And yes, these two characters feature in Tang-ji history classes.
Chan Zhu surveyed the view from the ridge and said, “There’s a spring in that direction.” He pointed roughly to the west northwest. “We can be there in under an hour. There should be feed for the horses too – it’ll be a good place to camp for the night.”
“Neither of us have ever been here before,” Li Poi was disbelieving, “so how can you know any of that?”
“I just do,” Chan Zhu returned. “Just like I know that back way into Lord Zhou’s stables by way of the armoury.”
“That’s what worries me,” shot back Li Poi. “Sooner or later knowing stuff like that is going to get you into trouble with someone like Lord Zhou. Or someone mouthy is going to decide you’re a demon or something.”
“Hasn’t happened yet,” said Chan Zhu prosaically.
“Only because anyone who works out that there’s something odd going on with you finds that they’ve got more to lose by talking about it than by leaving you alone. Like me,” admitted Li Poi. “Or that nosy old biddy whose grandson you found when he got lost in that cave.”
“I didn’t have anything to do with him going into that cave,” said Chan Zhu, starting his horse down the slope towards the alleged spring site. “His grandmother’s stories about the fortune stashed in there did that.”
Li Poi urged his own mount to follow. “Well, he found it. Not that I’d call what was in that coffer a fortune.”
“It was enough to mend their roof and granary, with enough left over for a cow, a sheep and some chickens,” pointed out Chan Zhu. “It was a fortune to them, but not enough of one to attract unwanted attention.” He was quiet for a few minutes then went on, “You know, Li Poi, it seems to me that people like that old lady and her grandson have to worry far too much about unwanted attention than they should.”
“Hang on, we resemble that remark. We did raid Lord Zhou’s armoury and stable,” pointed Li Poi. “And didn’t I meet you in the condemned cell back in Kailong?”
Chan Zhu asked rhetorically, “Who’d have thought that Zhe Mung would be picky about who was being nice to a wife he’s not interested in?” He went on less whimsically, “And if Lord Zhou was attending to his duties, then we would never have been in a position to equip ourselves at his expense. We would be gainfully employed elsewhere, and his guards would be more diligent. His village headmen wouldn’t have cause to grumble about paying taxes for nothing either.”
Diverted, Li Poi asked, “Are they?”
“Yes, and without any prodding,” his companion replied. “I believe that Lord Zhou is about to lose the favour of heaven.”
“War and chaos then,” commented Li Poi, “until someone else strongarms everyone into thinking that they’re worthy.”
“That could be us,” said Chan Zhu. “We’ve got good horses and bronze swords, thanks to Lord Zhou’s unwitting benevolence. You’re one of the best archers I know. I’m not bad at recruiting and running a war band. By the time the stars start shouting their portents in a few months’ time we can be ready to take advantage.”
“Stars shouting their portents? You’re sounding like a priest or a sorcerer,” commented Li Poi severely.
“There’s a comet that comes back every eighty-seven years,” replied Chan Zhu calmly, “and it’s due soon. We could hire a couple of priests to talk it up….”
“You think you can do a better job than Lord Zhou? You think you can live to do a better job than him?” Li Poi urged his horse forward so he could see his companion’s face.
“Yes,” Chan Zhu sounded oddly confident. “Yes, by the grace of Heaven, I do.”