Book 26 Chapter 7 - After You
The Song Family's mountain city consisted of several hundred courtyards, big and small. The courtyards became an inseparably close system and linked to each other, with the ancestral hall, which contained the spirit tablets of the past generations of Song Family - at the center.
Each courtyard was divided equally into straight courtyard and slanted courtyard. None of the dividing structures was not constructed from choice material of superior quality, the workmanship was exquisite.
Under the hazy light of the dawn, Kou Zhong and Song Que walked side-by-side to the Ming Yue Lou [bright moon building], which was located right next to the Mo Dao Tang. As they stepped into the flower garden, he saw an old man with white hair peppered with grey - pruning the flowers and plants. After casting a sidelong glance to the two men, he turned a blind eye to them and continued working.
While Kou Zhong was greatly astonished, Song Que laughed and said, "Fang Shu [uncle] is the only person in the mountain city who is not afraid of me, because he has been serving me since childhood." Kou Zhong nodded his head, indicating that he understood.
Passing through a long corridor, with flowers and trees supported on trellises on both sides - there was a stone beam bridge spanning across the pond. All around them the trees were quite dense; there was quite a seeking-serenity, exploring-beautiful-scenery ambience. The other side of the pond was precisely the main gate of a two-story wooden construction, above which door was hanging a wooden board, carved with three characters 'Ming Yue Lou' in gold lettering.
The wooden door and windows were fretwork with ornamental design. The interlocking wooden brackets between the top of the columns and crossbeams reached high into the eaves, embedded with stone carving; refined, colorful, brilliant and varied.
Song Que stopped in the middle of the bridge. Leaning over the railing, he looked down and fixed his gaze on the fish swimming lazily in the serene pond. He asked, "Your shenfa, did you develop it based on the swimming fish?"
Full of admiration, Kou Zhong said, "Fazhu is indeed formidable; you could even see through this."
Shaking his head, Song Que said, "I never understood a real natural talent, until now. How's Xu Ziling compared to you?"
Kou Zhong said, "Ziling is the only person in the world that I really admire, so much so that I am afraid of him. Luckily he is my best Xiongdi. If he is willing to help me to obtain the world, it would be much easier for me."
Song Que said, "Everybody has his own aspiration, you can't force it. Come! Don't let them wait too long!"
Kou Zhong was stunned; who might be waiting for them?
Xu Ziling was awakened by a child's cry, followed by the voice of Han Zenan, husband and wife, comforting the child. After Little Jie went back to sleep, Han Zenan spoke in low voice, "Xiaochang [lit. little skirt]! What kind of person do you think that Gong Chenchun is?"
Originally Xu Ziling did not have any intention to eavesdrop personal conversation between a man and his wife, but since his name was being mentioned, naturally he focused his power on his ear to see how Mrs. Han would respond.
Lowering her voice, Mrs. Han, who was called Xiaochang, replied, "Although his appearance is fierce and tough, his manner of speech and his bearing are like a very cultured man; he is also quite kind and cherishing Xiao Jie. Is Xianggong [husband] thinking of asking him for help? Ay! It's hard to fathom a person's mind, Xianggong needs to think three times before going."
After muttering to himself irresolutely for half a day, Han Zenan said, "Although his name did not spread far and wide in Jianghu, but looking at how effortlessly he forced He Yi Pai people to retreat, this man's martial art skill is strong enough to be comparable with people of Xie Hui's level. If he is willing to help, perhaps we would be able to break away from those people."
Sighing, Xiaochang said, "Why would he want to invite disaster on himself?"
Han Zenan said, "Even if he declines, we have nothing to lose anyway. I have a strange feeling that he seems to really care about us."
Xiaochang said, "That is precisely what qie [I, your servant] is most afraid of; I am afraid he has some other evil intentions."
Smiling ruefully, Han Zenan said, "With his skill, while the world is in chaos like this, dealing with us, a family of three, is actually as easy as a hand's turn, there is no need to plot and scheme. That Jianghu fellow surnamed Lei has been talking with him behind closed door for the whole day, I wonder what they are talking about."
Xiaochang said, "Let's talk about this when we get to Jiujiang! Perhaps we would be able to throw off the pursuing troops by then, and then the wide sea and the sky would let us soar into it!"
His sleep completely abandoned him, Xu Ziling got out of bed, put on his clothes, and went out to the deck.
Following behind Song Que, Kou Zhong entered the Ming Yue Tang, which, in term of scale, was as grand as the Mo Dao Tang. He saw several young warriors of the Song Family were setting up a sumptuous table of breakfast. Song Zhi, Song Lu, two men immediately rose up from their seats.
Seeing how respectful they were toward Song Que, it was obvious that within the Song Clan, Song Que held supreme authority.
After the host and guest sat down, Song Que waved his hand to dismiss the young warriors from the building, and then he asked Song Lu, "Where's Yuzhi?"
Song Lu replied, "Just now she was getting ready; she should be here soon!"
Only this moment did Kou Zhong feel deeply the inscrutable style with which Song Que conduct himself. Just by looking at the steaming hot, elaborate and tastefully chosen vegetable and meat dishes of various kinds on the table, he knew that the chef must have started working in the middle of the night, while at that time he was still engaged in a life and death battle against Song Que.
It was obvious that before then Song Que has already had accurate judgment on him, hence he had the feast in front of them prepared in advance.
Thinking about he was going to see Song Yuzhi soon, inwardly he was really happy but scared at the same time, simply because he was unsure on how 'hospitable' Song Yuzhi would be toward him, furthermore, he was unsure on how Song Que would 'handle' the two of them.
Song Que was in high spirits; he poured wine for the other three cheerfully. Turning to Kou Zhong, he said, "This is Hangzhou's specialty, the Osmanthus wine. Not only the flavor mellow and rich, the taste smooth, it also has calming effect and nutritious, and can improve blood circulation; harmless to drink a bit more."
Kou Zhong looked at the amber colored wine in his cup, transparent and clear, emitting the sweet fragrance of Osmanthus flower, which was quite intoxicating. Even without drinking it he could already taste the wonderful floating-in-the-air, high-in-the-clouds feeling.
A single look at the table and he noticed the utensils, whether it was the cup, dish, bowl, plate, goblet, oil lamp, were all of meticulous craftsmanship, appealing and elegant. The most particular thing was that all the vessels were glazed with dots like raindrops; the base color was black, but it was covered with silvery-white tiny dots in radial pattern. The bigger dots were about the size of a pea, the small ones were about the size of a millet, like pleated silvery light.
Only this kind of precious household utensils would fit Song Clan's position, which surpassed the other big clans.
Noticing Kou Zhong was paying particular attention to the vessels containing exquisite wine and culinary delicacy on the table, Song Zhi said with a laugh, "This type of raindrop glaze is also known as Heaven's Eye glaze. From the chi-long pitcher to cun-size basin, all are considered out-of-the-world treasure; even the fragments can worth as much as gold and jade. We have only been able to collect this set after searching for a long time."
This was the second time Kou Zhong sat down and talked with Song Zhi, already he felt the difference.
From Song Zhi's cordial tone, Kou Zhong clearly knew that he had already considered Kou Zhong as family. Surprisingly, it was Song Lu who proposed a toast.
"For more than ten years," he said with a laugh, "This is the first time that I see Da Xiong with so much smile on his face. This toast is for Da Xiong; the next one is Xiao Zhong's turn."
Laughing involuntarily, Song Que said, "Lu Di [younger brother] must have kept that remark in your heart for close to ten years, and only today you can take others' precarious position to reveal your feeling. Ha! Let's drink for victory."
And then they took turn toasting each other.
After several rounds, Song Que suddenly asked indifferently, "Did Shidao fall in love with that Gaoli [Korean] woman?"
Kou Zhong was caught off-guard; a bit flustered replied, "On that …! Fazhu, please do not get angry; the truth is … ay! I cannot escape the blame, because …"
Song Que cut him off, "This affair, we already knew the details from the letter that he sent to us, so no need to repeat. I just want to know, based on Shao Shuai's observation, whether Shidao is in love with that Gaoli woman, Fu Junyu."
Kou Zhong did not dare to lie to him; smiling wryly, he said, "Strictly speaking, Er Gongzi [second young master] ought to be in love with the house and its crow [idiom: 'love me, love my dog']. However, whether a feeling would develop gradually, this is very difficult to say."
From the start, Song Zhi and Song Lu have been interrogated by Song Que about Song Shidao, so they did not dare to utter a word or half a sentence. It could be inferred that Song Que had exploded over this matter, hence nobody dared to butt in.