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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 8.1 Treasure

 Chapter 8.1 Treasure 

The story having been gradually revealed by the individual parties, the

Company was finally possessed of some clues to the questions confusing their minds. They then became aware of a burning desire to satisfy their hunger. As is often the case, the more tea that is consumed, the more powerful the pangs of hunger created.

Presently, Century took this opportunity to speak out, boldly, "Now that everything has been straightened out, there is no denying the fact that

Pastoral himself handed over this poniard to my boy. And there can be no point in fighting for it now that things have been so clearly explained, eh?" To this, Hawk replied, wreathed in smiles, "What Big Brother Pastoral handed over to Brother Peace was simply an empty casket. I would not, therefore, openly object to you reclaiming your right to the empty container. As to the poniard, you should not dare lay a finger on it."

Fortune interjected at this point, to claim, "The old weapon should now be returned to us, the Southern Branch of the Dragon Lodge, as the facts have already made completely clear."

Thereupon, Valour remonstrated with him, "This very poniard still remains in the possession of the Northern Branch, as no Sword-conferring Ceremony has yet been initiated by Brother Pastoral." The hall soon echoed with the brash and unmannerly sounds of spiteful quarrelling.

Tree the old monk suddenly stopped everyone short, posing a question loudly, "Why are you all fighting over this poniard?" His question took

everybody by surprise, leaving the Company staring at each other eye to eye, gaping in silence.

Tree then broke out with a jeering sneer, "Apart from knowing that this poniard is threateningly keen, shearing metal like mud, you have all missed the clue that links this dagger to a vast hidden treasure. Now that the secret has been revealed and your cupidity aroused, you are eager to award yourselves the prize. May this old monk now take the liberty of putting it to the Company assembled: what is the point in seizing the poniard if the treasure map is not to be had?" His words threw the Company deep into thought, and all instantaneously directed their gaze at the pearl-studded hairpin puffing out by the side of Orchid's temple.

Orchid was a frail lady of unusual refinement. Snatching the pin from her hair would seem a mere trifle to them. Nevertheless, the group was intimidated already, overawed by the impending might her father would

wield should any daring move be attempted against her. None considered himself bold enough to defy her father and remain unscathed. Thereupon, the Company stayed still and gazed fixedly at the pearly pin quivering at her temple. Yet none dared to utter a sound.

Presently, Hawk swept his gaze around the room. He stepped forward to Orchid. Reaching with his right hand, Hawk suddenly snatched the pin from Orchid's temple. The helpless victim immediately fell back two paces and turned ashen pale, fired by a mixture of shame and anger. The rest, however, were all taken aback by Hawk's bold and sudden move. To everyone's surprise, Hawk began at once to brag, "I have been ordered by the Imperial Decree to take action against our enemy, be he Phoenix the Knight-errant or Simurgh the Great Bird. Well, who knows whether the

Gilt-faced Buddha is still alive or not? That is one of the imponderables." The remaining outlaws immediately asked, "Why is this?"

To this, Hawk answered with a sneer, "As I see it, even if the Gilt-faced Buddha has managed to stay alive, the chances are that he should by now already have been imprisoned in the Imperial Jail, strapped and bound hands and feet."

Orchid was taken aback by his words. Though still vexed by the mortifying incident of her pin a short while before, she turned her attention now to the safety of her father. Thereupon, she hastened to ask, "You... You mean to say some misfortune has befallen my father?" Tree also put in at once, "Please give us more details."

Hawk still remembered how, on the way up the mountain, his whole body had been dragged across the snowy ground, by the old monk and and he was mindful too of the wretched discomfiture Tree had experienced on learning that Hawk had been empowered to act by Imperial Decree. Hawk began to feel important and became more so when Tree begged him for more details. Hawk could not contain himself and was eager to reveal his

secret merely to inflate himself. Thereupon, he fired a question at the monk, "Tree the Great Master, do allow me to ask you a question before anything else: who is the lord of this eyrie?"

The Company had been up on the mountain for almost half a day, and yet they had failed to discover who the lord was. Hawk's propitious question

seemed appropriate. They all turned to Tree who replied smilingly, "As we fellows here have been very open with each other, this old monk sees no point in withholding this piece of information any longer. The lord of this

eyrie goes by the surname Du and Wish is his given name. He is a fighter of great renown among the Martial Brotherhood." Tree's words caused the

assembly to eye one another, wondering to themselves, "Wish Du? Wish

Du?" None seemed to be able to recall the name. Tree continued, wearing a soft smile, "This veteran fighter thinks very highly of himself and has

always distanced himself from others. This explains why he is hardly known to ordinary people, even though he is so endowed with martial talents. Nonetheless, all celebrities of the outlawry acknowledge his prowess with due respect." Tree intended to worry the Company by making it clear by implication that none of them amounted to much.

Fortune, Valour and the other members of the party all grew furious. But recalling how he was addressed on the calligrahic scrolls as "Wish the Senior Brother" by Phoenix, and knowing that they were not even

considered fighters on a par with Phoenix, they had to accept all of Tree's unpleasantness, without remonstration.

Hawk then continued his story: "After we had ascended this mountain, we were told by the steward of the eyrie, 'The Master has made a trip to

Ningguta, Six-Manchu-Ancestors Borough, to enlist the support of the Gilt- faced Buddha. Meanwhile, he has also despatched his men to request the

assistance of Fan the Ringleader of the Cathay Outlawry.' There may not be complete truth in his words. I think that I must admit that I have also made myself useful by holding Fan the Ringleader a captive in Kaifeng Prefecture, the capital of Henan Province."

Thereupon, the Company all cried, "Fan the Ringleader is captured?"

Hawk answered with a laugh, "His Excellency, Sai the commissioner of the Imperial Guardsmen, has taken overall charge of this operation himself. A paragon fighter though Fan the Ringleader may be, the undertaking itself need not have involved Commissioner Sai's personal attention when one

comes to think of it now. We first had Fan the Ringleader captured, and then threw him as bait to catch a bigger fish. Of course, it goes without saying that Phoenix was the intended catch. Now, do you still believe that Wish, lord of this eyrie, who has gone on a trip to persuade Phoenix to join hands against Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, will be able to come back with his mission accomplished? I would guess that Phoenix is now in Peking, trying to create a plan to rescue Fan the Ringleader. Ha! Ha! Commissioner Sai already has schemes specifically hatched in Peking, aimed at

surrounding Phoenix, and is now patiently awaiting his arrival in the

capital. If Phoenix succeeded in avoiding our trap, there would be nothing we could do. But he has taken it upon himself to travel to Peking to rescue a friend and he is in grave danger, like a tree being attacked by a


Orchid still remembered the day when she had taken leave of her father. He had made it clear to her that he would be called away to the capital on some mission and that she was to ascend the mountain, to stay with the Du Family and to await his arrival. Hearing Hawk, Orchid began to fear the worst for her father. All colour fled from her face instantaneously.

Presently, Hawk continued, very much carried away by his high spirits, "Now that we have both the map and the poniard, we can proceed to discover the treasure hidden by Li and offer it to the Imperial Court. We

shall be rewarded handsomely and we each will earn titles of honour for our wives and virtues for our offspring." Some were delighted by his words,

while others were still wavering. Realizing that people like Century and his gang attached more importance to wealth than to titles, Hawk immediately suggested another idea, "As there is so much treasure, we can all come

away with something. A tiny pinch will be more than sufficient to support us for the rest of our lives. I am sure that you won't find anything wrong with this idea?" At this, a chorus of applause broke out and the Company decided to adopt his plan.

Sign, who had been hiding in the inner chamber all this while, ashamed that the Company knew of what she had done, heard the loud applause

coming from the hall. She realized that people had put her scandal to the back of their minds. Thereupon, she stole quietly from inside the room, leaning against the door-jamb.

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