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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 4.5 Tryst

Chapter 4.5 Tryst 

Masters on earth is infinite, Gully alone qualifies as the sole person worthy of my true friendship.'

"Gully responded in a similar vein, 'Should I die in your hands, you could always share your views with my humble wife. She is an adept female martial artist, far superior to those timid friends of yours.'

"Phoenix responded, with agitation in his voice, 'Aiyah! How can those weaklings qualify as my friends?'

"The two champion fighters thus engaged themselves in lengthy discussion. But their conversation almost invariably steered clear of the animosity contracted by their ancestors. One of them would immediately divert the topic if the other came too close to the subject of the vendetta.

Thus, they stayed awake for the entire night. I also wore myself out

standing next to the casement until well after mid-night. It was piercingly cold in the courtyard and my feet went numb. Phoenix suddenly walked to the window-sill at daybreak, sneering, 'Had enough eavesdropping, eh?' A crashing sound soon followed. Gully was heard saying, 'Brother Phoenix, after all, he is a good fellow. Let him go this time, please.' Suddenly someone seemed to rain something hard on the top of my head. It hurt desparately. My eyes started throbbing and everything went pitch-black.

"When I finally came round, I found myself lying on my back on my own kang. Half a day had already slipped by. It then dawned on me that Phoenix must have discovered my prying outside, so he had pushed the

window open and floored me with a blow. I would not have remained alive if Gully had not interceded for me. Soon, I clambered drowsily down from the kang and found my head full of heaviness. I then held up a mirror, and was shocked to see half of my face had turned purple, with a bump one-inch thick growing on it. I started at the sight. The mirror slipped from my hand and smashed to pieces on the floor.

"The same day, while Phoenix and Gully were confronting each other in the hall, I simply locked myself up in the room, not daring to venture a step outside. Until that moment, I had been hoping secretly that Phoenix would defeat his savage foe. But the gnawing pain of my face had now turned me against him. I prayed and hoped that Gully would deal this rascal one or two cruel strokes so as to avenge my ills. The battle raged on, feverishly

and ferociously, late into the night, with no side gaining vantage. Then Phoenix's voice came from the other side of the partition, 'Brother Gully, I meant to talk again with you all through the night, but I know your wife may not like this. I have an idea: if neither of us, by this time tomorrow, can manage to put in a decisive blow, we shall then spend another night of

conversation.' Gully cried out with a laugh, 'Bravo! A capital idea!'

"Gully's wife poured a bowl of wine for her husband after Phoenix had departed from the inn. She handed the wine-bowl to Gully, remarking, 'Congratulations, my lord!' Gully took the bowl and drained it off in one gulp, asking with a smile, 'For what?'

"His wife replied, 'You can certainly overpower Phoenix tomorrow.' "An expression of surprise came over his face, and he stated, 'I have

unravelled several thousand of his moves, and yet I cannot detect a single flaw. How can I possibly defeat him tomorrow?'

"His wife, wearing a smile, offered her answer: 'I have found a weak spot on him. My darling baby, your papa is rightfully the Invincible Under the Sky.' She addressed the last sentence to their new born child.

"Gully pressed her at once for an answer, 'What slip? How have I not discovered it myself?' "His wife then explained, 'His weakness lies at his back. As you always challenged him face to face, therefore you could not possibly have detected it yourself.' Gully remained quiet. His wife then continued, 'I have been following all his movements in the battle very carefully for the past four days. I must admit that he has guarded himself flawlessly. It was almost impossible to hurt him. Seized with fear, I panicked that the time might

come when invariably you would make a slip once you lost your

concentration, with Phoenix still guarding himself well. Then came this afternoon when I suddenly made this discovery. I, at long last, detected a weak spot in him. Which move, of his swordplay as a whole, do you find the most threateningly mortal?'

"Gully replied, 'Quite a number of his moves are deadly threatening.

Take for instance, Wiping Out Embracing the Moon; Caveating in Hewing the Mammoth Mountain; Piercing the Stork in Flight; Punching the Sky

Carrying the Sword, and so on.'

"Gully's wife interrupted him. 'It is precisely this move, Piercing the Stork in Flight, that gave him away.'

"Gully immediately broke in, 'This very move enables Phoenix to turn an offensive move into a defensive stance, shrouding delicacy with its mighty blows, and it is piercingly threatening.'

"His wife then suggested, 'My lord, while you were practising moves such as Stealing Blade from the Side; Plunging to Lunge in Quick Succession; and Entangling to Transfix the Heart, Phoenix occasionally launched a counter-parade practising the move of Piercing the Stork in

Flight. The crux lies in the moment right before he brings off this move: he invariably twitches slightly the muscle at the centre of his back, as if he is feeling itchy on his back.'

"Gully asked, not hiding his surprise, 'Is that so?'

"His wife smilingly stated, 'Phoenix paraded this move twice this morning and both times, without fail, the centre of his back twitched when he brought off the move. In the duel tomorrow, I shall signal his twitch with a cough, and you must immediately take steps to exploit his weakness by forestalling him and defeating him on the spot. You should move into Stealing Jabs from All Angles before he brings off his move, thus forcing him to withhold his sword in complete defeat.' "An expression of exhilaration came over Gully's face. Then he cried out, 'Splendid!'

"Having overheard their scheme, I considered it my rightful duty to warn Phoenix so he might put himself on his guard. But I faltered the minute I felt the pain of my swollen face. I tried to convince myself that it would be right and just for him to be beaten, as he had to be repaid for the blow he had dealt me.

"The next morning saw the fifth day of Gully and Phoenix testing their prowess in duelling. As the bump on my head had by then improved

considerably, I planted myself once again on the side to see how the duel would proceed. During the whole morning, no coughing was evinced by

Gully's wife. Apparently Phoenix had not brought off the vulnerable move. In the intervening moments for the mid-day repast, while Gully's wife was pouring out some wine for him, she beckoned him by darting a glance at him. I studied it carefully and concluded that she was spurring him on to push Phoenix into practising the move that would open up for him the opportunity to put in the decisive blow to dispatch his opponent. Gully only answered in the negative by shaking his head. Most likely he could not bring himself to harm Phoenix in a task requiring some finesse. His wife pointed in the direction of their newly born, and dropped the child on the bench. The baby started crying uncontrollably. I read also what she wanted to convey to her husband: Gully's wife was trying to spur him on by

showing that, if he lost the battle, the child would become fatherless and would lead a life of hardship for the rest of his days. Gully was touched to the quick. He eventually acquiesced by nodding approvingly at her unspoken suggestion.

"In the afternoon, Gully and Phoenix resumed attacking each other. After some tens of moves had been brought off, Gully then hacked several mighty strokes, brandishing the knife in his hand. To the ears suddenly came the

coughing of his wife. Gully gave a slight frown, hurtling backward instead of advancing. In a trice, Phoenix, as had been expected, brought off the move Piercing the Stork in Flight. I had no previous knowledge of what that move was and had only learned something about it the night before when

Gully's wife herself demonstrated the move several times while working out plans for the finesse with her husband. I felt that Gully's wife showed tremendous insight. Had Gully executed her plan, he would certainly have defeated Phoenix there and then. But Gully suddenly retracted his hand at the last minute, not because he considered himself a person of outstanding ability and, therefore, chose not to harm Phoenix, whose martial

accomplishment he greatly admired, but rather he considered this would betray the true spirit of an acolyte of chivalry if he were to outstrip his

contestant by resorting to outside help. I suddenly remembered that Gully had instructed his wife to pound into the head of their son, when he came of age, that he had to be tough and strong in life. I finally came to the

conclusion that though Gully looked formidable and repugnant, yet he had a soft spot in his heart. He faltered when the time presented itself, not daring to venture a deceitful move.

"Thereupon, Gully's wife pinched the baby hard on his arm. The child

started to cry loudly. Suddenly, Gully's wife let out another cough, clear and distinct, amidst the mingling clashing and clanging of metal upon metal and crying of the little one. This loud coughing sound was soon followed by

another faint one. Gully dashed forward a step like the devil, bringing off the forestalling move of Stealing Jabs from All Angles, flashing his knife, blocking instantaneously all Phoenix's impending moves, and forcing him to succumb.

"Phoenix was rendered totally defenceless. Being half way through parading the move of Piercing the Stork in Flight, he found it impossible to move into a counter-caveating parade. Following through the movement of the move he was then parading, Phoenix would instantaneously open his

elbows the minute he had made a sidelong lunge, wielding the sword in his right hand while thrusting his left hand out in an upward direction. Gully thwarted him in the nick of time. If Phoenix had attempted to unfold his

arms at that instant, Gully would have had immediately lunged to his left, then again rapidly to his right. Phoenix would have had both his arms hacked off, at his own instigation.

"Nevertheless, Phoenix proved spectacularly wild in his feats. He immediately accommodated himself by bringing in both his elbows while simultaneously aiming the point of his sword at his own chest: a beautiful and timely move. Gully was appalled, fancying that Phoenix, in his defeat, had resorted to reversing his blade to take his own life. Thereupon, Gully cried out in alarm, 'Halt! Brother Phoenix!' "Phoenix had already had the tip of his sword nipped off right on the first day of the duel, blunting his weapon's sharp point. All at once, he dynamically tightened the muscle on his chest. The blade, already lodged in his chest, retracted like the devil, bouncing in recoil. This move was unpredictably wild. Gully, all the while, was intent on talking him out of

committing suicide. He had scarcely expected Phoenix to take him by

surprise. In a trice, the sword retracted with a spurt, darting the tang off the blade and placing itself right on Gully's chest, on the paralytic point

Celestial Abode.

"The Celestial Abode is a governing vital point of the human body system. On being piqued, Gully instantaneously dropped limp to the ground, like a rag. Thereupon, Phoenix propped him up with his hand, apologizing.

"Gully returned his apology with a smile. 'Brother Phoenix, your skills are inscrutably uncanny, defying both gods and demons. You have all my respect.'

"'If Brother Gully had not aided me,' retorted Phoenix, 'I could never have followed through this move.'

"Soon, both contestants seated themselves at a table and emptied three bowlfuls of liquor at once. A moment later, Gully was heard laughing loudly to himself. He picked up his knife and slashed it across his throat. Bright red blood came gushing forth in an unstaunchable stream. He breathed his last, lying face-downward on the table.

"I stood for a moment in stunned silence. I cast a look at Gully's wife. No trace of tears was on her face. Presently, she addressed Phoenix calmly, 'Please stay here a minute. Let me feed the baby one more time to give him a full stomach.' She then retired to her room. The mother rejoined the group a little while later. She gave the little one a big kiss, telling Phoenix

smilingly, 'The baby is to take a nap after feeding.' Gully's wife then passed Phoenix her baby, saying, 'I had promised my lord that I would raise the

child myself. The last five days convinced me that Phoenix the Knight- errant represents the ideal of True Friendship and the Chivalric Code of

Martial Brotherhood. As you promised to look after the child for us, I can

spare myself the agonies of the next twenty years.' Thus saying, the woman pulled the lapels of her garment together and made several respectful bows to the Gilt-faced Buddha. Then she picked up her husband's knife and slashed it across her throat in a similar manner. The couple sat side by side on a long bench, the wife holding Gully by the hand. Strength gradually

ebbed from her body and she crouched atop the body of her husband, never to stir again. I could not bear the sight any longer. Turning round, I saw the baby sleeping soundly in Phoenix's arms. A sweet smile could be seen dancing on the tiny, chubby face."  

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