Monday, May 28, 2007


The Kungfu That Ruled The Night - Chapter 7

Chapter 7: No Equal Under Heaven

A voice from the house floated out to Wen Yiji, “Is that old bastard still alive?”

Wen Yiji looked in the direction of the house. A bald stocky man was walking out of the door.

“Please do not call him a bastard,” said Wen Yiji. “The fact that he can be a bastard does not give you the right to call him one.”

“Who the hell are you?” snarled Sun Cheong, the stocky man.

“Who I am is not important. I am merely a potato seller, but an educated one. Even I know that it is not right to bully a helpless old man.”

“Sun…..Cheong…..” gasped the old man. “What’s between us……is….between us. Spare……this man……”

“No, Ghost Ninja,” said Sun Cheong. “I have to kill anybody connected with you.”

“You talk ahh…..” retorted Wen Yiji. “You think killing me is that easy ahh....and why do you call this old man a Ghost?”

“This old bastard is called the Ghost Ninja. He was once a ruthless assassin. Too bad that you got mixed up with him. The day of your death has arrived. You should have been more careful about the company you keep."

“I will not go to my death without knowing why both of us have to die. At least, give us a reason.”

“The reason is simple; the one I serve wants the Ghost Ninja to disappear from this earth.”

“And who is the one you serve?”

“Someone from the royal family. You need not know who.”

“If you do not tell me who, I will become a dissatisfied ghost and come back to haunt you after I die. Every night, I will give you nightmares while you sleep. Even the one you serve will not be able to save you both from my wrath.”

“The one I serve is a royal concubine and she will hire a taoist master to capture your spirit and imprison it inside a pot filled with dog blood!”

“A royal concubine?” asked Wen Yiji, mystified. He turned to the old man on the ground and asked, “Hey, old man! Have you been doing any funny business with any of the royal concubines?”

“Noooo…….” gasped the old man.

“I believe you. You look too old for that sort of thing. This hairless thing here must be mistaken.”

“No mistake,” said Sun Cheong. “Concubine Lin’s orders were clear. I am to terminate the Ghost Ninja.”

"Oooooooohhh.......Concubine Lin!" exclaimed Yiji. "So that's her name! The Emperor has so many concubines. How the heck are we to know which Concubine Lin you are talking about?"

"That is not for you to know. Dead men know so much for what?'

"Is she the one whom all the stableboys in the palace nicknamed 'tai lup Lin'?"

"Shut up! You are a commoner and you have no knowledge about the royal family. Don't even try to guess."

"Wait a minute......she could be the other one....the one whom the eunuchs nicknamed 'tai sai Lin'! I bet that when you talk to her, you stare at her chest all the time!"

Sun Cheong turned livid. He snarled, "You have a dirty mouth! I will break your hands and legs first before killing you!"

"Oh yeah?" retorted Wen Yiji. "Many men have tried to kill me and all have failed."

"I am the master of the Buddha Palm kungfu. I have no equal under Heaven. Consider it your misfortune to have met me today."

"Do not be so arrogant. There is always a higher mountain."

"Hahaha! You do not seem to know anything! There is no higher mountain than the Buddha Palm!” laughed Sun Cheong. “I saw the Ghost Ninja handing something to you. If my guess is correct, then it must be his Manual of Invisibility. Hand it over to me.”

“Invisibility? Is this some kind of sick joke? There is no such thing as invisibility! A grown man like you should be ashamed of yourself for believing in such a ridiculous concept.”

"Shut up! Just hand over the manual."

"Listen," said Wen Yi Ji. "I am going to make you an offer. If you apologize to this old man, and agree not to harm him ever again, I will sell you my Liufa potatoes at a discount."

"Liufa potatoes?"

"Yes, Liufa potatoes. They detoxify the kidney, prevent dryness of the blood, relieve wind in the nose, clear the stomach fire, unblock the channels to the organs and release the muscles of the head.”

“I am not interested."

"Yes you are. You need to release the muscles of your head.”

"Shut up and hand over the manual."

"Look, if you really want to read, I have a book here which you may find interesting. It's called the 'Seven Daily Habits of Highly Defective People'. You may find it relevant."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you are what I categorize as 'Highly Defective' people."

Sun Cheong swore. He stretched out his hand suddenly and delivered a powerful palm blast at Wen Yiji who leapt out of the way just in time.

"That was a powerful palm blast," thought Wen Yiji. "This Buddha Palm can be trouble! Big trouble!"

"You are fast," remarked Sun Cheong. "But you cannot escape me forever! Hand me the Invisibility Manual and I will give you an easy death."

"You want the Invisibility Manual" asked Wen Yiji. "No problem! Here, catch!"

He threw something in the air towards Sun Cheong.

"You have not thrown anything," noted Sun Cheong angrily. "Are you mocking me?"

"Of course not!" replied Wen Yiji. "I threw you the manual. You did not see it because it is invisible!"

"Do not attempt to insult my intelligence! The Invisibility Manual is visible!"

"If it is visible, then it would not be the Invisibility Manual, would it?"

Sun Cheong stood there for a moment contemplating the logic of Wen Yiji's words. Then he snarled angrily, "I give you toasted wine but you want punishment wine. Fine! I will make your journey to Hades a slow and painful one!"

The bald man was fast. He leapt towards Wen Yiji and delivered a Buddha Palm strike that would kill a bull. Wen Yiji hurriedly parried the blow. The amount of force he had to use told him the one thing that he feared; that Sun Cheong's Buddha Palm was more powerful than his own Dark Fire Iron Palm. Sun Cheong kept on attacking relentlessly and Wen Yiji defended by weaving out of reach or parrying the blow each time. The potato seller knew of the reputation of the Buddha Palm only too well to attempt to match iron palms with his opponent. Although they were both equal in speed, Wen Yiji knew that any unexpected move from Sun Cheong would end his life. It was like a leopard attempting to battle the lion.

"You are fast!" remarked the bald man. "But sooner or later, I will land a blow and that will be the end of you."

"Maybe it will be me who will land a blow on you," retorted Wen Yiji. "The battle is not over yet."

"If you can beat me, I will eat my own shit!"

"Your own shit? No, if I beat you, you will eat my shit!"

"Saliva more than it for your potato customers."

"Which one? The saliva or the tea?"

Sun Cheong did not bother to answer the question. He attacked with a palm blast which Wen Yiji avoided. The blast missed Yiji but rocked the carriage a few steps behind him.


"Don't destroy my carriage!" yelled Wen Yiji.

Sun Cheong moved close enough to Yiji and aimed an iron palm at his chest. Wen Yiji parried the blow and at close quarters, he turned his hand and flicked his finger. It delivered a finger blast at Sun Cheong's eyes. It was not a powerful blast, but it was delivered at close quarters and totally unexpected. Temporarily blinded, Sun Cheong stood rooted at his feet, unmoving. Wen Yiji followed up with a Dark Fire Iron Palm to Sun Cheong's chest. However, at the same moment, Sun Cheong delivered a Buddha Palm strike to Wen Yiji's chest. The two strikes sounded together as one.


Both fighters flew apart fom each other and landed on the ground.

Wen Yiji got up, clutching his chest. His pain was great, but bearable.

"Your eyes were injured! How did you manage to strike me?" he gasped.

"I might not have seen you but I definitely heard you," replied Sun Cheong. "What you did not know was that, even temporarily without the use of sight, I can still fight! The powers of my ears have no equal under Heaven!"

Sun Cheong opened his eyes. They were still smarting from Wen Yiji's fingerblast, but they could see. His chest was aflame. He controlled his breathing to allow the self healing process to begin.

"We are both injured," said Wen Yiji. “Let’s call this a draw and walk away.” He tried not to let his opponent see how badly hurt he was.

"A draw?” asked the bald Sun Cheong. “You must be joking. You have not yet tasted my full strength yet! Truly, I have no equal under Heaven. That was a powerful iron palm you used. I have not felt a pain like this for a very long time. What kungfu did you use?"

Wen Yiji did not feel that it was wise to let people know that he was using the Dark Fire Iron Palm because of its dark reputation in the past. He remembered the name of a kungfu that his former cellmate claimed to have used. "I used the Black Widow Tiger Chomping Chop," he said.

“There is no such martial art!” sneered the bald man.

“Yes, there is!” claimed Wen Yiji. “It’s so powerful that I once chop down on an elephant’s head with just my bare right hand and cracked its skull wide open! Just like that! Then the father came to look for me.”

“The father? Whose father?”

“The elephant’s father. So I chopped down with my left hand and cracked the father’s skull as well.”

“You are full of shit. A stupid story told by an idiot. Why don’t you say the elephant’s grandfather also came to look for you?”

“Well he didn’t!”

“And why not?”

“Because he was busy cavorting with your grandmother at that time. You have an interesting lineage.”

“You will die painfully!” screamed the enraged Sun Cheong. He rushed at Wen Yiji who leapt up high overhead to avoid twin palm blasts from his bald opponent. As Wen Yiji flipped through the air, the manual fell out of his clothes and dropped down onto the ground. It landed in an open position.

“The Manual of Invisibility!” exclaimed Sun Cheong as he made a rush to pick it up.

Wen Yiji too made a rush for it, but it was Sun Cheong who picked it up first by the end pages of the book. Wen Yiji, however, managed to grab the front pages of the book. The two men stared at each other, with each one holding onto part of the manual.

“We are in a stalemate,” noted Wen Yiji. “If I as much as pull, the book will be split into two. The manual will be torn.”

“There is something that you are not aware of,” said Sun Cheong.


“I wanted the manual not because I wanted to study invisibility. I wanted the manual in order to destroy it! I do not care if the book is torn into a thousand pieces!”

“I don’t believe you!”

“I care not what you believe. I have always thought that invisibility kungfu was an evil to be exterminated from the face of world. It is a dark martial art and should not be practiced by morally upright people!”

“You are right. Better let go the book so that I can take care of its destruction.”

“I have a much better idea,” said Sun Cheong. With his left hand still holding to half of the manual, his right hand shot out an iron palm strike towards Yiji. Automatically, Wen Yiji countered with his Dark Fire Iron Palm to block Sun Cheong’s strike. He remembered too late that he was not supposed to match palms with the Buddha Palm. The Dark Fire Iron Palm met the Buddha Palm, palm against palm, internal energy against internal energy, immense power against immense power.


The shockwave energy sent Sun Cheong tumbling ten steps away from his previous position.

In contrast, the blast shot Wen Yiji powerfully over the ground. His body cut a path through the air and crashed against the half opened door of the house.


Wen Yiji’s body landed and rolled on the floor before it came to a stop as a crumpled heap against the wooden wall inside the house. He was bleeding internally and he knew it. He was reminded painfully of the fact that the power of the Buddha Palm was too strong to be matched by his Dark Fire Iron Palm. From the inside of the house, he watched as his bald opponent outside pick himself up from the ground.

Sun Cheong called out, “Hey, potato seller! Guess what…..I got the larger half of the Invisibility Manual!”

Wen Yiji looked at his hand. He was still clutching part of the manual; but only the first few pages.

Sun Cheong called out again, “Hey, are you still alive? You better pray that you are dead! I shall make your last few moments so agonizing that you will wish that you have never been borne at all!”

Wen Yiji could only listen in silence. He was too weak to even speak, let alone get up. He knew that he could offer no resistance when Sun Cheong comes into the house to kill him.

Sun Cheong exercised his breathing in a controlled manner. He gathered his energy and felt ready for the pleasurable task of killing the potato seller. Smiling to himself, he walked towards the house. Helplessly, Wen Yiji watched as his opponent approached.

Suddenly, out of the blue, Sun Cheong found his legs being grabbed from behind by the Ghost Ninja. The old man, caught the legs in a death grip and screamed, “Run…….potato seller…….run……!!!”

Using his considerable energy, Sun Cheong brought his hand down on the head of the Ghost Ninja and crushed the skull. The old man’s eyes locked with Wen Yiji’s even as he died, still mouthing the word, “Run!” In death, the old man’s grip was still unrelenting.

As Sun Cheong was trying to extricate himself from the death grip of the dead Ghost Ninja, two riders on horseback came galloping around the bend.

Sun Cheong paused in what he was doing. He recognized one of the riders.

“The Flute Master,” he whispered to himself. “It has been a long time!”


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Pay rise and stuff

All you 'see view' servants........sorry........I mean 'civil' servants.....who got your pay increase, you better know what to do next. No, I don't mean get ready to vote for that whatnot in the next elections(whixh we know is just around the corner). I mean, get ready to be more civil to us taxpayers who are the ones funding your pay rise. Don't just stare out of the window to look at the view.

I hate it when the media declares war on the "Ah Longs". I mean, come on, I can't help being long, can I?

Okay, let's not be so shallow. Size does not matter. It is the quality of the girl you are humping that counts.

Let us move on to more important things. Let us make a serious effort to contemplate the underlying nature of the current events of this world and understand the ramifications of their impact on the direction of the universe.

Like.....let's see.....oh yeah...... Paula Abdul trips over dog, breaks nose(Reuters).


Monday, May 21, 2007


The Kungfu That Ruled The Night - Chapter 6

Chapter 6: The theories of Zheng Shi Mei

The boat reached the middle of the river where the current was strongest. Wen Yiji saw the floating carcasses of cows and pigs floating past them. The boat moved past a number of dead human bodies in the water and Shi Mei winced.

“Could be victims of some mishap upstream,” the boatman explained. “This is nothing. When the river overflows, lots of people die. We are at the lower reaches of the Yellow River. Here, the river is higher than the surrounding plains and it is the levees that hold the waters back. A serious breach in the river banks will be a major disaster. Lots of people will die. Lots! The Yellow River is the cradle of our civilization and is also our sorrow. But our lives are tied to it.”

Wen Yiji listened to the boatman without saying a thing. He had crossed the Yellow River before. A long time ago, his departed younger brother, Yituo, wanted to sit for his Imperial Civil Service Exams. He was a good scholar and the whole family was excited over the possibility of him doing well scholastically. To prepare him, his parents had planned to send him to a school for proper tuition. However, schools in the Imperial Capital were prohibitively expensive. So, they decided to send Yituo to Chingnan where there was a good school and where the fees were much more affordable. Yiji had accompanied his parents and Yituo on their journey to Chingnan. During the river crossing, a woman had fallen off the overcrowded boat. Yiji had jumped into the water to save her. He remembered that the water was cold.

It rained softly just before the boat reached the opposite shore. Storm clouds were gathering in the sky. Even before the boat had reached the shore, the old man had leapt off the boat. Using lightness kungfu, he treaded once on the surface of the water and landed on the levee lining the river. Then the old man walked off without a backward glance. Wen Yiji stared hard at his retreating back.

The boatman tied the boat to a rickety jetty which seemed to be located in the middle of nowhere. There were very few houses around the area. Wen Yiji first led the horse off the boat. The girl was a big help. She held the reins of the horse in the tiny drizzle while Wen Yiji got the carriage off the boat’s deck. Then she handed the horse to Wen Yiji and said her goodbyes.

“I am heading to the nearest town,” he said. “Would you like a lift in my carriage?”

The girl shook her head and said, “It is not appropriate for a man and a woman to be travelling together. I thank you for your kind offer.”

With that, she walked off down the road. The rain poured down strongly and she had to rush for shelter under the nearest tree.

Wen Yiji hitched the carriage to the horse and then set off. The protruding roof only just barely kept the driver's position dry. He headed towards the tree where the girl was taking shelter and shouted, “A severe storm is approaching. You will catch a very bad cold if you attempt to walk in this rain. Besides, it is better to get out of here in case the river floods. If you die, you will definitely regret standing there. I suggest that you forget your sense of propriety and take a ride in my sheltered carriage!”

The girl nodded, and then climbed gratefully into Wen Yiji’s carriage. She was already half wet from the miserable weather. He clucked his mouth and the horse moved forward again. Some distance along the road, they passed by the old man taking shelter under another tree. Wen Yiji did not bother to stop for him.

“Are you going to leave the old man standing there in the storm?” asked the girl.

“Why not?” he asked. “I see no reason why I should give him a lift. He came to the boat without saying “please” and he left the boat without saying “thank you”. He has the manners of a buffalo.”

“But there is still room inside this carriage,” she said. “And the storm is getting heavier.”

“Oh, all right,” he relented. He stopped the carriage and called out to the old man. “Hey, old man! If you want a lift, you can come inside my carriage.”

The old man needed no second invitation. He leapt into the air, then turned in midair and flipped into the carriage swiftly like a spirit.

“I did not know that it was possible to move like that!” said Shi Mei in admiration.

“It is called lightness kungfu,” the old man said.

“I have seen lightness kungfu before, but not in the manner that you have displayed,” said the girl. “While we are all travelling in the same carriage, perhaps we should introduce ourselves.”

“It is not necessary,” said the old man. “We will be together only for a short time. Why burden ourselves trying to remember names? Just call me ‘Old Man’ and I shall call you ‘Young Girl’, and we can call the driver ‘Potato Seller’.”

“Suits me,” agreed Wen Yiji. He had little wish to know the old man better. “Perhaps it would be more descriptively accurate if you call me lengchai.”

“Is that your name?” asked the girl.

“No,” replied Wen Yiji. “But that is what some people call me.”

The road on the stormy plain soon turned into a path of mud in the driving rain. The going was slow for the carriage.

“The main road turns muddy in the rain,” said the old man. “We will be stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere by nightfall. I have traveled these parts many times and I know an alternative route that we can take. It may not be faster, but at least, it will not be so muddy.”

“All right,” said Wen Yiji. “Direct me the way.”

The old man directed the way to a small path and it was surprisingly easier to travel. The rain abated and by evening, they came across an abandoned temple near the edge of a small lake. They decided to take refuge in the temple which still had three standing walls and a partial roof. Although the rain had stopped, the ground was still wet.

“We will have to make a fire,” said Wen Yiji. “I have some rice and lots of potatoes so food should not be a problem.”

“Potatoes?” asked the old man. “I much prefer duck.”

“You don’t ask for much, do you?” said Wen Yiji in irritation. “I could shoot those ducks at the lake, but they will fall into the muddy water and I do not fancy swimming out to retrieve them.”

“If you can shoot them, I can retrieve them,” said the old man.

“Is that right?”


“Well if I shoot a duck and you can’t retrieve it, it will be a waste of a good duck.”

“Can you shoot it in the first place?” asked the old man with a measure of doubt in his tone.

“Of course I can!” answered Yiji indignantly.


“Let’s settle this once and for all, Old Man.”

“I am ready if you are, Potato Seller.”

“The one who does not do what he is supposed to do is a tortoise egg and has to borrow Young Girl's underwear and wear it over his head all evening! Do you agree?”

“Agreed!” replied the Ghost Ninja. “The challenge is on!”

"Hey! Leave my underwear out of this!" exclaimed a shocked Shi Mei.

However, Wen Yiji had already grabbed his bow and arrows and walked down to the edge of the little lake followed by the old man. Shi Mei followed behind. There were ducks among the rushes growing in the middle of the lake. Wen Yi loaded his bow with an arrow and waited. The ducks were at least a hundred and fifty steps from the shore.

The old man took a stone and threw it into the water.


The ducks looked up.

Then one bloody stupid duck flew up into the air for no logical reason and Wen Yiji shot off an arrow.


He was accurate as usual.

“Quack, quack, quack...........ahaiks!”

The old man ran to the water as the duck was shot in the air. He skimmed the water surface with his lightness kungfu and raced towards the falling duck.

The duck hit the water.


The old man scooped up the duck with one hand as he raced past the spot. A number of ducks panicked on seeing the old man skimming by and they flew into the air flapping their wings violently. Still skimming the water surface, the old man turned to head towards the shore.

"I’ve shot another one!” yelled Wen Yiji from the shore.

The old man turned his head and saw a second duck drop to the water.


He treaded on a reed growing out of the water and changed his direction. Moving to the second duck, he picked it up with a smooth motion and then moved to the shore, skimming the water surface easily with his lightness kungfu.

Shi Mei clapped her hands in appreciation and remarked enthusiastically, “I’ve never seen such a wonderful display!”

“You mean the great shooting?” asked Wen Yiji beaming with pride.

“I mean the great partnership,” replied the girl, smiling. She was happy that nobody was borrowing her underwear to wear over the head.

The old man walked towards them holding up both ducks triumphantly.

“Great retrieval,” remarked Wen Yiji with grudging admiration.

“The shooting wasn’t bad,” admitted the old man, smiling. “Now that you have shot the ducks and I have retrieved them, I think it should be the turn of Young Girl to cook them.”

“Oh……I can’t cook ducks,” said Shi Mei slowly.

The two men stared at her in silence.

“I never did learn how to cook ducks,” she said in embarrassment.

“Don’t worry,” said Wen Yiji. “I can do it.”

“You can?” asked the old man disbelievingly.

“Of course!” replied Wen Yiji. “My sister runs a duck restaurant and I have learnt a thing or two about ducks. We will do it herbal style. Young Girl can take care of the fire and cook the rice for us.”

“Good,” said the old man. “I have a pot of wine that we can share after dinner.”

Wen Yiji outdid himself. The herbal duck turned out excellently and his two fellow travelers were ecstatic.

“This is the best duck I have ever tasted,” declared the girl.

“Not bad,” said the old man. “If you were a woman, you would surely make a great housewife.”

Wen Yiji ignored the remark and demanded, “I thought we were going to partake of your pot of wine.”

“Oh, that’s right,” replied the old man. He brought out his pot of wine and they each took a swig from it. In the cold wet weather, it warmed them up considerably.

“This is good wine,” remarked Wen Yiji appreciatively.

He told the girl, “You can sleep in my carriage tonight, Young Girl. Old Man and I will sleep on the ground.”

“Thank you,” said the young girl. “I do not know how I can thank you for your kindness.”

“Please do not be formal,” said Yiji. “We are travelers on the same journey.”

“Well, I hope I am able to sleep tonight on the ground,” declared the old man. “I have not been able to enjoy a good night’s sleep for the past twenty years. And as I grow older, the problem becomes annoyingly worse.”

“It is old age,” commented Wen Yiji. “As one grows older, sleep becomes more uncomfortable because the flesh get harder. Like an old chicken. Everything gets hard except where it is supposed to get hard.”

The old man ignored the comment, drank some more wine and started to recite some poetry.
“Sleep is like the secret lover
That visits when we are unaware
And makes us infants once more
With each new sun in the east.
The beauty of the night is lost
If sleep holds me not
Even the unicorn does not impress
When the eye sees without stopping”

Wen Yiji stared at him open mouthed.

"What do you think of my poetry," asked the old man.

"You want to hear something polite or you want to hear the truth?" asked Wen Yiji.

"The truth, of course!" answered the old man. “Let’s keep it real.”

“Well, if you don’t mind my saying so, that was the most horrendous piece of poetry that I have ever heard. It was boring..… atrociously boring that even the mosquitoes will slumber. I was expecting something better.”

"I already gave my best, and I have no regrets at all," said the old man. Then he challenged Yiji, “Do you think that you do much better?”

“Of course!” replied Wen Yiji, taking up the challenge. "I anyhow compose also can do better than that!"

“Really?” asked the old man. "Let your horse come."

“I have composed a very good poem about two goats and a monkey that thought it was a goat,” said Wen Yiji.

“Wait!” said Shi Mei. “If this is a poetic challenge, then you have to keep to the theme.”

“What is the theme?” asked Wen Yiji.

“Sleep,” replied the old man. “Your poetry must involve the topic of sleep.”

“That does not constitute a problem,” said Wen Yiji.

He cleared his throat and then recited;
"The clever man knows that his bed
Is not just there for him to sleep
It is the place for getting laid
For pushing hard and driving deep
A few quick gropes, all sleep depart
And lovers join by candlelight
So let the pounding action start
Tomorrows babies begin tonight!”

His audience stared agog at him. Shi Mei suppressed a giggle and looked down on the ground.

“That was crude......a total mess......and you have embarrassed our young friend,” noted the old man.

"I thought I did okay," retorted Wen Yiji, "Despite the fact that I have no professional training at all."

"Obviously," remarked the old man.

“Actually, I thought it was rather good,” said the girl. "There is originality and a naked honesty in your composition. You have taken an idea and then tried to make it your own. This is what poetry is all about.”

“I thought it lacked class,” said the old man. “It was so coarse that it would shame an earthworm.”

“Perhaps what this country needs is a national poetry competition so that you two can compete,” said Shi Mei. “When I was young, I had this idea of people competing in front of three judges. The judges will pass comments on what they think about the poetry. Then the audience will be allowed to vote for whom they like. I called it ‘Poetry Idol’.”

The two men stared at her. Finally the old man asked, “Where do you get such a strange idea from? It will never work. Trust me.”

“Maybe not now,” said Shi Mei. “But one good day, someone will pick up my idea and turn it into something successful.”

“Why don’t you recite poetry for us to hear,” challenged Yiji.

“That is right,” said the old man. “Come on, recite something.”

“All right,” replied the girl. “I will recite a poem about two porcupines.”

“It has to be about sleep,” said Wen Yiji. “That is the theme!”

“This poetry is entitled “Two porcupines sleeping in the same hole too small for both of them” and I will be doing it limerick-style,” she said.

“What on earth is a limerick?” asked Wen Yiji, baffled.

“It is a way of doing poetry that I thought of,” replied Shi Mei. “There will come a day when people will create poetry this way."

“Enough talk,” said the old man. “Let’s hear your “Two porcupines sleeping in the same hole too small for both of them” limerick.”

Shim Mei took in a deep breath and then recited;
“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Ouch ouch ouch!
Ouch ouch ouch!
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!”

The two men stared at Shi Mei open mouthed. They had not expected such nonsense to come out from such a pretty girl.

“Any comments?” asked the girl.

The men were silent; too nonplussed to even comment.

“No negative comments?” asked Shi Mei. “In that case, I win!”

“No way!” protested the old man.

“Not by a long shot!”” added Wen Yiji.

“If you ask me, this limerick thing is totally idiotic!” added the old man.

The three of them argued enthusiastically in between sips of wine. They continued with their drinking until it was time to sleep.

“This ground is hard,” commented the old man. “I know that I won’t be able to get any sleep tonight. If I can’t even sleep well in a warm bed, I don’t see how I can sleep on the cold ground.”

“Is your sleep problem serious?” asked the girl.

“Yes,” replied the old man. “I don’t know what the matter with me is. I would give the world for a good night’s sleep.”

“You could be suffering from Aids,” suggested the girl.

“What on earth is Aids?” the old man asked.

“Ass is damn slow,” explained Wen Yiji.

“No!” laughed the girl. “That was for horses! This one is something else.”

“Well, what is it then?” asked the old man.

“An increasingly decreasing sleep,” replied the girl simply.

“Increasing or decreasing?” inquired the old man.

“Increasingly decreasing,” repeated the girl.

“Will I die?” the old man asked.

“Eventually,” replied Wen Yiji unsympathetically. “Wa lau may even die awake!”

The old man ignored him and asked the girl, “Can it be cured?”

“I doubt if it can totally go away,” she answered. “But I can stick some needles in you to give you a good night of rest tonight.”

“Stick needles inside me?” the old man laughed. “That will not work!”

“Trust me. I can make you go into a deep sleep. My father was a brilliant daifu and he was a genius in acupuncture,” she assured him. “I have learnt many useful tricks from him.”

“She will poke needles in your ass,” said Wen Yiji helpfully as he held up three fingers and counted. “Three needles. One, two, three.”

“No, sir,” laughed the girl. “That was for horses!”

“What will be the effect if you poke me with your needles?” asked the old man.

Before the girl could reply, Wen Yiji replied on her behalf, “You will neigh and gallop wildly in your sleep. I have seen the effects of her needles. Trust me.”

The girl sighed, “That was for horses, Potato Seller. I’ll be using different acupuncture points for the old man.”

“I am desperate for a good nights sleep so I will do whatever it takes,” said the old man. “Come on, Young Girl, poke me.”

“Go on, girl,” said Wen Yiji encouragingly. “Don’t hold back. Stick all your needles in him.”

With liquid movements, the girl stuck her acupuncture needles in the old man in several places before he could finish two breaths. It was over suddenly.

“I don’t feel anything much,” remarked the old man. “Maybe you should remove the needles.”

“Your flesh is probably insensitive or dead,” remarked Wen Yiji. “Let me tell about what happened to a friend of mine. He was very old. Once upon a time......”

Before Wen Yiji could finish his sentence, the old man flopped over and slept.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” exclaimed the younger man. “The needles worked! They actually worked!”

“Of course!” laughed Young Girl triumphantly. “They always work!”

They left the old man to sleep while they chatted.

“The stars have come out,” said Wen Yiji, looking at the sky through the broken roof.

Shi Mei looked. She counted seven stars. She remembered seeing stars on the night that her father died. Since then she had not laughed at all. But tonight, she did laugh. In the presence of two complete strangers, she had regain part of her usual cheerfulness.

“They say that if you are a good man, the stars will always shine for you,” said Wen Yiji.

Shi Mei nodded silently. She was happy to see the stars. Together, Yiji and Shi Mei chatted comfortably like old friends as they drank the old man’s wine until it was finished. Then they went to sleep.

+ + + + +

It was mid morning when the old man woke up.

“It’s about time,” remarked Wen Yiji. “We were going to leave you here to sleep till next year.”

The old man yawned, stretched his arms and looked around him. “I have not had such a good sleep in years! Heavens, that was great! If I die now, I will still be happy.”

“What I did was to remove an energy imbalance in your body,” said Shi Mei. “You should be able to sleep soundly from now on for the next month at least.”

“Thank you,” said the old man. “I am eternally in your debt.”

“You have not paid the lady doctor the bill yet,” remarked Wen Yiji in jest. “This kind of treatment is very rare. Got money also cannot buy. The least you can do is to offer some kind of payment.”

“Oh,” smiled the old man. “Of course! I should pay Young Girl something. What is the charge?”

“Never mind,” Shi Mei replied. “I don’t want your money.”

“Surely I can pay you something,” persisted the old man.

“I know!” said the girl. “I love the way that you run across the water and jump here and there. Can you teach me how to do it?”

The old man paused before saying, “This kind of movement requires some kind of internal energy. I do not think that you have that in you.”

Wa lau eh,” remarked Wen Yiji with a hint of sarcasm. “People ask you for payment and you start making excuses. If you cannot pay, then why you ask?”

The old man ignored Wen Yiji’s sarcasm and addressed the girl, “I can impart to you The Way of the Water Spider. It will allow you to execute some neat moves horizontally. But since you don’t have internal energy, you will feel a little drained and tired after using it.”

“I will be happy to learn,” said Zheng Shi Mei in a grateful tone.

“Sit down on the ground,” he said to her.

She did as was instructed.

He then sat down behind her and placed his palms on her shoulder blades. For a while, they did not move. Smoke came out from the top of her head. After a while he removed his palms and said, “There, it is done.”

“What happened?” asked the girl.

“I don’t know,” answered Wen Yiji. “I saw smoke rising up from the top of your head. Do you feel any great heat inside you?”

“No,” she answered. “Just a slight warmth. No great heat.”

“Good,” remarked Wen Yiji. “It is a relief to know that. The smoke had me worried for a while. I thought he was trying to cook you internally.”

They both stared at him.

“You are awesome!” said the old man to Wen Yiji. “You can even think up an illogical comment like that! You are really ‘no can block’.”

Shi Mei laughed out loud. “I don’t feel any different so I guess that whatever Old Man was trying to do did not work. But thanks for the effort anyway.”

“Who says it did not work? Here,” called the old man. “Come with me to the water’s edge and do as I do.”

Wen Yiji ignored them both and started preparing his horse and carriage for the day’s journey. He heard an excited shout from the girl and so he turned his head to look. The old man and the girl were skimming across the water. They came back to the carriage smiling.

“It worked! It worked!” she cried excitedly to Wen Yiji. “I used to run faster than the boys in my village. And now, I am even faster than before! And I can skim the water surface too!”

“The Way of the Water Spider technique is good for fast horizontal movement,” reminded the old man. “Since you do not have lightness kungfu, it will drain your energies and you will feel exhausted afterwards. Also, you will not be able to leap high over trees. That will be in the realm of lightness kungfu.”

“It is all right,” smiled the girl. “I am happy with horizontal movement. Thank you very much, Old Man. And you are right. My legs are feeling tired now.”

Wen Yiji looked at Shi Mei. A lascivious thought entered his head involving hoizontal movements with her in bed. Rebuking himself for harbouring such a thought, he grumbled, “All right, everybody aboard. Let’s go! Chop chop!”

+ + + + + +

In the morning, the boatman was at his usual place at the jetty. His thirty years of experience told him that it was safe to do so. Two men rode up to the jetty and demanded that he fetch them across the river. He rowed them across with their horses.

As they disembarked, one of them with a dark face asked, “Boatman, yesterday afternoon, you fetched a horse and carriage across. There was an old man aboard. Which way did the old man go?”

“Yesterday? Ah, yes......I remember that trip,” replied the boatman. “It was rather strange. A man with a carriage booked my boat. Then a girl came and he allowed her to get on board. Then an old man came along and he also wanted to cross. From my thirty years of experience, I knew that the boat was over laden. So I refused to row. There was an argument and finally, one of them threw three bags of potatoes into the river so that the boat would not be too heavy.”

“You still haven’t told us where the old man went,” said the dark-faced man, Blackface.

“Oh, he went that way,” pointed the boatman. “Probably to Gaotang. He jumped off the boat before I could even dock. Must be in a hurry. You know what was really weird? As I was rowing the boat, three horsemen arrived at the jetty and then two of the idiots shot arrows at the boat.”

“Do you recognize the two idiots?” asked the dark-faced man, Blackface.

“No, I don’t,” said the boatman. “I was not that close to see their faces properly. Based on my thirty years of experience, I will say that they must be retarded. Simply shoot at people. Luckily, their arrows did not hit me., Or I would have turned back the boat and stuff the arrows up their asses. And then twist the arrows to stir the clumps of shit in their backsides. Stupid inbred sons of pigs.”

"You should not call them stupid," said the Flute Master coldly.

"You are right," said the boatman. "They are not stupid.....they are retarded."

Sifu, this boatman call us retarded,” said Blackface to his master.

“Beat him up,” ordered the other man, the Flute Master. “Make it quick. I want to reach Gaotang by nightfall.”

Chui La Pah left the boat while Blackface advanced on the boatman. The boatman sensed danger, and quickly took out an axe.

“Put down the axe,” ordered Blackface. “I am going to beat you up so don’t waste my time with the axe.”

“Why do you wish to beat me up?” asked the boatman. “I have done nothing to you.”

“My sifu does not like your face,” replied Blackface. “Now take your beating like a man.”

“You will find that I am not easy to bully,” snarled the boatman. “I have the Praying Mantis Holding Big Axe kungfu. And thirty years of fighting experience.”

The fight was short and bloody. Soon, Blackface joined the Flute Master on land.

“What took you so long?” asked Chui La Pah.

“I bashed his head,” replied Blackface. “That took a bit of time.”

“You bashed only his head?”

“Yes,” answered Blackface. “But I repeated it twenty nine times.”

The Flute Master and his disciple rode hard, pushing their horses to the limit. However, the going was difficult because of the light constant drizzle and they did not manage to reach Gaotang by nightfall.

+ + + + + +

Wen Yiji and his travelling companions had already entered Gaotang by late afternoon and had decided to stay in one of the inns there for the night.

As they sat around a dinner table together that evening, the Ghost Ninja offered, “Since it was you Potato Seller who cooked the ducks and Young Girl who cooked the rice last night, let me be the one to pay for dinner tonight!”

“Thank you,” said Wen Yiji. “Let us order something other than duck!”

While waiting for their food to arrive, a flash of lightning lit up the inside of the inn followed by the sound of a loud thunderclap.

"Notice that you always see the flash of light first before you hear the thunder and not the other way around," remarked Wen Yiji.

"That is because light travels faster than sound," explained Shi Mei. "Both the lightning and the thunder are produce at the same time by the natural phenomena. The light just reaches us first."

"Where do you get such an odd idea?" asked the Ghost Ninja. "Everyone knows that the God of Thunder makes the sound and the God of the Lightning makes the flash."

"Yes, and the two Gods are twins. That is why they always occur together," explained Wen Yiji. "The God of Thunder was born first and therefore the elder of the twins. However, he always allows the younger twin to create the flash of light first. Give chance a bit, see? That is why we always see the light flash first."

"I am telling you that light travels faster than sound," insisted Shi Mei. "How else can you explain why sometimes the time gap between the thunder and lightning is small and at other times it is large?"

"Tired light," explained the old man. "Sometimes the God of the Light Flash is tired and so he throws a light that arrives more slowly. I am waiting for the day when the light is so slow that we will hear the thunder first before seeing the flash."

"That day will never come," claimed Wen Yiji. "Those Gods are not only twins. They are identical twins. If one gets tired, the other also gets tired. So the slow light will still arrive earlier than the slow thunder. See?"

"There is no such thing as slow light," insisted Shi Mei. "The speed of light is absolute. It will never slow down. Never."

"Your theory is full of holes," said Wen Yiji. “Everything slows down at some time or another.”

"Light is different. Its speed is not relative to anything. I sometimes get flashes of insight on how the laws of nature work," she answered. "A day will come when people will understand such theories."

"Yeah......right!" interjected the old man.

"You two do not believe me, do you?” asked Shi Mei. “I guess that now would not be a good time for me to tell you about my recently discovered Theory of Relativity."

"I don't know about your theory, but I have my own Theory of Relativity as well," said Wen Yiji. "For instance, my theory says that when your money runs out and you need help, your relatives will suddenly disappear."

"I have one too," said the old man. "Relatives are like monkeys......they don't look like you and yet they expect you to give them peanuts."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said WenYiji. "I did not realize that you were related to monkeys. You have my deepest sympathies. Wa beh cham, leh. But don't worry! I am very broadminded and am not one of those who would treat you like a lesser subspecies. Here, let me order something delicious just for you. "

He then shouted at a passing waiter, "Hey waiter! Bring me a bunch of bananas for this!"

"Will you stop embarrassing yourself?" requested the old man in an exasperated tone. "We are trying to discuss the Theory of Relatives here!"

"I was talking about Relativity, not Relatives," remarked Shi Mei. "But if you must know, we all descended from monkeys. I have this theory that monkeys learned to walk upright and then developed into humans. I call this the Theory of Evolution."

Wen Yiji stared at her for a few moments before laughing, "Hahahahaha! For a young girl, you certainly have a lot of theories!"

"That is the problem," lamented Shi Mei. "I am a woman and people are not willing to treat me seriously. They only know how to make retarded jokes about us leaking like a roof once a month. One day, some man will copy my theory and announce it to the world, and people will believe him. Just because he is a man."

"I empathize with you," remarked Wen Yiji. "But let's debate your Theory of Evolution. If your theory is true, then we should be able to see the monkeys at some balanced point stage of development. Like a half-man half-monkey breed."

"That is right," Shi Mei concurred. "It is the biological 'Missing Link' that I need to prove my theory is correct!"

Wen Yiji looked thoughtful and then asked, "Would someone who looks almost like a human but has monkey relatives be what you call a 'missing link'?"

Both he and the girl scrutinized the old man closely.

"Hey......stop that!" cried the old man.

The claypot spareribs cooked with beancurd arrived.

It was followed by the rest of the other dishes and all further debate was suspended.

While they were eating, a thin dark man who was seated at the other end of the room, quietly pulled out a drawing from his clothes and examined it. He looked at the old man across the room before muttering to himself, "Yes......that is the Ghost Ninja seated there!" The thin dark member of the Green Scorpion Sect put away his drawing and continued drinking his wine.

+ + + + + +

The next morning, Wen Yiji met Shi Mei and the old man for breakfast.

"Did you sleep well this time?" asked Shi Mei to he old man.

"Yes," replied the old man. "I had a really good sleep even without the acupuncture needles. I can die now and still be happy."

“Early, early morning and you go and talk about death,” remarked Wen Yiji. “Aren’t your scared that a passing itchy ‘cow head horse face’ devil will suddenly pull you into Hell?”

“Hell does not scare me,” declared the old man. “Everybody dies at some stage or another. What I am more concerned about is that the denizens of Hell should respect me.”

Shi Mei kept quiet. Her father’s passing was too recent and she did not like to be reminded of death. She ate her breakfast silently.

After breakfast, Wen Yiji said, "I am heading northwest for Qinghe. You are welcome to travel in my carriage if we are going the same route. At least my carriage will keep you both dry if it rains."

"Thank you, Potato Seller," said Shi Mei. "I am going north to Dezhou. As we are not travelling in the same direction, I will take my leave of you now."

"I am not going as far as Qinghe," said the old man. "But we are going the same route. Halfway between here and Qinghe, there is a place where I wish to go. If you will give me a lift there, I shall be grateful."

"All right," said Wen Yiji. "We will say goodbye to Young Girl here."

"Take good care of yourself, Young Girl," said the old man. "In case you meet any bad people, use the Way of the Water Spider that I taught you. Its quick darting movements will help you to evade them."

"Try not to mention your fanciful theories of light and evolution to the family of your betrothed," advised Yiji. "If we can't understand them, then I don't think they can either. They may think that a spirit has entered your head. Then they will take you to a temple and make you drink holy water everyday."

"He is right," said the old man. "If you do not wish to drink holy water, you can evade the priests by using the Way of the Water Spider that I taught you!"

"Hahaha!" laughed Shi Mei. "Don't worry, you two. I will be able to take care of myself. If fate permits us to meet again, then I shall toast each one of you three bowls of wine."

She said goodbye to the two men and headed north. She was sad to be leaving them. True, they were the most unusual travelling companions, but she never felt threatened by their presence. The weather looked good as she walked along the road. Idly, she wondered if her future husband would be as interesting as Wen Yiji.

"Nice girl," remarked the old man. "And she has such lovely eyes."

"Really?" asked Wen Yiji looking at her retreating ass. "I had not noticed."

"That is what you say," remarked the old man. "You noticed all right. A girl like that does not come by every year. Don't fret just because she is marrying someone else."

"I am not fretting!" insisted Wen Yi Ji.

However, they both knew that he was fretting.

As Wen Yij and the old man travelled in the carriage along the road to Qinghe, the thin dark man from the Green Scorpion Sect watched them go. He noted the direction that they took and then he proceeded to the center of town to wait for his chief.

It was mid morning before Chui La Pah and Blackface rode into town. The thin dark man met them and said, "Greetings, Chief. I have news on the one you seek."

"Where is he?" asked Chui La Pah anxiously.

"On the road towards Qinghe," the thin dark man replied. "He is travelling inside a carriage with some other man. They left only this morning. If you ride fast, you may catch up with the carriage later today."

"How would we know which carriage he is in?" asked Blackface.

"It should not be too difficult," replied the man. "The rain has washed away all the previous wheel tracks. Because of the rainy weather, not many carriages are on the road. I think if you check the road, you will find only one set of fresh wheel tracks heading towards Qinghe. It should be easy enough to follow."

The man led them to the road to Qinghe and pointed out the carriage tracks.

"Very good!" said Chui La Pah, pleased. "You have done well."

He tossed a bag of money to the man before he and Blackface rode teir horses fast along the road, following the wheel tracks.

The weather was fine and the carriage was travelling quicker than it had been the previous days. It came to an intersection and the old man said, "You may drop me off here."

"The road here is still muddy and unpleasant for walking," remarked Wen Yiji. "Since I have taken you this far, I may as well take you all the way. Just show me the route to the house you wish to go and my carriage will take you there."

"I am visiting the grave of a friend," said the Ghost Ninja.

"No problem, Old Man. Just show me the way."

The old man directed the way to a path which soon narrowed. They came to a house at the end of the path.

"I thought you said that you were visiting a grave," remarked Yiji. "This is a house."

"The grave is on the other side of the hill behind the house," said the man. "I stay in the house each time I come here."

"In that case, I shall say my goodbye here, Old Man. It was interesting meeting you."

"Same here. Despite having to put up with your obnoxious comments now and then, I must say that you are a great travelling companion! I wish you luck in selling off your potatoes."

"You want to buy some more potatoes?"

"No. Thank you."

“Cheap, cheap?”

"No. Thank you."

"All right then. Goodbye, Old Man."

"Goodbye, Potato Seller. I shall always remember your herbal ducks."

The old man walked up the footpath to the door of the house. Wen Yiji turned his carriage around. He got onto the carriage and was about to urge the horse forward when he heard a noise.


The next moment, the body of the old man hurtled in the air past him before landing in a crumpled heap on the ground.

Quickly, Wen Yiji rushed to the side of the old man and asked him, "What happened, Old Man?"

The old man was bleeding from the mouth as he spoke weakly, "Sum....Cheong. Wants"

Wen Yiji's face hardened as he spoke, "No one will kill you while I am here! I will go and change the mind of this Sum Cheong.....forcibly!"

"You....can't defeat.....him," gasped the old man. "He....has the.....Buddha Palm....... No equal....under Heaven....."

Wen Yiji froze. He had heard of the Buddha Palm. It was the most powerful iron palm kungfu ever known, and reputed to have no equal under Heaven.

Weakly, the old man took a book from inside his sleeve and slipped it into the clothes of Wen Yiji. "Run!" he gasped.

"What's that?" asked the surprised Wen Yiji.

"My Manual of Invisibility....take it....." gasped the dying old man. "!"

Next chapter: No equal under Heaven


Friday, May 18, 2007


American Idol - The final 2

So, Melissa Doolittle is voted out. Great singer. She will do well in the Vegas circuit. That leaves only Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis.

Whoever wins the title, one thing is certain. Jordin Sparks will be the one who will enjoy phenomenal success. Even if she does not win, she will still enjoy much more market popularity than Taylor Hicks or Fantasia Barrino. Her voice has a special quality to it.

A special voice quality is not something that you can hear with the ears. That special something could be outside the audible range but the body can feel it, and resonate with it unconsciously. And your toes curl for reasons you don't understand. Yup, it's the "Oooooooooh" factor.

My crystal ball was right about Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry.
Let's see if I am right about Jordin Sparks.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


Making your presence felt

You know what I think? Parliamentarians who make crude jokes about women should not be allowed to contest elections. That will surely be a wake-up call to the rest. The parliament is not a pasar malam to spew nonsense without engaging the brain. It is there to decide for the well being of the country.

As for banks who try to apply blatently discriminatory policies, they won't be getting my business. When a large organisation goes out of their way to help their lawyer dependants, you know that something is not on. Helping the poor is one thing, but helping lawyers? I mean, come on.

I know of people who are so displeased that they have cancelled their credit cards with Maybank. That ought to hurt. It probably costs a bank more than a hundred ringgit to recruit a cardholder. So, cancelling your Maybank or Ambank(the other mou liu bank) credit card will surely hurt them in their pockets. If I hold a Maybank or Ambank card, I will definitely cancel it even if there are eleven months to go before expiry.

I have another beef. You know how some banks charge you the next year's card fees one month before expiry so even if you wish to cancel the card at the twelfth month, you will still have to pay the following year's card charges? Well, no prizes for guessing which retarded bank is involved in this unfair practice. If you decide to cancel the credit card, do it fast.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


The Kungfu That Ruled The Night - Chapter 5

Chapter 5: The hunt for the Ghost Ninja

When the huge sailing junk docked at Tsingtao, Wen Yiji disembarked with his carriage. The wind was good and the sea journey had taken only about half a month. Wen Yiji had to pull his carriage to the nearest inn. The next morning he inspected a horse from a man introduced by the innkeeper. The horse was a black and white pinto,

“This horse is the best there is,” claimed the man who was trying to sell the horse. “It came from very good stock that is blessed by the gods. The father was a champion black stallion and the mother was a black-and-white pinto. You won’t find a faster horse in the whole of Tsingtao!”

They haggled over the price and Wen Yiji bought the horse. He hitched the horse to the carriage and journeyed westwards. He planned to cross the Yellow River at Chingnan in order to reach Qinghe.

The horse turned out to be slower than his former horse and Wen Yiji scolded it frequently, “Stupid horse! If you don’t move any faster than this, I will turn you into pet food!”

The horse ignored him and carried on with its slow leisurely pace.

“Call yourself a horse? You are a disgrace to your species!” he berated. "I bet your mother was a snail and your father was a tortoise."

Again, the horse ignored his insults and plodded on. The horse was partially deaf as well.

+ + + + + +

Shi Mei knelt before the grave of her father. She had buried him next to the grave of her departed mother. She was certain that they would be happy to be together.

She knew what she had to do. Her father had instructed her well. She would go to the home of her betrothed to present herself. The journey would take many days of walking and she would have to travel light. She carried with her her father's acupuncture needles and also the golden bangle that was given by her future parents-in-law. She had never been to the home of her betrothed. However, before his death, her father had given her a map that she could use to guide her where to go.

“Father, mother,” she called out. “It is time to say goodbye. I will now journey to the home of my betrothed. Once I belong to their family, I do not think that I will have the opportunity to worship you both again. You will have to take care of each other. Please accept three final bows from your daughter.”

She bowed to each grave in turn and then got up. Wiping back the tears from her eyes, she picked up her belongings and headed north.

+ + + + + +

The town of Chingnan was partially flooded. It was not a particularly serious situation. The rain had been constant and the Yellow River had burst its levee in one place resulting in waters pouring out into the town. The townsfolk had immediately gone to repair the damage to the levee and then reinforced the bank that held back the river. However, some parts of town were slightly wet and difficult to walk through.

Chui La Pah was squatting in the toilet in one of the inns of Chingnan when he heard someone calling him outside the door. “Sifu! Sifu! Our target has been spotted!”

“Wait!” Chui La Pah said in excitement, “Give me a few more moments! Nnnnnnnngggggggg........”

Finally, after a long time of coaxing his bowels, he opened the toilet door and came out. He looked at the younger man in front of him who was holding his nose and trying hard not to breathe. It was one of the underlings in the Green Scorpion Sect who had disturbed his time of shit.

“Are you sure it was the Ghost Ninja?” asked Chui La Pah iritably. They alreaady had a few false alarms. "I don't want to go on another wild goose chase again!"

“Senior brother Fire Cloud identified him,” replied the younger man.

“Where is the target?”

“Sitting in a wine shop on the other side of town. I was with senior brother Fire Cloud when we spotted an old man drinking alone in the shop. We went in to check. He looked exactly as the picture that you had drawn. And his left little finger was missing! It was him. Fire Cloud was sure of that!”

Chui La Pah nodded. Fire Cloud was his brightest disciple. He was more skillful than his two other senior disciples, Blackface and Whiteface. Together, the trio was a good fighting team and could strike terror in the hearts of all those who opposed the Green Scorpion Sect. Chui La Pah had often sent the three disciples to terrorize his enemies into submission.

“Fire Cloud told me to rush here to inform you while he went into the shop to keep an eye on the old man,” continued the underling. “On the way, I met brothers Blackface and Whiteface and told them where the old man was. They have already rushed to join senior brother Fire Cloud.”

“All right,” said Chui La Pah. “Take me to the place.”

+ + + + + +

The old man, known as the Ghost Ninja was enjoying his wine. He liked the wine in this particular shop. He was not very old; only about sixty years of age. He was aware of the young man seated at the table some distance away but he did not pay him any special attention. Fire Cloud had taken great pains not to let the Ghost Ninja suspect that he was being watched.

Blackface and Whiteface walked into the shop and spotted their senior brother Fire Cloud. They walked over hurriedly to join him.

“Where is he?” asked Blackface excitedly.

“There….I see him,” said Whiteface. “Over there!”

“Will you two sit down?” whispered Fire Cloud angrily. “Do you want him to know that we are watching him?”

They sat down and Blackface took out a drawing from his clothes. He looked at the drawing and then he looked at the old man seated three tables away. “He looks like the figure in the drawing,” he said finally.

“Keep your voice down, you fool!” scolded Fire Cloud. He was getting exasperated.

“Let me see the drawing,” said Whiteface as he took the drawing away from Blackface. “It certainly looked like him. Now we have to check to see if he has a missing little finger on his left hand.”

“No need to check,” said a voice next to them. “It is missing.”

The disciples of the Green Scorpion Sect looked up. The old man had suddenly appeared next to them and was looking at the drawing on the table. “Very well drawn,” he said with an amused tone. “It certainly looks like me!”

As they stared at him, he continued, “You people must be looking for someone. May I ask who?”

Blackface stood up and said, “We are looking for you, Ghost Ninja."

"You are mistaken," said the old man. "I am not the Ghost Ninja."

Whiteface looked at the old man menacingly and said, "What is the matter? Too scared to admit who you are? You are the Ghost Ninja all right. You will come with us. We have a use for you.”

“And if I refuse?” asked the old man.

“Then I will have to force you to come.”

"You can try but you won’t suceed," remarked the old man drily as he walked towards the door.

"Stop him!" yelled Blackface.

Fire Cloud was already at the door with his sword drawn. He said slowly, "Nobody leaves until our sifu arrives."

"And who is your sifu?" asked the Ghost Ninja.

"Master Chui La Pah, the Flute Master," replied Fire Cloud.

The old man was silent for a moment. He looked thoughtful. Finally he said, "I have no wish to meet with Master Chui La Pah. There is no friendship between us."

"Nevertheless, you will wait!" insisted Fire Cloud. "He is on his way here now!"

"I will kill anyone who tries to stop me from leaving," murmured the old man.

The three disciples of Chui La Pah were determined not to let the Ghost Ninja leave. They knew that once he was out of the shop, he would disappear. Everywhere the old man turned, he was met with a drawn sword. Mumbling angrily, the Ghost Ninja realised that he would have no alternative but to fight his way out. Quickly, he reached out and picked up one of the shop's short wooden benches.

“Fighting with furniture?” asked Fire Cloud derisively. “You can’t afford proper weapons?”

“This thing can kill you,” retorted the old man. The next moment, he was fighting against three swords that came at him from all directions.

The old man was much faster on his feet than his opponents. However, in the confined space of the shop, it was difficult to move about. He was kept busy leaping over chairs and tables and defending himself against the powerful weapon strokes of the three younger men. They chased after him, amazed that such an older man can be so nimble of feet. Despite their superiority in numbers, they could not corner the old man.

"If I do not break out of here before Chui La Pah arrives, I will have no chance to escape later," the Ghost Ninja thought furiously. "These swordsmen are good. I can take them in open ground, but not in here!"

A chance collision between Blackface and Whiteface in mid-air presented him with an opportunity. As the two men fell to the ground, there was only Fire Cloud left to deal with. The old man ran and swerved past Fire Cloud. As he was about to rush out of the door, Fire Cloud dived after him with an outstretched sword.

The old man swirled away at the last instant, avoided the sword and brought the bench down onto the head of Fire Cloud. The bench landed on the neck instead. There was a sound of bone snapping and then Fire Cloud collapsed on the floor with his head at an unnaturally odd angle. His eyes were open and glassy while the body was unmoving.

With a cursory glance at the dead Fire Cloud, the Ghost Ninja ran out of the door.

Just at that moment, Chui La Pah arrived on horseback. The Flute Master and the Ghost Ninja stared at each other.

"It has been a long while since we last met," said the Flute Master. "I hope you have been well."

"I am still alive," replied the Ghost Ninja. "You must be disappointed!"

"I come with a message. My master wishes to meet with you," said the Flute Master.

" you have a master," retorted the Ghost Ninja. "A running dog for somebody."

"Everybody is always serving somebody. Even you. In the past, I remember that you were always conducting assassinations for people who could afford you. Anybody with money would be your master."

"That was in the past when I was young and foolish. I have mended my ways and moved on to be my own master. It looks like you have not progressed at all."

"Say what you wish, but you are coming with me to meet my master."

"Try and make me!" challenged the Ghost Ninja.

As the Flute Master was deciding how to respond to the challenge, Blackface staggered to the door in shock and shouted, ""He killed brother Fire Cloud! Sifu, the Ghost Ninja killed Fire Cloud!"

"Fire Cloud is dead?" asked the Flute Master in shock. "My eldest disciple is dead?"

"Your disciples tried to kill me. I was merely defending myself," explained the Ghost Ninja.

"He killed Fire Cloud!" shouted Blackface again. "Sifu, we must avenge Fire Cloud!"

With an ugly snarl enveloping his face, the Flute Master pulled out one of his flutes from his belt. The Ghost Ninja did not hesitate anymore. Using an impressive lightness kungfu, he leapt upwards to the roof of the nearest building and then jumped to the next roof behind. He was closely followed by the Flute Master who blew a short note on his Devil Flute in mid-air. The Ghost Ninja collapsed as the Sounds of Hell hit him. He turned around as the Flute Master landed on the roof.

"This is not possible!" gasped the Ghost Ninja. "I was more than twenty steps from you!"

"Let me bring you up to date," sneered the Flute Master. "I have extended the range of the Devil Flute. It is now effective up to fifty steps. Unlike you, I have progressed much!"

"If you play your hellish flute on this roof, all the people living in the house under us will also be injured," remarked the Ghost Ninja. "They will eventually die if you don't stop blowing."

"Do you think that I care?" asked Chui La Pah unfeelingly. "I will report to the one that I serve that you have refused to meet him. Your time is up, Ghost Ninja. For killing my disciple, I will now send you to meet the King of Hades. Take in your last breath. Do you have anything to say before I take away your miserable life?"

"Yes, two words," said the Ghost Ninja. "Blow me."

As the Flute Master lifted the Devil Flute to his mouth, the Ghost Ninja made a giant leap upwards to the next roof. The devilish sounds of the flute hit the old man painfully in mid-air and he lost control of his body. However, the initial momentum of his body kept him flying through the air. He landed clumsily on the next roof and then rolled down the roof slope before falling onto the branch of a tree. He bounced off the branch onto the road below and rolled a few more steps. He was internally injured, but out of the fifty-step range of the Devil Flute. With a supreme effort, he picked himself up and ran around the corner of another house.

The Flute Master did not see where the Ghost Ninja had gone. He gave chase down the road while blowing on his flute at the same time. The occupants of each house he passed collapsed as the Flute Master ran by. But soon, it became obvious to the Flute Master that the Ghost Ninja had eluded him. He stopped playing his Devil Flute and walked back to where his disciples were.

"The old man is fast. I'll give him that," he muttered angrily. "But he will not be able to escape me forever."

Chui La Pah made his way back to the wine shop. He barked at his two disciples Blackface and Whiteface, "Get on your horses! We are going after the Ghost Ninja. He is hurt and can't be far. Tell our people to be alert. I am certain that he will be trying to cross the river. We will search all the jetties."

+ + + + + +

Wen Yiji was fed up. He had just arrived at Chingnan and found it to be a mess with the threat of floods hanging over the town. It was not the fun town that he once remembered. The main jetties in town were not in operation as the boat operators appeared to have disappeared. However, he remembered a jetty that was usable on the outskirts of town. He hoped that he would be able to find a boat there.

The horse was tired as it pulled the carriage along the road to the outskirts jetty. It slowed down to a crawl and nothing that Wen Yiji could do would made it move faster.

As it moved slowly along its path, a young girl walking briskly overtook the carriage. This annoyed Wen Yiji and he scolded his horse, “Even a young girl can walk faster than you! Have you no shame? You may as well stop calling yourself a horse. Call yourself a cow instead!”

The girl glanced at the horse and then turned to Wen Yiji and smiled.

"There is something wrong with your horse, mister" she said, slowing down to walk beside the carriage.

Wen Yiji asked, "Are you sure?"

"Of course," she replied. "I am an animal doctor and I know such things."

Wen Yiji stared at her. She was young. She was probably around the same age as his sister. He stared at her in admiration. She had good looks with nice lovely eyes.

The girl smiled again and said, "It is true. I really am an animal doctor."

"You are indeed very young to be an animal doctor," he said. "I don't know what is wrong with this horse but it seems to be very lazy."

"It is suffering from Aids," she said.

"Aids? My horse is suffering from Aids? Oh shit!" he cried. "When is it expected to die?"

"Oh, don't worry," she assured him. "Aids is totally curable."

"It is? I must admit my ignorance, but what is Aids?"

"Ass is damn slow," replied the girl. "That's what it is."

"Oh," he said in relief. "I was worried that it could be one of those modern incurable diseases that affect the immunity system."

"Don't worry. Would you like me to treat your horse? It will take me just a short moment."

Wen Yiji was sceptical. The lass did not look at all like an animal doctor. But he liked her looks and so he did not mind talking to her.

He reined in the horse to a stop before asking, "Are you sure that you know anything about horses?"

The girl looked at him steadily and said, "Your horse is five years old, has a constipation problem, and is partially deaf. It's father was a white stallion and its mother was a black and white pinto mare."

"Aha! That is not correct! Actually, this horse was fathered by a champion black stallion!"

"No, I am right! The black stallion was not the father. An unknown white stallion was the real father. It probably slipped into the stables one night to impregnate the mare without the owner knowing. I’m sorry to say this but this horse is a bastard."

"You can tell all that from just looking at my horse?" asked Wen Yiji incredulously.

"Sure, why not?" she answered simply. "I don't like to see an animal suffer needlessly when it could be cured. My offer still stands. Would you like me to treat your horse?"

"Oh, okay. Go ahead!"

The girl, Zheng Shi Mei, reached into her satchel and brought out three acupuncture needles. Before Yiji could say anything, she poked a needle into the rump of the horse. The animal did not bat an eyelid. She poked the second needle above the asshole. The horse remained still.

Then she poked the third needle into the left rump. The horse neighed loudly and suddenly bolted off, pulling the carriage strongly along. Wen Yiji was so surprised that he did not think of reining in the horse. Instead, he allowed the horse to gallop forward at full speed.

Soon, the carriage reached the jetty at the outskirts of town and stopped on its own accord. There was only one boat tethered to the jetty. It was a large boat.

"Good day, mister," greeted the boatman. "Are you seeking to charter a boat to cross the river?"

"Yes," replied Yiji. "I will need to get my horse and carriage across. A big boat is what I need."

"My boat is big enough, sir" said the boatman. "I have transported many carriages across the river in the past without problems. However, you will need to see that your horse does not panic and jump into the river during the crossing."

"Don't worry about my horse," said Yiji. "It does not know how the "panic" word is written."

“Neither do I,” said the boatman. "I never went to school either."

"This boat you have is very big. Surely you are not handling it alone?"

"Don't you worry. The boat may be large, but I can handle it easily. I have thirty years of experience in this."

Wen Yiji and the boatman haggled the price and finally came to a satisfactory agreement.

Just as they had concluded their agreement, Zheng Shi Mei came running up and reached the jetty out of breath.

"I thought.....your horse had run away....with my needles!" she puffed. Then she made her way to the horse and retrieved her acupunture needles.

Wen Yiji stared at the girl in unmasked admiration. He thought that she was still good looking even when she was exhausted and out of breath.

"Where are you going?" he asked her.

"North," Shi Mei replied. "I'm going north across the river to visit the family of my future in-laws."

"Oh," he said. "You have been betrothed?"

"Yes," she replied shyly.

Wen Yiji sighed silently. She had just proven the adage that “the best ones are taken”. True, she was a bit young for him, but nevertheless, he could not help feeling a tinge of regret at the news.

"I have just chartered a boat to go across the river. May I offer you a ride?" he asked.

"Thank you," she replied. "But I am sure that I can find my way across."

"Please do not stand on ceremony," he said. "This is the only boat operating. You may not be able to find another boat."

"In that case, I accept your offer, kind sir," she said. “You are going north too?”

“Eventually,” replied Wen Yiji. “But first I intend to go to the town of Qinghe in the northwest. I have some business to attend to there.”

“You must be a rice merchant,” guessed the young lass, looking at the sacks in the carriage.

“No, not rice,” laughed Wen Yiji. “I trade in potatoes. Those are Liufa potatoes I have in there. Ten sacks of them. I intend to sell them at two taels a sack.”

"Two taels a sack?" asked the girl in astonishment. "That is a high price to pay for potatoes."

"Ahhh....." Wen Yiji explained. "Liufa potatoes are not ordinary potatoes. They can benefit the human body in six ways. They detoxify the kidney, prevent dryness of the blood, relieve wind in the nose, clear the stomach fire, unblock the channels to the organs and release the muscles of the head.”

The boatman had tied his boat securely to the jetty. He looked at the carriage and said, “You will need several men to help you load the carriage to the deck of my boat.”

“The carriage is really very light,” remarked Wen Yiji. “If you will place your gangplank into position, I will roll the carriage down from the jetty to the boat.”

“On your own?” asked the boatman incredulously.

“Yes, on my own,” answered Wen Yiji confidently.

“It can’t be done, and I am talking from thirty years of experience,” said the boatman.

“Just lay down the gangplank in position, will you?” instructed Wen Yiji.

The boatman was still disbelieving, but nevertheless, he positioned the gangplank. Then he and the girl watched in amazement as Wen Yiji pulled the carriage onto the boat effortlessly and half lifted it to position it on deck. Once the carriage was in position, Wen Yiji shielded the horse’s eyes and led it on deck. He made the horse lie down and then he tied it up behind the carriage.

“Okay, we are set!” he announced.

“I am good with horses. I will help you calm the horse during the river crossing,” offered the young girl. Wen Yiji thanked her and she sat down beside the horse.

The boatman checked the level of the river water against the side of the boat and remarked, “That carriage and horse must be heavy. The boat is floating close to the danger mark. Any more weight and we won’t be able to cross this river safely.”

He pushed the boat off the jetty and then he settled down at the back of the boat to work the yuloh. Rowing with a rhythmic manner, he guided the boat away from the bank.

They had traveled some distance from the river bank when suddenly an old man ran up the jetty. Without pausing, the old man leapt high into the air. He floated down gently to the water and then treaded lightly on the water surface. That lifted him up into the air again and he landed onto the deck of the boat.

“That is amazing lightness kungfu,” thought Wen Yiji in awe. “This stranger must be a top kungfu master!”

“Hey,” shouted the boatman to the old man. “What are you doing?”

“I need to get across this river,” the old man explained. “I will make it worth your while to fetch me across.”

“This boat is already full. If you stay aboard, the boat may capsize in midstream where the current is stronger,” cried the boatman in shock. “You will have to take another boat!”

“There is no other boat,” said the old man simply.

“Then wait for the next trip,” suggested Wen Yiji.

“In this weather, the next trip could be tomorrow,” said the old man. “I am in a hurry.”

“Look. This boat is over laden. Basing on my thirty years of boat experience, there is no way we can make it across safely. If my boat capsizes, I will lose all that I have,” said the boatman. He pointed to Wen Yiji and continued, “Not only that, this gentleman here will also lose his horse and carriage!”

“That is right,” said Wen Yiji. “Since you are obviously an expert in lightness kungfu, why don’t you keep jumping toink toink toink on the river surface until you reach the other side?”

“I am unable to do that,” remarked the old man. “Lightness kungfu only works for a short limited period before I run out of lightness qi. The river is much too wide.”

“Well, I am not rowing this boat out to mid river and risk everything,” declared the boatman.

“I am willing to pay,” the old man said.

“I have chartered the entire boat,” remarked Wen Yiji. “You, sir, are trespassing.”

“I am not getting off this boat,” the old man remarked stubbornly.

“In that case, we will be here all day,” said the boatman in exasperation. The three men in the boat stared at each other.

“Let me offer a solution to this impasse, gentlemen,” the voice of the Shi Mei interrupted their thoughts.

“You have an idea?” asked Wen Yiji. He was already contemplating sending the old man overboard with a Dark Fire palm blast.

“Yes,” said the girl. “I think this old man weighs about as much as three sacks of potatoes. You are carrying ten sacks of potatoes on board. If he would be willing to buy three sacks of your potatoes, we can leave the three sacks at the river bank, and then the boat will be lightened enough take him across the river with us.”

“That is an acceptable idea to me,” said the old man.

“These are Liufa potatoes, not ordinary potatoes,” said Wen Yiji. “They detoxify the kidney, prevent dryness of the blood, relieve wind in the nose, clear the stomach fire, unblock the channels to the organs and release the muscles of the head. I can get six taels of silver for three sacks of potatoes. He may not be able to afford them.”

Without a word, the old man handed six taels of silver to Wen Yiji and asked, “Now where are my potatoes?”

Wen Yiji was surprised at the old man’s actions. He did a quick mental calculation. He had paid two taels for the ten sacks and now he was getting six taels. He had already turned a profit.

Smiling to himself, he thought, "I never knew that being a merchant was so easy. Just open the mouth a bit and then money comes rolling in. This must be what I was born to do. Better than fighting here and fighting there!"

"Well?" asked the old man again. "Where are my potatoes?"

Wen Yiji replied loftily, “Take any three sacks from the carriage. We will set them ashore for people to help themselves to them, since you obviously will not be able to take them along.”

The old man dragged out three sacks of potatoes from the carriage and asked, “They belong to me now, right?”

“Of course,” replied Wen Yiji.

“Wait a few moments while I row the boat towards the shore,” said the boatman.

“No need to waste time,” said the old man gruffly. Without warning, he threw all the three sacks of potatoes overboard.

Plop! Plop! Plop!

“What are you doing?” cried the young lass in horror. “There are people starving in the country!”

“So? They belong to me and I choose to feed the fishes with them,” the old man said gruffly. “Hey, are we moving or not?”

There was an uncomfortable silence and then the boatman sighed, "What's done is done!" He headed the boat out towards the other side of the Yellow River.

Wen Yiji was flabbergasted by the old man's act of wastage. It was not the right thing to do. However, the old man had paid for the three sacks and so it was within his right to throw them into the river.

They had not gone far when three horsemen rode up onto the jetty. The horsemen stared at the boat for a moment. Then, one of them pointed at the boat, gesticulated animatedly and exclaimed, "I see him, sifu! The Ghost Ninja is on that boat!"

"He is out of the range of my Devil Flute," said Chui La Pah. "But still within the range of arrows. Get ready your bows!"

The Ghost Ninja watched as both Blackface and Whiteface got off their horses and prepared their bows. A thought struck him, "If they start shooting indiscriminately, they may kill the other people on board. But if they can't see me, perhaps they will not be tempted to shoot." Without wasting a moment, he climbed into Wen Yiji's carriage and stayed out of sight.

“Hey! Boatman!” one of the horsemen shouted from the jetty. “Row over here! We want to talk to you!”

Wen Yiji could see that one of the horsemen had two flutes tucked in his waist band. He thought, "Two flutes. He must be a serious musician.”

The boatman ignored the horseman and continued his rowing, with his back towards the jetty. His boat could not take any more passengers and he had no wish to waste his time.

"What shall we do, sifu?" asked Blackface. "The Ghost Ninja has hidden himself and we are unable to aim at him."

"He thinks he has eluded us. Shoot the boatman!" Chui La Pah instructed. "In this swift river conditions, without a good boatman, maybe the boat will flounder and perhaps capsize. We will kill the ghost Ninja when he tries to swim ashore."

Blackface and Whiteface drew back their bows strongly. The next moment, two arrows hurtled through the air headed for the boatman. It was a long shot but the arrows were on track to their target. The boatman kept working the yuloh, completely unaware of the arrows heading for his back.

“Shit of a dog!” cursed Wen Yiji as he watched the arrows approaching fast.

The arrows had almost reached the boatman when Wen Yiji summoned his Dark Fire Internal energy, stepped up and deflected them away with a palm blast.


The arrows fell harmlessly into the water.

Splish! Splish!

Shi Mei, sitting by the horse, looked nonplussed. She sensed that they were in danger. The boatman turned his head, looked behind him and asked, “What was that?”

“Oh, nothing,” replied Wen Yiji nonchalently. “Nothing important.”

“Are you sure?” asked the boatman.

“Of course!” replied Wen Yiji. “If it was anything important, I would have told you. And do you mind rowing a lot faster? This boat is slower than a pregnant woman. Add oil!”

“The boat can’t go faster than this. And I am saying that from my extensive thirty years of experience!” retorted the boatman huffily.

Wen Yiji looked at the two bowmen on the jetty. They had reloaded their bows and were ready for the second volley. The man with the flutes, who was still astride his horse, turned to speak to the bowmen. "There is some interfering monkey on board who can somehow deflect the arrows away!"

"What do we do next, sifu?" asked Whiteface.

"You aim for the boatman while Blackface aim for the horse. He will not be able to stop two arrows at once. If we can get the horse to panic, it may stampede on board and maybe capsize the boat."

On board the boat, Wen Yiji saw that one of the bowmen had shifted his bow slightly.

“Two different targets,” thought Wen Yiji. “Wa piang. They are going for two different targets now to divide my attention! They are not totally idiots!”

The second volley of arrows sped through the air. Judging from the trajectory, Wen Yiji guessed at once what the targets were. “The boatman and the horse!” he cursed. He got ready. At the right moment, his left hand palm blasted the arrow that was headed towards the boatman and it fell into the water.


At the same time, his right hand moved in a flash and caught the other arrow.


Triumphantly, he held up the arrow and looked at the tip. It was coated with a greenish substance. He did not know what the substance was or why the archer was trying to kill the horse.

“Hey, I think those men at the jetty are shooting arrows at us!” said the girl, fully alert by now.

“What?” yelled the boatman. He looked at Wen Yiji holding the arrow and said in bewilderment, “I thought you said that it was nothing important!”

“Well,” said Wen Yiji. “It wasn’t important at first. They were only shooting at you, not me. But now that they are also shooting at my horse, the matter has become somewhat important. You will have to row a lot faster. I do not wish my horse to be killed.”

The boatman did not understand what in hell was happening. But he rowed like a thousand sharks were after him.

“That is more like it,” said Wen Yiji, pleased at the faster speed of the boat. “I bet that from your extensive thirty years of experience, you didn’t know that you can row this fast!”

“Watch out!” cried the girl. “More incoming arrows!”

The boatman rowed in panic while muttering curses at all and sundry.

“Relax,” said Wen Yiji nonchalantly. “We are already out of range.”

He was right. The arrows fell just short of the boat and landed into the water.

Splish! Splish!

After that, the two bowmen did not bother to reload their bows. They knew that they had been thwarted from their purpose.

“What do we do now, sifu?” asked Blackface.

“Whiteface, you will go to send a message by pigeon to the Green Scorpion Sect members across the river. Tell them to keep a sharp lookout for the Ghost Ninja. He was sitting inside a carriage on the boat, so tell our men that he could be travelling in a carriage. They are not to attempt to tackle the Ghost Ninja on their own, but wait for me. Blackface, you will come with me. We will look for another boat to cross the river.“

On the boat, Wen Yiji asked the boatman, “Do you have any idea why those men may want to kill you?”

The boatman stared into the distance at the men on the jetty. “No,” he replied. “It’s hard to be sure from this distance, but I don’t think that I even know them.”

Wen Yiji nodded and thought to himself. In the first volley, the bowmen had tried to kill the boatman. When that was not possible, one of them aimed for the horse, perhaps hoping to stampede the horse into capsizing the boat. It they had wanted to kill the boatman, they could have easily lain in wait for the boatman any other day to kill him on land. No, the boatman wasn’t the ultimate target. The girl and Wen Yiji wasn’t the target either or the bowmen would have aimed for them instead of the boatman in the first volley. That leaves the old man.

“So, that’s it!” thought Wen Yiji silently. “They wanted to prevent the old man from reaching the other side of the river! And they hoped to achieve that by killing off the boatman and leaving the boat floundering! No wonder the old man was in such a hurry to get across! He was trying to elude these men!”

The voice of the girl called out, “Sir, please be careful with that arrow you are holding. It could be tipped with poison! If you poked yourself with it accidentally, it would be really inconvenient.”

“You mean you would then have to suck the poison out of me?” he asked.

“No,” she replied. “I mean that I would then have to poke you in twenty places with my acupuncture needles to prevent the poison from spreading. But I don’t have that many needles with me.”

He laughed. He liked her.

“The correct method is to suck out the poison with your mouth,” laughed Wen Yiji.

“It is amazing that you can still laugh in such a situation,” noted the girl. “I have absolutely no experience in sucking.”

Wen Yiji looked at her lips. They were nice lips.

“Every girl should learn how to suck,” he muttered inaudibly. “You never know when it might come in useful.”

Shi Mei heard him. She thought that it was an odd thing to say. Carefully, she took the arrow from him to examine it. She looked at the arrow barb and sniffed it. “I was right,” she said. “I recognize this green stuff coating the barb. It is a kind of poison that causes a slow and painful death.”

"Let's get rid of it then," he said. He took the arrow from her and tossed it into the river.

“Do you think those men are bandits?” asked the nervous boatmen.

“No,” replied Wen Yiji. “If their purpose was robbery, they would have waited for prospective victims on land. I think their purpose was to prevent the boat from reaching the other shore.”

“But why?” asked the girl.

“I do not know,” admitted Wen Yiji. “But we have best be careful from now on. I hope that there are no more surprises waiting for us at the other shore.”

“Is the old man okay?” asked the boatman.

“I think so,” said the girl. “He was sitting inside the carriage.”

Wen Yiji walked to the front of the carriage and saw the old man inside.

“Admiring my potatoes?” he asked. "You want to buy another three more sacks?"

“No, but you don’t mind me resting inside your carriage, do you?” the old man said.

“Of course not,” replied Wen Yiji. “I see that you are making yourself comfortable here while I had to deal with a dicey situation.”

“Well, you certainly saved the situation today,” remarked the old man. “From the way you caught that arrow, I would say that you are no ordinary potato seller.”

“From the presence of those riders shooting at us, I would say that you are no ordinary traveler.”

“Are you suggesting that I have anything to do with this?”

“Let’s drop the pretence,” Wen Yiji remarked calmly. “You and I are both men from the martial underworld. I think we both know who those riders were really after. I do not wish to know why you had to get across the river in such a hurry. But I hope there are no more surprises waiting for me on the other side.”

“You don’t like surprises, I guess,” said the old man.

“I am a merchant and I don’t like trouble,” said Wen Yiji. “It’s bad for business.”
He looked at the old man meaningfully and then walked to the back of the boat.

“You had best not go back to that jetty today for the next few days.” he told the boatman. “Those men are ruthless. I know the type. There is always a chance that they may kill you without a good reason.”

“In my thirty years of experience, nobody has ever shot an arrow at me,” remarked the boatman. “It could be a case of mistaken identity. Maybe I look like somebody who owed them money.”

“I do not think that that was the reason," commented Shi Mei. "Had they killed you, they would not be able to recover whatever money they thought you owe them.”

“Based on my thirty years of experience, I think they merely want to frighten me into paying up what I don’t owe them,” said the boatman. “If I see them again, I will try to reason with them.”

“I wish you luck,” replied Wen Yiji. “But I will not place my faith in experience if I were you. Experience is what you get when you do not get what you want. And thirty years of experience is just one year of experience repeated twenty-nine times. I have already saved you twice. There may not be a third time."

He stared out at the waters of the Yellow River. A bone in his body told him that there could be more to come. He sighed wearily. Even as a merchant, he had to deal dangerous situations. He wished his life was boring and peaceful for a change. He looked up at the sky. A storm was approaching.


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