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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 17


Chapter 17
Violently knocking on Buddhism’s gate is not easy, reopening the net of doubt with an example.

Suddenly a beam of light appeared some distance away, coming slowly toward the room. Wei Xiaobao was greatly alarmed, “Ghost light, ghost light!” he said in his heart. The light was coming closer and closer, turned out it was a lantern, carried by a female ghost wearing white clothing. Wei Xiaobao hastily closed his eyes. He heard the intermittent sound of footsteps, which stopped right in front of him.

He was so scared that he did not dare to breathe, his whole body trembled, but he heard a young girl’s voice laughing. “Why are you closing your eyes?” she asked. Her voice was gentle, soft and pleasant to the ears.

“Don’t scare me,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I … I don’t dare to look at you.”

The female ghost laughed and said, “You are afraid blood coming out of my seven orifices and my tongue stretched out, aren’t you? Why don’t you take a quick look?”

With a trembling voice Wei Xiaobao said, “I won’t fall into your trick. You have your hair disheveled and blood coming out of my seven orifices. What … what’s so good to look at?”

The female ghost giggled; she blew a puff of air onto his face. As the air arrived on his face, Wei Xiaobao felt it was warm, and carried a faint smell of delicate fragrance. Wei Xiaobao opened his left eye a slit, he vaguely saw a snow white face, with curved eyebrows and small mouth, her dimpled face looked like flower. Immediately he opened both eyes wide, and now he could see an extremely delicate and pretty young girl’s face, approximately thirteen, fourteen years of age; her hair was tied into a pair of buns on top of her head, she was grinning as she looked at him. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was greatly comforted, “You really are not a ghost?” he asked.

The young girl smiled and said, “Of course I am a ghost, I am a hangman ghost.” [ghost from someone who died of hanging; is there any English term for it?]

Wei Xiaobao’s heart jumped; he was startled and at a loss. The young girl said with a laugh, “How could you boldly kill evil man, but is so timid in front of a hangman ghost?”

Wei Xiaobao let out a breath and said, “I am not afraid of people, I am afraid of ghosts.”

The young girl giggled again and asked, “Which of your acupoint is sealed?”

“I wish I knew,” Wei Xiaobao replied. The young girl massaged the back of his shoulder, she also slapped his back lightly three times. Immediately Wei Xiaobao was able to move his hands. He raised his arms and waved them twice; he laughed and said, “You know how to unseal the acupoint; that’s wonderful!”

The young girl said, “I learned it not too long ago, today is the first time I’ve tried it on you.”

She then proceeded by massaging his underarm and waist for a moment. Wei Xiaobao sprang up and said with a laugh, “Stop it, stop it! I am ticklish.” In this way, the acupoints on his legs were unsealed. He stretched out his hands and said with a laugh, “You tickled me, now I must tickle you back.” While saying that, he took a step forward.

The young girl stuck out her tongue and made a face. But she her supposedly ugly face looked extremely cute and did not look frightening at all. Wei Xiaobao reached out trying to pinch her tongue. The young girl turned her head to evade; she giggled tenderly and said, “Now you are not afraid of hangman ghost?”

“You have a shadow,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your body is warm, you are a human, not a ghost.”

The young girl opened her eyes wide; she grimly said, “I am a zombie, not a ghost!”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. Under the lantern light he could see her pinkish complexion; he laughed and said, “Zombies cannot bend their legs, they can’t talk either.”

The young girl laughed again and said, “In that case, I am a fox-spirit.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “I am not afraid of fox-spirit,” he said. But inwardly he was somewhat suspicious, “Could she be really a fox-spirit?” Walking around her, he looked at her back.

The young girl laughed and said, “I am a thousand-year fox-spirit, my magical skill is very deep, I don’t have a tail.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “To such a good-looking fox-spirit like you, I don’t mind if you bewitch me that I die.”

The young girl blushed slightly; she put a finger on her face to shame him, saying, “You are shameless. Just a moment ago you were so afraid of ghosts, and now you are taking advantage of me.”

Wei Xiaobao was afraid of, number one: zombie, number two: ghost. As for the fox-spirit, he was not particularly afraid. He saw that this young girl was affable, compared to Fang Yi and Mu Jianping, she was considerably friendlier. Much less she spoke with Jiangnan accent, which was a lot more pleasant to the ear than Fang and Mu, two girls’ Yunnan accent. “Miss,” he said with a laugh, “What is your name?”

“I am Shuang’er,” the young girl replied, “Shuang from ‘yi shuang’ [a pair].”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “That’s very good,” he said, “I wonder if you are a pair of fragrant shoes, or a pair of smelly socks.”

Shuang’er laughed and said, “A pair of smelly socks is good, a pair of fragrant shoes is also good; you decide. Gui Gong-gong, you are dripping wet, surely it is very uncomfortable, please come over there and change into dry clothes. It’s just that there is a problem, you must not blame me.”

“What problem?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“We do not have any men’s clothes in here,” Shuang’er replied.

Wei Xiaobao’s heart jumped, immediately his countenance changed, “This house is full of female ghosts,” he mused.

Shuang’er raised the lantern and said, “Please come this way.” Wei Xiaobao hesitated, he did not know what to do. Shuang’er was already at the door; she turned her head around to wait for him. With a smile she said, “Putting on women’s clothes, you are afraid it will be inauspicious, aren’t you? Let’s do it this way then: you stay on the bed, I’ll get hot iron to dry your clothes.”

Seeing her gentle and soft expression, and how she was being very considerate, Wei Xiaobao found it hard to refuse; he had no choice but to follow her out the door. “What happened to my companions?” he asked, “Where are they going?”

Shuang’er halted while he walked two more steps, and then walking side by side with him, she said in low voice, “Third Mistress’ [orig. ‘san shao nai’ – third young madame] order: I must not tell you anything. Wait until you have had some refreshments, then Third Mistress herself will tell you everything.” Wei Xiaobao had been very hungry for a long time, hearing that he was going to get some refreshment, his spirit was aroused considerably.

Shuang’er took Wei Xiaobao along a pitch-black corridor into a dark room. She lighted the candle on the table. The room only had a bed and a table, the furnishing was simple, but it was very clean. The bed was covered in cotton quilt. Shuang’er lifted a corner of the quilt and let down the mosquito net, saying, “Gui Xianggong [lord/master/young gentleman, etc.], take off your clothes on the bed and tossed it to me.”

Following her instruction, Wei Xiaobao jumped onto the bed, removed all his clothes and crawled underneath the quilt before tossing the clothes outside the net. Shuang’er caught the clothes, walked toward the door, and said, “I’ll get the refreshment. Do you prefer sweet zongzi[1], or salty zongzi?”

“My stomach is growling of hunger,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Even if you give me mud zongzi, I’ll eat three.” Shuang’er laughed and walked out.

As soon as she left, Wei Xiaobao felt the room was extremely quiet. Looking at the flickering candle, sometimes it brightened, sometimes it dimmed, his fear returned. “Aiyo, not good,” he mused, “When female ghosts invite people to eat noodles, eat wonton, they actually serve earthworm and caterpillar. I must not be fooled.”

After a while, Wei Xiaobao smelled the sweet fragrance of meat and sugar. Shuang’er was back with a wooden tray on her hands, she used her elbow to push the mosquito net aside. Wei Xiaobao saw four already unwrapped zongzi on a plate, and was delighted. In all honesty, he was very hungry so that even if the zongzi was stuffed with earthworm and caterpillar, he would eat it first and talk about it later. Therefore, he picked the chopsticks and started to eat. When the zongzi entered his mouth, it tasted sweet and incomparably tasty. After two bites, he said, “Shuang’er, this tastes like Huzhou’s zongzi, it’s really good.”

Zongzi produced by Huzhou prefecture of Zhejiang province has soft rice and tasty meat-stuffing; it was unparalleled in the world. Yangzhou had a Huzhou zongzi shop. The patrons of Lovely Spring Courtyard often sent Wei Xiaobao to buy some. The zongzi was wrapped using bamboo leaves, so it was difficult for Wei Xiaobao to steal, but he always managed to squeeze some rice out of the corner of the zongzi and had a taste. Ever since he arrived at the north, he could not find Huzhou’s zongzi any longer.

Shuang’er was amazed; she said, “You are very knowledgeable, you can tell by eating it that it is Huzhou’s zongzi.”

Wei Xiaobao was busy chewing as he mumbled, “So this is really Huzhou’s zongzi? How can you buy Huzhou’s zongzi in this place?”

Shuang’er laughed and said, “We did not buy it, it’s from fox-spirit … (tee hee) fox-spirit magic.”

“Fox-spirit magical power is extensive,” Wei Xiaobao praised. Suddenly Zhang Laosan and his men came to his mind, thereupon he added, “It’s long-life is the same as the Heaven’s!”

Shuang’er laughed. “Enjoy your meal; I’ll iron your clothes.” After only taking a step, she asked, “Are you still afraid?”

Wei Xiaobao’s fear had diminished for the most part, but when all is said and done, he was still somewhat scared; he said, “Come back quickly.”

“Yes!” Shuang’er promised.

Not too long afterwards, Wei Xiaobao heard ‘chi chi’ noise. Shuang’er was back carrying an iron with glowing red coal in it. She spread his clothes on the table, so that while ironing, she could keep him company.

Of the four zongzi, two were savory, two were sweet. Wei Xiaobao ate three, and he could not eat anymore. He said, “These zongzi are very good. Did you wrap them yourself?”

“Third Mistress seasoned and mixed the ingredients, I helped her wrapping them,” Shuang’er replied.

Hearing she spoke with a Jiangnan accent, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was moved. “Are you from Huzhou?” he asked.

Shuang’er hesitated and did not answer. “When the clothes are ironed,” she said, “And Gui Xianggong see the Third Mistress later, you can ask her yourself, all right?” She was speaking soft and gentle words, her manner was very respectful.

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “What’s there not all right?” He lifted the mosquito net to look at her ironing his clothes.

Shuang’er looked up and smiled at him, she said, “You are not wearing any clothes, you may catch cold.”

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao’s mischievousness arose; he raised his body and called out, “I am going to jump out without any clothes on, I can’t possibly catch cold.” Shuang’er was shocked, but then she saw he slid down and hid underneath the quilt that even his head was not visible; she could not help but giggle.

About the time needed to eat a bowl of rice later, Shuang’er handed the ironed clothes over to the bed. Wei Xiaobao put it on and climbed down of the bed. Shuang’er helped him buttoned the jacket. She took out a small wooden comb to comb his hair and plait a braid. Wei Xiaobao smelled the light delicate fragrance coming from her body; he was very happy. “Turns out fox-spirits are such nice people.”

Shuang’er pouted and said with a laugh, “What fox-spirit? It’s so unpleasant to hear. I am not a fox-spirit.”

“Ah, I know,” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed, “You are a great immortal; I must not call you fox-spirit.”

Shuang’er laughed and said, “I am not a great immortal either, I am just a little servant girl.”

“I am a little eunuch, and you are a little servant,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Both of us are serving other people, we are a couple.”

“You are serving the Emperor,” Shuang’er said, “How can do I compare to you? One in the sky, the other on the earth.” While chatting, the braid was finished.

Shuang’er said, “I can’t plait men’s braids, I don’t know if this is alright?”

Wei Xiaobao pulled the braid to the front and had a look. “Very good,” he said, “I hate plaiting braids the most. It would be good if you could help me plaid my braid every day.”

“I may not have that good fortune,” Shuang’er said, “You are a big hero. Today I can plait your braid, it can already be considered that in the previous incarnation I have cultivated enough virtue.”

“Aiyo,” Wei Xiaobao said, “No formalities, please. You are such a smart and beautiful woman, and you plaited my braid. It was me who in my previous incarnation has knocked seventeen, eighteen big wooden fish[2].”

Shuang’er’s face blushed; she said in low voice, “I am speaking sincerely, yet you are making fun of me.”

“I am not, I am not,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am also speaking sincerely.”

Shuang’er smiled and said, “The Third Mistress says that whenever Gui Xianggong wishes, you may go and sit in the rear hall.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Third (Young) Master is not home?”

“Um,” Shuang’er hesitated, “He passed away,” she said quietly. Remembering the many mourning halls in the house, Wei Xiaobao’s heart trembled; he did not dare to ask anymore question.

Following behind her, they arrived at a tiny fancy-looking reception room at the rear hall. He sat down, Shuang’er immediately served a cup of hot tea. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was beating fast, he did not dare to chat with her again.

A moment later, he heard light and slow footsteps, from behind the wooden partition a young madame appeared, her entire body was covered in white-silk mourning dress. “Gui Xianggong must have had an exhausting journey,” she said. While saying that she bowed deeply, her manner was very respectful.

Wei Xiaobao hastily returned the propriety and said, “I do not dare.”

“Gui Xianggong, please sit down,” the young madame said.

Wei Xiaobao noticed that the young madame was about twenty six, twenty seven years of age, she was not wearing any cosmetics, her complexion pale, her eyes were red, obviously she had just been crying. Under the lantern light unexpectedly he saw that she had a shadow; although she looked gloomy and grim, most probably she was not a ghost.  In his heart, however, he was still apprehensive. “Yes, yes!” he replied. He sat down, leaning his body forward and said, “Third Mistress, thank you very much for your Huzhou’s zongzi, they are really delicious.”

The young madame said, “My deceased husband was surnamed Zhuang, I do not dare to be addressed as the Third Mistress. How long has Gui Xianggong been in the Palace?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “In the dark a moment ago, there was a woman asking me if I killed Oboi. After I admitted that I killed him, they sent a servant girl to deliver zongzi for me to eat. Apparently I was betting my treasure correctly.” He replied, “Not a lot more than a year.”

Madame Zhuang said, “Could Gui Xianggong tell Xiao Nuzi[3] how you kill that traitor Oboi with your own hand?”

Hearing she was calling Oboi a ‘traitor’, Wei Xiaobao was even more relieved, it was as if he had obtained a pair of very valuable cards in his hands, no matter of what value were the other two cards, when the cards were played, he would only make a kill and not pay for a loss, at most he would be even with the opponent. Thereupon he started by how Kangxi had issued an order for Oboi’s capture, how Oboi resisted arrest, how the little eunuchs swarmed on him, but several of them were killed by Oboi, how he had used the ashes of the incense burner to blind him so that finally Oboi was captured. Only about Kangxi stabbing Oboi on the back, he changed it into catching Oboi by surprise, he himself ferociously stabbed him on the back.

Madame Zhuang did not utter a single word, she was listening attentively in silence. When Wei Xiaobao narrated how he blinded Oboi by scattering ashes from the incense burner, how he stabbed him on his back using a dagger, how he smashed his head using the copper incense burner and thus capturing him, she could not help but letting out a breath gently.

Wei Xiaobao was accustomed to listen to the storyteller performing their art; he knew where to pause and where to raise his voice, his technique in grasping the audience’s heart was just perfect. Moreover, it was his own personal experience, he knew all kinds of the minute details so that his narration was exhaustive. Plus he added some grease, salt, paste and vinegar, so that perhaps listening to his story was several degrees more soul-stirring than when he was actually capturing Oboi.

“So that’s what happened,” Madame Zhuang said, “The rumor outside is highly exaggerated, they say that Gui Gonggong has such an excellent martial art, that he fiercely fought Oboi for three hundred rounds, and that he used his unique skill to subdue him. Thinking that Oboi had the reputation as the Manchurian’s Number One Warrior, Gui Xianggong must have had very high martial art skill, while his age is still very young.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “If we fought for real, even a hundred Xiao Guizi are not this traitor’s match.”

“Afterwards, how did Oboi die?” Madame Zhuang asked.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Eight or nine out of ten, this Third Mistress is not a female ghost; therefore, she must be a Wulin character. If I don’t need to lie, I should not tell a lie, so that after painstakingly win some money, I won’t lose it all in one turn of the cards.” Thereupon he truthfully told her in details how Kangxi sent him to inspect Oboi’s condition, how he came across Tian Di Hui people who came to attack the Prince Kang’s mansion, how the incoming people mistakenly identified him as Oboi’s man, how he struggled to crawl into the prison cell and thus killed Oboi. At the very last he said, “It turned out that these people were Oboi’s adversary; they were the heroes and warriors of the Green Wood Hall of Tian Di Hui. Seeing I killed Oboi, unexpectedly they were very polite to me, telling me that I have avenged their great enmity.”

Madame Zhuang nodded; she said, “And thus Gui Xianggong received the favor of Chen Zongduozhu who took you as his disciple and made you the Tian Di Hui’s Green Wood Hall Xiangzhu. Turns out everything is because of this.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “You already knew everything, why did you ask me, then?” He said, “I am a muddle head, I don’t know anything. Being the Green Wood Hall Xiangzhu, indeed I only have a name but no reality.” He did not know whether Madame Zhuang was a friend or a foe of Tian Di Hui, therefore, he decided to hold two contradictory views at the same time first and talk about it later.

Madame Zhuang pondered deeply for half a day before saying, “When Gui Xianggong killed Oboi in that prison cell, which move did you use? Is it possible for you to show it to me?”

Seeing her eyes were shining bright, Wei Xiaobao thought, “This woman must belong to some demonic school; if I talk nonsense and toot my horn, most probably she would expose my trickery. I think being honest is the best.” Thereupon he stood up and said, “What fart move do I have?” Flailing his hands around he said, “At that time I was so scared out of my wits, I was in a hideous mess; this is exactly what I did.”

Madame Zhuang nodded. “Gui Xianggong, please sit down,” she said. And then she stood up and turned to Shuang’er, “Shuang’er, why don’t you take our osmanthus flower flavored candy and have Gui Xianggong taste it?” Finished speaking, she bowed in respect again and walked out toward the inner hall.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “She invites me to eat some candy, obviously she does not harbor any evil intention.” But in the end he still did not feel at ease; he thought, “Although this Third Mistress does not look like a female ghost, it is perhaps because her magical skill is so high that the demonic air did not show.”

Shuang’er returned from the inner hall, holding a blue and white china plate with tall legs with both hands, the plate was full of osmanthus flower flavored candy and pine-nut candy. She smiled and said, “Gui Xianggong, please eat some candy.” After setting the china plate on the table, she went back into the inner hall.

Sitting in that reception room, Wei Xiaobao ate quite a lot of osmanthus flower flavored candies and pine-nut candies, hoping that it would be dawn quickly.

After quite a while, suddenly he heard the rustling noise of clothes. Behind the door, by the window, behind the partition screen, there were a lot of eyes secretly stealing a glance at him; it appeared that all those eyes belong to women. In the dark night, it was difficult to tell whether they were humans or ghosts, it’s just that by looking at those eyes, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was really afraid. Suddenly he heard an old woman’s voice from outside the long window said, “Gui Xianggong, you have killed the traitor Oboi, and have avenged the blood enmity as-deep-as-the-ocean of our families. We do not know how to repay this great virtue and great kindness.” The long window opened, revealing several dozens of women wearing white clothing lining up on the floor to pay homage to him.

Wei Xiaobao was startled; he quickly returned the courtesy. Hearing the women were knocking their heads on the floor, ‘dong, dong, dong’, he also kneeled down and kowtowed. The long window suddenly closed. The old woman said, “Benefactor does not need to be overly courteous, we, widows, do not dare to accept the honor.” Suddenly the women outside the long window raised their voices in sobbing and weeping.

Wei Xiaobao was absolutely terrified. After a while, the sound of weeping gradually went away, those women had dispersed. It was as if he was in a dream, or it happened only in his imagination. “Actually, are they humans, or are they ghosts? It looks like … it looks like …”

A moment later, Madame Zhuang returned from the inner hall. “Gui Xianggong,” she said, “Please do not be disturbed. Those who live here are all surviving family of the deceased loyal ministers and patriots who were harmed by Oboi. When we found out that Gui Xianggong has killed Oboi with your own hand, and thus avenging our great enmity, we all feel grateful.”

“So Third Master was … was also harmed by Oboi?” Wei Xiaobao said.

Lowering her head, Madame Zhuang said, “Precisely. Everybody in here is grieving and crying blood, day and night we are waiting for an opportunity to revenge. Who would have thought this traitor, who was strung through and filled with evil, faced the retribution that quickly, unexpectedly he died under Gui Xianggong’s hands.”

“What merit do I have?” Wei Xiaobao said, “It was only a coincident; nothing more than that.”

Shuang’er appeared with his own bundle and placed it on the table. Madame Zhuang said, “Gui Xianggong, your great virtue and great kindness is difficult to repay, by right we should receive you cordially, it’s only proper. Only, living as widows, we feel it is rather inappropriate. After careful discussion, we wanted to present you a meager gift to show our appreciation. But Gui Xianggong’s traveling bag is plentiful, you carry a huge sum of money. We live in the countryside, what do we have that Gui Xianggong may appreciate? As for martial art skill and so on, Gui Xianggong is Tian Di Hui’s Chen Zongduozhu’s disciple; your school’s martial art is far above our little superficial skill. It truly poses difficulties for us.”

Hearing her speaking so courteously, Wei Xiaobao said, “There is no need to stand on ceremonies. I just want to ask, those several companions of mine, where did they go?”

Madame Zhuang contemplated for half a day, and said, “Since you ask, I should have not dared not to answer. But after Benefactor learns about it, I am afraid it would only bring harm and not benefit. These several people are Benefactor’s friends, we will strive to do our best not to let them come into any harm. Someday they may see Benefactor again.”

Wei Xiaobao expected that asking further would be useless. He looked up toward the window and thought, “Why isn’t it daylight already?”

Madame Zhuang seemingly understood his thought; she asked, “Where is Benefactor going tomorrow?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “I believe she has heard my conversation with that Zhang Laosan, it will be useless to conceal it from her.” He said, “I am going to Mount Wutai in Shanxi.”

Madame Zhuang said, “In this journey to Mount Wutai, you will have to travel far away; I am afraid you will meet some disturbances along the way. We are thinking of presenting you with a gift, we would ask that you give us the good fortune of not declining it.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “Other people have the good intention of giving me anything, I have never refused to accept it,” he said.

“That’s wonderful,” Madame Zhuang said. Pointing toward Shuang’er she said, “This little girl Shuang’er has followed me for many years, the way she is doing her job is fairly appropriate. We are presenting her to Benefactor, please take her with you. Hereafter she will attend to Benefactor.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, but delighted; he did not expect that the gift she was going to present to him was a person. Just now Shuang’er had taken care of him, ironing his clothes and plaited his braid, she had saved him not a few efforts. If he could have this kind of good-looking and smart servant girl[4] accompanying him by his side, certainly it would be merrier; but the journey to Mount Wutai this time would not be necessarily peaceful or without any trouble, he must act according to the situation, taking a servant girl along would be very inconvenient. He said, “Madame Zhuang is giving me this valuable present, I am really grateful. It’s just that … it’s just that …” He wanted to decline, but first, others were giving him present, how could he not accept? Second, such a nice servant, he really did not want not to accept her. He saw Shuang’er, with her head hung low, was stealing a glance to him; as soon as their eyes met, she hastily turned her head around, her face blushed.

“I wonder what Benefactor’s difficulty is?” Madame Zhuang asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “I am going to Mount Wutai on a mission, most likely it will … it will not be easy; if I take this Miss along, I am afraid it will be inconvenient.”

“You don’t have to worry actually,” Madame Zhuang said, “Although Shuang’er is young, she is rather agile, she won’t be Benefactor’s burden. Please set your heart at ease.”

Wei Xiaobao took another glance toward Shuang’er, he saw her glazed eyes had an earnest look; he laughed and asked, “Shuang’er, are you willing to come with me?”

Shuang’er lowered her head, in a quiet voice she said, “Third Mistress ordered me to take care of Xianggong, naturally … naturally I must obey Third Mistress’ instruction.”

“Are you yourself willing or not?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “I am afraid we will meet dangers.”

“I am not afraid of dangers,” Shuang’er replied.

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “You answered my second question, but did not answer my first. You are not afraid of dangers, it’s just that Madame is presenting you to me, but in your heart you are not willing.”

Shuang’er said, “Madame’s benevolence to me is very heavy, Xianggong has shown great kindness to our Zhuang family, Madame instructs me to attend Xianggong, I will definitely do it with all my heart. If Xianggong treats me well, my fate is good, if you do not treat me well, it’s my … my destiny to suffer hardship.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and said, “Your fate is very good, how can you be destined to suffer hardship?” The corner of Shuang’er’s mouth revealed a light smile.

“Shuang’er,” Madame Zhuang said, “You pay respect to Gui Xianggong; later on, you will become Gui Xianggong’s.”

Shuang’er looked up; suddenly her eyes turned red. First she kneeled in front of Madame Zhuang and kowtowed, saying, “Third Mistress, I … I …” After saying the word ‘I’ twice, she broke into a light sob.

Madame Zhuang gently stroked her hair, in a warm voice she said, “Gui Xianggong is a young hero. He is still young, yet his name has spread all over the world. You must serve Xianggong well. He has promised to treat you well.”

“Yes,” Shuang’er replied. She turned around, and then gracefully paid her respect to Wei Xiaobao.

“No formalities, please!” Wei Xiaobao said. He helped her up, opened his bundle, took out a strand of pearls and said with a laugh, “Just consider this as my gift on the first meeting!” while thinking, “This strand of pearls at least worth three, four thousand taels of silver. If used to buy servant girls, it can buy several dozens of them. But several dozens of servant girls added together won’t be more lovely than this Shuang’er.”

Shuang’er received the gift with both hands, saying, “Many thanks Xianggong,” and hanged it on her neck. The pearls flickered under the light, it shined on her smart face, making her look even more beautiful.

Madame Zhuang said, “Benefactor is going to Mount Wutai, I wonder if you are going to investigate openly, or make secret inquiries?”

“Naturally I will make secret inquiries,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Madame Zhuang said, “The various Buddhist monasteries and temples on Mount Wutai are separated into green and yellow, they are full of crouching tigers and hidden dragons. Benefactor must be very careful.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Thank you very much for your advice. But your calling me ‘Benefactor’, I do not dare to accept. Just call me Xiaobao.”

“I do not dare,” Madame Zhuang said. Standing up, she said, “Please take good care of yourself along the way, forgive this widow for not sending you far off.” To Shuang’er she said, “Shuang’er, as soon as you leave this door, you don’t belong to Zhuang family anymore. Hereafter whatever you say, whatever you do, will not be your former master’s concern. If you fool around outside, our Zhuang family will not shelter you anymore.” While saying these words, her expression was very serious. Shuang’er complied. Madame Zhuang saluted Wei Xiaobao again, and then walked in.

They saw the window paper turned translucent, the sky gradually brightened. Shuang’er went in to get her bundle, and then along with Wei Xiaobao’s bundle, she slung both bundles over her shoulder. “Let’s go!” Wei Xiaobao said.

“Yes!” Shuang’er replied. Her head hung low, her expression mournful, she kept looking back toward the hall. Apparently she was rather reluctant to part with Madame Zhuang. Her eyes were red, obviously she had just been crying.

Wei Xiaobao went out the front gate, Shuang’er followed behind him. By this time the heavy rain had stopped, but in the mountain streams, water was flowing rapidly, they could hear the sound of water everywhere. After walking for several dozen steps, Wei Xiaobao looked back toward the big house, but the mist had shrouded the front corner of the wall. After walking for several more dozen steps, he looked back again only to see white expanse of mist, nothing else was visible.

He sighed and said, “The matter of last night was really like a dream. Shuang’er, what did the Madame mean when she said those last sentences to you?”

Shuang’er said, “The Third Mistress said that later on I am serving Xianggong; no matter what I say or do, it won’t be the responsibility of her Zhuang family.”

“In that case,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You can tell me where did my companions go?”

Shuang’er was startled. “Yes,” she said, “Xianggong’s companions were originally saved by us, Zhang Laosan and his men were also originally captured by us. But afterward some formidable characters from Shen Long Jiao arrived and those prisoners were snatched away. Third Mistress said that we are womenfolk, it was inappropriate for us to fight with those uncouth men. Besides, we may not necessarily be able to overcome those men. For the time being, we submit to them while looking for another way to rescue your several companions. Seeing we retreated, Shen Long Jiao people also withdrew. Before leaving, they spoke several polite words.” Wei Xiaobao nodded; he was rather concerned over Fang Yi and Mu Jianping’s safety.

Shuang’er said, “Third Mistress has persuaded the Shen Long Jiao leader that they must not harm your several companions’ lives. The man has agreed to it with his own mouth.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “I am afraid those Shen Long Jiao fellows speak just like they fart. Ay, I guess it can’t be helped.” He then asked, “Does the Third Mistress know martial art?”

“She does,” Shuang’er said, “Not only she knows martial art, she is very good at it.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “She is such a horn-tooter, what ‘very good at martial art’? If she is really good at martial art, how could she let Oboi killed the Third Master?”

Shuang’er said, “When the Old Master and the Third Master were executed, none of their several dozen family members knew martial art. All the men in the family were arrested by Oboi and taken to Beijing to be executed, the women were to be banished to Guta district of Liaoning, to be slaves to the armored troops. Fortunately along the way they met the saving star, who killed the prisoner escorts and saved our several dozen women, helped us settled in here, and taught the Third Mistress and the others some skill.” Wei Xiaobao gradually understood.

In the meantime, the sky had brightened considerably, the sun had appeared on the eastern horizon. The heavy rain last night had washed the trees of the forest that everything looked fresh and green, with droplets of water hanging from their leaves. It was only now that Wei Xiaobao no longer doubted that the ones he saw last night were not female ghosts. He asked, “You have so many mourning halls in your house; are those all for your Masters and Young Masters who were killed by Oboi?”

“Exactly,” Shuang’er said, “We live in seclusion deep in the mountains, we have never had any dealings with outsiders before. The neighboring country people are curious and come over to stick their heads out and look around, so we always masquerade ourselves as ghosts to scare them off. Therefore, everybody says this is a haunted house. Over the last year, nobody has ever dared to come over. Unexpectedly Xianggong came last night. Third Mistress said that now that our great enmity has been avenged, it would be best if everything is kept in secret. The names of Master, Young Master and the others are written on memorial tablets in the mourning hall, if outsiders saw it, it would be greatly inconvenient. When Xianggong asked me last night, I did not dare to explain. But Third Mistress has said that henceforth I am to serve Xianggong, and no longer the Zhuang family’s responsibility. Naturally I must not conceal anything from you anymore.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao delightedly said, “Let me tell you: my real name is Wei Xiaobao. That Gui Gong-gong or what have you, is a fake name. You belong to the Wei family, not the Gui family.”

Shuang’er was overjoyed; she said, “Xianggong even tell me your real name, I can’t possibly reveal it to anybody else.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “My real name is not such a big secret,” he said, “Many of Tian Di Hui brethrens already know about it.”

Shuang’er said, “When those Shen Long Jiao people fought with your companions, Third Mistress and the others were outside, enjoying watching the fun. They saw those people were able to chant spells, reciting mumbo-jumbo incantation …”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Hong Jiaozhu’s magical power is extensive, his long-life is the same as the Heaven’s. This kind of incantation, I am also able to recite.”

Shuang’er said, “Third Mistress said that while their mouths were chanting the incantations, there must be some other magic going on in the dark; otherwise, it’s impossible that as soon as they recite the spell, their power increased several folds. Afterwards, when that Zhang Laosan was talking to you, Third Mistress was listening outside, while the rest of us extinguished the light in the main hall and caught everybody using fishing net.”

Wei Xiaobao slapped his thigh and exclaimed, “Wonderful! Catching people using fishing net? That’s great!”

Shuang’er said, “Third Mistress said that there is nothing special about that Zhang Laosan’s martial art skill, only his sorcery is formidable, thereupon she did not fight him face to face. As soon as she managed to lure him out, she extinguished the light and with the fishing net …”

“Caught the old turtle,” Wei Xiaobao finished.

Shuang’er giggled. She said, “There is a lake behind the mountain, we often went fishing at night. When we were in Huzhou, the big house of the Zhuang family was located near Taihu[5]. The lake is very big, at that time our Zhuang family owned a lot of fishing boat, which we rented to the fishermen to catch fish. Third Mistress and the others learned how to use net to catch fish from watching the fishermen.”

“You really are Huzhou people, no wonder your Huzhou’s zongzi is really delicious,” Wei Xiaobao said, “How did the Third Master get killed by Oboi?”

“According to the Third Mistress,” Shuang’er said, “It was called ‘literary inquisition’.”

“Mosquito meat[6]?” Wei Xiaobao was puzzled, “Mosquito has meat?”

“Not ‘mosquito’, it’s ‘literary’,” Shuang’er said, “Learn to write! Our First Young Master was a scholar, his knowledge was very profound. After he’d gone blind, he wrote a book, in his book there was a sentence scolding the Manchu people …”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Wei Xiaobao clucked his tongue, “Amazing, he was blind yet was able to write a literary work. My eyes are not blind, yet when looking at other people’s writing, I still do not know anything. This might be called ‘bright-eyed blind person’!”

Shuang’er said, “Old Mistress often said that we live in a wrong era, being illiterate is actually better. The women who live together in our house are from several different families, each family’s Laoye [Old Master], Shaoye [Young Master] were all gifted scholars and intellects, none of their literary works was not renowned in the world, yet each one ran into misfortune. It was precisely because of their literary works that disaster came. But Third Mistress said the more the Manchurian Tatars did not want us, Han people to study and create literary works, the more reason for us to study, the more reason for us to create literary works; only then will we prevent the Tatars from achieving their hearts’ desire.”

“Can you create literary works?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Shuang’er giggled and said, “Xianggong really loves to joke. How can a little servant girl create literary works? The Third Mistress taught me to read, yet I have read only seven or eight books.”

“Wow!” Wei Xiaobao said, “You have read seven or eight books? That’s a lot more than I can read. I only know seven or eight characters.”

Shuang’er laughed and said, “Xianggong does not like to study, I am sure the Old Mistress would have loved you. She said that as soon as the Qing Dynasty arrived, only prodigal sons study.”

“That’s true!” Wei Xiaobao said, “I think that that thief Oboi was not too literate. It must be those bootlickers who read to him.”

“Right!” Shuang’er said, “The book our First Young Master wrote was called something like ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’. There were some words in the book scolding the Manchurian Qing. There was an evil man called Wu Zhirong who took the book to Oboi and lodged an accusation. This matter was blown out of proportion; several hundred people were executed; even the business proprietors who sold the book, the customers who bought the book, were all arrested and executed. Xianggong, you live in Beijing, have you met this man Wu Zhirong?”

“I have not,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I will slowly look for him, I am sure I will find him. Shuang’er, I am thinking of replacing you with someone else.”

Shuang’er was shocked. “You … you want to give me to someone else?” she said with trembling voice.

“Not giving you to someone else,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I want to replace you with someone else.”

Shuang’er’s eyes had already turned red; she was about to cry. “What … what do you mean replacing me with someone else?” she asked.

“Your Third Mistress gave you to me,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Such a big gift is not easy to repay. I am thinking of catching that thief Wu Zhirong and give him to your Third Mistress. Then my gift will have more or less the same value as her gift.”

Shuang’er laughed through her tears; she gently patted her own chest and said, “You scared me big time; I thought Xianggong did not want me anymore.”

Wei Xiaobao was very happy; he said, “You were afraid I did not want you and became anxious like that. Don’t worry, even if people pile a mountain of gold, a mountain of silver, a mountain of pearls, a mountain of gems, I will never trade you off.”

While chatting, the two of them had reached the foot of the mountain. They saw the clear blue sky as if it had just been washed; there was not a single speck of dust within ten thousand li. Wei Xiaobao thought that the circumstances right now was entirely different from last night, where they were forced by the heavy rain to take shelter in the ‘haunted house’. It’s just that Xu Tianchuan, Fang Yi, Mu Jianping and the others lost the battle and were captured by the enemy; he did not know whether they would be able to escape from danger. Based on his own ability, he would not be able to save them anyway, so thinking about them would be useless, it would be better for him not to think.

After walking for several li, they arrived at a small town. The two of them found a noodle shop, so they went in to eat. After Wei Xiaobao had been seated, Shuang’er stood behind him, ready to serve.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You can’t be too polite, sit down, let’s eat together.”

“It won’t do,” Shuang’er replied, “How can I sit and eat together with Xianggong? There is no such custom.”

“Why should I care about damn custom or no custom?” Wei Xiaobao said, “When I say you can, then you can. If you wait until I finish eating before you start, we would be delayed too much.”

“We’ll leave as soon as Xianggong finish eating,” Shuang’er said, “I’ll buy some mantou [steamed bun], and eat it while we are walking. That way there won’t be any delay.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed. “I have a strange temperament,” he said, “If I eat something alone, my stomach will definitely give me some trouble. If nobody accompanies me eating, a moment later I will have tummy ache, and then I’ll have to accept my fate.”

Shuang’er smiled sweetly; she had no choice but to pull the bench and sat down at an oblique angle from Wei Xiaobao at the corner of the table.

[Translator’s note: my original online source was the 2nd Edition, while I also have the hard copy of the 3rd Edition. The following part about the three lamas does not exist in the 3rd Edition, but since I have translated this part anyway, I am including it here.]

Wei Xiaobao had only eaten several chopsticks from his bowl of noodles when he saw three Tibetan Lama entering the shop and sat facing the street. They repeatedly called out, “Bring out the noodles, bring out the noodles!”

One of the lamas’ glance caught the string of pearls on Shuang’er’s neck, he nudged his companion with his left elbow and pouted to hint toward the pearls. As soon as the other two saw it, a happy expression appeared on their faces; they could not take their eyes off the necklace, sizing it up.

“Not good,” Wei Xiaobao mused, “These three fellows are going to rob us on the way.” Taking out a piece of silver, he ordered the noodle shop waiter to hire a large carriage. After finishing his noodles in haste, he boarded the carriage, and ordered the driver to hurry to the west.

After galloping for several li, they heard the sound of hoof beat behind the carriage. Wei Xiaobao looked back, and sure enough, he saw those three lamas on horseback, coming to pursue them. He said to Shuang’er, “Those three bandits are going to snatch your pearls away. Just give it to them, I’ll buy another string for you later.”

“Yes!” Shuang’er said, “You don’t need to buy another one for me.”

They heard the three lamas called out, “Stop! Stop!” The driver pulled the reins of his mule. The three lamas leaped forward to block the carriage. One of them said, “You, two babies, get out!”

Shuang’er took the pearls necklace from her neck and held it outside the carriage; she said, “You fancy this string of pearls, Xianggong says you can have it, just get it.”

A big and fat lama stretched out his big hand, but he did not take the pearls, he reached farther up and grabbed Shuang’er’s wrist and pulled her outside. Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “You want more money, I have some. Don’t play rough!” But he saw a yellow shadow flashed, the lama leaped up to the air and flew backward. “Good skill!” Wei Xiaobao shouted in his heart. He saw the lama’s body rapidly fall to the ground, but his head was down and his feet up. ‘Splosh!’ his big and fat head went straight into a swamp, all the way to his chest, his legs were kicking wildly.

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised; he wondered what kind of prominent martial art move this lama was executing. ‘Wah! Wah!’ the other two lamas were shouting randomly, while rushing forward to grab his body and pull him out of the mud. The fat lama’s face was wet with mud; he was in such a sorry condition. Fortunately the heavy rain the previous night had soaked the dirt of the roadside swamp so that the lama was not injured.

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and told the carriage driver, “Quickly go!”

Shuang’er raised the pearls in her hand and asked, “Xianggong, shall I give these pearls to them?”

Before Wei Xiaobao could reply, he saw the three lamas drew their sabers from their waists and ferociously charged toward them. Shuang’er snatched the whip from the driver’s hand and flicked it outward, it coiled around the saber in a lama’s hand. She pulled the whip back and caught the saber with her left hand. She flicked the whip in her right hand again, and the saber in the second lama’s hand was snatched away.

“Aiyo!” the third lama cried out, and stopped dead in his track. Shuang’er flicked her whip again, but this time it coiled around the lama’s neck. She pulled him toward the carriage, and then without any trouble snatched the saber in the lama’s hand.

The lama’s throat was strangled by the whip, his eyes turned white, his tongue was stretched out, his face was instantly devoid of any blood. The other two lamas rushed toward Shuang’er in converging attack from left and right, trying to save their companion. Shuang’er leaped up, her left foot stood on the axle of the carriage, her right foot repeatedly kicked, the acupoints on the two lamas’ heads were sealed, they passed out and fell to the ground. She waved her hand to loosen up the whip. The lama had been suffocated for a good while, he also lost his consciousness and fell down.

Wei Xiaobao was extremely delighted; he sprang up and called out, “Shuang’er, good Shuang’er, turns out your martial art skill is superb.”

Shuang’er showed a faint smile and said, “It was nothing, these three bandits are useless.”

“If I had known earlier, I would not have to worry for half a day,” Wei Xiaobao said. Jumping down from the carriage, he kicked the body of a lama. “What do you want?” he asked. But the lama was still fainted and had not regained his consciousness.

Shuang’er kicked his waist. The lama groaned and regained his consciousness. Shuang’er said, “Xianggong asks what do you want?”

“Miss …” the lama said, “Miss can do … do magic?”

Shuang’er smiled. “Answer quickly!” she said, “What are you up to?”

The lama said, “We … we are lamas from Mount Wutai’s Bodhisattva Peak … Great Manjushri Temple.”

Shuang’er frowned. “What lama or not lama?” she said, “Rubbish! You are speaking vulgar language.”

“Lamas are Buddhist monks of Tibet,” Wei Xiaobao explained.

“Turns out you are Buddhist monks,” Shuang’er said. She gently kicked the lama again and said, “If you are Buddhist monks, how come you do not shave your whole head clean?”

“We are lamas,” the lama said, “Not Buddhist monks.”

“What?” Shuang’er said, “Still won’t admit it? Xianggong says you are Buddhist monks, then you are Buddhist monks!” She kicked the ‘tian huo’ [heavenly opening] acupoint on his waist, the lama felt the pain went straight into his bones and marrow; he could not bear it and shouting and screaming in loud voice. The pain grew worse, and his shout grew louder.

The other two lamas slowly regained their consciousness, hearing their companion was screaming like a pig being slaughtered, they were aghast and immediately asked in Tibetan what had happened. The other lama replied, and then called out in Chinese, “I am a Buddhist monk, I am a Buddhist monk. I am whatever Miss … Miss said what I am. Please … please quickly … unseal my acupoint.”

Shuang’er laughed. “Whatever Miss says does not count, it’s whatever Xianggong says that count,” she said, “Xianggong, what do you say he is?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “I say he is a Buddhist nun!” he said.

The lama really could not bear the pain, he hastily said, “I am a Buddhist nun, I am a Buddhist nun!” Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er roared in laughter.

Shuang’er lightly kicked the ‘qi hu’ [chi door] acupoint on his neck with her left foot, the severe pain stopped immediately. But the lama was still screaming, “I am a Buddhist nun, I am a Buddhist nun!”

Wei Xiaobao stopped laughing. He said, “You are people who have left home, why did you want to rob our belongings?”

Xiaoren deserves to die,” the lama replied, “Next time we won’t dare to do it again.”

“You are still thinking of next time?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The lama said, “I said we won’t dare, we really won’t dare. Even after a hundred years have passed, we still won’t dare.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You do not chant Buddhist scripture in the temple, but coming down the mountain instead. What are you up to?”

The lama replied, “It’s … it’s Shifu who sends us down the mountain.”

“Your Shifu sends you down the mountain to rob gold, silver and jewels?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“No … not that,” the lama replied, “We are going to Beijing …” he had just spoken to this point, the other big and fat lama coughed.

Wei Xiaobao cast a glance toward him, he saw that fat lama repeatedly winked his eyes, obviously he was signaling his companion not to tell the truth. At first Wei Xiaobao was thinking that these lamas were provoking evil designs upon seeing riches, robbing and plundering, but doing nothing serious. Manchurians believed in lamas; whenever there was a religious ritual to be performed in the Palace, they would always invite lamas to chant the sutras. If the imperial household was like that, the princes and dukes and other royalties need not be mentioned. Therefore, quite a number of lamas, who did not need to observe the Qing law, went on the rampage in Beijing. Wei Xiaobao was thinking of torturing these lamas for a while, and after he had enough fun, he would simply let them go. However, seeing the big fat lama’s expression, he knew there was something else going on. He said, “These three fellows are playing tricks. Shuang’er, give each one a kick, let these three people whine on for days, and then we are off!”

“Yes!” Shuang’er complied. She could also see that the big fat lama was playing tricks, hence she kicked him first on his ‘tian huo’ acupoint. The lama immediately screamed.

Shuang’er walked over to the first lama and lifted her foot as if she was going to kick. The lama was shocked; he hastily said, “Don’t kick, I’ll tell you everything. Shifu sends us to Beijing to deliver a letter.”

“What letter?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The lama said, “This … we can’t let you see this letter. If we show it to other people, Shi … Shifu will definitely kill us.”

“Take it out!” Wei Xiaobao said, “If you don’t, I’ll kick you.” While saying that, he took a step forward.

The lama did not know that Wei Xiaobao’s martial art skill was limited, if he was kicked, the pain would be the same as if he was tickled. Seeing Wei Xiaobao lifting up his foot, he busily said, “I don’t … I don’t have it with me.”

“Take it out!” Wei Xiaobao said.

The lama had no choice, he went over to the fat lama and mumbled some Tibetan words. The fat lama also used Tibetan to reply; while squealing like a slaughtered pig, he appeared to be shouting some disjointed Tibetan words so that his voice was even more unpleasant to the ears. From the tone of his voice and his expression, Wei Xiaobao deduced that the fat lama did not allow the other lama to take the letter out. Thereupon he walked over to the fat lama and fiercely kicked the fat lama’s forehead. The big and fat lama fainted instantly. The other lama then took a small oilcloth package from the fat lama’s bosom, and trembling with fear, he presented the package with both hands.

Wei Xiaobao received the package. Shuang’er also took out a small package from her bosom and produced a tiny pair of scissors. She cut the package open, as expected, there was a letter inside. There were two lined of Tibetan script written on the envelope. “To whom is this letter addressed to?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“To our Shibo [older martial uncle],” the lama replied.

Wei Xiaobao reached out and ‘rip!’ he tore the envelope open. The two lamas groaned repeatedly. Wei Xiaobao saw several lines of curvy Tibetan script written on a sheet of yellow paper, on the bottom, drawn in cinnabar ink, there was a weird-looking seal, it was totally unintelligible. Even if this letter was written in Chinese script, Wei Xiaobao would not understand. Thereupon he handed it over to Shuang’er and asked, “What does it say?”

Shuang’er did not know either; she turned to the lama, “Xianggong asks you: what does it say? Tell us quickly! If you speak half a word of lie, I will kick your acupoint immediately and never unseal it again. Humph, I will wait for at least three days and three nights before unsealing it.”

The lama received the letter, looked at it over and over, and stammered, “This … this is …”

“What this or that?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Tell me quickly!”

“Yes, yes!” the lama replied, “The letter says, the person Shixiong was asking about …” He had just spoken that sentence, the other lama suddenly mumbled some unintelligible words. Shuang’er leaped toward him and kicked him on the ‘tian huo’ acupoint. The lama’s words turned into screaming and wailing.

The first lama’s countenance changed greatly; with a trembling voice he said, “The letter says … says that the person we are looking for, we can’t find it even after searching high and low. He is definitely … definitely not on Mount Wutai.”

Wei Xiaobao saw the lama’s eyes were evasive while repeatedly swallowing his own saliva as he was talking, he thought, “Although I don’t understand your bird’s cry or dog’s bark, looking at your expression, I can tell that you are lying. It’s just that this fellow is too stupid, even when telling a lie, he is not convincing.” He said to Shuang’er, “This lama is lying to us.”

Shuang’er said, “Since he is that bad, we can’t spare him.” She raised her foot and kicked his ‘tian huo’ acupoint.

The lama cried out, “You … just kill me. My Shixiong said that … that if we tell you what the letter says, we … the three of us will not live. You … you kill me quickly.”

“Ignore him, let’s go!” Wei Xiaobao said. Together with Shuang’er, they leaped onto the carriage.

The carriage driver saw that although these two were young, unexpectedly they were able to deal with the three lamas and made them hovering between life and death. He was full of admiration and did not stop praising them. Wei Xiaobao said in a low voice, “When we get to the small town ahead, you may need to change. This string of pearls must be kept someplace else.”

[The 3rd Edition continues with the following:]

After the two of them finished eating the noodles, Wei Xiaobao said, “You are wearing women’s clothes, a lot of people along the way will look at you because you are too pretty. When we get to the small town ahead, you may need to change. This string of pearls must be kept someplace else.”

“Yes,” Shuang’er said, “What attire must I change into?”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “You change into a man’s clothing.”

After travelling for about thirty li, the carriage reached a big town. Wei Xiaobao sent the carriage driver off, while they entered an inn to lodge for the night. He took out some money and instructed Shuang’er to go buy some clothing. Shuang’er purchased several sets and returned to the inn; she put on the clothes and was transformed into a handsome young attendant.

With this transformation, they no longer attracted any attention along the way. Shuang’er was well-versed in martial art, but was completely oblivious of the ways of the world; all along the way, she left the decision making into Wei Xiaobao’s hands, although his ideas were not always brilliant. Thirty percent of the time he was serious, the other seventy percent he was simply fooling around.

One day they arrived at the border between Hebei and Shanxi, two provinces. From Fuping County of Zhili provinces[7] to the west, over the Great Wall mountain range, they would reach the Long Quan [lit. dragon spring] Pass. This Long Quan Pass was actually the eastern gateway to Mount Wutai. The stony path was rugged, the ridges and peaks were high and steep. Upon entering Mount Wutai, the first temple they encountered was the Yong Quan Temple [lit. bubbling spring].

Wei Xiaobao inquired the whereabouts of the Qing Liang Temple, but Mount Wutai was actually very big, Qing Liang Temple was located between the Nan Tai Peak and Zhong Tai Peak [Translator’s note: I am not familiar with Mount Wutai’s geography, Nan Tai and Zhong Tai mean ‘southern platform’ and ‘middle platform’, respectively]. The distance from Yong Quan Temple was really not near.

That evening Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er seek lodging at the Lu Family Village neighboring the Yong Quan Temple. They ate a bowl of mutton and bread soup and some candy. He recalled the cold demeanor of the Yong Quan Temple’s monk when he was asking about the Qing Liang Temple’s location earlier that day. When the monk saw how young he was, the monk did not pay him any attention; instead of explaining the location of the Qing Liang Temple, the monk asked him back, “The road is long and difficult to walk, what are you going to Qing Liang Temple for?” This nasty attitude was seventy-percent similar to the selfish, concerned-only-with-gaining-advantages-for-themselves, bald-headed thieves of the Chan Zhi Temple [lit. Dhyana Wisdom] in Yangzhou. It would not be easy to look for Emperor Shunzhi when he reached Qing Liang Temple later; he must find another way.

While his mouth was chewing the candy, his mind was churning, “They say money will make the devil turn millstones, perhaps I can make the monks to turn the millstones as well. I once heard the storyteller told the story of Lu Zhishen of the ‘Water Margin’ went to Mount Wutai to become a monk. A certain outsider gave considerable alms to the Temple. Lu Zhishen created havoc in the Temple, drinking wine and eating dog meat, yet the old monk was not angry. That’s right, I am going to pretend that I need to perform a Buddhist ceremony, scatter a large sum of money in the Temple, and then making an excuse to stay in the Temple and won’t leave, and thus I can slowly looking for the old Emperor. The old monks can’t possibly drive me away.”

However, upon entering the mountain, other than the temples, they did not see any town where he could exchange a five-hundred-tael banknote. Without any choice they had to leave Long Quan Pass and returned to Fuping. He exchanged the banknote into silver currency, and then both he and Shuang’er changed into brand new clothes; he thought, “I want to perform a Buddhist ceremony, but I don’t understand anything. I am afraid I’ll give myself away in short moment. I should have some practice first.”

Thereupon he went to a temple within the Fuping county city wall called the Jixiang Temple [lit. auspicious/lucky] and kowtowed several times in front of the Buddha image. The welcoming monk came out with a register book, writing brush and ink stone. Wei Xiaobao brushed him off and said, “Giving alms is giving alms, why do you need to write anything?” He took out a fifty-tael worth of yuanbao and handed it over to the monk. The monk was greatly surprised, thinking that this young benefactor was very generous, which was a rarity in the world. Immediately he thanked him repeatedly, invited him to the dining room and offered him vegetarian dishes and plain noodles.

When Wei Xiaobao was eating the noodles, the Abbot sat next to him to keep him company, greatly praising his kind-heartedness and reverence, which would definitely receive the Bodhisattva’s blessing; in the future Wei Xiaobao would definitely win top marks in the imperial examinations, to be a Zhuangyuan [see Chapter 1], his house would be full of children and grandchildren, he would enjoy boundless good fortune. Wei Xiaobao was secretly amused, musing that you have flattered me very well, I am totally illiterate, yet you say I would win top marks in the imperial examinations and be a Zhuangyuan; won’t that mean you are cursing me on my face? He said, “Old Monk, I want to go to Mount Wutai to perform a big Buddhist ceremony, it’s just that I do not know anything. I want you to give me advice.”

Hearing the three characters ‘big Buddhist ceremony’, the Abbot stood up immediately and said, “Shizhu [benefactor], all temples under the heavens are dedicated to worship Buddha, the same Bodhisattva. If you want to perform a Buddhist ceremony, it would be better to do it in a small temple, which will cover everything you need thoroughly and properly; actually you don’t need to painstakingly go up Mount Wutai.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head. “That won’t do,” he said, “This Buddhist ceremony is my cherished desire, I simply must perform it on Mount Wutai.” While saying that, he took out another fifty-tael worth of yuanbao and said, “How about this: find someone for me to accompany me to Mount Wutai and be my helper. This fifty-tael is for him.”

The old monk was greatly delighted. “That’s easy, that’s easy!” he said. He had a younger cousin[8] who was the caretaker of the temple property: collecting the rent and purchasing stuffs for the temple, everything was handled by him, but he was not a monk. Immediately the old monk summoned him and introduced him to Wei Xiaobao.

This man was surnamed Yu, given name single character Ba, a loud-mouthed man, but his nickname was ‘One Less Stroke’. Actually, if a stroke (一) is added to the character Yu (于), it will become the character Wang (王), therefore, Yu Ba (于八) will change into Wang Ba (王八)[9]. In just a few words, Wei Xiaobao had already felt that he was a very congenial companion. Since he was little, Wei Xiaobao was used to hang around this kind of boorish man in the marketplace. This time suddenly he met one such man in Fuping County, he had the feeling like he had met an old friend far from home.

Wei Xiaobao consulted the Abbot again on various customs involved in performing Buddhist ceremony. The Abbot told him everything he knew, and he talked endlessly. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Buddhist monks’ rules are indeed a lot!” He donated twenty more taels.

Taking Yu Ba along, Wei Xiaobao returned to the inn, took out some money, and sent him off to buy everything they need. With money in his hand, Yu Ba worked really fast; before long, he had returned with all his purchases. For himself, he bought a set of fresh and bright colored clothes. “Wei Xianggong,” he said, “You are a rich man, now that I am your attendant, I should put on something with more style, don’t you think? This set of clothes, shoes and hat is no more than three taels and five qian.”

Wei Xiaobao thought he had a good point, thereupon he sent him off again to buy several sets of luxurious clothing for him and Shuang’er. With a lot of fanfare the three of them went out the Long Quan Pass, followed by eight porters, each carrying a shoulder pole laden with vegetarian food and gifts for Buddhist monks, travelled along the main road heading south.

Upon entering Mount Wutai, after walking for only several li, they had already seen a temple. After the Yong Quan Temple, there was Jing Tai Lu [lit. scripture platform foothill] Temple, and then Shi Fo [lit. Buddha Rock] Temple, Pu Ji [lit. universal crossing] Temple, Gu Fo [lit. ancient Buddha] Temple, Jin Gang [lit. diamond, steel or Vajra – Buddha’s warrior attendant] Warehouse, Bai Yun [lit. white cloud] Temple, Jin Deng [lit. golden lantern] Temple, and finally Ling Jing [lit. virtual environment] Temple.

That evening they spent the night at the Ling Jing Temple. At dawn the next day, they continued northbound until they reached Jin Ge [lit. golden pavilion] Temple, and then turned west for several li, and arrived at the Qing Liang Temple. This Qing Liang Temple was located at the peak of Qing Liang mountain. It was not more imposing compared to the other temples they saw along the way, the main gate to the monastery was shabby; obviously it was worn down by years of non-repair. Wei Xiaobao was rather disappointed, “When the Emperor left home to become a Buddhist monk, he must have chosen the biggest temple. I am afraid the old turtle Hai was just spouting nonsense, perhaps the old emperor became a monk not in this place.”

Yu Ba entered the gate to inform the welcoming monk that a certain high official from Beijing by the surname of Wei had come to perform a Buddhist ceremony, to fast and to offer sacrificial offering to Buddha. Looking at the luxurious clothing this party of people wore, plus the eight shoulder poles of offering, the welcoming monk immediately invited them in and offered them some tea, while he went in to report to the Abbot.

The Abbot, old monk Cheng Guang [lit. clear light] came into the side room to meet Wei Xiaobao. He asked, “I wonder what kind of Buddhist ceremony Benefactor is going to perform?”

Seeing this Abbot Cheng Guang was very tall, but as thin as a stick, his eyes were half-closed, his overall appearance looked washed out, Wei Xiaobao was even more disappointed, he said, “Disciple wants to perform a seven days and seven nights Buddhist ceremony on behalf of disciple’s deceased father, as well as several deceased friends, so that they may be released from suffering.”

Cheng Guang said, “There are many big temples within Beijing’s city limit, temples on Mount Wutai are also numerous; I wonder why did Benefactor specifically travel so far away to Mount Wutai and go to a small temple to perform Buddhist ceremony?”

Wei Xiaobao had anticipated this question, hence he had already discussed it over with Yu Ba. He said, “My mother had a dream on the fifteenth of last month. In her dream she saw my deceased father, who told her that during his life he had committed grave sins, he said we must go to Qing Liang Temple on Mount Wutai, to ask Fangzhang Dashi [Great Master Abbot] to perform a seven days and seven nights repentance ritual to clear away the blood disaster so that my father in the underworld does not receive endless agony.”

He did not know his own father, neither did he know if his father was still alive or had already died. When he said those words, he could not help feeling funny; he mused, “Damn it, you gave birth to laozi, and then washed your hand and did not care at all, you deserve to go to hell. Now laozi is giving you a seven days and seven nights Buddhist ceremony, it is your enormous good fortune.”

“So that’s how it is,” Cheng Guang said, “Young Benefactor, the proverb said it well: the day has its thought, the night has its dream. The matter of the dream must never be taken seriously.”

Da Heshang [great monk],” Wei Xiaobao said, “The proverbs said it well: it is better to believe than disbelieve. Even if what my father said in the dream was not real, by performing a Buddhist ceremony on his behalf to release his soul from suffering, we are performing a virtue. But if my father really did say those words, yet we do not do as he wished, in the underworld he is being bullied and tormented by the Ox-Head, Horse-Face and little demon Wuchang, that … that … won’t I always feel a little bit bad? Besides, I am under my mother’s order. Mother said that the old abbot of Qing Liang Temple of Mount Wutai has a destiny with her; this Buddhist ceremony must be performed in your precious temple.” He mused, “You have a destiny with my Mama, this is preposterous! Have you ever been to the Lovely Spring Courtyard in Yangzhou to be my mother’s customer?”

“Hey,” Cheng Guang exclaimed, “Benefactor did not know this: my humble temple is of Zen Buddhism. This kind of repentance ritual is a Pure Land[10] Sects’ matter, which we do not do. On this Mount Wutai, Jin Ge Temple, Pu Ji Temple, Da Fo Temple, Yan Qing Temple, and many more are of the Pure Land Sect. Benefactor is advised to go to one of those temples to perform the Buddhist ceremony.”

Wei Xiaobao thought that in Fuping County, the Abbot was trying to seize the opportunity to perform the Buddhist ceremony, but here, this old monk had used all sorts of excuses trying to push away the money delivered into his gate with both hands; something strange was going on here. He asked over and over, but Cheng Guang did not budge. He stood up and said to the welcoming monk, “Show the Benefactor the way to Jin Ge Temple, Lao Na[11] keeps him company only for a moment.”

Wei Xiaobao was anxious, he hastily said, “Since the Abbot insists on not giving me permission, I want to ask the great monks of your precious temple to receive the alms: the Buddhist robes, the monk hats, as well as the money I bring to your precious temple.”

Cheng Guang put his palms together, “Many thanks,” he said. Seeing eight shoulder poles of gifts Wei Xiaobao brought, unexpectedly he did not show the least bit of enthusiasm.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Mother instructed me to personally hand over each gift to the great monks of your precious monastery, even the monks helping with the fire and growing vegetable in the garden are to have a share. I bring altogether three hundred sets of gift, if it is not enough, we will go buy some more.”

Cheng Guang said, “Enough, it’s too much. Our temple has only fifty something people. Would Benefactor please leave only fifty or sixty sets? That would be enough.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Is it possible to ask the Abbot to summon the monks in the temple, so that I could personally hand over the gift? This is my mother’s wish; no matter what I must accomplish it.”

Cheng Guang raised his head, suddenly his eyes flashed like lightning, as he swept his gaze over Wei Xiaobao’s face. “Very well!” he said, “Our Buddha is merciful, let it be as the Benefactor wishes.” Turning around, he walked inside.

Looking at his bamboo-pole like back walking inside, Wei Xiaobao felt an unspeakably uncomfortable feeling in his heart. Awkwardly he lifted the tea cup into his mouth. Standing behind him, Yu Ba muttered in low voice, “In all his life, the one surnamed Yu has rarely seen this kind of unlucky old monk. No wonder in such a big temple like Qing Liang Temple, even the golden image of Bodhisattva is tattered.”

They heard the bell in the temple was struck, the welcoming monk said, “Please step into the western hall to give your alms.”

Wei Xiaobao went to the western hall; he saw the monks were streaming in. He handed over the gift one by one, while attentively looking at each monk’s face. He thought, “I have never seen the Emperor Shunzhi, but he is the young emperor’s papa, their appearances must be somewhat similar. As long as I can find a monk that look like an older version of the young emperor, he must be it.”

But after he finished handing over more than fifty sets of gifts, not only he did not see any ‘older version of the young emperor’, he could not find even a single monk with one or two part resemblance to the young emperor. Wei Xiaobao was very disappointed; but suddenly he remembered, “He was the Emperor; with his status, how could he come to accept alms like clothing and hats? This plan of mine is really stupid!” He asked the welcoming monk, “Have all monks in your precious temple come?”

The welcoming monk replied, “Everybody has received your alms, thank you very much for Benefactor’s generosity.”

“Everyone has received the gift?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “I am afraid it’s not necessarily true, perhaps there are some people who are unwilling to come and get the gift.”

“Benefactor is joking,” the welcoming monk said, “How can there be such thing?”

“Those who have left home do not tell lies,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If you deceive me, when you die, your tongue will be pulled out in hell.” As soon as the welcoming monk heard that, his countenance changed. Wei Xiaobao said, “Since there are still some monks who have not received the gift, would great monk please invite him to receive it?”

The welcoming monk shook his head. “Only Fangzhang Dashi has not received the gift,” he said, “I think we do not need to ask the Senior to come out again.”

Right this moment, a monk hurriedly rushed in. “Shixiong,” he said, “There are more than a dozen lamas outside wishing to see the Abbot.” And then with a low voice he added, “They all carry weapons, and are rubbing their fists and palms; their purpose in coming is definitely not good.”

The welcoming monk frowned and said, “Like river water and well water, the green and yellow temples of Mount Wutai have never interfered with each other. What do they want, coming over here? Go and report to the Abbot, I am coming out to look.” Finished speaking, he turned to Wei Xiaobao and said, “Excuse me,” and then with quick steps he went out.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I am afraid those stinky lamas are here for us.” He thought Shuang’er’s martial art skill was superior, a dozen or so lamas should not give them any problem. Suddenly he heard commotion from outside the gate, a group of people were crashing into the Hall of Great Strength[12]. Wei Xiaobao said, “Let us see the excitement.” Pulling Shuang’er’s hand, he went out together with her.

As they arrived at the main hall, they saw the welcoming monk was surrounded by a dozen or so yellow-robed lamas, who were shouting randomly and talking to him at once, “We must search; someone personally saw him coming to Qing Liang Temple.” “You are in the wrong here, why do you hide people?” “Just hand him over to us nicely, we’ll let this matter drop; otherwise, humph, humph!”

[The following paragraph does not exist in the 3rd Edition, which makes sense, since Wei Xiaobao has never met any lamas before:

Wei Xiaobao went into the main hall and stood with hands on his waist, thinking, “Laozi is here, go get your horse and get me.” Who would have thought that those lamas ignored him completely; no one even cast a glance to him.]

Amidst the commotion, Abbot Cheng Guang walked in; he asked slowly, “What’s the matter?”

The welcoming monk said, “It’s good for the Abbot to know, they …”

As soon as the word ‘Abbot’ came out of his mouth, the lamas swarmed around Cheng Guang, shouting, “You are the Abbot? That’s great!” “Quickly hand the man over! If not, your temple will be burned to the ground.” “This is preposterous, really preposterous!” “Are you telling me that after you become a Buddhist monk, you throw reasons out the window?”

Cheng Guang asked, “May I ask, from which temple are numerous Shixiong coming from? You have honored our humble temple with your presence, I wonder what is the purpose of your visit?”

A lama wearing red kasaya over his yellow robe replied, “We came from Tibet, we come to the Central Plain on business under the order of the Living Buddha. Who knew that one of our young lama attendants was kidnapped by a wicked monk, and is hidden inside the Qing Liang Temple? Monk Abbot, quickly hand over our young lama; otherwise, we won’t let this matter rest.”

“That’s very strange,” Cheng Guang replied, “Our temple here is Zen Buddhism green temple, we usually do not have any association with Tibetan Tantra Buddhists. Why don’t you inquire to the yellow temples everywhere about your missing young lama?”

The lama angrily said, “Someone saw it with his own eyes; that lama is in Qing Liang Temple. That was the reason we came here to inquire. Otherwise, do you think we have just eaten our rice until we are full and have nothing else to do, and thus we came here to make a scene? Decide it for yourself, if you hand over the young lama quickly, we will look at the monk’s face or Buddha’s face, we won’t investigate this matter further.”

Cheng Guang shook his head and said, “Even if there was a young lama coming to Qing Liang Temple, and gentlemen did not come to inquire, Lao Na can’t possibly hide him here.”

Several lamas shouted together, “Let us search you temple then!”

Cheng Guang still shook his head, “This is Buddhist’s peaceful place, how can I let people search around as they wish?”

The leader of the lamas said, “If you do not feel as guilty as a thief, why don’t you let us search? Obviously the young lama is here, he is definitely in the Qing Liang Temple.”

Cheng Guang shook his head. Two lamas reached out and grabbed him by the collar, shouting, “Will you or will you not let us search the temple?” Another lama said, “Could it be that there are women of good families hidden in the great monk’s temple, hence you are afraid others might find out? Otherwise, what’s the big deal of letting us search your temple?” By this time, about a dozen monks from Qing Liang Temple had come out, but they were blocked by the lamas so that they were unable to come near their Abbot.

[2nd Edition: In low voice Shuang’er asked, “Xianggong, shall I get rid of them?”

“Wait a moment!” Wei Xiaobao said.]

He [Wei Xiaobao] thought, “Clearly these lamas are here to make trouble without reason; how can this temple hide some young lama? Is it possible that their intention is the same as mine, they are also looking for Emperor Shunzhi?”

He saw a flash of white light, two lamas already had daggers in their hands, each pointing at Cheng Guang’s chest and back. With stern voice they said, “If you don’t allow us to search, we’ll kill you first.”

Cheng Guang’s face did not show the smallest hint of fear. “Amitabha Buddha,” he said, “We all are Buddha’s disciples, why should you use force?”

The two lamas slightly pushed their daggers forward. “Great Monk,” they shouted, “Please forgive our offense.” Cheng Guang’s body slipped sideways, carried by their own momentum, the two lamas’ daggers were thrust into each other’s chest. The two of them hastily stretched out their left palms to push into each other and hence they both withdrew several steps backward.

The rest of the people shouted, “Qing Liang Temple’s Abbot assaults people! He commits murder!” In the middle of their shouts, from the main door rushed thirty, forty people; there were monks, lamas, and several lay people wearing long gowns. An old lama with white beard and wearing yellow robe shouted, “Did Qing Liang Temple’s Abbot kill someone?”

Cheng Guang put his palms together, “Those who left home to be Buddhist monks use mercy as the guiding principle; how can they rashly violate the commandment against taking life? Shixiong, Benefactors, where did you come from?” To a fifty-something old monk he said, “Turns out Fo Guang Temple’s Abbot Xinxi himself has honored us with his presence, and yet I did not come out far enough to welcome you. Please forgive my offense.”

Fo Guang Temple was the oldest among big temples on Mount Wutai. It was constructed during the first Wei Emperor Xiao Wen, and was quite established for a long time. Local people had a saying, “First it was Fo Guang Temple, then there is Mount Wutai.” Actually, Mount Wutai’s original name was Mount Qing Liang [same Qing Liang as the temple’s name], afterwards, with the discovery of the five major peaks, it was renamed Mount Wutai, but at that time, Fo Guang Temple had already been established. The name Mount Wutai was only changed during the great undertaking of establishing the Sui Dynasty. Within the Buddhist community, Fo Guang Temple position was far above Qing Liang Temple, and thus Abbot Xinxi was the de facto leader of various green temples on Mount Wutai.

This monk was fat with big head and plump ears, his face was greasy and shiny; with a giggle he said, “Cheng Guang Shixiong, let me introduce you to two friends.” Pointing to the old lama, he said, “This is Great Lama Bayan Fashi[13], who has just arrived from Lhasa, Tibet, the one most doted on and trusted by the Seat of the Living Buddha, the Great Lama with most authority.”

Cheng Guang put his palms together and said, “Brought together by fate, I pay my respect to the Great Lama.” Bayan nodded, his manner was very arrogant.

Xinxi pointed to a man wearing dark green plain garment, a scholar of about thirty something, and said, “This is the famous scholar of Western Sichuan, Huangfu Ge, Mr. Huangfu.”

Huangfu Ge cupped his fist across his chest and said, “It’s an honor to meet Great Monk Cheng Guang, whose divine martial ability is well-known. Today I can see you, it is truly the good fortune of three lifetimes.”

Cheng Guang put his palms together and said, “The old monk is indeed very old, when I was little, I learned some tiny skill, but I have already forgotten about it completely. Huangfu Jushi[14] is quite established in both pen and sword, deserving my congratulations.”

Hearing these people were speaking politely to each other, Wei Xiaobao thought that the fight most probably would not happen; there would not be any excitement to watch, therefore, there would be less opportunity for him to fish in troubled water, an opportunity for him to look for the old emperor. Inwardly, he was quite disappointed.

“Great Monk,” Bayan said, “From Tibet I brought along a young disciple, but he is detained in your temple. Please look at the Living Buddha’s golden face and release him; everybody will appreciate your kindness.”

Cheng Guang showed a faint smile as he said, “These several Shixiong came to create trouble in my humble temple, Lao Na was not willing to lower myself to their level. Dashi is a fair and reasonable man, how could you also listen to rumor? Since Qing Liang Temple was established, perhaps today is the very first time we are honored with the lama masters’ visit. Where did you hear that we have detained your precious temple’s disciple?”

Bayan rolled his eyes, with a loud voice he barked, “Are you saying we accused you wrongly? You don’t want to drink as a forfeit but take … take a toast.” His Chinese was not too good, it was actually ‘to refuse a toast only to be forced to drink a forfeit’, but he said it backwards.

Xinxi laughed and said, “The two gentlemen must not harm the friendly relation. In Lao Na’s opinion, whether that young lama is in the Qing Liang Temple or not, speaking is cheap, the proof is in seeing. Let Huangfu Jushi and this impoverished monk be the witness, everybody can search around the Qing Liang Temple just this once. Seeing Buddha worship Buddha, meeting a monk nodding to the monk; each place, each monk will see it himself, if the young lama is still cannot be found, won’t that mean we don’t have any problem anymore?” Speaking back and forth, in the end he still wanted to do a search of the Qing Liang Temple.

A displeased expression flashed on Cheng Guang’s face. He said, “These lama masters came from Tibet, no wonder they do not understand our Han people’s custom. Xinxi Dashi is a person of virtue and prestige, how could you say such thing? If this young lama was indeed lost on Mount Wutai, then every monastery has to be searched, perhaps we must start from Fo Guang Temple.”

Xinxi giggled and said, “If after we search for him in Qing Liang Temple and still cannot find him, if these lamas wish to take a look at Fo Guang Temple, they are very, very welcome to do so.”

Bayan said, “Someone saw it with his own eyes that the young fellow is definitely in the Qing Liang Temple, hence we came here to inquire. Otherwise, we would not dare … would not dare to be this … this brave in the dark [昧冒- mei mao].” He wanted to say ‘presumptuous’ [冒昧 – mao mei], but had it backward again.

Cheng Guang said, “I wonder who had seen him?”

Bayan pointed to Huangfu Ge and said, “This Mr. Huangfu has seen him; he is a greatly well-known man, he can’t possibly tell a lie.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “You are obviously in cahoots with each other, how can you be the witness?” He could not help but asking, “How old is that young lama?”

All along Bayan, Xinxi, Huangfu Ge and the others did not take any notice of the two children standing on the side. Suddenly hearing him asking question, they all turned their attention to him. They saw his magnificent and expensive clothing and personal adornments, the gem embedded on his hat, and the pearls pinned on his lapel. In short, he was a young boy from a rich family. The young boy attendant standing by his side was also wearing silk and satin. Xinxi laughed and said, “That young lama is more or less of the same age as young master.”

Wei Xiaobao turned his head around and said, “That’s what I thought. Didn’t we just clearly see this young lama? He was entering a big temple. There were several characters written in front of the temple. That’s right, I think it was ‘Fo Guang Temple’, three large characters. This young lama has entered the Fo Guang Temple.” As soon as he said that, Bayan and the others’ countenances changed. But Cheng Guang was secretly happy.

Bayan shouted, “Hushuo Badao, Hushuo Jiudao[15]!” He thought by adding one degree of ‘way’ he would increase the degree of absurdity.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Hushuo Shidao, Hushuo Shiyidao, Hushuo Shi’erdao, Hushuo Shisandao!” [ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen, respectively]

Bayan was unable to restrain his rage; reaching out, he was going to grab Wei Xiaobao’s chest. Cheng Guang raised his right hand slightly, the sleeve of his robe sent out a strong gust of wind toward the base of Bayan’s elbow. Bayan stretched his left hand forward, like a bird’s claw his five fingers grabbed the sleeve. Cheng Guang pulled his arm back, his sleeve coiled around the claw so that the grabbing movement was halted. Bayan called out, “You are concealing our Seat of Living Buddha’s young lama, now you want to fight and kill people? Rebellion, rebellion!”

In a loud and clear voice Huangfu Ge said, “Everybody calm down, if you have something to say, let’s discuss it over, don’t play rough.” As soon as the word ‘rough’ left his mouth, suddenly from outside the temple a large group of people called out together, “Mr. Huangfu’s order: Everybody calm down, if you have something to say, let’s discuss it over, don’t play rough.”

Listening to the sound, it seemed like several hundred people had surrounded Qing Liang Temple. These people heard Huangfu Ge’s loud and clear voice, and immediately echoed him together, obviously they wanted to intimidate the opponent. Even Cheng Guang, whose internal energy cultivation was very deep, as he suddenly heard this sudden rise of voice, could not help but was greatly shaken.

With a chuckle Huangfu Ge said, “Abbot Cheng Guang, you are a martial art expert of older generation in the Wulin world, yet you are covering your light and nurturing in the dark in here, everybody admires you very much. This Great Lama Bayan wants to search your precious monastery, why don’t you allow him to do so? Great Monk walks in straight path, treads on upright way, the wind clears up the sky revealing the moon, Qing Liang Temple does not have anything that other people cannot see, why would we all harm the friendliness of the Wulin world?”

Cheng Guang was secretly worried; although he himself had a high martial art skill, in Qing Liang Temple he only sat in meditation and expounded Buddhist teachings, and did not impart martial art skill to his disciples at all. So among the fifty something monks in Qing Liang Temple, very few knew martial art. When he exchanged a move with Bayan just a moment ago, he sensed that Bayan’s left hand claw, the ‘bird’s claw skill’, was indeed very formidable. And then he heard Huangfu Ge’s loud and clear voice in demonstrating his profound internal energy, it was indeed no small matter. Even without the several hundred people outside the temple, just these two martial art masters were already very difficult to resist.

Seeing he hesitating without saying anything, Huangfu Ge laughed and said, “Even if in Qing Liang Temple there are really several good-looking women, letting everybody admire them is indeed a treat for the eyes.” His words were extremely frivolous, he did not show the least bit of consideration toward Cheng Guang’s feeling.

Xinxi laughed and said, “Abbot Shixiong, if that’s the case, why don’t you let this Great Lama searching your temple?” While saying that, he had a smirk on his face.

Preceding the others, Bayan walked toward the rear hall in big strides. Cheng Guang thought that the opposite party had come fully prepared, even if he could block Bayan and Huangfu Ge, he could not possibly stop the people they brought along. If a tangled battle ensued, Qing Liang Temple would suffer a great misfortune. In that instant his mind was in a whirl, he heaved a deep sigh, and could only watch helplessly as Bayan and about a dozen of his men entered the inner hall; with no other choice, he followed them in.

Bayan, Xinxi and Huangfu Ge talked among themselves in low voices, while their men were entering and searching the temple buildings and the monks’ residence one by one. Without their Abbot’s order, the monks of Qing Liang Temple could only glower at these men, without trying to block them at all.

Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er were following behind Abbot Cheng Guang. They noticed that the sleeve of his monk robe was continuously trembling, obviously in his heart he was extremely angry.

Suddenly from the monks’ residence in the western wing they heard someone loudly called out, “Is it him?”

Huangfu Ge rushed toward the voice, two men grabbing a middle-aged monk came out. This monk was approximately forty-some years old, and had a thin face, he said, “Why are you grabbing me?”

Huangfu Ge shook his head. The two men laughed and said, “Please forgive our offense!” and released the monk.

Wei Xiaobao’s mind was as bright as snow: these men were looking for Emperor Shunzhi, there was no doubt about it.

With a cold laugh Cheng Guang said, “So you think this monk of our temple is the young lama of the Seat of Living Buddha?”

Huangfu Ge did not respond; he saw his men were dragging another middle-aged monk out. He looked at the monk’s face and shook his head.

“So you know Emperor Shunzhi,” Wei Xiaobao mused, “If this searching continues, sooner or later they will find Emperor Shunzhi. He is the young emperor’s father, I will have to think of a way to protect him.” But the opponent had many men and great force; how he was going to protect him, he did not have the slightest idea.

Several dozen people had already searched to a small vihara at the northeastern side of the monastery. Seeing the door to the courtyard was tightly closed, they called out, “Open the door, open the door!”

Cheng Guang said, “This is where a senior monk of our temple lives in seclusion; he has been here for seven years, you must not disturb his peace.”

Xinxi said with a laugh, “This time people from the outside are getting in, it’s not that the monk who shut himself down cannot endure it and thus trying to get out on his own account. What’s the big deal about it?”

A big and tall lama called out, “Why doesn’t anybody open the door? Most probably he is in here!” Lifting up his foot, he kicked the door.

Cheng Guang’s shadow flashed, he had already blocked in front of the lama. The lama was unable to hold back the momentum, his right foot flew and hit Cheng Guang’s lower abdomen. ‘Crack!’ the lama’s leg bones were broken and he tumbled backwards.

Bayan let out a strange ‘wah, wah’ shout; his left hand flew forward, his right hand made a half circle backward, both were in the shape of a claw, clawing toward Cheng Guang. Cheng Guang stood in front of the gate. ‘Whoosh, whoosh!’ he sent out two palm strikes to counter Bayan’s claws.

“Good! Wisdom Palm!” Huangfu Ge called out. A finger of his left hand went out, a gust of strong wind assaulted Cheng Guang’s face. Cheng Guang sidestepped to the left, ‘Slap!’ the strong wind struck the wooden gate.

Using the Wisdom Palm, Cheng Guang focused his attention on the battle. Bayan and Huangfu Ge launched a converging attack from left and right. Cheng Guang moved very slow, one by one he launched a series of palm attacks, seemingly without any power, but the palm created faint gusts of wind, evidently his own power was quite profound. Bayan and Huangfu Ge’s several dozen men cheered and shouted to boost these two men’s spirit. Bayan launched several fierce attacks, but all were neutralized by Cheng Guang’s palm strength.

Bayan grew impatient; increasing the speed of his attacks, he suddenly grunted, his left hand rose up, his several dozen white beards floated down, he managed to catch Cheng Guang’s beards, but his right shoulder was hit by Cheng Guang’s palm. At first he did not feel anything strange, but gradually his right arm grew heavier and heavier, it became difficult for him to raise his right hand. Suddenly he let out a roar and dodged sideways. With raised steel sabers, four lamas charged toward Cheng Guang. Cheng Guang’s leg flew up and kicked two men, his left palm struck out and landed on the third lama’s chest. “Ah!” the lama cried out loudly, and leaped back. Right this moment, the fourth lama’s saber hacked down. Cheng Guang used his sleeve to brush it away, and then the sleeve continued to coil around the lama’s wrist. He saw Bayan’s was charging forward with one hand up, the other hand down. Cheng Guang moved to the right to evade, but suddenly he felt a strong wind attacked his body. “Not good!” he groaned inwardly; swiftly he sent out a palm strike, but suddenly he felt a sharp pain on his right cheek, he was stabbed by Huangfu Ge’s finger. Although his own palm had hit Huangfu Ge’s arm, it failed to break Huangfu Ge’s arm bone.

Seeing Cheng Guang’s right cheek was bleeding, Shuang’er said in a low voice, “Must I help him?”

“Wait a moment,” Wei Xiaobao replied. His main purpose was to find Emperor Shunzhi, supposing Shuang’er joined the fray to drive everybody out, they would still be unable to find the old emperor. Much less the opponent had many men with great force, with sabers and spears, while Shuang’er was a little girl, how could she fight these many big men?

In the meantime, the Qing Liang Temple’s monks had seen their Abbot being trapped, they picked clubs and sticks of firewood and charged forward to help him fighting. But these monks did not know martial arts, as soon as they came up, their heads were broken and their blood flowing.

“Everybody stop fighting!” Cheng Guang called out.

Bayan bellowed, “Everybody kill at will!” The lamas were encouraged not to show mercy at all, in an instant four Qing Liang Temple’s monk were chopped down that their heads separated from their bodies.

Seeing the viciousness of the enemy in killing people, the rest of the monks did not dare to join the fight, they only stood far away, shouting and yelling. Cheng Guang slightly lost his concentration, and was hit by Huangfu Ge’s finger again. The finger was hitting the right side of his chest.

Huangfu Ge laughed and said, “Shaolin Pai’s Wisdom Palm is only so-so. Isn’t the Great Monk going to surrender?”

“Amitabha Buddha,” Cheng Guang said, “Benefactor’s sin is not small at all.”

Suddenly two lamas dropped down and rolled on the ground while brandishing their sabers, trying to chop his legs. Cheng Guang lifted up his leg and kicked, but there was a severe pain on his chest, his vision darkened, his leg only went halfway and he was unable to continue the kick. In his daze he swiped his left palm down. As soon as the palm touched the two lamas’ head, both of them fainted immediately.

“Dead bald donkey!” Bayan cursed. Both hands swiftly reached forward, his ten fingers grabbed Cheng Guang’s left leg. Cheng Guang was unable to stand, he collapsed to the ground. Huangfu Ge repeatedly moved his finger to seal Cheng Guang’s acupoints one by one.

Bayan laughed aloud; with his right foot he kicked the wooden gate. ‘Crack!’ the gate flew in. Bayan said with a laugh, “Come out quickly, let everybody see your appearance.”

The vihara was pitch-black and was completely quiet. “Get him out for me,” Bayan said. Two lamas responded together, they rushed into the building.

Author’s note: The word ‘easy’ (or convenient) in this chapter’s title is a Buddhist term meaning ‘expedient/practical method’. When expounding the Buddhist teaching, Sakyamuni (Siddharta Gautama) sensed that his teaching was not easily understood, therefore, he used a lot of ‘example’ to enlighten his disciples.

[1] rice dumplings wrapped in leaves

[2] Referring to wooden fish used by Buddhist in prayers.

[3] Lit. little woman/female. This is the counterpart of Xiaoren (humble/little one), i.e. she was placing herself in a lower position compared to the person she was talking to.

[4] The word ‘xiao yatou’ means a girl or a servant girl (used deprecatingly, but sometimes also as a term of endearment).

[5] Lake Tai, near Wuxi City, bordering Jiangsu and Zhejiang, one of China’s largest fresh water lake.

[6] Shuang’er said ‘wenzi yu’, Wei Xiaobao thought she said ‘wenzi rou’ (different characters, sound alike).

[7] Fuping county, Baoding, Hebei. Zhili – see Chapter 9.

[8] Orig. biaodi, younger male cousin from mother’s side.

[9] Put together, ‘wang ba’ means tortoise / cuckold / (insult with the flavor of bastard, son of a bitch).

[10] From the dictionary: Usually refers to Amitabha Buddha’s Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss (Sukhavati in Sanskrit).

[11] Lit. ‘old cassock’, the term used by Buddhist monks to refer to themselves.

[12] The main hall of a Buddhist temple where the main image of veneration is located.

[13] Fashi means ‘one who has mastered the sutras’.

[14] Here we have ‘jushi’ again (see also Chapter 9, and the discussion surrounding it), lit. “resident scholar’.

[15] Hushuo Badao means rubbish/nonsense, with the character ‘ba’ means ‘eight’. Literal translation is: random talk eight ways. Jiudao means ‘nine ways’.

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