Chapter 139: Large Scale Educational Discussion Meeting
Warnings: descriptions of torture/blood/violence
Cliffhanger warning also continues…
The prison was dark and damp; a moldiness interspersed with the scent of blood permeated the air.
The cracked and fragmented walls were lined with iron torture tools and their sharp blades were still edged with remnants of scraped off rotten flesh and blood.
One glance into the place and you could immediately feel the dirt and grime.
Xiao Feng Wu took off his clothes and changed to the white prisoner’s outfit.
Under the lead of Jiang Ping An, he walked towards the jail cells and before he even approached, he could already hear the loud and quiet chorus of cries and wails; there were male and female voices, all of whom were in despair and absolute misery, of knowing there was no hope.
Jiang Ping An explained,
“Men are on the left, women on the right.
Quite a few of the Xiao family have already been detained.”
With handcuffs on his hands, Xiao Feng Wu stood between two jail cells, and for whatever reason, he did not speak a word, as if listening to Jiang Ping An’s voice.
Quickened footsteps came from the right side and a beautiful lady threw herself strongly towards her cell door, tightly grasping onto the bars and trying her best to look through the gaps as she asked with great urgency,
“Sixteenth Brother, Sixteenth Brother! Is that you, Sixteenth Brother?!”
She was the eleventh of the Xiao family and also Xiao Feng Wu’s eleventh sister.
The sound of her voice was like a rock thrown into water and a flurry of movement immediately erupted from all over the jail, overwhelming all the cries and wails,
“Sixteenth Brother?! Sixteenth Brother has also been caught?!”
“The heavens want to be rid of the Xiao family!”
Second Brother, Third Brother, Fourth Sister, Fifth Sister, Sixth Brother, Ninth Brother, Tenth Brother1, and perhaps there were more of his brothers and sisters, but as there were too many people, Xiao Feng Wu couldn’t distinguish them all.
Without any sound, he twisted the handcuffs on his wrists and then walked over to the left, entering into Jiang Ping An’s purposefully prepared solo jail cell, with Xiao Feng Ming as his neighbour.
Every cell around him held men from the Xiao family, two to each cell so it was not too cramped.
Xiao Feng Wu, finding insects and bugs crawling on the hay that covered the ground and mold by the edge of the bed, decided to keep standing.
There were too many people in the Xiao family, but the sisters could still be considered quite loving to Xiao Feng Wu, this youngest brother of theirs, and the brothers themselves were fairly alright with each other.
Opposite of them, Sixth Brother, Xiao Liu-Ge, snorted lightly and spit out the blade of grass in his mouth,
“Sixteenth Brother, your “young master” like attitude still can’t be changed huh, even at this stage.
What’s the point of caring if it’s clean or not when our heads are about to come off.
Take the time to have a good night’s sleep instead.”
Their neighbour, Xiao Feng Ming, cursed non stop as he grabbed the jail bars,
“All because of that bastard Xiao Lin Ru! That troublemaking bastard scum!”
Second Brother, Xiao Er-Ge, was the calmest out of all of them and slightly furrowed his eyebrows upon hearing that, saying in a serious tone,
Xiao Feng Ming did still have some fear in him and immediately zipped his mouth shut at that.
The distance between the male and female jail cells was not that far and before long, quiet sobs could be heard again from the women’s side.
Perhaps it was filled with too much emotion that the men also began to quiet down.
Through the gaps of the bars, Xiao Feng Wu found that his brothers were all sitting on the floor, catatonic or sleeping.
Only the seventh, only Xiao Feng Ming, was still mumbling and cursing at Xiao Lin Ru, cursing his ancestors all the way to him, even cursing himself, what an idiot.
Xiao Feng Wu was a strange person.
While others were suffering and in tears he had no such feelings.
At last, he felt a bit tired from standing.
He found a fairly clean spot by the bed to sit down and closed his eyes to rest.
There was a small window, about the size of his palm, that allowed air in and as the day slowly disappeared, the light was also beginning to fade.
When Xiao Feng Wu woke back up, half of his body was covered in shadows.
As his hand rested over his knees, the sense that he was likely to actually die this time finally came to him.
It was his first time brushing so close to death.
With the fading glow of the sun coming through, it brought on a melancholy, a loneliness, that could not be dissipated.
The atmosphere inside the prison was also intertwined with a deafening quiet and somberness.
As the dust in the air flew up and descended down, the encroaching feeling of hope dying was beginning to grow and grow.
Soldiers dragged in another prisoner sentenced to death, supposedly a bandit, and it looked like he suffered quite a bit of torture as ten of his nails were plucked out.
He was also said to have suffered a hundred hits from wooden planks which had smushed his left leg into a pile of flesh, destroying his bones and muscles.
When he was dragged across the floor, faint specks of bone could still be seen.
When Xiao Feng Wu saw the trail of dark blood left from the body being dragged, he finally felt that fear normal, common people had.
He was not afraid of death, but he was deathly afraid of the dirtiness that came with death, the insufferable pain of death.
Uncomfortable, he immediately got off the bed and looked through the bars to see the bandit still continuing to suffer under torture.
The torture chamber was not far and all of the prisoners could see it, if only to make a statement.
Xiao Feng Ming had also finally stopped his unscrupulous mouth and started talking to himself in quiet murmurs, his eyes shocked beyond anything,
“My fucking father that has already died, his leg’s already pummelled like that and blood’s flowing nonstop.
If it keeps bleeding, the man will die.
Sooner or later, that blood will attract all sorts of insects and bugs into the wound and isn’t that suffering just by living?”
“Seventh Brother, shut up! You think it’s still not frightening enough?!”
From further back, Ninth Brother, Xiao Lao-Jiu also looked over and discovered that they were now performing branding torture and the sound of sizzling flesh immediately caused them all to tremble and feel a numbness that travelled all the way to the heart.
He subconsciously said,
“Even if he gets through all this, that leg has to be cut off.
Branding like this can be a bit easier to heal, with gambier extract to stop the bleeding sores, and it will doubtlessly be painful, but after a while, it should heal up.
Hopefully when it comes to us brothers, it will not hurt all the way to our joints, muscles, or bones.”
Xiao Liu-Ge was in the same cell as him and he immediately clambered up, kicking him right in the butt,
“You got any more fucking things to say?!”
Lao-Jiu was hit hard and angrily got back up to hit him back,
“What? What the fuck did I say?! Was it not the truth?! We’re already in jail, sentenced to death, and you still think we can get out without suffering anything! You will have to suffer all 36 ways of torture!”2
The two of them were fighting quite fiercely and not even Xiao Er-Ge’s reprimands could stop them.
When Jiang Ping An heard it getting worse, he used his whip to lash at the bars, and the sharp piercing sound immediately stopped the both of them.
With a glowering voice, Jiang Ping An said,
“Keep fighting and you both can go and try it!”
Xiao Feng Wu had never really suffered in his life.
Even though he had gone through quite a few family punishments, kneeling in front of the memorial tablets of his ancestors3 and having your nails plucked out or getting branded by a hot iron were clearly on two different levels.
It had not been too long after falling off the Xiao family pedestal that he had been picked up by Qin Ming Yue who had given him good meals and good clothes, allowing him to be served just as well.
He could have smiled as he talked about life and death, but that was no doubt due to the lack of experiencing true suffering and pain.
Compared to now, his heart really could not settle down.
Would he really die this time around?
To suffer torture, to have his head chopped off?
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t know if he could suffer through it all.
Jiang Ping An branded a word onto the bandit’s face, a black and undecipherable stamp which was very difficult and ugly to look at.
Seeing Xiao Feng Wu’s immovable gaze on him, his face a deathly ashen color, he reflexively walked over,
“Physician Xiao, you……?”
When Xiao Feng Wu had entered the jail, he had hidden a bag of silver taels on himself, and he now passed as much as he could to Jiang Ping An as he said,
“I will have to trouble you to please help me prepare a set of brushes, ink and paper.”
Jiang Ping An didn’t take his money and pushed it all back to him,
“There is still some outside.
The criminal had just finished signing his crimes and the set hasn’t been packed up yet.
After a bit, I ‘ll bring it in.
You may have to stay here for a while, so keep the money on you for as long as you can.”
Xiao Feng Wu could only retract his hand and say after half a beat,
Xiao Feng Ming grasped onto the jail bars, pitifully saying,
“Sixteen, are you writing your will? Can you give me a bit of paper too, please?”
Xiao Liu-Ge smiled fakely,
“Our entire family is here, who are you writing it for.”
“I have a wife and a kid, unlike you who’s just an old lonely man!”
Since they weren’t confined in the same jail cell, Xiao Feng Ming was not scared that Xiao Liu-Ge would be able to hit him so he ran his mouth off without a care,
“Besides, isn’t Eighth Brother not here yet?”
Xiao Second Brother watched the guard walk further away before he quietly said,
“He joined a merchant caravan heading to Xi Yu.
Perhaps, out of all of us brothers, he will have the most hope to live on.”
In other words, all of them here were probably on death row.
Xiao Feng Wu lit an oil lamp for light.
It was still quite bright outside; darkness just barely touching the sky above.
Qin Ming Yue was not one to hang about, going off and out by himself, not liking to speak with others.
He also had a late show today, so he probably didn’t even know that Xiao Feng Wu had been detained and would probably only come here tomorrow.
Qin Ming Yue……
Xiao Feng Wu lifted up his brush, dipping it in ink, but he wasn’t able to put down a single character for a long while.
Suddenly, he calmly asked out loud,
“Is there some kind of medicine, that could let someone die without making a sound, without any suffering or pain ?”
Sometimes poison could save lives; if he couldn’t stand the torture, he could swallow it, and dying would be some kind of release.
Everyone lifted their heads at his question, and after a period of silence, they all understood what he meant.
But still, no one made a sound.
After all, in the deepest part of their hearts, they were all afraid of death, unwilling to just admit defeat, that their life would end, just like this.
Xiao Feng Ming swallowed down his saliva and then asked, trembling,
“Would Hong Hua San count?”4
Xiao Feng Wu slowly lifted his eyes,
“Before you die, you will have to suffer under acute pain in your stomach for at least five minutes.
Would you be able to handle it?”
Of course not.
Xiao Feng Ming didn’t make another sound.
He could only save people, not kill others.
Xiao Lao-Jiu thought about it.
“Luo Yan Sha?”5
Xiao Feng Wu ruminated on it, but still, he was unable to put down a stroke,
“There’s stiff white silkworm that’s only found in Xi Yu in that.
Who are you going to get to retrieve that for you? Eighth Brother?”
Numerous discussions started scatteringly, discussing which way to die would be the most comfortable.
Their conversation spread all the way to the women’s side where there was a sudden loud bang on the jail bars and the rattling of chains,
“Are the teachings passed down from our ancestors to be used in such a way?! We, as women, haven’t even tried to find a way to die and the men already can’t even stand it! Are you not embarrassed and ashamed! If you really want to die, then hit your head against the wall.
What’s the point of discussing which medicine or not as even the best used on your bodies would be a waste!”
The voice of a woman suddenly interrupted their musings and immediately invoked fear in all of the gathered brothers.
Xiao Feng Ming visibly shrunk down a bit before saying,
“It’s Fourth Sister.
How could she still be so fierce even after being put in jail?”
Xiao Feng Wu closed his eyes for a while before opening them again.
He lifted up his brush and soaked up some ink to start writing.
A flicker of light shone on the words as they appeared on paper clearly, unravelling to become the missing part of their family teachings.
Xiao Feng Wu’s voice was cold and calm but this time he was speaking to the women on the other side of the jail,
“There was a wealthy family in the south with a beautiful concubine who had been without a child for a long time.
Looking for a prescription that could help her, she began to take Yu Ying Dan and with added motherwort herb, desertliving cistanche, porcelain berry, stiff white silkworm, blackend swallowwort root, all mixed together under low flame.
Along with Cu Huang Ti Tang, she was pregnant before the month’s end.
Could she have kept this foetus?”6
Silence descended immediately on the women’s side before a rustling was heard.
After a while, a hesitant voice drifted out, sounding as if it was Eleventh Sister,
“This prescription is too aggressive, too harmful.
The foetus is being nursed with living blood which is already not easy.
With Cu Huang Ti Tang to rush the ovaries for an egg, too much is on hand to care for.
Three to five months would still be okay, but if it’s any longer it would leech off too much from the mother’s body and this pregnancy will be hard to keep.”
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t stop writing as he continued to ask,
“If that beautiful concubine had used rare and expensive medicinal ingredients to forcefully keep the both of them alive, and was lucky enough to carry her pregnancy all the way to birth, but that foetus is in the wrong position?”
A murmuring broke out over the women’s side of the jail as Fourth Sister, Xiao Si-Jie, thought about it before saying,
“If the baby is not in the right position, it could be forced to change.
But this cannot be an immediate process.
This requires at least three to fourth months.
It also requires an experienced midwife to warm and massage the belly with a specific oil to slowly shift that foetus into the correct position.
But if it’s already at the birthing stage, the baby is too large to come out correctly and it would probably mean the deaths of two.”
Perhaps it was boredom but seeing Xiao Feng Wu speaking with the other side, Xiao Feng Ming couldn’t help but interrupt,
“Eh eh eh, what’s the point of thinking so much.
Female ginseng, safflower, tree peony bark, monkshood daughter root, rhubarb7, taoren, cassia bark, rhizoma curumae, 25 grams each, boiled until it all turns white and coagulated into a pill and then take it all down……”
Xiao Liu-Ge immediately spit out,
“You are keeping the child and killing the mother! Have you no conscience!”
Xiao Feng Ming didn’t back down and said,
“Better to have one die than two!”
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t respond to any of their comments and a thick stack of paper was beginning to accumulate by his side.
He suddenly paused and then lifted up his brush.
A faint flicker of light shone on the side of his palm; a faint mellow yellow, yet there was a sharp piercing contrast of white, as if it were the sharp gleam of a blade.
As if he was asking the others, yet also as if he was speaking to himself,
you cut the stomach and take out the child……”
It was not that such an occurrence had never been recorded in history, as in Sima Qian’s << Shiji – Hereditary House of Chu >>8, it has been recorded that Wu Hui had a son Lu Zhong and Lu Zhong had another six children, and they had caesarean births.
So even though there was a risk, it does not beget a try.
Xiao Si-Jie had been listening in and immediately asked,
“That concubine should be fairly weak and if she loses too much blood, what could be done? Or, if during the middle of the birth, she loses too much energy and the child dies in the womb, what should be done then?”
Xiao Feng Wu seemed to have an idea,
“Needle to Kong Zui, Yin Bai, Xia Liao, Cheng Ji, Yin Que, Pi Shu, Shen Men and such to stop the blood, a slice of ginseng held in their mouth to keep them breathing, taking Cui Sheng Tang to induce the birth, cutting the stomach to take the child, and adding a stablizing medicinal soup with deer antlers, wild ginseng, caterpillar fungus, tian ma, snow lotus……” 9
Before he even finished, Xiao Er-Ge said with his eyebrows tightly furrowed,
“Don’t fool around! Such overly healing medicine all clumped together.
This is too harmful.”
Xiao Feng Ming sighed, saying uncaringly,
“If it’s harmful then it is.
We’re all about to greet death to its face, so what will happen if the patient can’t be saved.
What’s the point of focusing on what’s good or not? If it was up to me, let’s just preserve our strength, and do whatever it is to make ourselves better.”
Xiao Feng Wu finished writing on a few more sheets of paper and he folded them neatly as he contemplated,
“A deathly prognosis requires aggressive approaches.
Just have to pretend it’s a living horse rather than a dead one.”10
And then he stood up to shake off the numbness from his legs.
Walking over to the jail door, he was just about to call out to Jiang Ping An when he heard quickened footsteps, and then immediately after, a shadow flew across the hallway towards him.
The one who just arrived was Qin Ming Yue.
Perhaps he had received the news too suddenly as his face was completely pale from running.
His hands tightly gripped onto the ice cold iron cell bars, and his pair of phoenix eyes were wide and rounded from shock.
Xiao Feng Wu rarely saw Qin Ming Yue in such a state of disarray and Qin Ming Yue also very rarely saw Xiao Feng Wu in such a state of disarray.
The two of them looked at each other, with the jail cell bars between them, unable to speak any words.
Jiang Ping An looked left and right before whispering,
“Keep it quick, or you’ll risk being found.”
And then he turned to leave.
Xiao Feng Wu came back to his senses only after hearing his footsteps walk further and further away,
“Why have you come here.”
He kicked at the hay by the door but then found a pile of wet rat poo.
In the end, he couldn’t really steel his heart to sit down and only continued to stand and keep talking.
Seeing him in a prisoner’s outfit, looking so much more destitute than when the Xiao family was first dismantled, Qin Ming Yue’s teeth were gritted so tightly to the point where veins could be seen on his forehead.
He coldly asked him,
“Should I not have come here?”
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t respond.
He looked at Qin Ming Yue for a while before hesitating and then reaching out a hand through the bars.
He rubbed off the remnants of makeup the other had not fully removed before using his finger to stroke the other’s cheeks,
“Don’t come here again, or you’ll be implicated.”
Qin Ming Yue looked back at him,
“Do you think I would be afraid?”
Xiao Feng Wu smiled at that,
“Alright, I actually do have something to ask for your help for.”
He passed over a thick stack of paper, the ink just about dried,
“There is a prescription on top.
Help me make a few dozen of these pills and bring them back.
The remaining papers that are not about the pills, I will have to trouble you to bring them into the capital and think of a way to give them to the Huai Hua General.
Let him bring it to my second uncle.
They do have a bit of an acquainted relationship so he should be able to give a hand.”
Qin Ming Yue accepted the papers and took a look, his fingers tightening on the stack.
He quietly asked,
“What kind of prescriptions are they?”
“Don’t ask, Ming Yue.
You know, I have never liked learning the medicinal arts, always feeling that the injuries were too dirty and disgusting, not even willing to give an eye.
So, how could you let me go and accept torture.
At that time, not even a full body would be left behind.”
Xiao Feng Wu smiled and shook his head as he spoke,
“To have your body be split apart, that is too terrifying.”
How could it have come to this point in time……
How could it have come to this point in time……
The heavens were not punishing the Xiao family; they were punishing him, Qin Ming Yue.
The corners of Qin Ming Yue’s eyes were reddening and his breathing became heavier and heavier.
He closed his eyes and grasped tightly onto Xiao Feng Wu’s ice cold hands, quietly saying,
“Don’t be afraid.
I will definitely think of a way to get you out of here.
Even if I can’t…… you won’t be alone on the road to Huang Quan11.
Sixteenth Master, I will accompany you.”
No matter how cold he looked, how isolated he was, his personality was still as pure and simple as it had been before.
When you like someone, you would do anything, even scraping your heart out, so how could he care about his own life.
Xiao Feng Wu looked at him,
“I’m not worth it.”
Qin Ming Yue’s strength felt like it was enough to break his bones, his voice still so stubborn and obstinate,
“I said that you’re worth it, then you’re worth it.”
TL tibit: while searching for what Xiao Feng Ming was mentioning, putting all the medicine together and googling immediately gets me abortion by way of Chinese medicine lol.
Also extra tidbit, if you see dialogue with :, it’s due to how written Chinese (traditionally) uses :『 』as their , “” kind of dialogue we see in English.
*1 When Xiao Feng Wu’s brothers/sisters are mentioned, “Xiao Er-Ge” for example, it’s not technically his name but a reference call just like as mentioned in volume 3 footnote, Xiao is the family name, er is (usually) the reference to birth order and ge is brother (jie is sister) so it’s just an easy reference to say it’s Second Brother of the Xiao family (and for all the other brothers/sisters as well).
And when it’s referenced later on for “lao-jiu” for example, it’s like the previous footnote in the previous chapter(s), lao is another reference like senior/elder.
*2 36 ways of torture: there’s not exactly documentation that accounts for which specific 36 ways of torture (or even by tools) he is mentioning.
It’s been contended that there are 5 or 22 or 72 categories (and quite a bit more variance on that number as well as there seemed to be no end to human imagination on that front).
I’ll spare you most of the details (as it was an absolute mistake trying to google/baidu this which I really don’t recommend as history is quite depressing, mad and sad) but most of them can be categorized as either ways to hurt the human body (split between the flesh and body parts such as the face tattoo/branding or to cut off a body part/be boiled alive/plummeted into globs of flesh etc.) or to be banished off into the wild/hard labour.
This might be also just be in reference to the number of instruments of torture in the prison but not quite sure (and I don’t think I really know…).
*3 Ancestors’ memorial tablets: please see volume 4 footnote
*4 Hong Hua San: technically could be Safflower powder but I’m not sure if this is the right one to translate to as most of the usages were for other things such as for periods/birth related things so it might not be the actual powder and another way to say poisonous things…etc.
so I’ll just kept it to pinyin
*5 Luo Yan Sha: basically a legendary known to be said as poisonous medicine, something with no taste and color and usually used to poison wuxia martial artists etc.
*6 Yu Ying Dan: means ‘pill for white and precious jade like baby’ where the baby is described as it first came out of the womb etc.
Cu Huang Ti Tang: “luteinizing hormones” soup so something that would aid in reproductive cycles
*7 rhubarb: not the culinary variety; mainly used to cure intestinal issues and literal translation is more like “big yellow”
*8 Shiji as in the Records of the Grand Historian and it basically details the history of ancient China.
It’s considered to be the first universal history of the world and was recorded by Sima Qian (and also started by his father).
*9 Kong Zui, Yin Bai, Xia Liao, Cheng Ji, Yin Que, Pi Shu, Shen Men: I didn’t really have a lot of time to spend searching for pressure points and most diagrams I saw were just using variations of Chinese to English like pinyin but some were a bit different so I’m not sure what the criteria of the translation were.
To keep it simple, I decided to just use the pinyin as it’s not quite relevant or used too much otherwise later on.
In that regard, Kong Zui is a pressure point to briefly place… about halfway between the wrist and the elbow, Yin Bai is by about the corner of your big toe’s nail, Xia Liao about the points right beside the split of your buttcheeks, Cheng Ji is between the bottom of your lip to chin, Yin Que by your wrist, Pi Shu the middle of your back, and Shen Men right down the side of your pinky on the edge of your wrist.
*10 “pretend it’s a living horse rather than a dead one”: technically the saying is heal/diagnose a dead horse as a living horse which is as the saying means, basically like as a last resort when all else has failed
*11 Huang Quan: please see footnote from previous volume #1, a throwback
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