Happy Heroes 09 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2008 11:09

Chapter 8 - Buddha and Stinking Bugs


Money is something that a man cannot live without. Nor can he live without women. Money can bring trouble, but women will bring even more trouble. Aside from these two points, there is something else that money has in common with women: if it comes to you easily, it will certainly disappear just as quickly.

Guo DaLu always thought of himself as a man of principle; in everything he did, he would stay true to his own principles. When it came to eating duck, his principle was, “If there is still meat, do not nibble on the bones; if there is still skin, do not eat the meat.”

By now, the duck he was eating had been stripped of its skin. The barbecue duck without its skin was like a woman in her fifties who had been stripped of her clothing, revealing the pudginess underneath. But the duck was also like a twenty year old woman: the more you stripped off of it, the better it looked.

Few people could go from looking at a duck to thinking about women. Guo DaLu could. When his belly was full of wine and his wallet was full of money, everything led him to thoughts of women.

By now, the wine was done and the treasures had been divided four ways. Guo DaLu blinked as a thought suddenly occurred to him. “What… what are your plans?”

Plans? No one had any plans.

Yan Qi fixed his eyes on him as he asked, “Do you have any plans?”

Guo DaLu gazed at the barbecue duck, stripped of its skin. “We’ve been idle for a long time now. It’s about time for us to starting moving about; otherwise our bones may start rusting.”

Yan Qi: “Our bones aren’t like yours, which start itching once you’ve got a bit of money in your pocket.”

Guo DaLu sighed before laughing and saying, “So I’m a glutton for punishment. But I want to go move about a bit.”

Yan Qi: “Did you want to go alone?”

Guo DaLu: “Yes.”

Yan Qi gave a cold laugh. “I’ve always known that some people only need their friends when they are poor. Once they have money, the excuses start coming out.”

Guo DaLu glared back at him. “Haven’t you ever done something alone before?”

Yan Qi turned his head away from him. “If you want to leave, then go. No one is stopping you.”

Guo DaLu stood up to go but then sat back down again. Smiling, he soothed, “I just want to go out by myself for a day or so. We’ll see each other again tomorrow night.” They ignored him. “Now that Mai LaoGuang has been arrested, there isn’t a single good restaurant here anymore. I know that inside Xiancheng [*Xian city], there is a restaurant called Kui Yuan Guan that is supposed to be pretty good. It’s a good thing Xiancheng isn’t very far from here. How about we meet up there tomorrow? ... My treat.”

Still no one paid attention to him.

Guo DaLu started getting anxious. “Am I not allowed to have just one day to myself to go out?”

Wang Dong finally responded by rolling his eyes and asking, “Who said you’re not allowed?”

Guo DaLu: “So will you go tomorrow?”

Wang Dong: “Could you not just buy the food and wine from Kui Yuan Guan and bring it back here to treat us?”

Guo DaLu: “Could you please not be so lazy? You should go out anyway and buy a few pieces of clothing to change into. If you keep wearing the outfit that you have on now, you’re going to start growing mould.”

Wang Dong suddenly stood up and walked slowly toward the door.

Guo DaLu: “Where are you going?”

Wang Dong: “Going to Mai LaoGuang’s bed.”

Guo DaLu: “To do what?”

Wang Dong sighed. “What else can you do on a bed? To go sleep, of course. When you get on a bed, do you do anything else?”

Guo DaLu laughed in reply. He actually was thinking of doing something else, and it did involve being on a bed. He stood up and smiled, saying, “It will actually be a good thing if Wang Dong stays the night there. He is going to Xiancheng tomorrow, anyways, so that saves him a trip home and back out again.” Casting a glance at Yan Qi, he asked, “Are you going to go with Wang Laoda tomorrow?”

Lin TaiPing nodded in response. Yan Qi, though, casually replied, “I’m going with you today.”

Guo DaLu paused in shock. “But… I…”

Yan Qi glowered back at him. “You what? So it is true that now that you have money, you don’t want your friends anymore?”


All throughout their trek down the hill, Guo DaLu could only sigh. Yan Qi cast glances at him out of the corner of his eye. “What is wrong with you? Are you feeling unwell?”

With a pained expression on his face, Guo DaLu replied, “I think I ate something bad. My stomach isn’t feeling very well.”

Yan Qi said coldly, “I suspect it’s not your stomach that is upset.” He let out an unexpected laugh. “Actually, I know exactly why you’re upset.”

Guo DaLu: “You do?”

A sly expression filled Yan Qi’s eyes. “Anyone with a little experience in the world understands the rule, ‘gamble together but visit prostitutes alone.’ Of course I know what you intend to do.”

Guo DaLu was speechless for quite a while, and then, could only respond with a wry smile. “You think that the reason I was trying to get rid of you guys was to go find women?”

Yan Qi: “Did you not have those intentions?”

Guo DaLu did not reply.

Yan Qi: “To be frank, I insisted on going with you because I wanted you to bring me along to those places. I know that, in regards to these matters, you must have plenty of experience, right?”

“Mmm…” Guo DaLu responded evasively. He suddenly fell into a violent fit of coughing.

Yan Qi: “Dashing and suave young men like you must know which places will have the best girls.” Sneaking a glance at Guo DaLu out of the corner of his eye, he continued, “And since we’re all friends here, of course you wouldn’t mind pointing me in the right direction.”

Red was creeping up Guo DaLu’s cheeks. “Of course, of course.”

Yan Qi: “So which way are we heading now?”

Guo DaLu: “Of course we’ll… um… go into the city first and then decide.”

Yan Qi gave another little laugh. “You really should have brought Wang Laoda and Lin TaiPing along too. It would be an eye-opener for them. I really don’t understand why you were trying to keep it a secret from them.”

Guo DaLu was not trying to keep this secret from anyone. He did not think that going out to find women was something to be embarrassed about. Not finding a woman was what was really embarrassing. What he was trying to hide was the fact that he did not know where to find women. He had never before had money, so he had not bothered to look. That was why he needed to think so hard now.

They were fast approaching Xiancheng. The instant they entered the city, Yan Qi asked, “Now where should we go? Which road do we take?”

Within ten steps, there will always be fragrant grass. [* a phrase that means, beautiful girls will always be nearby] Guo DaLu coughed a few times. “It doesn’t matter which road we take.”

Yan Qi: “It doesn’t matter?”

Guo DaLu: “All four roads will have women.”

Yan Qi laughed. “I know that all four roads will have women, but there are many types of women. The question is, which road will lead to that type of woman that you’re looking for?”

Guo DaLu wiped the sweat off of his forehead. Pointing at a tea house to the side of the road, he said, “Go there and wait for me. I’ll go search and bring them back to you.”

Yan Qi blinked at him. “Why do I have to wait here? Can’t we go together?”

Guo DaLu answered with a serious look on his face, “You don’t understand how it all works. Those places are very secretive. The more hidden they are, the more exciting it is inside. But if the girls see a stranger, they won’t be willing to come out.”

Yan Qi heaved a sigh. “Alright. You’re the old horse that knows the way, so no matter what, I have to listen to you.”

Guo DaLu could finally breathe easy again as he watched Yan Qi walk into the tea house. Yan Qi suddenly turned around and shouted, “I’ll be waiting for you here. Don’t try to run off!”

Guo DaLu hollered back in reply, “Of course I won’t run off!” He really had no intentions of sneaking away. All he wanted to do was figure out what route would lead him to women and what to expect there so that Yan Qi would be in awe of his knowledge.

“If a dashing and suave young man like me can’t find those places, Yan Qi is going to laugh at me, and I won’t hear the end of it for three to five years.” Guo DaLu picked up his pace. He walked to the end of the street, then turned and continued onto the next one. But this street was exactly the same as the last one: there was a tea house and a pawn shop; there were men, and of course, there were women. “But where can I find that type of women?” But no matter how hard he searched, none of the women looked right. They all looked like proper, respectable women.

“Women in that business don’t have a sign on their face that announces what they do.” He stood on the side of the road for a long time, lost in thought, as he encouraged and reassured himself, “I have money, so why should I worry that I won’t find women?” He planned on buying himself a new set of clothes first before he did anything else. “People need to wear clothing and Buddha [statue] needs to wear gold.” Dressing up elegantly would definitely score extra points with the women.

What was strange, though, was that it also seemed difficult to find a shop that sold clothing. After much hard searching, he finally came across one. There was already someone in the shop selecting outfits. It was Yan Qi.

What was strange, though, was that it also seemed difficult to find a shop that sold clothing. After much hard searching, he finally came across one. There was already someone in the shop selecting outfits. It was Yan Qi. “The guy didn’t wait for me in the tea house like I told him to.”

He could hear Yan Qi’s voice from within the shop, laughing as he said, “Give me the best looking outfit. Price is not an issue. I have a date with a beauty today, and I want the clothes I wear to be impressive.”

Guo DaLu’s brow furrowed. “Could it be that the guy has found his way already?” Guo DaLu couldn’t help feeling annoyed and amused at the same time as he stared at the radiant glow on Yan Qi’s face. “Well, if you’re not keeping your side of the agreement, I don’t have to keep my word either, so you can’t say that I’m sneaking off.”

He decided that he did not need to change his clothes and instead, would take advantage of the moment to lose Yan Qi. “The ladies like good looks; the owner of the brothel likes money. I have both good looks and money. It shouldn’t matter whether I change into nicer clothes or not.”

The street he was on also had a tea house. A man carrying a bird cage on his palm was strolling out its doors. He was not old, but there was no spark in his eyes and his face was rather pale. He looked worn-out with that type of exhaustion that anyone looking at him would know what he had been doing the night before.

Guo DaLu approached him quickly, and, holding one fist in the other hand, smiled pleasantly as he greeted, “My surname is Guo. I know you don’t know me, nor do I know you. But now we’ve met, so we know each other.” He was always direct and to the point.

Fortunately, the man was not inexperienced in the real world. Pausing only briefly in surprise, he quickly recovered and answered with a smile, “Friend Guo, how may I be of assistance?”

Guo DaLu: “It would be a waste of one’s youth if one does not spend it romancing.”

The man replied knowingly, “I understand. Guo xiong [*xiong literally means “brother” but can mean “friend” at times] is looking for some ‘romance’.”

Guo DaLu: “Exactly. But unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the way there.”

The man laughed and said, “Well, Guo xiong, you have found the right person. But if you want ‘romance,’ you must have money. If you don’t have money, you will be beat up and thrown out the door.”

Guo DaLu was thrown out the door. He suddenly realized that the ladies didn’t want good looks; the ladies also wanted money.

Guo DaLu was not one who was easily picked on, and he most definitely was not one who would take a beating without putting up a fight. But how could he allow himself to fight with that type of woman?

His shoulder had been bitten a couple of times, and a large goose egg was swelling up on his head where he had been hit. Right now, one of his hands was massaging that lump while the other hand was feeling inside his pocket. The pocket was even emptier than his belly was. He was certain he had placed his share of the treasures inside that pocket, but now it was nowhere to be found.

The duck skin he had eaten that morning had already been digested, and the wine he had drank had turned into sweat. By nightfall, even his sweat had long dried up.

Guo DaLu found a deserted temple. Sitting in front of the altar, he stared up, deep in thought, at the clay Buddhist idol. It seemed that the statue was also gazing down at him in contemplation.

His plan had been perfect: he would first eat a nice, comfortable meal before taking a relaxing bath. He had even imagined the glorious scene where a soft pair of hands was scrubbing his back.

But what about now?

Now, the only thing that was scrubbing his back was, not just one, but many stinking bugs. The rush cushion he was sitting on appeared to be the headquarters of those bugs. It felt like the entire world’s bugs were gathered there and, one faction at a time, were moving into his clothes, ready to feast on his back.

As, one blow after another, his palm slapped down on his back, he wished that he could just die and end all this misery with one slap. “Was I truly fated to live a life of poverty? Can I not just have one day where I don’t have to endure hunger?”

He suddenly thought about all the advantages of having friends. “Why did I want to come out alone? Why did I choose to lose Yan Qi?” His hunger intensified as he thought about Yan Qi, who was probably happily eating and drinking away at the moment. He was so famished he could nearly swallow those stinking bugs. “It is true that one should never leave his friends behind. No matter what he wants to do, he should still always stay with them. What other things of this world are more worthy to be cherished than friends?” Guo DaLu had suddenly become emotional and appreciative of friendship. This happens to anyone who is in a state of hunger and poverty.

Fortunately, he was consoled as he knew he would see them again tomorrow. All he hoped for now was that the time would pass quickly – the quicker the better.

“I miss them so much, but they have probably all forgotten about me. I bet Wang Dong was snoring away long ago. As for Yan Qi, maybe he’s laughing and flirting with that beauty of his right at this instant.”

As his thoughts turned in that direction, he could not help but let out a long sigh. He suddenly realized that he was a person who truly cherished friendship, that he valued his friends more than they valued him.

And so, his time of consolation was also mixed with feelings of sadness. In his jumbled emotional state, he temporarily forgot about his situation and drifted off to sleep.

When he awoke early the next morning, Guo DaLu decided he would go to Kui Yuan Guan to wait for his friends. He had decided that he would first feast on a large meal there, then wait for his friends to come pay the bill. He had even planned to order the best dishes available to compensate for all the suffering he had endured the previous night.

He had practically forgotten what the cause of hardships had been and felt that everyone should make it up to him. This was probably because his hunger was making him lightheaded and not able to think clearly. To him, it seemed as if his plight was a result of all the sacrifices he had made for his friends. He felt extremely sorry for himself.

Unfortunately, the owner of Kui Yuan Guan did not feel the same way. When Guo DaLu arrived, not only was the door not open, even the windows were shut. Were they deliberately trying to spite him? When someone is famished to the point that he is ready to faint, his logic is usually flawed and unreasonable.

He was just about ready to bang on the door when suddenly, he felt a hand pat him on the shoulder and heard a voice chirp, “Good morning.” Yan Qi stood there dressed in a new set of clothes, a radiant glow on his face. He looked like someone whose belly was full and who had had a night of good rest.

Irritated, Guo DaLu snapped at him, “Good morning? You think it’s still early? If you were still sleeping, the sun would be shining on your buttocks already!”

Yan Qi laughed. “A night of love is worth a thousand gold pieces. Why didn’t you lie a little longer in your paradise of beautiful women and let the sun shine on you a bit more?”

Guo DaLu: “There were too many stinking bugs there.”

Yan Qi? “Bugs? Why would there be that many bugs in a nice brothel?

Guo DaLu realized that he had let the wrong information slip out from his lips. Coughing a couple of times to cover up his blunder, he smiled and said, “They weren’t really stinking bugs. She just couldn’t keep her hands off me, and her hands were crawling all over my body. It was even more annoying than having bugs crawling on me.”

Yan Qi blinked, then shook his head and sighed, “The most difficult thing to accept is a beautiful woman’s love. You were in the midst of good fortune, yet you didn’t even know to enjoy it. I wish I could find a few ‘stinking bugs’ who are willing to crawl on me, but I couldn’t.” Guo DaLu threw his head back in laughter.

He tried to make his laugh sound extra cheery, but instead, the noise that came out sounded more like something that would come from a donkey’s throat – a hungry donkey’s throat.

Yan Qi eyed him up and down a few times. “Does your stomach not feel well again? You must have eaten too much.”

Guo DaLu: “Mmm…”

Chuckling, Yan Qi said, “Since that girl liked you so much, after, she must have personally cooked some good dishes for you to eat to help you regain some of your energy.”

Guo DaLu gave him a cold stare. “And since when did you become such an expert in these matters?”

Yan Qi sighed again as he answered, “I could never have your good fortune.”

Guo DaLu: “Where did you go last night?”

Yan Qi: “You should be ashamed to even ask. I waited forever for you in the tea house, but I didn’t catch even a glimpse of your shadow. So all I could do was wander around like a lonely, unwanted ghost. I nearly did not even find a place to sleep.”

Guo DaLu’s teeth grated together in fury, but yet he could not expose Yan Qi’s lie. Forcing a chuckle, he replied, “It’s your own fault you didn’t have enough patience to wait a little longer. So because of you, I had to manage several girls at once. It was such a pain!”

Yan Qi shook his head, moaning and sighing continuously, as if he regretted his mistake incredibly. Guo DaLu’s spirits were lifted a little, so he added in a kinder tone, “You really don’t need to be too disappointed. You will always have your chance next time. There was this really cute girl who was not only pretty but gentle and considerate as well. You didn’t even need to ask for something, and she would already know what you wanted and would prepare it for you.”

Yan Qi listened with his eyes wide. “If that’s the case, she is practically like a merciful clay Buddha who rescues the needy.”

Guo DaLu paused in surprise. “Clay Buddha? Where did you suddenly get a clay Buddha from?” His mind was whisked back to the temple and the clay Buddhist statue from the previous night."

Yan Qi gave a little laugh. “I meant that type of female ‘Buddha’ who specializes in ‘rescuing’ men.”

In relief, Guo DaLu let out the breath he had been holding. The heart of a thief [*thief in this context is meant to encompass someone who knows he has done something wrong] always responds with more guilt.

Yan Qi: “So, what special dishes did your female Buddha make for you to eat this morning?”

Guo DaLu swallowed his saliva hungrily as he answered nonchalantly, “Oh, it was really nothing special. Just some yan wo [*swallows nest that is edible and considered a delicacy], chicken soup, noodles, baozi [*steamed buns with some sort of filling], ham, and eggs.”

He wished he could name every food that he wanted to eat right then. Even if he couldn’t eat them, at the very least, hearing their names might lessen his hunger. Alas, though, he had to stop. If he continued any further down his list, he would start salivating in front of Yan Qi.

Yan Qi sighed again. “It seems that not only do you have good fortune with the ladies, your mouth also has good fortune when it comes to food. But I’m so hungry I’m about to starve to death. I have to find a place to eat.”

He had not even finished speaking before Guo DaLu asked eagerly, “Where are you going to go? I’ll go with you.”

Yan Qi: “Oh, there’s no need. I know you’re already full. I would feel bad asking you to come along.”

Guo DaLu was getting so anxious he could barely contain it, and he was just about to tell the truth. Luckily for him, Kui Yuan Guan’s door suddenly opened a crack. A head peered from around the door at them, the eyelids only half open, as if the person was never fully awake. With a lazy expression on his face, the person cast a sideways glance at them and said casually, “Our little restaurant here has food for you to eat. Dear patrons, why would you forfeit something so close to find a place further away?

Yan Qi and Guo DaLu’s faces broke into large grins.

“Wang Dong!”

Guo DaLu could not help but laugh. “You are always so mysterious in your ways. When did you arrive here? When did you become one of Kui Yuan Guan’s employees?”

Wang Dong: “It is a rare occurrence to be treated to a meal by our Guo Dashao [*dashao = young master]. Don’t you think it would have been a huge loss to me if I overslept and missed this opportunity? So instead, I decided to come here last night and stay the night. It saved me a trip in the morning, too.”

Yan Qi let out a laugh. “What a great idea. Everything Wang Laoda does is well thought out. I’m sure our host is extremely touched that he has the privilege of treating such a sincere guest to a meal.”

Guo DaLu felt victimized and miserable but yet, could not say anthing. He could only respond with a dry laugh, “Haha. I am so tremendously touched. In fact, I’m so frigging extremely touched.”

Wang Dong: “You don’t have to feel touched quite yet. Wait until we all start eating; that’s when you should feel touched.”

Yan Qi: “That’s right. We’ll make sure he’s so frigging touched he’ll be shedding tears.”

Kui Yuan Guan was a relatively larger place. In addition to its main level, which already had seventeen or eighteen tables, it had an upstairs level. At night, the tables were pushed together, and the staff would lay out some bedding on top to sleep. The seven staff members now were slowly arising, the sleep still heavy in their eyes. One by one, they greeted Wang Dong in a respectful, yet at the same time, familiar tone of voice.

“Wang Dage [*dage = big brother, in a respectful tone], the people you were waiting for have arrived?”

“Hurry; come take care of Wang Dage’s guests.”

Guo DaLu’s eyes were bulging in amazement. He was tempted to ask Wang Dong when he had become these people’s dage. He suddenly realized that not only were Wang Dong’s ways mysterious, he also had a couple tricks up his sleeve when it came to making friends. He knew that he, himself, would never be able to befriend a restaurant’s employees.

Yan Qi, though, could not control his urge and asked, “Did you used to come here often?”

Wang Dong: “This is my first time here.”

Yan Qi’s eyes also widened in surprise, and he could not help feeling admiration for Wang Dong. In one night, he had earned the respect of the restaurant’s entire staff. That was not a simple feat.

Wang Dong: “Feel free to order whatever you want to eat. I’ll tell them to go start the fires in the kitchen.”

Yan Qi: “I’ll have a bowl of noodles with chicken and three eggs cooked in the soup. Also, bring me a couple of pan-fried spareribs. If there is fish and other meats, bring me some of that as well.”

Wang Dong: “I will have an order of the exact same. Now, what will it be for Guo Dashao?

Hungrily, Guo DaLu swallowed his saliva again. “I’ll …”

The words had not even left his lips before Yan Qi interrupted, “He doesn’t want anything. He has eaten so much already he is stuffed to the brim.”

Guo DaLu was fretting and fuming at the same time. He was so angry his teeth were chattering and his hands were shaking. He would have liked nothing more than to stuff his fist into that mouth that was being so lippy.

Yan Qi’s stared back at him innocently, his eyes sparkling as if they were secretly laughing. All of a sudden, he asked, “Where’s Lin TaiPing? Has he arrived yet?”

Wang Dong: “He’s here. He is still fast asleep upstairs.”

Yan Qi: “I never would have known that he has such a strong talent for sleeping as well.”

But there was no one upstairs, not even the shadow of a ghost.

Several tables had been pushed together in the corner of the room. Blankets were on top of the tables, but there was nobody in the blankets.

Yan Qi: “Where is he?”

Wang Dong had also paused in shock. “When I went downstairs, he was still sleeping here. Where could he have disappeared to?”

Yan Qi: “You didn’t see him go downstairs?” Wang Dong shook his head as he fixed his stare upon a window.

Yan Qi chuckled. “The lad’s way of doing things is also a bit mysterious. No one is telling him to pay the tab so why sneak off?” His eyes followed Wang Dong’s gaze. There were a total of eight windows upstairs, but only that window in particular was open. “Was that window open a little while ago?”

Wang Dong: “No. I do not like sleeping with windows open because I am afraid I may catch a cold.” He walked slowly over to the open window. Directly below the window was Kui Yuan Guan’s back door, which faced a brook. A small bridge was built over the brook.

The water was dirty and had a foul smell, and the bridge was old and crumbling. But the sun had just risen. Its soft light shone upon the water. The mist of dawn had not yet dissipated. A gentle breeze whispered among the drooping leaves of the willow trees growing along the bank. The faint cry of a chicken’s call carried on the wind. Looking at the scene, it almost suggested something from a poem or a painting.

The setting was spoiled, though, by a married woman, squatting beside the brook with a child on her back, washing a toilet receptacle.

Yan Qi wrinkled his brow, then wrinkled his nose as well before shouting down, “Excuse me, Madam. Someone just jumped down from this window a moment ago. Did you happen to notice him?”

The woman lifted her head briefly to glare at him before lowering it back down again. “It is so early in the morning still. Could it be this person saw a ghost?”

Seeing that he got nowhere with his question, Yan Qi gave a wry smile. “Where could he have gone? Maybe he has fallen into the brook and drowned?”

Guo DaLu’s temper was rising as he felt his stomach getting emptier and emptier by the instant, and he felt like picking a fight with someone. Scowling, he said, “That’s one less annoyance if he did drown. My only fear is that he didn’t drown.”

Wang Dong looked at him from the corner of his eye. “Why does this guy have such a flaming temper so early in the morning? Did he not release most of his fiery energy last night?”

Yan Qi sniggered, “Someone had both stinking bugs and a female Buddha last night. No matter how big his fire was, it should have been completely channelled out of him.”

Wang Dong: “Female Buddha? Bugs? Could it be that he slept in an abandoned temple last night? If that is the case, he would have been better off to come here and sleep on some tables instead.”

Guo DaLu’s whole face flushed red in that instant. Fortunately, a waiter was coming up the stairs carrying two bowls of noodles – two very large bowls of noodles. There were also two big plates of fish and spareribs on the side. Waves of delicious smells wafted up into Guo DaLu’s nose with the steam of the dishes. How could Guo DaLu bear it?

Guo DaLu suddenly focused intently at something under the table, as if there were several little monsters putting on a performance there. Even though Yan Qi and Wang Dong’s mouths were chewing on noodles, their eyes could not help but follow his gaze under the table. Seizing this opportunity, Guo DaLu’s arm flew forward towards the biggest sparerib and tried to snatch it up.

But his hand had just touched the sparerib when, all of a sudden, a pair of chopsticks was flying horizontally towards him, and “bam!” solidly struck the back of his hand.

Yan Qi had been looking sideways at him. Laughing, he said, “You’ve just eaten seventeen or eighteen different dishes and you still want to steal other people’s meat. Could it be that you are really a hungry ghost reincarnated?”

That guy truly was born with a pair of sneaky, thieving eyes.

Guo DaLu’s face grew red as he withdrew his arm and muttered, “Can’t even tell good from bad intentions. I was being nice and shooing away a fly for him, and he turns around and accuses me.”

Yan Qi: “Such a cold day, where would a fly come from?”

Wang Dong: “There may not be any flies, but at least there are a few stinking bugs.”

Guo DaLu didn’t know what the problem was with these two today. At every moment possible, they were trying to harass him; every instant available, they were acting against him. The only thing he could do was ignore him. For a long while, he stared off into space.

Suddenly, he grinned and asked, “Do you know what I am thinking right now?” No one answered because their mouths were stuffed with meat. Guo DaLu had to answer the question himself. “I am thinking that this bowl of noodles must taste pretty good.”

Yan Qi swallowed a mouthful of the noodle’s soup to help wash the noodles into his belly before replying with a sweet smile, “You are right. We rarely get to eat such tasty noodles.”

Guo DaLu: “Do you know why that bowl of noodles tastes particularly different?”

Yan Qi blinked. “Why?”

Guo DaLu replied nonchalantly: “Because that bowl of noodles was made using water from the brook. Water used to wash toilet buckets will naturally taste particularly different.”

Yan Qi, surprisingly, showed no reaction but instead, laughed and said, “Even eating noodles made from foot-washing water would be better than being starved and not having any noodles to eat.”

Guo DaLu was silent for a long moment. Suddenly, he jumped up, spread his arms, and shouted, “I want to eat too! I must eat! Anyone who doesn’t let me eat, I will fight him with my life!”

Lin TaiPing sat, staring in silence.

He had returned long ago, sitting in silence the whole time, as if he was waiting for someone to ask him, “Why did you suddenly disappear? Where did you go? What did you do?”

But no one asked him; it was as if he had never even left. So, he had to reveal the answer himself. He first cast a glance at Guo DaLu before saying in a low tone, “I just saw someone; you will never guess who it was.”

As expected, Guo DaLu could not contain his curiosity and asked, “Do I know that person?”

Lin TaiPing: “Even if you don’t know him, at the very least, you have seen him before.”

Guo DaLu: “Who is he?”

Lin TaiPing: “I do not know who he is either because I don’t know him.”

Guo DaLu paused, then smiled wryly as he said, “What country’s language is this person speaking? Which one of you understands what he is saying?”

Lin TaiPing paid no attention to him as he continued, “Even though I don’t know him, I recognize his clothes.”

Guo DaLu could not help asking again, “What clothes are those?”

Lin TaiPing: “Black clothes.”

Guo DaLu guffawed. “The entire street is filled with people wearing black clothing. You can choose a place at random and find several dozen of them.”

Lin TaiPing: “Aside from his clothes, I also recognized that person’s sword.”

Guo DaLu finally caught on to something. He immediately asked, “What type of sword?”

Lin TaiPing: “A sword, one foot seven inches in length, paired with a four foot long sheathe.”

Guo DaLu exhaled loudly. “When did you see him?”

Lin TaiPing: “When the two of you arrived.”

Guo DaLu laughed unexpectedly. “Do you think this situation is very strange?”

Lin TaiPing: “You do not believe it is strange?”

Guo DaLu: “He was supposed to come to Xiancheng to report on the completion of his mission. It would be strange if you did not see him here.”

Lin TaiPing: “He was supposed to hand Golden Lion, GunZi, Feng QiWu, and the stolen goods over to the yamen [*a government office], correct?”

Guo DaLu: “Yes.”

Lin TaiPing: “But no one within the yamen has heard anything about this. In the last couple of days, no prisoners have been brought into custody.”

Guo DaLu finally felt a little alarmed. “How do you know?”

Lin TaiPing: “I have already gone to the yamen and inquired about it.”

Guo DaLu thought for a moment. “Perhaps he is going to transport the prisoners to a different place to be put in custody.”

Lin TaiPing : “There are no prisoners.”

Guo DaLu frowned. “What do you mean, ‘no prisoners?’ ”

Lin TaiPing: “ ‘No prisoners’ means Golden Lion, GunZi, and Feng QiWu have completely disappeared; even the loot is gone. I followed his trail all the way to where he is staying. He was the only one there.”

Guo DaLu paused in shock.

Yan Qi and Wang Dong were also silent.

Lin TaiPing grabbed the wine in front of Guo DaLu and guzzled it down until there was nothing left. Nonchalantly, he said, “Now do you think it is a little strange?”

Guo DaLu: “Indeed.”

End of Chapter 8

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 July 2008 11:53 )