Friday, June 30, 2006


The Cook and the Assassin - Chapter 10

Chapter 10: The facts of fire

Wen Yiji heaved a sigh of relief. He had found his youngest sister and she did not look sick or starving. He was glad that she appeared all right.

“I thought you were in prison!” exclaimed Xiang Xiang, She was excited, but not quite sure what to say to a brother that she had not seen for six years.

“I got out a few days ago,” he explained. “The Emperor’s consignment that we lost in the Fujian Province has already been found. So the Emperor decided to free us former Imperial Guards.”

“You look frail, brother Yiji,” she said. “You are very thin. Not at all like your former self.”

“I know,” he said. “Prison life is not pleasant. You look much better than I had hoped. And you have grown up. How have you been?”

“I am alright, I suppose. I am working in the restaurant that you just came out of. Nobody calls me Xiang Xiang there, which was why nobody could tell you that I was working there.”

Wen Yiji stared at her for a while. She was fifteen years old, and almost a woman. She would be of marriageable age soon. As the head of the Wen family, he would have to arrange for her marriage to a suitable family when the time came.

“Xiang Xiang,” he said, “I have to go to Fuzhou for a while. I need to express my gratitude there to some people who are responsible for my freedom. I will come back to find you when I am done.”

“You are going away? But I just found you!” exclaimed Xiang Xiang. She came to a quick decision. “No, brother Yiji. If you leave now, I know that I may not see you ever again. We are of the same family. I should come with you.”

“I do not know how I will take care of you. Also, there is no time for you to pack. The boat is leaving now.”

“Heaven will take care of me as it has done for so many years. I don’t need to pack. Everything I have is right here with me.”

“Don’t you need to inform your employer and collect any wages that he may owe you?”

Xiang Xiang laughed. Fatty Kuek had never paid her a single coin. She patted her clothes and felt Oily Face’s money pouch that was still with her. There were ten taels of silver in there and she did not have time to get rid of it yet.

“I already got paid!” she said brightly.

A young boy hurried by them and Xiang Xiang saw that he was one of Fatty Kuek’s restaurant workers. She called out to him, “Sar Chu, where are you going?”

The boy replied, “I am going to the suppliers to collect a sack of onions.”

“Okay,” said Xiang Xiang. “When you get back, please tell Fatty Kuek that I will not be working for him any more. I am resigning. My brother here is taking me away.”

Sar Chu was nonplussed to find out that Xiang Xiang was resigning. Gathering his wits, he said, “Oh…..don’t you have to give a month’s notice? Otherwise Fatty Kuek will deduct one month’s salary.”

“It’s all right,” she replied. “He can deduct all he wants. And another thing. Tell Oily Face to go eat himself.”

Sar Chu said a sad goodbye and went gloomily along his way.

“We had better go now,” said Wen Yiji to his sister. “We can’t keep the boat waiting for us.”

They hurried to the jetty and found Governor Li waiting for them.

“I thought that you had lost your way,” remarked the governor.

“I have found my sister, Governor Li,” said Wen Yiji. “She is my only living kin. If it is not too much trouble, I would like to take her along with me on the boat. ”

“You’re welcome to do that,” replied the governor. “We are sailing now. If the wind keeps up, we should be in Fuzhou in twenty days.”

Xiang Xiang saw the Chin brothers and noted that they were even more frail than her brother. She had met them before when she was much younger. They had visited her brother Yiji in the Wen family home in happier times. It was sad to see what had become of them.

The boat sailed out of the Tianjin harbour in fine weather. The vessel was a big sailing junk and there was enough space for everybody. There was not much to do on deck so Xiang Xiang asked the cook if she could help out with the cooking. He assented, and she took the opportunity to learn how to cook on a moving boat. It took a while for her to get used to slicing and dicing with the slow rocking motion of the deck.

Xiang Xiang chatted politely with the Chin brothers, but she often was not quite sure how to talk with her own brother. She had remembered him as a stuffy but upright person and not one given to talking nonsense. But he had changed. At times he talked as if he was a foreign barbarian.

Seven days out of Tianjin, they rode into a storm. The boat was tossed around by the waves and everybody fell seasick. The sailors sailed the junk into a sheltered cove to wait out the difficult weather. Wen Yiji appeared to be the only one not affected. He wandered around aimlessly on deck lending a hand here and there. Weak as he still was, he managed to help out with the lighter tasks.

The cook had hit his head against the mast during the storm so there was no one to cook the dinner that evening, but since most of the men were seasick, it really did not matter if they went hungry.

However, Xiang Xiang was determined that her thin brother did not miss a meal, so she cooked up a pot of salted egg rice congee. She thought that the sailors would be too seasick to eat but she cooked a full pot anyway, reasoning that any leftover congee could be warmed up later if anybody felt hungry. When the congee was cool enough, she dished out a bowl for Wen Yiji and the Chin brothers.

“This is the best congee that I have ever tasted,” remarked Chin Jia Lat. “I think I’ll go get some more.”

One by one, the seasick sailors made their way to the pot to help themselves to the congee. And one by one, each sailor went back for a second helping. Before long, the pot was empty.

“Where did you learn to cook like that?” asked Chin Tua Kee.

“I worked in a restaurant in Tianjin,” Xiang Xiang replied. “I am used to cooking all types of dishes, but our speciality is duck.”

“It is strange that the speciality is duck,” remarked Wen Yiji. “I would have thought that it would be seafood, since Tianjin is by the sea.”

“My employer was going for a niche market,” she replied. “Every other restaurant served seafood, but we served duck. Many seamen frequent our restaurant. They have been eating fish on board their sailing vessels and when they walked into our restaurant, the last thing they wanted to eat is fish. The locals too, ate a lot of fish at home, so the main reason they patronized us was to eat duck. We had no competitors in this particular market segment. Thus my employer made a lot of money.”

“A niche market?” mused Chin Tua Kee. “A niche market is a focused portion of the overall food market. A highly defined, small niche market can insulate you from competition.”

His brother Chin Teong Kee interjected, “Choosing the right niche market can be considered essential to business success. You can have a natural competitive advantage because no one else serves that market segment except you.”

The youngest brother, Chin Jia Lat spoke, “A good niche market is one in which you are highly visible and easily accessible to the people who are most likely to benefit from your cooking, including prospective customers, prospective suppliers, and others with whom value-adding activities are most likely to be mutually beneficial.”

Then they looked in the direction of Wen Yiji to see if he had anything to say about the topic.

Without having to think, Wen Yiji declared, “In any market, the customer is always right. In a niche market the customer is always wrong. So you can set any price you want and the customer will have to pay it.”

“What if the customer doesn’t want to pay your price?” asked Xiang Xiang.

“Then you beat the shit out of the muthafucka until he pays,” answered her brother. “This is the new economics theory. In a niche market, the businessman is always right. And right makes might.”

Chin Tua Kee and his brothers stared at Wen Yiji open-mouthed. They could not understand what he was talking about. After they had been released from prison, the Chin brothers found that they had trouble comprehending Wen Yiji. The man had definitely changed.

The next day, while still waiting for the storm to abate, the sailors fished up a lot of fish from the cove. Xiang Xiang cooked fish porridge for breakfast, sweet and sour fish for lunch and fish steamed with ginger for dinner. She filleted the rest of the fish and turned them into fishballs and fishcakes. Her cooking was fast but the food tasted great. The men eagerly awaited the mealtimes.

Two days later, the fierce storm had abated and they could sail again. By then the old cook had recovered and was able to resume cooking. The men groaned.

On deck one evening, after they had anchored for the night, Wen Yiji suddenly turned to his sister and asked, “Xiang Xiang, who was Tsinkiang Yee?”

“Tsinkiang Yee?” asked Xiang Xiang, wondering where she had heard the name.

“When I was at our home looking at the graves of our family, I noticed a grave that had the names of our old female housekeeper Luo Ma and a certain Tsinkiang Yee marked on it.”

Xiang Xiang remembered.

“Tsinkiang Yee was a visitor to the house. I do not know her name but know that she came from Tsinkiang,” explained his sisiter. “She was a friend of our parents. We referred to her as the auntie from Tsinkiang, hence we called her Tsinkiang Yee. She visited us the day before the fire and slept in the same room as the housekeeper Luo Ma.”

“Why did she share the same grave as Luo Ma?” he asked.

“After the fire, we had to identify the bodies to put in the proper graves. The funeral workers pointed out a woman’s body to me and I was not sure if it belonged to Luo Ma or to Tsinkiang Yee. So we buried her in the grave and then put both names on the grave.”

“The neighbours manservant, Chan Pak, told me that all the family members had died in their beds,” said Wen Yiji.

“That is so,” said Xiang Xiang sadly. “That was how I was able to identify the bodies. Even if the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, I noted the position that they slept and could tell who they were. Except for the case of Luo Ma and Tsinkiang Yee. We found one burnt body on the wooden platform where they both slept and I could not tell who it belonged to. So I marked the grave with both their names.”

“Tell me about the night of the fire, Xiang Xiang. Chan Pak told me that you were out with the Cheng boys.”

“I am sorry, brother Yiji. I should not have been out with the Cheng boys. It was an action that I regretted all these years. If I could undo that action, I would. You do not have to tell me that I am not fit to be a member of the Wen family. I already know that.”

“Will you just tell me what happened on that night?” demanded her brother impatiently.

“It was the night before the Mid Autumn Festival. The Cheng boys had invited our youngest brother, Yisheng, and me to join them to eat sweets and see the lantern processions at night. Yisheng and I planned to sneak out of the house together. But when the time came, Yisheng was sleepy and I could not get him up. So I sneaked out alone. Later the Cheng boys and I climbed a hill and we saw a house on fire. We rushed back shouting, but it was too late to save anybody.”

“So, Yisheng and you planned to sneak out quietly. That boy was not one to give up an opportunity to eat sweets. I find it very unusual that you sneaked out but he did not.”

“I think he ate too full and thus became sleepy.”

“How can Yisheng be ever too full? That boy has the appetite of a horse.”

“Well, I remembered that he ate a full plate of rice and later ate two slices of radish cake. He would be full.”

“Radish cake? I have never eaten radish cake. How did it taste like?”

“I don’t know. I never got the chance to find out. Tsinkiang Yee made the radish cake and each of us was given two slices. Yisheng ate his immediately, but I kept my two slices in the room.”


“The Cheng brothers promised us that there would be sweets for us later, so I thought that it would be better if I did not go with too full a stomach or I would not be able to eat any sweets. I was greedy. I’m sorry!”

Wen Yijj thought silently for a few moments and then said, “And so, that was how my family perished.”

He stiffened and a cold fury enveloped his face.

“I am sorry, brother Yiji,” sobbed Xiang Xiang. “I am truly sorry! I should not have stepped out of the house.”

Wen Yiji looked at his sister sternly and spoke sharply, “Will you stop blabbering like an idiot? There was nothing you could have done. Our family did not die in a fire. They were murdered. If you had been there, you would have been killed as well. The fates kept you alive for a reason.”

Xiang Xiang looked up and stared stupidly at her brother. She could only mutter, “Murdered? What do you mean?”

“Consider the facts,” said Wen Yiji. “The first strange fact; Yisheng was always the last to drop off to sleep in our family. Even as a child, he would stay wake at night longer than any of us. You, on the other hand, were usually the first to go to sleep. Don’t you find it strange that Yisheng could be asleep earlier than you?”

“Yes, it is strange,” she agreed.

“The second strange fact,” continued Yiji. “In any fire, there is no such thing as everybody dying in their beds. There is usually a few who wake up and struggle to the door, then get overcome by the fire and collapse on the floor. Don’t you find it odd that with so many people in our house, not a single person even managed to step out of the bed?”

Xiang Xiang was nonplussed.

“The third strange fact involves our third brother Yifeng. He had the ears of a dog,” said Yiji. “Do you remember the time before I was imprisoned, two days before I went on my mission to escort the jade lions, our house was broken into by a group of robbers?”

Xiang Xiang remembered. A group of robbers had entered the house at night and Wen Yiji had shot at them in the dark with his arrows. None of the robbers survived. In the family, it was known that while third brother Yifeng had the ears of a dog, eldest brother Yiji had the eyes of a cat. With insufficient light to see, the robbers simply did not stand a chance against the arrows.

Yiji continued, “Yifeng heard a strange footfall in the garden in his sleep and got up to warn me. He had an amazing hearing ability. He would have heard the fire cackling in any fire. In fact, he would have heard you trying to sneak out and caught you. It was highly strange that he did not.”

Xiang Xiang digested all this silently.

Wen Yiji carried on, “Then there is the case of Luo Ma and Tsinkiang Yee. If only one body was found, then one of them was missing. So, one of them must have got out alive. It was either Luo Ma or Tsinkiang Yee. I am willing to bet that it was Luo Ma’s body you found, and that Tsinkiang Yee was not there at the time of the fire. She must have either drugged or poison the whole family, set the house on fire and then got out.”

“Drugged? How?” asked Xiang Xiang.

“The radish cake,” he explained. “She made it and laced it with a drug. You were the only one who did not eat it. It would explain why Yisheng was so sleepy but you were not. It would also explain why Yifeng did not hear you sneaking out and why nobody got up during the fire. They were lying either dead or unconscious in their beds. Our family was murdered.”

“It is rather far-fetched to think that Tsinkiang Yee would do such a thing.”

“Far fetched? There is one other thing that you do not know. Five years ago, on Mid Autumn Festival day, a jailor that I had not seen before put poisoned food in my cell. It was so fast to act that I almost died. But my cellmate saved me.”

“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed his sister. “Sometimes poison has long lasting effects. Are you all right?”

“I think I am all right, but my cellmate seemed to think that I had partial poisonality.”

“Partial poisonality? What is that?”

“It is a personality effect and is difficult to explain. It has to do with naked bathing maidens wanting to bash me up and not willing to spread their legs wide open for me, or whatever. I forgot. But isn’t it strange that my poisoning came one day after the fire? Somebody wanted the whole family dead!”

“If somebody wanted the whole family dead, then why was I not killed?” asked Xiang Xiang. “True, I was out during the night of the fire. But they could have killed me during the funeral.”

“We are dealing with a very surreptitious person or persons here,” he answered. “In the forest, when a tiger pounces, it roars and the whole forest knows that it is on the hunt. But when a leopard hunts, it kills silently and nobody would be any wiser. Some people are like tigers, others are like furtive leopards. This case has the operational profile of a quiet assassination, done by a group of people. Tsinkiang Yee was probably just of them. If my guess is correct, then they would have tried to kill you after the funeral when you were alone and everything has quieted down. But you disappeared from the scene soon after that. I was told that you had become a thief in town.”

Xiang Xiang was embarrassed, “I am sorry, brother Yiji. I had to eat and did not know what else to do.”

“Forget it,” he said. “What I want to know is how Tsinkiang Yee came to stay at our house.”

“I do not know. She turned up one day, and our parents allowed her to stay. They said that she was from Tsinkiang and would be staying a few days.”

“I am guessing that she is now back in Tsinkiang. Can you recognize her if you see her again?”

“No,” said Xiang Xiang regretfully. “I don’t remember what she looked like. I only remembered that she had some sort of odd-looking scar on her left ankle that I saw when she was washing her feet. Or was it the right ankle? I can’t remember.”

“It will be difficult to find her then,” he muttered. “But we are going to Tsinkiang. I will have to take revenge for our family.”

Xiang Xiang kept quiet. She did not really want revenge. Her brother was in prison for six years. He was already twenty-nine years, past his youth, without a job and looked like a starved bamboo pole. A grown man should start a family. She only wanted her brother to be able to live a normal life and start a family so that the Wen family can have descendents. But he was the head of the household now and she would have to listen to what he said.

In silence, she mulled over what her brother had just told her, and a heavy weight lifted from her shoulders. For years, she had gone to bed blaming herself that somehow it had been her fault that her family had perished. She heaved a sigh of relief. It was not her fault.

Suddenly, she felt glad. Glad that she had found her brother. Glad that he had explained things to her. Glad that it was not her fault that her family perished in the fire. The guilt lifted. Tears of relief glistened in her eyes.

Wen Yiji spoke again, this time with a chilling coldness of purpose, “I will find out who murdered our family, and when I do, even the gods will not be able to help them."


Thursday, June 29, 2006


Superman can fly because of fengshui science

I have often wondered why Superman can fly and why we can’t. So I did a little investigation on my own and I believe I have discovered his amazing little flight secret.

If you have seen enough superman movies like I did, you will know that Superman flies but Clark Kent does not. Ever wondered why? Aha! The secret is in the little red underwear!

As Clark Kent, he wore the underwear inside, while as Superman, he wore the underwear outside. And when he wore the underwear outside, mysteriously he could fly. There is a science to all this. It is called Fengshui Science.

For the underwear to work its magic, it has to be red in colour. According to fengshui, red is the colour of the fire element. When Superman wears the red underwear outside, he attracts the Celestial Fire Dragon which tends to hide inside his red underwear. The Celestial Fire Dragon breathes hot air, and as we all know scientifically, “hot air rises”. All this is achieved without any need for jet engines and jet fuel.

And it’s all Fengshui Science!

This is a remarkable universe we live in. If gravity is free, so is flight!

It is quite a marvel, really. If you have seen enough Batman movies, you would have noticed that Batman also wore his underwear outside, except that the underwear was of the wrong colour. And so poor Batman couldn’t fly, and has to wear a mask to hide his embarrassment.

Free unassisted flights can have its own little inconveniences. Superman has to put up with the irritation of the Celestial Fire Dragon struggling vigorously inside his underwear and causing everybody to stare in that direction.

Now everybody thinks he’s some kind of sex machine when all he was thinking was about trying to save the world.

Also, on very long flights, Superman has to take special precautions if he ever gets the urge to pee. Great Krypton! Then he will have to pull down his red underwear, tear a hole in the blue fabric beneath, whip out his pecker and pee in mid-flight.

But the moment he pulls down his red underwear, the Celestial Fire Dragon will escape. And then poor Superman will drop like a rock from the skies.

Don’t worry, dudes. Everything will be okey-dokey if he can just finish peeing in time. He just needs to pull back up his red underwear, allow the Celestial Fire Dragon to hop back inside, and everything will be fine and dandy.

What happens if he cannot finish peeing in time?

Then, my friend, he will drop like a rock onto the ground with a super KABOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!

Oh, don’t worry. He won’t die.

But the person he lands on may die. From drowning.

Because, like I said, Superman has not finished peeing yet!

Now that I have suddenly become such an amazing expert on fengshui science, I am thinking of marketing my astonishing discoveries to the airlines. If all goes well, by this time next month when you go to the airport, you’ll find that the cheap flight you booked will be using a plane that has no engines. But it will have a large red skintight underwear fitted around the aircraft body.

Have a pleasant flight!


Wednesday, June 28, 2006



I’m going to be a successful problogger.

You know why?

Coz successful probloggers are able to get lots and lots of money by just typing in a few words once in a while. The fun part is, most of what they say is bullshit anyway.

So come on, you aliens. Work with me here. Make me a successful problogger today!

Of course, when I am a successful problogger, I will think about carrying a name card that says that my occupation is blogging.

Hmmmm……maybe that does not sound like an occupation at all. Tell you wut….. my name card will read “Consultant” as my occupation. Sounds more respectable, eh?

If people ask me what I consult on, I’ll just reply, “If I tell you that, I will have to charge you consultancy fees.”


Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Being alone but not lonely

I thought I had heard everything.

But this piece of horticultural news had me dumbfounded.

Yes, folks, apparently we have on this planet a strange orchid that is able to fuck itself.


Monday, June 26, 2006


No post

I'm not blogging today.


Friday, June 23, 2006


The Cook and the Assassin - Chapter 9

Chapter 9 – Borrow knife to slaughter people

Exhilarated at the news, Wen Yiji and the Chin brothers remembered to thank Ah Keong for his role in ensuring their survival through prison. They then followed the eunuch to the East Courthouse to collect their thirty taels of silver each.

They found Governor Li waiting for them there. Wen Yiji recognized him and said, “Governor Li! It is good to see you. The fact that you are here and we are being freed leads me to infer that somehow, the jade lions have been recovered. Am I correct?”

“You are correct, Arrow Eye,” replied Governor Li.

“I am no more Arrow Eye,” said Wen Yiji regretfully. “I know I am not strong enough to draw a bow now. Please call me Wen Yiji.”

“As you wish. I am glad to see that you are well,” said the governor.

“How were the jade lions recovered?” asked the eldest of the Chin brothers, Chin Tua Kee.

“The jade lions were snatched by the Sky Dragon Clan and were then buried on an uninhabited island,” replied Governor Li. “Some clues were left as to their whereabouts and a young girl, called Yue Pei Pei, came into possession of the clues. The son of my in-laws, a young man called Wu Chuan, met the girl and he solved the clues. We went and dug it up, and I brought them to the Emperor as fast as I could. I managed to secure your release but to my regret, I was unable to get you reinstated to your old positions as Imperial Guards.”

“To you we owe our freedom,” said Chin Tua Kee. “I had already given up hope of ever breathing the air outside prison. Let me give you three kowtows to thank you.”

Chin Tua Kee knelt down and the other released prisoners followed suit. The four of them kowtowed three times to the governor.

“Please rise,” said Governor Li. He looked at them. They were thin, very thin. In fact they were like walking pieces of skin hanging loosely on bony frames. Yet he knew that they were men of skill and honour, having been specially selected by his dead friend Chief Feng. Chief Feng had a good eye for fighting men, and would not choose any man who could not handle at least five weapons. It would take at least a few months before the four released prisoners could become fighting fit again.

“It feels good to be free,” said Chin Tua Kee. “It’s been a long time since I breathed the outside air.”

“Yes,” said Chin Teong Kee, the second of the Chin brothers. “It’s been a long time since I had some wine.”

“It’s been a long time since I have some roast chicken,” remarked Chin Jia Lat, the youngest of the Chin brothers.

Wen Yiji contributed, “It’s been a long time since I had a woman.”

The others stared at him. It was so unlike Wen Yiji to make such a remark. The prison must have affected his personality.

“How about ordering some goat tonight?” asked Governor Li.

“No thanks,” said Wen Yiji. “A goat will be too hairy and also difficult to spread out on a bed in the missionary position. A woman is much better.”

“I was talking about food, like mutton soup, to fortify your health,” said the shocked governor. “What are your plans, now that you are no more Imperial Guards?”

“Our parents passed away a long time ago, so have no family to go back to,” said Chin Tua Kee. “We will have to recover back our health first and then get jobs later to support ourselves. I would very much like to thank Wu Chuan and Yue Pei Pei for finding the jade lions. Can you take us to them?”

“No problem,” replied the governor. “I am leaving for Fuzhou tomorrow. You can come with me if you like. What about you, Wen Yiji?”

“I do not know,” said Wen Yiji. “I heard that my family was destroyed by a fire five years ago. I will go to my family home first and take stock of the situation. Then I will make my plans. I do not even know where I will sleep tonight.”

“Where are you staying, Governor Li?” asked Chin Teong Kee.

“I am staying at the Red Gate Inn,” answered the governor.

“Then we shall stay there as well,” said Chin Tua Kee. “We will leave the capital with you tomorrow morning. But tonight, please allow us to toast you three bowls of wine to express our gratitude to you for securing our release.”

“I will like to join you tonight at the Red Gate Inn,” said Wen Yiji. “But I will have to leave you now as I need to find out what had happened to my family.”

Wen Yiji hurried to his home and found that the gate had been bolted from inside. He went to the neighbour’s house to ask for help. The neighbour’s old manservant, Chan Pak, came to the door and barely recognized him.

“I am glad that you are out of prison, Master Wen Yiji,” he said. “I wish I have better news to tell you than this. But while you were away, your family was destroyed by a fire five years ago.”

“I heard about it,” said Wen Yiji. “Tell me what happened.”

“It was the night before the Mid Autumn festival,” narrated Chan Pak sorrowfully. “A fire broke out in the house and killed the whole family, including the servants.”

“What happened to their bodies?”

“Young Miss Wen arranged to have the bodies buried in the grounds.”

“Young Miss Wen? What young Miss Wen?”

“Miss Wen Xiang Xiang, your youngest sister,” replied Chan Pak. “She was not in the house at that time and so she escaped the blaze. She was the only survivor.”

“Xiang Xiang survived?” he asked excitedly. “Where is she now?”

“I do not know,” replied Chan Pak. “On the night of the fire, she had slipped out of the house quietly to go see the sights with the young boys from the Cheng family down the road. When they got back, the house was already on fire. The neighbours tried to put out the fire but it was too late. All the family members had died in their beds. Young Miss Wen sold the family horse to help pay for the funeral expenses. After the funeral, Miss Wen disappeared.”

“Where did she go?” asked a puzzled Yiji.

Chan Pak looked apologetic as he said, “She was spotted in town running with a gang of street kids.”

“Street kids? What street kids?”

“Thieves and pickpockets,” replied the old manservant uncomfortably.

“My sister became a thief?” asked Yiji incredulously.

“Please do not think too badly of her, Master Wen. She must have done that in order to survive,” said Chan Pak. “Few people know it, but she would quietly come back to the house occasionally to sweep the graves and burn incense. Then she would be gone again for months.”

“How do I find her?”

“I do not know. I wish I can be of more help, but nobody I know has seen her in town for the past two years. Either something has happened to her or she has left.”

Wen Yiji thanked the old man and borrowed a ladder to climb the wall into the garden of his house. He saw the simple graves of his family members and he wept silently. They were there, his parents, his brothers and his sisters. Even the house servants were there. Everyone of them dead. In anger, he lifted his face to the heavens and cursed the gods roundly, not caring if they heard him or not.

“Send down your ugly Cow Head Horse Face minions,” he thundered. “Ta ma de! We’ll see who die first! I will chop up their heads into minced meat. And stuff their useless empty carcasses with shit!”

Then he heard a distant thunder.

“Is that it?” he shouted. “One lousy squeak from you? Give me a real thunderclap! Come on, I dare you, come on!”

In a moment, lightning flashed down from the skies and he heard the booming crash of a loud thunderclap nearby.

“Hah, you missed! Come on, throw your thunderclap at me and I’ll use it to wipe the shit off my ass!”

He did not know how he was going to perform such a thing, but it sounded poetic.

He raged on, blaming the gods for the fate that befell his family. Suddenly, he realized that it might rain soon. Kneeling in front of his father’s grave, he said, “Father, the duties of the household has passed to me. I will go and look for Xiang Xiang. We are all that remain of the Wen family.”

He gave a final look at the graves before leaving. Then he returned the ladder to Chan Pak.

On an impulse, he went to the Cheng family house down the road to ask for the Cheng boys. They had grown up into teenagers, and were surprised to see Wen Yiji.

“Tell me,” asked Wen Yiji, “How was it that my sister was out with you boys on the night of the fire?”

“We had invited both Xiang Xiang and your youngest brother, Yisheng, to join us to see the sights at night,” said one of them. “Xiang Xiang turned up alone and she said that Yisheng was sleeping and could not be woken up. So she joined us and later we climbed the small hill behind the next road and saw a house on fire. We ran towards the fire and discovered that it was your house. We are sorry about your family.”

Wen Yiji was quiet for a moment. Then he spoke, “Do any of you know where Xiang Xiang is right now?”

The boys were silent for a while. The youngest of them spoke, “She was seen with a group of young boys in town for a while. But she has not been seen lately.”

Yiji was disappointed. He sighed and turned to go away.

“Wait,” said the eldest boy. “Last year, I traveled with my uncle to Tianjin and we went to a waterfront restaurant for a meal. I remember seeing a girl on the road who looked like Xiang Xiang. She was wearing an apron and carrying a bucket, and looked like a restaurant worker. It could be her.”

Yiji thanked the boys and left. He was not sure what to do next, so he headed to the Red Gate Inn and met up with the Chin brothers. He told them that his family had indeed perished in a fire but his youngest sister survived, and that he did not know where she had disappeared to.

“What do you wish to do next, Yiji?” asked Chin Jia Lat.

Wen Yiji looked at him. The eldest Chin brother was called Chin Tua Kee and the second called Chin Teong Kee. Wen Yiji had often wondered why the youngest brother was not called Chin Suay Kee, but called Chin Jia Lat instead.

“I do not know,” he replied. “I suppose I must start looking for my sister, but I do not know where to start. In fact, since she must have grown up a lot in these six years, I do not even know what her face looks like right now.”

“You might even bump into her on the street and not know each other,” said Chin Jia Lat.

“Let the fates decide,” said Chin Tua Kee. “Why don’t you come to Fuzhou with us instead?”

“All right then,” replied Yiji. “I should go and give my thanks to Master Wu Chuan and Miss Yue Pei Pei. Which route are we taking?”

“Governor Li said that we’ll walk to Tianjin. That takes about five days. At Tianjin, we’ll then take a boat to Fuzhou,” answered Chin Tua Kee.

“Tianjin,” said Wen Yiji. “One of the Cheng brothers said that my sister could be in Tianjin. I’ll look for her when we reach there.”

“Come. Let us order some decent food. It has been a long time since I had chicken. I hope the prison food had not damaged my taste buds,” said Chin Teong Kee.

That night, Governor Li arranged to have a soup of fortifying herbs boiled for the four of them to drink.

As the four of them were still too weak to walk the whole distance to Tianjin, Governor Li hired a carriage to take them. And every night when they stopped to rest, the four of them had to drink a concoction boiled from herbs. Governor Li had good reason to take good care of them. He hoped that when they recovered their strength, they would work for him in Fuzhou. These men were good fighters looking for a new master. The three Chin brothers were good martial artistes individually. But when they fought together as a team, they were a highly formidable force. In the Fujian Province, some of the local magistrates and prefects had gotten corrupted and Governor Li needed a good team of inspectors to instill some discipline in those wayward officials. If the Imperial court would not take back these four released prisoners, then Governor Li would gladly take them.

+ + + + + +

Xiang Xiang was in a happy mood. She had just come back from her morning walk by the beach. Along the way, some friends had met her and suggested setting up a stall to sell breakfast porridge along the waterfront. It was a worthwhile suggestion. The Restaurant Fatty Kuek had expanded because of increasing business and she knew that the food business was one thing that she could do successfully. The restaurant had a private dining room next to the kitchen and she entered it to clean the tables. She was still thinking about the suggestion when Oily Face Kuek walked in while squeezing a fat pimple on his face. He leered at her and then tried to brush up against her. She hated it whenever he did that.

“Froggy,” he said, “I’ve been thinking.”

“Well, don’t!” admonished Xiang Xiang. “Thinking only gets you into trouble.”

“Oh, shut up and listen,” he scowled. “You are fifteen years old and an orphan. One day you will have to get married. I think I will marry you.”

“That is very generous of you, I’m sure.”

“I know. Luckily you are not ugly like the other maids, or I will definitely not look at you twice. But you are quite beautiful, so I am willing to consider you. However, since you are not from a high class reputable family, I cannot take you as an official wife. But I can still take you as a concubine. I’m sure, my father will not object.”

“A concubine? That is a rare honour. Don’t strain your brains any further.”

“Of course, as a concubine, you will have to serve all my official wives. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do. I will give you a list of duties.”

“Is that so? What do I get in return?”

“In return, you get three meals a day and a place to sleep. But you can only eat after everybody has eaten. The best thing is that you get the opportunity to serve my needs at night.”

Xiang Xiang had enough of the conversation. She said, “Excuse me. I have work to do. And you should be making yourself useful around here by checking the stewed ducks instead of doing nothing.”

“This is going to be my restaurant one day,” he said haughtily, “so I can do whatever I please.”

As Xiang Xiang turned to get away from the pimply son of her employer, he boldly put out a hand and crudely grabbed her nice rounded ass.

“Will you stop that, you revolting lump of dog shit!” she said angrily. “Stop molesting me or you’ll regret this day!”

“You are only a part-time servant here, so I can do with you whatever I wish,” he smirked arrogantly as he stretched out both hands and grabbed her.

With a struggle, she pushed him away furiously. He tried to grab her again but at that moment, the sullen faced girl Dominatrix walked in and saw what was happening.

“This is not right!” she exclaimed. “Not right!”

“Why not right?” demanded Oily Face. “And mind your own business!”

Dominatrix screwed up her sullen face and said, “This is my business! You molest her but you don’t molest me......where got right?”

Then she smiled hideously and placed herself invitingly in front of Oily Face. He took a look at her face and felt like retching. Quickly, he said, “I suddenly remembered.....I have an urgent appointment some place that I have to go to!”

The girls knew that he was going to a gambling session. They also knew that to support his many vices, he often took money from the restaurant when his father was not looking.

As Oily Face left, Xiang Xiang muttered softly, “You thoroughly need a good lesson, you smelly shit! Simply molest me like that. But I won’t have to punish you myself. Instead, I will borrow knife to slaughter people. You better pray your gambling luck is good this afternoon. If not, you will not forget this day.”

Fatty Kuek was not in as he had gone out earlier to meet one of his suppliers. When he came back to the restaurant, he asked, “Where is my son?”

“He has gone out,” replied Xiang Xiang airily. “I told him that he should be checking the stewed ducks, but he said that this is going to be his restaurant one day, so he can do whatever he pleases.”

Fatty Kuek scowled angrily.

+ + + + + +

At the gambling session, Oily Face had a losing streak. In the end, when the other gamblers insisted that he settled his accounts, he reached into his clothes for his money pouch.

“That is strange,” he said. “My money pouch is missing!”

The other gamblers stared at him stonily. One of them, a big sized seaman, said, “You have the nerve! Coming to the gambling table without bringing money. Obviously you don’t know how the “die” word is written!”

“No, I don’t,” said Oily Face. “How is it written?”

After that, he got beaten up. The angry gamblers marched a nervous Oily Face to his father’s restaurant.

Fatty Kuek was inside busily persuading his customers to order more stewed ducks when the sullen faced Dominatrix approached him and said loudly, “Boss, got some ‘not three not four’ people outside the door.”

“What ‘not three not four’ people?” he demanded.

The sullen faced girl replied, “You know.....people who don’t look like people.”

Fatty Kuek went outside to investigate. He saw a group of rough-looking men who was holding on to his battered son. They rudely demanded that Fatty Kuek settled his son’s gambling debts. The irate father cursed, paid the men, and dragged his son to the family’s ancestral altar.

Oily Face was forced to kneel down before the ancestral altar while Fatty Kuek produced a thick cane and the book containing the Kuek Family Law.

Turning a page of the book, the furious father announced, “By the Kuek Family Law, the punishment for ignoring your duties and going out to play is five strokes of the cane!”

Oily Face winced. Five strokes was a lot more than he wanted, but maybe he could bear it.

Then his father turned to another page and read, “For indulging in gambling activities without parental permission......ten strokes!”

Oily Face sweated on his forehead. This was much more than he could bear.

But his father was not finished yet. Fattty Kuek turned yet another page and read, “For bringing ‘not three not four’ people of dubious character to the house to create trouble......fifteen strokes! That’s thirty strokes in total.”

A terrifying panic gripped the wayward son, but there was no escaping the father’s wrath.

Fatty Kuek swung the thick cane and delivered all thirty strokes of the cane as required by the Kuek Family Law. One by one the strokes rained on down on the body of Oily Face, with each stroke hitting a fresh area. Oily Face howled loudly and painfully with each stinging stroke. The howls of pain could be heard even five houses away.

From the kitchen, Xiang Xiang counted thirty howls.

She muttered under her breath, “I did advised you not to molest me, Oily Face. You have brought this all on yourself!”

She felt the money pouch hidden in her clothes. It had not taken very much effort to remove it from Oily Face while he was molesting her. It had been a long time since she had stolen a money pouch but the skills were still intact.

“Damn you, Oily Face,” she fumed angrily. “I had wanted to stop being a thief. For two whole years, I have been honest and kept my nose clean. You forced me into breaking my clean record, you worthless worm!”

Then she remembered the thirty noisy howls of pain from Oily Face and she smiled, “But it sure was worth it!”

Late that afternoon, Wen Yiji and his friends reached Tianjin. Without wasting time, he went around to the restaurants to inquire about Xiang Xiang. At the Fatty Kuek Restaurant, he walked into the customer dining area and was immediately accosted by Dominatrix. As usual, he asked for his sister.

“Wen Xiang Xiang? No such person here,” replied Dominatrix to his inquiry.

“She is fifteen years old,” said Wen Yiji.

“I told you that there is no such person here,” said Dominatrix indignantly. “You want to look for fifteen year old girls, go to the nearest courtesan house! Twelve year old girls also got!”

Wen Yiji walked out. As he was walking out, Xiang Xiang came out of the kitchen and saw his retreating back. There was something familiar about him. She asked Dominatrix, “Who was that man?”

“I dunno,” replied the sullen faced girl. “He looked like he had not eaten rice for years. So thin! Man not like man. Ghost not like ghost. Half man half ghost. He was looking for young girls. Aiyahhhhh.....dunno why today I see so many ‘not three not four’ people. I think I must go bathe in virgin urine afterwards.”

Wen Yiji searched the whole evening, but nobody appeared to have heard of a Wen Xiang Xiang. Regretfully, he went to bed. In the morning, he would have to sail off to Fuzhou.

Early at dawn the next morning he woke up. Governor Li was already awake.

“Governor Li,” said Wen Yiji. “The men will take some time to load the boat with supplies. Do I have time to make one last search for my sister?”

Governor Li nodded. “Make sure you come back fast. We have to set sail early.”

Wen Yiji changed tactics this time. Instead of going to the front dining areas of the restaurants, he went round to the back kitchens to ask the workers directly. At the first four restaurant kitchens he visited, he drew a blank.

At the fifth one, which was the kitchen of the Restaurant Fatty Kuek, he asked a worker for Wen Xiang Xiang. Before the worker could answer, Dominatrix who was nearby, shouted, “Look, I told you yesterday that there is no Wen Xiang Xiang around here. Didn’t you hear? No Wen Xiang Xiang!”

Xiang Xiang was in another room when she heard her name being mentioned loudly. It was strange. She was known as Froggy there and nobody knew her real name. Quickly, she peeped into the kitchen and saw a gaunt stranger by the kitchen tables. He was more skin and bones than flesh. But there was something familiar by the way he held himself. The man said “Thank you” to the workers and then walked out of the kitchen. Even the voice was familiar.

As he walked, Wen Yiji looked up at the brightening sky. He had time to make only one more inquiry. After that he would have to make his way to the jetty. He heard footsteps hurrying behind him. He turned around and saw a young girl following him. She stared at him. He stared back. Something about her appearance reminded him of his mother.

She was the first to break the silence. “Brother Yiji?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “Is that you, Xiang Xiang?”

She nodded.

Their appearances had changed much over the years and they could not truly recognize each other in the early morning light, but instinctively they knew that they were family.


Thursday, June 22, 2006


Firing blanks

Sometimes this blog scares me silly.

Yesterday, I blogged that I was ambivalent on the National service M16 training issue and that it was the bullets that kill people.

Then in today’s news, the gahmen tells us that NS trainees can have the option of using live bullets or not.

Live bullets orso can. Blanks orso can. Like the gahmen is trying hard to be ambivalent orso.

Fed up. I talk about bullets, they talk about bullets.
I want to be ambivalent, they orso want to be ambivalent.
What if I go jump in the lake?

I know, sure wan, that some people will simply protest and ask what is the point of firing the M16 using blanks.

It’s like having sex using a condom mah.

You do both to prevent any change in the population figures.

Sure, the feeling may not be quite the same, but you still can enjoy the firing action.

Like I must explain everything liddat.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006


National Service: Guns don’t kill people

Many people have expressed their disagreement with the move to train National Service trainees in the use of the M16 assault rifle.

“Dangerous,” they say darkly.

On the other hand, the other side claim that guns are not dangerous because guns don’t kill people but it is people who kill people.

Suddenly, everyfuckingbody is a brilliant psychoanalyst.

Get this through to your heads; there is only one brilliant psychoanalyst in this country, and that’s me.

So, listen up. Guns don’t kill people. Neither do people. It’s the damn bullets that kill people. Serious.

Actually, I’m ambivalent towards the whole idea of M16 training. Meaning, I’m neither for nor against. Yeah, I’m like sitting on the fence and shitting there comfortably.

This whole argument is by no means new. A few years ago, there was this interview between a female broadcaster, and US Army General Reinwald who was preparing to sponsor a group of Boy Scouts to visit his military base. This interview is widely available all over the internet, but I’m reproducing it here for your own convenience. Yeah, yeah, the things I do for you people.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: So, General Reinwald, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?"

GENERAL REINWALD: We're going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery, and shooting."

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: "Shooting! That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?"

GENERAL REINWALD: "I don't see why, they'll be properly supervised on the rifle range."

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: "Don't you admit that this is terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?"

GENERAL REINWALD: "I don't see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm. "

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: "But you're equipping them to become violent killers."

GENERAL REINWALD: "Well, you're equipped to be a prostitute, but you're not one, are you?”


Tuesday, June 20, 2006


City, what city?

So, today is the day that PJ turns into a city.

Not that anybody gives a shit.

Has services improved lately?

Has the billboard controversy been resolved?

Has the rules been changed so that we can elect the mayor?

I’m all for celebrations. Really. But I hate the idea of raising assessment rates so that we can call this a city. And then see self-important officials using our money to splurge on suppliers in the name of ‘celebrations’. If we have that kind of money to spare, which we don’t, then we should at least reduce the assessment rates.

So, okay, PJ is now a city. Now tell us, what are we getting out of it?


Monday, June 19, 2006


Football chick

The World Cup football fever has taken control over our lives, and is so infectious that we can't seem to do anything else.

Over the weekend, it's like cakap bola, mimpi bola dan makan bola.

Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, is damn serious about it, and my Super-Class-No-Enemy long range Klingon camera captured Italian striker Fiamma Angelisimo, in secret training for a big match.


Friday, June 16, 2006


The Cook and the Assassin - Chapter 8

Chapter 8 – A stupid duck became a dead duck

Fatty Kuek ran a small but popular restaurant. His customers liked him, but the sentiment was not shared by his servants. If truth be told, his servants hated him one and all, because he was extremely stingy.

Recently, three of his kitchen helpers resigned, another two got sick and one servant went on long leave to get married. The remaining one left was the sullen-faced servant girl. She was as strong as an ox, but unfortunately, she was also an idiot. Fatty Kuek often thrashed her either for allowing the fire in the stove to go out, or for allowing the soup to be boiled until it was totally dried out.

Thus, when Xiang Xiang walked in the back gate to ask for food, Fatty Kuek was not in the best of moods.

“What are you doing here?” demanded Fatty Kuek.

“I am looking for something to eat. Can you spare me a steamed bun, or some rice?”

“Why should I give anything to you?”

“You publicly searched me on a busy street last month, causing me great humiliation. And you were supposed to pay me 5 taels for searching me. You never did pay me the money. You owe me!”

“I did not agree to pay you the five taels.”

“We’ll talk about this later. I’m hungry. Can you give me some food?”

“I have a steamed bun here somewhere. But I am running a restaurant, and the rule we have here is that nobody eats until he has done some work.”

“Alright, what do I have to do?” asked Xiang Xiang graciously.

“I need some ginger sliced straightaway. Can you do it?”

“Sure,” she replied. She saw that he had been trying to slice a pile of ginger. Picking up a knife, she took the nearest ginger and promptly sliced it.

“Is this thin enough for you?” she asked, holding up a slice of ginger.

“Yes,” he replied.

Xiang Xiang continued slicing the ginger.

Fatty Kuek was impressed. He could tell by the way she handled the knife that she had done this often before. The speed by which she sliced away was faster than he had expected.

“What are you cooking?” asked the girl.

“Steamed fish. But my main fare in this restaurant is duck.”

“Duck? I love duck. But they are difficult to prepare. And also, there is the smell to deal with.”

“You appeared to have done some cooking before.”

“Yes I have. I used to work in a small eating place in the Imperial capital,” she lied.

“Why did you leave?”

“Are you kidding me? After you searched me publicly in the street, I became the laughing stock of the entire neighborhood. I had to find another place to hide my face,” she lied again with a serious expression.

“Even so, you need not journey this far to Tianjin.”

“Tianjin is by the sea, and people say that the sea air is good for health. So I decided to come here and see for myself.”

“How old are you? And didn’t your family object to your coming here?”

“I’m thirteen. And I am an orphan,” she explained.

Fatty Kuek looked down at the sliced ginger and was impressed. The girl had looked at him while she was talking to him. She did not have to look down to see what she was doing, slicing the ginger rapidly by touch alone. The knife was very well controlled, resulting in even thicknesses of the sliced pieces. Not many people could do that. Certainly not any of his workers. And she was only thirteen.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Froggy,” she answered. There was little sense in letting him know her real name. She did not intend to stay long under his roof if she could help it.

“What are your plans, Froggy?” he asked.

“I think I’ll look for a job as a servant girl in one of the rich homes around here,” she replied. “I’m fit and healthy, and I work fast.”

“Why don’t you work for me?” he said. “I am hiring workers now.”

“Work for you?” she asked. “What are the benefits?”

“Well,” he replied. “I can give you a place to stay and three meals a day.”

“Do you also contribute towards a provident fund for me?” she wanted to know. “Or provide some form of worker compensation insurance scheme? And maybe a paid vacation overseas every year?”

“Uh, no,” he replied. “But I can give you free clothes to wear.”

His daughters were already grown up and there were some old clothes still lying around in a trunk somewhere. The clothes would be suitable for a thirteen year old girl and would cost him nothing extra.

“I want to have my mornings free, so I am only willing to work part-time,” said Xiang Xiang.

“If you work part-time, you will not get any wages, but you will still get the meals and a place to stay. And also the free clothes,” he said.

Fatty Kuek liked having workers, but did not like paying out wages. He did a quick mental evaluation of costs. It would cost him nothing for her to sleep with the other servants. She did not look like she could eat very much. And she looked like she could work faster and better than most of his other workers. It was a good deal for him.

Xiang Xiang looked back at him steadily. She knew that it was a rotten deal for her. But she had stolen his money pouch the month before and she felt that she owed him something. Besides, her mornings would be free for her to do whatever she wanted. And she need not stay long with him if she did not like it.

“All right, I agree,” she said.

Smiling inwardly, Fatty Kuek called the sullen faced servant girl in and said to her, “This is Froggy. She will be joining me as a new worker. Take her to the servants’ room and show her a place to sleep.”

“Hi, Dominatrix,” said Xiang Xiang brightly.

“My name is not Dominatrix,” Dominatrix replied in her usual sullen tone.

+ + + + + +

The next morning, Xiang Xiang took the urn containing Quickfinger’s ashes and walked towards the sea. She headed for the waterline and dipped her finger into the seawater. Then, she tasted her finger.

“So, the sea actually is salty!” she thought to herself. “How very strange!”

She stopped to admire a long wooden jetty that stretched out into the sea. It was built to serve the Imperial navy, but nobody appeared to be about. Hesitantly, she walked along the wooden jetty until she reached the end. Standing on the wooden platform above the water, she looked all around her and then down into the crystal clear waters below. She could see fishes darting to and fro. It was an exhilarating feeling.

Taking the urn in her hands, she said, “This is a most beautiful spot, Quickfingers. This is where I will have to say goodbye to you.”

Then, breaking the seal on the urn, she poured the contents into the waters below and said, “Goodbye, Quickfingers. I do hope that you find your departed parents.”

She threw the empty urn out into the sea, and watched it sink beneath the waves. It was done. She had accomplished what she had promised Quickfingers. In life, he had taken care of her. In death, she had brought him along his last journey. It had been a sorrowful journey. Brushing aside her tears, she walked back along the jetty to dry land.

Strolling solemnly along the beach, she saw some children swimming in the water. She paused to watch them in fascination. At that moment, she wished she could swim.

+ + + + + +

Winter passed. And then came spring.

Xiang Xiang had settled down well at the Restaurant Fatty Kuek. She was naturally good with knife work, something that she had inherited from her mother. The restaurant was known for many dishes, but it was the stewed and roasted duck that drew the crowd.

Fatty Kuek cooked the ducks himself using a family recipe that he jealously guarded. He would prepare the duck sauces using ingredients known only to himself. The servants would slaughter the ducks, pluck the feathers, chopped up the ingredients, watch the fire, and wash the utensils. They never knew what Fatty Kuek put in the sauces. He hoped to pass the restaurant to his only son when the time came. However, his son was not interested in cooking but more interested in playing and gambling. He was about a year older than Xiang Xiang and although he had a proper name, everybody called him Oily Face.

Fatty Kuek was a demanding father. Every month, he tested his son and demanded that Oily Face cook him a dish. No servant was allowed to help Oily Face when it came to Test Day. Woe betide Oily Face if the dish was not up to expectations.

One day, when Fatty Kuek was out, Oily Face approached Xiang Xiang and said, “Froggy, you’ve got to help me with this one.”

“Help you with what?”

“Help me stew a duck.”

“I’m a part time worker. My mornings are my time off. You want help, go ask another worker.”

“The other workers are occupied with other work. They don’t have mornings off like you. You have to help me.”

“Why can’t you do it yourself?”

“I have a previous engagement.”

“You mean that you want to go gambling with your pig friends and dog pals.”

“Hey, what I do is my own business. Will you help me or not?”

“No. Your father wants you to do this by yourself. If I help you, he will not like it.”

“My father has gone to look up some stupid duck supplier. He will not be back till this afternoon. If you don’t say and I don’t say, who will know?”

“The other servants will know.”

“No, they will not know. My father is always getting you to help him do some experimental dishes. The other servants will just assume that you are doing yet another experimental dish this time.”

“That may be true, but I have nothing to gain by helping you.”

“You want payment, is that it?” asked Oily Face. “No money no talk, is it? All right, how much?”

“I don’t want your money!”

“Oh come on. Everybody has a price. Just tell me how much you want!”

Xiang Xiang thought for a moment and said, “There is something that I want.”

“What is it?”

“I want to learn how to swim!”

Oily Face stared at her in astonishment. Then he thought for a while and said, “I can’t teach you how to swim. But I can teach you something better. Like the secret Tiger Claw kung fu.”

“I don’t want to learn any dumb Tiger Claw kung fu. I want to learn how to swim.”

“I can teach you the secret Beggar Clan Dog Beating Stick Technique if you like. Then all the dogs in the world will dare not chase you.”

“You know fart about the Beggar Clan Dog Beating Stick Technique. So don’t bluff. I want to learn how to swim.”

“I’ve got it!”


“Buddha Palm! I’ll teach you the secret Buddha Palm kung fu that will make you invincible!”

“Stop it! Every time you get into a fight, you get beaten up like the head of a pig! And still dare to try to teach me. Don’t you know how the ‘shame’ word is written?”

“No. How is it written?”

“Never mind. If you want my help, you have to pay my price. I just want to learn how to swim.”

“Oh, all right. I have a friend who lives down by the beach. His sister can swim. I’ll get his sister to teach you to swim. Now will you get on with the duck?”

“Good! Okay, but you must first tell me how you want the duck gravy prepared and the manner by which I should proceed.”

Without even the slightest bit of hesitation, Oily Face told Xiang Xiang the secret family recipe. Then he went off to his gambling session while Xiang Xiang got to work.

She went out to the yard where the ducks were kept. In front of the ducks, she muttered, “What a moron! Simply anyhow tell people his family secret recipe. Who is the most stupid idiot in the world?”

The ducks answered her, “Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek!”

“Very good!” she smiled, “But the complete answer should be ’Oily Face Kuek’. Now tell me, who is the stingiest employer in the world?”

Again the ducks answered, “Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek!”

“Correct again!” she said, “Although the complete answer should be ‘Fatty Kuek’. Never mind, just tell me this. Who is the ugliest person in the world?”

Once more, the ducks went, “Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek! Kuek!”

Xiang Xiang laughed. She noticed that there was one duck that did not make a sound. “You don’t know the answer, you dunce!” she admonished the silent creature. “You are too stupid to be a duck. It is better that you become a dead duck!”

She caught hold of the offending duck and took it to the kitchen to be slaughtered.

When she had finished cooking the stewed duck, she tasted it and commented silently, “Hmmmmm, perfect! But Fatty Kuek will not believe that his lazy son would be capable of such a masterpiece. I will need to make it less perfect!”

Thus, she added more salt to the duck and boiled it again. Oily Face came back later, inspected the stewed duck, and made a great show of stirring the pot. He also added more salt.

In the afternoon, when Fatty Kuek came back, Oily Face presented the stewed duck as his own effort. Fatty Kuek took a taste and commented, “Not bad actually, but it is a little too salty. Still, it is an improvement over your previous effort.”

The next morning, Oily Face kept to his word and took her to his friend’s house by the beach and Xiang Xiang learned how to swim.

In the months that followed, Xiang Xiang helped Oily Face in many dishes, and in the process, she got Oily Face to find people to teach her how to row a boat, dive, ride a horse or do anything that she found interesting.

The seasons passed. By the time she was fifteen years old, she knew all of Fatty Kuek’s dishes by heart. She was happiest when she was cooking. She was also happy about one other thing; during the two years she was in Tianjin, she had followed Quickfingers’ advice and had not returned to her former life as a thief. Quickfingers would have been so proud of her.

+ + + + + +

At the Imperial Capital, Governor Li, the governor of Fujian Province, stood before the Emperor. Six years before, Wen Yiji and his men had lost a consignment of jade lions in his province. The jade lions had been found and the governor was presenting them to the Emperor. The Emperor was pleased.

Governor Li took a deep breath and then said, “Your Majesty, I have a request to ask.”

“Speak!” ordered the Emperor.

Governor Li then said, “Six years ago, when the two jade lions were robbed, Chief Feng and many of his Imperial Guardsmen gave up their lives trying to protect the consignment. After the loss, the deputy chief, Arrow Eye implored me to keep on searching while he and the remaining men came back to the Imperial Capital to report the loss. They were subsequently imprisoned for failing to protect the consignment. Lesser men would have run away, but these men have a sense of honour that would not allow them to do so. They have always been loyal to your Majesty. Now that the jade lions have been recovered, Governor Li would like to request that Arrow Eye and his compatriots be freed and given back their old positions.”

The Emperor thought for a while, “I cannot give them back their old positions. Positions are only given to people who have proven that they can hold on to them. I will however free them from prison.”

After the governor had left, the Emperor turned to a eunuch who was standing by the side and said, “Prepare the list of names. I will issue the edict for their freedom.”

The eunuch said, “Your majesty. These men have been held in Li-Khor prison for the past six years. They may not have survived. Even if they are not dead, they should be very weak by now.”

The Emperor thought for a while and sighed, “Take whoever among them who is still surviving from the prison to the East Courthouse. Clean them up. Then give them fresh clothes as well as thirty taels of silver each.”

+ + + + + +

At the Li-Khor prison, the eunuch came with a group of palace guards, handed a list of names to Warden Sai and announced, “By the Emperor’s orders, these men are to be taken to the East Courthouse building.”

Only four men in the list of nine names were still alive. They were Wen Yiji and the three Chin brothers. They were only alive because the jailor Ah Keong, the cousin of the Chin brothers, worked in the same wing where they were locked up, and he had made sure that they had enough food to eat and fresh water to drink.

Four jailors were sent to fetch Wen Yiji.

“Get up,” shouted one of the jailors rudely. “The Emperor has sent a eunuch to take you and your gang to the East Courthouse building.”

“The East Courthouse building? Why?” demanded Wen Yiji.

“We don’t know,” replied the jailor. “But we know that that is the place where most criminals are executed. I suspect that you will be executed there.”

Wen Yiji got up and said, “If they are going to execute me today, so be it. I’ve had enough of this shit dump.”

As they led him away, his cellmate Amos called out, “Goodbye, ya lousy piece of shit. I’m gonna miss you!”

Win Yiji turned his head and replied, “Goodbye muthafucka. Don’t wait up for me.”

“It was nice knowing you, even though you’re full of horse shit,” Amos shouted.

Wen Yiji managed a smile and shouted back, “Really? I feel the same way about you too. Now go fuck yourself.”

At the prison gates, Wen Yiji saw Warden Sai and the eunuch waiting for him. Then he saw the three Chin brothers brought out to where they were. They were weak and could hardly walk. The prisoners were often fed food that had turned rancid, and the toxic rancidity had weakened their systems. Wen Yiji was lucky. By using the Poison Field Inner Stance, he was able to isolate and expel the rancid food before any damage was done. After six years in prison, he was weak, but was still able to walk normally.

“That’s it,” said Warden Sai. “There are only four of them. The rest did not survive.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Wen Yiji. “Nine of us came in here.”

“Do your sums,” sneered the warden. “Obviously five have died. Now go with the eunuch to your fate at the East Courthouse.”

Wen Yiji walked past the warden. As he did so, he lashed out with his leg and delivered a kick on the warden’s balls. The warden screamed in pain as he dropped to the ground.

“Kill him,” he shouted, while still on the ground.

Two jailors drew their broadswords and Wen Yiji remarked dryly, ”I wouldn’t do that if I were you. The Emperor has summoned me to the East Courthouse, and if you kill me, you will interfere with his plans. He will have your heads chopped off.”

The two jailers promptly sheathed their broadswords.

“You should not have kicked him in the balls. Better not do it again or he will not be able to carry out his manly duties in future,” said one of the jailors.

“Are you certain of that?” asked Yiji.

The jailor nodded and said, “My brother-in-law was on one occasion kicked twice in the balls. After that, he could not go to a courtesan house anymore for pleasure.”

“Twice? Oh dear! You better help the warden up,” suggested Yiji.

The two jailors helped the heavy warden to his feet, and just as Warden Sai was struggling to stand up, Wen Yiji kicked him hard in the balls again. The warden fell shrieking to the floor once more, writhing in intense pain, and unable to speak.

“Enough!” cried the eunuch. “The Emperor has issued an edict. Get ready to receive it!”

The men all knelt down. Warden Sai was still in great pain and could not kneel, and so he had to be held in a kneeling position by his men.

The eunuch read out the edict, “By order of the Emperor, the following men are to be freed from prison and taken to the East Courthouse where they will each be given thirty taels of silver so that they can begin a new life.”

As the eunuch read out the names of the Wen Yiji and the Chin brothers, the writhing warden fainted.


Thursday, June 15, 2006


Dads are like moms.....

June 18th. That’s Father’s Day. Just walk blindly into any Jaya Jusco store and they’ll brand that date indelibly into your brain cells.

Many fathers don’t understand why there is this particular need to have a special day for fathers. Totally irrelevant. Not to mention inefficient.

Frankly, if you ask my expert opinion, any day is a fucking good day for fathering. My expert opinion doesn’t come cheap, but I’m in a great mood today, so I’m giving it away for free.

So, let me repeat:
Any day is a fucking good day for fathering!

And if the day is really really good, and you’re in top form, you could be fathering several times a day. But if things are less than perfect, and your equipment is flagging, may I suggest a little Teng Khok Khok Potency Potion. Or save your energies for June 18.

By my calculations, all hospitals around the country will be thoroughly swarmed next March 18.

To everybody who is a father or intending to do a bit of fathering, let me just wish you in advance a Happy Father’s Day for this Sunday.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006



This headline in a local one-star publication caught my attention:
Terengganu MB sells sugar from lorry

Are politicians going into sales already?

If so, then it is a good thing. I like to see politicians selling something for money instead of spending a lot of our money for something. It makes a nice change. Yeah.

This sort of fad can catch on, and before we know it, there’ll be other similar headlines involving selling stuff like sand, permits, and whatnots.

However, I do have my limits and this is one headline I hope not to see:

Retired doctor sells unused half-bridge design from an Augusta motorbike.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006



Yesterday, even though I felt that the decisions to build the half bridge and buy the Augusta shares during the previous administration were half-baked and totally unwise, I also asked that some answers should be given to Dr M.

I am glad that the government listened to me and acceded to my request, as evidenced in this article Govt to answer all Dr M's questions.

For some strange mysterious reason that I cannot fathom, this blog really works, and I suspect that the aliens may have something to do with it.


Monday, June 12, 2006


Lin Dynasty Chapter 37

Unforeseeable has tagged me to continue on the story about a Lin dynasty. The whole story can be found here. Having a bit of time today, I decided to pen a few lines.

* * * * * *

Lin Dynasty Chapter 37

And suddenly, in the midst of the wanton lovemaking, Ah Pek asked, “What is that strange noise coming from the kitchen?”

The three of them stopped and listened.

“It sounds like a horse is in there,” said Helen.

“A horse? Are you nuts?” asked Lin Peh. “Why would a stupid horse be in the kitchen?”

“I don’t know,” replied Helen. “That may be our kitchen but it’s none of our fucking business what the horse is doing there. Animals have legal rights nowadays. I hope it does not try to break up our ménage a trois. Maybe someone should go and investigate.”

“Lin Peh, you go and check it out,” ordered Ah Pek.

“Why me?” protested Lin Peh.

“Coz I’m your father and I’m ordering you to,” replied Ah Pek.

“Why can’t Helen go?” asked Lin Peh.

“Coz I’m holding you by the balls physically,” replied Helen. “Your fate is in my hands.”

Grumbling, Lin Peh got up and walked to the kitchen.

He came back in a hurry and announced, “There is indeed a horse in the kitchen. You know the pot of Tongkat Ali soup you boiled last night? The horse drank all of it!”

“All of it? Mama mia! With that much Tongkat Ali inside it, the horse will be horny for females soon!” screamed Helen.

“That’s not all,” said Lin Peh. “You know the pot of Kicap Fatimah soup that Helen boiled last night? The horse finished that too!”

Ah Pek stared at Lin Peh for a moment. Then, trying to keep from panicking, he said, “Sei lor! That means that the horse will be horny for males as well!”

A sudden chill ran down the spine of Lin Peh. He turned his head. Slowly. And saw the horse behind him eying his ass with a lascivious grin. The horse was hung. Very well hung. A mean looking bastard with raging hormones and only one thing on its mind.

Lin Peh did not wait anymore. He ran out of the house screaming, followed swiftly by Helen and Ah Pek. The naked three ran as they never ran before, followed by the galloping stallion. Even as they ran, they knew that they could not hope to outrun the horny creature. A coconut tree stood in their path. Without hesitation, the three of them climbed up the tree trunk in a flash, leaving the disappointed horse on the ground.

Ah Pek had reached the top first and held on to a couple of coconuts. Helen was close behind and held on to Ah Pek’s dick. Lin Peh was the last to go up and got his head lodged inside Helen’s hole. The front hole. Luckily.

From the safety of the treetop, Ah Pek looked down at the horse and said:
“The horse below si beh tua kee!
I thank the stars I’m up a tree!”

Helen looked down and exclaimed in awe,
“That horse looks damn excited liao!
If kena him, sure si khiaw khiaw!”

Lin Peh, whose head was still stuck in between Helen’s legs, tried to speak. His muffled voice filtered out,
“My head is stuck in a dark pit!
Oh fuck, let me breathe a bit!”

Ah Pek, grasping the gravity of the situation, advised Helen,
“You have to open up your thigh!
If not, Lin Peh will surely die!”

And Helen replied,
“If I do so, Lin Peh will drop!
The horse will ravish him nonstop!”

There was a silent pause.

Then Lin Peh’s voice weakly called out,
“Without air, I’ll die of course.
Shut up you two, I choose the horse!”

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, Helen opened her legs.

* * * * * *

I’m passing the baton to buaya who may be able to pen a few lines for Chapter 38 while waiting for the World Cup matches to come on the telly at night. You got 72 hours, brother……..muahahahahah!!!!!!!



First, we have Dr M asking for some answers.

Then, we had Datuk Shahrir saying that the Government doesn't have to answer Dr M.

Don’t lah, like that.

Give the old man some answers leh.

After all, he was asking four questions only.

And if you don’t know the answers, ask me mah.


Friday, June 09, 2006


The Cook and the Assassin - Chapter 7

Chapter 7 – The Restaurant Fatty Kuek

Xiang Xiang stood along the busy street at the entrance of a side alley. Quickfingers was working the street and it was her turn to be the carrier. It had been a long wait and she was bored. Quickfingers was skillful, and he seldom required the services of a carrier to make a getaway. Most of the days, he would pick a pocket without being noticed, then walk up to her to tell her to relax. After that they would go back to the hideout.

Xiang Xiang noted an unusual movement among the street movements. Her alert eyes told her that Quickfingers was running fast towards her. He had been spotted, which was rare. Without wasting time, she moved back into the alley, and positioned herself in readiness for the pass. Peeking round the corner, she saw him running rapidly. Then, to her horror, she saw his pursurer, a man in a black cape, leaping high in the air with lightness kungfu. There was no way Quickfingers could outrun the man.

She moved back out to the street and made the hand signal that he should drop the merchandise.

“Drop the loot!” she mouthed wordlessly.

Quickfingers saw her hand signal but he was reluctant to part with what he had stolen. He looked back even as he ran, but he could not detect any pursuers behind him. The man in the black cape, who was high up in the air above the street, was swooping down towards the head of the unsuspecting pickpocket, like an eagle swooping down on a day-old chick. There would be no escape.

Quickfingers was hit from behind, five steps before he reached Xiang Xiang. He crashed down onto the ground and the package that he was holding slipped from his grasp and rolled pass her. Xiang Xiang retrieved the package from the ground and promptly held it out to the man in the black cape. She hoped that he would let Quickfingers go.

The man took the package from Xiang Xiang and said, “Thank you. This boy has just made a very big mistake. The price for stealing from Prince Jin is death.”

There was the sound of heavy footsteps and more men arrived at the scene. Among them was an opulently dressed man who had an air of importance about him. “Red Wind, you let the boy run for so long before you could catch him,” screamed the opulently dressed man. “What am I keeping you dogs for? And where is the stuff he stole?”

“Here it is, Highness,” replied Red Wind as he handed the stolen package to the prince, who examined it. He open the small package, took out something that looked like a seal and examined it thoroughly.

“If the royal seal had been damaged, you and the other guards will pay with your heads,” the prince shouted. “Nobody fools with me!”

One of the guards went over to the fallen Quickfingers and gave him a hard kick. “What do you want us to do with this pickpocket?” he asked.

Prince Jin snarled in reply, “What a stupid question. You have no more brains than a diseased pig! Kill him of course. Make sure he dies slowly.”

The man drew his sword and Prince Zin snapped at him, “Not here you fool! Take him to the outskirts and do it there!”

Xiang Xiang tried to help Quickfingers up and get him away. One of the guards slapped her and growled, “Mind your own business, girl!”

She knelt down and begged, “Please spare him kind sirs!”

“She must be a friend of his,” snarled the prince. “Tie her up. Make sure that she sees him die. It will be an experience that she will never forget!”

“Highness, she had nothing to do with this,” suggested Red Wind.

“Shut up!” screamed Prince Jin. “When I want your opinion, I will give it to you!”

Two riders on horses rode up. Xiang Xiang and Quickfingers were both tied up and then thrown over the two horses in front of the riders. They were then taken to the outskirts of the city. The two riders dumped Xiang Xiang and Quickfingers onto the grass.

In a flash, one of the riders sliced both Quickfingers arms off.

It happened fast, so fast that Xiang Xiang did not register what had just happened. She stared stupidly at Quickfingers arms on the ground. She looked at her friend and saw blood spurting out of the arm sockets where there used to be arms.

The stupor lifted

She tried to scream. There was no sound. She screamed and screamed but no sound flowed out, just a straining of her throat wrapped in silence.

Quickfingers moaned in pain, determined not to cry out loud and give satisfaction to his tormentors. He clenched his teeth tightly, eyes shut, even as the intense pain flooded his body. The blood oozed out of his body onto the ground and he could feel his life ebbing away. Soon, he stopped moaning.

All was quiet.

“Damn! This is boring!” commented one of the riders in displeasure. “You would have thought that there ought to be a lot of screaming by now.”

“I’m thirsty,” remarked the other rider. “Do you want to wait here until he dies while I go back to the city for a drink?”

“I wait? I’m not going to wait!” came the reply. “I’m coming with you.”

“Check that the girl is securely tied up. She is supposed to stay her and watch him die”

“Don’t worry. He has lost a lot of blood and is almost dead. She is so securely tied up that she will take at least half a day to free herself.”

Both riders got on their horses and headed back towards the city.

Xiang Xiang waited till the riders were out of sight. Her hands were tied in front of her, with a rope that appeared to be full of knots. Curling her tongue, she produced a tiny copper blade that she had kept hidden under her tongue. It was an unusual trick that One Eye had once taught her. Holding the blade between her teeth, she quickly sawed through the rope that tightly bounded her hands together.

Once her hands were freed, she cut the ropes that bound her legs. Tearfully, she crawled over to where Quickfingers laid dying.

Quickfingers,” she cried, “Quickfingers!”

He opened his eyes and said painfully, “Froggy, I am about to go.”

“No, you are not going anywhere,” she said. “We’ll find you a herbal daifu to heal you.”

“And then what? The daifu will not be able to fix back my arms.”

“Wait for me! I’ll run back for help!”

Xiang Xiang got up from the ground, but Quickfingers moaned, “Stop. It is no use…..a pickpocket is useless without his arms. I would rather be dead.”

“What kind of negative talk is that? Just wait till I get back.”

“No don’t go. I want you to listen to me. If you go now, I may not have the opportunity to speak to you again.”

“Please don’t say that, brother Quickfingers… will recover.”

“Listen, I don’t have much time left. I can feel my spirit leaving. When I am dead, I wish to be cremated. And then I want my ashes to be thrown into the sea.”

“Cremated? Only barbarians and Buddhist monks are cremated! And why do you want your ashes thrown into the sea?”

“When I was a very young boy, my parents died at sea leaving me an orphan. All those who die at sea go down to the underwater Kingdom of the Sea Dragon King. In death, I wish to join back with my family. I missed my parents.”

Xiang Xiang bawled. She, too, missed her parents. Wiping her tears back on her sleeve, she argued, “Are you sure that is how it works? I met a Buddhist monk once who told me that when my parents died, they were reborn. Because of this thing called the cycle of life.”

“Did the monk say anything about my parents?”

“No. We only talked about my family.”

“Then my parents are with the Sea Dragon King. Froggy, I have a favour to beg of you.”

“Don’t say that, brother Quickfingers,” sobbed the girl.

“Go to the South Gate Temple and look for old Ah Fook. He is my friend. I have a standing arrangement with him about my cremation in case I should die prematurely. Should you need any expenses, go to my bank.”

“Bank? What bank?”

“Behind the South Gate Temple is a stone wall. Get behind the wall. At one end of the wall hidden by the bushes you should see a stone that is redder than the rest. The stone next to the red one is loose. That is my bank. Pull out the loose stone. I have a secret stash of money hidden behind it. Use the money to pay for my cremation and keep the rest.”

“Forget that. I will ask One Eye to get a daifu to heal you. We’re wasting time. I have to go for help now.”

“Wait! If I don’t talk to you now, I will not have the opportunity later. One Eye will not spend a single coin to keep me alive. He makes use of us, takes our money and spends it all on himself. That was why I needed my own secret stash.”

“That is not true. One Eye will save you!”

“Listen, Froggy. Promise me that you will throw my ashes in the sea.”

“And you listen, Quickfingers. I will not let you die. But if you should die before I can come back with help, then I shall do as you asked. I shall throw your ashes in the most beautiful part of the sea.”

“Thank you,” he whispered. “There is one more thing. You are different from us. You have refined manners, and a sophistication not seen among pickpockets. I think that you are not meant to be a pickpocket all your life. Leave this trade, Froggy. If you don’t leave it now, you never will.”

“Stop hallucinating. If I leave this trade, what will I do?”

“Listen to me Froggy. Go to a different town and begin life anew. If you stay here, you will end up like all of us. Either maimed or dead. You were meant for something better than this.”

“We are wasting time, brother Quickfingers,” cried Xiang Xiang. “Wait for me while I go for help. Don’t you dare die!”

She ran off quickly as fast as she could. The distance was long but she dared not stop to rest. She was exhausted and dusty by the time she reached her gang’s hideout. Hurriedly, she spewed her story to One Eye.

“Hurry!” she cried. “We have to get a daifu to him quick!”

“No,” he said.


“You heard me. This is Prince Jin we are talking about. If he finds out that we are connected with Quickfingers, all of us will lose our arms. And our heads.”

“Quickfingers is our brother! We need to help him!”

“No! He is without arms now. If we help him, we will have to feed him for the rest of our lives!”

“And what is wrong with that? He was the best among us. It was his skills that kept us all from starvation during last winter! I begged you, please go with me to help him!” she pleaded.

It was no use. One Eye was adamant. She looked around at the circle of young pickpockets. They looked down, unable to meet her gaze. She realized that she would not be able to get help from this group of thieves. She was wasting precious time while Quickfingers was bleeding to his death.

Xiang Xiang cursed them all loudly and ran away in fury. She ran to the South Gate Temple where Quickfingers’ friend, Ah Fook, worked as the temple caretaker.

“Ah Fook,” she cried, on seeing him. “Quickfingers is injured very badly. He needs help. I need to bring him to see a daifu.”

“Where is he?” asked Ah Fook. He was an old man and very simple minded.

“At the outskirts of the city,” she replied. “Can you bring a horse and carriage to fetch him?”

“No,” he replied. “But I have a donkey and a cart. We’ll use it to transport him.”

Quickly, Ah Fook harnessed the donkey to the cart and then followed Xiang Xiang to the outskirts of the city. The donkey was old and slow and by the time they reached Quickfingers, they discovered that he was already dead. Tearfully, they brought his body back to the temple to be cremated.

Xiang Xiang found the loose stone behind the stone wall at the back of the temple. Behind the stone, she found eight taels of silver. She handed six taels of silver to Ah Fook as expenses for the cremation and kept two for herself. She watched as the body burned on a pyre of firewood. That night, she slept at the temple.

In the morning, Ah Fook brought out a tiny urn and asked her, “Do you wish to pick up his ashesand put into the urn, or shall I do it?”

“I will do it,” she replied.

She sobbed as she picked up his bones from the burnt out fire and placed them in the little urn. Carefully, she sealed it. She still had one more thing to do. She had to throw the ashes in the most beautiful part of the sea so that Quickfingers could join his parents in the underwater Kingdom of the Sea Dragon King.

“Where is the nearest sea, Ah Fook?” she asked.

“That will be in Tianjin, about five days walk from here,” he replied.

“I will go there then,” she said.

“Will you come back,” he asked.

“No,” she said.

The city held painful memories for her. Quickfingers had asked her to go to a different town and begin life anew. She thought of her departed family. A Buddhist monk had once assured her that her family had been reborn, so she need not sweep the family graves any more.

No, she would not be back.

+ + + + + +

At the Li Khor prison, Wen Yiji sat quietly in his cell. When the old man, White Hair, had died, Yiji was left alone in his cell without a cellmate for some time.

He heard the jailors walked up to his cell. They had a prisoner with them, a foreign looking dark man with curly hair. The jailors opened the door and pushed the new prisoner in.

The foreign looking man spotted Wen Yiji, smiled and said, “Yo muthafucka, wassup?”

“You look strange and different,” remarked Wen Yiji. “You must be one of those foreign barbarians. What’s your name.”

“I’m Amos, and don’t call me no barbarian or I’ll karng foo your ass so hard that you won’t be able to sit down for a month.”

Karng what?”

Karng foo… know………heeeargh ……aaacharrrr……hoooooit ……hoooooit……..heeeargh!!!!!”

Yiji sighed. Foreigners were so ignorant about kungfu. He asked, “What was your crime that got you sent here?”

“Crime? I didn’t commit no crime!” replied Amos. “I came on a pirate ship and they arrested all of us for no fucken reason. All we ever did was loot and burn, rape and pillage… know…….normal stuff that pirates do. Soldiers do that kind of shit alla time and I don’t hear no mention `bout no crime.”

“Well, as long as you are here, you can take that corner.”

“Why? Cos you sprayed your doggie essence in this here corner to mark your territory already? Wokay dokey, no problem.”

“Oh heavens! Can you barbarian talk normally, please?”

“Hey, I resent that! I am talking normally!”

“Welcome to the cell. Now just leave me alone.”

“You leave me alone as well. Nobody, and I mean nobody, messes with me. Cos I got karng foo so shit-kickin’powerful that even I am afraid of mah ownself. I’m tellin’ ya, when it comes to kicking ass, I da man.”

“Oh, really? What kind of martial art do you use?”

“The best kind,” replied Amos. “It’s called the Black Widow Tiger Chomping Chop.”

“Black Widow Tiger Chomping Chop? Never heard of it. What kind of three-legged cat kungfu is that?”

“It’s so powerful that I once chop down on an elephant’s head with just my bare right hand. And guess what? I cracked its skull wide open! Then the father came to look for me.”

“The father? Whose father?”

“The elephant’s father. So I chopped down with my left hand and……heeeargh….I cracked the father’s skull as well. There were elephant brains everywhere!”

“You are exaggerating. If you are that powerful, you wouldn’t have got yourself caught by soldiers and thrown into prison.”

“I do not exaggerate! I only got caught because I was outnumbered.”

“By how much were you outnumbered?”

“By 5 million to one.”

Wen Yiji sighed. With a cellmate like that, it’s going to be a long, long year.

+ + + + + +

Xiang Xiang had reached Tianjin. She had walked for five days eastward following a group of travelers. The urn containing Quickfinger’s ashes was slung over her shoulders and it was heavier than she originally thought. Still, she made the journey without trouble, but her money had run out. She would have to find something to eat fast.

Tianjin was not a very big city. It was a seaport filled with sailors and fishermen. And restaurants. She knew that restaurants sometimes had food that could not be sold, so they had to be thrown or given away. She would go by the back door and beg for some food.

At the first two restaurants where she tried, luck was not with her. The third restaurant she approached was slightly smaller than the first two. Going in by the back gate, she saw a fat man working at the kitchen table, and so she asked, “Please sir. I have not eaten for a day. Can you spare me some food?”

The man turned around, stared at her and said, “You! I recognize you!”

Xiang Xiang stared back at him. It was Fatty Kuek. She was in the Restaurant Fatty Kuek!


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