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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 22

CSI

Chapter 22
The old cassock of the mountain altering revealed secret, the out-of-this-world beautiful woman altering the adornment.

By the time Wei Xiaobao set out on the journey, it was already late afternoon, but the imperial decree required him to leave the Capital that very same day, so no matter what they had to exit the city wall. Going out the Yong Ding Gate, they only travelled for twenty li when they had to pitch camp for the night.

The Valiant Cavalry was the Emperor’s personal guards, its members were all the children of Manchurian royal family, close relatives or trusted subordinates of the Emperor. Its provision was ten times better than regular soldiers. They have been staying in the Capital for quite a long time, hence going out of Beijing, without exception everybody was in high spirit, much less they were not going out to fight any battle. This assignment to go to Henan was like going on a scenic tour funded by the imperial court; it was completely different from their regular duties.

After dinner, it was too early for Wei Xiaobao to go to bed, thereupon he summoned Zhang Kangnian, Zhao Qixian, and the other Imperial Bodyguards, along with the officers of the Valiant Cavalry, to assemble in the command tent. They all thought, “I wonder what important matter His Majesty wants Vice Commander Wei to handle; he is summoning us all, it must be because he wants to brief us on the special imperial decree.”

After everybody had paid his respect, Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “We, boys, do not have anything to do. His granny, let us gamble, Laozi will be the banker.”

The officers stared at him blankly; they thought he was joking. But then they saw him took out four dice from his pocket and tossed them to the small table in front of him, the dice rolled around, and only then did the people cheered thunderously. Generally, the soldiers were not prohibited from gambling, except when they were marching into battle, then gambling was strictly prohibited, to avoid the troops from having unstable minds and thus damaging the important matter. But how could Wei Xiaobao understand this rule? Although the officers of the Valiant Cavalry knew this martial law, they thought that this time they were not marching to battle, why would they want to obstruct the Vice Commander’s esthetic pleasure?

Wei Xiaobao fished a pack of banknotes from his pocket and placed it on the small table, it worth at least five or six thousand taels silver. He said, “Who has the ability to win?” The officers scattered back to their tents to get their money.

Although there were a lot of low ranking officers in the Valiant Cavalry, their families were rich. Hearing that Vice Commander Wei was opening a gambling table, they quietly sneaked into the tent.

Wei Xiaobao called out, “There is no young and old on the gambling table, only money and banknotes! Heroes and warriors, the more they lose, they happier they are. Turtles and lambs, they win and immediately run away!” He blew on the four dice before tossing them onto the table.

When he was in Yangzhou, he envied the power and prestige of the bankers of the casino. Being the Deputy Chief, the Vice Commander, was nothing to him. Today he had a couple of thousands crowd and he was being the banker, now that was the thing he was most proud of in his entire life.

One after another the officers placed their bets, some won, some lost. After a while, their spirit aroused, the stake was growing higher and higher, the lower ranking officers at the back were starting to lay their bets. The Imperial Bodyguard Zhao Qixian and a Manchu officer stood by Wei Xiaobao, helping him collect the winning and pay the winners. The large army tent was filled with the shouts of people winning and the cry of those losing, just like the sound of a big gambling establishment. More than two hours later, there were more than twenty thousand taels of silver piling up on the gambling table. Some people lost all, they went back to their tents to borrow more capital from their companions who were not gambling.

Wei Xiaobao threw the dice, all four dice showed red spots, which means sweep the decks. Everybody was dejected, some cursed, some sighed. Zhao Qixian reached out to take all the money. “Wait!” Wei Xiaobao called out, “This is the first day that Laozi leads the troops and be the banker. This time I am giving away everything to the friends here, I won’t take the money!”

The troops cheered happily, they shouted, “Vice Commander Wei is a true hero!”

“Anybody wants to increase his bet may do so!” Wei Xiaobao called out.

Having been through a narrow escape, they all felt that their luck was really good. One after another they put more money that it piled high on the table. Suddenly a loud and clear voice said, “I bet on the Gate of Heaven!” and he threw a watermelon-shaped object on the Gate of Heaven.

As soon as they saw it, everybody was shocked. The object on the gambling table was a badly mangled human head. The severed head was still wearing an officer hat, unexpectedly he was an Imperial Bodyguard. “Getong!” Zhao Qixian cried out in fear. Turned out it was the Imperial Bodyguard Getong’s head. He was on duty, patrolling outside the tent tonight, and had his head chopped by the intruders.

The crowd raised their heads in alarm, and saw at the entrance of the army tent stood a dozen or so people wearing blue clothes, each one held a long sword. The officers’ attention was focused on the gambling table, nobody knew when did these people come in? The crowd of military officers in the tent did not bring any weapons, momentarily they were at a loss of what to do.

A young man, about twenty five or twenty six, stepped toward the gambling table, both hands were empty, he said, “Gambling Officer, do you accept the bet?”

“Seize him!” Zhao Qixian called out, immediately four Imperial Bodyguards pounced on the young man.

The man spread his arms and grabbed two men on the pit of their stomachs. ‘Bang!’ he banged the two heads against each other, the two men immediately fainted. Immediately afterwards white ray flashed, two swords were thrust forward, the swords pierced the other two Imperial Bodyguards’ backs and went straight through to their chests. The two Imperial Bodyguards cried miserably as they fell to the ground, dead. The blue-clothed men who thrust their swords were a middle-aged man and a Taoist priest. They pulled their swords and waved their hands, the two swords flew up and ‘pop, pop!’ the swords stuck onto the gambling table.
The middle-aged man shouted, “I bet on the Upper Gate!” The Taoist priest shouted, “I bet on the Lower Gate!” The two swords, not surprisingly, landed on the Upper and Lower Gates, respectively.

The young man waved his left hand, four people in blue rushed forward, four swords were pointed at the vital points all around Wei Xiaobao’s body.

With a trembling voice Zhao Qixian shouted, “Who are you? What … what a nerve! You killed officers, broke into an army camp, aren’t you … aren’t you afraid of … of being beheaded?”

Suddenly from among the four people pointing their swords at Wei Xiaobao came a scoff as someone laughed and said, “We are not afraid; are you afraid?” It was a tender and delicate voice of a woman.

Wei Xiaobao stole a glance sideways, and saw a young woman, about fourteen or fifteen years old, her face was rather round, her appearance very sweet, her pair of large eyes were pitch-black and bright, there was a smiling expression at the corner of her mouth. He was actually scared out of his wits, but as soon as he saw this good-looking girl, his courage involuntarily grew. He laughed and said, “With Miss one person pointing your sword at me, I am already scared.”

The girl raised her sword a little, the tip of the sword was pressed against his shoulder; she said, “Since you are scared, why are you laughing?”

Immediately Wei Xiaobao’s face turned serious, he said, “I am most obedient to women, Miss says for me not to laugh, I am not laughing.” Sure enough, there was no trace of smiling expression left on his face. Seeing him putting on an act, the girl could not help but stifling her laughter.

The young man who acted as their leader frowned slightly and said with a cold laugh, “Manchurian Tatars will soon meet their end, they send this little baby whose smell of mother’s milk has not yet dried to lead the troops. Hey, two swords and one head are already placed on the table, why haven’t you rolled the dice?”

With a good-looking young woman by his side, also hearing the man said to throw the dice, Wei Xiaobao’s panic diminished somewhat; he asked, “If I lose, what must I pay?”

“Do you need to ask?” the young man said, “You lost to a sword you pay a sword, you lost to a head you pay a head!” He thought this juvenile general would definitely beg for mercy.

Who would have thought that when Wei Xiaobao was having martial art match, when he lost he would simply surrender, but on the gambling table, whatever happened he would never be a coward, and admit himself to be useless, much less there was a pretty young lady by his side; while he was still alive, how could he lose face in front of a good-looking girl? He also thought, “Your four swords are pointed to me already, if you want to kill me, it won’t matter if I win or lose, you will kill me anyway, why would I want to give you the satisfaction of winning the argument?” Immediately he picked up the dice and said, “Alright, I accept! If I lose to a sword, I’ll pay a sword, I lose a head I pay a head, I lose a pair of pants I’ll take my clothes off! You throw first!”

The young man did not expect this young general to have such courage and insight; he was stumped for words instead. The middle-aged man said in a low voice, “Large army outside, if we delayed, there will be a big change of the plan!” He wanted him not to waste time senselessly, if those two thousand Manchurian troops burst in, contrary to what he might expect, they would not be easy to deal with.

The young man cast a glance to Wei Xiaobao, he noticed there was not a scared look on his face. “If I don’t bet with you this time, you won’t submit to me even in your death,” he said. Taking the dice, he threw a six. The Taoist priest and the middle-aged man also threw the dice and both got eight.

Wei Xiaobao picked up the dice and held them in front of the young woman. “Miss,” he said, “Please blow on the dice!”

The young woman smiled and asked, “What for?” But she still blew on the dice.

“That will do!” Wei Xiaobao said, “When a beautiful woman blew on the dice, I would only make a kill and would not lose!”

He shook the dice several times in his hands and was about to throw when Zhao Qixian suddenly said, “Hold on! Vice Commander Wei, ask … ask them what they really want.” He was afraid that when Wei Xiaobao threw the dice this time, he would get less than six dots, inevitably there would be someone’s life to be concerned about. Moreover, he was afraid that instead of compensating the loss with his own head, Wei Xiaobao would want to pay with his, Zhao Qixian’s, head; who told him to stand on the side to be the banker’s assistant?

The young man laughed coldly and said, “If you are scared, just kneel down and beg for mercy.”

“Only turtle bastards are afraid!” Wei Xiaobao said. His hands had not stopped moving, his only fear was that his technique was not too good. Tossing the four dice, they rolled around on the table. When the dice stopped, it did not show a couple of Heavens, but showed six dots. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “Six beats six!” he called out, “I killed the Heavenly Gate, and lost to the Upper and Lower.” He picked Getong’s head and placed it in front of him. “Zhao Dage,” he said, “Get a couple of swords to pay for the Upper and Lower Gates.”

“Yes!” Zhao Qixian replied. He walked toward the tent’s entrance, but a man in blue stuck out his sword on Zhao Qixian’s chest and shouted, “Stop!”

“You won’t let him get the swords?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Very well, not a problem. One sword can be considered a thousand taels of silver.” From the pile of money in front of him, he took two thousand taels, and divided it equally and placed the money by the swords.

This group of heroic visitors rushed into the army tent and took control of the commander in chief, the military officers were at a loss. Not only the enemy had high martial art level, they killed people without the slightest scruple. Although their side had more men, they were all outside the tent, and had not been alerted. When a tangled battle ensued, the people in the tent were unarmed and defenseless, perhaps everybody would lose their lives. While they were trembling in fear, they saw Wei Xiaobao and the enemy were tossing the dice, gambling, talking and laughing as though nothing had happened. They could not help but admiring his courage, but some people thought, “Little child does not know the immensity of heaven and earth; do you think this bunch of bandits are here to have fun with you?”

The young man laughed coldly and said, “With our two treasured swords we only win your two thousand taels? Take all the money on the gambling table!” Six, seven men in blue stepped forward and took all the money and banknotes on the table. The young man took a sword and pointed it toward Wei Xiaobao’s throat and shouted, “Little slave, are you a Manchu or a Han? What’s your name?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Even if Laozi surrenders, you have already barged in, if I surrender now, it would be ‘starting without able to finish’, ‘completely discarding previous achievement’; a real man want to fight, he will fight to the end.” Thereupon he laughed aloud and said, “Laozi is the Plain Yellow Banner’s Deputy Commander, my name is Huacha Huacha Xiaobao. You want to kill then just kill, you want to gamble then let’s gamble! Hey, hey, the big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct.” By saying the last eight words [the big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct] he was in reality begging for mercy, but in the way he said it there was a little bit of heroic spirit.

The young man smiled and said, “The big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct. You are right. Xiao Shimei [little younger martial sister], you are more or less of the same age as him, you can fight him.”

The young girl laughed and said, “Alright!” Raising her sword, she stepped forward and said with a laugh, “Hey, General Huacha Huacha Xiaobao, I am asking some advice of your masterstroke.”

The other three people pointing their swords to Wei Xiaobao pushed the swords slightly, nudging his clothes, they said, “Go out and fight!”

The young man waved his hand, the sword in his hand flew and landed on the table in front of Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao mused, “I don’t know anything about swordsmanship, I won’t have any guarantee I can beat this little miss.” He said, “The big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct. I am bigger than this Little Miss, how can I bully her?”

The young man grabbed the back of his neck and lifted him up. He shouted, “You don’t dare to have a sword duel, then kowtow to my Xiao Shimei and beg for mercy.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Alright, you want me to kowtow, I will kowtow. Men have gold on their knees, it’s best that we kneel in front of women every day!” Bending his knees, he kneeled in front of the young girl. The group of people in blue clothes roared in laughter.

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao leaned sideways, and turned toward the young man’s back, the dagger in his hand was pointing to his back. He laughed and said, “Are you going to surrender or not?”

This changed happened so suddenly and amazingly that although the young man’s martial art skill was high, unexpectedly he was caught off guard and the vital point on his back was threatened by Wei Xiaobao.

What happened was that realizing that the six moves to save his life he learned on the Divine Dragon Island had not been trained to perfection, Wei Xiaobao was forced to act happy and keep giggling, to jest and assume the role of a clown, so that the enemy would laugh while looking at him making a fool of himself. When he kneeled down, he reached out to grab the handle of his dagger, and suddenly used the move ‘the flying swallow circle around overhead’, and unexpectedly succeeded in turning the tide. If he were a grownup, the opponent would guard against him, and if he had not mastered the move, the half-baked move would definitely be in vain. But first of all, the move was indeed very ingenious, although it was not used properly, it still had quite a formidable power; secondly, how could the young man think that this clown-like teenager unexpectedly was able to come up with such a smart trick? Consequently Wei Xiaobao succeeded.

The people in blue clothes were shocked, seven or eight swords were immediately pointed toward Wei Xiaobao’s body. They shouted together, “Let him go!” But seeing that Wei Xiaobao’s dagger was aimed at the young man’s back, although there was no doubt that each one of these seven, eight swords could stab him to death, but he only needed to push the dagger lightly, and then the young man would undoubtedly lose his life. Thereupon as the points of the swords were about a chi away from Wei Xiaobao’s body, nobody dared to advance anymore.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You want me to let him go, then I’ll let him go; what’s so strange about that?” Brandishing his dagger, he cut around in a circle, ‘clang, clang!’ and cut the tip of the seven or eight swords down, and then he put the dagger back on the young man’s back. The people in blue clothes were shocked, they all take a step back.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Put the money back, I’ll spare your leader’s life.” The people in blue who were holding the money did not hesitate at all, they put all the money and the banknotes back on the table.

They heard several hundreds of people yelling outside the tent, “Don’t let the bandits escape!” “Quickly surrender!” Turned out in the chaos just now, two officers in the tent managed to escape and gathered the troops; they had surrounded the army tent.

The Taoist priest shouted, “Kill the little Tatar first!” He pulled the sword from the gambling table; a white ray flashed, ‘stab’ he thrust the sword into Wei Xiaobao’s right chest. This sword strike was accurately calculated; it cut down in an oblique angle, stabbing from the front of Wei Xiaobao’s body into his back, he knew for sure that when Wei Xiaobao was hit by the sword, his body would be pushed backward, then the tip of the dagger would definitely move away from the young man’s back. To his surprise, however, the sword bent, and ‘crack!’ it snapped off instantly.

Wei Xiaobao called out, “Aiyo! The stab did not kill me!” Seeing that unexpectedly blade and spear could not enter his body, the people in blue clothes were startled that they were staring blankly at him.

The Taoist priest felt that the tip of his sword had bumped into a soft flesh, not a hard steel armor; momentarily he did not understand what was going on. How could he know that Wei Xiaobao was wearing the treasured vest to protect his body that he could not be injured by sharp blade?

By this time, several hundred officers had burst into the tent, the people in blue were densely covered by spears and broadswords all around, the Imperial Bodyguards and the officers had also obtained weapons from their subordinates’ hands. Even if those people in blue had higher martial art skill, it would be difficult to break through the tight encirclement; much less several people had their swords broken, and their leader was under the enemy’s control. Their upper hand had instantly reversed, and they were now completely beaten and in a hopeless position.

The young man shouted loudly, “Don’t mind me, everybody kill the enemy and rush out!” But the Imperial Bodyguards and the officers rushed forward, each group of seven, eight people surrounded one person in blue. As soon as one person moved ever so slightly, he would face the calamity of blades raining on his body that he would turn into a minced corpse; they had no choice but throwing down their weapons, with hands tied and waiting to be captured.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “These several people have superb martial art skill, and are opposing the imperial court, perhaps they have some association with Tian Di Hui, how to release them and let them go?” Thereupon he laughed and said, “Laoxiong [old chap], just now you could have killed me but you didn’t. If at this time I killed you, and not giving you any chance to recover your capital, unavoidably you would think I am not a hero and a warrior; this is called ‘turtles and lambs, they win and immediately run away’. How about this: let us bet over our heads again.” At this time there were seven, eight different weapons were pointing toward the young man. Wei Xiaobao drew back his dagger and with a chuckle he sat down.

The young man angrily said, “You want to kill me just kill, no need to toy with Laozi.”

Wei Xiaobao picked up the four dice; he laughed and said, “I be the banker, we bet on your heads. Each one of you throws the dice, whoever wins, then you can walk out immediately, plus take a hundred taels as your travel expenses; whoever loses, Zhao Dage, you get ready with a sharp blade on the side, chop down and cut their heads away to avenge our Getong Dage.”

He counted the opponents, altogether there were nineteen people. Immediately he set aside some money, altogether he made nineteen piles, each pile a hundred taels of silver.

Those people in blue killed government official and thus they were starting a rebellion; since they were captured, naturally they would be beheaded without the slightest hope of lucky escape. Unexpectedly this young general wanted to be a real man and opened up a path to life. If they lose, they were doomed to die anyway. The Taoist priest called out, “Very well, a real man gave his words …”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Dead horses cannot chase it! When I, Huacha Huacha Xiaobao, do my business, I never take advantage of other people. This Xiao Jiejie, or perhaps Xiao Meimei [little older sister, little younger sister, respectively], just now helped me by blowing on my dice and thus helped me preserving my head; you don’t have to throw dice. Just consider it I have won your little head, and am giving it back to you as a bonus. Take these hundred taels and walk out the tent first. Pass on this order: the guards outside must not give her any difficulty.”

An aide announced the order in loud voice, “Deputy Commander’s order: those who are released out of the command tent are to be allowed to leave on his own, they are not to be stopped or given any difficulty.” The guards outside the tent complied in loud voices.

Wei Xiaobao took two yuanbao worth fifty taels each and pushed them in front of the young woman. The young woman’s countenance alternated between white and red as she shook her head slowly and said in a low voice, “I don’t want to. We … nineteen of us of the same school, we … we will live and die together.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You do have yi qi. Since you will live and die together, then there is no need for each one of you to throw the dice. Little Miss, you and I are going to gamble. If you win, all nineteen of you will walk away with the money; if you lose, all nineteen heads will roll. Don’t you think it’s straightforward and quick?”

The girl looked at the young man, waiting for his decision. The young man had a difficult time making one; if the nineteen people bet separately with this young general, some would be bound to lose while some would win. If the general was as good as his word, then about half of the nineteen people would live, and someday they might try to get revenge. But if he let the Xiao Shimei to toss the dice, if she won all of them would withdraw, if she lost, it would be a complete wipe-out; unavoidably it would be too dangerous. His gaze slowly swept his companions.

A big man in blue said loudly, “Xiao Shimei is right, we live and die together. Xiao Shimei please throw the dice. Otherwise, even if I won, I can’t live alone.” Seven or eight people echoed his sentiment.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Very well! Little Miss, you may throw first!” He pushed the dice bowl in front of the young woman.

The girl looked at the young man, she wanted to see how he would handle this matter. The young man nodded and said, “Xiao Shimei, life and death is a fate. Be courageous and throw the dice. We live and die together anyway!”

The girl reached out into the bowl and grabbed the four dice, her long eyelashes drooped down, suddenly she looked up and cast a glance toward Wei Xiaobao; her hand holding the dice trembled slightly, she let the dice dropped into the bowl, creating a sharp and clear tinkling noise. The girl closed her eyes, she did not dare to look. She only heard all around her people were shouting, “Three! Three! Three! Three dots!” The shouts mixed with the sound of Imperial Bodyguards and army officers laughing and cursing. Although the girl did not understand dice and gambling rule, hearing the enemy was shouting and laughing happily, she knew that her throw must be extremely lacking. Opening her eyes slowly, she saw all of her companions’ faces were deathly pale.

The largest value four dice could be thrown was a pair of six and three, followed by the Heaven pair, Earth pair, Man pair, Harmony pair, Plum Blossom, Long Three, Wooden Bench, Ox Head, and other pairs. Even if it was not in pair, there were nine dots down to four dots, which were greater than three dots. When these three dots were thrown, nine out of ten it would lose. Even if Wei Xiaobao also threw three dots, as the banker his three would beat the opponent’s three; he could still chop the nineteen people’s heads.

A man in blue clothes suddenly shouted, “My own head, I want to gamble it myself. Other people’s throw does not count.”

The Taoist priest angrily said, “How can a real man so greedy for life, afraid of death like this? You are damaging our Wangwu Pai’s prestige.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “So all of you are from Wangwu Pai?”

The Taoist priest said, “Everybody is going to die anyway, so it’s not a big deal to let you know.”

The man in blue loudly said, “It was my father, my mother who gave birth to me, other than my father, my mother, nobody has any right to decide my life or death.”

The Taoist priest angrily said, “Before your Xiao Shimei threw the dice, you did not say anything, after she threw three dots, you speak out. In our Wangwu Pai there should not be any unreasonable character like you.”

The man wanted to preserve his life, he loudly said, “Wu Fu Shishu [fifth martial uncle surnamed Fu], there is nothing serious with me not being a disciple of Wangwu Pai.”

Another man in blue coldly said, “You only want to save your life and won’t care about anything else, do you not?”

The man said, “This young general plainly said that each of us should bet against him. Xiao Shimei throwing the dice, it was you who agreed to it, have I even said that I agree?”

The young man in blue grimly said, “Alright, Yuan Shixiong, from this moment on, you are not a Wangwu Pai disciple. You may gamble with him yourself.”

The man surnamed Yuan replied, “The sooner I am out the better.”

“You, surnamed Yuan,” Wei Xiaobao said, “What’s your name?”

The man surnamed Yuan hesitated a little bit, seeing that his companions had become his enemy, if he told him a false name, someone would uncover his lie, thereupon he said, “Zaixia Yuan Yifang.”

“Humph,” the young man snorted and said, “There is no harm in Sire changing your name to Yuan Fang.”

“Why does he have to change his name?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Hmm, Yuan Fang, Yuan Fang, short one character ‘Yi’ [justice/righteous], he is scolding you as having no ‘yi qi’ [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice]. Hey, friends of Wangwu Pai, anybody else want to bet with me?” His gaze was fixed on those people in blue; he saw two people with their lips moving slightly, as if they wanted to gamble themselves, but after hesitating for a moment, they did not say anything.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Very good, everybody under Wangwu Pai is a hero and a warrior, you really have yi qi. This Yuan Xiong does not belong to Wangwu Pai anyway, so it does not matter if he has yi qi or not.”

The young man showed a faint smile and said, “Thank you very much.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Pour some wine! I want to drink a cup with these eighteen friends. Either they lose or win, we will part for ever. These eighteen friends have heavy yi qi, I cannot not make friends with them.”

The sergeant under his command poured nineteen cups of wine, he placed one cup in front of Wei Xiaobao, and handed over one cup to each of the eighteen people in blue clothes. As the people in blue saw the young man their leader took the cup, they also accepted the cups.

In a loud and clear voice the young man said, “We will never make friends with Manchu Tatars. It’s just that your conduct is straightforward, plus you hold our Wangwu Pai in high regard, drinking a cup of wine with you is not a big deal.”

“Good,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Cheers!” He tossed down the wine. The eighteen people also downed their drinks, and then one after another they tossed the cup to the ground. Yuan Yifang’s face was ashen, he turned his head around, not wanting to look.

Wei Xiaobao shouted, “Prepare eighteen sharp blades, if I throw three dots or more this time, these eighteen good friends’ heads will be chopped down.” The officers complied with loud voice; eighteen officers raised their sabers or swords and stood behind the eighteen people.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “My set of dice is loaded, it won’t be difficult to throw one or two dots. But I rarely practice lately, my hand skill is out of practice; just now I wanted to throw a pair of Heaven, but it turned out to be six dots. If I made the slightest mistake, inevitably I would harm these eighteen people’s lives. I don’t care if these stinky men are dead, but if this flower-like little girl is also dead, isn’t it a pity?”

He picked up the four dice and shook them inside his hand, blew on them himself, his finger turned lightly, and he tossed the dice. Immediately his left palm covered the mouth of the bowl. He heard the dice were rolling several times, and when they stopped, he did not immediately take his palm away, but only opened a crack from which he took a peek. He saw out of four dice, two showed two dots, one showed one dot, and one showed five dots, so the total was only ten. ‘Departing Ten’ was equal to zero, there was nothing smaller than that. Originally he had concocted a plan, if his technique was ineffective, that is, he threw three dots or more, he would say either one or two dots, and then shook the bowl to disturb the dice, and hence the dead cannot testify, the opposite party would be overjoyed at unexpected good news, at most his own troops would be suspicious, but no one would dare to openly confront him. Now that he succeeded in cheating, he was ecstatic, but cursed himself, “Damn it, Laozi’s hand deserves to be chopped!” With his left hand he slapped his own right hand several time.

As everybody saw the dice, they all shouted, “Departing Ten! It’s Departing Ten!”

Having been in mortal danger and escaped alive, the people in blue clothes could not help but cheering loudly. The young man, the leader of the people in blue, looked at Wei Xiaobao and thought, “Manchu Tatars do not speak in good faith, I wonder if he will keep his words?”

Wei Xiaobao pushed the money on the gambling table forward and said, “You have won the money, take them. Could it be that you still want to gamble with me?”

“We don’t dare to accept the money,” the young man said, “Sire is as good as your word, you are a real hero. I’m sure we’ll meet again someday.” Cupping his fists, he turned around to leave.

“Hey,” Wei Xiaobao called, “You won but don’t want to take the money, aren’t you looking down on Zaixia, Huacha Huacha Xiaobao?”

The young man thought, “We are in a dangerous spot, must not delay too much.” He said, “Thank you very much then.” The eighteen of them took the money, turned around and went out of the tent.

Wei Xiaobao kept staring at the girl’s face. After taking the money, she could not help but casting a glance toward Wei Xiaobao. Four eyes met, the girl blushed; she smiled and said in a low voice, “Thank you.” After taking two steps, she turned her head around and said, “Little General, do you mind giving me the four dice?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “Of course I don’t, why should I?” he said, “Are you going to bet against your Shixiong?”

The girl smiled and said, “I am not. I want to keep it well. I was so frightened a moment ago that I lost half of my life.” Wei Xiaobao grabbed the four dice and put them in her hand; he took this opportunity to gently pinch her wrist. He always wanted to take this kind of small advantage. The girl said again, “Thank you,” and left the tent in quick steps.

Seeing his companion walked out the tent, Yuan Yifang was about to follow. “Hey,” Wei Xiaobao called, “I have not bet against you.”

Yuan Yifang’s face immediately paled; he thought, “This is so wrong, if I knew he would throw a Departing Ten, why should I become a vile character?” He said, “General does not have the dice anymore, I … I thought you don’t want to bet.”

“Why not?” Wei Xiaobao said, “We can bet on anything, we can play finger-guessing game, or rolling copper coin.” Casually he grabbed a pack of banknotes and said, “You can guess altogether how many taels of silver in here.”

Yuan Yifang said, “How can I guess it?”

Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and shouted, “This bandit is being rude to the General, seize him and off with his head!” The crowd of officers complied in chorus.

Yuan Yifang was so scared that his face turned ash-grey, his knees turned soft, he kneeled down on the ground and said, “XiaoXiaoren does not dare, Great General … Great General please spare my life.”

Wei Xiaobao was very happy; he thought, “This fellow is calling me Great General[1].” He shouted, “I am going to ask you questions, answer everything truthfully, if there is the slightest bit of covering the truth, your head will be chopped down.”

“Yes, yes!” Yuan Yifang repeatedly said.

Wei Xiaobao ordered his men to get foot fetters and handcuffs, and had him shackled. Then he ordered to have the money returned to those who lost and told them to withdraw. Only Zhang Kangnian, Zhao Qixian, two Imperial Bodyguards, and the Valiant Cavalry Can Ling [Regimental Commander] Fu Chun, remained in the tent. Zhang Kangnian commenced the interrogation immediately. He asked one sentence, Yuan Yifang answered one sentence; as expected, he did not conceal anything.

Turned out the Zhangmen [Sect Leader] of Wangwu Pai was Situ Bolei, a deputy general during the Ming Dynasty, an affiliate and subordinate of the Shanhai Pass Commander Wu Sangui, who, at that time, was fighting against Manchurian’s invasion. He was a brave and very able fighter, and had rendered quite a bit of meritorious deeds. Afterwards Li Zicheng broke into Beijing and Wu Sangui led the Qing army entering the Pass, Situ Bolei led his troops to fight Li Zicheng, killed the enemy using extreme force of will, attacked them back into Beijing. At that time he only knew that the Qing troops entered the Pass in order to avenge Emperor Chongzhen; to his surprise, however, the Qing troops seized that opportunity to occupy the Han people’s rivers and mountains, and Wu Sangui became the great traitor to China.

In his rage, Situ Bolei immediately relinquished his official position and went to Wangwu Mountain to live in seclusion. A considerable number of his former subordinates were not willing to surrender to the Manchurian Qing, they came to Wangwu Mountain to live with him. Situ Bolei’s martial art skill was actually very high, having no other engagement, he taught his former subordinates martial art, and after a long time, they automatically became the Wangwu Pai. They were master and disciples first before becoming a sect or a martial art school, so it was not quite the same as other schools. Mentioning Situ Bolei’s name, Zhang Kangnian and the others had also heard about him.

Yuan Yifang said that the young man who led them was Situ Bolei’s son, Situ He; the rest of their group was his martial brothers, and several of his seniors, equivalent to his martial uncles. The young girl was called Zeng Rou; her father was Situ Bolei’s subordinate, who passed away several years earlier. Toward the end of his life, he ordered his daughter to do obeisance and enter his former superior’s school.

Recently they obtained information that Wu Sangui’s son, Wu Yingxiong had come to Beijing. Situ Zhangmen then sent them to meet with him. Passing this place, they saw the Qing troops’ camp. Situ He was young and like to meddle, sneaking into the camp, they saw everybody was gambling, so he had the urge to rob them. His real intention was not for the money, he wanted to kill some Manchu soldiers to vent his anger.

“What do you want to see Wu Sangui’s son for?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Shifu’s order,” Yuan Yifang replied, “Is for us to think of a way to kidnap him and bring him back to Wangwu Mountain, thereupon threatening Wu Sangui, coercing him … coercing him …”

“What?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Coercing him to revolt?”

“It was what Shifu had said,” Yuan Yifang said, “It has nothing to do with Xiaoren. Xiaoren is loyal to the Great Qing, I will never dare to revolt. Today Xiaoren has made a clean break [orig. one knife two segments] with Wangwu Pai, it was exactly because I am unwilling to be attached to the rebels, I want to throw away the dark and invest in the light, to be in the front of the troops against the insurrection.”

Wei Xiaobao kicked him and said with a laugh, “Damn it, you are a big loyalist.”

Yuan Yifang did not dodge at all, he received the kick and said, “Yes, yes! I rely entirely on Great General’s training. Hereafter Xiaoren will be Great General’s servant, Great General’s slave; I will be loyal and devoted, will go through water and tread on fire, under no circumstances will I decline to obey your command.”

Wei Xiaobao thought that this time the opponent had killed three Imperial Bodyguards, yet I have let Situ He, Zeng Rou and the others go, I am afraid Zhang Kangnian and the other Imperial Bodyguards would not accept, or at least blame Laozi’s luck in throwing the dice was too disappointing. Seeing the case in front of him, he thought that he must give everybody some benefit, so that he could save his own face as the banker that day. After pondering for half a day, he came up with an idea. Stretching out his hand, he heavily slapped the table and shouted, “What a brazen traitor, clearly you are in collusion with Wu Sangui, planning a rebellion, yet you still say you wanted to kidnap his son. How much have you received from Wu Sangui that you are willing to cover up the truth for him? Damn it, son of a b1tch, get someone here, beat this guy severely for me!”

From outside the tent entered seven or eight sergeants, who spread Yuan Yifang on the ground and beat him with the army stick until his flesh was bruised and lacerated.

“Are you going to confess now?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “You said you are going to kidnap Wu Sangui’s son, why did you come to our army camp and kill our Imperial Bodyguards? The Imperial Bodyguard and the Valiant Cavalry are the Emperor’s most trusted subordinates; by offending the Imperial Bodyguard and the Valiant Cavalry, you are not giving the Emperor any face.” Hearing this, Zhang Kangnian, Fu Chun and the others were very pleased, they spoke out together to threaten him.

Wei Xiaobao said, “This fellow utters graceful words, flowery speech, he is fabricating lies to deceive us. This kind of rebellious traitor, how can he tell the truth unless he is beaten? Beat him again!”

The crowd of sergeants shouted and randomly struck their army sticks down. Yuan Yifang screamed, “Don’t hit, don’t hit! Xiaoren is willing confess!”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “Altogether, how many of you live on Mount Wangwu?”

“Altogether we have more than 400 people,” Yuan Yifang replied.

“Including your families?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Approximately two thousand people,” Yuan Yifang replied.

Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and cursed, “F*ck your granny! How can there be so little? Beat him again!”

“Don’t hit, don’t hit!” Yuan Yifang screamed, “There are more than four thousand … five thousand people.”

Wei Xiaobao cursed again, “F*ck your granny’s eighteen-generation ancestors, why don’t you just speak straightforward; nine thousand is nine thousand, why do you have to divide it into four thousand and five thousand?”

“Yes, yes!” Yuan Yifang said, “There are more than nine thousand.”

“You are a rebellious traitor,” Wei Xiaobao said, “How can you tell the truth? If you say nine thousand, there must be at least nineteen thousand of you.” ‘Bang!’ he slapped the table again and shouted, “The rebels gathering on Mount Wangwu, how many are there?”

Listening to his tone, Yuan Yifang realized that the higher the number he mentioned, the happier the young general was; thereupon he said, “I heard … I heard there are thirty thousand people altogether.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “That’s more like it.” Turning toward the Regimental Commander Fu Chun he said, “This miserable wretch will not confess unless he is beaten.”

“Exactly,” Fu Chun replied, “But he must be beaten ferociously.”

“No need to hit,” Yuan Yifang shouted, “Whatever Great General ask, Xiaoren will confess.” He had already decided that he would simply follow this young general’s tone of speech so that his skin and flesh would not suffer.

Wei Xiaobao said, “With more than thirty thousand of you, each one is trained in martial art, is that right? The young miss just now, she is only fourteen or fifteen, but she is trained in martial art. You are all Wu Sangui’s former subordinates, but some of you are young, you must be the offspring of his former high-ranking military officer, are you not?”

“Yes, yes!” Yuan Yifang said, “Everybody knows … knows martial art, all of us are Wu Sangui’s former subordinates.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your leader Situ Bolei, he was Wu Sangui’s favorite general, when he fought a battle, he was very formidable, was he not? He said he wanted to completely wipe us, the Manchu people, out?”

“That was his talk of treason and heresy,” Yuan Yifang said, “It was … it was extremely wrong of him.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “He sent you to Beijing to see Wu Sangui’s son, to discuss how you are going to revolt. Why didn’t you go to Yunnan and discuss it with Wu Sangui face to face?”

Yuan Yifang said, “This … this … perhaps … perhaps there is another reason.” In reality, they only wanted to kidnap Wu Yingxiong, so it was really not easy to answer Wei Xiaobao’s question.

“Scoundrel!” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “What other reason? Your Situ Bolei has already gone to Yunnan and has reached an agreement with Wu Sangui, hasn’t he?”

“Probably … probably he has,” Yuan Yifang replied.

Wei Xiaobao cursed, “What do you mean probably or probably not? Damn it, if yes say yes, if no say no.”

“Yes … yes,” Yuan Yifang said, “He has.”

Zhang Kangnian, Zhao Qixian and Fu Chun, three people heard how Wei Xiaobao was guiding the confession, gradually pushing the blame of major crime of scheming a rebellion to Ping Xi Wang Wu Sangui’s head. They could not help but look at each other in blank dismay, while worrying inwardly, not knowing Wei Xiaobao’s real intention.

Wei Xiaobao asked further, “Situ Bolei was Wu Sangui’s favorite general, he raised these more than thirty thousand elite troops, why didn’t he set up his garrison in Yunnan? Your granny, where in the world is Wangwu Mountain?” He thought, “If Wangwu Mountain is in Yunnan, my question is a wrong question.” Fortunately Yuan Yifang replied, “It’s in Jiyuan County, Henan province.” But Wei Xiaobao did not have the slightest idea what kind of place Jiyuan County, Henan province was. He asked, “That’s close to Beijing, is it?”

“It’s not too far,” Yuan Yifang replied.

“F*ck your granny,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “Close to Beijing is close to Beijing, what do you mean not too far?”

“Yes, yes,” Yuan Yifang said, “It’s very close, it’s very close.”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “So it is very close to Beijing! You, rebellious thieves indeed have a malicious intention, on a mountain very close to Beijing you dare to raise elite troops. When Wu Sangui in Yunnan raises a rebellion, you will immediately go down the mountain to attack straight to Beijing, and will have each and every one of the Imperial Bodyguards and Valiant Cavalry killed like chopping melon or slicing vegetables, you will make a killing until the blood flow like a river, the corpses pile up like a mountain. You will attack like a billowing sandstorm and leave us to piss in our pants in terror, right?”

Yuan Yifang kowtowed and said, “This is Wu Sangui and Situ Bolei, two rebellious thieves’ conspiracy on treason and heresy, it has nothing … nothing to do with Xiaoren.”

Wei Xiaobao showed a faint smile; he mused, “This fellow is very clever.” He said, “In your Wangwu Pai, how many people have worked as military officers under Wu Sangui? I want you to give me names, one by one.”

“There are too many of them,” Yuan Yifang said. Immediately he started mentioning names, but this time he did not fabricate the names.

“Very good!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Write down these people’s names, I also want the names of those who were previously holding official positions under Wu Sangui.”

Yuan Yifang said, “Some … some names Xiaoren is not too clear.”

“You are not clear?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Drag him down and beat him thirty more times. I am sure he will be clear.”

Yuan Yifang busily said, “No … don’t hit, Xiaoren will … will write down everything.” A sergeant brought pen and paper, Yuan Yifang wrote a list of names.

Seeing he had not finished after writing for half a day, Wei Xiaobao was getting impatient; he turned to Zhang Kangnian and said, “Get Mr. Secretary to record his oral confession.” He shouted to Yuan Yifang, “I want you to repeat the oral confession you gave just now, if you are being unclear for even half a sentence, your head will roll. Take him away.” Two officers took him away.

Wei Xiaobao chuckled and said to his three companions, “Laoxiong, this time we are really lucky, to be able to uncover this gargantuan rebellion conspiracy; all four of us will definitely enjoy big promotion.”

Zhang Kangnian and the others, three people, were surprised and happy at the same time. Zhao Qixian said, “This is Commander’s clear eye and brave decision, what merit do subordinates have?”

“Everybody has a share in seeing this matter,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Everyone has meritorious service.”

Zhang Kangnian said, “About Ping Xi Wang staging a rebellion, I wonder if we have enough evidence?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This bunch of rebellious thieves of Mount Wangwu is planning to revolt, isn’t that the truth? They are going to Beijing to see Wu Sangui’s son, what good thing can possibly come out of that meeting?”

Zhang Kangnian said, “This man surnamed Yuan said that they wanted to kidnap Ping Xi Wang’s Heir Apparent, to compel Ping Xi Wang into revolting, I am afraid Ping Xi Wang did not necessarily have prior contact with them.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Zhang Dage has had some dealings with Ping Xi Wang Mansion’s people, therefore, you know quite a bit of inside information, don’t you? If their rebellion succeeded, Ping Xi Wang will become the Emperor, hey, hey.”

Hearing the ill-intention in the tone of his voice, Zhang Kangnian was shocked; he hastily said, “I don’t know even one of the Ping Xi Wang Mansion’s people. Com … Commander is … is right, that servant Wu Sangui is … is planning treason and heresy, we must … must immediately report this to His Majesty.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Would the three gentlemen discuss it with Mr. Secretary on how we are going to present this memorial to the throne.”

After Zhang Kangnian, three people and the armed force secretary finished writing the memorial to the throne, they read it out for Wei Xiaobao. The content was just like Yuan Yifang’s oral confession, with the list of names of Wu Sangui’s former subordinates on Wangwu Mountain attached to the letter. The memorial was replenished with sauce and spice, recounting how Wei Xiaobao had seen the rebellious traitors during the day, and pretended to be unprepared when they set up camp in the night, to lure the bandits to attack. The rebellious traitors were exceptionally fierce; Wei Xiaobao led the troops to fight bravely, he provided the leadership and captured the chief of the traitors, whose name was Yuan Yifang, alive, and learned about the rebellion plan. The Imperial Bodyguard Getong and two others gallantly died for their country, asking the Emperor to bestow grace by generously rewarding comfort and aid to the three persons’ bereaved families.

After listening to this, Wei Xiaobao said, “Please also add several sentences on the meritorious service of the Regimental Commander Fu and Zhang and Zhao, two captains of the Imperial Bodyguards.” Fu Chun and the others, three people, were greatly delighted and immediately expressed their gratitude.

Wei Xiaobao added, “Also, add several sentences about we captured nineteen rebellious thieves, but no matter what, those rebellious traitors were unwilling to reveal the rebellion plan, therefore, according to His Majesty’s prior instruction, I intentionally release eighteen rebellious traitors, so that we can investigate clearly the entire rebellion plan.”

The three people asked together, “So releasing the eighteen rebellious traitors was part of His Majesty’s plan?”

“Naturally,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I am so young, how can I be that smart? If not for His Majesty’s foresight, how can I uncover this major rebellion plan?”

Previously, Kangxi had ordered Wei Xiaobao to release Wu Lishen, Ao Biao, Liu Yizhou, three people, in order to find the fact about the rebels entering the Palace. Zhang Kangnian and the others thought that the Emperor had already known that Wangwu Pai people would come to attack. In that case, the framing of Wu Sangui was also part of the Emperor’s plan. Seeing that for no rhyme or reason great riches and honor was being delivered into their hands, they were all overjoyed and did not stop expressing their thousand thanks and ten thousands gratitude.

According to Manchurian Qing custom, when a general went into battle, he could not return without an imperial edict. Although Wei Xiaobao was only about twenty li from Beijing, he could not personally return to Beijing to submit the memorial to the throne. Thereupon he sent two Company Commanders and ten Imperial Bodyguards to lead one company [orig. ‘niru’] of three hundred ordinary soldiers that very same night, with Yuan Yifang in custody, to present the memorial to the throne to Kangxi.

[Author’s note: in the Eight Banners Army, three hundred men formed one ‘niru’. The idea behind ‘niru’ was ‘big arrow’, the leader held a big arrow as the symbol of his authority. Five ‘niru’ formed one ‘jalan’, five ‘jalan’ formed one ‘gusa’.]

Wei Xiaobao was very proud of himself; he thought, “This time I am giving Wu Sangui enough trouble. Mu Palace is having a competition against us, Tian Di hui, to see who will topple Wu Sangui first. Today Laozi has rendered great service to both Shifu. Shifu Chen of Tian Di Hui will be happy, Emperor Shifu will also be happy.”

The next day he led his troops to continue their journey slowly southwards. By noon, two Imperial Bodyguards from Beijing, riding fast horses, caught up with them. They said, “His Majesty has a secret imperial edict.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, immediately he gathered all the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry officers in his tent to receive the imperial decree. The Imperial Bodyguard bearing the imperial decree stood in the middle and read in loud and clear voice: “The Deputy Commander of Valiant Cavalry of Plain Yellow Banner, who simultaneously hold the Deputy Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards position, Wei Xiaobao, listen to this: Zhen told you to go to Shaolin Temple on a mission, who told you to meddle in other people’s business along the way? You have listened to lowly characters speaking nonsense, bringing a false charge against a minister who has given outstanding service, foolishly pursuing this kind of business; how could you not bitterly disappoint your lord? Henceforth you are forbidden to mention that kind of rubbish talk, if even a word or a sentence leak out, all of you will return to Beijing to see Zhen with your heads hanging by your sides. By the Emperor himself.”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard it, he was so scared that his back was wet with cold sweat. He had no choice but to kowtow and thank the Emperor’s favor. The faces of everybody else in the tent went pale, they were very ashamed. Fu Chun, Zhang Kangnian and the others did not dare to talk too much, they thought that this little child was fooling around deliberately, His Majesty did not blame him for the crime, it could be considered that the Emperor treated him very well. Realizing that right now Wei Xiaobao’s mood must be very bad, they did not want to look for a nail to bump, thereupon they took their leave and walked out the tent.

The Imperial Bodyguard bearing the imperial decree walked toward Wei Xiaobao and said in a low voice, “His Majesty’s order: you must be very careful in everything.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “His Majesty’s grace, servant Wei Xiaobao is extremely grateful.” Taking out four hundred taels of silver, he gave the money to the two Imperial Bodyguards.

After the two Imperial Bodyguards left, Wei Xiaobao was puzzled, “Could it be that the Emperor knows that I am slandering Wu Sangui? Or after he arrived in Beijing that servant Yuan Yifang retracted his statement and reported that he had confessed under torture? The Emperor seems to be very fond of Wu Sangui, toppling him is actually not going to be easy.”

That evening, the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry soldiers who were sent to escort Yuan Yifang caught up with them. After Wei Xiaobao bumped into this big nail, everybody did not have any interest to gamble anymore. Without speaking too much, one day the group arrived at the Shaolin Temple on Mount Song.

Having received the report of the arrival of the imperial decree, the Abbot led a group of monks going down the mountain to welcome the party, and then they took Wei Xiaobao and his entourage into the Temple.

Wei Xiaobao took out the imperial decree, opened the sealed envelope, and handed it over to Zhang Kangnian to be read. He heard quite a bit of lengthy and flowery sentences, something like ‘The Masters[2] have profound understanding of mysterious principles of Buddhism, have the foreknowledge of wonderful reason, able to establish auspicious scheme, supporting the Emperor on both sides’, or ‘In the Palace of Nirvana hang the sun and the moon in their splendor, changing the color of the mist and cloud in the garden of Buddha’, or ‘The cloud circles peaks of Mount Song, the luan[3] return to Shaoshi[4], the grass bend down of the immortal dew, peaceful forest under Buddha’s sun, the manifest of Buddhist people, the clear wisdom of our generation’. Following those sentences, the Head Monk of Shaolin Temple, Abbot Hui Cong was bestowed the title of ‘The Zen Master [orig. chan shi] Protector of the Country, Blessing to the Sages’, also, the eighteen Shaolin monks who had rendered great service on Mount Wutai were duly rewarded. Finally Zhang Kangnian read, “Hereby I am sending the Deputy Commander of Valiant Cavalry of Plain Yellow Banner, who simultaneously hold the Deputy Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards position, the wearer of Yellow Magua bestowed personally by the Emperor, Wei Xiaobao, to act on Zhen‘s behalf, to become a Buddhist monk in Shaolin Temple, granted by the Emperor to spend time to learn Buddhist law, namely, to take the tonsure. By the Emperor himself.”

Listening to the bookish part in the front, Wei Xiaobao had no idea where the Emperor was driving at, but toward the end, he actually understood; he could not restrain his countenance from changing greatly. Kangxi wanted him to go to Mount Wutai and be a Buddhist monk there, and he had agreed. But never in his wildest dream would he expect that he was being sent to Shaolin Temple to have his head shaved here. He had the imperial decree continuously in his possession, but before arriving at the destination, how could he dare to open it? Besides, even if he took a peek, he would not know what was written on it anyway.

Hui Cong Chanshi[5] led the monks to thank the Emperor’s favor. The officers took out the gift and distribute it. Wei Xiaobao stood on the side, watching. His heart was in chaos.

Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Wei Daren is going to be a monk in place of His Majesty, this is our Temple’s rare honor.” He took out a razor on the spot, and said, “Wei Daren is His Majesty’s proxy, this is not a small matter, even Lao Na [lit. old cassock] does not dare to be your Shifu. Let Lao Na‘s late master receive you as his disciple, you are Lao Na‘s Shidi [younger martial brother], your Buddhist name will be Hui Ming. In all Shaolin Temple, other than you and Lao Na, two people, nobody else has this ‘Hui’ generation-character in his name.”

Facing this situation, Wei Xiaobao had no choice but kneeling down with tears in his eyes to have his head shaved. Using the razor, Hui Cong Chanshi shaved his head three times first, and then the tonsure monk continued shaving his sparse hair, whatever was left of his burnt pigtail, until nothing was left. With authority Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Do not consider Shaolin’s unadorned wall as an obstruction. Do not consider becoming a monk on the Emperor’s behalf as grandeur. The glory and splendor of the dust was unlucky [‘Hui’] in the past, but now it is bright [‘Ming’]. No coming, no going, no decrease, no increase!” Taking out the document conferred by the Emperor, he filled in the name ‘Hui Ming’ onto the document and had Wei Xiaobao kneeled down to worship the Tathagata[6]. The crowd of monks chorused in calling the name of Buddha.

Wei Xiaobao cursed in his heart, “You, bald-headed thief, do not have eighteen generations ancestors who accumulate merits, but come here and shave Laozi‘s head. You recite Amitabha Buddha, Laozi recite hot piece Mama in my heart.” Suddenly he was overwhelmed with grief and bawled. The officers filling the hall were startled and stared at him. The monks continued their recitation; nobody paid him any attention.

After crying for a while, Wei Xiaobao had no choice but to stop. Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Shidi, among the monks in our Temple, currently we have eight characters of seniority, namely ‘Da Jiao Guan Hui, Cheng Jing Hua Yan’. Our master Guan Zheng Chanshi has passed away twenty-eight years ago, all the Cheng generation monks in our Temple are your Shizhi [martial nephew].”

Immediately the monks, in the order of seniority, stepped forward to pay their respect; among them were Cheng Xin, Cheng Guang, Cheng Tong, and the others, who had had friendship with him before. The Cheng generation old monks with their white, silvery beards were all calling him as Shishu [martial (younger) uncle]. Among the Jing generation monks, there were quite a few of old men, yet they were all calling him Shishuzu [martial granduncle]. The most interesting thing was the Hua generation monks; some of them were thirty, forty years old, but they paid their respect to him by calling him Tai Shishuzu [martial great-granduncle]. Wei Xiaobao was amused and could not help but bursting into loud laughter. Seeing the tears on his face had not been wiped, yet he was laughing happily, everybody smiled.

Turned out the reason Kangxi dispatched the Imperial Bodyguards and his personal troops the Valiant Cavalry to Shaolin Temple was no more than escorting Wei Xiaobao to take the tonsure and become a Buddhist monk; however, as the Emperor’s proxy, how could he be compared to ordinary person? If not for the fanfare, how could the Shaolin monks see the grandeur of this matter?

The Regimental Commander Fu Chun of the Valiant Cavalry, the Imperial Bodyguards Zhao Qixian, Zhang Kangnian, and the others bade their farewell to Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao took out three hundred taels of silver and asked Zhang Kangnian to rent a private house at the foot of the mountain where Shuang’er could stay. Shaolin Temple has never accepted female benefactors inside their temple. Although Shuang’er was wearing a man’s clothing, the eighteen Luohan of Damo Hall had all known her as Wei Xiaobao’s servant girl; therefore, she was waiting at the foot of the mountain. She only knew that Wei Xiaobao was going to pass on the imperial decree, and hand over the rewards to the monks; afterwards, Wei Xiaobao would come down the mountain and return to Beijing. Who would have thought that he was supposed to be a monk in the Temple?

Not only Wei Xiaobao was the Emperor’s proxy, he had the ‘Hui’ character in his name, denoting him a senior monk; therefore, everybody in the Temple revered him. The Abbot reserved a large meditation room for him. Abbot Hui Cong said, “Shidi, you are free to do anything in the Temple, you may do morning and night chores as you wish. Other than abstaining against taking life, stealing, being lascivious, lying, drinking wine, five major Buddhist monastic disciplines, you can choose whether to observe or not to observe the minor discipline.” And then he explained in details what those five major Buddhist monastic disciplines mean.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Lying is included in these five major Buddhist monastic disciplines, to Laozi, I don’t want to guard against whatever I say.” He asked, “Is gambling also to be abstained?”

Abbot Hui Cong was taken aback. “What gambling?” he asked.

“Gambling for money?” Wei Xiaobao said.

Hui Cong smiled and said, “Within the five major Buddhist monastic disciplines, gambling is not mentioned. Other people may want to abstain against it, but Shidi may do as you wish.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Damn it, if I am the only one who does not abstain against it, what’s the use? Could I be betting against myself?”

After living in the Temple for several days, he was already bored to death; he pondered, “Xiao Xuanzi wanted me to serve the Old Emperor, but he sent me to Shaolin Temple to be a monk. I wonder when is he going to let me go to Mount Wutai?”

One particular day he wandered aimlessly to the outside of the Luohan Hall. He saw Cheng Tong was overseeing six disciples in martial art training. As soon as those monks saw his arrival, they bowed together to salute. Wei Xiaobao waved his hand and said, “Don’t be too polite, you may continue your training.”

He saw the six ‘Jing’ generation monks boxing technique was precise and rigorous, their movements were very nimble, the changes in their stances were very dynamic; compared to this ‘martial granduncle’ of theirs, they were actually much more superior. He heard Cheng Tong giving them directions, how firm and how fast should this punch be, how to be powerful but flexible, how to position this kick, how not to kick too high, and so on. Wei Xiaobao did not understand anything, so he was just watching without any interest. After a while he turned around and walked away, thinking, “I always hear people say that Shaolin Temple’s martial art skill is number one under the heavens. Now that I am a monk in the Temple, won’t it be a pity if I don’t learn the skill?” Suddenly it dawned on him, “Aiyo! I got it! The dog fart Shaolin martial art that the old turtle Hai Dafu taught me was fake, it is totally useless. Xiao Xuanzi is sending me to Shaolin Temple to be a monk here, he wants me to learn the real skill of Shaolin Pai before I can protect the Old Emperor. But my Shifu died twenty eight years ago, who will teach me martial art?”

After pondering for half a day, he finally understood one thing: “Old Monk Abbot makes me his Shidi, it’s precisely so that I don’t have any Shifu; this old bald thief is very crafty. Hmm, that’s right, he knew I am the Emperor’s trusted aide, who is a high-ranking Manchu official; there is no way he would be willing to pass on excellent martial art skill to this little Tatar. Humph, you don’t want to teach me, do you think I cannot learn by looking?”

In Wulin world, when people were teaching martial art, it was a big taboo for any school or sect to have other people watching on the side. However, this Hui Ming Chanshi was their own Temple’s ‘Senior Monk of Older Generation’. When their Sect’s disciples and grand-disciples were practicing martial art and he wanted to watch on the side, nobody could raise any objection.

Wei Xiaobao looked to the east and gazed to the west in all courtyards and halls around the Temple. Whenever there were people training martial art, he would stand and watch for a while. Unfortunately, this ‘senior monk’s’ foundation was indeed too superficial. What Hai Dafu taught him was not a real martial art, while what Chen Jinnan taught him, the internal energy cultivation technique, he only practiced for several days. Shaolin Pai’s martial art was wide-ranging and profound, by casually watching like this, how could he reap any benefit? Much less he did not have any patience to watch for an extended period of time.

Therefore, after wandering around Shaolin Temple for more than a month, he did not learn even one bit of martial art skill. However, he had an easy-going personality, he loved to mingle around and make friends. Since in term of seniority his position in the Temple was second only to the Abbot, and he was willing to make friends with other people, all monks were very warm toward him.

One day, the spring breeze was gentle and pleasant, Wei Xiaobao felt his entire body was comfortably warm. Living in a monastery with monks as his only companions was really not the most fun thing to do, thereupon he went out the Temple’s gate and strolled down the mountain. He thought that he had not seen Shuang’er for quite a while, he wanted to know how this girl was doing, so he wanted to see her. Moreover, day in and day out he ate vegetarian dishes in the Temple, he had already cursed the green vegetables and tofu’s ancestor several thousand, several tens of thousand times. He wanted Shuang’er to buy some chicken, fish and meat, and let the great monk eat to his heart’s desire.

Walking near the Welcoming Guest Pavilion [Ying Ke Ting] outside the Temple, he suddenly heard the sound of people quarreling; he was delighted, “Wonderful, wonderful! A fight.” Quickening his steps, he heard the voices of men, intersperse with the sharp and clear voice of several women.

When he came near, he saw two young women in the Pavilion squabbling with four of their Temple’s monks. When the four monks saw Wei Xiaobao, they said together, “Shishuzu is here, let’s have the Senior be the judge over this matter.” Welcoming him to the Pavilion, they put their palms together and bowed. These four monks were of the ‘Jing’ generation. Wei Xiaobao knew that they were in charge of receiving guests and benefactors outside the Temple. Usually they were very well-disposed and very affable, yet somehow they were engaged in a squabble with these two young women. Looking at the two women, one was approximately twenty years old, wearing blue garment, the other was younger, perhaps around sixteen or seventeen years old, wearing light green garment.

As soon as Wei Xiaobao looked at this young woman, he could not stop his heart from jumping, he felt as if the pit of his stomach was beaten by an invisible iron hammer, in an instant his lips were parched, his tongue dried, he was dumbstruck and could only thought, “I am dead, I must be dead! Where did this beautiful woman come from? If this beautiful woman is given to me as my wife, even if the young emperor wanted to switch places with me, I don’t want it. Dead or alive, the heaven above the earth below, forest of spears or rain of arrows, mountain of blade or a deep fryer, no matter what Wei Xiaobao must take this miss as a wife.”

Seeing how these four monks were calling the young monk ‘martial granduncle’, and were treating him with great respect, the two women were very surprised. And then they noticed his eyes were staring blankly at the girl in green clothes. Even a common man ought not to be so impolite, much less this was someone who had left home to become a monk. The girl in green blushed, she turned her head away. An angry look started to appear on the woman in blue’s face.

Wei Xiaobao was oblivious; he mused, “Why did she turn her head away? When she is blushing slightly like that, even if a hundred girls of Lovely Spring Courtyard stand together, they do not look as good as one strand of her eyebrow. If I have to give her ten thousand taels each time she laugh, it is still worth it.” He also thought, “Miss Fang, Xiao Junzhu, Madame Hong, Princess Jianning, that girl Shuang’er, plus that Miss Zheng who threw the dice, put together are not as beautiful as this fairy. I, Wei Xiaobao, do not want to be the Emperor, I don’t want to be the Shen Long Jiao’s Jiaozhu, I don’t want to be Tian Di Hui’s Zongduozhu. Some Yellow Magua or three peacock feathers, one-pin or two-pin rank officer, I don’t care about all those things, I … I only want to be this Miss’ husband.”

In that instant, myriads of thoughts filled his mind, he was determined to go through water and tread on fire, to risk his life and limbs, to realize his dream; consequently, his expression looked very strange. To the four monks and two women who were looking at him, he looked just like an idiot: suddenly beaming with joy, and then suddenly clenching his jaw.

Shishuzu,” Jing Ji and Jing Qing called several times, but Wei Xiaobao was totally oblivious to them. Only after a long time, did he finally wake up as if from a dream, and blew out a breath.

At first the woman in blue thought that Wei Xiaobao was a horny philanderer; afterwards, seeing his blank look, she thought this little monk must be a lunatic, and found it amusing. She asked, “So this little monk is your Shishuzu?”

Jing Ji hastily said, “Miss, please be a bit more respectful. This senior monk’s Buddhist name is Hui on the top and Ming on the bottom. In our Temple, he is one of the only two Senior Monks with ‘Hui’ generation-character; he is our head monk, the Abbot’s Shidi.”

The two women were slightly startled, but then they thought they were joking; they shook their heads in disbelief. The woman in green laughed and said, “Shijie, he is swindling us, don’t be fooled. This little … little master, how can he be a senior monk?”

Her voice was melodious, sweet and charming, tender and alluring. Hearing her, Wei Xiaobao’s soul flew and scattered away, he could not help but repeating, “This little … little master, how can he be a senior monk?” But the way he said it sounded frivolous, with no effort to conceal his uncouthness. The two women’s faces immediately sank, the four Jing generation monks also felt that this young martial granduncle kind of forgetting his manners too much, hence they were very ashamed.

“Humph,” the woman in blue snorted and asked, “Are you a Shaolin Temple’s senior monk?”

“A monk is a monk,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Nothing senior about it. You can see that I am short, I am nothing more than a short monk[7].”

The eyebrows of the woman in blue shot up; in loud and clear voice she said, “I heard people say that Shaolin Temple’s martial art is the leader of the world, their seventy-two unsurpassed skills are immeasurably deep. We, the two sisters, envied it in our hearts, and have come here specifically to admire it. Unexpectedly, your martial art is so-so, worse yet, the monks of the Temple do not observe propriety, oily-mouthed and smooth talking, just like the hoodlums of the marketplace, making other people sorely disappointed. Shimei, let us go!” Finished speaking, she turned around to exit the Pavilion.

Jing Qing blocked in front of her, “Nu Shizhu [female benefactor] has come to Shaolin Temple, committed violence and hit people, even if you want to go, you must at least leave your revered master’s name.”

Hearing the words ‘committed violence and hit people’, Wei Xiaobao thought, “Turns out they have already assaulted people, no wonder Jing Qing and the others quarreled with them.” He saw red palm marks on the left cheeks of Jing Qing and Jing Ji, evidently they both have suffered a palm strike each.

Wei Xiaobao had chatted with everybody in the Temple, so he already knew the level of martial art skill of these four monks who were in charge of receiving the guests; in the Temple, they could be classified as less-developed. Because they had low martial art skill yet they were eloquent and fluent speakers, the Abbot assigned them the duty of receiving the benefactors who were going to perform their charitable deeds.

In the Wulin world, Shaolin Temple’s fame spanned more than a thousand years. The number of people who came to the temple each month to experience their martial art was too numerous to mention. The monks in charge of receiving the guests had low martial art skill, it was precisely because they were not supposed to fight. Otherwise, the Shaolin Dhyana Temple would turn into an arena where people fought for martial art supremacy. Not only it would disrupt their peace in meditation, it would also be a great disobedience to the Buddhist’s teaching about mercy, hence fighting was an unacceptable behavior.

Obviously the woman in blue did not understand this reason, she only thought that since with one strike she had succeeded in beating two Shaolin monks, she had a reason to be very proud of herself. She said, “Based on your mediocre martial art, you want your Miss to leave behind Shifu’s name, humph, do you think you deserve it?”

Jing Ji has just suffered defeat; he knew that with the five of them combined, they could not stop the women. If these two young women went down the mountain and proclaimed that they had beaten two Shaolin monks and then shook their sleeves and left, while even their origins were unknown, where would they put Shaolin Temple’s reputation at? Thereupon he said, “The four of us have the duty to receive benefactors, our martial art skill is extremely low, and those who have left home hold friendship as our foundation, how can we meaninglessly fight with others? Since the two of you have come to get advice about our humble Temple’s martial art, please wait for a moment, pinseng [impoverished monk] will invite several Shibo and Shishu [martial (older) uncle and martial (younger) uncle] to come, we will introduce them to you.” Finished speaking, he turned around to rush toward the Temple.

Suddenly a blue shadow flashed. Jing Ji angrily shouted, “You …” ‘Slap’ he was thrown tumbling down on the ground. It was the woman in blue who ran after him and stretched out her leg to hook his feet. Jing Ji sprang up and angrily said, “Nu Shizhu, why are you …”

The woman in blue laughed aloud and sent a right punch. Jing Ji hastily raised his right arm to block. The woman in blue grabbed with her left hand, ‘Crack!’ unexpectedly she dislocated his right arm joint. There was a series of ‘Crack!’, ‘Aiyo!’, ‘Clack, clack!’ as in an instant she also broke either the other three monks’ wrist bones or their arm joints. The four monks withdrew to the side, completely unable to resist. Jing Ji turned around and rushed back to the Temple to report.

Wei Xiaobao was so scared that he was at a loss of what to do, and was completely helpless. Suddenly the back of his neck tightened, someone grabbed him, while at the same time sealed the acupoint on the back of his neck. Immediately his whole body went limp and painful, he could not exert his strength. He saw the woman in blue was standing in front of him, in that case, the one grabbing his back was obviously the girl in green. His heart was wild with joy. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” he shouted loudly.

Having his back grabbed by the girl, Wei Xiaobao felt he had not walked in this world in vain. It would be best if she added several kicks to his behind, or landed several punches on the top of his head. Even if he were killed immediately, he would enjoy infinite pleasure and would think that his good fortune in love department was great. This moment his nostrils caught a whiff of light, delicate fragrance, hence he called out, “Smells good, smells good!”

The woman in blue angrily said, “This little bald thief is so rotten. Meizi, cut his nose!”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao heard a charming voice from behind him, “But let me dig his pair of thief eyeballs first.” And then he felt the fingers of a warm, soft and smooth hand pressed against his left eyelid.

“Please dig it slowly, don’t do it too quickly,” Wei Xiaobao shouted.

The girl was surprised, “Why?” she asked.

“It would be best if you grab me like this,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Grab me for a lifetime, never let me go, forever.”

The girl angrily said, “Little monk, you are at the death’s door, and still speaking nonsense to me?”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly felt a sharp pain on his right eye; the girl was really going to dig his eyeball out. Greatly shocked, he bent his waist and lowered his head, all reasons and logic were thrown away beyond the ninth level of clouds, both hands reached backward, he only hoped he could pry open the hand holding the back of his neck. The girl punched him on the back. Wei Xiaobao screamed, “Aiyo! Mama!” His hands frantically clawed backward, unconsciously he had launched the move ‘Di Qing subduing the dragon’ that Hong Jiaozhu had taught him. Suddenly he felt both of hands touched something soft; unexpectedly he had grabbed the girl’s breasts.

This style was originally intended to force the enemy behind his back to withdraw, then he would somersault backward and ride on the enemy’s neck. Who would have thought that the girl did not have much experience dealing with the enemy and did not guard against Wei Xiaobao’s grabbing her chest? Since the result was entirely different than what was expected, naturally the second half of the move ‘Di Qing subduing the dragon’ could not be executed.

The girl was shocked and ashamed at the same time, she brought her outstretched arms inside and caught Wei Xiaobao’s arms and ‘crack, crack!’ she broke the joints of both of his elbows. This move was called ‘the young swallow returns to its nest’, a refined name, but was actually a killer move from the ‘separating tendon dislocating bone technique’. It was followed by a flying kick, sending Wei Xiaobao reeling about a zhang or so.

The girl was extremely angry, she pulled the willow-leaf saber from her waist and violently chopped it down on Wei Xiaobao’s back. Wei Xiaobao hastily rolled around and finally rolled underneath the stone table in the middle of the pavilion. The girl’s saber struck the ground, sparks flew in all directions; she kicked with her left foot, kicking Wei Xiaobao from underneath the table.

Shimei,” the woman in blue called out, “You must not kill him!”

The girl in green acted as if she did not hear, she forcefully chopped down on Wei Xiaobao’s back again. “Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao screamed again, “I want my Mommy!” The girl in green chopped down twice more, the chop was so hard that Wei Xiaobao felt the pain in his bone and marrow. Luckily he had his treasured undergarment to protect him that he was not injured.

The girl in green wanted to chop again, but the woman in blue pulled her own saber; ‘clang!’ she stopped her steel saber while calling out, “This little monk will not live, let us quickly leave!” She thought that they had killed a monk in the Temple, the disaster they brought to themselves was indeed not small.

The girl in green had received significant disgrace, plus she believed she had killed this little monk, shock and shame mixed together, suddenly tears streamed down her cheeks, she raised her saber and slashed it across her own neck. The woman in blue was greatly alarmed, hastily she stretched out her saber to block; although she managed to divert the blade of her saber, but the tip of the saber still scratched across her neck, blood gushed out instantly.

Shimei,” the woman in blue cried out in fear, “You … you … what are you doing?”

The girl in green’s vision darkened, she blacked out and fell down to the ground. The woman in blue threw her saber away and rushed to catch her. “Shimei!” she cried out, “You … you … you must not die!”

Suddenly she heard a voice behind her. “Amitabha Buddha, must save her quick.”

The woman in blue cried, she said, “It’s … it’s too late.”

She saw a hand reached out from behind, the fingers continuously moving, sealing the acupoints surrounding the wound on the girl in green’s neck, followed by a voice, “Saving people is urgent, Miss please don’t blame me.” ‘Rip, rip’ he tore a piece of his own robe and wrapped the girl in green’s neck, and then he stooped down to carry her up.

The woman in blue was at a loss of what to do; she stood up and saw the man was an old monk with white long beard hanging down to his chest. As he held the girl in green in his arms, he rushed up the mountain. The woman in blue was frightened; she had no choice but to follow behind him. She saw the old monk was carrying her martial sister entering Shaolin Temple’s main gate, immediately she followed in.

Wei Xiaobao crawled out from underneath the stone table; his arms had already refused to follow his command, they hung down limply on his sides. He thought, “This … this Miss is very vicious, why did she want to commit suicide? If she is really dead, what will happen? I … I’d better escape, damn it.”

But as soon as he thought about the girl’s exceptional countenance, his heart boiled, and he made up his mind: “I must not run away, I must take a look at her.” His arms were extremely painful, cold sweats as big as soy beans were dripping from his forehead; bracing himself, he walked up the mountain.

He only walked for about a dozen steps when he saw more than ten monks rushing out from the Temple to help him and the other three Jing generation monks back to the Temple. All five of them were treated from their dislocated bones injuries. Grab and capture [qin na], tumbling and bare-hand fighting were the best among Shaolin Pai’s martial arts, immediately there was a monk coming to fix their arms.

Wei Xiaobao was eager to see the girl, he asked the two women’s whereabouts, and immediately walked toward the eastern courtyard’s meditation room. He had just rounded a corner along a corridor when he saw eight monks with jiedao[8] in their hands, walking straight toward him. These eight monks were law enforcer monks from the Jielu [monastic disciple] Courtyard. The leader bowed and said, “Shishuzu, Fangzhang Dashi requests the pleasure of seeing you.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I want to see that little Miss first, I wonder if she is alive or dead.”

The monk said, “Fangzhang Dashi is waiting at the Jielu Courtyard, asking Shishuzu to come over immediately.”

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “I said I want to see that pretty little Miss first; didn’t you hear?” Usually his temperament was good, now that his heart was anxious, unexpectedly he was cursing at people in the Temple.

The eight monks looked at each other in dismay, they did not dare to stop him. Immediately four monks followed behind him, while the other four continued to summon Jing Ji and the others, four welcoming-guest monks.

Wei Xiaobao arrived at the Eastern Courtyard’s meditation room and asked, “The Little Miss did not die?”

An old monk replied, “Reporting to Shishu: the injury is not heavy, Xiao Seng [little/lowly monk] is giving her medical treatment.” Wei Xiaobao felt relieved immediately.

The woman in blue was standing by the door, she pointed to Wei Xiaobao and cursed, “This little monk is not good.”

Wei Xiaobao stuck out his tongue to her. He hesitated for a moment, but in the end he did not dare to enter the room. Turning around, he went to Jielu Courtyard. He saw the gate to the Courtyard was wide open, several dozen monks wearing kasaya were standing on either side of the gate, their expression solemn. The four monks escorting him with the Buddhist knife in their hands opened their mouths together, “Reporting to Fangzhang [Abbot]: Monk Hui Ming is here.”

Seeing this kind of expression, Wei Xiaobao mused, “Who do you think you are? The Grand Master of the Courtroom? His granny, what an air.” Entering the great hall, he saw several dozen candles were lighted in front of the image of Buddha, the Abbot, Hui Cong Chanshi stood on the left head-position, while on the right stood an old monk, big and tall, whose expression did not show any anger, yet his standing was evident; he was the head of Jielu Courtyard, Cheng Shi Chanshi. Jing Ji, Jing Qing, and the others, four monks, stood below the head-position.

Shidi,” Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Pay your respect to Tathagata.” Wei Xiaobao kneeled down in worship.

Hui Cong Chanshi waited until Wei Xiaobao finished paying his respect and stood up before saying, “I will have to bother Shidi to explain what happened at the Pavilion halfway up the mountain to the Head of Jielu Courtyard.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I heard them quarrelling, hence I came over to take a look. As for why they quarreled, I don’t have any clue. Jing Ji, why don’t you explain?”

“Yes,” Jing Ji said. Turning around, he said, “Reporting to Fangzhang and Head of Jielu Courtyard Shishu: disciples, four people, were welcoming the guests at the Pavilion halfway up the mountain. Those two Nu Shizhu have come to the Temple to join in charitable deeds. That was what they tactfully reported to us. Our Temple has always had a custom of not receiving Nu Shizhu. The Nu Shizhu who is slightly older said, ‘I heard Shaolin Temple claims itself to be the orthodox school of martial art, each one of the seventy-two unsurpassed artistry is unequalled in the present age. We are here to increase our knowledge, we want to see how formidable it really is.’ Disciple replied, ‘Our humble Temple does not dare to claim to have unequalled martial art in the present age. Each school, each sect under the heavens has its own strong points, how can Shaolin Pai dare to be arrogant and conceited?’”

Hui Cong Fangzhang said, “You said it well, it was very fitting.”

Jing Ji said, “That Nu Shizhu said, ‘In that case, Shaolin Pai only enjoys unearned reputation with their ‘three-legged cat’ boxing technique, isn’t that a joke?’ Disciple said, ‘May I ask which school do the two Nu Shizhu belong to? Whose senior Wulin master’s distinguished disciples are you?’”

“Exactly,” Hui Cong said, “Those two young women came to this Temple to cause trouble, to look down on our Sect’s martial art, their background must be noteworthy, so we should ask clearly their school’s origin.”

Jing Ji said, “That Nu Shizhu said, ‘Do you want to know our school’s origin? That’s very easy; as soon as you see it, you will know.’ Suddenly she made her move and struck disciple and Jing Qing Shidi with her palm. Her movement was very fast, disciple did not guard beforehand, I am very ashamed, unexpectedly I was not able to evade at all. Jing Qing Shidi said, ‘How can you play rough and beat people?’ That Nu Shizhu laughed and said, ‘You asked my school’s origin; talking is cheap, action shows result. Now you have seen it, don’t you recognize it?’ Speaking to this point Hui Ming Shishuzu arrived.”

Cheng Shi asked, “When that Nu Shizhu struck you, what technique did she use?”

Jing Ji, Jing Qing lowered their heads and said, “Disciple did not see clearly.”

Cheng Shi turned to the other two monks, “You did not take a beating, shouldn’t you be able to see the technique that Nu Shizhu used?”

The two monks said, “We only heard ‘slap, slap’ twice, two Shixiong have been slapped, the woman’s hand did not seem to move at all, even her body did not move.”

Cheng Shi looked at the Abbot, waiting for his decision. Hui Cong pondered deeply for a moment, then he ordered the monk on duty, “Invite the Heads of Damo Hall and Bo’re Hall[9] to come over here.”

Not too long afterwards, the two head monks arrive in succession. The Head of Damo Hall was Cheng Xin, the head of the Eighteen Luohan who went to Mount Wutai to rescue the Old Emperor. The Head of Bo’re Hall was Cheng Guan Chanshi, an old monk about eighty years of age. The two monks paid their respect to the Abbot.

Hui Cong said, “There are two Nu Shizhu who came to our Temple to create trouble; we don’t know which school or sect they belong to. The two of you have extensive knowledge and vast experience, please join us in considering this matter in detail.” And he recounted what had happened immediately.

Cheng Xin said, “All along the four martial nephews have never seen her move, but two of you suffered palm strike on your faces. Our Sect’s Thousand-Leaf Hands, Wudang Pai’s Circling Wind Palm, Kunlun Pai’s Falling Wild Goose Fist, as well as Kongtong Pai’s Flying Phoenix Hand, all have this kind of technique.”

Hui Cong said, “Just based on these two palm strikes, we cannot tell her martial art school. Shidi, how did you fight with them?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That lady in blue broke four … four monks’ hands first …” Hui Cong inquired how the four monks had their arms and wrists dislocated. The four monks then successively narrated and acted what had happened to them.

Cheng Xin was watching with rapt attention; he questioned in detail about the woman’s technique one by one, finally he turned to Wei Xiaobao and said, “May I ask Shishu, how did that Miss break the Senior’s arms?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The back of my, the Senior’s, neck was grabbed by that good-looking Miss, immediately my body was numb, she was grabbing right here.” While saying that, he pointed to the back of his neck.

Cheng Xin nodded and said, “That is the Dazhui [big hammer] acupoint, the most vital acupoint on human’s body.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I reached backward to get her arm off me, but she punched me on my back; it was so painful I almost died. I, the Senior, was anxious, I clawed wildly backward, and grabbed her chest. This little Miss was also anxious, she broke my arms, threw me to the ground, and chopped me randomly. Damn it, killing people does not need any capital, she was determined to murder her husband and wanted to be a young widow.”

Hearing him blabbering nonsense, the monks looked at each other in consternation. Cheng Xin stood behind him, he reached out to examine Wei Xiaobao, and saw that there were three saber slashes on the back of his Buddhist robe. He was shocked and said, “She chopped you three times; Shishu, how is your injury?”

Wei Xiaobao was immensely proud of himself; he said, “I have treasured clothes to protect me, I am not injured at all. Fortunately those three chops did not land on my bald head. That little sister chopped me but I did not die, she must be scared out of her wits, thinking that my, the Senior’s, martial art skill was immeasurably deep; therefore, she had no choice but slashing her own neck. Actually, my martial art skill is sloppy and ordinary, but she has a countenance of a flower, face like the moon, so I, the Senior, can’t possibly make things difficult for her …”

Hui Cong was afraid he might continue blabbering nonsense, hence he interrupted, “Shidi, that’s enough.”

Now the crowd of monks understood the reason why that young woman wanted to kill herself; it was because her breasts were grabbed, she had received enormous humiliation. But at that time Wei Xiaobao’s life was hanging on a thread, the three slashes on his robe were the evidence. In critical situation, he randomly grabbed backward and touched whatever part of the enemy’s body, so nobody could say he should be blamed. His martial art skill was low, he was grabbed by the enemy and was struggling for his life, how could his action follow any kind of rule?

Cheng Shi’s countenance immediately turned gentle; he said, “Shishu, previously I heard that Nu Shizhu kept saying and cursing that you did not observe Buddhist monastic rule, that you violated religious commandment by taking liberty with women, therefore, you have committed a serious offense. Turns out it was an accident during the struggle, so we cannot say that you have violated the monastic discipline. Shishu, please sit down.” Personally he picked a chair and placed it next to Hui Cong. By doing this, he was saying that since you did not violate the monastic discipline, Jielu Courtyard did not need to deal with you, you were still my superior in the Temple, then I should show my respect to you.

Giggling, Wei Xiaobao sat down. Seeing his frivolous behavior and senseless talk, Cheng Shi could not help but saying, “Although Shishu did not violate the Buddhist monastic discipline against sexual conduct, when you see the Nu Shizhu, you must maintain your dignity and stern facial expression, you must not fail to show the Shaolin Temple’s eminent monk’s elegant demeanor.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “My eminent monk status is informal, I got it just to make up the number, it should not be taken seriously.”

Hui Cong was about to open his mouth in admonition when the Head of Bo’re Hall, Cheng Guan, suddenly said, “There is no school.”

Cheng Xin asked in surprise, “Shixiong is saying that those two Nu Shizhu do not belong to any school?”

“They learned martial art by stealing!” Cheng Guan said, “The ‘separating tendon dislocating bone technique’ of those two women contains Wudang, Kunlun, Kongtong and Diancang, four Sects’ technique. The three saber slashes on Shishu’s back contain Emei, Jingcheng and Shanxi’s Luhe Saber[10], three schools’ saber technique. It was a random mixture of several techniques; not only that, their mastery is not perfect. There is no sect in the world with that kind of martial art.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly astonished, “Uh,” he said, “You can tell the origin of each move in the style they used?”

He did not know that Cheng Guan left home to become a Buddhist monk in the Shaolin Temple when he was only eight years old; for more than seventy years he had single-mindedly study martial art, and had never left the Temple’s gate for even one step. He had read extensively ancient books on martial art, his knowledge was vast.

In Shaolin Temple, Damo Hall specialized in researching their own martial art, while Bo’re Hall actually specialized in researching the martial art of each house and sect under the heavens. The several dozen of eminent monks of the Bo’re Hall were all proficient in one or more sects’ martial art.

In the last years of Sui Dynasty, the monks of Shaolin Temple had helped Li Shimin flattening Wang Shichong[11]; from that moment on, their martial art has overawed the world. For the next thousand years their reputation did not diminish, admittedly it was because their Sect’s martial art was broad and profound; but the fact that Bo’re Hall researching other sects’ martial art was also one of the principal factors. After acquiring thorough understanding of other sects’ martial art, first, they would analyze the strength and weakness of each martial art style, to patch up the inadequacy of their own martial art; second, if they had any confrontation with other sects’ experts, by knowing the ins and outs of the opponents’ skill, they would gain great advantage.

As Shaolin disciples went out in Jianghu to perform their heroic deeds, when they returned, they would pay their respect to the Abbot and their own master first, and then they would go to Jielu Courtyard to report if there was any fault, next they would go to Bo’re Hall to report what they saw and heard. If there was any style or move belonging to other sect worth having, the monk of Bo’re Hall would then record everything. In this way, after accumulating such records for a thousand years, they knew various schools’ martial art from all over the world like the back of their hands. Even if there was no talented person with outstanding ability and wisdom in the Temple, Shaolin Pai could still be considered the leader of the realm.

Cheng Guan single-mindedly studied martial art, he knew nothing about the way of the world, his conduct was rather naive, but his understanding of each school and sect’s martial art was very clear. When a scholar reads too many books, he is known as a ‘bookworm’; this Cheng Guan Chanshi learned too many martial arts that he had become ‘martial art worm’[12]. In all his life, other than sparring with his fellow disciples, he had never exchanged a move or half a style with outsiders; yet his knowledge of martial art studies was vast, he could even be considered the top among his peers, the monks of the Temple.

Cheng Xin said, “Turns out the two Nu Shizhu do not belong to any school or sect; this matter become slightly easier to handle. When that Miss’ injury is healed, we can send them off from the Temple, then there won’t be any future trouble.”

Cheng Shi said, “Those two martial sisters’ technique are compatible with each other, apparently they have a Shifu.”

Cheng Xin said, “Even if they have a Shifu, it can’t be a renowned master from a famous school or major sect.”

Cheng Shi nodded. Abbot Hui Cong said, “The two Nu Shizhu are young and love to meddle. In this affair we have not made any serious error. Nevertheless, we must not fail to show courtesy, we must treat the two Nu Shizhu well. You are dismissed.” Finished speaking, he stood up.

Cheng Xin smiled and said, “At first I thought there was a martial art in Wulin world who instructed these two young women, with the intention to humiliate our Sect; I was a little worried. Shaolin Temple has enjoyed our reputation for a thousand years, it must not fall in our hands.” All the monks smiled and nodded their heads.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly said, “In my opinion, the name of Shaolin Pai’s martial art is resounding, but actually it is only so-so.”

Hui Cong had just about to go out the door, as soon as he heard it, he turned his head in shock. Wei Xiaobao said, “Jing Ji, Jing Qing, how long have you been training martial art?”

Jing Ji said that he had been training for fourteen years, Jing Qing for twelve years; they both admitted that their intelligence was low, and had not made any progress, hence they were extremely ashamed.

Abbot Hui Cong said, “We are studying Buddhism here, our aspiration is to understand the way to free ourselves, whether our martial art skill is high or low is inessentials.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “I think there’s a major flaw in that argument. These two young girls are at most twenty years old, plus they were only stealing one move from the east, one style from the west, to create some hodgepodge three-legged cat moves of their own school or sect, yet they were able to beat Shaolin monks with more than ten years of training that we flee to the wilderness and piss in our pants in terror, without any ability to parry and die without a burial site. It seems to me that Wudang Pai, Kunlun Pai’s one move or half a style is a lot more formidable than our orthodox Shaolin Pai’s martial art.”

Hui Cong, Cheng Shi, Cheng Xin, and the other monks looked very awkward. Although Wei Xiaobao’s words were extremely offensive to hear, momentarily they found it very difficult to refute. They all thought, “Jing Ji and the others, four people’s martial art skill is extremely disappointing, how can we say it is an orthodox Shaolin Pai’s martial art?”

Yet Cheng Guan nodded his head and said, “What Shishu said makes a perfect sense.”

Cheng Shi was surprised, “Why did Shixiong say it makes sense?”

Cheng Guan said, “Other people’s hodgepodge martial art beats our orthodox martial art; there is something wrong here.”

Hui Cong said, “People’s natural endowments are not the same. Jing Ji and the others are not very good at martial art, but they are busy with receiving visitors to our Temple, it means they are rendering great merit in propagating Buddhist teaching. Jing Ji, Jing Qing, Jing Ben, Jing Yuan, the four of you delegate your receiving-visitors duty to others, you may devote your time in practicing martial art.” Jing Ji and the others, four monks bowed in compliance.

The monks left Jielu Courtyard. Wei Xiaobao shook his head. Cheng Guan knitted his brows; he was deep in thought for half a day, then he also shook his head. Hui Cong and Cheng Xin looked at each other; they both thought, “These two, one old the other young, are both ignorant people, we should not pay them any attention.” Without a word they walked out.

Cheng Guan turned his gaze toward the courtyard, where a maidenhair tree’s leaf was floating slowly to the ground; he had a sudden inspiration. “Shishu,” he said, “I want to see those Nu Shizhu.”

Wei Xiaobao was ecstatic, “Nothing could be better than that,” he said, “I am coming with you.”

The two of them went to the Eastern Courtyard’s meditation room. The old monk treating the girl in green’s injury came out to greet them. Wei Xiaobao asked, “Can she die?”

The old monk replied, “The saber cut is not deep, nothing serious, she won’t die.”

“Wonderful, wonderful,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, as he entered the meditation room.

He saw the girl in green was lying on the couch, her eyes were shut tight, her face was so white that it looked almost transparent, her neck was wrapped with cotton and a piece of plain white cloth, her right hand was outside the quilt, her five fingers were slender and looked delicate, it really looked like the fingers were carved from a piece of white jade. At the end of the fingers, there were five tiny round spirals. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was greatly moved, he could not control his strong desire to stroke the beautiful, extremely adorable small hand. “I wonder if she still has the pulse,” he said. Pretending to feel the pulse, he reached out to touch the hand.

The woman in blue had been standing at the foot of the bed. Seeing Wei Xiaobao walked in, her anger had already shot to the sky. “Don’t touch my Meizi!” she shouted. Seeing he did not withdraw his hand at all, her left hand stretched out, she wanted to grab his wrist.

Cheng Guan flicked his middle finger toward the Yanggu [lit. positive valley] acupoint on the side of her left palm; he said, “You are using the Hao Family of Shanxi’s qin na technique.”

The woman in blue withdrew her hand, while sending her elbow out at the same time. Cheng Guan extended his finger to flick the Xiaohai [lit. minor ocean] acupoint at the base of her elbow. The woman in blue countered with a right backhand strike. Cheng Guan’s middle finger flicked again, forcing her to stop midway and withdrew one step back. The young woman was startled and angry at the same time, she moved her fists like whirlwind, and in an instant she had already sent seven or eight punches.

Cheng Guan nodded his head continuously, while his finger also flicked seven, eight times. “Aiyo!” the girl screamed, the Qinglengyuan [lit. clear and cold abyss] on her right arm was hit by his finger, her arm immediately went limp. “Dead monk!” she cursed.

Cheng Guan was surprised. “I am alive,” he said, “If I were a dead monk, how could I use my finger to flick you?”

Seeing his formidable martial art, the girl was actually scared, but she was unwilling to lose the argument; she cursed, “You are still alive today, you will be dead tomorrow.”

Cheng Guan was startled. “How does Nu Shizhu know?” he asked, “Could it be that you have the foreknowledge?”

“Humph,” the girl said, “Shaolin Temple monks are oily-mouthed and smooth talkers.”

She thought Cheng Guan was joking with her, she did not know that although this old monk had a superb martial art skill, he was completely oblivious of other affairs. All his life he had never left the Temple. All the monks in the Temple strictly maintained Buddhist monastic disciple against wild talk, there had never been one person who told him any lie; thereupon he always thought that there was no such thing as untrue statement in the world.

Hearing the girl said that Shaolin Temple monks were oily-mouthed and smooth talkers, he thought, “Could it be that in the vegetarian dish today there was too much soy bean oil?” Extending his sleeve, he wiped his lips, but did not see any oil. He rolled his tongue around in his mouth, but did not feel anything greasy or slippery.

While he was still in the state of bewilderment, the woman in blue hissed, “Get out! Don’t wake my Shimei.”

“Yes, yes …” Cheng Guan said, “Shishu, let’s get out of here.”

Wei Xiaobao was staring at the girl lying on the couch, he was already not in his right mind for quite some time. He grunted his acknowledgement, but did not move a single step. The woman in blue slowly walked toward his back, suddenly her palms shot out, she gave him a violent push. “Ah!” Wei Xiaobao screamed, he was sent flying out of the room, and ‘Bang!’ he landed heavily on the ground. “Aiyo, aiyo!” he cried out, unable to crawl up.

Cheng Guan said, “That was the ‘rivers pour away by the day’, part of the Laoshan Pai’s palm technique. But Nu Shizhu did not use it properly.” While his mouth was prattling, he walked out of the room to help Wei Xiaobao up and said, “Shishu, the palm push that she did, altogether there are thirteen ways to deal with it. If you did not want to fight with her, then there are six ways to dodge it, any one of those six may be used easily. Supposing you want to strike back, you can employ wrist hook, elbow strike, finger flick, reverse acupoint sealing, arm seizing, diagonal block, or backward kick, seven techniques; each technique can be used to neutralize her.”

Wei Xiaobao was thrown down that his back and arms were hurting, he was not in a good mood at all. “Why do you tell me all this now?” he asked, “What’s the use?”

“Yes,” Cheng Guan said, “Shishu’s admonition is correct, your Shizhi [martial nephew] was wrong. If I told you beforehand, even if Shishu did not mean to make things difficult for her, if you only wanted to evade, you would not have to be thrown like that.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was moved, “Those two girls are very vicious; when we meet again later, they would immediately punch and kick me, which would be hard to ward off. This old monk is very familiar with those two girls’ martial art; just with a flick of his finger he forced them away that they did not dare to come over anymore. I want to take that girl to be my wife, I must swindle the old monk that he will be with me to protect me.” But then he had a second thought, “This old monk is so old, I don’t know how many more days he will live; supposing he is gone tomorrow, won’t that be really bad for me?” Thereupon he said, “Just now you flicked your finger several times and that girl is immediately tamed. What kind of martial art was that?”

Cheng Guan said, “It is called ‘one finger Dhyana’; Shishu does not know it?”

“I don’t,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Why don’t you teach me?”

Cheng Guan said, “Shishu’s order ought to be followed. This ‘one finger Dhyana’ is not difficult to learn; if you know the accurate location of acupoints, and the power on your finger can penetrate the opponent’s acupoint, then you can do it.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “That’s wonderful,” he hastily said, “Quickly teach me.” He thought that if he could master this skill, he only needed to flick several times, the girl in green would not be able to move a single step, and then if he wanted her to be his wife, wouldn’t that be easy? Besides, the words ‘not difficult to learn’ were more important to him; all the amazing martial art skills in the world, nothing exceeded this. In an instant he was beaming with joy, his heart was unbearably itching.

Cheng Guan said, “I wonder Shishu’s ‘tendon altering sutra’ internal energy cultivation has been trained to which level? Would you please try to flick your finger?”

“How do you flick your finger?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Cheng Guan bent his finger and flicked. ‘Chi’ a burst of powerful wind shot out, a dead leaf on the ground floated up.

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “That looks fun,” he said. Copying Cheng Guan, he bent his right hand thumb to hold his middle finger, and then flicked the middle finger out. Naturally this time there was no sound, nothing happened; even no dust was stirred the least bit.

Cheng Guan said, “Turns out Shishu has not trained ‘tendon altering sutra’ internal energy cultivation. If you want to train this internal energy cultivation, you must train Bo’re [Prajna/Wisdom] Palm first. Let me spar with you in Bo’re Palm, I want to see the depth of Shishu’s palm strength, then I can teach you the ‘tendon altering sutra’.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I don’t know Bo’re Palm.”

“Not a problem,” Cheng Guan said, “Let us spar in ‘Picking Flower Grab and Capture’.”

“What ‘Picking Flower Grab and Capture’? I have never heard of it,” Wei Xiaobao said.

An awkward expression appeared on Cheng Guan’s face, he said, “How about we try something more basic? ‘Vajra [Budda’s warrior attendant] Divine Palm’ should be fine. You don’t know it either? How about ‘Boluomi [Paramita] Hand’? Don’t know as well? How about ‘Scattering Flower Palm’? Ah right, Shishu is still young, you have not learned these different palm techniques. How about ‘Weituo Palm’? ‘Subduing Tiger Fist’? ‘Luohan Fist’? ‘Shaolin Long Fist’?” Each time he mentioned a fist technique, Wei Xiaobao shook his head.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao did not know any fist technique, Cheng Guan did not get angry; he said, “Our Shaolin Pai martial art must be trained in sequence. When one enters our school, one must learn ‘Shaolin Long Fist’ first. After he masters it, then he will learn ‘Luohan Fist’, afterwards ‘Subduing Tiger Fist’. When he has appropriate foundation in both internal and external energy, he may learn ‘Weituo Palm’. If he does not want to learn ‘Weituo Palm’, he can train ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’ instead …”

Wei Xiaobao’s lips started to move, he wanted to say, “I know this ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’.” But he stopped himself immediately, realizing that the ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’ Hai Laogong taught him, perhaps nine out of ten moves were fake; no matter what, he could not say that he ‘knew’ this technique.

He heard Cheng Guan continued, “Either the ‘Weituo Palm’ or the ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’, one with intelligence and diligence will need about seven or eight years to master. If his comprehension is strong, he can continue with ‘Scattering Flower Palm’. After he masters the ‘Scattering Flower Palm’, not many disciples of Wulin’s other sect can defeat him. Whether he can continue with Boluomi Hand depends on his temper. Take Jing Ji, Jing Qing, those several martial nephews for example, they all trained in ‘Subduing Tiger Fist’, but they don’t have the patience to train martial art, their progress is rather slow. In ten years’ time, Jing Qing perhaps can train ‘Weituo Palm’. Jing Ji cannot concentrate in learning martial art, I think it would be better for him to specialize in Vajra Sutra’s Zen meditation.”

Wei Xiaobao sucked in a mouthful of cold air; he said, “You said that that ‘one finger Dhyana’ is not difficult to learn, but from ‘Shaolin Long Fist’ followed by those other fist and palm techniques, all the way to mastering the ‘one finger Dhyana’, how many years must I train?”

Cheng Guan said, “This thing is actually recorded in the ancient book in Bo’re Hall. During the Later Jin of the Five Dynasties period, there was this Fa Hui Chanshi in our Temple, he had the innate intelligence, in less than thirty-six years from the time he entered the Temple, he had already mastered the ‘one finger Dhyana’; his advancement was amazingly quick, no one, before or after him, ever have the same progress. I guess he must be a great martial art scholar in his previous incarnation, so he brought with him many martial art skills from his previous existence. Next in line was during the establishment of the Southern Song Dynasty, there was this Ling Xing Chanshi, who spent less than thirty-nine years. Those two are rare talent with divine-given wisdom and intelligence, geniuses who are hard to come by in hundreds of years, who make other people full of admiration; a model older generation, someone who younger generation can only imagine.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “How many years did you spend from the time you started training martial art until you master the ‘one finger Dhyana’?”

Cheng Guan smiled and said, “Shizhi has started training Shaolin Long Fist when I was eleven, I have been very lucky to have Hui Zhi Chanshi as my benevolent master, so I got to learn martial art at a lot higher pace than my fellow disciples. By the time I was fifty-three, I was able to comprehend my prying into our school’s sutra of this finger technique.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since you were eleven, until you were fifty-three, you were able to comprehend the kneeling in front of the door bolt (he did not know that the expression ‘lue kui men jing’ [comprehend the prying into the school’s sutra], what he heard was ‘lue gui men shuan’). So altogether you spent forty-two years before you master it?”

Cheng Guan was very proud of himself, he said, “To be able to master the ‘one finger Dhyana’, in the thousand plus years of our Sect’s history, Lao Na [old cassock] ranks the third.” After a short pause, he continued, “It’s just that Lao Na’s internal energy cultivation is only average. Strictly speaking about finger power, I am afraid my rank is lower than seventieth.” Speaking to this point, he could not help but feeling dejected.

Wei Xiaobao mused, “I don’t care if you rank the third or the seventy-third, Laozi did not bring any martial art skill from my previous incarnation, neither did I start training in my mother’s womb. If I have to spend forty-two years to master this finger technique, that girl and I will both be old man, old woman in our fifties or sixties; Laozi might as well train a fart!” He said, “Other people’s little miss only trains for one or two years, you must train for forty, fifty years to beat her; it’s extremely disappointing.”

Actually, Cheng Guan had already thought about this fact as well, all along he had been pondering about it. “Yes, yes!” he said, “Our Shaolin martial art is this inferior to others’, it’s really … really not … not too good.”

“What do you mean not too good?” Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s practically very bad. All of a sudden our Shaolin Pai is unable to grab Wulin’s cow’s ear, horse’s ear. You are the Head of Bo’re Hall, if you don’t think of something, won’t you let down the several thousands, several tens of thousands years of Shaolin Temple’s eminent monks? When you die and see that Fa something Chanshi, Ling something Chanshi, and my Shixiong, Hui Zhi Chanshi, everybody will ask you, saying that you only eat and defecate, but don’t care about anything else, you don’t want to think of a way to protect Shaolin Pai’s prestige, won’t you be so ashamed that you want to die all over again?”

Cheng Guan’s old face turned deep red; he was completely terrified. Repeatedly nodding his head, he said, “Shishu’s instruction is very true, when Shizhi comes back, I will peruse the ancient books in the Bo’re Hall, to see if there is an ingenious technique that can be learned in a short time.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “If you cannot find any, our Shaolin Pai needs not mingle in the Wulin world anymore. We might as well invite those two little misses to let the older one becomes the Abbess, the younger one becomes the Head of Bo’re Hall. Let those two teach us martial art. Compared to our stupid head stupid brain clumsy martial art, theirs must be a lot stronger.”

Cheng Guan was startled, he asked, “Those two Nu Shizhu, how can they be our Temple’s Abbess and Head?”

“Who told you not to be able to find a martial art that can be trained quickly?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Fangzhang will lose face, you will lose face; that need not be mentioned, from now on Shaolin Pai will lose its foothold in Wulin, the several thousand monks of our Temple will have to do obeisance to these two little misses as their new masters. Everybody will question what’s the use of many dozens of years of training Shaolin martial arts? The two little misses only train for a year or half a year and they can ‘crack, crack, crack’ break Shaolin monks’ hands and feet. Everybody will think that preserving their hands and feet is more important, hence they might as well respectfully ask the Little Miss to be the Head of Bo’re Hall!”

This speech had made the sweat on Cheng Guan’s forehead streaming down his face; his hands did not stop trembling as with a trembling voice he said, “Yes, yes! Asking those two ladies to be our Temple’s Abbess and Head, ay, that … that will be too humiliating.”

“Isn’t that so?” Wei Xiaobao said, “By that time we cannot call ourselves Shaolin Pai anymore.”

Cheng Guan asked, “Then … then what should we call ourselves?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We might as well bluntly call ourselves Shaonu[13] Pai. Shaolin Temple becomes Shaonu Temple. We must take down the signboard above the mountain gate, erase that ‘Lin’ character and change it to ‘Nu’ character. Only one character. That should be easy to do.”

Cheng Guan’s face turned ash-grey. “That won’t do, that won’t do!” he hastily said, “I … I am going to think of something. Shishu, please forgive Shizhi for not keeping you company you anymore.” Putting his palms together, he saluted, then turned around and left.

“Wait a moment!” Wei Xiaobao called, “This matter must be kept in strict confidence. If anybody in the Temple knew about it, it will be highly improper.”

“Why?” Cheng Guan asked.

“Nobody will believe you,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “They won’t know if you have thought of something. Those two young ladies are still recuperating in our Temple, if everybody is frightened, they might do obeisance and take those women as their masters. Shaolin Pai is such a big Sect, how can we scatter away just like that?”

Cheng Guan said, “Shishu’s direction is very true. This matter concerns the rise and fall, the existence or perishes of our Sect; absolutely it must be kept secret.” He was very grateful in his heart, thinking that although this martial uncle was young, his insight was far-reaching; indeed he deserved to be the respected Senior. If not for his clear sight and superior judgment, Shaolin Pai will inevitably become Shaonu Pai. Thousand-year fame cannot be redeemed in ten thousand years.

Seeing him leaving in a hurry, with the sleeve of his robe trembling, an obvious sign that he was in extreme panic, Wei Xiaobao thought, “Now that the old monk will stake his old life to find something, he is bound to find something. Everybody else would find a hundred mistakes in my speech, but as long as he did not say anything to anybody, this stupid monk won’t find out that I am swindling him.”

Thinking about the flowery countenance of the young woman lying on the couch, his heart was like a frisky monkey, his mind was like a cantering horse. He wanted to re-enter the room to look at her again. But after turning around and walking for only several steps, he suddenly saw the flashing blue skirt behind the curtain on the door. Thinking about the ruthlessness of the woman in blue, while he did not have Cheng Guan by his side to protect him, if he entered the room alone, he would definitely pay dearly. Without any other choice, he sighed and returned to his own meditation room.

The next day he woke up early in the morning and went straight to the Eastern Courtyard to visit. The old monk who treated her injury put his palms together and greeted him, “Good morning Shishu.”

“Is the Nu Shizhu’s injury getting better?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The old monk replied, “That Nu Shizhu came to her senses in the middle of the night; realizing she was in our Temple, she insisted on leaving immediately, while saying rude words. Shizhi persuaded her nicely, but she said even if she died, she did not want to die in little … little … little monk’s temple.”

Hearing him humming and hawing, Wei Xiaobao knew that if the little miss did not scold him as ‘little pervert thief’, then she must have said ‘little wicked monk’. “And then what happened?” he asked.

The old monk replied, “Shizhi advised her to leave the next morning, the Nu Shizhu struggled to get up, her Shijie helped her out. Shizhi did not dare to stop them, besides, that Nu Shizhu‘s injury won’t be a problem anyway, so I had to let them go. I have reported this matter to the Abbot.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded; he was quite disappointed, thinking, “Once this little miss left, I don’t know where she is going. I don’t even know her name or her surname, how am I going to find her?” He blamed the old monk for not handling this matter at the best of his ability and grumbled for a while. And then he had a second thought, “Those two girls are beautiful, they will greatly stand out from the masses. When they make their move, they have all schools all sects’ martial arts in it; it should be possible to find them eventually.” Thereupon he strolled toward Bo’re Hall.

He saw Cheng Guan was sitting on the floor, with several hundred books piling up all around him. He had his hands supporting his head, and seemed to be very deep in thought; his eyes were bloodshot, most likely because he did not sleep at all the previous night. Looking at his appearance, it was obvious that he had not found anything good. He saw Wei Xiaobao walking in, but he simply stared at him blankly, as if he did not see him at all. Unexpectedly he was so immersed in his thought that he was completely oblivious of everything around him.

Seeing his distressed expression, Wei Xiaobao wanted to utter some words of encouragement, telling him that the two young ladies had left and that he had nothing to worry about for now. But then he had a second thought, “If he did not work diligently, how could he come up with good result? I am afraid as soon as I tell him, this old monk will goof off.”

Quickly one month had passed. Wei Xiaobao often took a walk toward Bo’re Hall. He saw Cheng Guan was getting thinner to the bone and looked alone and helpless, his countenance was wan and sallow, and never said anything to him. He looked like an idiot, sometimes he would stand up and punch and kick for a while, and then he would shake his head and sit down again. Wei Xiaobao only thought that this old monk was very stupid, after working hard for more than a month, he was still unable to find anything useful. He did not know that each one of Shaolin Pai martial arts paid particular attention to strong foundation, slow progress was preferable to a fast one. A crash course was precisely Shaolin martial arts’ big taboo. Although Cheng Guan knew almost all martial arts under the heavens, for him to violate his own Sect’s rule by creating a crash course technique was actually akin to asking him not to conform to the teachings he had been following all his life.

The weather was gradually getting warmer. Wei Xiaobao had been staying in the Temple for several months. Recently, there was not a day pass by when he did not think about that girl in green several dozen times in a day.

One particular day he felt stifled and was extremely bored. Taking his money, he went down Mount Shaoshi to the west, toward a small town of considerable size called Tantoupu. He went to a clothing store and bought a set of clothes, head covering, shoes and socks. Then he changed in a cave outside the town, putting the monk robe and shoes into a bundle, which he then slung over his shoulder. When he looked at his reflection on a mountain stream, he looked like a son of a wealthy family.

Returning to the small town, he went to a restaurant and indulged himself with chicken, duck, fish and meat. “I’ll find a casino and gamble for a bit,” he thought. Knowing that gambling establishments are usually located in alleys, he went through the streets and alleys, looking to the east and glancing to the west.

Each time he entered an alley, he listened to shouting and drinking sounds. By the time he entered the seventh alley, finally he heard someone shouted, “Pair of earth, heavenly nine king, sweep the decks!” As soon as these words entered his ears, he felt an indescribable comfort in his heart; compared to the ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha’ that he heard all the times in Shaolin Temple, it was like comparing the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss with the eighteen layers of hell.

He quickly went to the door and stretched out his hand to push it. A man in his forties, wearing a hat at a crooked angle, came out, and looked at him with squinted eyes. “What do you want?” he asked.

From his pocket Wei Xiaobao took out an ingot of silver and tossed it back and forth from one hand to the other, and said with a laugh, “My hands itch, I want to lose a few taels.”

“This is not a casino, it’s a brothel,” the man said, “Xiao Xiongdi, you want to visit a prostitute, come back in several years.”

Wei Xiaobao had been craving for some gambling for a long time, as soon as he heard the words ‘pair of earth, heavenly nine king, sweep the decks’, even if the sky was falling, he simply must bet. What’s more, coming to a brothel was just like coming home; how could he be willing to leave? He laughed and said, “Just find me several free ladies and prepare some tea, tonight Shaoye [young master] wants to have three tables of drinking party.” And he stuffed the silver ingot worth two taels into the man’s hand and said with a laugh, “To buy you a drink.”

The turtle slave[14] was greatly delighted; seeing the visitor was a grand customer, immediately his face was blooming with smile. “Thank you for Shaoye‘s gift!” he said. Raising his voice, he called out, “We have visitor!” while respectfully invited him to enter.

The female brothel keeper came out to greet him. Seeing it was a fourteen, fifteen years old teenager with luxurious clothing, she thought, “This kid stole money from his home and come here to squander it; must rip him off heavily.” With a giggle she pulled his hand and said, “Xiao Shaoye, we have a rule here, just like the lucky poster on the door[15]. You want to see a girl, you must pay up front.”

With a wooden expression Wei Xiaobao said, “Do you think I am a newly hatched bird who has never visited a brothel before? We are the experts here, Laozi opens this kind of establishment at home.” He groped his pocket for a pack of banknotes, roughly three, four hundred taels, and slapped it onto the table. He said, “A table of tea five qian, including one girl. A ‘flower head’ is three taels, the servant who pours tea five qian, the Auntie five qian. Laozi is in a very good mood today, I’ll double everything.”

A succession of brothel shoptalk without half a word of layman term had caught the procuress off-guard; she was stunned and stared blankly for half a day before finally she laughed and said, “Turns out Xiao Shaoye is of the same profession, I was mistaken. I wonder which courtyards does Xiao Shaoye open?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In Yangzhou Laozi opens Li Chun Yuan [Lovely Spring Courtyard] and Yi Qing Yuan [Harmony Passion Courtyard], in Beijing I open Shang Xin Lou [Bountiful Heart Balcony, ‘lou’ – multi-storied house] and Chang Chun Ge [Carefree Spring Pavilion], in Tianjin I open Rou Qing Yuan [Tender Feeling Courtyard] and Wen Ju Lou [Yearning for Chrysanthemum Balcony]; six affiliates.” Actually these six establishments were Yangzhou’s famous brothels, otherwise, he would not be able to fabricate six brothels’ names in such a short period of time.

Listening to him, the procuress thought, ‘Oh my goodness, the big boss of six courtyard affiliates is here; his business must be very big.’ Thereupon she laughed and asked, “What kind of girl would Xiao Shaoye like to accompany you to have a heart-to-heart talk?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I suppose a little place like this won’t have a Suzhou girl. Do you have any Datong [prefecture level city, Shanxi] girl?”

The procuress’ face showed an awkward expression as she said in a low voice, “We do have one, but she is fake goods; actually she is a Shanxi Fenyang [county level city, Luliang prefecture, Shanxi] girl, she can only fool someone with more money than sense, but not a connoisseur.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Just call all the girls in the courtyard, Shaoye will reward everybody three taels each.”

The procuress was greatly delighted; she passed on the order for all the girls to come. In an instant the room was crammed with twittering and squawking girls. In this little town brothel, naturally the girls had rough hands and thick feet, with faces adorned with coarse rouge powder. Each one pulled his hand or embraced his waist; everybody was doing her utmost to curry his favor. Wei Xiaobao was really happy. Although these prostitutes had thick eyebrows, high cheekbones or mouths as big as sacrificial bowl, which were practically several points more ugly than himself, but since he was little, he was determined to be the rich man and show extravagance in the brothel. Today his life-long dream had come true, hence he was immensely proud of himself. Pulling the prostitute by his side, he planted a kiss on her lips, and was assaulted by a flourishing stench of green onion and garlic that he almost threw up.

Suddenly the door curtain was lifted up, two women walked in. “Alright!” Wei Xiaobao shouted with glee, “Two more Meizi come together. Come here and give me a kiss first …” Before he finished, he had seen clearly the appearance of these two girls, and could not help but was greatly shocked.

He cried out, sprang up, and overthrew the two prostitutes in his arms to the ground. Turned out these two women were the girl in green, whom he thought of during the night and he missed during the night, and her older martial sister.

With a cold laugh the woman in blue said, “As soon as you entered the town, we have been following you, we want to see what evil deed you are going to commit.”

Wei Xiaobao’s back was wet with cold sweat; forcing a laugh he said, “Yes, yes. This Miss, your … your neck’s wound … neck’s wound healed?”

“Humph,” the girl in green snorted, but she ignored his question. The woman in blue angrily said, “We waited outside Shaolin Temple every day, to cut your body into ten thousand pieces to repay my Shimei‘s deep enmity and great hatred. Humph, finally the Heaven did not disappoint those who try, and have you, evil monk, fallen into our hands.”

Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly, “Laozi will definitely return to Heaven today.” But he laughed and said, “Actually … actually I did not offend … did not offend Miss; it’s just that … it’s just that one grab was not a big deal. I think … I think …”

The girl in green blushed, a killing aura appeared in her eyes. The woman in blue coldly said, “What did you say a moment ago? What did you call us?”

“Bad, it’s really bad luck,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I … thought the two of you were … were also flower ladies of this pleasure house.”

The girl in green said in a low voice, “Shijie, why do you talk too much to this bald-headed thief who committed all kinds of evil things? Just kill him with a chop.”

‘Shua!’ white light flashed, Wei Xiaobao screamed and shrank his neck, the hat on his head was slashed by her willow-leaf saber, exposing his bald head. The prostitutes were thrown into confusion, they screamed, “Murder, murder!”

Wei Xiaobao ducked and hid behind a prostitute. “Hey!” he called out, “This is a pleasure house, only wh0res are allowed here. If you do not get out quickly and people knew about it, it would be … would be very shameful …”

‘Shua, shua!’ the two women repeatedly slashed around, but the room was crowded with a dozen or so prostitutes, how could they chop him? The blades swept past, they narrowly missed two prostitutes. Wei Xiaobao called out loudly, “Laozi is visiting a brothel, what’s there to be looked at? I … I am going to undress, I am going to take off my pants.” He loosened the bottom part of his garments and tossed it away.

The two women were furious, yet they were afraid Wei Xiaobao would really act shamelessly by taking off his pants. The girl in green turned around and bolted out the door. The girl in blue was startled, but she also dashed out of the room. ‘Bang, bang!’ she bumped the procuress and the ‘turtle slave’ [see my note earlier] who came in to look, and sent them tumbling down to the left and right.

In that instant the screams in that brothel shook the sky, and the curses moved the earth. For the time being Wei Xiaobao escaped the danger of the blades, but he knew those two women would definitely guard the exits; as soon as he left the brothel for even one step, they would immediately kill him. Raising his voice, he shouted, “Everybody, don’t move randomly, everyone will get ten taels, no exception, nobody will be skipped.” As soon as they heard it, everybody calmed down immediately.

Wei Xiaobao took out twenty taels and handed it over to the turtle slave, ordering him, “Quickly go and get me a horse, wait at the mouth of the alley.” The turtle slave received the money and left.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to a prostitute and said, “I’ll give you twenty taels, take off your clothes quickly, let me change into it.” The prostitute was greatly delighted, she took off her clothes immediately.

Everybody started to talk at once, they wanted to know what was going on. Wei Xiaobao said, “Those two are my first wife, my second wife. They shaved my head, forbidding me from visiting a brothel. I ran away, then they pursue me to kill me.”

When the procuress and the prostitutes heard this, they could not help but were delighted. It was quite common for the wife and children of a patron to come to the brothel to quarrel and fight; nothing special about it. But raising a saber to kill was a rarity. As for the wife and concubine working together to shave their husband’s head and forbidding him from visiting a brothel, it was the first time that they ever heard such thing.

Wei Xiaobao hurriedly changed into the prostitute’s clothing, and used a piece of printed cloth to wrap his head. When the prostitute realized that he wanted to dress up to escape, laughing and giggling, they helped him apply rouge and face powder. When the other patrons of the brothel who were gambling heard the news, they all came over to watch the fun.

Soon the turtle slave returned and reported that the horse was ready. After knowing the reason, he said, “Shaoye, you must be careful. Your first madam is guarding the back door, the young madam is guarding the front door. They both have sabers in their hands.”

Wei Xiaobao produced a large sum of money while swearing, “Those two vixens maintain such a tight control over their husband; it’s really rare and highly unusual.”

Receiving thirty taels gift from him, the procuress said, “Those two tigresses are destroying others’ clothes and food. If all women in the world are like your two wives, won’t we drink the northwest wind? May Er Lang Shen[16] curse those two tigresses that they be without a son or a grandson. Aiyo, Xiao Shaoye, I did not mean you. You’d better divorce those tigresses and then you can come here to play without any care every day.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “That is actually a brilliant idea. Mama, go to the front door and curse that vixen for a while; but you’d better hide behind the door to protect against her resorting to violence and harming you with the saber. Sisters, everybody dash out from the back door. Those two brutish wives of mine won’t be able to catch me.” Immediately he took out some money and distributed it among the prostitutes. Without exception, all of them jumped for joy.

Because of the generous reward, those who were inherently brave would be braver, while those who were not brave gathered enough courage. As the prostitutes received the shining white silver, everybody suddenly put ‘loyalty’ above everything else, they would strife to put their lives at stake.

They heard the voice of the procuress raining curses from the front door, “Old vixen, little vixen, if you want to keep your husband, you must obey him, winning his favor is the right thing to do. If you don’t have any ability, he will go to the brothel to seek pleasure. You use the saber to scare him, to kill him, what’s the farting use? Your husband is kind-hearted and generous, he is the number one good person in the world, you, two tigresses are not his match. Let Laoniang [old lady, referring to self; the counterpart of Laozi] tell you: you must behave, quickly kowtow and apologize to him, and then do obeisance to me, let Laoniang be your master, I’ll teach you skills you can use in bed, so that you can serve him well. Otherwise, he might decide to sell you to Laoniang, let you become prostitutes in here. We’ll make a deal today … aiyo, aiyo, it hurts so much I am going to die.”

Wei Xiaobao knew that the woman in blue had lost her patience and beat the procuress. He said, “Everybody, let’s go!” More than twenty prostitutes rushed out from the back door, with Wei Xiaobao mingled among them.

The girl in green was guarding the back door with willow-leaf saber in her hand. Suddenly she saw more than twenty heavily made-up women burst out of the door. Her beautiful eyes widened, she was completely at a loss.

The crowd of prostitutes rushed toward the alley. Wei Xiaobao jumped onto the horse and galloped toward Shaolin Temple.

Seeing the change of events, the woman in blue abandoned the procuress immediately and turned around to give chase. The prostitutes crowded the alley, they reached out to pull her, while shouting, “Tigress, your husband is gone riding a horse, you won’t catch him! Hee! Hee! Ha! Ha!”

The girl in blue was so furious that she almost pass out; she raised her saber in threatening gesture, but the crowd of prostitutes knew she would not dare to really kill anybody. “Lowly vixen, vinegar pot, wicked b1tch,” they taunted incessantly.

The girl was anxious; raising her voice, she called out, “Shimei, that wicked thief ran away, quickly pursue him!” But she heard the hooves beat was getting farther and farther away; how could they pursue him?

Wei Xiaobao rushed out of the town, while taking off the female clothing he was wearing and tossed it away one by one. In his rush and panic to get out of the brothel, he had left the bundle containing his monk robe in the room. Spitting into his sleeve, he wiped the cosmetics from his face, thinking, “Laozi’s lot on life this year is really bad; first I became a monk, then I dressed up as a prostitute. Ay, if only that miss in green is willing to be my wife, even if my head is chopped down, I won’t want to go to the brothel.”

In one breath he galloped back to Shaolin Temple; he steered the horse toward the back of the mountain, jumped down the horseback, and quietly sneaked into the Temple via the side door. Covering his face, he dashed madly into his own meditation room. Only after washing off the rouge and the powder from his face, and putting on the monk robe, did his heart finally calmed down. He mused, “If those two old wife and little wife came to the Temple to make trouble, even if I die, Laozi will not admit anything to them.”

Toward the afternoon the next day, Wei Xiaobao was still lying on the bed in his meditation room, dreaming about the girl in green’s figure, which moved his heart; he could not bear not to take chances again, thinking, “How can I find a way to see her again?”

Suddenly Jing Ji entered his meditation room and said in a low voice, “Shishuzu, for the next few days you must not leave the Temple; this affair is getting somewhat worse.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; hastily he asked for the full details. Jing Ji said, “A worker from the Xiang Ji kitchen told me just now: he was chopping some firewood at the side of the mountain when he came across two young women with sabers in their hands; they were inquiring about you.”

“What did they ask?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“They asked him if he knew you,” Jing Ji replied, “They asked him what time do you usually go out, where do you usually go. Shishuzu, those two young women harbor evil designs toward you, they are guarding outside the Temple, they want to harm you. As long as you stay inside the Temple, they won’t dare to come in.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We, Shaolin Temple eminent monks, are afraid of them and do not dare to go out the Temple, what kind of talk is that?”

Shizhisun [martial grandnephew] has already reported this to Fangzhang,” Jing Ji said, “The Senior ordered me to report to Shishuzu, asking you to yield one step to them. Presumably those two young women will not persevere, if they don’t see you after waiting for several days, naturally they will leave. Fangzhang said that Wulin friends can only say that we are great and magnanimous people, they cannot possibly say that the grand Shaolin Temple is unexpectedly afraid of two young women that don’t belong to any school or sect.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Young women that don’t belong to any school or sect, humph, they may be much more formidable than us, the great monks who belong to a school or sect.”

“Who said it wasn’t true?” Jing Ji replied. He remembered his hatred because of his broken arm, which would be difficult to avenge. He said, “It’s just that Fangzhang has ordered that no matter what we must keep the peace and patch up a quarrel.”

After Jing Ji left, Wei Xiaobao thought, “I’d better see that old monk Cheng Guan; it would be best if he has come up with a wonderful idea.”

When he got to Bo’re Hall, he saw Cheng Guan with his head between his hands, his eyes were looking at the beam of the roof, while pacing back and forth around the room, and mumbling incessantly. Wei Xiaobao did not dare to interrupt his train of thought, he waited for a long time, watching Cheng Guan circling the room several times, while still looking like he did not see him. Wei Xiaobao coughed several times. Cheng Guan did not pay any attention. Wei Xiaobao called, “Lao Shizhi [old martial nephew], Lao Shizhi!” Cheng Guan still did not hear.

Wei Xiaobao stepped forward, he reached out to tap Cheng Guan’s shoulder, while saying with a laugh, “Lao …” His palm had just touched his shoulder, suddenly his body was jolted and he was thrown away. ‘Bang!’ he crashed onto the wall, his breathing was blocked, he opened his mouth to cry, but nothing came out.

Cheng Guan was shocked; hastily he came forward and kneeled down. Putting his palms together he saluted and said, “Shizhi is guilty, deserving ten thousand deaths, by offending Shishu. Shishu, please punish me heavily.”

After lying down for half a day, Wei Xiaobao was finally able to breathe; he forced a laugh and said, “Please get up, please get up, don’t be overly courteous, it was my own fault.”

Cheng Guan still did not stop apologizing. Propping himself against the wall, Wei Xiaobao crawled up, and then, helping Cheng Guan up he asked, “What kind of martial art was that? It was so formidable.” He thought, “If this martial art is not too difficult to learn, perhaps there is a benefit for me to learn it.”

Cheng Guan’s face showed a terrified expression. He said, “I am really sorry. In response to Shishu‘s question, this is the ‘hu ti shen gong’ [divine skill to protect the body] from Bo’re Palms.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded; he thought that to learn this skill, he would have to master some Shaolin Long Fist, Luohan Fist, Subduing the Tiger Fist, Weituo Palm, Scattering Flower Hand, Boluomi Hand, Vajra’s Divine Palm, Picking Flower Grab and Capture, all kinds of gibberish set of martial art techniques. He did not have time; even if he did, he would not have the mind to take the trouble to practice hard. He asked, “Have you found anything that can be learned in a short time?”

With a dejected expression Cheng Guan shook his head and said, “Shizhi has already thought that without using ‘one finger Dhyana’ or ‘tendon altering sutra’ internal energy cultivation, we can neutralize those two Nu Shizhu‘s martial art by using only the Bo’re Palm; it’s just that … it’s just that …”

Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s just that to train Bo’re Palm, I will need twenty, thirty years; isn’t it?”

Cheng Guan haltingly replied, “Twenty, thirty years, I am afraid … I am afraid …”

Wei Xiaobao’s face showed contempt as he flatly said, “You are afraid it might not be enough?”

Cheng Guan looked very ashamed as he said, “Exactly.” After staring blankly for a moment, he continued, “Let Shizhi think: I wonder if Picking Flower Grab and Capture will be effective against them.”

Wei Xiaobao thought that this old monk was one who rigidly adheres to formalities; whatever he was doing must be in sequence. Even if the Picking Flower Grab and Capture was effective, he would have to spend at least a dozen or so years to train. This old monk had a profound level of internal energy, perhaps he was not inferior to Cult Leader Hong. Yet Cult Leader Hong was able to casually creating new moves, which were able to change according to the situation, which were free, natural and unrestrained. This old monk, on the contrary, was a blockhead; Wei Xiaobao must show him the enlightened path.

Lao Shizhi,” he said, “In my opinion, those two women are very young, they can’t possibly have several years of martial art training.”

“That’s right,” Cheng Guan said, “That’s why I feel very strange.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since they can’t possibly train step by step, we also do not need to strictly practice step by step. I don’t believe they have internal energy cultivation as deep as yours. In my opinion, to deal with those two girls, we simply do not need to cultivate internal energy.”

Cheng Guan was shocked; his voice was trembling as he said, “Training martial art without … without good foundation, won’t that be … won’t that be heretical?”

“But they are not heretical,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Only without school without sect. To deal with martial art without school and without sect, we must also use without school without sect technique.”

Cheng Guan was completely bewildered; he mumbled to himself, “Without school without sect, without school without sect? This … Shizhi does not understand.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You don’t understand? Then let me teach you.”

Cheng Guan respectfully said, “Would Shishu please give your advice?”

In all his life, all the martial art uncles with a ‘Hui’ character in their names were virtuous eminent monks with outstanding martial art skill. He thought that this little martial art uncle was very young, his internal energy cultivation was insufficient, but he must have some outstanding quality; otherwise, how could he be his martial art uncle? For the past several days he had racked his brain trying to find a martial art skill that can be learned quickly, but all along he did not make any breakthrough. It seemed that even if he spent another ten years or twenty years, even until his death, he would not be able to solve this problem. Now that there was this young eminent monk with ‘Hui’ character in his name who was willing to give him direction, inevitably he was surprised but delighted at the same time; feeling of respect sprang up automatically in his heart.

Wei Xiaobao said, “You said that those two girls were using some Kunlun Pai, Emei Pai moves. If we compare our Shaolin Pai martial art to these random mix of school and sect’s martial arts, which one is stronger?”

“Perhaps our Shaolin Pai is somewhat stronger,” Cheng Guan replied, “Even if we are not stronger, at least we are not weaker than they.”

Wei Xiaobao clapped his hands and said, “That makes it easy. They do not use internal energy, but only use some Xili Hulu [meaning: gibberish] Pai style; we do not need internal energy either, just use some Shaolin Pai style, then we will be able to defeat them. I don’t care if it is Bo’re Palm, Vajra’s Divine Fist, Boluomi Hand or Amitabha Buddha Foot, as long as internal energy cultivation is not needed, then it will be very easy to learn, won’t it?”

Cheng Guan knitted his brows. “Amitabha Buddha Foot?” he said, “I don’t think our Sect has that martial art; I wonder if it is other sect’s martial art? But without internal energy cultivation, our Sect’s fist or palm techniques won’t have the least bit of formidable power; if we came across other sect’s martial art expert with profound internal power, we might get our tendon broken and our bones fractured in just one move.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and said, “Those two young women, are they martial art experts with profound internal power?”

“They are not,” Cheng Guan replied.

“Why worry, then?” Wei Xiaobao said.

It was as if Cheng Guan had just been woken up by this last sentence; he blew off a deep sigh and said, “So that’s how it is, so that’s how it is! Shizhi has never thought about it.” He was quiet for a moment before continuing, “But there is another problem: our Sect’s has eighteen different palm techniques, special skills, inside and outside, thirty-six techniques, unique skills, seventy-two. Each technique has at least several dozen variations, at most more than a thousand. It’s really not easy to master all of these different techniques to perfection. Even without internal energy cultivation, that is, learning the style only, we are talking about several decades here.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “This old monk is really annoyingly dumb.” He laughed and said, “Why do we have to master everything to perfection? As long as we know the girl uses what style, we’ll simply counter soldiers with arms, counter water with an earthen wall; the young girl attack with what move, the old monk neutralize her with what move. I guarantee they will be beaten so badly that they’ll flee to the wilderness and will be wiped out to the last man.”

Cheng Guan repeatedly nodded his head with a happy expression on his face, as if murky darkness was suddenly opened.

Wei Xiaobao said, “That Miss wearing blue has used some Laoshan Pai’s ‘rivers pour away by the day’; you said there are six ways to dodge it, seven ways to counterattack. Actually, why bother with all those stuffs? As long as I can use one move to defeat her, why should I learn the other twelve techniques? Won’t it be a lot simpler?”

Cheng Guan was greatly delighted. “Absolutely right! Absolutely right!” he exclaimed, “Those two Nu Shizhu has broken Shishu‘s arms and injured martial nephew Jing Ji and the others, four people, using the ‘separating tendon dislocating bone technique’ involving four different sects’ techniques. We can use Shaolin Pai martial art to counter their move.” Immediately he demonstrated the technique used by the girls one by one, and then he explained the technique to counter each move, followed by demonstrating it for Wei Xiaobao.

Sometimes the technique proposed by Cheng Guan was too complicated and too difficult to learn; sometimes unwittingly he used internal energy. Wei Xiaobao would then ask him to think about other technique that was simple and clear. Shaolin Pai martial art was indeed very broad and greatly abundant, while Cheng Guan was really patience. As soon as Wei Xiaobao felt that the move was too hard to learn, he simply shook his head, and then Cheng Guan would try different technique. If it did not work, he would try a different move, until Wei Xiaobao was able to execute the move effortlessly.

Seeing in less than an hour this young martial uncle was able to master a particular style, while he himself had painstakingly spent many days to solve the problem, Cheng Guan was so happy that he pulled his own ear and stroked his own cheek, while his heart was unbearably excited. But suddenly he remembered something and said, “What a pity, what a pity.” And then he shook his head and said, “Dangerous, dangerous.”

Wei Xiaobao hastily asked, “What do you mean ‘what a pity’? What’s the danger?”

[1] A little bit of explanation here: so far, the people in blue had always called him ‘Xiao Jiangjun’ – Little/young general, now Yuan Yifang was calling him ‘Da Jiangjun’ – Big/great general.

[2] Orig. ‘fashi’ – one who has mastered the Buddhist sutras.

[3] Mythical bird, related to Phoenix.

[4] Shaoshi Peak was the location of Shaolin Temple.

[5] I remember in White Hair Demoness Faerie Queene translated Chanshi as Dhyana Master, but I think I am going to keep it in its original form.

[6] From the dictionary: Buddha’s name for himself, having many layers of meaning – Sanskrit: thus gone, having been Brahman, gone to the absolute etc.

[7] The character ‘gao’ in Gao Seng (Senior Monk) literally means ‘tall’.

[8] Buddhist monk’s knife (not used for killing).

[9] ‘Damo’ – Dharma, the teaching of Buddha, ‘Bo’re’ – Prajna, the great wisdom. Actually, for Damo, the original Chinese uses ‘courtyard/institution’ (yuan) instead of ‘hall’ (tang), but since the term ‘Damo Hall’ is widely known, I decided to use ‘Damo Hall’.

[10] Not sure about this, Shanxi Luhe Dao literally means ‘six-direction (north, south, east, west, and up and down) saber of Shanxi’.

[11] Li Shimin was the personal name of second Tang Emperor Taizong, Wang Shichong was a general of late Sui, opponent of early Tang.

[12] Bookworm: orig. 书呆子 (shu daizi) – bookish fool; Cheng Guan was a 武呆子 (wu daizi) – martial art fool.

[13] The character ‘shao’ of Shaolin means ‘young/little/lesser/minor’. Shaolin means ‘lesser forest’, Shaonu means ‘young maiden’.

[14] This is literal translation. FYI, ‘turtle’ in Chinese can also mean ‘son of a b1tch’ or ‘b@stard’.

[15] Referring to poster, envelope, etc. made of red paper, used especially at Chinese Ney Year.

[16] Er Lang Shen is a Chinese God with a third truth-seeing eye in the middle of his forehead.

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