Sunday, July 30, 2006


800th post

This is my 800th post, and for want of a more serious topic, today’s posting will be about my dog.

My dog always kicks up a humongous fuss whenever I remove his collar.

He’s a pretty good dog and I think I know the nature of his problem; without the stupid collar, he feels naked in public.


Thursday, July 27, 2006


The Cook and the Assassin - Chapter 14

Chapter 14: The Tiger Crossing Bridge

Wen Yiji concentrated his attention on his finger that had been pricked by the needle with the Kin Kin Holland venom. He allowed the Poison Field Inner Energy to push the venom out from within. Slowly, the venom oozed out of his finger, together with some blood.

“That’s it all out,” he muttered. “That old bitch thought she could poison me, did she?”

Xiang Xiang looked at him in wonderment. She did not understand how the Poison Field Inner Stance worked, but she was glad that her brother was fine. At the Borrowing Hag’s house, had he not stopped her in time, it would have been she who would be the one getting pricked by the poisoned needle. She just missed death by a few steps. For that, she was grateful to her brother.

“Brother Yiji,” she asked, “do you think our parents died horribly?”

“Nah......don’t think so,” he replied. “They died while sleeping. After eating carrot cake.”

“Will the fact that they were murdered prevent them from getting reborn? Or will they become wandering ghosts?”

“They will undergo rebirth,” her brother answered. “I have heard it said that the next life is determined by what was in the mind at the last moment of this life. Since their last moment was a peaceful sleep after eating radish cake, their next life will be peaceful, with lots of radish cakes to eat.”

Xiang Xiang was relieved.

Out of curiosity, she asked, “What is the worst way to die?”

“To die with a mind full of terror,” he replied, “and a body full of pain.”

His sister pondered this for a while. Death was not a subject that she wanted to dwell too much on. So she asked, “Where are we going after this?”

“We are going to look for the grave of the mistress of White Hair, my former cellmate. I promised to transfer her bones to Shantou.”

“How are you going to locate the grave?”

“Easy,” he replied. “The grave is marked by a headstone that says Seow Char Bu on it.”

“Seow Char Bu? That can’t be right. It’s either Seow Bu or Seow Char Bor. You must have made a mistake.”

“Look, I only know what my ugly old cellmate told me before he died. I did not ask too much because I thought that he could not die.”

“Which route shall we take to the Seow Po?”

“It’s not Seow Po, but Seow Char Bu. Damn, weren’t you listening? We need to go first to Changchow, then to Changpu and then south to a small village called Xi An.”

“To reach Changchow from here we may have to walk for at least four days.”

“Yes,” said Yiji easily after consulting his map. “By the third day, we should come to the Nine Dragon River. We shall use the Tiger Crossing Bridge to get across.”

+ + + + + +

Three days later, they saw the Tiger Crossing Bridge. It was a majestic structure, being one of the longest bridges in the country. The river was huge.

“Once we cross this bridge, the next town will be Changchow,” noted Wen Yiji.

As they approached the bridge, they spotted a group of men standing on the bridge. Two men were actively kicking a beggar on the ground at the end of the bridge.

“Walk some distance behind me, Xiang Xiang,” instructed Wen Yiji. “I sense trouble ahead. But we still need to use the bridge to get across the river. I will go and see what the problem is. If I am attacked, you should not try to help.”

“Why not?” she asked. Both of them were carrying wooden poles as weapons.

“Your kung fu is not up to the mark so you won’t make much of a difference,” remarked her brother. “In fact, you will be a liability. I won’t be able to fight and protect you at the same time. In case things go awry, it will be best if you pretend that you don’t know me. So stay behind.”

Dutifully, she dropped thirty steps behind her brother. She hoped that her brother would not get into trouble. He had recently recovered much of his health, but was still not in top fighting form. The past few days, he had been subjected to violent mood swings. It was most probably caused by the Poison Field Inner Energy swirling in his body after being stirred up by the Kin Kin Holland venom. She remembered that Li Dai fu had said that her brother needed to consume bitter gourd to control it. However, her brother had been stubbornly refusing to take bitter gourd. She sighed at the thought.

Wen Yiji walked on until he reached the bridge. He walked past the two men kicking the beggar and stepped onto the Tiger Crossing Bridge. As he did so, a voice called out, “Where do you think you are going?”

He turned around. The voice belonged to one of the two men kicking the beggar.

“To the other side of course,” replied Yiji.

The man stopped kicking the beggar and walked towards Yiji. He was fair and bucktoothed, and despite the late autumn chilliness in the air, he was bare-chested, revealing his skinny ribs on both sides of his body.

“Pay the bridge toll first!” he shouted at Yiji. “Or you will not be allowed to use this bridge.”

“Oh yeah?” asked Yiji in annoyance. “Who are you?”

“I am your father! Kanineh! Ask you to pay toll and you ask so many questions!”

“If you are my father, then this is my father’s bridge. So I don’t have to pay anything,” growled Yiji. He was getting annoyed at the rudeness of the man.

The skinny man was not happy with the reply. He examined Wen Yiji from head to toe and sneered, “I just had to teach a lesson to a beggar for trying to run across the bridge without paying toll. Everybody pays! No exceptions. That is our rule.”

“What if I am your grandfather?”

“Must pay!”

“What if I am the Emperor?”

“Also must pay!”

“This bridge was built with government funds for the people,” said Wen Yiji. “Nobody is supposed to collect toll here!”

Buck Tooth wagged a finger at Wen Yiji and said, “We own this bridge. This is our bridge. It belongs to us. Anything that walks on it also belongs to us. So don’t mess with us.”

“Why should I listen to you? You are illegal toll collectors. Other people build this bridge with blood and sweat and you people come along trying to make a profit from it. You are a bunch of bloodsucking leaches and you own shit,” remarked Wen Yiji coolly. “And you belong to shit. Actually, you are shit!”

“You have an arrogant attitude! Turn it off! Turn it off or you’ll regret it, stubborn fool!” shouted the skinny man. “And suffer the Fists of Fury! Hahahahahaha!”

“Listen,” said Yiji. “I am a friend of Governor Li, the provincial governor. He has said that there is to be no illegal toll collection on the Tiger crossing Bridge. I should arrest you on his behalf. However, I’m in a hurry so I’ll let you go this time”

Buck Tooth struck up a fighting pose, “You think you bring up the name of Governor Li we’ll be afraid, is it? Kanineh! We treat him like small mouse only! ”

A voice boomed out from the group of men standing on the bridge, “What’s the matter, Buck Tooth? Is he refusing to pay?”

“Yes, Big Brother Sah Mi,” Buck Tooth shouted back. “I threatened him with the Fists of Fury but the stubborn fool says that he is a friend of Governor Li!”

“Bring him over here!” shouted Sah Mi. “We know how to deal with Governor Li’s people.” He was a dark man with a strange hair cut. Obviously, he was the “big brother” in charge of the illegal toll collection.

Buck Tooth made an attempt to grab Wen Yiji’s collar. Yiji avoided him instead.

Buck Tooth tried again.

Wen Yiji ducked under the grabbing hands.

Buck Tooth tried once more.

Wen Yiji ducked once more.

Buck Tooth aimed a roundhouse kick that glanced off Yiji’s elbow. Wen Yiji lost patience and lashed out with his right fist. It caught Buck Tooth on the face and he fell down flat. His mouth was bleeding all over and his face looked flatter.

“Damn! I think I just improved your looks tremendously!” Yiji exclaimed. “But don’t worry. There’s no charge!”

All of a sudden, he was surrounded by a group of nine men. At a signal from Big Brother Sah Mi, they attacked him. Wen Yiji defended himself with the wooden pole. His pole work was effective and two men went down immediately. The fighting turned furious. Xiang Xiang watched from a short distance as her brother fell another three more men.

“Move aside!” yelled Sah Mi. “Let my Super Invincible Spear technique take care of him!”

The men moved aside and Sah Mi fought Yiji one to one, spear against pole. Yiji did not think very highly of Sah Mi’s Super Invincible Spear technique. However, Yiji had been walking the whole day and he was tired. Nevertheless, he put up a good fight until Sah Mi hit his pole away and brought his spear head against Yiji’s neck.

“Hold the pole also got no strength!” sneered Sah Mi. “Cannot fight but want to fight!”

The men shouted, “Sah Mi ho liao! Sah Mi ho liao!”

“All right, I’ll pay the toll,” replied Yiji in resignation.

“You’ll pay all right,” remarked Sah Mi. “With your life! We have an interesting way of dealing with Governor Li’s people.”

A man appeared with a heavy chain attached to a rock. He shackled Wen Yiji’s left leg to the heavy metal chain, such that if Yiji walked, he would have to drag the rock along. The man kept the key to the shackle inside his clothes.

Xiang Xiang saw the happenings from a distance as she walked towards the bridge. A group of travelers had appeared and they were paying the toll. She joined the group and paid the toll to one of the illegal toll collectors. Then she walked on the bridge trying to stay as inconspicuous as possible.

“What do you intend to do?” asked Yiji to Sah Mi, the chief toll collector.

“I’m going to get rid of you the same way that I got rid of See Vah,” Sah Mi replied. “I’ll sink you into oblivion.”

“Who the fuck is See Vah?” asked Yiji. “Your sifu’s pet tortoise?”

“See Vah was an irritating thorn in the side of our Big Brother Sah Mi,” replied Buck Tooth, wiping his bleeding mouth. “We threw him off the middle of the bridge to feed the fishes. When he landed in the water, he managed to come up for air three times. He was a good swimmer, but the metal chain and rock attached to his leg made it impossible for him to stay afloat. So he drowned like a salted fish. Hahahahaha!"

The pain in Buck Tooth’s mouth made laughing difficult, but he laughed anyway.

“I think this one will come up for air only once!” laughed another man.

“Or maybe none!” laughed another. “Let’s lay bets.”

“Did Governor Li send you here to spy on us?” asked Sah Mi.

“Why are you wasting my time with the stupidest question in the history of this dynasty?” asked back Wen Yiji. “If I am the spy of Governor Li, do you think that I would say that I am a friend of Governor Li?”

Sah Mi reached inside Yiji’s clothes and took his bundle of money. “You won’t be needing this in hell,” he said.

“That’s my money, muthafucka!” yelled Yiji. “Give it back!”

The men laughed. A few men searched Yiji all over, but there was nothing else to take.

“Enough!” yelled Sah Mi. “Let’s not waste time. The day is getting late! Take him to the middle of the bridge.”

“Let’s cut off his hands before we throw him in the water!” suggested Buck Tooth brightly.

Wen Yiji turned towards Buck tooth and snarled, “Hey, flat face! I find you very irritating! I think I will kill you first.”

The men forced Yiji to walk while Buck Tooth carried the rock weight and walked beside him. The heavy metal chain that was shackled to Wen Yiji’s leg on one end and the rock on the other end trailed noisily on the ground. Along the way, Sah Mi’s henchmen made bets among themselves to see how often Wen Yiji could come up for air once he was thrown into the water.

The man who had kept the key to the shackle turned and at that moment Xiang Xiang bumped into him.

“Watch your step!” he growled.

“Sorry,” she said apologetically. She walked away from him with his key inside her sleeve. Stealing the key was easy. She now had to figure out how to get the key to her brother.

The men reached the middle of the bridge and stopped. Sah Mi turned to his men and instructed, “Let the other travelers watch what we do to people who don’t pay the toll. I want them to spread the message.”

Xiang Xiang and the other travelers on the bridge were invited to witness the execution. As the men got ready to force him off the bridge, she saw her opportunity.

“Wait,” she said. “He may have more money on him.” She rushed his side and searched him all over. Her brother felt her put something inside his clothes. “The key,” she whispered. He understood.

“Move away from there!” one of the men yelled.

Xiang Xiang moved back and nonchalantly remarked, “There is nothing. You men have taken everything.”

“Of course!” sneered the man. “Do you think that we will leave anything for you? Dream on! Now stand aside and watch the action.”

The bridge was lined by a low wall on each side to prevent people from falling off accidentally. Wen Yiji was forced to the wall on the downstream side of the bridge. Using his spear, Sah Mi prodded Yiji and shouted, “Climb up to the top of the wall and stand there!”

“This is not the end of the matter, Sah Mi,” said Wen Yiji. “My vengeful spirit will come to haunt you. Then you will regret what a thorough shithead you have been.”

“I have a Taoist priest at my disposal that will lock up your vengeful spirit,” replied Sah Mi with unconcern. “He will put you in a spiritual prison and then throw away the spiritual key.”

“The fact that you can try to openly collect toll in broad daylight means that you probably have political protection. I’ve heard that the Prefect of Changchow is the one enforcing the toll illegally. Or is it his father-in-law?”

“If you must know,” replied Sah Mi, “the Prefect’s father-in-law uses me to enforce the toll and the Prefect closes one eye.”

“In any case, your master will not be pleased to know that you are throwing people off the bridge.”

“Ha ha ha!” laughed Sah Mi. “My master is the one who insists that I throw people off the bridge every now and then to remind the people that they have to pay the toll, legal or not! I am in this for the fun and entertainment. You will soon be fish food. Maybe I will get to eat the fish that eats you. Big fish eats small fish. Small fish eats you. Ha! That is good!”

“You should stick to vegetables,” remarked Yiji. “I can give you the name of a vegetable that you desperately need up your ugly ass. And your hair can use the services of a good barber.”

“Shut up and climb, you dead monkey!” snarled Sah Mi as he threatened Yiji with the spear. He hated anybody making fun of his hair.

As Wen Yiji climbed slowly onto the low wall, he noticed that Buck Tooth was still holding on to the rock weight attached by the chain to his leg. Yiji guessed that Buck Tooth would throw the weight over the bridge first and then let the weight drag him off the bridge while the men watched. Even if he persisted in clinging onto the bridge, he would be eventually forced off it with spears, thus providing entertainment for one and all.

He thought fast and furiously and decided that action was far better than reaction. As he put his feet on the top of the wall, he grabbed hold of the chain and yanked it. Buck Tooth, who was holding tightly onto the rock, was jerked forward towards him.

Wen Yiji grabbed his collar and arm, pulled upwards and said, “Hey, you irritating shit! Remember me saying that I will kill you first?”

Before any of the men could intervene, Wen Yiji flexed his legs and propelled himself backwards over the bridge, carrying Buck Tooth with him.

Buck Tooth screamed. In mid air, Wen Yiji twisted his body and held the terrified Buck Tooth under him. He would have to avoid getting knocked unconscious by the impact with the water if he were to have a chance of surviving. He would use Buck Tooth’s body as a cushion.

The water loomed nearer and Yiji, riding on top of Buck Tooth, filled his lungs and braced himself.


Buck Tooth took the brunt of the impact with the water and was knocked into a semiconscious state.

Wen Yiji felt his body almost torn apart. He fought the urge to panic as the rock chained to his leg dragged him slowly downwards. Quickly, he took out the key that his sister had placed in his clothes. It had been raining upstream so the river water was muddy and he could not see a thing. By touch alone he slipped the key into the keyhole of the shackle on his left leg.

He turned the key.


He turned again.

Again nothing.

He was almost out of air and prayed that Xiang Xiang had not stolen the wrong key for him.

He turned the key in the opposite direction. This time he felt rather then heard the click as the shackle unlocked. Freedom!

Freeing his leg, he swam upwards towards the light. A shadow floated over him and he swam towards it. It was a branch floating down the river. He came up underneath the branch and held onto it. His mind was screaming for air, but he forced himself to cautiously poke his mouth above the water under the shade of the floating branch. Quickly, he took in a gulp of air before disappearing into the muddy water again, camouflaged by the branch. There was no doubt in his mind that if the toll collectors knew that he was not dead, they would come after him. Or shoot at him with arrows from the bridge. He would have to stay hidden underwater until he had floated further away from the bridge before taking his second gulp of air.

Up on the bridge, there was commotion.

“Do you see him?” shouted Sah Mi.

“I see him! I see him!” yelled one of the men. He pointed wildly. All eyes followed where he was pointing. They saw Buck Tooth coming up for air and struggling in the water.

“This is bad! Buck Tooth can’t swim!” shouted another man.

“We have to save him!”

“How? None of us can swim!”

“Did you see the other guy?”

“No. I did not see him come up.”

Buck Tooth went underwater and did not surface again.

The men scanned the waters anxiously and after a while, they realized that Buck Tooth was gone.

“Poor Buck Tooth. We should not have let him hold on to the rock. Then he would still be alive,” remarked a man.

“Nobody’s to blame. It was an act of God!” said Sah Mi. The men stared at him incredulously. Sah Mi, the chief toll collector, did not sound convincing.

Xiang Xiang sped to the other end of the bridge. She had not seen her brother surface. But while everybody’s attention had been glued to the drowning Buck Tooth, she had seen a floating tree branch move unnaturally. She knew that something was under it. Her brother was formerly a selected Imperial Guard. He would know what to do in a situation like this. If it was her brother under the floating branch, she would have to follow the branch.

She walked quickly downstream along the bank of the river. There was nothing she could do except pray that Yiji had survived.

There were a few branches on the river, floating downstream with the current. Slowly, one floating branch moved closer and closer to the shore until it came to rest under the branches of a tree overhanging the water surface. There, safe from any prying eyes, Wen Yiji emerged from the water to rest under the shade of the drooping branches of the tree.

“Damn!” he muttered. “I made it! I’m gonna come back some day and make all those stupid thugs pay heavily! And that includes the Prefect’s father-in-law!”


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Tofu Fa King

I once ate some great tofu fa(soybean custard or tofu pudding) by the roadside. The vendor was kinda proud of his stuff and claimed that he was the tofu fa king. Well, the tofu fa king changed his trade later to sell some other stuff later. He told me the reason why, but I forgot what it was already.

Any of you people selling tofu fa?

Coz I just thought of a great ad.

Just call yourself the Tofu Fa King, and hang this sign up on your stall that says:

“Tofu Fa King good”.

People will remember that.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Gator markings

There is this news story of a pet alligator with the markings “GOD” on its side.

After looking at the pic, I must say that it looks more like "GID" or “GILA”.

This news story has been carried by a number of papers and one of them is here, in case you are interested.

The guy who owned the creature said, "We don't sit around with candles worshiping this animal…..."

You don’t?

Wait till the markings turn to winning Toto numbers.

Then you’ll be busting your nuts waiting on it hand and foot. And there'll be a queue of Chinese datuks waiting to buy it from you.


Sunday, July 23, 2006


Any given Sunday

I seldom go to Sea Park in PJ because the parking spaces, or more accurately, the total lack of abundance in them. For some reason, I was passing there in my car this morning and I saw two postmen painting a postbox. On a Sunday.

Will wonders never cease?

This is a good sign.

If this trend continues, your electrical meter readers will soon be repairing the street lights. On a Sunday.

When that happens, I’m afraid you fuckers will just have to do your fair share. Think of a meaningful way by which you can contribute. Like repairing leaky condoms. On a Sunday.


Thursday, July 20, 2006


The Cook and the Assassin - Chapter 13

Chapter 13: The Fire Mountain Sect

Xiang was apprehensive about going to Weitou. With her brother not in fighting form yet, it could be dangerous in case Tsinkiang Yee turned out to be the woman they were looking for. But Wen Yiji was determined.

“We will go to Weitou to scout around first. It should be about one day’s walk from here. If this Borrowing Hag is Tsinkiang Yee, she may recognize you. I will get you some male clothing so that you can disguise yourself as a boy,” he told his sister. “I don’t want her to recognize you until we are ready to deal with her.”

“It has been six years since Tsinkiang Yee last saw me,” noted Xiang Xiang. “I have grown up a lot since then. I doubt if she will be able to recognize me.”

“We are not going to take that chance,” he said. “It is best that you dress as a boy. We will pose as peddlers selling cookies. Then we will go to her house to look around.”

“If the Borrowing Hag is not the woman whom we are looking for, we would have walked all the way there for nothing. To walk there takes one day. To walk back takes another day. That is a lot of walking.”

“We will be walking much more than that. There is a place that I have to go to pay a debt.”

“Are you serious? You just got out of prison and you already have debts?” asked Xiang Xiang incredulously. “Brother Yiji, our finances are not that good.”

“It’s not what you think,” explained her brother. “I have two debts of gratitude to pay. One of them is to Governor Li for getting the Emperor to release me. The second debt is to a dead cellmate for saving my life. When I was in prison, I was poisoned and my old white-haired cellmate imparted the Poison Field Inner Stance to me. I do not know why he saved my life, but he did. Before he died, he made me promise that if ever I was freed, I would go to the grave of his mistress and dig up the bones and rebury them in Shantou.”

“You are going to dig up some unknown woman’s bones?”

“Yes. I have a promise to keep. It is the least that I can do for old White Hair.”

“This is morbid. Where is her grave?”

“It is located on a hill near Xi An. She must have been dead for more than forty years. I will unearth her bones and then carry them to Shantou in the next province.”

“We can’t afford horses. So that will mean a lot of walking.”

“That is right. We will have to make our preparations now.”

Early the following morning, Xiang Xiang dressed herself in male clothing and followed Wen Yiji out of Tsinkiang. She was fifteen years old and in her disguise, she could pass for a youthful boy. It was late afternoon by the time they reached Weitou. It was a big village, more like a tiny town, but they quickly located the stream on the north side.

They walked past the houses along the stream, ignoring them all. As they reached the second last house, Wen Yiji decided that perhaps they could gather some information while on the pretext of selling cookies.

Stopping at the house, they called out. An old man came to the door but he declined to buy any cookies. “No thank you,” he said. “I have to watch my carbohydrate intake.”

“It’s all right,” said Yiji. “We will try our luck at that last house by the stream.”

“Oh, you better not,” replied the old man. “The Borrowing Hag stays in that house with her daughter. She borrows stuff without returning them. You will not get paid if you try to sell her anything. And if you ask for payment, she will scream at you!”

“Thank you for your tip,” Yiji said. “We are peddlers. We don’t mind a little screaming.”

“Don’t be so sure,” the old man replied. “You have not heard them scream yet. When they quarrel, both the mother and daughter scream so loudly at each other that the fish in the sea go deaf. And they quarrel everyday!”

Walking along the stream towards the sea they reached the last house with its door painted a garish red, just as the courtesan Ah Huei had described.

On the door was some large writing that Xiang Xiang could not figure out. Staring at the writing, a perplexed Xiang Xiang remarked, “I can’t understand what this writing on the door is trying to say.”

“That’s because it is written in modern script,” explained her brother. “My former cellmate, Amos, once taught me how to read this kind of special calligraphy.”

Wen Yiji then tilted his head to the right and read sideways. He swore, “Ni nabeh! These are not a very friendly people!”

They could not see anybody about. Clearing his throat anxiously, Wen Yiji announced in a loud voice, “Cookies for sale! Very cheap, very cheap!”

There was a sound. Then a big sized woman in her late twenties opened the door.

She took a look at the two peddlers before her and sneered, “How cheap? Give me a free sample first!”

“Free sample?” asked Wen Yiji stupidly. Nobody had ever asked him for a free sample. It was unheard of.

“Free sample means free sample lah” shouted the woman. “Ask you for one free sample and you act dumb. Ah chee ah chor like that! You know how to do business or not?”

Obligingly, he handed her a cookie. She popped it inside her mouth and munched it. “The cookie is so lousy!” she exclaimed. “Not even worth the trouble eating! Give me another free sample!”

He gave her another one. She gobbled that up and then asked for a third sample.

“If not worth eating, why you eat so much?" he asked. "I cannot keep giving you free samples. If there are other people in the house, then I will consider giving out more samples!”

The fat woman called to somebody inside the house, “Oi, old woman! Move your fat ass and come out to get some free cookie samples!”

An old woman came to the door and scolded, “Si gin nah! How many times must I tell you not to call me ‘old woman’? I am your mother! Chau chee bai!”

WenYiji noted the way the old woman moved. She must be the Borrowing Hag. She did not move in the balanced manner that a good kung fu exponent would. Good. That meant that she would be probably easy to handle. He was about to address the old woman when he felt Xiang Xiang’s fingers gripping his arm hard. He heard his sister whisper, “Let’s go, quick!”

He turned and walked away, much to the annoyance of the big sized woman who was still trying to get more free samples. She harangued her mother rudely, “See, you come out only and people want to leave! Face like cock only!”

“Shut up!” yelled the mother. “From morning till night, you think of eating only! Hor kao kan lah!”

The two women screamed at each other, much to the surprise of Xiang Xiang and her brother.

When they were out of sight, Xiang Xiang said, “I recognize her! That old woman is Tsinkiang Yee! The Borrowing Hag is Tsinkiang Yee!”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“I am almost sure! There should be a scar somewhere on her ankle. It’s a big scar. Like a triangle. We will have to find a way to get her to show us her ankles.”

“I have a better idea,” said her brother. “It will be dark soon. We will wait until it is dark. Then we will go to her house and tie her up and then question her.”

“She will be sure to say that we are mistaken and that she did not kill our family. Who will admit to such a thing?”

“That is true. She looks like the nasty type who will lie without flinching. We will have to trick the truth out of her.”


“I have a strategy,” he answered. “We must pretend to be assassins on an assignment.”

At dusk, Wen Yiji and his sister wore black cloth to hide the lower parts of their faces. They crept to the house and saw the Borrowing Hag and her big sized daughter inside doing something by candlelight. Holding a heavy stick, Wen Yiji pushed open the door and swiftly knocked the big sized daughter senseless. The Borrowing Hag had a shock, but before she could scream, he knocked her senseless as well.

Xiang Xiang quickly removed the shoes of the Borrowing Hag and checked the ankles by candlelight. On the left ankle was a huge triangular scar.

“That’s the one! That’s the scar I saw!” she said excitedly. “This is Tsinkiang Yee!”

“Then she will die,” her brother said coldly, “In the most painful manner.”

He tied her to the vertical wooden column in the centre of the house with a rope. Then he pulled a table near to the captive and Xiang Xiang set on the table a pot of oil and a thick brush that she had brought along. Carefully, he wiped the face of the old woman with cold water until she revived.

When the old woman regained consciousness, Yiji quickly tied a piece of cloth over her mouth to gag her. Then he carefully took the thick brush and dipped it into the pot of oil. Deliberately, he painted the old woman’s left shoulder with the oil. The old woman made gagging sounds but he ignored her. Taking the brush again, he painted her left shoulder with oil one more time.

“You have to do it slowly and make sure that only one side is coated with oil. Otherwise both sides will burn,” he said to his sister through the mask.

“Are you sure this oil will burn?” Xiang Xiang asked.

“Of course it will. Try on a small piece and see.”

“All right!”

Xiang Xiang brought a candlelight to the left shoulder of the Borrowing Hag and it lit up immediately. The old woman’s shoulder went up in flames. Wen Yiji paused for a short moment and then hastily beat the fire out. There was a smell of burning in the air. The Borrowing Hag felt the intense pain in the shoulder but her screams were muffled by the gag.

Wen Yiji stared at his sister and said slowly, “When I said to try on a small piece, I meant that you should tear out a small piece of her clothes and try! I didn’t mean that you should burn her body so soon before I am ready!”

The old woman tried to speak through her pain, but the gag stopped her. It appeared that the two masked strangers meant to burn her alive.

“Oooops…..sorry,” said Xiang Xiang. “But I am still not sure if this oil will burn brightly enough. This is not the normal oil you use.”

Her brother took the pot of oil and inspected it slowly. Then, deliberately he tugged at the sleeve off the Borrowing Hag’s clothes and tore a piece off. Slowly he dipped it in the oil. Then he placed the cloth on the floor and said “Watch!”

He lit it. The piece of cloth burned instantly with its flame dancing fiercely.

“See? I told you that it will burn well!” he said. “Afterwards when we roast her with this oil, I am confident that, she will make a very good fire!”

The old woman made desperate muffling sounds through her gag. She struggled and gestured with her head violently.

“I think she is trying to say something,” remarked Xiang Xiang. “Hahahah! They always want to speak before dying.”

“I should remove the gag and let her say her few last words,” he remarked.

“If you remove the gag, she may scream,” she said. “Then you will be forced to do a rushed job and burn her before you are quite ready.”

“You are right,” he said and continued painting the left side of the old woman’s body with oil.

The Borrowing Hag again made muffling sounds.

Wen Yiji looked at her and said, “If I remove the gag to let you say your last few words on earth, will you promise not to scream?”

The old woman nodded vigorously.

He removed her gag and she asked, “Sirs, may I ask who you are and why you are treating me like this?”

“It does not matter,” he replied. “We are just here to do a simple job. Don’t worry, it won’t take very long.”

“What simple job?” asked the old woman.

“We are here to kill you,” he replied.

“What? But why?”

“In our line of work, we do not bother about the reasons why. As long as the money is good, we do the job. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but your life ends here, tonight.”

“No! You have the wrong person!”

“I think not. You are the Borrowing Hag. We have positively identified you. Now shut up or I will drag your death out even more slowly and painfully.”

He took some oil and brushed it over the left breast of her body.

“What are you doing?” Terror filled her voice.

“Turning an old molehill into a fiery mountain,” he replied. “Relax! Your death will be spectacular. This will be my most memorable work!”

Turning to his masked sister, he remarked, "You must always make sure that you put oil only to the half you want to burn fast. Those areas without oil will burn more slowly. The effect on the victim will be more interesting to watch. Observe how carefully I apply the oil!"

“If half her body burns, she will still die, because no one can live with half a body,” laughed Xiang Xiang.

“The fun part starts when the ropes burn through. Then you can see the unburned half of the body feebly trying to put out the flames on the burning half. It can be very entertaining!” he said. Then he laughed roughly.

The Borrowing Hag begged, “No! Please don't kill me!”

“Hahaha! Of course I have to kill you! I have already received the payment for your death! And I always deliver. My employer wants you dead without delay!”

“Who is your employer?”

“I’m sorry I can't tell you. I am a professional assassin and we don't talk about our employers. I only know that he wants you dead. Do you have any last words that you wish to say?”

“Tell me the name of your employer!” she begged. “Is it One Eye Snake? I will return him the money I owe him, I promise! Is it Botak Long? Tell him that the potion will eventually work!”

“It is not One Eye Snake, or even Botak Long.”

“Then who is it?”

“You are not an assassin like us so I can’t tell you anything,” said Yiji seriously. “But if you are a professional killer like us, then I will extend a professional courtesy to you and tell you what you wish to know. But since you are not a killer, you will die in ignorance. That is your fate.”

“I am a professional killer just like you. So tell me what I wish to know,” said the Borrowing Hag.

“She is bluffing,” remarked Xiang Xiang. “How can she be a professional killer? Her kung fu is practically nonexistent. Nobody will be stupid enough to contract her to do a killing. She’s trying to waste time. ”

“I am not bluffing,” said the Borrowing Hag. “I have killed before on behalf of the
Fire Mountain Sect.”

“The Fire Mountain Sect?” asked Wen Yiji. He had heard the name mentioned before in the past. It was the name of a shadowy organization. He had no idea what it was.

“She is lying,” remarked Xiang Xiang loudly to her brother. “She is trying to impress us by mentioning the Fire Mountain Sect. Put her gag back on and let us continue with what we were doing. She has delayed us long enough.”

“Wait!” he cautioned. “If she is really with the Fire Mountain Sect, then we will have to thread very carefully here. Let her talk.”

Turning to the Borrowing Hag, he said, “The Fire Mountain Sect has activities in many provinces. Their killers go everywhere to kill people. I don’t think you have even been out of this province!”

“Yes I have,” said the Borrowing Hag. “I have even been as far as the Imperial Capital on a job for the Fire Mountain Sect!”

Now they were getting somewhere, thought Xiang Xiang.

“The Imperial Capital? If you are bluffing me, then I will cut out your tongue!” threatened Wen Yiji.

“Tell us,” asked Xiang Xiang. “What is the most famous dish in the Imperial Capital?”

The old woman thought for a few moments and said, “Bak Kut Teh!”

Wen Yiji slapped her across the mouth and said, “Wrong! Each wrong answer will earn you a slap!”

“I have only been once in the Imperial Capital, and that was five years ago,” protested the old woman. “I don’t know what the famous dish is.”

Wen Yiji slapped her across the mouth again. He said coldly, “You don’t appear to know anything. Yet you claimed to be in the Imperial Capital to do a job for the Fire Mountain Sect. Are you trying to make a fool out of me?”

“No, no!” she replied. “I did go to the Imperial capital to kill a family.”

“What is the name of the family you killed?” he asked. “Don’t tell me you don’t know that as well.”

“The Wang family,” she replied.

Yiji’s family name was Wen, not Wang. The Wang family was not of interest to him, but he decided to play along.

“How many people were there in this Wang family?” he asked.

“About ten,” she replied.

“You would not have traveled all the way to the Imperial capital to kill ten people,” guessed Wen Yiji. “There must have been a team of you.”

“There were three of us,” the old woman replied.

“Who were the other two?” he asked.

“I can’t tell you that,” she answered.

“That’s because you are making up this whole story,” he said. “I hate people who lie to me about how great a killer they are. And when they are asked to provide details, they can’t.”

Deliberately, he picked up the brush and started brushing oil on the left side of her face.

“I am not making this up!” the old woman exclaimed. “All right, the other two were my brother-in-law and Master Gojisan, the leader of the Fire Mountain Sect.”

“Who the heck is your brother-in-law?” he asked.

“His name is Simit and he is an agent for a number of killer organizations,” the old woman replied. “You may have heard of him. He is known as Agent Simit. The foreigners called him Agent Smith.”

Wen Yiji had never heard of Agent Smith. He ignored the fact for the moment and questioned her, “All right. Let’s say I believe you. Tell me, how you kill the Wang family.”

“Sleeping potion. I used a sleeping potion. I was a guest of the Wang family and I made a radish cake laced with sleeping potion. They ate it and fell asleep. Once they were asleep, I opened the door of the house and let in my brother-in-law and Master Gojisan. Master Gojisan killed the head of the Wang family, his wife and sons. Simit killed the daughters and servants by slitting their throats.”

Xiang Xiang felt sickened to hear the old woman describing the killing in such a casual manner.

“What a messy murder,” the girl remarked. “There are a lot of security people in the Imperial City. I am surprised that the constabulary did not catch you.”

“We were very professional,” bragged the Borrowing Hag. “We set the house on fire after that and nobody knew that a murder had taken place.”

Wen Yiji and Xiang Xiang felt a slight shock. The murder of the Wang family sounded very much like how their family was killed.

“Did you manage to kill the whole family?” asked Yiji.

“Yes, we did.”

Without warning, he slapped her across the face. “Don’t test my patience. In a large family, there is usually somebody out of the house. You could not have killed everybody in the family. You are lying to me. I can feel it!”

Taking up the brush again, he painted more oil on her clothes. She was all wet with oil on her left side.

“Who was not in the house at that time?” asked Xiang Xiang. She was beginning to suspect that the Wang family was the same as the Wen family.

“The Wang’s eldest son,” blurted the old woman. “He was in prison.”

“Who else was not in the house?” Yiji asked, raising his hand in preparation to slap her.

“The youngest daughter. She had disappeared in the night and we could not find her.”

“Maybe she went to the toilet. Did you check?”

“We did check. But she was nowhere to be found. So we set the house on fire and got out. The following day, there was a funeral at the Wang family home. We found out that the daughter had been out with friends while we were killing her family.”

“So, she escaped. And you did not bother to go back to kill her later? How shoddy! That was a very weak assassination attempt.”

“We wanted to. But at the funeral for the Wang family, a lot of neighbours were around and asking questions. We decided to lie low for a while and waited for things to quiet down. We went back to kill the girl a few days after the funeral but by then she had disappeared. Gojisan made discreet inquiries but the neighbours did not know where she went. We even waited for one month for her to show up but she did not. We think that she committed suicide.”

“Why would she do that?”

“She was only nine years old. Her family had perished. There were no relatives. What was she to do? She probably threw herself into a river. Such things are common.”

“What about the eldest son in prison? Did you manage to kill him?”

“Security in this prison was very tight, but Master Gojisan managed to bribe two jailors to smuggle him inside. He was shown the cell where the eldest son was. The cell door could not be opened without an order from the warden. So Gojisan put some poisoned food in the cell and saw the Wang family’s eldest son eating it.”

“Did he see the prisoner die?”

“He did not need to. The poison he used was the Humpalang Si Khiaw Khiaw Poison. It is very potent. Once taken, even if the victim is a top kung fu master and does not die immediately, the organs will rot and the victim will be sure to die within two months.”

Xiang Xiang looked at his brother. It was obvious to them both that the Wang family was the same as the Wen family. They did not know why the Borrowing Hag kept calling them the Wang family. Maybe she had got the names mixed up. Wen Yiji recalled the poisoning incident and old White Hair, and suddenly, he had a newfound respect for the Poison Field Inner Stance. The strange energy in him had saved him from being killed by the Humpalang Si Khiaw Khiaw Poison.

Staring at the Borrowing Hag, he said, “As an assassin, Gojisan should have gone into the prison again to make sure that the victim is really dead.”

“He tried to, but the jailors were unable to smuggle him in again. They told him that the victim had died and that he should believe them.”

“And he believed them?”

“Of course! He trusted the effects of the Humpalang Si Khiaw Khiaw Poison. Besides, poison or no poison, every prisoner dies after spending just a few years inside the Li-Khor Prison. There was no necessity for Gojisan to act. He should have saved the money instead of bribing the jailors.”

Wen Yiji thought over this for a moment. The jailors must have taken the bribe but were probably unable to smuggle in Gojisan for a second time and so they bluffed him by telling him that the prisoner was dead.

“Something is not quite right with your story, old woman,” he snapped. “What was the name of the eldest son in prison?”

“Yiji,” she answered. “His name was Wang Yiji.”

Yiji had heard enough. Now that he knew that his family was killed by the Borrowing Hag, Agent Simit and Gojisan, he did not need to question her anymore. He had found out what he wanted to know.

He slapped her and snarled, “Something in your story did not ring true to me. We have heard enough. It is time that I send you to hell. ”

Roughly, he pulled the gag over her mouth. The old woman tried to speak but the gag cut her off. He brought a lighted candle near the body in readiness for what he was about to do.

Turning to his sister, he said, “Do you wish to burn her or shall I do it?”

“Maybe we ought to get her to tell us the whole story,” remarked his sister.

“Why? What good will it do? We will still burn her in the end.”

“I don’t know. There is something in her story that makes me think that we should not kill her.”

“What? Are you serious? We have a job to do here tonight!”

“Look, indulge me, all right? It is a strong feeling I have. Something in her story is strangely odd. Let us hear that story first before deciding on killing her.”

“But I want to kill her now!” said Yiji.

“Hear her story first!” insisted Xiang Xiang.

Wen Yiji wrestled with the decision. Finally, he put aside the lighted candle and removed the gag on the Borrowing Hag.

Staring straight at the old woman, he said, “For some reason, my comrade wants to hear your story first before making a decision to kill you. Tell us the whole story of the assassination of the Wang family. Start from the beginning.”

“From the beginning?” asked the Borrowing Hag. “That will take a long time to tell.”

“You are right,” remarked Wen Yiji. “I should stop wasting my time like this. Your assassination story is not important. What was I thinking?

He tried to gag her back again, but she shouted, “No, no, it does not take a long time! Let me tell the story.”

Xiang Xiang shouted to her brother, “Will you please be patient and let her tell her story?”

Wen Yiji paused in his actions and said, “All right. You have one chance. That’s all. If you leave out any detail, I will burn you without warning.”

“Start from the very beginning,” said Xiang Xiang to the Borrowing Hag. “I want to hear all the details.”

The Borrowing Hag nodded meekly and said, “I’ll start at the beginning. Thirty years ago, in Tsinkiang, there was a rich and powerful family called the Wang family. It was headed by Patriarch Wang, who controlled much of the waterfront areas. For some reason, he made a lot of enemies.

The Fire Mountain Sect, a band of hired killers, received a contract to kill Patriarch Wang. However, Patriarch Wang was not an easy man to kill. He stayed in the manor all the time and hardly ever ventured out.

One night, Master Gojisan sent an assassination team to the Wang Manor. The manor had a lot of guards and booby traps and so the assassination team was unsuccessful. Gojisan knew that if his men could get into the manor undetected, they would be able to kill Patriarch Wang. He needed to get somebody inside to disable the alarms and booby traps.

At about this time, the seventh son of Patriarch Wang was getting married. The young man, Wang Yuan, was the resulting offspring when Patriarch Wang impregnated a common maid in the household, so he was obviously not an important son. Through a matchmaker, they got him a girl from a common household to be his bride. Nobody in the Wang household had ever seen the intended bride. They only saw her horoscope provided by the matchmaker.

At that time, Master Gojisan had a very skillful young female assassin in the Fire Mountain Sect called Lady Red Leaf. She was quite young but could kill with ruthless efficiency. So he planned to surreptitiously kidnap the bride and then get Lady Red Leaf to take the place of the bride. Since the bride would be wearing a bridal veil, nobody would guess that it was not the same girl. Once inside the Wang Manor, Lady Red Leaf’s job was to disable the alarms and booby traps at night. Then she would open the door and allow the assassination team to enter the manor to kill Patriarch Wang.

Master Gojisan had two sons. The elder son was due to marry Lady Red Leaf later, so he did not like the idea of Lady Red Leaf getting married to Wang Yuan even though it was only a sham. By the traditions, for a marriage to go through, a couple must bow to Heaven as a couple. Then, in the bridal room, the bridegroom has to pour the bridal wine for the bride for her to drink. Then they will lie together so that he can deflower her to consummate the marriage. After that, they are considered married.

Master Gojisan instructed Lady Red Leaf that she should only bow to Heaven in front of the wedding guests. Once in the bridal room, she would have to kill the groom quietly before the drinking of the bridal wine ceremony. After that, she would have to disable the trip wire alarms and booby traps and open the main door of the manor from inside. Gojisan’s elder son and a band of killers would be waiting outside to carry out the assassination. It was a very good plan.

So, on the day of the wedding, the real bride was fetched from her home in a sedan chair to be delivered to the Wang Manor. Some of the hired sedan chair porters were actually men from the Fire Mountain Sect. I do not know how they did it, but halfway during the journey, a big group of horsemen from the Fire Mountain Sect rode through the wedding procession and created a diversion. In the confusion, Lady Red Leaf entered the sedan chair, and the real bride was immobilized and spirited out without the matchmaker knowing. Thus when the bridal procession finally reached the Wang Manor, the groom, Wang Yuan, came to the sedan chair and received the veiled Lady Red Leaf, not knowing that she was not his intended bride.

In the hall of the Wang Manor, Lady Red Leaf and Wang Yuan bowed to Heaven as man and wife. Then, during the evening, Patriarch Wang brought out the bridal wine. It was the custom of the Wang family that the bride should drink the bridal wine in front of the in-laws. This was something that Master Gojisan had not foreseen. Lady Red Leaf had no choice but to drink the bridal wine in the hall in front of everybody. The wine was no ordinary wine but a potent brew concocted by the Wang family and brought out only on special occasions. Lady Red Leaf had never been much of a drinker, and the brew was much too strong for her. She got tipsy very soon and Wang Yuan took her to the bridal room. He did not waste any time in deflowering her virginity while she slept through the night.

Meanwhile, Gojisan’s elder son was waiting outside the manor with his team of killers. He was nervously waiting for Lady Red Leaf to appear. The team waited for a long time before they realized that something had gone wrong. They guessed that since many of the guards would have got drunk during the wedding, they would have a good chance of success in attacking the manor. So, without waiting any further, they leapt over the wall of the manor. One of the killers got careless and triggered a string tied to a bell. That woke up a few of the guards who were supposed to be on duty. The guards then fought against the intruders.

Wang Yuan was naked in the bridal room when he heard the sound of fighting. Quickly he took out his bow and arrows. Gojisan’s son had located the bridal room from the red cloth hanging outside, and he burst into the room. In the faint light of the moon coming through the window, he saw his Lady Red Leaf lying naked on the bed with her legs spread out. His future wife had already been deflowered. In anger, he raised his sword to kill the groom, but Wang Yuan shot him through the heart with an arrow at close range instead.

Still naked, Wang Yuan crept out of his room and saw the assassins killing the guards. He was a very remarkable bowman and had the ability to shoot accurately in even very poor light. Under the pale moonlight, he shot the assassins one by one.

The rest of the assassins fled. Wang Yuan was wide-awake from all the excitement, so he went back to his bridal chamber to see what else he could do to his new bride. Unknown to him, the men in the Wang manor had captured one wounded assassin alive. They tortured the shit out of him until he talked.

In the morning, Lady Red Leaf had just woken up with a hangover when Patriarch Wang had her brought before him. The captured assassin had blurted out the truth on the whole assassination plot under torture. Patriarch Wang wanted to put Lady Red Leaf to death for being a party to the plot.

However, the groom Wang Yuan said that Lady Red Leaf had already bowed down to Heaven as his bride, drank the bridal wine and consummated the marriage in bed with him. Thus, by the laws and the traditions, she was already a member of the Wang household. Being her husband, he could not let her die.

This angered his father who said that the bride was a member of the Fire Mountain Sect and therefore deserved to be put to death. Wang Yuan argued back that his bride had not yet killed anybody in the manor nor even injured an ant. By the laws of Heaven, he was duty bound to protect his bride. If his father insisted on killing her, then he, as her husband, would die with her.

Patriarch Wang then gave his son a choice. If he wished to take sides with his new bride, then he would have to leave the Wang family forever. Wang Yuan then replied that if that was what he had to do, then he would do it.

Thus, the day after his wedding, Wang Yuan was banished from the Wang family. His troubles were only starting. Master Gojisan had learned how Lady Red Leaf had failed in her mission and how his elder son had died at the hands of Wang Yuan. The members of the Fire Mountain Sect were ordered to find Wang Yuan and kill him.

Since it was a sham marriage, Lady Red Leaf wanted Wang Yuan to end the marriage. He refused to hear of it, saying that they were already a married couple. Word got to her that the Fire Mountain Sect was out to kill her new husband. She could not allow it to happen so they went into hiding. Lady Red Leaf knew that Gojisan’s men were watching all the escape routes from Tsinkiang, so it was not possible to leave the town yet. They hid in a little known inn to wait until it was safe to leave.

However, one night, a team headed by Gojisan’s younger son found them. The younger son wanted to avenge his elder brother, and he asked Lady Red Leaf to step aside. She drew her sword instead, saying that he was already her husband and had stood by her when Patriarch Wang wanted to kill her. Therefore, she was obliged to defend him. The men attacked the couple. Lady Red Leaf fought back fiercely and injured many of her former comrades. There were too many of the attackers, so the couple retreated into their room. Gojisan’s younger son broke down the door of the room and entered. The room was dark inside and in the darkness Wang Yuan killed him with an arrow. Then they escaped through the window into the night. With that, both of Gojisan’s sons died at the hands of Wang Yuan.

On hearing that even his second son had been killed by Wang Yuan, the enraged Master Gojisan vowed revenge. The master of the assassins put out a huge reward for the capture of the couple.

At that time, my husband was a friend of Wang Yuan. Wang Yuan’s money had run out and he secretly approached my husband for help. Knowing that a lot of people were looking for the couple, my husband hid them in a small house that we owned on a beach.

My husband, Si Kark, was very square. He could have sold out the couple to Master Gojisan for the reward money but he did not. I have never seen anybody so stupid. Instead, he tried to arrange a safe passage out of Tsinkiang by sea for the couple. At that time, Lady Red Leaf was already showing signs of pregnancy with her first son, Yiji, inside her belly. Wang Yuan was grateful for my husband’s help. In gratitude, Wang Yuan took out a coin and broke it in two and he gave one half to my husband. He said that he would be unable to repay the gratitude, but in case my husband ever needed help, he needed only to present the broken half coin to Wang Yuan’s descendants. He would bind his descendants to give help to anyone who presented the matching half coin.

Si Kark’s brother, Simit, had some contacts with the martial underworld. If you wanted anyone killed, he would be able to find a killer for you. Simit found out that my husband was trying to arrange a boat passage for two friends. He guessed that the two friends must be Wang Yuan and Lady Red Leaf. He knew about Gojisan’s reward money for the couple so he asked Si Kark if he knew where the couple was. Si Kark denied any knowledge, but Simit knew that he was lying, so he approached me instead. He promised to give the lion’s share of the reward money to me, so I told him where the couple was hiding.”

“You sold out Wang Yuan and his wife?” asked Wen Yiji. “But they were your husband’s friends!”

“Yes,” replied the Borrowing Hag. “It was nothing personal. Business is business, you understand? The reward money was just too good to pass up. Simit rushed to the hiding place with Gojisan’s men but Wang Yuan and his wife had already left. Some people nearby reported that a sailing junk that was traveling south had landed on the beach for some reason, and the couple had taken the opportunity to hitch a ride on it. We were too late.

For years, Master Gojisan’s men scoured the southern provinces for Wang Yuan and Lady Red Leaf but they could not be found. What we did not know was that they had gone north to the Imperial Capital instead by another route.

In the years that followed, my husband Si Kark incurred a lot of debts. By the time he passed away, we had already sold all our properties to settle the debts. Yet my husband’s creditors kept hounding me for payment. I had to leave town. My brother-in-law, Simit, had this little house here in Weitou that he could not rent out. He allowed me to use it, so my daughter and I left Tsinkiang and came here to settle down.

Five years ago, my brother-in-law Simit approached me. It seemed that the year before that, Gojisan’s nephew and a team of men were in the Imperial City. By accident, they located Wang Yuan and Lady Red Leaf. They sent word to Master Gojisan by a pigeon post letter that they would be making an attack. After that, there was no more word from them for a year, so Gojisan knew that something had gone terribly wrong. All seven of them must have died in the attack.”

“Did you say seven of them?” asked Wen Yiji.

“Yes,” replied the Borrowing Hag. “Seven men. One of them was Gojisan’s nephew and newly appointed heir. So Gojisan not only lost his two sons, even his appointed heir was gone.”

Wen Yiji remembered. Two days before he was due to go and escort the jade lions, their family house was broken into by a group of robbers. His younger brother Yifeng had woken him up. As the group of robbers entered the house, he had challenged them. One of the robbers had lit a candle, and as they rushed at him he shot out the only candle light in the room with an arrow. Then he had continued shooting in the darkness. In the brief moment of candlelight, he had memorized where each assailant was standing. He killed six of the robbers easily as they stood there in the dark. One of the robbers had better kung fu than the rest and was probably the leader. This fighter could hear the arrows coming towards him in the darkness and he avoided each arrow targeted towards him. Wen Yiji then threw a chair onto the ground. As the chair crashed noisily about, thus interfering with the robbers’ leader’s hearing, Wen Yiji took the opportunity to shoot the leader. The intruder fell down and Yiji put two more arrows through him. None of the robbers survived. There were seven of them altogether. So, those men were from the Fire Mountain Sect!

Wen Yiji asked the old woman, “Why did Agent Simit approached you, of all people? Surely there a lot of people more capable than you.”

“I was able to deliver a unique service. Simit did not know what Wang Yuan looked like. Neither did Master Gojisan! Both of them had never seen him before. Simit knew that I had seen Wang Yuan. He also knew that I was carrying the broken half coin piece that would obligate Wang Yuan to help me in whatever I need. Meaning that I could recognize him and I could also get close to him. Gojisan had promised Simit a thousand taels of silver to help him carry out his revenge. Simit promised me a half share. That was a lot of money.

When we got to the Imperial City, we went to the area where Gojisan’s nephew’s letter said that Wang Yuan was. We knew the general area but did not know which house of which street that he was staying. So I stood in the streets everyday until I spotted him. He had grown much older and he had changed his surname from Wang to Wen. Once I knew where he lived, the rest was easy. I arranged to bump into him in the street one day as if by accident and then I brought out the half coin he had given to my husband to remind him of his debt of gratitude. I told him that my husband Si Kark was dead and I needed a place to stay temporarily. He invited me to stay in his house. The next day, I made a radish cake for the whole family and drugged them. After that, I opened the gate for Simit and Master Gojisan to come in. Thus Master Gojisan had his revenge.”

“Did you say Wang Yuan changed his surname from Wang to Wen?” asked Xiang Xiang. “Why did he do that?”

“He said that since the Wang family had cast him out, he decided not to carry the Wang surname anymore,” replied the Borrowing Hag. “He used back his given name of Yuan, but changed the surname to Wen.”

Xiang Xiang pondered the information. Her father was called Wen Yuan. What the Borrowing Hag had just said was believable.

“What happened to Patriarch Wang? Was he assassinated in the end?” she asked.

“Yes,” replied the old woman. “I heard that he got killed outside his manor. I do not know the full details, but I bet it was the Fire Mountain Sect that did it.”

“So, you must have made a pile of money from helping to kill the Wang family,” commented Xiang Xiang. “Why then, are you living so poorly? Your place is cluttered up like a pig sty.”

“Simit did not give me my share of the money. Kanasai. Instead, he claimed that Master Gojisan had disappeared without paying him. I told him he should still pay me because it was he and not Gojisan who approached me for help. So finally he asked me to take this lousy hut as payment. Stingy bastard! He can’t rent out this house and he asked me to take it. That piece of dog shit!”

“Wang Yuan must have a mother. Where is she?” asked Xiang Xiang.

The Borrowing Hag looked at her intently before answering. “You mean the maid? I do not know. She is not important.”

“Where is the Wang family staying now?” asked the girl.

Again, the Borrowing Hag looked at her intently. Then she answered, “Everybody knows where they are staying in Tsinkiang. They are not so rich ever since Patriarch Wang died, but they still have property. Why are you so interested in the Wang family?”

“Nothing,” replied the girl. “I was just asking.”

“I have something important from Wang Yuan that is supposed be seen by his descendants only,” said the old woman.

“Where is it?” asked the young girl.

“Go to the cupboard and open it. On the top shelf, there is a letter. Bring it out,” the Borrowing Hag instructed.

As Xiang Xiang made to move, Wen Yiji stopped her and said, “I’ll do it.”

He went to the cupboard, opened it and peered into the top shelf. “I don’t see anything,” he remarked.

“Put your hand inside and feel around for it,” said the old woman.

As Wen Yiji did so, something sharp sprang out and pricked his hand. “Ow!” he shouted as he withdrew his hand immediately. “Something sharp pricked me. You must have placed a needle there!”

The Borrowing Hag cackled with laughter, “I tricked you! That shelf is booby trapped with a poison-tipped needle. You have just been poisoned with the Kin Kin Holland Venom!”

“Shit!” shouted Yiji. “Shit! Shit! Shit! I have been poisoned by the Kin Kin Holland Venom already! Er…...what the fucking hell is that?”

“The Kin Kin Holland Venom is made from the venom of a five species of poisonous sea snakes,” replied the tied up old woman. “You will not have long to live. If you want to have the antidote, you will have to free me first and pray that I can make the antidote in time.”

“You are an evil, evil woman!” cried Xiang Xiang.

“And you are a young woman,” said the Borrowing Hag to her. “Beneath that mask and male clothes, I can tell that you are not a male but a female. From your voice and size, I would say that you are about fifteen years old. I think I know who you are. When you expressed great interest in the family of Wang Yuan, I should have guessed that you are the last daughter of the Wang family, the girl I failed to kill five years ago! Now, untie me!”

Xiang Xiang ignored her and asked her brother, “Brother Yiji, are you all right?”

The Borrowing Hag looked at Wen Yiji in surprise and asked, “Yiji? You are Wen Yiji? But that is impossible! He was killed by the Humpalang Si Khiaw Khiaw poison!”

He stared angrily at her and said, “What you do not know, you stupid bitch, is that I have the Poison Field Inner Stance in me. That allows me to isolate the poison until I can expel it from my body. As long as I do not use more than one third of my maximum strength, the Humpalang Si Khiaw Khiaw poison or your Kin Kin Holland Venom will not kill me. Damn, now I can slap you with only one third of my strength. But once I have expelled the poison, I can use back my maximum strength again.”

Both Xiang Xiang and Yiji had been intently talking to the Borrowing Hag that they did not notice that her big sized daughter had regained consciousness. She got up stealthily, then picked up a wooden stool and crept behind Wen Yiji.

The expression on the Borrowing Hag’s face told Yiji that somebody was behind him. Quickly he jumped to one side even as he turned. The stool that was supposed to come crashing down onto his head crashed into the table instead. The pot of oil fell off the table and smashed down on the floor creating a big pool of oil. The momentum of the big sized daughter carried her forward and she fell down onto the pool of oil. As she fell, she grabbed Xiang Xiang who fell down on top of her. The candle that Xiang Xiang was holding fell into the oil and the whole area went up in flames.

To his horror, Wen Yiji saw that his sister’s clothes had caught fire. When she had fallen, she had landed on some oil thus making her clothes highly flammable. Quickly, he pulled his sister to one side and tried to beat out the fire with his bare hands. She had hit her head on the ground and was barely conscious. It seemed like each time he helped to put out a fire on one part of her clothes, another part caught fire. Finally, he managed to help her put the flames out.

“You are no more on fire, so stop screaming,” he shouted at her.

“I am not screaming,” mumbled back Xiang Xiang. Her head hurt and she felt dizzy.

They turned around and saw the Borrowing Hag’s daughter in one giant ball of flame. The big sized woman was stumbling around the room and setting fire to anything flammable in her path. She was screaming loudly. And so was the Borrowing Hag still tied to the pole. Half of the old woman’s body and face was on fire. It was the other half of the mouth that was screaming.

“Save me! Save me!” shrieked the old woman.

“I can’t,” replied Yiji calmly to her as he tried to help his sister weakly to her feet. “I can only use one third of my maximum strength until I can expel your stupid Kin Kin Holland Venom from my body. Right now, I need to conserve my energy to help my sister.”

“Your father owed a debt of gratitude to my husband Si Kark,” screamed the old woman as the smell of her burning flesh filled the air. “You are his descendant and you are obliged to help me!”

“No! No! No!” said Wen Yiji easily. “You got it wrong! I am only supposed to give help to anyone who presented the matching half coin to me.”

“I don’t have the matching half coin anymore!” screamed the Borrowing Hag in great pain as her hair went up in flames. “I threw it away after your father was killed! I did not think that I was going to need it again!”

“What? You threw it away? Oh......too bad,” he replied. “What a waste! As they said, ‘waste not want not’. Let this be a lesson to you. Don’t you ever do it again, okay?”

“You are wasting time!” the old woman babbled with difficulty. A tear formed on the right eye that was not burning, but the heat of the flames turned the tear into steam.

“It’s amazing how you can still talk with half your face burning away,” Wen Yiji said conversationally. “How do you do it?”

The old woman screamed something unintelligible.

Suddenly, the flaming daughter lurched madly towards Wen Yiji and her nearness sparked another fire on Xiang Xiang’s oily clothes. He put out the fire and decided that it was too dangerous for Xiang Xiang to remain where she was. Quickly, he helped her stumble through the door way towards the stream outside. He was prepared to throw her into the water if her clothes caught fire again.

“What is going on there!” a man’s voice shouted in the dark. It was the neighbour; the old man who stayed in the second last house some distance away. Wen Yiji and his sister crouched very still in the darkness by the stream and hoped that they were not noticed. The neighbour stood there not moving, just listening to the screams of the Borrowing Hag and her daughter.

The old man shouted again, “Will you stop screaming at each other! Ni nao hiah! Every night you two quarrel while other people are trying to sleep! If you don’t stop screaming, lim peh will come over with a cane and feed you shit!”

The Borrowing Hag quieted down. So did her daughter. Wen Yiji, looking through the open doorway, could see why. “I think they are both dead,” he whispered to his sister. Xiang Xiang looked in the same direction. Both of the flaming bodies were unmoving, and the inside of the house was all aflame.

The flames got bigger, and the roof caught fire. Again, the old neighbour just stood rooted at his spot.

“I don’t think that the Borrowing Hag and her daughter are very popular in this area,” whispered Xiang Xiang. “Otherwise the neighbour would be rushing to help put out the fire.”

“The old man probably wished them dead. But we had better move away,” whispered Wen Yiji. “If we stay here too long, we may get discovered.”

They took one last look at the house. The inside of the house was already burning wildly out of control and the roof was on fire. Quietly, they crept down the stream towards the sea. Then they walked along the beach away from the village. In the distance, they could detect the brightness of the burning house.

The siblings were silent as they walked; digesting the information that they had learned recently.

Their mother was a lady assassin.

Their father was a Wang and not a Wen.

And Tsinkiang Yee was dead.

Next: The Tiger Crossing Bridge


Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Pirates of the Carribean 2

"Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

The Pirates of the Carribean 2 was fantastic. Better than the first release. It was entertaining, funny, has good enough graphics and an intriguing plot.

Here’s my movie review in one sentence:

“The fact that there were no sex scenes should not prevent you from having a good time.”

Frankly, I don’t think any single one of you understood that. If you are a regular visitor here, we all know that your mind works in a certain convoluted way. Because you are such bastions of alternative morality. And normal English just won’t cut the cheese with you.

So let me put it in another way:

“The fact that there was no chance of anyone getting pregnant by accident should not prevent you from having a good time.”

Go see the movie.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Food for the tiger

There’s much happening around the world today.

People dying. More people dying.

I wouldn’t worry too much about it if I were you.

This world has been run by a secret organization on behalf of the aliens for the past one thousand years. We won’t be able to easily understand their ways. How do you explain the fact that during the American Civil war, both opposing factions were able to obtain finance from the same source in Europe? Or the fact that the Russians’ communist revolution could be financed by capitalist sources? Bush is not the most powerful guy in the world. A lot of people know that. Some old guy in southern Europe probably holds that position. He gets his instructions from the aliens and then the secret organization implements them across the globe. And they have been doing that for a thousand years.

The aliens are interested in homo sapiens becoming a super species. Aliens have no meaning in life and their only purpose is to serve humans. They are breeding us to become their Gods. However, we are not ready to take on that exalted role yet. Actually, I am ready. Sort of. But that is not the topic of today's posting.

You have to know that aliens have macro thinking and think in terms of species while we people have micro thinking and think in terms of individual people. The emphasis will be different. When a tiger kills a deer, it removes the weak and the sick that can’t run quite as fast as the rest of the herd. That way, the deer stock improves. Vicious or not, the tiger is performing an important function for nature. One deer gets killed, but the deer stock improves, see?

Wars are not completely useless. They are important to help mold the psyche and evoke the concept of humanity. Just as germs are important in stimulating immunity(like a vaccination). The Mideast violence may get worse. The aliens are on the move, so don’t go anywhere dangerous or do anything stupid. Meaning, don’t go around tempting fate. There will be unavoidable fallout or collateral damage because people are expendable. According to their space computers in their UFOs, you are just a number. Planetary life form #2158971. Period.

So, when the aliens throw wars, diseases and calamities at us, pray that you are not food for the tiger.

The next chapter of the wuxia story is gonna be one fucking long chapter. Try as I might, I could not split it up into smaller chunks. Don’t bitch.


Monday, July 17, 2006


Lunch at Marche

I was in the Curve with Hot Babe yesterday. We decided that we would eat lunch at Marche. I’m not sure if it is a Swiss or French restaurant, but the food was spread out like a buffet, except that you pay only for what you take.

Each one of us was given a card upon entry into the restaurant. Every time you take something, a member of the staff chops something onto your card. When you leave the restaurant, you present the card to the cashier and the bill is tallied up. Should you lose your card, they will charge you RM200 for it. Yeah, it is an odd system.

The restaurant was pretty crowded when we got there. I had the lamb shank(RM28++) which I thought was really good. The gravy was superb and I lapped it all up. The Mocha Frappucino(RM9.50)was not that fantastic compared to Starbucks or other coffee places. No wonder I was the only guy there ordering coffee. The mushroom soup was good, however.

At the end of it, we walked to the cashier to have our cards tallied up. The two of us ate slightly less than 70 ringgit. After we had paid up, the cashier opened a metal gate to allow us to leave. Then she locked it back to settle the next person waiting to pay. Now that was cute!


Thursday, July 13, 2006



When I first started writing wuxia(kung fu stories), I wanted to stick to the Pinyin method of pronunciation. So I started with words like daifu instead of taifu, and Fuzhou instead of Foochow.

However, I noticed that the old Wade-Giles method of pronunciation had an old world charm to it that is more suitable for wuxia. I would rather use kung fu instead of gong fu. In the end, I gave up and just used whatever came to mind.

Writing Chapter 12 was memorable for me not because it was the funniest chapter so far, but because I found the space to slot in this particular phrase:

“Those who can do, teach.
Those who can’t do, learn.
Those who can’t teach and can’t learn, eat shit.”


Some Asian cultures have a reverence towards learning not seen in other cultures. The learning culture explains why some parents are willing to sacrifice much in order that the children can have a good education. Of course, the children may grow up to create mayhem later, but that’s beside the point.

In case if you’ve forgotten whether I am hokkien or cantonese, well, I’m going to say this again, “I’m a fuckinese.”


Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The sky’s the limit in Korea

This shot, lifted off the internet, was taken somewhere in Korea.

I am showing it to you because I want you to examine thoroughly how blue and cloudless the sky is over there.

Wow! Amazing, isn’t it?

When I see a beautiful picture like that, I envy the Korean folks.

Coz they have such clear blue skies!

As they say, “The sky’s the limit.”

And we would be able to see much more of the sky if not for that damn thing blocking the view.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006


The Cook and the Assassin - Chapter 12

Chapter 12: The search for Tsinkiang Yee

On the fifth day of the wedding feast, Governor Li arranged for his son Li Daifu to conduct a medical examination of Wen Yiji and his compatriots. Li Daifu, the fifth son of Governor Li, had a thriving practice in the town of Pingchen. His herbal medicine store employed eight workers to dry and cut up the herbs. By business standards, he was considered quite successful. He had married Wu Chuan’s elder sister, Jade Flower, and settled down in Pingchen to become a doctor.

Looking at Wen Yiji, the daifu remarked, “As far as I can tell, you are still undernourished, but on your way to recovery. All your organs appeared to be functioning. However, there is a strange poisonous energy residing in your body. I suggest that you eat more bitter gourd. It may help to keep the energy under control.”

“Will I die?” asked Wen Yiji.

“Everybody dies. Including you if you are not immortal,” replied the daifu.

When Wen Yiji stepped out of the daifu’s treatment room, Xiang Xiang accosted him and asked, “Well, what did the daifu say?”

Looking at his sister sorrowfully, he replied, “He said that I am going to die!”

A shocked Xiang Xiang said, “I will go in and ask for a second medical opinion.”

“You can’t ask for a second medical opinion from the same doctor. He’ll think you are a fool!” he admonished her.

“True,” she said, “but one who asks is a fool for just two breaths, but one who does not ask remains a fool forever.”

So she walked into the treatment room and inquired from Li Daifu the nature of her brother’s condition.

“His systems are functioning but he is malnourished,” Li Daifu told her. “He is stronger than the Chin brothers and should be fully recovered in less than two months. There is some kind of poisonous energy inside him, so I told him to take bitter gourd frequently to control it. It will cool his system, temper his personality and calm him down.”

“My brother does not like to take bitter things,” she said.

“Boil him a soup from bitter gourd,” he suggested. “Then find a way to make him drink.”

Xiang Xiang nodded. She was resourceful. She would find a way and her brother would not be able to escape the bitter gourd.

As Xiang Xiang left the treatment room, Li Daifu’s wife, Jade Flower came by and addressed her, “You must be Xiang Xiang. Pei Pei just told me that you cook a very good duck dish.”

Xiang Xiang replied shyly, “Pei Pei is most kind with her compliments!”

Jade Flower laughed and commented, “Men value good cooking skills. When you become of age, I am sure that the young men in town will queue up to marry you!”

Xiang Xiang blushed and said, “When I become of age, my marriage will be decided by my brother, who is the head of the Wen family now.”

+ + + + + +

Later, Li Daifu reported to his father, “The men seem to be all right, but it will take two more months of nourishment before they can become fighting fit. They won’t be able to do strenuous exercises for the time being. Are you going to offer them employment?”

“I would like to,” replied his father. “These men have fighting skills. They are unlike the worthless crap that I keep getting from the Imperial ministers, who keep the best men for themselves and send me the useless rejects. If I want good fighters, I will have to look for them myself.”

“This is the first time that I have heard of a prospective employer conducting medical examinations on prospective employees,” remarked his son.

“I am an administrator and I know what has to be done. One day, perhaps hundreds of years from now, all prospective employees will have to go for medical examinations before they can be offered a job. Mark my words!”

+ + + + + +

At the end of the seven days of feasting, many guests offered their final toasts to the Wu family before returning home.

A merchant friend of the Wu family had traveled all the way from the city of Changchow in the south for the wedding feast. After toasting the Wu family, the merchant raised his bowl of wine and made a toast to Governor Li. After the toast, he politely said, “Governor Li, there are men collecting toll at the Tiger Crossing Bridge again.”

Governor Li looked troubled.

“What is the Tiger Crossing Bridge?” asked Wen Yiji.

“The Tiger Crossing Bridge is one of the longest bridges in the country and it spans across the Nine Dragon River outside Changchow,” explained the governor. “There is a legend concerning the building of the bridge. When the bridge was being built, the swift current washed away the huge foundation stones time and again. One day, the builder was surprised to see a tiger cross the river without much difficulty. He re-sited the position of the bridge to the route taken by the tiger and succeeded in laying the foundation for the bridge. To this day, the bridge is known as the "Tiger Crossing Bridge". It was built for the usage of the citizenry and nobody is supposed to collect toll on the bridge.”

“You are right,” said the merchant. “Many traders have to use the bridge and the illegal toll collectors push up the cost of doing business. Those thugs are so daring as to throw people off the bridge, so everybody pays.”

“I have sent troops there to prevent illegal toll collection, but once the troops leave, they start collecting again. Either that or they killed the troops. I once had a whole team of soldiers who died there. From poisoning, I believe.”

“What about the local Prefect of Changchow?” asked Wen Yiji. “Surely he can take some action?”

“He’s in cahoots with the thugs,” piped up the merchant’s young son. “They say that the toll collectors collect the money and pass it through middlemen to the Prefect’s father-in-law who runs the whole operation.”

“Keep quiet!” said his father sternly. “You should not say such things without proof!”

There was silence. An awkward silence. Tension filled the air. Each one waited for the others to speak, but nobody spoke. Nobody, except Wen Yiji. He suddenly stood up and shouted drunkenly, “This is a great wedding feast! If ever the Wu family is in trouble, just let us know, and my brothers and I will come to your aid!”

In his idiosyncratic way, he broke the tension and everybody breathed easily again.

+ + + + + +

After the wedding feast, Governor Li stayed for a few more days in Pingchen in order to spend a few more days with his grandchildren. Then they journeyed back to Fuzhou.

Once they were in Fuzhou, Wen Yiji informed the Chin brothers and Governor Li that he had to leave to attend to a personal matter. He then booked a boat passage for him and Xiang Xiang to Tsinkiang. Governor Li offered the Chin brothers employment in his constabulary and the brothers accepted.

The evening before Wen Yiji was due to leave Fuzhou, the Chin brothers took him to the House of a Thousand Pleasures.

Madam Song greeted them warmly in the front parlour. “Gentlemen,” she gushed. “You are back! And you brought a friend.”

“This is Master Wen Yiji,” introduced Chin Jia Lat.

“My friends tell me that your girls are trained to do all the moving. Is that correct?” asked Wen Yiji to Madam Song.

“That is correct,” answered the madam.

“Yours is the first courtesan house that I have heard that trains the girls,” said Wen Yiji. “Most of the other courtesan houses just tell the girls to spread out on the bed. They have the idea that this type of thing has no need to go for training.”

“That is where we are more advanced than them. In the House of a Thousand Pleasures, we constantly invest in training. Our human resources are our greatest assets and we constantly seek for ways to improve.”

“You do?”

“Of course. We don’t stay stagnant. We believe that if you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got."

“How true!”

"The difference between failure and success is doing a thing nearly right and doing it exactly right."

“Beautifully said!”

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best!”

Wa piang......enough, okay? Just show us the girls!” Wen Yiji was getting impatient.

The girls were brought in. One of them remarked, “We hear that you want us girls to do all the moving. You’re in luck. We all have Ai Ga Lop secret training!”

“What iGallop secret training?” asked Wen Yiji.

“It’s not iGallop. It’s Ai Ga Lop,” she replied. “It is a revolutionary training that can help you shape and tone your tummy, hips, seat and thighs. The secret is in its zero-impact, tri-axial riding action. Your body automatically responds to its multidirectional movements to maintain balance. This constant balancing by your body engages certain muscle groups, and may help improve balance, coordination and posture. And yada yada. That’s what the brochure said.”

“How does this secret training work?”

“It’s a secret,” she replied haughtily. “If I tell you, I will have to kill you.”

“Ha ha ha! You’re killing me already! Now let’s go to your room for some serious Ai Ga Lop.”

The girl led Wen Yiji to a room upstairs. As she performed her Ai Ga Lop routine on him, the years of pent up anger and frustration in him begged for a release. He tried to hold back, but he could not. It was like trying to hold back a tsunami. He erupted explosively in her with a series of moans. The pleasure was short and sweet, but it was over much too soon. He felt weak in the knees, but managed to put his clothes back on unassisted. He stumbled downstairs to the front parlour and discovered that the Chin brothers were not finished yet. So he sat down and waited for them to appear.

A well-dressed man walked up to him and said, “You must be Master Wen Yiji, also known as Arrow Eye.”

Wen Yiji looked at him and asked, “I am no more Arrow Eye. I am unable to draw a bow anymore. Just call me Wen Yiji. May I ask your high surname and big given name?”

“My name is Tseto,” replied the man.

“You must be Potion King Tseto. I have heard of your big name. But how did you know who I was?”

“The House of a Thousand Pleasures values its clientele highly and in our business, we make it a point to know who our customers are,” replied Tseto graciously.

Wen Yiji thought for a moment. Then he asked, “I have heard that you are knowledgeable in the art of poisons. I am going to Tsinkiang tomorrow. Do you know of any woman who is an expert in poisons over there?

Potion King Tseto thought for a while and said, “There is no expert in poison in the city of Tsinkiang as far as I know. You probably can buy poisons from any medicine shop proprietor, but I would not call them experts. Are you looking for someone in particular?”

“Yes,” replied Wen Yiji. “I am looking for a woman, but I do not know her name.”

“I cannot help you, I am sorry. However, if you want information in Tsinkiang, the best place to go to is the House of Noble Delights. It is run by a certain Madam Hau.”

Wen Yiji thanked him.

The Chin brothers then appeared with satisfied smirks on their faces.

“Let us settle your bill for you, brother Wen,” said Chin Tua Kee. “We do not know when we will see you again after tomorrow.”

“Thank you” said Wen Yiji. “You have decided to stay on to work for Governor Li?”

“Yes,” replied Chin Teong Kee. “He treats us well. We have no wish to return to the Imperial capital. In fact, we like it here.”

“I wish you all the best then,” said Wen Yiji. “Let us drink to your health.”

“To your health,” the Chin brothers toasted.

+ + + + + +

When Wen Yiji returned from the courtesan house, Xiang Xiang questioned him.

“Where have you been?”

“I went to do some research,” he answered.

“I was told that you went to an orh kwee keng! We are looking for an old woman in Tsinkiang and you are here doing research with young girls in Fuzhou?” she questioned. “Obviously you do not know what you are doing!”

He replied exhaustedly, “If I knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?”

She conceded that he had a point there.

+ + + + + +

The next morning, they boarded the boat for Tsinkiang. It was a merchant sailing junk, built for carrying goods, but large enough to carry passengers as well. The weather was fine and there was nothing to do on deck. They were told that the journey would take two to three days depending on the wind.

Wen Yiji was in high spirits. He passed the time by singing the Ai Ga Lop song.
(Sung to the tune of the song “Stand by Me”)

“When the night has come
And my thing is hard,
But my back is weak when I’m on top

No I won't, be afraid,
Oh I won't be afraid,
Cos I know, what I need is Ai Ga Lop

So darlin' darlin' Ai Ga Lop,
Oh....... Ai Ga Lop,
Oh move now, move for me, Ai Ga Lop,

If the spine that we look upon
Should crumble and fall,
Or the muscles, should fail to do the job.
I won't cry, I won't cry,
No I won't shed a tear,
Just as long, as I have, Ai Ga Lop.

And darlin' darlin' Ai Ga Lop,
Oh...... Ai Ga Lop,
Whoa move now, move for me, Ai Ga Lop.”

Xiang Xiang had no idea what her brother was singing about. Whatever it was, she was certain that it was not decent.

At the end of the day, all the sailors could sing the song.

At the end of two days, even the children on board could sing the song.

On the third day when the boat docked in Tsinkiang, she found herself singing the song. She stopped herself. “Damn,” she muttered. “Why can’t I have a normal brother like other people?”

On their arrival at Tsinkiang, one of the sailors recommended Wen Yiji a cheap place to rent. It was more like a hut with just a kitchen and a living room, but it was very cheap.

When they were settled in, Xiang Xiang said, “We do not know how long it will take to find Tsinkiang Yee. We need a plan. How are we going to find her, anyway?”

“Simple. Every woman needs to go to the market to buy stuff. We will go to the market and stand there every day. If you see her, you tell me and I nab her.”

“What if she beat you up?” she asked.

“That is a chance that I will have to take,” he replied. “Do you know any kung fu?”

“After you went to prison, mother taught me some moves with the wooden pole so that I could spar with Yisheng. I have not practiced it constantly, but I can still remember the moves.”

“Good, we will have to practice everyday from now on. Every morning, we will go to the market to look for Tsinkiang Yee. In the afternoons, the market is closed, so we shall use the time to practice kung fu. You will need training.”

“You will train me?”

“Of course! This is the way of our ancient Chinese cultural philosophy.”

“What does the philosophy say?”

Wen Yiji quoted,
“Those who can do, teach.
Those who can’t do, learn.
Those who can’t teach and can’t learn, eat shit.”

“So that is our ancient Chinese cultural philosophy!”

“Yes. What can you handle best of all?"

"A wok."

"I don't know any wok kung fu. But I can handle five types of weapons including the pole. It will be at least a month before I can reach my peak, but my strength is growing back day by day. Since you were taught the pole when you were young, I will train you first in the pole.”

+ + + + + +

Every morning, they stood at the market scanning the faces of women shoppers. After a few days, Xiang Xiang complained, “This is not working. I am standing in the market everyday hoping that one of the faces will trigger a memory in me. And each day we spend money. One day our money will be used up!”

“What do you suggest then?” asked her brother.

“Since I am going to stand at the market all day, I may as well make some food to sell. Maybe I should boil a pot of porridge to sell there.”

“No,” said her brother after some thought. “Porridge is messy and we have to think of bowls to wash. What we want to do is something that is dry, fast to sell and good to eat. We should sell biscuits.”

“But I don’t know many types of biscuits. It is not my specialty. I am not a baker.”

“When I was in prison, I shared a cell with a foreign barbarian called Amos. He passed to me a secret biscuit recipe that he said was the best in the world. I can still remember it.”

“Let me try it. If it is any good, I will name it after him and call it Famous Amos Cookies,” said his sister.

“Why not call it Famous Amos Biscuits?”

“I’ve already told you that I am not a baker. I am a cook. Therefore I want to call it a cookie.”

Wen Yiji gave Xiang Xiang the recipe and she baked the cookies in the modest kitchen. The cookies came out better than she dared hope for. On that day, the original Famous Amos Cookies were born in the modest kitchen of a hut in the town of Tsinkiang.

Everyday, the siblings stood at the market and sold cookies while trying to spot Tsinkiang Yee. The cookies were a hit, and they were always sold out by mid-morning. Xiang Xiang was tempted to produce a bigger batch for sale, but her brother reminded her that they were in that town not for profits but for vengeance. Thus, they hung around the market even when they had finished selling the cookies. In the afternoons, when there were only a few shoppers around, they would go back to practise on their kung fu skills.

After ten days, Xiang Xiang felt that what they were doing did not make sense. She said, “This is hopeless! Tsinkiang Yee could have grown so old and haggard that if she were to come up to me, I may not even know that it is her. We can be here for the next fifty years doing nothing but selling cookies at a street corner. We need some fresh leads!”

Her brother knew that she was right. However, he did not have a better plan. “There can’t be that many women who know how to use poison. We will have to ask around. When I was in Fuzhou doing my research, I heard Potion King Tseto say that if you want information in Tsinkiang, the best place to go to is the House of Noble Delights. It is an orh kwee keng run by a certain Madam Hau,” he said.

“Did you mention the House of Noble Delights?” his sister asked in surprise.

“Yes. Why?”

“Pei Pei talked about it once. She knew of one woman who drugs young girls and sells them off to a pimp who supplies courtesan houses. She called her the Borrowing Hag. I asked her if she knew how to find this Borrowing Hag and she told me that there were two courtesans working in the House of Noble Delights who came from the same area as the Borrowing Hag. Their names were Ah Lian and Ah Huei.”

“Where did they come from?”

“Pei Pei did not know. She only said that it is a small village or town along the coastline, and about a day’s journey by carriage south of Tsinkiang.”

“I think I will have to go to the House of Noble Delights to do some research.”

“What sort of research?’

“I will need to pump Ah Lian and Ah Huei for information.”

“Do you think that they will talk?”

“I will pump them till they talk,” he said ominously.

That afternoon, they went to the House of Noble Delights.

“This is a courtesan house, Xiang Xiang. Only men are expected to enter,” said Wen Yiji. “You have better wait outside while I go in and work on Ah Lian and Ah Huei.”

She nodded.

He entered the courtesan house. Madame Hau greeted him in the front parlour, introduced herself and brought out some girls. When she saw that Wen Yiji was insistent on wanting only Ah Lian and Ah Huei, she sent for them.

Aiyahhh......ask for us by name. You really know good stock, mister,” said Ah Lian on greeting him. asked for two courtesans at one time. You must have lots of energy, mister,” added Ah Huei.

Wen Yiji studied them. Ah Lian had big tits. That promised possibilities. Ah Huei had a rounded ass. Also possibilities. They took him to a table of food and plied him with drinks and then made small talk. After a while, Wen Yiji decided that it was time to extract the information he had come for.

“You two speak in exactly the same manner,” remarked Wen Yiji. “You must have come from the same village. Am I correct?” that also you can guess,” said Ah Lian brightly. “You are so brilliant!“

“We are from the village of Weitou” tittered Ah Huei. “It is a big village, almost like a small town.”

Wen Yiji pondered the information. Weitou? He had never heard of the village, but it must be where the Borrowing Hag lived.

Aloud he said, “I have heard that a woman called the ‘Borrowing Hag’ lives in Weitou. She likes to sell girls to the pimps to supply to courtesan houses.”

He looked at the girls up and down meaningfully.

Ah Lian said, “Choi! We were not bought from the Borrowing Hag!”

“Hey, it is all right!” said Wen Yiji in a condescending tone. “To be sold by the Borrowing Hag is nothing to be ashamed of!”

“It was not us who was sold by her. It was the other girl,” blurted Ah Huei.

“Other girl? What other girl?” asked Wen Yiji with curiosity.

“After the pimp, Orh Kwee Thau, fetched us from our homes, we went in the carriage to this house where the Borrowing Hag lived. The pimp’s men then took a strange girl from the Borrowing Hag and locked her up in chains before putting her in the carriage with us. She slept throughout the whole journey,” explained Ah Huei. “I think she was drugged until she went into deep sleep. When we got to Tsinkiang, Madam Hau put us three in a room for the night. In the middle of the night, she disappeared.”

“Disappeared? What do you mean?” he asked.

“In the morning, when we woke up, she was just not there!” said Ah Lian in a conspiratorial manner. “I think she must have been a ghost.”

“Don’t be silly,” he said. “There is no such thing!”

“The door was bolted from outside. The room had no windows. The roof was too high to climb without a ladder. Yet she disappeared. I’m telling you she was a ghost!” insisted Ah Lian.

“Maybe she jumped out through the roof?” he suggested.

“The tiles of the roof were still intact,” explained Ah Huei. “Besides, a sixteen year old girl could not have jumped out through such a high roof. Even our chief of security, Killer Flying Dagger Kong, could not do such a thing! We have clients who are kungfu masters, and after they had seen the roof, they all said that no sixteen year old girl could have jumped through it from the ground and still leave the roof tiles intact.”

Wen Yiji was lost in his thoughts. He knew it could be done. It was just a matter of moving the roof tiles to one side and shifting them back into place later, but one would have to be up in the air to do it. A sixteen year old girl who could have done a thing like that had to have superior kung fu.

Suddenly, he understood. The only sixteen year old girl he knew with that level of kung fu skills was Pei Pei. She must have been drugged by the Borrowing Hag and sold to the House of Noble Delights. He had seen the ease by which she had dispatched off four thugs in Fuzhou. With her high level of kung fu, she could have escaped easily through the roof. This Borrowing Hag must be sufficiently skilled in drug preparation to be able to send Pei Pei into deep sleep. He would have to check her out.

Ah Lian’s voice crept into his thoughts, “She was a ghost, I am telling you.”

“In such a case, the madam could get compensation from the pimp who supplied the girl,” said Wen Yiji.

“Here’s another strange thing; the pimp, Orh Kwee Thau, fell into the toilet hole in the middle of the night. All his money went missing and his head was covered with shit!” informed Ah Huei.

“That is strange indeed. Where does this Borrowing Hag live in Weitou?” he asked.

“Why do you want to know?” a suspicious Ah Lian questioned him.

“For my own safety,” he replied. “In case I am in Weitou, I do not wish to go to her house by mistake. She may drug me and sell me to a courtesan house.”

“Hahahahah!” laughed Ah Lian. “Nobody will want you! You don’t have a sexy chest like mine! Pai seh, pai seh!”

Wen Yiji stared at her chest. Her breasts were big, but he was not in the mood.

“Will you tell me where she lives or not?” he demanded.

“All right,” said Ah Huei good-naturedly. “She stays in a house along a stream on the north side of Weitou. It is the last house towards the sea. The door is painted a garish red. Everybody is afraid of her because she can cast spells. But a lot of people also say that her spells don’t work. Cheating one.”

“That’s right!” said Ah Lian. “My uncle once bought a love spell from her, hoping to get a beautiful second wife. Two days later, a female goat found its way into his room and was unable to leave!”

“That must have been terrible!” exclaimed Ah Huei.

“Oh yes, it was!” said Ah Lian. “We had to pry my uncle’s naked body off the goat so that it could leave. What a stupid spell!”

Nao hiah! This is too bloody much!” exclaimed Wen Yiji. “You let the goat leave? You could have made mutton soup for the whole family!”

The girls stared at him. to eat the thing after what my uncle did to it?” asked a shocked Ah Lian. “And besides, my uncle would not let us cook the goat!”

“That is easily solved,” remarked Wen Yiji. “Just cut out the goat’s rump and hand it to your uncle for his enjoyment. Then you can boil the rest into mutton soup! Win-win situation for your entire family!”

Kanineh!” exclaimed Ah Lian. “This type of nauseating thing also you can suggest. Like give my family no respect. If you had not booked my services, I would have beaten you up! Bo tua bo suay!”

“Actually, I did not book your services. I just came in to talk,” Wen Yiji explained in all honesty.

“What?” yelled the two girls in surprise. “You talk to us for so long and never book our services? You want to die, is it?”

“This type of thing must depend on the urge. My younger sister is waiting outside,” he said, “so I can’t get into the proper mood. I had better be leaving now. Goodbye.”

Si beh tu lan! He came in here to ji seow us. Let’s beat him up!” said Ah Lian to Ah Huei.

“Ya hor,” said Ah Huei. “He got no moral. Some more condemn the goat like that! He’s asking for a beating from us!”

Wen Yiji guffawed. The idea of two courtesans beating him up was so weird that he bent over with laughter. He had never heard of anything so ridiculously funny.

In the midst of his laughter, Ah Lian and Ah Huei converged on him and bashed him with wild abandon. Even the parlour maids joined in the bashing. Suddenly he was getting whacked left, right and center. His strength had grown sufficiently to defend himself against the women, but he thought that it might not be wise to retaliate and injure the women. If the House of Noble Delights was a center of information, he might want to come back later.

Xiang Xiang was still waiting outside the courtesan house when she saw a group of women came out and threw the body of her brother on the ground. Then they kicked him a few more times before walking away.

Wen Yiji picked himself up from the ground and shouted at the backs of the retreating courtesans, “I’ll be back!”

He looked up at the sky and was about to swear when a thought suddenly occurred to him. A month ago, he had sworn at the sky and Chin Jia Lat had told him that he would be beaten by women. “Damn that Chin Jia Lat!” he muttered. “His stupid mouth so dirty. And so suay. Simply say also can come true!”

He stared hard at the sky, but this time, he did not swear.

The sky rumbled.

Kanineh! You make noise for what?” he shouted, “I didn’t swear at you this time!”

The sky rumbled again, this time even louder.

Xiang Xiang approached her brother and asked, “Why were you shouting “Kanineh” at the sky just now?”

Wen Yiji paused and then muttered, “Oh......shit!”

She saw that he was not badly hurt, so she asked, “So, how was the orh kwee keng research?”

He rubbed his slightly bruised head and muttered, “We’re going to Weitou.”


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