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Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain Chapter 8.5 Treasure

 Chapter 8.5 Treasure 

I called him Grandpa Miao from the time I was little. He and my Master had been good friends. On a certain day of a particular year, they made a trip together to a place beyond the Pass. For some reason unknown to us, the two seemed very excited about making that trip. They both set off in high spirits but were never seen again. Soon word went around the Martial Brotherhood that they had been murdered by Gully, a loutish fighter of Liaodong Peninsula. This explains why the Gilt-faced Buddha and Brother Pastoral vowed to inflict retribution on Gully. Well, what followed was

Miao ... that creature Miao, fired by avarice on laying eyes on the

subterranean gems, decided to rob my Master of his life." Thereupon, Valour snapped up his leg and dealt a blow to the calf of the dead body.

Both corpses were frozen hard and stiff. They remained totally indifferent to Valour's thrust. But the protagonist hurt his toes.

The remaining members of the Company began thinking to themselves, "Could your Master not be the one fired by cupidity who struck out first?" Valour reached out his hands and tugged hard at the dead body of Miao,

struggling to haul it away from his Master. He forgot that the two well- preserved corpses had already been entangled for several decades. The ice had sealed their hands and weapons into one massive block. Their trunks and blades were frozen into another slab. Consequently, Valour expended all his efforts to no avail.

Presently, Century picked up the story left by Valour, sighing, "In the year in question, Gully employed a go-between to convey the cause of these tragic deaths to the respective heirs, Phoenix the Knight-errant and Pastoral. Gully found out the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these two elder members of the Miao and Tian families. As they had died in disgrace, Gully did not think it appropriate to break the news to their families in person. He would rather take them to the site and let them learn the truth for themselves. It means Gully must have been here before. He found the treasure, and yet he left it untouched. What could be the reason behind all this?"

Suddenly Sign interrupted, "I came across something very strange this morning."

"What was it?" asked Valour.

Sign then poured out her story: "In the morning while we were making after him.... He. " Pouting her lips at Peace and blushing slightly, she

continued, "You Uncles were galloping in front and I was being left behind at the back "

Curio could no longer restrain himself and spoke with unwonted

stridency, "You were riding on a thoroughbred: why were you lagging behind then? You ... you simply did not want to take up arms against the


Sign did not even bother to look at him, but continued to speak in a lethargic manner, "You have ruined my whole life. You may torture me in any way you wish. Peace is my destined husband. I have done him great injustice. Though he cannot wed me now, he will still be the only one person whom I shall ever hold dear in my heart."

Thereupon, Peace cried out aloud, "Of course I shall marry you, Sister Sign. Of course I shall marry you." His remark threw both Century and

Curio into a blaze. Torn between anguish for his son and anger with Sign, Century raged, "You are going to marry this filthy whore? I shall have no bitch as a daughter-in-law." In no time another voice was heard storming,

"Dispatch me first if you have got the prowess." The inflamed utterances of these two creatures deafened the ears of the Company simultaneously. Also there were the resounding echoes from the crypt. The noises were so jumbled that none could make sense of them.

Sign cast her eyes to the floor, waiting for them to quieten down.

Afterwards, in a soft tone she said to Peace. "Even though you still want to take me as your wife, how could I ever have the face to wed you? Please never see me again once we escape this cavernous cell." "No, no." Peace grew agitated. "Sister Sign, this rogue is all to blame, trampling on you and treating you like dirt. I shall hazard my life against that devil." Whirling his weapon, Peace hurled himself headlong at Curio.

Hawk immediately barred him, commanding, "Keep your violent rage to yourselves and fight your duel outside." Feinting a thrust with his left fist, Hawk snapped up his right hand and locked Peace in the wrist. He twisted it around slightly, seized his weapon, and flung it to the ground. Curio, in a

state of choler and ready for a fight, was kept out by Fortune. The remaining members of the Company found Sign's plans rather amusing. She was a scheming minx and was endeavouring by wielding every artifice at her command to attract and influence both of her fools. She pretended to retreat in order to cover up her true intention of advancing, and succeeded in melting both soulful hearts.

Presently, Tree remarked teasingly, "Miss Tian, marry whomever you take a fancy to, but never a monk like me. This old monk is only interested in learning from you what strange things you came across this morning."

The others laughed. Sign also smiled, adding, "My horse slowed down to a dawdling pace, hence I lagged behind the Uncles. Suddenly came the

clattering sound of horses' hooves. A horse approached at a gallop from behind. The rider was holding a large gourd in his arm. He thrust back his neck and drained the wine from the gourd. I found him rather funny, with thick hair bristling on his face. He wobbled drunkenly on horseback, but still gulped down the spirit. I could not help bursting out in laughter. He looked over his shoulder and inquired, 'Are you the daughter of Pastoral Tian?' I answered him, 'Yes, I am. May I know what is your honour's name?' To this he replied, 'This is for you!' At this, he threw me this tiny gold bodkin. The weapon grazed my face, knocking off my earring. I was taken aback. Instantly he clapped spurs to his horse and galloped away.

Ever since, I have been going over in my mind why he gave me this tiny bodkin."

Tree asked Sign, "Did you know him?"

Sign nodded, speaking softly, "He was Fox Hu, Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain. Of course I did not know him at the time when he threw me the bodkin. I recognized his voice after he ascended the mountain and talked

with Sister Miao. I peeped through a crevice in the partition and confirmed that it was he." This again aroused Curio's jealousy. He immediately asked, "This bodkin originally belonged to my Grandmaster. Where else could Fox have obtained it? Why did he give it to you?"

Sign, as a rule, was soft and gentle in her speech; but, on hearing Curio, she immediately snorted with disgust, as if his presence was distasteful to her, hurting him with her harshness.

Hawk interrupted, "As Gully has already been here, he must have either found the bodkin on the ground or removed it from the body of Panther. But the point is that, at the time of Panther's death, Fox was only a few days old. How, therefore, can it have been possible for Gully to pass the object on to his infant child?"

Prime supplied an answer, "Gully could have left the bodkin in his house. When Fox grew up, he visited the village of his origin. He would certainly have found the bodkin among the articles bequeathed him by his parents."

Valour nodded his consent, saying, "You may be right. The bodkin is hollow inside. The head can be unscrewed. Sign, see if there is anything inside.

Sign first unfastened the stalk of the bodkin that she had found inside the cavern. The tubular stem was empty inside. However, when she undid the

spring of the other miniature secret weapon, a tiny script was found inside. The Company all closed in, thinking that, if Valour had not been with them, they would not have imagined that a secret weapon so exquisitely fashioned could conceal things.

Sign spread open the flimsy parchment. Four lines were written on it, reading:

On horseback, elders of the Dragon Lodge Heralding themselves to the Regent's Sword. As the wind was taken out of their sails Windward were they borne and hit the rock.

A winged fox in pictogram could be seen at the lower corner of the slip. These four lines precisely exemplified the calligraphic style of Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain.

Presently, Valour remarked, looking rather grave, "... Not necessarily true!" He knew that Fox was a paragon fighter who had intimate knowledge of the whereabouts of the Dragon Lodge party. This gave Valour cause to ponder his own safety. Presently, Curio posed a question, "Uncle, what is the meaning of 'windward were they borne and hit the rock'?" Valour replied, "He predicted that we would all perish in this peninsula in Liaotung, turn into ghosts and roam, haunting remote countries. Our anima and animus will be homeward bound, floating on the tips of the wind."

Curio immediately shouted, "Son of a whore!"

Acolytes of the Dragon Lodge scrutinized the note, plunged deep in thought. Tree, Century, Hawk and the others had already cast their eyes on the precious metals and stones piled in heap upon heap. Tree picked up an edged weapon and hewed the ice. After hacking a few times, the frozen ice buds sprouted open. Tree scooped up a handful of gems, humming to himself with delight. The golden firelight played upon the precious stones, causing them to shimmer with magical brilliance. At the sight of such marvels, cupidity gripped their hearts. The Company each seized weapons, hewing the ice. They had only laboured at it for a short while before the

edges of their blades began to blunt. Their own weapons had had their points broken off by the twins in the melee up on the summit. The blades wielded by them now had been taken from those laying within easy reach inside the eyrie. These weapons had not been immaculately forged. After

freeing the gems from the ice, they stuffed the booty into their pockets. The more they seized, the more avaricious they became, but their blades soon dulled, hampering the speed of their work.

"Let us find some firewood. We can melt the ice and easily seize the gems!" suggested Sign.

They all agreed. They should have hit upon the same idea long before. Finding Tree had already claimed a share of the treasure, the remaining members of the Company lost no time in whirling their knives and brandishing their swords, aiming them true at the adamantine ice. Though they favoured Sign's suggestion in chorus, none attempted to obtain any fuel. They each harboured the fear that the others might steal more in his absence.

In the end, Tree stared hard at the outlaws. He ordered the Company, "Brother Radiant of the Dragon Lodge, Brother Century of the Horse

Spring Banditry, and Prime, Chief Escort of the Peking Overland Convoy, you three should go and bring some wood and kindling. The rest of us will stay behind, and will all cease working. No one is allowed to collect any jewels on his own." With much reluctance, the three chosen ones bowed their way out of the crypt for firewood, torn between doubt and belief. They knew what Tree could do to them should they ignore his command.  

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