GS 37: Slipped the Net

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The layout of Clear Void Monastery was comparable to that of ordinary Daoist temples. The building was symmetrical on its central axis, the main hall serving as the hall for the Three Pure Ones and thus enshrining their statues. Beyond that, there were four more temple halls, the lecture platform, drum towers, and so on. The whole temple’s scale wasn’t very big, buts its verdant greenery was superb, its winding pathways lead to secluded places, and it installed a section of a peaceful land within the secular world.

Du Leng slowly pushed Fu Shen down the not-too-level slab pathway, exactly like two Buddhist worshipers that could not be any more ordinary. The Flying Dragon Guard had already searched this courtyard from front to back, and Fu Shen couldn’t make anything out either, merely thinking about stuff by means of this area. He actually had a suspicion in his mind that he’d never spoken of to others, yet it had lightly weighed down his heart non-stop.

The day after his and Yan Xiaohan’s marriage, Yu Qiaoting had brought him a small box of bloodied Eastern Pearls.

Fu Shen had told him to take them away and deal with them at the time, but he had never forgotten about this occurrence. Any details regarding the Zhe clan were not mere trivia; this old opponent of his had been keeping watch on him all along like a tiger stalking its prey, looking like they were behaving but secretly sharpening their claws and teeth, hibernating as they laid in wait for the chance to deal a fatal blow.

Fu Shen’s unhitching as the Commander of the Northern Yan Army and return to the capital for recuperation had undoubtedly given them hope, so much so that they all dared to take this opportunity to get the guts to step forward and check things out. However, so much time had passed and yet they hadn’t made a move; maybe they still suspected that this was the next round of the Great Zhou’s monarch and his subjects acting together.

The Northern Yan Iron Cavalry was by no means entirely unprepared. The only thing that made Fu Shen uneasy was that he had no idea how many scouts the Zhe clan had in the capital. Were any of their actions behind the Golden Crow Guard’s murder or the Vast Longevity Feast’s assassination? Was that box of Eastern Pearls merely a simple provocation, or were the objects meant as some sort of hint?

The Eastern Pearl was an extremely precious type of treasure to the Zhe. Apart from paid tribute to the Great Zhou, within their clan, only their leader’s wife and mother – in Central Plains terms, their Empress and Empress Dowager – were qualified to wear them. As a result, many of the Zhe clansmen used the Eastern Pearl as a reference to the Empress, and the Empress’s mishap happened to be on the day of the Vast Longevity Feast. Was that just a coincidence?

If general associations were being made, the Gold Pill and Eastern Pearl were similar in shape, which was also suspicious. Furthermore, their name contained “East” – could it be implying that this event would cause the greatest amount of damage to the Eastern Palace?

In the middle of letting his mind run wild like this the whole journey, the wheelchair seemed to bump over a small stone, jolting him and bringing him back from his contemplation. He lifted his head for a look. “Where is this?” he asked skeptically.

“I don’t know,” Du Leng replied abashedly, “I seem to have gotten lost…”

“You are truly beyond my expectations,” Fu Shen sneered, pointing without a care. “Just go wherever. With how big the courtyard is, you could get out of it with your eyes closed. Isn’t there a small building up ahead?”

Du Leng was so ashamed that he didn’t even dare to let out a fart, pushing Fu Shen over to the place without a word leaving him. They came to a stop before a tiny, three-storied building. Fu Shen’s lips hooked up, full of interest. “A scripture library? It’s so far removed,” he wondered.

They had gone through many of the halls, and though Fu Shen’s mind had wandered midway through, he could deduce that they were likely now in some unknown corner of the Clear Void Monastery. This library was in a remote spot, a great distance apart from the wing the priests lived in and further covered up behind a wide expanse of forest. It looked to be deserted, and certainly not easy to find — would anyone really come here to read scriptures?

“Let’s go inside for a look.”

Du Leng moved Fu Shen’s wheelchair up the steps with extreme difficulty, gasping from the strain. “We can’t get in, the door’s locked.”

Fu Shen glanced at him. “So small-minded.” He flipped his palm over as he spoke, grasping a knife taken from who-knows-where, and broke open the copper lock with two or three tries. With a push of a hand, the two wooden doors were opened wide, the scent of old paper mixing with dusty air hitting them in the face.

Du Leng: “……”

Fu Shen’s hand had been too fast, to the extent that Du Leng hadn’t gotten a good look of his movements. That big, heavy brass lock was like a toy in his palm.

The most important thing was… he was an inpatient, why was he just casually wielding a knife?!

There was dust all over the inside of the library. Du Leng once again huffed and puffed as he moved the wheelchair over the doorsill. The hull of a doctor really wasn’t like those of martial laborers, who could have easily lifted the Marquis up to the second floor.

“Enough, enough. Go shut the door.” Fu Shen couldn’t take it anymore, thus he stood up, supporting himself on the armrests. “I’ll go on by myself.”

The state of his injuries was actually extraordinarily subtle. His knee caps were completely broken and his tendons were damaged, but it wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t stand up. So long as he recovered well, there was a hope he could completely bounce back. However, he genuinely wouldn’t be able to walk as normal for this brief duration, and even if his wounds healed, there was no way he’d be able to stay on the front lines for the long term when he was healthy.

This awkward situation had been made awkward by the Emperor’s spy in the army, as news of Fu Shen’s injury wasn’t able to stay in the dark, so the Emperor had immediately ordered for him to come back to the capital for recuperation. Fu Shen had recognized earlier that the Emperor had wariness towards him, but he hadn’t expected him to be in such a rush. It was a further impossibility for him to inform the Emperor that he had a prospect of total recovery, else he might not have lived a month in the capital.

He could only make calculations against calculations, talking up his condition a bit more seriously so he could survive before all else. The handicapped appearance was all made up for the Emperor to see. Fu Shen’s bones had, in fact, almost fused, so getting up and walking for a bit wasn’t an issue. He just had to put on a show in front of people and not let anything slip to give it away.

Du Leng was aware of his true circumstances, and in order to give him a realistic pseudo-lameness, he had concocted some pills for Fu Shen that made one’s legs weaken and lose feeling after being taken. The result was so outstanding, they had even duped Shen Yi’ce.

Du Leng turned back to cover the door, warning him with unease. “Slow down, you haven’t walked much recently. Take care not to fall. Do your legs hurt?”

“A bit. It’s not a problem.” Fu Shen carefully found his balance, supporting himself against the wall and slowly walking past the great many bookshelves. “No one’s come here in a really long time, and no one’s swept, either, but the steps at the entrance were clean like there’s actually been frequent visitors. Weird.”

Du Leng pushed the wheelchair as he followed behind him. Fu Shen subsequently went up to the second floor and did a loop around it, looking at a few worn-out books and putting them back disinterestedly. When he got to the end of the room, he suddenly made a very soft “huh?”.

Du Leng didn’t know the reason for it. Fu Shen made a few more round trips inside the room, then furrowed his brows. “Let’s go downstairs.”

The two went back a floor, and walked around it a few times like before, Fu Shen hitting his fingers as he counted all the walls on them one by one. Du Leng noticed his deep frown, and couldn’t stop himself from asking after it. “What’s wrong, General?”

“Something’s not right. Can’t you sense it? The room on the second floor seems to be a bit bigger than the one on the first.”

Du Leng shook his head blankly.

“Count how many steps it takes to get from this wall to the door, then go up to the second floor and follow the same route one time through.”

Du Leng did a round as he’d instructed, then immediately rushed down from the second floor after, astonishment showing on his face. “The second floor has at least one more step! Could it be…” (1)

Fu Shen held up a finger, making a silencing gesture.

He issued a softly-spoken command. “Go find General Wei. Have him bring some people over, as well as some wet firewood…” (2)

In the North Prison’s Department of Punishment.

Priest Chunyang hadn’t said a word so far. Yan Xiaohan and Tang Guo had spent nearly the whole day steeping in the torture chamber to get a confession. Then, someone hastily came in from the outside, whispering a few things to Yan Xiaohan.

“Understood.” Yan Xiaohan turned towards Tang Guo. “Doctor Shen is looking for me. You see to this for a while, I’m going out.”

Tang Guo’s eyes shone when he heard the words ‘Doctor Shen’, but after learning nothing had happened to him, he nodded expressionlessly. Yan Xiaohan raised his chin and motioned it towards the prisoner dangling in the cell. “It might be related to him. Take it a little easy, and don’t kill him.”

The North Prison was only a few steps away from the Flying Dragon Guard’s headquarters. The instant Yan Xiaohan stepped through the door, Shen Yi’ce came tumbling over like a tornado. “Sir! It’s the Monastery! Those who died from sexual exhaustion, including Yang Hexuan, weren’t unconnected – they had all gone to Clear Void Monastery!”

“Wh…” He’d made Yan Xiaohan jump in fright. “What’d you say? Speak slowly, from the top. What’s happening?”

Shen Yi’ce’s face was flushed with excitement. “I’d been trying to find out what exactly the packet of drugs on Yang Hexuan was all these past few days, so I visited each of the dead people’s homes. Though the locations they lived in are scattered all around the city, if they’re marked on a map, you can see that their residences make an approximate circle, and right in the center of them is the sphere of the Clear Void Monastery.”

He spread out a map of the capital, indicating for Yan Xiaohan to take a look at the aforementioned brush marks.

“The Monastery has always had a sacred reputation and a lot of incense is burned there. A countless amount of visitors come and go during holidays or auspicious days, so it’s natural that folks wouldn’t take note of these people all having shown up at the same spot. I asked the families of the deceased, and all of them really had gone to the Monastery with incense every so often, usually contributing a few donations. As soon as they got a headache or minor illness, they’d go looking for charmed water and cinnabar pills[1], and after a dose, they’d be cured — if there really was such a class of panacea, would we doctors still have anything to do? Clearly, they’d done the mistake of getting addicted, and they could only get the drugs if they went to the Monastery.
Because of the reverence of the immortal Dao in the temple, the citizens also went along with the offerings, so no one took it as strange. The Monastery relied on this ambience to secretly sell strange drugs. Yang Hexuan doesn’t even need to be brought up; Priest Chunyang was recommended by his father.”

Yan Xiaohan stared at the map and mumbled to himself for a moment. “Come,” he said resolutely, “we’re going to Clear Void Monastery.”

When he had rushed to the Monastery with several of his subordinates and then heard that Fu Shen and Wei Xuzhou were inside the scripture library, Yan Xiaohan’s right eyelid suddenly twitched with unease.

An unspeakable feeling attacked his heart. He had no time to think more, taking people with as he sped towards the library, though he hadn’t yet gotten close when he could already catch sight of distant thick smoke billowing out of the front of a building and rushing towards the sky—

“Fu Shen!”

Fu Shen abruptly turned around, directly facing his “wife” who was darting up with a look of fear and fury.

At the same time, a sudden, loud bang came from inside the smoke-filled library, immediately after which the large doors were kicked open from the inside. A black figure coughed repeatedly, covering their mouth and nose as they rushed out of the room!

Yan Xiaohan had just gotten near him, his momentum not yet halted, when he saw Fu Shen draw out a blade from his waist as quick as a flash, and, without even looking, throw it back-handed. The exceptionally dazzling white light flowed like water, and with a clang, it nailed the figure to a coupleted column.

A subordinate came up carrying a basin of water and poured it on the wet firewood that was constantly giving off smoke. The flame went out with a hiss, its spiraling white plumes dispersing. Everyone in the courtyard each had their own varying expression on their face.

In the stretch of silence, Fu Shen reached out and took Yan Xiaohan’s hand that had gone cold with dread into his palm. He tugged at and gently shook it, as if he was placating him, though it also had something of a favor-currying, praise-seeking overtone. “Look. A fish slipped the net, and I helped you catch it.”


The author says: (1) “Step” here refers to an ancient unit of measurement, about 1.5 meters.
(2) The method of finding a small hidden room by looking at a room’s surface area, and the method of starting a fire to force someone out of that hidden room, were tricks designed in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes case, The Adventure of the Norwood Builder. In this text, the hidden room’s design is identical to that of the Norwood, but in regards to its method of lighting a fake fire, this text instead adopts the “smoke cavern” method often used in ancient times. The next chapter will have a reasonable explanation for this, and details the slight difference in design to Norwood. I’m explaining this in order to avoid any plagiarism controversy.
The translator says: I am 200% sure that Sherlock Holmes is too old to plagiarize and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is too dead to care. That’s like saying you could plagiarize the themes in Alice in Wonderland… good luck tracking all that plagiarism down at this point!

[1] ‘Charmed water’ is when Daoist priests write a magic talisman/charm, burn it, and then mix the ashes with water; this water is then said to have healing properties (untrue, FYI). Cinnabar pills are exactly that; TCM says that cinnabar is good for the heart. However, do note that cinnabar is made out of mercury, a known poison. Don’t do TCM, kids.

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9 thoughts on “GS 37: Slipped the Net

  1. I’m sorry I couldn’t focus because of Du Leng’s name…….. Duleng means crossed eye in the local langauge here and I couldn’t focus because of it…until now I am trying to hold my laughter in….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can anyone remind of who is this Zhe Clan again? Their name sounds familiar but I don’t remember their role in this story.

    Like

  3. I’m so glad Fu Shen can recover his health… But now they all have seen him standing?! That’s dangerous If it gets to the emperor’s ears.

    Thanks for the chapter!

    Like

  4. Loving this but I’m completely confused about what’s going on and what MC’s true character is. He seems loyal, yet cunning, and yet not. His personality seems to change on each chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cunning is characteristic of a general; lots of great military tactics in history have been nothing but mere feints and plays. You can be both cunning and loyal, in that you’re cunning on the one you’re loyal to’s behalf.
      Fu Shen is a good man at heart, who is… going through some mental stuff right now. Being good doesn’t mean being a pushover, or not having the ability to scheme against those who betrayed your trust, or not being impulsive at times, like he is.

      As for what’s going on… there’s many things! You’ll have to be more specific on what you’re confused about, haha.

      Liked by 2 people

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