Friday, August 31, 2007
For one day, I am going to forget how communal we have become.
There is always hope.
For one day, I am going to forget how communal we have become.
There is always hope.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Kungfu That Ruled The Night - Chapter 20
Chapter 20: The Land of the Giant
A pair of eyes peeped from the bushes and spied on the girl lying on the ground. They looked on for a long time, taking in the sight. Finally, the bushes parted and a big figure furtively threaded towards the girl. He was tall for his age and his eyes were set apart further than what was considered normal.
Using his dirty toes, he nudged the unconscious Shi Mei. When there was no response, he got down and shook her roughly. Again, there was no response. He could see that she was still breathing. He went away to return a short moment later with his horse. Then he lifted the girl up and tied her to the back of the animal. Satisfied, he got on the back of the horse behind the girl and rode the horse away.
Shi Mei slept throughout the journey and it was a long journey. She dreamt that she had been kidnapped by giants and it was not a pleasant dream.
+ + + + + +
By the time Wen Yiji regained conscciousness, it was already mid-afternoon. He opened his eyes and realised where he was. The tree roots had held his weight throughtouthe time he was unconscious. He laughed at having cheated death. Then he remembered Shi Mei. For the first time in years, he wept, "No, Shi Mei, oh no!"
He cried openly, not caring if the Devil fish saw him or not. The sages once said that a man should shed blood and not tears, but he was beyond caring what the dumb sages had said. It was he who had lost somebody, not them.
"No, Shi Mei, oh no!" he cried again and again.
The sight of the Devil fish swimming lazily in the pool below him filled his heart with rage. He looked up. He could not stay in that position forever. He coughed out blood painfully and was aware that his internal injuries needed attention. Staying still, he allowed his Dark Fire inner energy to flow through his body and start the physical healing process. It was a long while before he felt confident enough to start climbing up the side of the cliff. Using tree roots and bushes for support, he labouriously clambered his way up the cliff.
Chui La Pah and his cohorts were long gone. Luckily, his horse and carriage was still there. He stumbled to his carriage and discovered to hi immense relief that the sacks of bones of his family were still intact. He searched the carriage and found what he was looking for; spare acupuncture needles. Taking one, he poked himself in the collar bone area and turned fully visible. With that, the surroundings looked brighter as his eyes let in more light. Sadly, he walked back to the edge of the cliff.
"Shi Mei! Zheng Shi Mei!" he called. He walked along the cliff edge and shouted her name again and again. But there was no answer. The only sound that he could hear was the sound of the waterfall. The only sight that greeted him was that of the Devil fish swimming idly in the water, daring him to enter the water and look.
Finally, he slumped his shoulders and accepted the fact that she was gone. With a heavy heart, he knelt down on the ground and faced the pool.
"Shi Mei," he murmured. "I am truly sorry for bringing you here. You had a valid betrothal agreement with the Wen family. As head of the family, I should have welcomed you to our family and protected you as one of us. My failure was unforgivable. If your father were still alive, he would be sadly disappointed in me. If Heaven sees it fit to turn back the time, I shall not make the same mistake again!"
For a long time, he knelt there unmoving, his face taut in a mixture of sorrow and rage. The wind blew over his body to remind him that the day was getting late. He got up and face south towards Shibai.
There was a bitter hard edge to his voice as he said, "Chui La Pah, I have no enmity with you, yet twice you almost caused my death! I tried minding my own business, but you and your cohorts had Shi Mei thrown to the Devil fish. Now, I will make your business my business! You wish to kill the Emperor? I will foil you! You think you have no equal under Heaven? Your ego is matched only by your ignorance! You think you are supreme? No one should think himself supreme while I am around! I will be the ant that destroys the tiger on the hill! Yes, I will kill you!"
Having made up his mind to kill the Flute Master, he asked himself, "What was it that the balless old guy Kong said? Ah yes.....warn the stupid Emperor.....Full Moon stupid party.....stupid knife spear no........aiyeeeeeiiiii........wait, that last bit was probably a scream before dying!"
He thought back and remembered that Prince Jin and Royal Concubine Lin had a plot to arrange for the Flute Master to play his flute in front of the Emperor during the music recitals in the Summer Palace in Shibai.
"Eunuch Kong said something about a Full Moon party," he thought aloud. "That meant that the music recitals in the Summer Palace in Shibai will take place under the full moon. Today is the thirteenth day of the month. The full moon will be on the fifteenth day. If I hurry, I should reach Shibai in two days' time, just in time to intercept the Flute Master."
A thought occurred to him. Shi Mei had told him that the way to counter sound sha was to wear both ear plugs and nose plugs. He would have to carve out the plugs from wood and wrap them in cloth.
He searched the carriage until he found the extra packets of medicinal herbs that Shi Mei had prepared previously while treating his injuries. He hoped that he would be able to recover from his injuries within two days. He would have to resort to both his internal energy and the medicinal herbs and then hope for the best. The rest would be up to Heaven.
Clicking his tongue, he urged the horse forward and the carriage rolled towards ShiBai.
+ + + + + +
In Shibai, the Seventh Prince was in the Bamboo Villa, a huge secluded house on the outskirts of town.
"Master Sun Cheong," said the prince. "I trust that you have fully recovered from your injuries.”
“I am fully recovered,” replied Sun Cheong. “Thank you.”
“The Flute Master will be making an attempt for my life within the next few days,” said the Seventh Prince. “I need to know how we are to defeat him. You told me once that his Devil Flute has a range of fifty steps.”
“Yes. And an archer's range is more than a hundred steps. I have gathered a team of twenty archers to deal with the Flute Master,” replied Sun Cheong. “They will act as the backup team. I intend to fight and kill the Flute Master before then.”
“Fight him again?” asked the prince. “But you lost to him before!”
“That was because I fought on his terms. In a battle between the mongoose and the cobra, the fighting conditions will determine the winner.”
“But the mongoose always win!”
“No, my prince. The mongoose only wins on open ground. If you put the mongoose and the cobra inside a cage and let them fight, it will be the cobra that wins.”
“The mongoose is fast, but it needs ground to maneuver. Inside a small cage, it will have no place to jump around. The snake will get it first.”
“How does this concern you and the Flute Master?”
“My Buddha Palm blast is effective at twelve steps. If I stand in any spot, I can blast anyone who is twelve steps to the left or twelve steps to the right, making a total coverage of twenty four steps. In this Bamboo Villa, we have a room that I like to call the Strongroom. Its width is only sixteen steps wide. I will have to fight the Flute Master there.”
“Let’s see the room,” suggested the prince.
They walked to the Strongroom, which was solidly built. The room had no windows and had only a door at one end.
“The ceiling is very low and that is why I like it.” explained Sun Cheong. “Anyone with good lightness kungfu would not have any advantage here. He will still have to move around me and not over me, thus limiting his ability to escape from my Buddha Palm. The last time that I fought with the Master Chui La Pah, he won because he maintained his distance from me at twenty five steps; effective for his Devil Flute but too big a distance for my Buddha Palm. It would not be possible to maintain the same distance in this room.”
“What if he blows his flute in here? Will you still be able to fight?”
“The Sounds of Hell from the Devil Flute will have an effect on me, I don’t deny it,” replied Sun Cheong. “However, I can bear the pain for a while. It will take at least twenty breaths of exposure to the Devil Flute to render me ineffective. I can reach any part of this room within two breaths. I will kill the Flute Master long before he can kill me!”
“Good! Very good! But you will have to lure the Flute Master to fight you in this room.”
“When he learns that I am alive, he will come to see for himself. I will lure him in this room. Then I will kill him. However, should I fail; the team of archers will be waiting outside this room to finish him off.”
The Seventh Prince beamed and said, “Now, that sounds like a very good plan!”
+ + + + + +
When evening came, Shi Mei regained consciousness. She discovered that her feet were bound with ropes and her hands were tied behind her back. She was lying on the cold hard ground in what appeared to be a small windowless shack. It could be a wood shack except that there was no firewood around. Whoever brought her here did not have honourable intentions, she concluded. She pulled at the ropes that tied her hands. They were secured tightly at her wrists.
Footsteps approached the shack and the door was suddenly thrown open. Shi Mei closed her eyes and pretended to be still unconscious. Three people entered the tiny shack.
“I found her unconscious by the river and brought her home, father,” said the youngest of them. “I think she is still unconscious.”
“Ah Niu, my son,” said his father. “You have done well. This one will feed us for many days! She is young so her flesh will be soft!”
“No, father!” said Ah Niu. “I don’t want her eaten! I want her for my wife!”
“Ah Niu is right!” said an old woman. “It is time that he gets a wife! This one will do just fine!”
“No, no, no!” said the father. “We will eat this one. The next girl we find can be your wife!”
“That was what you said last time!” protested the son.
“And the time before that!” added the mother. “When are you going to let your son have a wife?”
“Hush!” said the father angrily. “I did not hear any of you complaining when we were eating the last girl!”
“I want to marry this girl!” insisted Ah Niu.
“You will follow my wishes!” thundered the father in anger. “We will slaughter her in the morning! Disobeying your father…..where are your morals?”
“We are cannibals,” replied his wife. “We don’t have morals.”
“Will you shut up!” shouted the father angrily as he slapped his wife. “You will do as I say! Now leave!”
The three of them left the shack. Shi Mei opened her eyes to tiny slits and risked a peek at them. She was surprised to see their size. They were a head taller than most people. The door was bolted from outside and the footsteps faded away as the three of them walked to their hut where they slept.
“Oh shit!” murmured Shi Mei. “What kind of place is this…… people so big! Want to eat me as well! Oh shit! I have to escape!”
She took stock of her surroundings in the fading light. There were no knives that she could use to cut her bonds. She shifted her body. Then, straining her hands, she contorted her body and pushed her bounded hands under her buttocks, under her legs until her hands were in front of her.
“Thank goodness I can do this!” she said. “Brother Wen once said that the best women are those that can contort. He probably meant that the ability to contort was to be used in this type of situation!”
With her hands in front of her, she set about untying her feet. The bonds on her feet were loosened and she freed her legs. The hands were another matter. In the looming darkness, she searched the shack for something that she might use. The only thing that held out some promise was a short bamboo strip that she found on the floor. Darkness was already upon her and she could not see what she was doing. In the dark, she gripped the short piece of bamboo but could not maneuver it to cut the bonds at her wrists.
Feeling her way around, she located a crack in the wall and so she wedged the bamboo strip there. Then she sawed the ropes at her wrist against the bamboo. It took a long time, sawing away in the dark, but the bamboo edge finally cut away the rope that tied her hands. She was free, but she still had to get out of the shack. It was securely secured form outside and she could find no way out. Finally, she curled up behind the door and fell asleep.
The sound of someone at the door woke her up. Quickly, she backed away from the door and knelt down with her hands behind her back. That way, whoever entered the door would not immediately know that her hands and feet were free.
The door opened wide and Ah Niu’s father entered. He held a huge chopper in his hand. It was clear that he had come to take her to her slaughter.
As he approached her, she shouted, “Watch out behind you!”
He turned to look behind him automatically. She chose the moment to get up on her feet and ran around him. He made a desperate attempt to grab her, but she was already out of the door. Outside the shack, she banged straight into a surprised Ah Niu and promptly fell down on the ground.
“Catch her before she escapes!” screamed the father.
Quickly, Shi Mei got back up on her feet as Ah Niu tried to catch her. She moved out of range just in time. Ah Niu’s mother had appeared out of nowhere and was behind her.
“Way of the Water Spider, don’t fail me now!” breathed Shi Mei as she adroitly avoided the hands that reached out to grab her. Using quick darting movements, she avoided being surrounded by them. Then she ran.
Ah Niu ran after her, his long legs covering ground faster than she could run. However, using the Way of the Water Spider’s rapid sudden changes in direction, she frustrated him time and again.
The sound of horses alerted her to the fact that Ah Niu’s father and mother had picked up the chase on horseback.
“Herd her away from the swamp!” yelled the father.
Shi Mei kept running. She sensed that Ah Niu wanted her to go to the left because he ran towards her right. She veered to the right and headed in the direction that they did not want her to go.
“She’s going in the wrong direction!” screamed the mother on horseback.
Shi Mei ran until she came to a swamp. A dirty looking lake lay before her. The soft mushy earth warned her that the ground could be treacherous. However, her Water Spider technique allowed her to skim over the mushy surface towards the lake. Ah Niu followed closely behind and soon found himself ankle deep in mud.
“Ah Niu, come back!” shouted the old woman on horseback.
Shi Mei was tantalizingly close, so Ah Niu ignored the old woman’s warning and continued on after Shi Mei. He slipped and got bogged down knee deep in mushy ground.
“Watch out for the Old One!” screamed Ah Niu’s father. “You are too near the water! If you are in more than your ankles in mud, then you are not safe!”
“It is all right!” yelled Ah Niu. “I don’t see the Old One!”
Shi Mei spied a small island on the lake and she headed out for it. Skimming the water surface, she reached the little island and promptly fell face down on it. Ah Niu stared at her stupidly, wondering in his tiny mind how anyone could walk on the surface of the water.
Shi Mei picked herself up. She had red mud all over her chest, her hands and her face. The island was only the size of a banquet table, but she was safe from the cannibal family for now. She walked to the water’s edge and washed away the red mud from her hands and face.
A big ripple in the water made her look towards her left.
“Something huge is in the water!” she thought.
Ah Niu’s cannibal parents had got down from their horses and were shouting to Ah Niu, “Get away! Quickly! The Old One is nearby!”
Suddenly, to Shi Mei’ horror, a huge head poked up from the water surface between her and Ah Niu. With a swift movement, the head reared up from the water and Shi Mei could not believe what she was seeing.
“A giant serpent!” she gasped. “Impossible! No snake can be that huge!”
The huge serpent towered up high above her, its gargantuan body glistening in the morning sunlight with water dripping from it. It could easily swallow a water buffalo whole. Huge and majestic, its head was like the size of a cart. Shi Mei could only stare in horror.
In panic, Ah Niu scrambled to find firm footing. Both legs were stuck in the mud to his knees. In desperation, he called out to his parents to throw him a rope.
The huge serpent looked at Shi Mei on the island and then at Ah Niu on the shore. Ah Niu looked like it was trying to escape and Shi Mei looked like she was not going to move. The giant snake made a quick decision. It would go after Ah Niu first and eat Shi Mei later. It lunged towards the shore. The body was heavy and Shi Mei theorized that it would not be able to move on dry land.
Ah Niu struggled to get further away from the lake. He managed to lift his legs and was attempting to crawl to safer ground. The monster snake had half of its body in the water. The other half on the swampy ground was moving rapidly towards the hapless Ah Niu.
“Hurry!” screamed the old woman to her son. “The Old One is behind you!”
She picked up a rock from the ground and threw it at the snake. The rock bounced off the head of the serpent and felt into the water. The huge serpent ignored it and glided unconcernedly on the marshy land to reach Ah Niu. It opened its mouth and grabbed Ah Niu by the leg. Then it dragged his body easily towards the water. Ah Niu screamed in terror.
Shi Mei was galvanized into action by the scream. While the Old One was preoccupied, she skimmed across the water towards the shore. Mentally, she tried to shut out the terrifying screams from her mind. The two older cannibals were standing ankle deep in mud and were busy throwing stones at the Old One in a fruitless effort to get it to drop their son. The giant snake held Ah Niu up in the air and stared at the two older cannibals. Then it started swallowing. The poor man’s body disappeared into its cavernous mouth. The screaming stopped.
Shi Mei saw a horse and she headed towards it. The horse was the one ridden by Ah Niu’s father. If she were to get away, she would need a horse. In a flash, she mounted it and rode away.
“The girl is getting away!” shouted Ah Niu’s father.
“Forget her! Save Ah Niu!” screamed the mother.
“Ah Niu is dead!” he screamed back at her. “Let’s go chase our food instead!”
She stopped screaming and stared at the girl fleeing away on horseback. “He has taken your horse!” she cried. “You stupid idiot! Leaving your horse unattended!”
The man ignored his wife and jumped on her horse. He raced the horse in the direction of Shi Mei, hoping to catch up with her.
Shi Mei knew that she was being followed by a lone rider. She had looked behind her and seen that it was Ah Niu’s father. She was not a very good rider and fervently prayed that her horse could outrun him. She was much lighter than her gigantic pursuer, so her horse had the advantage of carrying the lighter weight. However, he was the more skillful rider and he was not willing to give up the chase. On they galloped, one after another at high speed. The horse that he was riding was the first to tire out and he was forced to slow down. Shi Mei drew further and further away from her pursuer. By mid afternoon, she headed into the timberline of a forest and disappeared from sight. The old cannibal tried to follow her tracks into the forest. It was not an easy task, he found. The forest was huge, and soon, he could not detect her tracks at all. Finally, he gave up the pursuit.
+ + + + + +
Royal Concubine Lin had a visitor. A guard showed a young woman to her presence. The young woman knelt down before the concubine politely.
“My name is Phoenix,” said the young woman. “I come with a message from Master Chui La Pah. He said that I am to hand this to you and that you would know what to do.”
Phoenix handed over a scroll of paper to Royal Concubine Lin who opened it.
“The list of musicians from eunuch Kong!” murmured the concubine. “What happened to the eunuch?”
“He met with an unfortunate accident,” replied Phoenix.
Royal Concubine Lin smiled.
“Go back to Master Chui and ask him to wait at the western gate before sundown,” she ordered Phoenix. “Someone will lead him into the palace when the time is near.”
Phoenix nodded and then left the premises.
Royal Concubine Lin took a brush and added in the name of Chui La Pah in the list of musicians. Then she went looking for Eunuch Lam.
“Eunuch Lam,” she greeted, on finding him. “How have you been?”
“I have been well, Royal Concubine Lin,” he replied. “Thank you for your concern.”
“I understand that you are the assistant to Eunuch Kong regarding matters of musical entertainment,” she said.
“That is correct, Royal Concubine Lin.”
“I discovered this scroll on the floor in the corridor the other day. It contained a list of musicians. I think Eunuch Kong must have dropped it. I have not seen Eunuch Kong for a few days. Can I hand it to you instead?”
The eunuch took the list and opened it.
“It is the list of musicians slated to perform for the Emperor’s Full Moon party!” exclaimed Eunuch Lam. “There is a name there that I do not recognize. Chui La Pah…..who is he?”
“I heard Eunuch Kong say that he is a local flute player that makes wonderful music. If Eunuch Kong is not around, then it will be your job to ensure that the musical programme goes off without a hitch!”
“Oh dear!” said Eunuch Lam. “I know how to organize the other musicians. But I do not know how to get in touch with this Chui La Pah.”
“That is easy,” said Royal Concubine Lin. “Eunuch Kong mentioned to me that he had arranged for this Master Chui La Pah to be at the western gate before sundown tomorrow.”
“Oh, thank you, Royal Concubine Lin!” said a grateful Eunuch Lam. “I will have someone greet him and take him to the musicians’ waiting room tomorrow!”
“Don’t forget!” reminded Royal Concubine Lin.
Don’t worry, I won’t!” replied the eunuch.
+ + + + + +
Shi Mei did not know where she was going. She had come across a stream and followed it, trusting to luck. When night approached, she was too exhausted to look for suitable campsite. She just flopped down on the forest floor and collapsed from exhaustion.
When morning came, she awoke, hungry and aching. She went down to the stream and drank some water. Then she noticed a peculiar thing; her breasts appeared to have grown slightly. She stripped naked and examined her body. Nothing else was affected. She examined her clothes. There were still streaks of dried red mud on the front of her clothes.
For a while, she thought over the happenings of the previous day.
Finally she smiled, “I understand now! Giant fish…..giant snake…..there is a connection. On that little island on the swampy lake, I fell down flat on my front on this strange red mud. Somehow, when I washed myself, I omitted to wash away the mud that was on my chest. So when I slept, it caused my chest to grow! Luckily I discovered it just in time or my breasts will grow really big! This red mud must have awesome powers!”
She led the horse to the water to allow it to drink.
“I believe I know now where the last of the Ten Whites had died!” she said excitedly. “In that swampy lake! And its powers transferred to the red mud! Anything in contact with it will grow! Like the serpent on the lake known as the Old One! So, the legend of Shibai is really true!”
Monday, August 27, 2007
The Kungfu That Ruled The Night - Chapter 19
Chapter 19: The Pool of the Devil fish
They had been travelling for several days. The rains came intermittently but the roads were usable. Wen Yiji was glad for the company of Shi Mei. She did not seem fazed by the sacks and sacks of human bones in the carriage. Many girls would have felt squeamish, but not Shi Mei. Maybe it was her medical upbringing that made the difference.
News of massive flooding in the plains of the Yellow River reached them and so they changed their route.
“We won’t be able to cross the Yellow River at Chingnan like we did last time,” said Wen Yiji to Shi Mei. “The floods in the plains have made the route impassable. We will have to cross the river further upstream.”
“How much further upstream?” she asked.
“Let’s see,” he thought aloud. “We can make our way to Shibai, then swing south towards Liangshan and cross the Yellow River there. Hopefully, the route is clear.”
“Have you taken that route before?”
“Yes, I have been to Shibai several times. I like Shibai. The people there are very clean. If we are in time, we may even get to catch the annual 'Maidens washing their Shibai' festival.”
“What kind of festival is it?”
“I can’t explain. You’ve got to see it to believe it.”
“Shibai…….I’ve never been there. Strange name for a town,” she remarked.
“Shibai is not named after a part of the female human anatomy if you are wondering about that,” Wen Yiji informed her seriously.
“I know that!” said Shi Mei indignantly. “I just don’t know how it got its name! It must have something to do with ten white something or other.”
“Ten white beasts,” offered Wen Yiji. “In the ancient days, there were ten white giant beasts that roamed the land there. The people did not know what to call the beasts, so they just called them shi bai, or ten white. They were terrible creatures and were fond of eating humans. Legend has it that the Yellow Emperor took up his bow and arrow and stalked the ten white creatures. One by one he killed the creatures. The strange thing was that with each creature he killed, the remaining ones grew in size. It was as if each dead beast transferred its powers to the remaining beasts. Finally, there were only two of the beasts left. They charged at the Yellow Emperor who leaped up high and threw his long metal spear into the neck of one of the beasts, thus killing it. Immediately, the last remaining beast doubled in size.”
“The last beast must be really huge!” remarked Shi Mei.
“It was bigger than a large mansion!” said Wen Yiji. “It kicked the shit out of the Yellow Emperor. In desperation, the Yellow Emperor took out a small jewelry box given to him by the Goddess of No Mercy. This box could not be opened in the normal way. On the top of the box was written “In times of emergency, break box.” So he broke the box.”
"It was obviously an emergency."
“Oh, okay. What was inside the box?”
“In it was a small dart with a note that said, “Don’t ask any questions. Just throw the dart.” He was dumbfounded. He stared at the tiny dart and wondered how he could kill the last of the Ten Whites with such a tiny weapon. Luckily, there was another note.”
“What did the second note say?”
“He read the second note which said, “What are you waiting for? Just throw the dart!” So he threw the dart!”
“Did it hit the white beast?”
“Well…..no. He thought it meant to throw the dart away. It dropped down uselessly to the ground. The white beast was bearing down on him and so he had to run! He was at a loss at what to do next. Fortunately for him, there was a third note in the box.”
“Oh, what did the third note say?”
“It said, “Throw the dart at the beast, stupid!” So he ran back and picked up the dart and threw it at the giant white beast.”
“Did it work this time?”
“Of course! The weapon was from Heaven! It hit the beast in the chest and burrowed itself inside. Once inside the chest, it flew around at top speed, perforating the organs and causing massive internal injuries. The beast roared in pain. It stumbled away trying to escape. It then fled to a pool and tried to drink. But it vomited blood into the water which turned red. It was said that whoever drank that water would grow huge. The fishes in the pool started growing.”
“Did the beast die?”
“Not immediately. The Yellow Emperor approached the dying beast and tried to cut off the head. However, with a giant effort, the beast leapt into the air and disappeared over the trees. The Emperor tried to track it down, but to no avail. It must have gone to some secret location in order to die.”
“Maybe the last beast did not die.”
“Oh, it died alright,” said Wen Yiji confidently. “The dart was a weapon from the Goddess of No Mercy and it would definitely kill. They just could not find the dead body. For years, people search the land for any sign of the huge dead carcass. They believed that the remains of the last beast had the power to make things grow huge. One man accidentally discovered a place where there were giant ants the size of a foot each. He believed that he had finally found the place where the beast had died. So he gathered a little pile of silver taels and put it there overnight.”
“Why would he do a thing like that?”
“So that the pile of silver could grow into a giant pile of silver! Then he would be rich!”
“Did it work?”
“Well, in the morning, when he went to check his pile of silver….lo and behold….he had a huge surprise!”
“The pile of silver grew?”
“Actually, the pile of silver had disappeared! Apparently, some thieves had gone there in the night and taken the silver away. The neighbours were unsympathetic and thought that the whole affair was hilarious. They talked about the foolishness of the poor man behind his back. He became the laughing stock of the area. Since then, no one else has gone to look for the final resting place of the last of the Ten Whites.”
“What an interesting story,” remarked Shi Mei.
“Yes. A town grew up from the area later, and the locals name it Shibai after the ten white beasts with no name.”
“A town named after a myth,” murmured Shi Mei. “This myth is too far fetched to be true.”
“Maybe,” Wen Yiji replied. “But there is a secret pool in the forest outside Shibai that have fish larger than humans. These giant fish are very dangerous and will attack any animal that falls into the water. I have seen them!”
“You are joking with me, aren’t you?”
“I am not.”
“Yes you are!”
“No, I’m not!”
“Yes you are!”
“Well, would you like to see the fishes?”
“Yes! If they do exist!”
“Oh, they exist! I will take you to Shibai by the forest route. When we come to the pool, make sure that you do not fall into the water. We do not call it the Pool of the Devil fish for nothing! I will prepare a pack of mutton biscuits for each of us. The Devil fish love these biscuits and go wild over them. Keep the mutton biscuits on your body. If you fall into the water, throw out your mutton biscuits. The fish will be too busy fighting for the biscuit scraps to notice you. Then maybe you will have a chance to make it to the shore alive.”
“I have never heard of mutton biscuits. Is that another of your myths?”
“No. Mutton biscuits are less common than chicken biscuits, but there is a place that actually sells them,” said Wen Yiji. “We will be coming to it soon. Then I will buy some for you to try. Frankly, I don’t fancy the smell, but the Devil fish will fight among themselves just to get at it!”
Shi Mei glanced sideways at him. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if he was serious or not. She wondered if he would really marry her. They had not broached the subject of marriage at all ever since she discovered his semi-invisibility. If he did not wish to marry her, she knew that she could not force him. Life was proving to be quite complicated. On top of that, everything about him was not normal.
+ + + + + +
Eunuch Kong was feeling fidgety. Something was not quite right. He could not help wondering why Royal Concubine Lin wanted him to include an unknown flute player in his list of music presenters for the Emperor’s entertainment. Royal concubines stayed at the palace all the time. They did not mix with anyone, not even with the eunuchs. How could Royal Concubine Lin possibly know of any flute player? A wild thought came to him that some conspiracy was afoot, and that it involved a flute player.
Urging his horse along the forest path, he looked behind him. Four riders were following closely behind. They were palace guards who were accompanying him for the inspection of the Pool of the Devil fish. Their job was to make sure that the area around the pool was safe enough for the Emperor’s visit. It would not do for the Emperor to slip and fall into the pool.
The riders reached the Pool of the Devil fish and they quickly dismounted. After they had tethered their horses, they set about to inspect the ground. The pool lay at the foot of a waterfall, surrounded by steep cliffs. Anyone stepping off the cliff will fall vertically down into the pool. Huge ominous shapes could be seen patrolling beneath the surface of the water. The sight sent shivers down the spines of the palace guards.
As Eunuch Kong and the four palace guards were inspecting the area, the Flute Master and his three disciples emerged from among the nearby trees. Blackface, Whiteface and Phoenix had accompanied their master for this particular mission.
Sensing trouble, Eunuch Kong quickly gathered his men together.
The Flute Master approached and asked him, “Are you Eunuch Kong?”
“Yes I am,” replied the eunuch.
“The same eunuch who is responsible for the Emperor’s musical entertainment?” asked Master Chui.
The eunuch noted the two flutes at the waist of the man before him. A flute player! Something in his mind clicked. He said, “Yes, I am. You must be the flute player that one of our royal concubines wished to include for the Emperor’s entertainment on the night of the full moon.”
“That, I am,” answered the Flute Master. “You are very astute!”
“I am afraid to say that I am not able to include you into our list of entertainers. The musical programme for the Full Moon party is already fixed. Perhaps I can arrange for you to play for some other noble at another time ”
“Do not trouble yourself. Today, I have a message for you.”
“What is it?”
“The message says, “We await you here!”.”
“May I ask from whom the message is from?” inquired the eunuch politely.
“The message came for the ox-head horse-face,” replied the Flute Master without emotion.
There was a pause. Finally, the eunuch asked, “You wish to kill me?”
“Yes!” replied the Flute Master.
“Just because I will not allow you to play your flute for the Emperor during the Full Moon party?”
“That is correct!”
"Do not think that I am easy game,” warned the eunuch. “I am not completely unknown in the martial underworld. "
"I am aware that Eunuch Kong is known by reputation as the one who wields the One Trick Sword! A sword forged by the best royal swordmakers and presented to him by the Emperor himself. A sword so sharp that it can slice through bone! But that does not mean that I should fear you!”
“If you have heard of my One Trick Sword, then you should know that killing me will not be a simple task. Go away, musician, before I am forced to kill you."
“What is so difficult about killing a balless freak?” asked Master Chui with a sneer.
The face of the eunuch flushed with rage. In anger, he gave an order to two of the palace guards, “Go slap that impudent old man for me!”
The two palace guards approached Master Chui, confident in their abilities to handle a flute player. They reached the Flute Master and raised their hands in readiness to deliver their slaps. The Flute Master lashed out suddenly with his powerful iron palms. It happened fast. Much too fast for the two unfortunate palace guards. They flew through the air and landed into the Pool of the Devil fish below.
Whiteface, Blackface, Phoenix and the two remaining guards rushed to the edge of the cliff to look.
"Look at the Devil fish go!" cried Phoenix. "They are tearing the two men apart!"
The water surface churned frothy from the thrashing about of the giant fish.
"The water has turned red!" remarked Whiteface gleefully. "Send in two more men, sifu!"
Immediately, the eunuch and the other two palace guards realized that they were not dealing with a normal musician. Quickly, they drew their swords.
Whiteface, Blackface and Phoenix attacked the two remaining guards, leaving Eunuch Kong to their sifu.
The eunuch lunged at Chui La Pa with his One Trick Sword. The flutist neatly avoided the lunge and stepped to one side. A barrage of sword thrusts pressured him backwards and the Flute Master retreated step by step avoiding the stokes from the famous weapon. Both men were fast.
"You may be quick on your feet," noted Eunuch Kong. "But you cannot avoid my sword forever. Why don't you use a weapon?"
"My hands are my weapons," replied Chui La Pah. "Your One Trick Sword is useless against me."
"If that is the case, why do you avoid my strokes. Why not stand there and allow me to cut you up?"
"Fine, maybe I will! I was merely toying with you. I wanted to know if the famous Eunuch Kong is as good as people say! You are good.....but not that good!"
Once more, Eunuch Kong attacked. With a combination of strokes, he sliced the air and bits and pieces of cloth flew in the air.
"These clothes are new!" snarled the Flute Master, looking down at his chest where his clothes were in tatters. "I just bought them!"
"My stroke was aimed to kill you. Consider yourself lucky that you are not even bleeding," said the eunuch.
"Luck has nothing to do with it," said the Flute Master. "It is time that I stop toying with you and your stupid sword!"
Eunuch Kong smiled and delivered a thrust to the chest of the Flute Master, expecting to penetrate it. To his shock, the sword was stopped by the chest. Before he could get over his shock, the Flute Master hit the eunuch in the stomach with a powerful iron palm hit. The eunuch flew in the air and landed on the ground, coughing blood.
Clutching the stomach, the eunuch gasped, "That is not possible!"
"Golden Armour kungfu," explained the flutist. "Impenetrable to sword or spear!"
"No!" gasped Eunuch Kong.
“Yes!” said the Flute Master. “You could never have hurt me! I was merely toying with you, to see if your One Trick Sword was really as good as what people claimed. In the martial underworld, I have no equal under Heaven!”
With a struggle, the eunuch tried to get up on his feet. He failed. He was bleeding internally and he knew it. The Flute Master bent over and retrieved a scroll of paper from the eunuch’s body.
“The list of musicians!” he laughed triumphantly.
A palace guard had come too close to the Flute Master who grabbed his sword arm and held it immobile. As the guard tried to free himself, Whiteface ran his sword through the palace guard’s heart, killing him instantly. The last remaining guard had to battle alone against the three disciples of the Flute Master. The end was never in doubt. He was outnumbered by people equally as skilled as he was. They slashed him till he fell down and then they slit his throat.
Painfully, still clutching his sword, Eunuch Kong tried again to get up. He sensed that the flute player would not kill him just for the mere fact that he could not get the opportunity to play the flute for the Emperor’s Full Moon party. Some dirty conspiracy was afoot! He had to get to his horse. He had to warn the Emperor that something was not right!
Just as he struggled to his feet, Wen Yiji and Shi Mei came around the corner in their carriage.
“Run!” screamed the eunuch to Wen Yiji. “Full Moon party…..warn Emperor…. knife spear no……”
His voice was cut off as the Flute Master delivered another powerful iron palm blow to his chest. His body flew over the ground and he disappeared over the edge of the cliff to the pool below.
"Aiyeeeeeiiiii!" shouted the eunuch just before he hit the water. There was the sound of a splash and the eunuch’s voice was heard no more. Immediately the water surface churned chaotically as the Devil fish went into a frenzy. The poor eunuch was torn from limb to limb by the huge Devil fish fighting for a piece of his flesh.
Wen Yiji was horrified when he saw the presence of the Flute Master. He saw and recognized Blackface, but Phoenix was not known to him. He had been an Imperial Guard before, so he knew that the man who had been just sent to feed the Devil fish was Eunuch Kong of the One Trick Sword. It was a bad situation. The path was narrow and he could not turn back. He could not go forward because of the Flute Master blocking his path.
“Get ready to run, Shi Mei!” he hissed softly. The manner by which the Flute Master had defeated the much respected Eunuch Kong alarmed him. Maybe, he could get away, but Shi Mei would be vulnerable.
There was no opportunity to run as Whiteface had quietly sneaked alongside the carriage and pointed his sword at the throat of Shi Mei.
“Don’t even move!” warned Whiteface. “Or the girl gets it in the throat!”
Wen Yiji recognised Whiteface as the man speaking with Ah Long at the Casino Royal.
“Please let us pass,” Wen Yiji called out. “Your affairs are none of our business. Besides, we did not see anything!”
"Come down from the carriage!" commanded the Flute Master.
"You heard him!" said Whiteface. "Hurry up before the girl loses her head to my weapon!"
Wen Yiji and Shi Mei had no choice but to get down from the carriage.
"Look," said Wen Yiji. "We are only passing through."
"You poor bastards," said Chui La Pah. "Who you are does not concern me. Your sin lies in being in the wrong place at the wrong time!"
Blackface came forward and reached out with his hand to stroke Shi Mei's face. "Such a beautiful face!" he commented.
Wen Yiji shot out his hand and grabbed the offending hand with a vice-like pain-inflicting grip.
"Do not touch my woman!" he snarled angrily.
Shi Mei was pleased. It was the first time that she had heard Wen Yiji refer to her as his woman. If circumstances had been different, she might even have blushed!
Reacting to the pain, Blackface tried to wrench back his hand and Wen Yiji released his grip. Blackface pulled back his hand and rubbed it ginggerly. His face turned black as he screamed, “I’ll kill you!”
Something about Wen Yiji and the girl looked oddly familiar to the Flute Master. He wondered if he had seen them before somewhere. Maybe he had, but he could not recall. He walked to Wen Yiji and stared hard at the man before him.
“Have I seen you somewhere before?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” replied Wen Yiji. “I am only a harmless trader. May I know what it is that you want?”
“Shut up! I ask the questions around here,” replied Chui La Pah. “If you give me any trouble, you will see your woman decapitated before your very eyes. So, don’t be foolish!”
Wen Yiji stood still. He decided that maybe if he did not goad them, they would let Shi Mei go. The Flute Master moved a hand in front of Wen Yiji who remained still. Suddenly, with a swift movement, the Flute Master pulled out the acupuncture needle from We Yiji’s collar bone area. Just before he could turn semi-invisible, Wen Yiji quickly used his Dark Fire inner energy to counter the invisibility energy, thus maintaining full visibility. With his Dark Fire energy being occupied, he was vulnerable, but it could not be helped. He could not let the Flute Master know that he was semi-invisible, or he would have no chance to get away at all.
“What is this needle for?” asked the Flute Master.
“It is to treat my medical condition,” replied Wen Yiji.
“What kind of medical condition?” asked the Flute Master.
“I have a rare blood disease,” replied Wen Yiji. “Whoever comes into contact with my blood will also contact the disease. If you kill me with a sword, you will have to boil your sword for forty nine days to sterilize it.”
“You are trying to discourage me from killing you, aren’t you? Rare blood disease, my ass.”
“All right then. You tell me why anybody would want to have an acupuncture needle stuck in his body. For fun, is it?”
“I don’t like your personality,” said the Flute Master. “I should try to improve your personality first before disposing of you!”
He dropped the acupuncture needle to the ground and then punched Weh Yiji solidly in the stomach. Wen Yiji bent over from the pain. A blow to the head caused Wen Yiji to drop to the ground. He could not retaliate. Not when Shi Mei was being held hostage. He hoped that the Flute Master would be satisfied with just beating him up and then later let both of them go. Or at least, let Shi Mei go.
“Stand up!” ordered the Flute Master.
Wen Yiji did as he was told. He was sent sprawling back to the ground when Blackface punched him hard on the head from behind. He picked himself up, bracing himself for yet another blow. This time it came from the Flute Master whose iron palm to the chest staggered him. It was a direct hit. The intense pain that he felt inside him told Wen Yiji that he had been badly injured. His head felt giddy and he tried not to faint. Then the Flute Master delivered a kick to his chest; a kick so powerful that it sent him flying into the air.
Wen Yiji found himself flying over the edge of the cliff and falling down towards the Pool of the Devil fish below. His packet of mutton biscuits dropped out of his clothes in midair. As he fell, he saw the sky swirling around him and a little voice in his head warned him that he was about to lose consciousness. Quickly, he disengaged his Dark Fire energy from his invisibility energy and threw a palm blast sideways. The effort was weak, but it was enough to move his body slightly nearer the side of the cliff in midair. He reached out and clawed the cliff desperately. In a stroke of luck, he managed to grab a tree root that had grown out of the side of the cliff. Hanging by the tree root, he spotted more roots and quickly entangled himself among them. Remembering that he was only semi-invisible, he pulled his legs up close to his body.
The packet of mutton biscuits hit the water below and the contents were strewn in the water. The Devil fish smelt them and went berserk. They leapt about in the water trying to fight for the biscuits.
Phoenix had walked to the cliff edge to looked down. “The Devil fish are in a wild frenzy!” she remarked. “The poor bastard!”
“No!” screamed Shi Mei, “No! No! No!”
“Throw the girl in as well!” commanded the Flute Master.
“Sifu,” requested Blackface. “Why don’t you give this girl to me?”
“No!” replied the Flute Master. “We have serious matters at hand! I do not want you to get distracted or physically weakened!”
“But sifu,” begged Blackface.
“No buts!” thundered the Flute Master. “Just do as I say! Throw her in!”
Phoenix interjected, “Bur she is only a young girl, sifu! We do not need to kill her!”
“Shut up!” snarled the sifu angrily. “You the sifu or I the sifu?”
Blackface and Whiteface dragged the sobbing Shi Mei to the cliff edge and then shoved her over.
She fell. As she saw the waters of the pool rushing up at her, she wondered if the end would come quickly. She would hate to feel the Devil fish tearing her body apart. Her life flashed before her eyes. Growing up….her father’s death…..crossing the Yellow River…..meeting Potato Seller and the old man known as the Ghost Ninja….treating Old Man for increasingly decreasing sleep….Old Man’s strange energy pattern. Suddenly, she realized that she knew how to turn off brother Wen’s invisibility! She turned alert instantly and then she saw it; a shoe at the side of the cliff. She recognized the shoe. It belonged to Wen Yiji! That shoe wouldn’t be there unless Wen Yiji was clinging to the side of the cliff in a shroud of invisibility, and one foot had stuck out from the shroud.
At the side of the cliff, Wen Yiji saw Shi Mei falling past him just before he lost consciousness. “Shi Mei……oh no……." he uttered weakly just before his world turned blank as his consciousness slipped away.
Even as Shi Mei was falling, she produced two acupuncture needles from her sleeve and hurriedly stuck them in her head. She knew that without the needles in her head, she would lose consciousness when she struck the water. The needles would block out almost all sensation and keep her from blacking out and drowning. The presence of the Devil fish was another matter. Quickly she reached in her clothes to take out the packet of mutton biscuits. She did not have time to do it.
The sudden splash told her that she had already entered the water. She felt something dimly, but almost all sense of feeling had been blocked out by the two acupuncture needles. She could have broken a few ribs and not know it. She pulled out the pack of mutton biscuits as huge ominous shapes turned towards her. The Devil fish were already rushing to investigate the splash. She tore open the packet of mutton biscuits and hoped for the best. Her body was still travelling downwards towards the bottom of the pool as the mutton biscuits dispersed in the water. The waters swirled with the energies of the huge monstrous fish. While the other Devil fish scrambled for the biscuits, one lone dark shape headed towards her. There was something gleaming at the bottom of the pool near Shi Mei. It was the One Trick Sword of Eunuch Kong that had fallen there. She reached out and grabbed it by the handle.
The dark shape came near her and she was momentarily shocked to see a Devil fish up close. She held the sword with both hands the way that Wen Yiji had trained her to do and waited. She wondered why this particular Devil fish was not chasing after the mutton biscuits like the rest. Maybe it hated mutton. Shi Mei knew that once the mutton biscuits were finished, the other fish would also be heading for her. As the lone Devil fish came at her with its mouth opened, she thrust out with the One Trick Sword. It pierced the hard body of the surprised Devil fish. She pushed and drove the weapon all the way down to the hilt.
This fish was startled by the unexpected turn of events. It had always been the predator in the pool and never the prey. It went berserk and lurched about underwater in a crazy manner. Shi Mei clung to the hilt of the sword with both hands and the huge fish dragged her along. Then it headed madly downstream. With the two acupuncture needles in her head, she could not feel pain and did not have any urge to breathe. In all possibility, she could stay underwater until she passed out and drown; unless she remembered to come up to the surface for air. She had to keep track of the time spent underwater.
Up on the cliff, Phoenix commented, “Poor girl! She didn’t have a chance!”
“The Devil fish are really going crazy!” noted Whiteface. “Look at them thrashing about! It must have been a long time since they tasted female flesh!”
Phoenix looked at him in disgust. She wished that she did not have to marry him.
“Will you people stop yakking and come do some work?” asked an exasperated Chui La Pah. “There are two other dead bodies here still waiting for you people to dispose off!”
Blackface and Whiteface heaved the two remaining dead guards into the pool. The Devil fish had a big feast that day.
Shi Mei had been dragged underwater for quite a long distance already. She thought that it was time to come up for air. As she was about to let go of the handle of the sword stuck to the fish, the fish headed for the river surface and leapt upwards. Both fish and girl were airborne for a moment and she took the opportunity to gulp in air to her starved lungs. They landed in the water again and she clung on. Once more, the berserk fish raced down the river.
Shi Mei did not know how long the crazed Devil fish had been swimming, or how long she had held her breath underwater. She guessed that it was long enough. If she had miscalculated the time, she would faint underwater without warning. The fish was tiring and she saw sand on the river bed. The water was not too deep so maybe she was close to shore. She made a quick decision and let go of the sword handle that she had been gripping. She swam upwards and her head broke the water surface. Breathing in deeply, she found that she was by the river shore. She swam instantly to the side of the river and staggered to the shallows. She turned her head and saw a dark shape in the water coming near. She ran up the shore to dry land. The Devil fish stared coldly at her from the water, blood trailing from where it had been poked by the One Trick Sword. She Mei stared back. She had survived the Pool of the Devil fish!
She walked up to higher land. Suddenly her legs gave way and she fell to the ground. Her body was physically exhausted, but mentally she felt not a thing. Carefully, she pulled out the two needles from her head. The suppressed pain emerged to assail her senses immediately and she passed out.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
A suck situation
Oh, btw, for those of you still following my wuxia story, in the next episode I will detail out how the town of Shibai got its name.|
On to today’s posting.
If there is one thing that I have learned about physics, it is this:
Vacuum sucks. And absolute vacuum sucks absolutely
I used to think that anyone who mounts the suction tube of a vacuum cleaner to his dick needed his ass kicked. Thoroughly. Or his head examined. Frequently.
Not anymore. He should get his dick examined. Fucking unbelievable.
Kids, don’t try this at home. That means you.
On to today’s posting.
If there is one thing that I have learned about physics, it is this:
Vacuum sucks. And absolute vacuum sucks absolutely
I used to think that anyone who mounts the suction tube of a vacuum cleaner to his dick needed his ass kicked. Thoroughly. Or his head examined. Frequently.
Not anymore. He should get his dick examined. Fucking unbelievable.
Kids, don’t try this at home. That means you.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The Kungfu That Ruled The Night - Chapter 18
Chapter 18: The end of a warden
The sun was high in the sky when Wen Yiji got up. He shaded his eyes as he walked out of the stable in his needle-assisted visible self.
“The sun has risen up in the sky much earlier than usual,” he noted aloud. “I wonder if this heralds a climatic change.”
“It is not the sun that is early, but you who are late,” said Shi Mei from nearby. “How does your left arm feel this morning?”
“It feels all right, like nothing happened to it.”
“You mean to say it still hurts.”
“Well, all right, it hurts a bit. But only just a bit.”
“Your medicine is ready,” she informed him. “I boiled it early this morning. It seems that ever since I reached the Imperial City, I have been boiling medicine for you non-stop!”
“Yes, I know,” admitted Wen Yiji. “It is embarrassing isn’t it?”
Shi Mei laughed and said, “I suspect that you are too thick-skinned to be actually embarrassed.”
“What makes you think that I am thick-skinned?”
“You walk around without wearing underwear,” she replied simply.
He looked down and saw that he was sporting a morning erection. The front of his trousers poked out stiffly like a tent. Shi Mei had that sort of effect on him. Damn! He should remember to keep things under control. He made a mental note to himself that he should in fact put on two pairs of underwear.
“Sorry,” he grinned in embarrassment.
She looked him straight in the eye and said, “Now drink your medicine!”
His gaze fell on the graves of his two dead younger brothers and he felt a tinge of guilt for having the hots for his intended sister-in-law. If circumstances had been different, he would perhaps be busy humping her already. The thought made him smile lasciviously. His eyes fell on his brothers’ graves again and once more, he felt a sense of guilt.
”When do you intend to take out the bones of your departed parents, brother Wen?” Shi Mei asked.
“When I can get a priest to conduct the religious rites,” he answered. “I must have visited at least ten temples, and all of them said that they do not conduct rites for things like this. Bunch of idiots! Not only that, I can tell that they were not pleased with the idea of digging up the remains of dead people.”
“It is not a usually done thing. You will have to search until you can find a priest willing to do the job.”
“That is what I thought. I will go out this afternoon to look again.”
“But your left arm is still injured!”
“It’s just a scratch. I hope to get this over with as fast a possible so that we can start the journey earlier. Otherwise it will be winter by the time we reach Tsinkiang.”
“All right. I fried some rice this morning. Are you hungry?”
“Forget the fried rice,” he said. “I will take you out to eat. Then I will leave you here to write your book on home remedies while I go to hunt for a priest.”
“It is not a book on home remedies. It is a serious medical book.”
“Whatever. Let me take you to a place where they sell a very good frog legs porridge with salted egg. When eaten with deep fried crullers, it is so good that it is guaranteed to cure everything!”
“This, I gotta see!” she smiled.
Wen Yiji quickly went to put on two pairs of underwear and then they went out.
+ + + + + +
In the afternoon, Wen Yiji trudged gloomily through town. He had already been to two temples and was turned down when he requested religious rites for digging up the bones of his family. His mood was sour when he passed a third temple. It was quite a big temple but it did not look popular. Street vendors would normally be around, hassling the worshippers at every temple, but for this particular temple, there was not a single vendor to be seen.
He looked at the signboard. The sign said “San Feng Temple”.
Wen Yiji entered. He found that there were only two groups of worshippers inside. Not a single monk or priest was around. He went to the front near the altar and sat down on the floor. He was tired. The nagging pain in his left arm was not helping any. He closed his eyes and waited patiently in the temple for some one to appear. Someone did. A young temple boy came in and announced rudely, “You will all have to leave now. Royal Concubine Lin is coming here to pray. Please take your things and leave immediately. And I mean immediately!”
Wen Yiji thought, “Very big meh, royal concubine? Make everybody leave just for her? Ridiculous!”
The other worshippers started packing up their candles and joss sticks. Wen Yiji was loathed to leave. He moved behind the altar and pulled out the needle in his collar bone area and turned invisible.
Soldiers came into the temple and chased away the remaining worshippers. Then, Royal Concubine Lin entered.
“Has everybody left?” she asked the captain of her guards.
“Yes,” came the reply. “There is no one here now.”
“Good!” said the royal concubine. “I wish to pray alone. See that I am not disturbed!”
The captain and his soldiers left the room and closed the door of the temple. Royal Concubine Lin barred it from inside.
From his position, Wen Yiji observed the concubine and noted, “Wow! Quite voluptuous, this concubine!”
The wall next to Wen Yiji suddenly moved. A hidden door swung open and a man stepped out.
“Prince Jin!” noted Wen Yiji silently in surprise. “What on earth is he doing here?”
Wen Yiji had worked long enough as an Imperial Guard previously to be able to recognize the prince easily. Prince Jin strode towards the royal concubine and greeted her. The two of them smiled at each other.
“Ahhh…….an interlude of lovers, I bet!” gasped Wen Yiji silently. “Damn! The Emperor’s concubine and the Emperor’s brother! I shouldn’t be seeing this! My morals can’t stand the shock!”
He looked into the hidden room. It appeared huge. He duckwalked inside without hesitation.
There was a huge bed in the middle of the room and a standing screen used for changing clothes in the corner. He was about to stand up and walk when he heard the sounds of Prince Jin and the concubine entering the room. Knowing that his invisibility was not perfect during the day, he quickly moved behind the screen.
Prince Jin and Royal Concubine Lin entered and closed the room door.
The concubine was saying, “The stupid Eunuch Kong insulted me! He imputed that I did not know a single thing about music! How dare he!”
“He refused to cooperate?” asked the prince.
“Yes,” she answered. “He refused to allow a musician of my choosing to play in the music recitals in the Summer Palace. He claimed that only he knows what the Emperor likes to hear and so all the musicians had to be carefully selected by him!”
“Looks like we will have to get Chui La Pah in by another manner!” said the prince. “We will have no choice but to get rid of that stupid eunuch.”
“Make sure that he dies painfully.”
“He has a list of musicians on him. Take the list from him. Then we will add another name to the list, that of Master Chui La Pah. That way, the Flute Master will get to play his flute in front of the Emperor during the music recitals in the Summer Palace in Shibai.”
“Consider it done already,” said Prince Jin. “Eunuch Kong’s days are numbered.”
Wen Yiji was shocked to hear that those two were planning to have the Flute Master play his flute in front of the Emperor. That could well kill off the Emperor as well as the Royal family.
“When will the Emperor leave for Shibai?” asked Prince Jin.
“It can be as early as tomorrow,” answered the concubine. “The Emperor initially wanted to wait for the Fifth Prince before taking the trip. However, there is no news regarding his fifth son. He is getting worried that something bad might have befallen the Fifth Prince. But the trip to Shibai had been planned a long time ago in advance and it is already late summer. The trip cannot be put off forever. So I guess we will have to start the journey very soon. If not tomorrow, then the next day.”
“It is indeed strange. The Fifth Prince seems to have completely disappeared,” noted Prince Jin. “Ever since he escaped from my foreign assassins in the Fujian Province, he has vanished from the face of the earth. None of my network of spies can locate him!”
Wen Yiji smirked when he heard the conversation. So, it was Prince Jin who hired the Kansai Killers to kill the Fifth Prince! At a cost of four thousand and two hundred taels of silver!
Concubine Lin was speaking again, “I am sorry to hear about the fire in the Casino Royal. I know that you frequented the place.”
“Yes…….the fire,” said the prince with a scowl. “It was all very strange. The owner, Ah Long, apparently fell into one of his own booby traps and was killed. His men pulled his dead body out and took him outside to the main hall. They were not aware that there was a fire until they smelled a lot of smoke. By then the fire was very huge. The men managed to control the fire with water but by then half of the casino had already been destroyed.”
“It is strange that the owner fell into his own trap,” she remarked. “That was careless! And very stupid!”
“Let us not talk about him,” said Prince Jin as his hands cupped her front. “It is time to take off your clothes!”
Quickly they undressed each other, not suspecting that Wen Yiji was there behind the screen peeping at them. He was surprised to see the size of her pendulous breasts.
“Wa piang!” he whispered to himself. “This concubine is stacked! Those breasts must have enough milk for quadruplets!”
The naked Prince Jin pulled the royal concubine down to the bed and then started mauling her tits mercilessly.
“Wa piang!” said Wen Yiji to himself. “There is so much to hold. I think that foreplay will take a long time because there is so much surface area to cover!”
The couple on the bed changed positions and the concubine got on top. In doing so, her left tit accidentally bashed the prince on the head.
“Wa piang!” noted Wen Yiji to himself. “I bet the prince almost lost consciousness there! He must have a hard skull!”
The couple wrestled a bit on the bed and then the prince positioned himself properly before entering her. Flailing energetically at her naked body, he huffed and he puffed noisily.
Halfway, the stupid thing slipped out.
“Ooooooooops! Fed up!”
But he put it back in and continued rocking again.
She faked an orgasm.
“Arrrrhhhh……huh huh huh……. arrrrhhhh……huh huh huh……. arrrrhhhh……!!!”
In exhaustion, he collapsed on top of her.
Then he rolled over and promptly went to sleep.
The royal concubine got up and dressed quietly. She turned to talk to Prince Jin but he was already snoring. She left the room and pulled the door shut behind her. After a long moment, Wen Yiji opened the door quietly and duckwalked out as Prince Jin slumbered on. Concubine Lin and her guards had already left the temple. Wen Yiji decided to leave as well.
+ + + + + +
It was mid-afternoon when Wen Yiji got back to his house. He was feeling frustrated. There did not appear to be any priest willing to conduct the ceremony for him to dig up the skeletal remains from the graves of his family. Dejectedly, he told Shi Mei about his fruitless efforts.
“Never mind,” she consoled him. “If you are not able to get the priest, then maybe you should consider digging up the bones without a ceremony. Just pick a good date according to the tong shu calendar. I have already sewn the jute bags to contain the bones. Perhaps you should stop visiting all the temples if they are not helpful.”
“You are right,” concurred Wen Yiji. “I have learned nothing from the temples except that somebody wants to kill our Emperor.”
“What? Are you sure?”
“Of course, I am sure!”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing. It is none our business.”
A long time ago, he would have given up his life for his emperor. But not now. Not ever. He was no more an Imperial Guard.
“But the emperor will get killed!” exclaimed Shi Mei.
“Don’t worry,” he assured her. “I am sure that we can get someone to replace him! We won’t be left Emperorless for long.”
“That is a relief to know, I'm sure.”
“My former cellmate, Amos, once told me that it was not necessary for a country to have an emperor.”
“Yes. He called it a ‘democracy’ or something similar. Everybody gets to choose who rules over them.”
“That is a radical idea. Your former cellmate must have been an extremist.”
“An extremist? Hahaha! He was more like a busybody. His mouth was like a chicken backside. Got shit, no shit, also open and close. All day long.”
Shi Mei smiled and asked him, “Would you like to have some early afternoon tea? I can boil some water.”
“No” he replied. “I would rather that you teach me the Way of the Water Spider technique.”
“You wish to learn?”
“Of course. You have been practicing for many days now. You should be good enough to teach me.”
“All right,” she said.
Shi Mei was not a very good teacher. She had to stop every now and then to ponder her moves. At times, she was not sure of herself and had to go over her steps again and again. Wen Yiji allowed her to work out her steps until she was sure. In the end, she only managed to teach him two steps. But it was a start.
While they rested, Shi Mei sighed, “Brother Wen, your kungfu is so much higher than mine. Why do you wish to learn the Way of the Water Spider technique?”
“So that you will have the opportunity to teach,” he replied.
“It is in the giving that we receive. It is in the teaching that we learn. If you wish to improve phenomenally in any skill, you have to remember the first Golden Rule.”
“The fastest way to learn is to teach.”
Shi Mei understood. While trying to teach Wen Yiji her water spider movements, she felt herself understanding her moves thoroughly.
“I wish to learn lightness kungfu,” she said. “Maybe I can teach you that so that I can also learn it.”
“No, you can’t do that.”
“Because of the Second Golden Rule; you can only teach that which you know. You can’t teach what you do not know.”
“You are right! What on earth was I thinking? Maybe I can teach you about herbal medicine preparation. Then, as I teach you, I will also improve.”
“No, you can’t teach me that.”
“Because of the Third Golden Rule; you can only teach what the student wants to learn.”
“It is alright. I will just apply the Fourth Golden Rule.”
“Huh?” asked a nonplussed Wen Yiji. “What does the Fourth Golden Rule say?”
“It says that the student will learn anything that I want him to learn if I hold a really thick cane in my hand!”
“That will not work with me because of the Fifth Golden Rule.”
“All right, what does the Fifth Golden Rule say?”
“I don’t know yet,” answered Wen Yiji slowly. “But I will think of something!”
Shi Mei threw back her head and laughed. He liked her laughter. The fact that she was twelve years younger than him had not stopped both of them from chatting nonsensically like old friends.
A knock at the front gate told them that somebody was out there. Shi Mei went to investigate and saw a monk standing outside with a begging bowl in hand.
“Wait a moment, master,” said Shi Mei. “I have some fried rice to spare.”
She fetched the fried rice from her pot. Wen Yiji followed her to the front gate and watched her pour the fried rice into the begging bowl. The monk thanked her. As he turned to leave, she requested, "Please wait a moment, master. I have something to ask of you."
"What is it, child?" the monk inquired.
"The buried remains of the family members of this house need to be dug up and re-interred," she replied. "We are looking for someone to conduct the rites to calm the dead while their bones are being dug up. Do you know of anyone willing to perform such rites?"
"Sure," he said. "I can perform it."
"Oh, good!" she beamed. "What is the charge for this service?"
"There is no charge. I am a monk and so I have no use for money."
"Say," said Wen Yiji. "Didn't I see you in Tsinkiang early this year?"
"Possibly," remarked the monk. "I go to where the winds take me. When do you wish the rites to be conducted."
"Today is a good day according to the tong shu," replied Wen Yiji. "Let us do it now."
The monk conducted the ceremony and then Wen Yiji started digging up his parents graves. He did not have time to finish digging all of the graves by nightfall. The next morning, he completed the job. The bones of each dead body were bagged in a cotton bag and then packed into a jute sack.
When the job was completed, Wen Yiji told Shi Mei that he would like to visit the graves of her parents and pay his respects. Shi Mei was happy with his decision. He plotted a route southwards which would take him to the town where her parents were buried. Then they started making preparations for the long journey. She was happy to have the opportunity to visit her father's grave again.
Two days later, they started their journey to the south. It was already late summer and Wen Yiji fervently hoped that he could reach Tsinkiang by late autumn.
+ + + + + +
On the day that Wen Yiji and Zheng Shi Mei left the Imperial capital, Ah Keong walked to the Li-Khor prison where he worked. He was feeling pleased with himself. He had bought a house in a decent neighborhood with part of the money that Wen Yiji had given him. His injuries had healed well. It had been half a month since he was beaten up by the warden. Although he was not very happy to go back to Li-Khor prison, he nevertheless wished to settle his financial accounts with the prison authorities once and for all.
At the prison, some of the jailors were surprised to see Ah Keong there.
“You can’t be here!” said the jailor Ah Chong. “The warden has already sacked you in your absence! He said that he did not wish to see you working here again!”
“Sacked me!” cried Ah Keong. “But I came here to tender my resignation!”
“No need to resign……sacked means sacked!”
“Where is the warden?”
“I don’t know. He disappeared nine days ago and we have not seen him since. Maybe he went to offer prayers in some temple after the ghost slapped him.”
“What ghost? What temple?” asked Ah Keong.
“Hush!” piped up another jailor. “We should not talk about the unseen ones here! Anyway, now that you have been sacked, you should not be here, Ah Keong. Go find a job somewhere else.”
“I remember that I took an advance on my salary last time,” said Ah Keong. “Now that I have been sacked, does that mean that I do not have to return the money?”
“No! No! No!” said Ah Chong. “That one, must return!”
The other jailors nodded in agreement. The prison bookkeeper immediately took out his books and worked out the amount that Ah Keong owed. Without hesitation, Ah Keong paid back the money.
“All right,” said the jailor Ah Chong. “Now that you have settled all outstanding matters, you can leave!”
“I must still pass on my duties to the young jailor who worked with me in the old wing,” remarked Ah Keong. “I have to tell him what to do, what not to do, the most efficient way of doing things, how to plan the day’s activities in advance, how to…..”
“No, no, no!” interrupted Ah Chong. “You are no more an employee of the prison. How we do things does not concern you now. Understand?”
“But I have to……”
“Hey, hey, hey!” shouted Ah Chong. “The rules from Warden Sai are very clear! If you are not an employee here, then the affairs of the prison does not concern you! Do not be a busybody! You want to get another beating?”
“No!” replied Ah Keong. “I still have some of my stuff here. Can I go and clear them up before leaving?”
“Of course!” replied Ah Chong. “You should clear up your rubbish before you go. Don’t leave it around for others to clear it for you. Be more considerate for others!”
Ah Keong went to the old wing of the prison and spotted his partner, a young jailor called Lazy Snake.
“Hi, Ah Keong!” the young jailor greeted. “I thought you died already!”
“Didn’t see you for so many days…..is that how you greet me?” laughed Ah Keong. “I came to collect my stuff.”
“Oh……your stuff? I heard that the warden sacked you! I thought that you were not coming back, so I threw them away. Sorry!”
"You threw away my stack of dirty humsap books?"
"Oh that one I kept for my own use. You want them back?"
"I uh....got them wet by accident."
"Gluey wet. You still want them back?"
"Damn it, no! I will be leaving now. You will have to cope without me."
“Ever since you did not turn up for work, I have to deliver the food for the prisoners all by myself. This is too much!”
“Yes. They should have hired a new jailor to take over my duties.”
“Some men came for an interview. But Warden Sai was not around. He has disappeared to don’t-know-where. So, in the meantime, I have to do everything all by myself! Life is not fair!”
“A little work will not harm you, Lazy Snake!”
“Easy for you to say! But now that you are here, you can help me distribute the food to the prisoners.”
“Wait a moment! I don’t work here anymore, remember?” reminded Ah Keong.
“But you can help a friend, can’t you? My backbone is giving me problems and I am afraid that if I have to carry all these food to the prisoners all by myself, my backbone will snap from the load. I don’t see why we should feed the prisoners. They don’t survive very long here anyway. We may as well take a shortcut and kill all of them first and save on the food. Save work also.”
“You always were lazy, Lazy Snake!” laughed Ah Keong. “All right. I’ll help you this once.”
“Oh, thank you! The numbers are almost the same as the last time,” said Lazy Snake. “One prisoner died five days ago. There was a new addition in the last cell. A monk.”
“A monk?” asked Ah Keong in surprise. “What was his crime?”
“Praying to the wrong gods, probably,” guffawed Lazy Snake. "He suffers from delusions of grandeur. Pretending to be somebody that he is not! I try to ignore him."
Cell by cell, Ah Keong helped to distribute the food. Seeing that Ah Keong was there to help, Lazy Snake worked slowly and took the opportunity to relax.
Ah Keong came to the last cell where the Luan Luan Kan Gang members were waiting impatiently. He noted the naked bald man trembling spasmodically in the cell and knew the signs; the prisoner would not survive for long. He pushed the food trays into the cell and the Luan Luan Kan Gang members grabbed the food and water away, leaving none for the bald prisoner who was lying near the door. Ah Keong watched them eating like wild animals at the back of the cell. He knew that they would all die anyway.
As Ah Keong turned to walk away, the bald prisoner on the floor called out to him in a weak gasping voice, “Keong……Keong…..”
Ah Keong squatted down to take a good look at the prisoner whom he had never seen before. The prisoner was clearly starving and dehydrated. He looked at the scars on the naked body. Some of the scars were old, but there were many new scars.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I…..am….warden……..help…..” the warden cried faintly.
“You are not the warden,” said Ah Keong. “You have no hair, your face is smashed in…..you look nothing like him! You don’t even sound like him. He talks like an ogre. You sound like a dying cat!”
“Get……Ah……Ah…….Chong……” whispered the bald man with an effort. “I……am…….dy…….ing…….”
“That is your business,” said Ah Keong. “I am not an employee here anymore. The rules from Warden Sai are very clear! If I am not an employee here, then the affairs of the prison do not concern me! If you want, you can talk to the other jailor!”
Ah Keong got up to walk away. Warden Sai tried to shout for attention, but he was too weakened by lack of food and water to make even a croaking sound. He tried to get up but collapsed from the effort.
Lazy Snake approached Ah Keong and said, “I hate coming to this end section. That’s because that ugly bald creature refuses to wear clothes.”
“Are you sure?” asked Ah Keong. “Maybe the other prisoners took away his clothes!”
“No, no, no! The other prisoners assured me that this idiot goes about naked because he is sex-crazy and wants to seduce me! Eeeeeeyewwww! Every time I see him, I feel like washing my eyes! Luckily the light here is not very good, so I am unable to look at him clearly. Otherwise I will have nightmares!”
“Who put him here?”
“Dunno. The jailors from the night shift, I guess. He was here one morning when I turned up for my shift duty. His name is not on my list, but you know that in this prison, we only update the prisoner list once a year to see who lived and who died. ”
“He looks weak, very weak. Like he is almost about to die.”
“I know,” grinned Lazy Snake. “I do not think this poor bastard will make it through another day. Isn’t that great?”
“It is none of my business,” remarked Ah Keong. “I do not work here anymore.”
As the two men walked away, Warden Sai sobbed feebly in depression. The other prisoners then crowded around him to offer him words of comfort. But he knew what it would soon lead too. However, he was too weak to fight them off.
As Ah Keong walked home, he thought about the bald naked prisoner. The face had been pummeled and bloodied beyond recognition. However, Ah Keong had recognized two peculiarly shaped scars on the naked prisoner to know that it was indeed the warden. He did not know who had thrown the warden in the cell and he did not particularly care. A grin formed on his face and then he laughed aloud to no one in particular, “It’s none of my business, of course!”
That afternoon, Warden Sai died in the unsolicited company of his cellmates. The Luan Luan Kan Gang members did not realize that the warden had died. They thought that he was merely being unresponsive, and so they continued plying their attention on him. Eventually, the body turned cold and the truth dawned on them. Then they yelled for the jailor, Lazy Snake, who as usual, ignored their yells.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Rumours of my abduction by sexy space aliens have been grossly overstated.|
Thursday, August 16, 2007
So now it's official: female hyenas actually do prefer foreign mates.....and for a very good reason.|
From now on, nobody, and I mean nobody, make fun of those sarong party girls. We now know that they were not after the ang moh for a good time or money. No, no, no. They were just trying to avoid inbreeding.
From now on, nobody, and I mean nobody, make fun of those sarong party girls. We now know that they were not after the ang moh for a good time or money. No, no, no. They were just trying to avoid inbreeding.
Monday, August 13, 2007
The Kungfu That Ruled The Night - Chapter 17
Chapter 17: The casino battle
The owner of the Casino Royal, Ah Long, was having tea with Whiteface when one of his fighters straggled in. Ah Long stared at him coldly before speaking.
“I asked the five of you to go and collect one simple bad debt for me this morning,” he scolded. “Now only you get back! It is almost evening! If like that, you may as well not come back!”
“Boss,” gasped the poor man. “Only I got back. The other four not coming back!”
“So,” reacted Ah Long angrily. “The other four went elsewhere, is it?”
“They went to Hell, boss!”
“Went to where?”
“Went to Hell!”
The poor man was not quite sure how to answer the question. It had never occurred to him that one needed a valid reason to go to Hell. He looked blank momentarily. Finally, in bits and pieces, he blurted out the story about how he and the other four men had encountered the gambler whom they had tried unsuccessfully to follow two evenings before.
“I did not see what happened because he kicked my balls flat and I fell to the ground,” he told his boss. “But the next moment, all four of them were dead by their own swords! I do not know how he did it, but this man must be a ruthless killer. Highly skilled, I’m sure of that!”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” said Ah Long in a calm voice despite hearing the news that he had just lost four men. “Go and rub some tit tar ointment on your balls so that they can pop back out again! If not they will remain flat for a long, long time!”
“Yes boss,” said the man. “Uh.....before he left, the man who had kicked me also gave me a message.”
“He said to tell you that he will come and kill you tonight!”
“What?” roared Ah Long. “He has the audacity! In this town, only I can threaten people! Nobody threatens me!”
Whiteface, who was sitting quietly all this while, asked, “Who is this man who wants to kill you?”
“He was some lucky gambler who won some money from the casino,” explained Ah Long. “I sent some men to have it taken back. So now, he wants to kill me.”
“This is a reputable casino,” said Whiteface. “It is only right that gamblers are allowed to take their winnings home with them. You have to be fair.”
“Yes, I know. But he won six thousand taels!”
“What? That much? You were right to try to take back the money! If every gambler wins so much, then there is no point in opening a casino already! We should have a law that makes it legal for a gambler to lose but not to win.”
“My thoughts exactly! And now, not content with killing four of my men, that killer wants to kill me as well. This is the kind of sick behaviour that we do not want in society!”
“If the killer is coming tonight, do you need me to ask sifu, Master Chui La Pah, to send some disciples of the Green Scorpion Sect to help guard your premises?” offered Whiteface.
“Oh…….be serious……it’s only one shitty killer. No need to bother sifu!” replied Ah Long with a contemptuous laugh. “This killer must be an idiot if he thinks that I am easy meat. I did not build up this casino without knowing how to fight! Anyone stupid enough to confront me will taste the sharp edges of my twin choppers. Plenty plenty come also not enough to die!”
Whiteface examined Ah Long’s fierce countenance. The casino owner had been a member of the Green Scorpion Sect a long time and was known in the martial underworld as a very rough fighter. Whiteface knew that the Flute Master looked at Ah Long favourably and had taught him kungfu that was not taught to the other sect members. Maybe it was because Ah Long contributed quite well to the sect expenses. Nobody knew when Ah Long started using choppers as fighting weapons. They were custom-made, huge and heavy, and Ah Long used them effectively to chop up any fool rash enough not to pay his gambling debts.
“Still, it is best to take precautions, Ah Long,” advised Whiteface. “I will spend the night here in case you need my help if he comes tonight.”
“This killer could be bluffing,” said Ah Long. “This is not the first time that I have to face threats. I am not afraid! There have been lots of people wanting to kill me, but they have never succeeded. You know why? Because I have killed them all! Hehehe!”
“It never hurts to take some precautions,” remarked Whiteface. “It will be wise to set the booby traps in the casino. This man who wants to kill you may not sound that scary. But I am not afraid of ten thousand, only afraid of eleven thousand.”
“You are right,” said Ah Long. “Not afraid of ten thousand, only afraid of eleven thousand. Okay, I’ll take precautions.” He got up from his seat and barked orders to the men around him.
That night, when the casino gamblers have left, Ah Long examined the booby traps with Whiteface. He looked at the net suspended high up the ceiling.
“Any assassin has to pass through this small hall and the next hall to get to my room,” he remarked to Whiteface. “If he comes through here, the net will fall on him. While he is trapped under the net, our archers will shoot him until he is full of holes. I have disposed of many previous assassins in this manner. You should see their carcases…..all shot up and nowhere to go!”
“What if the net fails to get him?” asked Whiteface. “What if he cuts his way out of the net?”
“The net will entangle him and slow him down. He can get free if given enough time. But my archers will get him long before he is free.”
“But if he manages to get free?” persisted Whiteface.
“In that case, the assassin will reach the next hall,” answered Ah Long. “There, the floor will give way like a trapdoor and he will fall down deep into the pit below onto rows of sharp spears pointing upwards! Sure die! And even if he manages to evade that, then he will come to my room and I will kill him with my huge choppers. Also die!”
“Good!” remarked Whiteface. The men retreated to their hiding places. They would wait all night for the assassin.
+ + + + + +
In the stable of his house, Wen Yiji was showing Shi Mei a pot of wine.
He said with anticipation, “It has been many years since I last bought this wine. Luckily the shop was still open when we passed it just now. I used to drink this stuff with the members of my Imperial Guard unit. Those were such good times we had. They are dead now.”
“I am sorry about the members of your Imperial Guard unit,” said Shi Mei.
“They have been dead a long time now,” said Wen Yiji. “Instead of just being sorry for them, you can drink with me on their behalf!”
Shi Mei laughed. they raised their drinking bowls and drank.
+ + + + + +
At the Casino Royal, a noise suddenly shattered the stillness of the night.
“The trap has been sprung!” shouted a young fighter.
The archers opened the side doors of the hall immediately and aimed their arrows. From the light of their flaming torches, they stared at the hapless victim trapped under the net.
One of the man started cursing, “Stupid cat tripped the booby trap!”
A brown cat was in the middle of the little hall under the heavy net.
Ah Long appeared. He stared angrily at the offending creature and then ordered, “Lift the net! Reset the trap! And somebody strangle that cat!”
The moment the net was lifted, the cat tried to escape. One of the men caught hold of it, but it scratched him and then made a bid for freedom. It fled to the next hall. There was another noise as the brown cat sprang the floor’s booby trap. The floor opened up and the cat fell through to the pit below. The men rushed to the door second hall to take a look. A huge pit appeared where the floor had been. They looked down into the pit and saw the cat impaled by a spear.
“Stupid cat sprang two traps in one night!” scolded one of the men. “Now, we have to remove its body!”
“Take out its carcass and bury it!” barked Ah Long.
Whiteface came into the hall sleepily. He yawned and then said, “I can’t sleep with all this noise going on! Did you catch the assassin?”
“No,” replied Ah Long. “False alarm!”
After setting back the booby traps, the men then settled down to wait for the assassin again.
+ + + + + +
At late morning the next day, a very sleepy Ah Long greeted Whiteface.
“Stupid cats!” muttered Ah Long. “I can’t believe that we had eight false alarms last night!”
“You should get rid of all the cats, Ah Long,” commented Whiteface.
“If I do, we’ll have a major rat problem,” muttered Ah Long.
“Well, you lost a few cats last night,” remarked Whiteface. “If this goes on, you will have no cats left.”
“I found out that the cats were coming into the hall through the rafters in the roof,” explained Ah Long. “I will have my men board up all available entry points so that the cat cannot enter the hall except through the door. Then I will keep the door closed. If the trap is sprung, then it can only be by an intruder.”
“Very good!” agreed Whiteface. “That way, we won’t have our sleep interrupted for nothing.”
One of the casino workers brought in a vagrant who was bearing a piece of paper. He told his boss, “This vagrant says that some man paid him to deliver a letter to you.”
Ah Long looked at the vagrant sharply. “Take the letter from him and give it to me,” he ordered his worker.
The worker did as was ordered and handed the letter to Ah Long who opened it.
The letter said, “Could not come last night. Totally forgot about it. Sorry. Will kill you tonight.”
“Shit!” shouted Ah Long. “After all our trouble with the booby traps, this man now says that he forgot to come. That rotting piece of wood is jerking me around!”
Whiteface took the letter from him and read it. He thought for a while before commenting, “So this is his game! He wants you to stay awake at night waiting for him!”
“Yes!” agreed Ah Long. “Then tomorrow, he will send me another note with some silly excuse for not turning up! Ta ma de! He is trying to make me think that he will turn up when he has no intention of turning up!”
“And then when you think that he will not turn up, he will one night turn up!”
“This is a psychological game that he is playing!”
“And we must therefore, have a psychological defense!”
“How the heck should I know?”
“Then we have lost the psychological game!”
“Wait! I’ve got it!”
“We can refuse to accept the letter. Each time we get his letter, we will send it back unread. When he realizes that he is taking so much trouble to write a letter and then it does not get read, he will be psychologically frustrated!”
“Yes! Then we will win the psychological game!"
"And then we can also beat up the messenger!"
"I can understand not reading the letter, but why do we have to beat up the messenger?”
”It’s a psychological game! If we do not know why we have to beat up the messenger, then the killer also will not know! He will be deeply puzzled. And puzzlement leads to frustration!”
“Yes, of course, Whiteface! We are the masters of the psychological game!”
The poor vagrant was duly beaten up and then thrown out on the street.
+ + + + + +
That night, Wen Yiji remembered to go to the Casino Royal. He brought along just a dagger, presuming that what he was about to do would not be too difficult. Taking a deep breath, he leaped up into the air over the roof of the casino. He landed noiselessly on the roof of the main gambling hall and looked around. There was no sign of activity anywhere. He removed the acupuncture needle from his body and turned semi-invisible. Then slowly, he removed some roof tiles and made a hole large enough for him to get in. Once through the roof, he jumped and landed onto the floor of the gambling hall.
Crouching down among the gambling tables in a state of invisibility, he wondered if anyone had heard him. Carefully, he looked around. He did not spot anyone, not even a worker. The gambling hall was shrouded in darkness except for one small lighted torch along the wall.
Wen Yiji got up to a standing position and then headed for a red door that he assumed would lead to some kind of inner office. He had seen the croupiers going through the red door two days ago. He approached the door and pushed it. It swung open with a slight creak. Wen Yiji saw that the door had opened to a smaller hall which was practically empty. A small oil lamp affixed to the wall at one corner of the little hall shed some light. Softly, Wen yiji closed the door. At the opposite end of the empty hall was yet another door.
Stealthily, Wen Yiji walked across the empty hall toward the door at the other side. As he was halfway across the hall, he felt his leg brushed against something very light. The next moment, he heard a slight sound overhead. He looked up just in time to see a huge giant net falling down on him.
“A trap!” he thought furiously to himself. “Damn! I’ve fallen into a trap!”
He guessed correctly that the net was to entangle him and slow him down so that archers would find it easier to kill him. Immediately, he crouched down while he tried to think of how to get out of the situation.
The hidden doors of the side of the hall opened suddenly and many men with bow and arrows appeared. A few of them carried lighted torches.
Two men walked on the fallen net and peered in every direction. One of them aimed his bow and looked directly at Wen Yiji who was crouching and invisible from view. Wen Yiji felt very vulnerable at that moment. He would have prayed to a thousand gods if he knew a thousand gods.
“Did you see anything?” asked a voice.
“No!” replied another. “It must be one of those stupid cats again!”
“Well, I hope that the stupid cat goes to the next room and trigger the trap there.”
“If it does, it will fall into the pit through the trapdoor and get impaled by one of those spears.”
“Exactly! That is what I am hoping for!”
“Don’t be stupid. We will be the ones having to remove the cat’s carcass and bury it.”
“It is still better than having to sit here all night dealing with false alarms!”
Another voice spoke, “Quit arguing, you two. Help raise the net again!”
The men moved away and the net was raised up. Wen Yiji heaved a quiet sigh of relief. He duckwalked to the end of the hall as fast as he could. The door at the end of the hall opened and Ah Long appeared carrying two huge chopping knives.
Wen Yiji was surprised by the size of the weapons. They were huge, heavy looking and looked like they could chop up a buffalo easily.
“What happened here?” Ah Long demanded to know.
“The net trap was sprung,” answered one of the men. “We think it was the cat.”
“What cat?” yelled ah Long. “All our cats have been caged tonight! There could be one or two strays. But all entry points to this hall that could possibly be used by the cats have been boarded up! Did anyone leave the door open?”
The men stared at each other.
“Well?” demanded Ah Long.
“The door was closed all the time,” said one of the men.
“Something got in and triggered off the trap!” snorted Ah Long. “What was it?”
“There is nobody here except us, boss,” replied a voice. “No one else. Not even a cat! The only door that is open is the one that leads to your room!”
Ah Long turned and looked hard at the door from which he had just entered.
“If there was indeed an intruder, which I doubt, then the only place he could have gone is through that door!” whispered one of the men.
“That is impossible!” declared Ah Long. “I just came through that door. I would know if there was anybody in there!”
“Let me go and check, boss, just in case,” offered the man. “Has the floor booby trap been disengaged?”
“Yes,” replied Ah Long. “But I am telling you that there is no one there! I’m more inclined to think that you idiots have set the net trap wrongly!”
At that moment, Whiteface appeared. Wen Yiji thought that he looked familiar.
“I have seen this man before,” he thought to himself. “Could he be one of the two bowmen who was shooting at me while I was crossing the Yellow River? Maybe. That day on the boat, I wasn't close enough to get a good look.”
As Ah Long supervised his men setting up the net trap, Wen Yiji looked at the door to the second hall. It was opened and Ah Long had said that the floor booby trap had been disengaged. Quietly, Wen Yiji duckwalked through the door and entered the second hall. It was empty except for some paintings hanging along the wall. He wondered if the floor booby trap had really been inactivated. Looking at the hall, he noted that the ceiling was low and that it would be difficult to use lightness kungfu to cross the floor in one single leap. If the trapdoor was sprung, lightness kungfu would slow down the fall at best; the intruder would still fall onto the spears below and get killed. At the other end of the hall was the door to Ah Long’s room. It was opened and looked inviting, seducing him. Gingerly, Wen Yiji duckwalked his way through the second hall. On reaching the door of Ah Long’s room, Wen Yiji entered without hesitation.
The room was huge. Cupboards lined three sides of the room which was lit by several candles. He wondered what was in those cupboards. Probably money and valuables. There were tables and chairs everywherre. In the middle of the room, there was a table with several books and a pile of papers on it. Wen Yiji approached it to take a better look.
“Wa piang,” he murmured to himself. “These books are records of gambling debts! Interests accrued…..daily interest…..monthly interest……this man is getting rich just from interests alone!”
Then he examined the pile of papers. They were debt papers, or promissory notes. When a gambler lost money, and if he did not have enough cash on him, he would sign a debt paper promising to pay the amount another day with interest.
He leafed through the pile of debt papers and whistled quietly. "So many important officials owe money to this casino!" he noted.
Putting down the debt papers, he picked up a scap of paper where Ah Long had written something. He read, “To do list……Tan Ah Beng…..principle sum owed; ten taels of silver……interest owed; eight hundred taels……if unable to pay…..to break his legs first….if still unable to pay…..break the head.....both upper and lower.”
A sound at the door alerted him that someone was coming in. Ah Long entered, closed the door and then barred it with a thick length of wood. Then he reached out for a lever located by the side of the door and shifted the lever to the right.
“Must be the lever to activate the floor booby trap of the hall just outside,” guessed Wen Yiji silently to himself.
Ah Long walked to the table where he had been working. He had been planning the debt collecting activities for his men. He put his twin choppers down beside him and took up a brush.
Wen Yiji stood up from his crouching position. In his half-invisible status, he walked up and down the room, hoping to frighten the wits out of the casino owner.
Ah Long looked up, stared at the pair of legs walking about, and then barked, “What do you want?”
Wen Yiji was surprised. Unlike Yee Ng Chai, Ah Long did not seem to be frightened by a pair of legs without a body.
“You do not appear to be frightened of me,” Wen Yiji remarked.
“Of course not!” said Ah Long. “I see ghosts all the time. Headless ghosts, legless ghosts and whatever ghosts there are. This is the first time that I have seen a torsoless ghost. If you want joss sticks, they are burning out there in the main gambling hall. Go gorge yourself!”
“What makes you think that I want joss sticks?” asked Wen Yiji.
“You hungry ghosts always want joss sticks. If it is not that, then it is candles. Now go to the main gambling hall and leave me alone!”
“Are you really able to see ghosts?” asked Wen Yiji. “You are not afraid that they will harm you?”
“Harm me? Hahahahahaha! I wear the Golden Buddha amulet given to me by a very famous mao shan sifu! Any ghost that dares to touch me will get burnt up with hell fire! Now go away!”
“No,” said Wen Yiji. “I came here for information and I want it.”
“What information?” asked Ah Long.
“Seven years ago, you set up Yee Ng Chai to betray a unit of Imperial Guards for you. They were escorting a pair of valuable jade lions that was hijacked by the Sky Dragon Clan. You paid Yee Ng Chai five hundred taels of silver. Then he disappeared. How is it that you were not able to locate him?”
“Yee Ng Chai? Ah yes……I remember the case. It took some effort to set him up. But the affairs of ghosts and the affairs of humans do not mix. What is your interest in this?”
“I am on a fact finding mission to decide the manner by which he will die,” replied Wen Yiji.
“Ahhhh….so Hell is interested in him! Good! Make sure that he dies in a fitting manner.”
“Tell me about the whole affair starting for the point where you set him up, and how you knew that they were going to transport the jade lions.”
“There was a General Shin who was a gambler at my establishment. He ran up a huge gambling debt with me. In return, he would give me information if I forgave his debts.”
“And so you sold the information?”
“Yes. To interest groups who would like to enrich themselves by taking some risks.”
“You mean to criminal groups who would then rob the shipment. How did you get paid?”
“Usually by a portion of the spoils. But some times for a lump sum.”
“And so, you sold the information to the Sky Dragon Clan?”
“Yes. I found out which Imperial Guard unit would be handling the operation. I then found would that in the unit, Yee Ng Chai was the most vulnerable because of his sick wife. I then plotted a situation to have Yee Ng Chai owing me money. When he could not pay, I offered him a way out by forcing him to report the route that Chief Feng was going to take for the jade lion trip. He did his part very well.”
“You must have made a good profit from this.”
“Of course! I planned the whole thing right from the start. It is only right that I made some profit!”
“Why did you choose the Sky Dragon Clan to carry out the job? You could have done this yourself.”
“Yes, I could. But news about the jade lions had also spread to a few criminal gangs. They would be trying to hijack the goods from Chief Feng. The only way that I could get something out of this was to hijack the stuff first. That meant pulling off the operation in the Fujian province, a long distance from the Imperial Capital. Unfortunately, I did not have people there. So, I was forced to franchise out the operation to another group. The Sky Dragon Clan was active in Fujian. I have worked with them several times before and their payment to me had always been good. I came to an agreement with the Sky Dragon Clan and they successfully hijacked the shipment. Their chief, Cold Wind Hands, got injured critically. Too bad! However, he paid me the money that I had asked for.”
“Why then did you try to have Yee Ng Chai killed?”
“He was a loose end. If there was a serious investigation, he could lead the investigators to me. I could not afford to let him live. So, I had men watching his house. Unfortunately, he managed to get his family out in the middle of the night! Do you know where he is?”
“Are you going to kill him?”
“No. His time is still not up. But yours is!”
“The ox-head horse-face creatures will come to collect you after I am done with you!”
“Do not threaten me. I wear the Golden Buddha amulet. You can’t touch me! You will burn up if you do!”
“I will not burn up!”
“You try!” challenged Ah Long. “Try and see!”
“All right!” said Wen Yiji. “You asked for it. I will slap you so hard that your lips will shift sideways!”
“Slap me with what?” asked Ah Long looking at the torsoless figure. “With your twinkly toes?”
Wen Yiji then leaned over and gave a huge slap across the face of the casino owner.
“You can slap!” stuttered Ah Long.
Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk!
“You did not burn up!” exclaimed the shocked Ah Long.
Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk! Piaakk!
“Ta ma de! You are no ghost!” cried Ah Long rubbing his cheeks. “What exactly are you?”
Wen Yiji pushed his acupuncture needle in his collar bone area and turned fully visible.
“My name is Wen Yiji,” he said. “I was an Imperial Guard of the unit assigned to guard the two jade lions. Over the years, I have been trying to figure out the mastermind behind the whole plot that had our shipment hijacked. Many of my close friends died because of you!”
“Why couldn’t I see the upper half of you jsut now?” asked Ah Long.
"That was because I was semi-invisible!” answered Wen Yiji.
“There is no such thing!” said Ah Long. “I once went over to the Eastern Islands and met with some ninjas. There were reputed to have the ability to become invisible. However, I learned that they actually held up a sheet of cloth with the same colour as the background. That way, they were so well camouflaged that it would give the illusion that they were invisible. It was only a cunning trick!”
“I was not holding up a cloth.”
“You think you can fool me? Of course you were! However, you, being a stupid fool, were holding up a piece of cloth that is only half as long as you should use! It was not big enough to hide your whole body, only your upper half!”
“If I was using a cloth, wouldn’t it make sense to buy enough cloth for my needs? Would I go to all that trouble to buy only half of what I needed?”
“Ahhh…maybe you did. But you bought inferior cloth. So one day it rained and the cloth got wet and shrank. That is why it is now so short. You buy cheap, you get cheap results. As the famous saying goes; one portion money, one portion stock!”
“I should explain to you the concept of light bending and stuff,” remarked Wen Yiji. “But I do not think that your tiny little brain can understand such advanced scientific concepts. Let’s not waste time. Get ready to die!”
Ah Long picked up his twin choppers and snarled, “It will be you who will die! Once I cut you up, you can join all your dead friends!”
Wen Yiji was carrying a long dagger. He unsheathed it and got ready to fight. Staring in anger at Ah Long, he said, “Today, I will take revenge for my comrades in my Imperial Guard unit. Hear this, Ah Long. You will die screaming!”
“Hear me, Wen Yiji. I will cut you into forty-eight pieces…..one for each slap you gave me just now!”
“I gave you thirteen slaps. You can’t even count properly!”
“I can count. Thirteen slaps plus interest is forty-eight!”
“What? Like that also got? That is plain robbery!”
“I do that as well!” cried Ah Long as he swung his twin chopping knives at where he thought Wen Yiji’s body was.. They were heavy weapons. A sharp chopper sliced the air in Wen Yiji’s direction and he attempted to block off the swinging stroke with his dagger. The heavy chopper smashed through the dagger, breaking it at the handle. Quickly, Wen Yiji ducked under the still swinging chopper. The blade of the dagger fell to the floor with a “clink”.
Both men stared at each other.
Then Ah Long guffawed, “You brought a puny weapon and expect to kill me? What do you take me for?”
“I don’t understand it,” exclaimed Wen Yiji. “I told the street vendor who sold it to me that I needed a weapon to kill a lowdown dirty worm. He recommended this!”
“Hahahahaha!” laughed Ah Long. “First you bought cheap cloth! Then you bought cheap weapons! When I kill you, the last thing you will hear will be me laughing!”
Wen Yiji took the opportunity to deliver a palm blast at Ah Long. To his astonishment, the casino owner deflected away the palm blast with the wide side of his heavy chopper.
"So," exclaimed Ah Long. "You can deliver a palm blast! You must have good internal energy! It is a good thing that I can deflect a palm blast!"
"You appear to have good internal energy too," remarked Wen Yiji. "You must have a good sifu in kungfu. Who is he?"
"That is none of your business!"
"Oh....all right.....if you are so ashamed of him, then you don't have to tell me. He must be really scum if you are so afraid of people finding out who he is!"
"He is not scum! He is Master Chui of the Green Scorpion Sect! Also known as the Flute Master!"
Wen Yiji froze. Finally, he muttered aloud, "The Flute Master. The one who carries two flutes. Earlier on, I saw you with a man whose face was almost white. Who was he?"
"Oh, you mean Whiteface?" asked Ah Long. "He is one of my sifu's disciples. But enough chit chat. Time to send you to the western sky!"
Sensing danger, Wen Yiji leapt aside. A dart flew past him from behind which almost hit his neck. As he turned to look at where the dart came from, another dart came from a different direction and would have hit him in the chest if he had not swerve away in time.
"Hahahahaha!" laughed ah Long. "This room is my sanctuary and I command a huge arsenal of darts that will shoot at you from every angle! I can trigger them from anywhere in this room! Now, watch!"
A volley of eight darts sudenly came from one of the bookshelves towards Wen Yiji. He leapt away from the volley only to find Ah Long's huge choppers swinging at him again. He had his hands full trying to avoid Ah Long's quick choppers as well as the darts that appeared out of nowhere at Ah Long's command. He only knew that Ah Long would hit a piece of furniture in the room and a dart would appear. He could take Ah Long on open ground, but in this room, Ah Long had the advantage. Several times, he almost lost his hand to the choppers as he was trying to deliver a Dark Fire Iron Palm. It was frustrating.
A volley of four darts sped towards Wen Yiji who jumped sideways just in time. Ah Long had anticipated the move and had positioned himself well. He slashed horizontally at Wen Yiji with the other chopper coming in from a diagonal swing. Wen Yiji knew that a dart will soon be coning from behind. While avoiding the choppers, he pulled out his acupuncture needle and leaped away. His world suddenly turned darker and he accidentally knocked into a piece of furniture and fell down.
"So, you have decided to use your cloth and become invisible, is it?" taunted Ah Long. "You will have a surprise coming. I happen to have a random dart system that shoots darts at random. Only I know the firing pattern. And only I will know where the next dart will head for, giving me the opportunity move aside to avoid it."
"If you know the dart firing pattern, then it is no more random!" noted Wen Yiji.
"Hahaha! It is random to everybody but to me!" gloated the casino owner. "The only way a random dart can get me is if I forget to move out of its path! Watch out! Here it comes!"
Wen Yiji tried to avoid the darts coming in his direction. It was a difficult task. In the state of invisibility, the room appeared much darker to him. It was therefore much more difficult to detect and avoid a small speeding dart.
"Urgnnnhhhh!" he cried as a dart came out of nowhere and buried itself into his left arm.
Ah Long heard his cry and leapt towards the sound, choppers flashing. Wen Yiji leapt away invisibly but while in midair, another random dart sliced the skin of his right calf but did not penetrate into the flesh. He continued moving silently, hoping for the best.
He swore to himself, "Palm blast cannot, Iron palm cannot, invisibility also cannot.......what can work?"
Poking himself in the collar bone area with the acupuncture needle, he became visible again. He was just in time to see a dart heading for his right eye. He shifted his head away in the nick of time but the projectile nicked his ear painfully.
He saw that he had landed next to the table where the pile of debt documents were. Quickly, he grabbed a handful of papers and held them over the candle flame at the table. The papers caught fire. He held the papers in the air and the flames grew bigger.
Ah Long, who was at the end of the room, turned around and looked in horror at what Wen Yiji had just done.
"My debt papers!" cried the casino owner. He rushed over quickly using a zigzag path to avoid the random darts. Wen Yiji let the flaming papers fall from his fingers onto the table as he moved away.
Ah Long reached the table and swung the flat side of a chopper towards the flaming papers to put out the fire.
At that moment, a dart sped across the room. Ah Long was not in its path. Wen Yiji sent a weak palm blast to the speeding dart and deflected it slightly. Just as Ah Long's chopper hit the flaming papers, the deflected dart hit Ah Long in the ribs. It penetrated three quarters of its length inside the body. The dart was barbed; which meant that it could not be readily pulled out. At that moment, Wen Yiji knew that the advantage had passed to him. He was not going to waste it.
The next random dart came from one of the cupboards. As it flew past Wen Yiji, he deflected it to the direction of Ah Long. Ah Long held up a chopper to block the dart, but Wen Yiji chose the moment to deliver a palm blast at him. Ah Long successfully deflected the palm blast with his other chopper. The effort caused the the dart in his ribs to move painfully and he winced in agony.
Wen Yiji wished that his left hand had been more useful, but the dart in his left arm meant that he could only use his right arm to fight. He pushed the dart in deeper until the barb appeared on the other side of his arm. Then grasping the barb with his good hand, he pulled out the dart from the other side of his arm.
"There!" he said to Ah Long, while avoiding a random volley of darts. "My dart is out! How is yours?"
Ah Long could only glare back in anger. Then he had to shift his position one step to the right just before a random dart sped past his left. Even with the pain in his ribs, he still remembered the firing pattern of the random dart system.
Another volley of darts flew across the room and Wen Yiji deflected them with a palm blast into Ah Long's direction.
Ah Long blocked two of them qiuckly with the choppers. The other three missed him. The another dart headed for his balls. It wasn't a random dart but was the bloody dart that had been pushed out from Wen Yiji's left arm. Wen Yiji had thrown it viciously with raw power. Ah Long leapt up with legs apart and the dart past harmlessly below his balls. He landed on the floor again and the jolt caused the dart buried in his ribs to move. He stumbled awkwardly a step to the left due to the sudden intense pain. The next moment, a random dart hit him in the back. Ah Long had inadvertently moved into the path of a random dart.
Wen Yiji knew that Ah Long had been hit a second time; the facial expression said it all. The casino owner realized that the fight was lost and that he would have to escape. He stumbled wildly to the door. Wen Yiji attempted to move after him, keeping an eye out for the random flying darts. With a flick of a chopper, Ah Long lifted away the wood that barred the door. He shifted the lever beside the door to disengage the booby trap of the floor outside the room. Once out of the room, he planned to call his fighters to take care of Wen Yiji. Without wasting a moment, he moved out of the door.
Wen Yiji was bogged down by random darts that seemed to suddenly fly at him from all directions. He avoided those that he could and palm blasted away those that could not be avoided. He knew that Ah Long was getting away, but he was not able to catch up with his quarry. Twisting his body, he avoided a flying dart and picked up a stool at the same time. He threw the stool at the lever beside the door. It was a good throw; the lever was knocked into the engaged position and the floor trap outside became activated.
Ah Long was halfway across the hall when he felt the floor gave way under him. As he fell, he suddenly realized what had happened. He saw the sharp tips of the spears rushed up at him and he brought the flat sides of his choppers forcefully downwards onto the spear tips, in a desperate attempt to arrest his descent. The pain in his body told him that the spears had penetrated his lower body. His upper body was still above the level of the spears but his abdomen was already perforated. He screamed.
Wen Yiji reached the door, walked out through it and found himself standing on a ledge. He looked down into the pit of spears below him and detected Ah Long's body over the tips of the spears. The upper body appeared safe, but the lower body was already skewered.
"Didn't I say that you will die screaming?" Wen Yiji asked softly. "Body die, but head refused to die......that is not natural!"
He stepped back into the room, braving the random darts, and picked up the fallen stool by the door. Then he stepped out of the room again and took careful aim at Ah Long's body. He threw the stool.
The stool hit the casino owner's upper body with a tremendous force and caused the body to jerk downwards. Three spears pushed through the chest and one spear penetrated the throat, cutting off the scream. All was quiet again.
The sounds of men moving noisily told Wen Yiji that the casino fighters were coming to investigate the screams. Carefully, he moved back into Ah Long's room. The random darts had stopped.
"The system must have run out of ammunition!" he guessed.
Quickly, he barred the door with the thick length of wood so that he would not be disturbed. Then he made a little bonfire from the debt papers. With a grin, he said, "Whoever you debtors are, I am freeing you from your debts!"
He piled whatever furniture he could find over the flaming pile. Then he looked at the ceiling and windows before muttering, "Probably booby trapped as well. I will go out through the wall."
He pushed away a row of shelves to reveal a wall behind it. Then he hit the wall with his iron palm technique which produced a gaping hole in the wall. Taking two lighted candles, he crawled through the hole and found himself in a little used storeroom.
"So much rubbish here. Since I have already started one fire, I may as well start another."
He piled some of the storeroom articles around the two flaming candles. Then he
leapt upwards through the roof. In the darkness of night, he made his way back to his place.
He would have gone straight to the stable where he normally slept, but Shi Mei called out to him. She was in the carriage and was still awake.
"You better let me take a look at your wounds, Brother Wen," she called out.
Wen Yiji was nonplussed. Even in the dark, she knew that he had been wounded. There was no alternative but to let her look at his wounds.
She dressed his wounded left arm carefully by candlelight and asked him, "How did you get injured like that?"
"Well," he answered. "I was walking here and there minding my own business when this dart came out of nowhere and penetrated my arm."
He thought that it was not appropriate for him to tell her that he went out to kill another man.
"It's only a flesh wound," she remarked. "Your leg is bleeding slightly. So is your ear. I don't think that you should go around courting trouble for the next few days."
"Oh, okay. Not for the next few days, then."
"Let me rephrase that. You should not go around courting trouble. Ever!"
"I do not go around courting trouble, Shi Mei!" he protested.
"What were you doing out so late at night?"
"I was walking here and there and minding my own business," he answered again.
Shi Mei looked like she did not believe him, but she kept silent, concentrating on patching up his wounds. When she had finished, he thanked her profusely.
Then, taking a pot of wine, he walked out among the graves of his family. Watching him from the carriage where she slept, Shi Mei suspected that a great issue had finally been laid to rest with Wen Yiji. She was glad for his sake.
Looking up at the night sky, Wen Yiji called out softly the name of each and every dead comrade from his former Imperial Guard unit.
"Dear comrades," he said. "It has been an honour for me to serve along with each and every one of you. As men, we serve and as men, we die. You may have fallen, but you have not been forgotten. This night, I drink to you! For this is the night that your deaths have been avenged!"
He tilted the pot of wine to his lips and drank deeply straight from the pot.