was usurped by other people, naturally we must snatch it back.”
Jiu Nan sighed and said, “This matter does not belong to my family alone. All the other members of my family are dead.” Stretching out her arm, she gently stroked Wei Xiaobao’s head, while saying, “Xiaobao, you must never leak even half a word about this matter in front of your Shijie.”
Wei Xiaobao nodded in respond; he thought, “Shijie is such a beautiful and lovely woman, yet Shifu does not like her too much; I wonder what’s the reason? I think it must be because she cannot lick Shifu’s behind.”
Early morning the next day, he went into the Palace to have an audience with the Emperor. Kangxi was greatly delighted; pulling his hand, he laughed and said, “Damn it, why do you come back only today? Every day I am waiting for you. I was quite worried, afraid that you were seized by that evil nun, your little life could not be guaranteed. The day before yesterday Dolong returned and submitted his report, saying that he saw you; only then did I feel relieved. How did you escape?”
“Thank you for Your Majesty’s concern, and sent the Imperial Bodyguards to go looking for your servant,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “That evil nun was originally very angry, she was determined to punch and kick me, later on I told her that Your Majesty is ‘raw bird fish soup’ [niao sheng yu tang, see Chapter 14], is a very good Emperor, that she must not kill you. She spoke many more treason and heresy words. I praised you one sentence, she gave me one slap on the face. Later on I was unwilling to suffer another imminent pain, I had no choice but to shut my mouth and expect for the best.”
Kangxi nodded. “If you were killed by her, that would be for nothing anyway,” he said, “What is actually the evil nun’s background? She came to assassinate me, who sent her?”
“Who sent her, your servant did not know,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “After she kidnapped me that time, she tied my wrists with rope, and then took me away like pulling a circus monkey. Your Majesty, with my mouth I did not dare to curse, but in my heart I cursed her seventeen, eighteen-generation ancestors.”
Kangxi laughed. “I am not surprised,” he said, “Why wouldn’t you?”
“She dragged me along for several days,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “Several times she wanted to kill me, fortunately along the way we came across someone. This man has a friendship relation with your servant; he helped me by saying a lot of good words on my behalf, and then the evil nun stopped beating me.”
“Who was that man?” Kangxi asked in astonishment.
“This man surnamed Yang,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “He is the leader of the Ping Xi Wang’s Heir Apparent warriors.”
Kangxi was very interested. “So he is that servant Wu Sangui’s subordinate?” he asked, “Why did he help you by saying good things on your behalf?”
“Actually, it originated from Your Majesty’s benevolence,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “When the people of Mu Family of Yunnan entered the Palace and created disturbance the other day, they were framing Wu Sangui. Everybody else believed it, but Your Majesty is wise beyond compare, you were able to see through their plot. Your Majesty sent me to pass on the imperial edict to Wu Sangui’s son. It was at that time that the man surnamed Yang met with your servant.”
Kangxi nodded. “So that’s how it is,” he said.
Before entering the Palace, Wei Xiaobao had already prepared a good story; he added, “That man surnamed Yang is called Yang Yizhi. He mentioned the Mu Family incident to the nun, saying that although the Emperor is young, his knowledge and experience may surpass the ‘raw bird fish soup’, very intelligent and wise; practically he is the Daoist Immortal or Bodhisattva descending into the mortal world. The nun was half believing and half doubting, but she did not treat me that strict anymore afterwards. One evening, Yang Yizhi and the nun talked in the room, I pretended to be asleep, but I opened my ears. Turned out the nun came to assassinate the Emperor under someone else’s order.”
“It’s Wu Sangui, that servant,” Kangxi said.
Wei Xiaobao’s face showed a shocked expression. “So Your Majesty already know,” he said, “Did Dolong report it to you?”
“No, he did not,” Kangxi said, “The leader of Wu Sangui’s warriors knew this nun, and he discussed this matter with the nun in secret; what good can come out of that?”
Wei Xiaobao was startled but delighted; he kneeled down and kowtowed, saying, “Your Majesty, I am overjoyed to work for you; whatever it is, you can always guess it right the first time, no need for me to tell you. In all our lives, everything will be fine, we will never lose to anybody else.”