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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 7.2 Death

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Chapter 7.2 Death

Thereupon, Fortune stood up and addressed the assembly: "I must admit that I would still be loathe to allow this matter to be publicly known had it not already been broached by Chieftain Century. As a greater part of the

story is still wrapped in a shroud of mystery, I am sure that we will never be able to straighten out these matters at all if I do not help to shed light on this."

"On the day in question," continued Fortune, "Brother Pastoral retired to the inner chamber as soon as the banquet was over. To follow the well-

established rule of the Dragon Lodge, Pastoral should have summoned the acolytes of both the Northern and Southern Branches, to pay homage by kowtowing to the memorial tablets of the Dashing King, of the Founder

Grand Master, and of successive Grand Masters of the Dragon Lodge, and then hand the poniard over to my humble self. We waited and waited, but Pastoral never emerged from his room.

"I stayed up until mid-night, growing impatient with anxiety. By that time, the invited guests had all gone their separate ways. Pastoral's daughter, Sign, suddenly came out from the inner room, telling me that her father had been taken ill and that the ritual for handing over the Treatise

would be postponed until the following day.

"I was gripped with curiosity. Brother Pastoral had looked his normal self a while before, toasting his thanks, looking not a bit worn out. The idea of his having taken ill on a sudden was inconceivable. And as for the handing over of the Treatise and the poniard, it should have taken no more time than would be spent paying homage to the successive Grand Masters, and then

everything would be in order. Why was there the need to postpone the handing-over ceremony to the following day? Could it be that Brother Pastoral had refused to part with the poniard, and was making excuses to put things off?"

Valour suddenly broke in, "Brother Fortune, it is very wrong of you to guess at what another person is thinking. Brother Pastoral would have handed over to you the requisite tokens if only you had been there solely to claim possession of the Treatise and the poniard. But you had also brought along numerous adept fighters from different Schools and Sects. You must have been harbouring evil intentions towards the Northern Branch."

To Valour's accusation, Fortune answered sneeringly, "What evil plots would I be capable of hatching?"

Valour replied, "You had been intending to coerce the Northern and Southern Branches into a unification as soon as you came into possession of the Treatise, the Register and the poniard, so that you could become the sole Grand Master. You certainly could have taken the matter entirely into your own hands by outnumbering your opponents. Brother Pastoral, who had

already sealed his sword, would have been rendered powerless in attempting to counter any aggressive move of yours."

Fortune turned slightly red in the face, but he came immediately to his own defence, "When the Dragon Lodge was split into the Northern and Southern Branches the first time, it was only intended as a temporary measure, solely for expediency. Did not Brother Pastoral also nourish the ambition of engulfing the Southern Branch only a short while after being granted the Grand Mastership of the Northern Branch? And if I had

contemplated the union of the Branches to add strength to our Lodge, it is merely an act meriting credit; and should not this be considered in every

sense more worthy of mention than your honoured Brother Valour's sparing no efforts to pressure Curio out of the coterie so as to become himself the Grand Master?"

In exposing each other's secrets, the acolytes of the Dragon Lodge had also revealed the evil intention each was harbouring. Everyone, except the

proteges of the Dragon Lodge, listened to the account laughing and smiling, gloating over the misfortunes of the others.

Orchid, growing impatient listening to the story of the power struggle among different Lodges, Branches, and Sects of the Martial Brotherhood, tried to guide the assembly in another direction, "What happened

afterwards?"

Fortune continued, "I retired to my room and agreed matters with the

Brothers from my own Southern Branch. We were of the same opinion that Brother Pastoral's move was prompted by an ulterior motive. We would neither allow ourselves to be trampled upon nor cheated. Thereupon, I was sent to make a thorough investigation of the matter.

"First, I made my way to Pastoral's bedroom to inquire after his health. Sign, with eyes red from crying, barred me at the entrance. She stated, her voice choking with sobs, 'My father is already asleep. Would Uncle Fortune please also retire to his room? Thank you for showing concern for father.' There was something strange about her which set me thinking. Even given that Brother Pastoral was bedridden, there was still no cause for her crying so passionately. He was, after all, not affected with any grave disease. There had to be something underhand going on. I waited for about an hour in my room, changed my clothes, and then made my way back to Pastoral's door to inquire after his sickness. "

Valour raised his hand and thumped on the table, shouting out, "Inquiring after his sickness! Should that be done from the outside of the room?"

Fortune answered with a sneer, "What if I really did eavesdrop? I stepped close to the casement and heard Brother Pastoral blurt out, 'There is no cause for your pressing me now. At the Sword-sealing Ceremony this evening and in the presence of accomplished fighters of the Martial

Brotherhood, I have already bestowed on Curio the Grand Mastership of the Northern Branch of the Dragon Lodge. How can I possibly reverse this step now it has been taken? It is too late now to try to force me into bestowing the Grand Mastership on you.' Presently, Brother Valour could be heard

saying, 'Would I dare to attack my Brother-at-arms? See what Curio and Sign have brought on themselves. Imagine! A child has already come from them. After his making a blunder as immoral and lecherous as this, do you still expect him to be able to command the respect of every one of us?'"

These words struck home. Suddenly came a loud thud. Sign had tumbled from the chair to the floor, and was lying there unconscious. Peace immediately whipped out his broadsword, and dealt a hefty blow right at

Curio's head. Curio, caught weaponless, at once parried the stroke with an uplifted bench. On learning that his prospective daughter-in-law had been involved in such terrible misconduct, Century turned livid with rage, hollering like a madman. He also picked up a bench, smashing it down on Curio's crown.

Earlier on, the cohort of fighters of the Dragon Lodge had maintained a unified front against their enemies. Now, having their own reputations destroyed by each other, they all stood by and offered Curio no assistance. To the ears suddenly came a loud crashing sound. Century, hurling the bench, had already struck Curio on the back. A confused melee immediately ensued.

Orchid cried out at once, "Please halt! Everybody, please sit down!"

Her words carried such awe-inspiring force that the Company could not bring themselves to disobey her command. Peace shuddered, retracting his blade in an instant. Century, however, continued howling and wailing,

smashing the bench feverishly. Peace intercepted his father, grasping his flying bench and calming him down, saying, "Father, let us halt so that the others can judge for themselves the rights and the wrongs." Seeing the good sense spoken by his son, Century decided to cease fighting.

Immediately, Orchid said to her maid, "Lute, help Miss Tian into the inner chamber to enjoy some rest." Sign had now regained consciousness, but her face still looked ashen. She hung her head and walked quietly by herself to the inner chamber. The rest of the Company fixed their gaze on Fortune, hoping he would continue his story.

Fortune again treated them to his story: "Soon I heard Brother Pastoral heave a deep sigh, admonishing himself, 'Evil doing! Evil doing!

Retribution! Retribution!' He continued, repeating the words 'evil doing' and 'retribution'. After pausing a considerable while, he said, 'We shall talk more about this tomorrow. Now go away. Get Peace for me. I want to have a

word with him in private.'"

After casting a look at both the Tao father and son, Fortune continued, "Brother Valour still wanted to remonstrate, but Brother Pastoral cut him short, thumping on his bed and roaring out, 'Are you trying to drive me to

my death?' Only then did Brother Valour become quiet. He pushed the door open and stamped angrily out of the room. What I had overheard was merely rotten business of the Northern Branch, and nothing to do with our Southern Branch. As I wanted to save us embarrassment should Brother

Valour collide with me at the entrance, I hurried back to my own room." Valour sneered and said, "On leaving the room after talking with Brother

Pastoral, I saw a shadow moving in the dark and I called out, 'Who is that cur pricking its ears here?' There came no answer, so I took it to be a real

bitch. It turns out, after all, to have been Brother Fortune. I apoligize for the offence I made." Thereupon, Valour bowed slightly to Fortune, folding his hands in front. He seemed to have offered an apology, and yet it was an

admonition in disguise. Fortune coloured slightly but his refined disposition stood him in good stead. He returned his respects, addressing Valour

smilingly, "No wrong doing by the innocent. Indeed it is very kind of you to mention it."

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