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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 5.5 Message

CSI
Chapter 5.5 Message 

Master Gully and the Gilt-faced Buddha were then sharing the same room. Being both forthright and upright characters, they had left their weapons in the hall. Yama produced a tin of ointment from his kit-box and quietly

smeared some of the ointment on their weapons. At that time, I was still a teenager, and I knew very little. It never occurred to me that Yama was laying a vile scheme. Only after Master Gully was injured by poison did it strike me that the edges of the blades had been smeared with poison. Yama wanted to see both Master Gully and the Gilt-faced Buddha's lives taken at the same time. Yama, you were really cruel-hearted!

"It is quite understandable why Yama wanted to dispatch the Gilt-faced Buddha, simply to exact satisfaction from him. But why did Yama also

smear poison on the Gilt-faced Buddha's blade? Master Gully, in fact, had never borne him any grudge. At that time, I could not understand why he had done that. Later, as I grew older, I began to see his real intention. This fellow, after all, had set his mind and heart on Master Gully's iron casket.

"Yama the osteopath was lying when he said he did not know what was inside the casket. He surely knew what was inside. Master Gully emptied all its contents onto the table when handing the casket over to his wife.

There were jewels and precious stones, glistening and sparkling. Master Gully told his wife, 'My love, you are martially accomplished, and should the need arise you can always help yourself to the gold and silver hoarded

by corrupt officials and local ruffians. You may eventually be caught if you attempt this too often. I ... I ...' His wife cut him short, saying, 'My lord, do not worry. Should anything unforeseen happen to you, I shall bring up the child to be full of heart and soul. The money procured from selling the jewellery piece by piece will be more than enough to support both mother

and child the rest of our lives. I shall never take up my weapon to challenge people to a fight, and never will I commit theft or larceny. Is this not a fine idea?' "Master Gully lauded the idea and laughed heartily. Then he took out a booklet and told her, 'This Canon here on Pugilism and Knife Techniques was copied out by my forefathers.' His wife took the pamphlet and remarked with a smile, 'Well, the martial ability of Lynx of the Sky is, after all, recorded in the text here. You have certainly kept this to yourself. Not even I was aware of its existence.' Her husband explained to her, 'The

esoteric feats of my forefathers are handed down only to the male heirs, and never to the female line; only to the nephews, and never to their wives. This is how it acquired the name Hu's Knife Techniques.' Thereupon, his wife

answered, wearing a smile on her face, 'I shall let our child study the Canon himself when he knows how to read. I promise I shall not steal anything from him.' Master Gully heaved a sigh. Then he put everything back into the casket before tucking it away under his wife's pillow.

"Upon the death of his wife, I rushed immediately into her room, only to find Yama the osteopath was already there. I was taken aback. I quickly hid behind the door with my heart still thumping. I saw Yama pick up the baby with his left hand and take the iron casket out from beneath the pillow with his right hand. He then followed exactly the same steps with which Master Gully had opened the box. The lid immediately sprang open. He took the jewellery out and fiddled with it for a while, salivating. Then he put the

child on the floor and took out the Canon on Pugilism and Knife

Techniques. While he was leafing through the booklet, the baby suddenly started crying violently. Yama quickly snatched a quilt lying at hand and pulled it over the head and the body of the little one lying on the floor, lest his crying should draw the attention of the others

"I was shocked by what Yama did. I thought that the baby would surely be suffocated. I resolved to rescue the child at all costs as Master Gully had been so very kind to me. Being young and not well-versed in martial arts, I was no match for Yama. As luck had it, I found a door-bar beside the doorway. I quietly grasped it in my hands, tiptoed to his back and hit him full on the crown.

"I struck with all the might I could muster, catching Yama off his guard.

He toppled at once to the ground, without letting out a cry, spilling the jewellery across the room. I quickly tore the quilt open, picked up the child and fled. I told myself at the time that every single soul present, without

exception, was Master Gully's enemy. I must, therefore, take the baby home and ask my mother to bring him up. I knew well that the Canon on Pugilism and Knife Techniques was an esoteric heirloom of no small consequence

and it should not be allowed to reach the hands of outsiders. Thus prompted, I tried to recover it from Yama, who, on losing consciousness, was still holding the Canon tightly in his hand. Being too flustered, I

wrenched it hard from his grip, and succeeded only in recovering an incomplete booklet: the first two pages tore off, and remained in Yama's hand. Presently, there was a commotion outside. Phoenix the Knight-errant was also looking for the baby. I at once recollected myself, picked up the baby, slipped away through the back door, and set off for home at a run.

"Not until today have I ever met Yama again. I could not believe that he had taken the Buddhist vow. Was it deep guilt that caused him to renounce the world to expiate his sins? It is hard to believe that, with only the stolen front leaf of the section on Pugilism, he succeeded in training himself to become a celebrated Master of the Martial Brotherhood. He assumed that no one would ever know anything about his past. He was only too surprised to learn that the fellow who dealt him a hard blow some years ago is still

safe and sound, and very much alive. Yama, turn yourself around, so that we can take a look at the scar on the back of your head. It was caused by a

blow from a door-bar, a long time ago, wielded by someone who was then a janitor chopping firewood at an inn."

At Quad's command, Tree raised himself slowly from his seat while the remaining party was waiting with bated breath, thinking to themselves that he would certainly launch an aggressive move to dispatch Quad instantaneously. To everyone's surprise, Tree only responded by chanting, "Amitabha! Amitabha!" After reaching his hand out to stroke the back of his head, Tree reseated himself, remarking, "For the past twenty-seven years, I have been wondering who it was that launched a blow on my head from behind. Today, I finally have the answer." The Company was taken

aback by the frank and open manner in which he admitted himself to be in the wrong.

Presently, Orchid followed up with the question, "What happened to the poor child afterwards? What became of him later?"

Quad provided her with an answer, "I stole away quietly from the door at the back, holding the baby closely to me. Hardly had I gone a few paces than a voice shouted suddenly from behind, 'Hey, little scabby-head! Bring back the child!' I did not heed the command, which merely induced me to run even faster. The man, continuing the harangue, overtook me in no time. Seizing me by the arm, he attempted to wrench the little one from me. I panicked, and bit him hard on the back of his hand, drawing on all my

strength. Blood soon came oozing out."

"That was my Master!" burst out Curio on a sudden. Sign stared him

straight in the eye. Alas, it was too late. The words were already out of his mouth. Curio, regretting his blunder, soon sensed all eyes falling on him

and began to feel acutely uneasy.

Quad resumed his narration after Curio's awkward interruption: "Yes, it was Pastoral, Tian the Young Master. The bite left a permanent mark on the back of his hand. I presume he never told you who bit him on the occasion, nor anything about how he came by that mark."

Sign, Valour, Curio and Radiant each looked at one another, thinking to themselves that there had been indeed on the back of Pastoral's hand a very deep mark left by a bite, and it was also true that he had never mentioned to them how the mark had been inflicted.

After pausing for a considerable while, Quad proceeded, "On that occasion, I bit Tian the Young Master hard, focusing all the strength in me. He was an adept fighter, and yet he could not fight the excruciating pain.

Thereupon, he whipped out his sword and smote two blows, the first

slashing across my face and the second hacking off my arm. Fuming with rage, he flung out his leg with a kick, thrusting me right into the river.

Maimed though I was in one arm, I still held the child closely to me with my other."

After Orchid had let out a soft exclamatory 'Oh!', Quad continued, "Pain tore through every joint in my body when I dropped into the waters. In no time I lapsed into unconsciousness. When I regained my senses, I was lying in a boat. Apparently, I had been fished up by someone. Thereupon, I

shouted out, 'The child! The child!' A woman was heard crying from the prow, 'Amitahba! You have come round at last. The child is here.' I immediately raised my head to see for myself. She was holding the child in her arms and feeding him. Later, I found out that, after being fished out of the waters, I had been lying unconscious in the boat for six days and six nights. I dared not return to my village: we were already quite a distance from home and I was afraid that Master Gully's foes might lay their hands on his heir. I gathered from what Miss Miao said of the child that Phoenix the Knight-errant has presumed that the child had already met his fate."

Thereupon, Orchid lit up with joy, exclaiming, "So, after all, this poor baby is still alive, am I right? My father will be so excited to hear the news. Where is the child now? Can you take us to see him?" Then it struck her that she had been referring all the while to Master Gully's heir as the 'poor child'. He should, after all, by now be a man twenty-seven years old, ten years her senior. This very thought made her blush.

Presently, Quad remarked, "I am afraid you will not have the opportunity to see him. No one is going to leave the mountain alive."

Orchid tried to contradict him, "My father is sure to find his way up the mountain to rescue us all. I am not a bit worried."

"Your father is the Invincible Under the Sky only when all the opponents are common people," retorted Quad. "Now, no matter how martially

accomplished he may be, he can never hope to conquer a summit several thousand feet tall, like this one."

Thereupon, Orchid posed a question, "Were you dispatched by the child to pass sentence on us?"

Quad shook his head disapprovingly, "No, no. This child is also a hero fighter and a knight-errant, like your father. He would certainly have

stopped me if he knew I was scheming vile tricks like this."

Curio responded angrily, "I am pleased to learn, after all, that you know you are scheming vile tricks!"

Orchid hastened to ask questions, with genuine concern written on her face, "How is the child? What is his name? Is he well-versed in martial

ability? What is he doing at present? Is he kind-hearted?" Orchid poured out a string of questions showing her great concern, because ever since she was little, she had remembered well how her father made annual sacrificial offerings to Master Gully and his wife and how it hurt him to be unable to bring up his child as promised.

Presently, Quad reminded Orchid, "Miss Miao, you could have the opportunity to meet him if only I had not blown up the hawser."

"So it was you who blasted the hawser," thundered Curio, echoed by six or seven members of the Company.

"Yes," replied Quad.

"How could I have seen him today?" asked Orchid. "He has a meeting with the lord of the eyrie," explained Quad, "and is scheduled to conquer the mountain at noon. Now it is already mid-day, he should be at the heel of the mountain."

All at once, the Company assembled cried out aloud, "Is he Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain?"

Quad answered them politely, "Yes, he is the heir of Master Gully. His name is Fox Hu, also known as Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain." 

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