Happy Heroes 16 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2008 11:25

Chapter 15 – Guo DaLu’s Secret


What is a secret? A secret is something where you are the lone person who can bask in it. It may fill you with joy, it may bring you pain. No matter what it is, though, it belongs solely to you. If what it brings is pain, then you must endure it alone; if it brings joy, you also cannot share it with others, even your best of friends. That is because, should a second person know your secret, then it can no longer be called a secret.

Some secrets really are a type of enjoyment. When you have just finished eating a good meal, taken a nice hot bath, slipped on some old, baggy clothes, and are sitting alone in a comfortable chair in front of a window beyond which the sky is filled with the colors of the setting sun, you will suddenly think about your secret. Then you will not be able to control the warm feeling that will rise up within your heart…


Guo DaLu had been seated beneath the eaves for a long time. As long as there was still something that he could be doing, he would not be sitting there. There are some people who would rather stroll around without a purpose, watching others come and go along the street, watching dogs fight in the corner, than be locked up in a house. Guo DaLu was such a person. But now, the only thing he could do was sit there staring blankly at nothing.

Icicles, some long, some short, had formed and were hanging from the eaves, but no one knew how many there were. Except Guo DaLu. There were a total of sixty-three icicles of which twenty-six of them were relatively longer and thirty-seven were relatively shorter. That is because he had already counted seventeen times.

It was just too cold today. Not only could no one be found on the streets, even the dogs had holed themselves up into some hidden place. He had lived for more than twenty years and had gone through more than twenty winters, but he could not recall a day colder than this day. When someone is having a run of ill fortune, it seems like even the weather is deliberately trying to go up against him. He frequently had bad luck, but he never before had been this unlucky.

Bad luck is like an infectious disease: if one person has it, others who are with him will certainly not run into any good fortune as well. Therefore, he was not sitting alone. Yan Qi, Wang Dong, and Lin TaiPing were also seated there with him and were also staring off into space.

Out of the blue, Lin TaiPing asked, “Can you guys guess how many icicles there are?”

Yan Qi: “Sixty-three.”

Wang Dong: “Twenty-six long ones, thirty-seven short ones.”

Guo DaLu burst out in giggles. “I see you guys have counted too.”

Yan Qi: “I’ve counted four times already.”

Wang Dong: “I have only counted three times because I don’t want to do it too many times.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Wang Dong: “I want to leave myself the opportunity to count a few more times.”

Guo DaLu wanted to laugh, but somehow, he could not make himself. This answer was hilarious, yet at the same time, pitiful.

All of a sudden, he rose to his feet, turned around, and rested his gaze on the table in the centre of the house – the padauk table, mounted with an entire slab of marble as its surface. “I wonder if I still have strength to bring this table to uncle’s shop,” he mumbled to himself.

Wang Dong: “You don’t.”

Guo DaLu blinked at him. “Should I try?”

Wang Dong: “That’s unnecessary.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Wang Dong: “I know that you certainly can lift up a table that has nothing on it, but if there is a very heavy thing weighing down on that table, that is a different story.”

Guo DaLu: “But there is nothing weighing down this table.”

Wang Dong: “Yes there is.”

Guo DaLu: “What?”

Wang Dong: “Face! And not just my face, but all of ours.” In an emotionless tone, he continued, “We have not only accepted someone’s rent, we also have received a storage fee. If we now go and pawn her belongings, what remnants of face will we have for the future?”

With a long sigh and a self-mocking smile, Guo DaLu agreed, “You are right. I truly cannot carry this table.”

Wang Dong: “The most important thing in this world is face. That’s why only one kind of person could ever pick up this table.”

Guo DaLu inquired curiously, “What kind?”

Wang Dong: “Someone who has no shame.”

Lin TaiPing heaved a sigh. “That kind of person usually is able to eat until he is full.”

Yan Qi: “Pigs usually eat until they are full too.”

Lin TaiPing chuckled, “If a person wants to preserve his face, then there are times that he will have to neglect his stomach. No matter what, face is much important than your belly.”

Yan Qi: “That is because people are not pigs. Only a pig would think that his belly is more important.”

Lin TaiPing: “Hence, some people would rather die of starvation than do things that would cause them to lose face.”

Wang Dong: “But we have not starved to death yet, right?”

Lin TaiPing: “Right.”

Wang Dong: “It may be several days since we have eaten until our bellies are full, but at least we have lasted this long.”

Guo DaLu thrust out his chest and boasted, “No one can deny that our bones are hardier than most people.”

Wang Dong: “As long as we are willing to persist, there will be one day when things turn for the better.”

Guo DaLu’s face brightened. “True. Winter has already arrived, so spring cannot be far, right?”

Wang Dong: “So long as we can endure until that day comes, we will still be able to hold our heads up proudly because we will not have wronged anyone, nor will we have wronged ourselves.”

Still uncertain, Lin TaiPing could not help asking, “Will we be able to last until that day?”

Guo DaLu jumped in to answer first. “Of course we can.” He walked over and put his arm around Lin TaiPing. “Because even though we may own nothing, at the very least, we have still have friendship.”

Warmth flooded Lin TaiPing’s heart as he looked over at Guo DaLu. He suddenly realized that he had enough courage. Regardless of how difficult the hardship was, how cold the weather was, he did not care. All of a sudden, he ran outside.

It was not until night that he returned, and in his hand he held a paper bag. Raising it up, he exclaimed with a grin, “Guess! What do you think I have brought back with me?”

Guo DaLu blinked. “Could it be mantou [*steamed buns]?”

Lin TaiPing laughed, “Correct answer.”

Inside that paper bag, there really were mantou. Four big mantou. And sandwiched within each mantou was actually a large chunk of meat. Guo DaLu whooped in delight, “Long live Lin TaiPing!” Grabbing a mantou, he proclaimed, “I am in awe of you. Right now, even if you said you would kill me, I still would not be able to conjure up even half a mantou.”

Yan Qi’s eyes were fixed intently on Lin TaiPing. “Of course, these mantou were not conjured up out of nowhere?”

With a little smile, Lin TaiPing answered casually, “Maybe they fell from the sky.” He handed one to Wang Dong.

Wang Dong shook his head. “I’m not going to eat.”

Lin TaiPing: “Why?”

Wang Dong sighed, “Because I cannot bear to eat your clothes.”

Guo DaLu, who had just taken a bite out of his mantou, froze. Only now did he discover that Lin TaiPing was missing an article of clothing – his thickest piece of clothing. Lin TaiPing did not have much clothes to begin with. By now, he was so cold his lips had been drained of all color, but yet, a joyful smile could be seen at the corner of those lips. “You are right. I did pawn my clothing in exchange for four mantou because I am famished. When a person is very hungry, no one can blame him for taking his own clothes to pawn.”

Wang Dong: “Then you should have finished eating before coming back. That way, we…”

Lin TaiPing cut him off. “The reason I did not hide and eat alone in secret is because I am selfish.”

Wang Dong: “Selfish?”

Lin TaiPing: “Because I thought that four people eating together would be much happier than me hiding away eating all alone.”

This is a true friend: he is willing to share his good fortunes, and he will also bear your hardships with you. When one has such a friend, why should a little poverty or cold weather matter?


Guo DaLu was chewing slowly on his mantou. He suddenly beamed and said, “To be honest, I have never eaten something so delicious in my entire life.”

Lin TaiPing chuckled as he protested, “You are not being honest. It’s just a cold mantou.”

Guo DaLu: “It may only be a cold mantou, but even if someone offered to swap it with all the fish and meat in the world, I still would not give it up.”

Lin TaiPing’s eyes seemed to grow red. Grasping Guo DaLu’s hand tightly, he said, “After hearing that, this mantou suddenly seems a lot tastier.”

Some words are like a type of magical spell: they can not only turn a cold mantou into a delicacy and make a winter day balmy, they can also transform a dry and uninteresting life into one of color and diversity. If you would like to learn how to say words like this, then you first must learn how to be genuine with your friends.

Guo DaLu exhaled a sigh. “It is a shame that my clothes are too worn out.”

Lin TaiPing: “Worn out clothes are not something to be ashamed of.”

Guo DaLu: “Unfortunately, HuoBoPi will not think that way, otherwise…”

Yan Qi giggled, “Otherwise you would have taken them off long ago and pawned them in exchange for wine, correct?”

Smiling cynically, Guo DaLu replied, “Correct answer.” Yan Qi rose unexpectedly to his feet. Guo DaLu called after him, “Don’t bother trying. Your clothes are in even worse shape than mine.”

Yan Qi ignored him. He was out the door swiftly but very quickly returned. When he came back, he was holding a pot of water. “ ‘On a chilly night, when a guest arrives, tea can serve as wine.’ If tea can be a substitute for wine, why can’t water?”

A chuckle escaped from Guo DaLu. “I never knew you were so cultured.”

With a grin, Yan Qi joked, “When one is extremely poor, one has no choice but to be cultured.”

This was how they approached life. In times that they had wine, they would guzzle more than anyone; but in times when they had no wine, they would drink water in the same way. They were happy when they drank their wine, but they were equally happy when they were drinking water. That is why the life they lived was more joyful than other people's.

However, there is one difference between drinking wine and drinking water: the more wine you swallow, the warmer you feel, but the more water you ingest, the colder you get, especially when drinking cold water in such weather.

Guo DaLu suddenly stood up and started doing handsprings. Laughing, Yan Qi asked, “What are you doing?”

Guo DaLu: “I am experienced. Your body warms up after you move around a bit. Why don’t you guys do the same?”

Yan Qi shook his head. “Because I have experience also. The faster you move, the quicker you get hungry.”

Guo DaLu responded with a laugh. “You think too much. As long as you do not feel cold, why should you bother…” He did not finish what he was going to say because he suddenly noticed an object tumbling in front of his face.

The gold had not dropped from the sky; it had fallen from Guo DaLu from somewhere around his chest. He had been doing his sixth handspring, his feet pointing towards the sky and his head hanging upside down, when the gold had fallen out from his clothes. “Dong.” It landed in front of him.

The fact that it made a “dong” sound when it hit the floor meant that the gold was rather heavy. It was a necklace with a thick chain, and there was even a gold pendant in the shape of a chicken heart also. The pendant was at least double the size of a real chicken’s heart.

It was an unbelievable phenomenon that such a large amount of gold could possibly drop from a person who was so poor that he had not eaten for several days. But Wang Dong and the others had to believe it because the three of them had very clearly watched it happen.

They wished that they had not seen anything. They truly did not want to believe that this was real. Lin TaiPing had even taken his clothes to pawn, and yet Guo DaLu was still hiding such a thick gold necklace. How could someone actually have in his possession a gold necklace but yet, still put on an act in front of his friends pretending that he was poor? And such a convincing act. What type of friend was this? They really were not willing to believe that Guo DaLu was such a friend.

Wang Dong suddenly let out a loud yawn and muttered, “Why does a person always feel like sleeping after he has eaten his fill?” He went off to go sleep, and on the way strolled right in front of Guo DaLu, as if he neither saw the necklace or Guo DaLu himself.

Lin TaiPing also yawned and then, to no one in particular, said, “On such a cold day, what better place could there be than inside your blankets?” He too went to go sleep, as if he had not seen anything either.

Only Yan Qi remained sitting there, staring off into space.

A long time passed before Guo DaLu gradually lowered his legs back to the ground and slowly stood himself upright. It seemed as if it was difficult for him to stand straight again.

No stars, no moon, just light from a single lamp. A very small light because there was not much lamp oil left.

But the gold necklace still sparkled dazzlingly under that lamplight.

Guo DaLu lowered his head to look at the necklace and mumbled, “Strange. Why is it that gold always looks shiny, no matter how dark a place it is in?”

Yan Qi remarked in a dull tone, “Maybe that is the positive aspect about gold. Why else would so many people regard it as being even more important than their friends?”

Guo DaLu was silent for a long while. All of a sudden, he lifted his head. “Why haven’t you gone off to sleep?”

Yan Qi: “I am waiting.”

Guo DaLu: “Waiting for what?”

Yan Qi: “Waiting for you to tell…”

Guo DaLu announced in a loud voice, “I have nothing to say. If all of you want to view me as that type of person, then I am that type of person.”

Yan Qi gazed steadily at him before, after a very very long time, he finally rose to his feet and slowly walked out the door.

Guo DaLu never looked at him.

Outside, the wind was cold and blowing fiercely.

The lamplight was dim. Out of nowhere, a chilly gust of wind blew in and extinguished the light.

But the gold necklace still shone.

Guo DaLu’s head hung low. He stared at that necklace. It was uncertain how much time had passed before he bent slowly at the waist, picked up the necklace, and held it up on his open palm.

His tears started gushing out, flowing like a fountain, as drop after drop fell onto his palm. The necklace, cold as ice; the tears, hot as flames. He suddenly fell to his knees and, at long last, allowed himself to weep, all the while trying his hardest to suppress the sound of his sobbing. He did not want anyone to hear him cry. This was his secret and also his greatest pain. He was not willing for anybody to know this secret, nor did he wish for any person to share the burden of his pain. And so, no one understood how deep his agony was, how profound. Though this had happened a very long time ago, even now, when he thought about it, his heart would shatter. He knew he would have to bear the pain for the rest of his life; even death would not free him from it.

The incident that just happened had pained him also. He would rather die than lose this group of friends. But he did not try to explain because he knew that they would not forgive him. He could not even find a way to forgive himself. Perhaps there is a true type of pain in this world: it is those pains that you cannot tell other people about.

“Cannot say it… How can I say it?”

“How can I still have the nerve to stay here?”

The wind outside was even fiercer, even colder.

He gritted his teeth, quietly wiped away his tears, and stood. No matter how cold and callous the world outside was, he was prepared to endure it alone. He had done something wrong, and he was willing to accept responsibility. He would not explain, nor would he ask for pardon – even from his friends.

But Heaven knew that he valued his friends even more than his own life.

“Friends, farewell. There will be a day when you understand me. When that day comes, we will still be friends, but right now…” His tears started to fall again. It was when he was reaching his hand up to brush them away that he saw Yan Qi. Not only Yan Qi, but Wang Dong and Lin TaiPing as well. He did not know when they had come back into the room, standing there quietly, watching him wordlessly. He could not see the expression on their faces, only three glimmering pairs of eyes. He wished they could not see his face either or the tears on his face.

He coughed lightly a few times. “Weren’t you guys asleep already?”

Lin TaiPing: “We couldn’t sleep.”

Forcing a faint smile on to his face, Guo DaLu remarked, “Even if you cannot sleep, you should lie in your blankets. On a day like this, is there another place in the world better than being under your covers?”

Wang Dong: “There is.”


Yan Qi: “Right here is better than the blankets.”

Guo DaLu: “What is there that is good about this place?”

Wang Dong: “Only one thing.”

Yan Qi: “This place has friends, blankets don’t.”

Guo DaLu suddenly felt a warmness rushing up from his heart that seemed to clog up his throat. A long time passed before he could speak. His head hanging low, he uttered, “There is no friend here. I do not deserve to be your friend.”

Wang Dong: “Who said?”

Yan Qi: “I didn’t say it.”

Wang Dong: “We came here for the sole purpose of saying one thing.”

Guo DaLu clenched his hands into two fists. “Say… say it.”

Wang Dong: “We understand you, and we trust you. That’s why, no matter what may happen, you are still our friend.”

This is what it means to be a friend.

They can partake in your joy and they can share in your pain. If you have hardships, they are willing to help. If you are in danger, they will step forward and face it for you. Even if you truly have done something wrong, they are willing to be understanding. In front of friends like these, what secrets could you possibly have that cannot be shared?


The wind outside was still cold, still fierce.

Inside, the house was still dim.

But at this time, this moment, the only thing they could sense was warmth and brightness because they knew that they had friends, true and sincere friends.

Where there are friends, there is warmth and light.

“No matter what may happen, you are still our friend.”

Guo DaLu’s blood was roiling. Normally he would have rather died than cry in front of other people, but now, his tears were flowing again. No one could ever make him do it – except for his friends. He finally told his secret.

Guo DaLu’s hometown had many pretty girls. The most beautiful girl was named Zhu Zhu.

He fell in love with Zhu Zhu; she loved him as well. He cared for her with all his heart and mind. He told her that he was willing to offer his life and everything he had to her. He was not like other men, who merely said the words. He really did do what he said. Zhu Zhu was very poor. By the time Guo DaLu’s parents had passed away, though, she was no longer poor because he knew that she belonged to him. She herself had said that her entire being belonged to him. He was willing to do anything for her trust, her happiness.

But then, he discovered something.

Zhu Zhu did not love him. Just like many other women, her words were merely lip service. She had promised to marry him. Besides him, she would marry no other man. They had even decided on a wedding date. However, on the day before their wedding, she got married first – to someone else. She betrayed everything that Guo DaLu had given her and eloped with that man.

The gold necklace was what she had given to Guo DaLu as her promise gift of love. It was also the only thing that she had ever given to him.

Nobody said anything. No one knew what to say. In the end, it was Guo DaLu himself who broke the silence. He suddenly sniggered, “You will never guess who she ran off with.”

Lin TaiPing: “Who?”

Guo DaLu: “My stableman.” He laughed loudly. “I had always treated her like she was the most exalted person in this world and basically viewed her like she was a fairy from heaven, but she instead decides to elope with my stableman, the one I most looked down upon. What do you say: is that hilarious or not?”


Nobody found the situation funny at all. Only Guo DaLu alone was laughing incessantly because he was afraid that if he stopped laughing, he would weep. His laughter continued without ceasing for a long time until he unexpectedly commented, “This incident did teach me a good lesson.”

Lin TaiPing: “What lesson is that?” He had not really wanted to ask, but he had felt that Guo DaLu should not be the only one speaking, that he should demonstrate how much he cared.

Guo DaLu: “The lesson is that men absolutely should not show excessive deference to a woman. If you respect her too much, she will think that you are a fool, that you are not even worth a penny.”

Yan Qi suddenly objected, “You are wrong.”

Guo DaLu: “Who says?”

Yan Qi: “The reason why she did that was not because you respected her. If a woman can do such a deed, there is only one reason why.”

Guo DaLu: “What reason?”

Yan Qi: “It is because she is naturally an evil woman.”

Guo DaLu was silent for a long time. He finally nodded slowly and with a mocking smile, responded, “That is why I do not blame her. I only blame myself for making a wrong assessment of a person.”

Wang Dong piped up, “That type of thought is wrong also.”

Guo DaLu: “Wrong?”

Wang Dong: “You have been agonizing about this because the whole time, you have always allowed your thoughts to take the worst possible course. You keep thinking that she deceived you and that you were dumped.”

Guo DaLu: “What else could it be?”

Wang Dong: “At least you should think in a different direction.”

Guo DaLu: “How should I be thinking?”

Wang Dong: “On the positive side.”

Guo DaLu gave a cynical laugh. “I cannot think of any.”

Wang Dong: “Did you ever see, with your own eyes, her do anything with your stableman?”

Guo DaLu: “No.”

Wang Dong: “Then how can you conclude that she eloped with him?”

Pausing a moment in surprise, Guo DaLu stuttered, “I… I’m not the only person who presumed that. Everyone believed the same.”

Wang Dong: “If someone else believes something, you are just going to believe it too? If someone thinks that you should eat cr*p, would you do it?”

Guo DaLu was speechless.

Wang Dong: “Everyone has their own prejudices. Those people do not even understand her; how could their opinion of her be accurate? Furthermore, even good friends at times can have misunderstandings.” He gave a little chuckle before carrying on, “For example, we could have misunderstood you and thought that you are miserly and a terrible friend.”

Guo DaLu protested, “But she and the stableman undeniably disappeared suddenly on the same day.”

Wang Dong: “That may only have been a coincidence.”

Guo DaLu: “How can such perfect coincidences exist in this world?”

Wang Dong: “They can. Not only do they exist, they are common.”

Guo DaLu: “Well then, why did they suddenly leave?”

Wang Dong: “Perhaps the stableman thought that his job had no future and decided to go somewhere else to find something more promising.”

Guo DaLu: “And Zhu Zhu? What reason could she have to leave? I even had a bridal sedan chair ready for her.”

Wang Dong: “Why couldn’t there be a different reason? That night, maybe a sudden change occurred that you did not know about, forcing her to have no choice but to leave. Or maybe she left involuntarily; someone had kidnapped her away.”

Lin TaiPing jumped in and offered, “Perhaps this whole time, she had wanted to explain to you but she never had the chance.”

Exhaling a sigh, Yan Qi said, “Possibly one of the most painful things in this world is to know that someone has misunderstood you and that you have been wronged, yet you cannot explain yourself.”

Lin TaiPing: “Even more agonizing is when nobody will give you a chance to explain.”

Wang Dong: “The greatest pain is when you cannot explain some things. For example…”

Guo DaLu sighed, “For example, the incident just now: I had not wanted to explain anything. If I had already left when you guys arrived here, then you possibly may have continued to misunderstand me.”

Wang Dong: “Correct. Have you straightened out your thinking now?” Guo DaLu nodded. Wang Dong explained, “A scenario often has many aspects to it. You must be willing to look at the positive side of things in order for you to live a happy life.”

Yan Qi added, “It is unfortunate, though, that some people are not willing and instead, they think from only the negative perspective and back themselves into a dead end.”

Wang Dong: “That type of person is not only stupid, but he also brings suffering onto himself; he abuses himself. I would think that you are not that type of person, right?”

With a laugh, Guo DaLu announced, “Whoever says I am will have his nose knocked flat by me.”

So, if you have a secret within your heart and it is tormenting you, it is best if you can tell it to a friend because true friends will not only share in your joys, they will also bear your sufferings with you.

Guo DaLu suddenly felt a lot better, a lot happier. That was because he no longer had a secret, because he could see the bright side of the situation. In the deep of the night, when it was time for dreams to return, even if this ordeal came into thoughts, he would not feel sorrowed anymore. At most, there might have been a hint of melancholy, but sometimes, your melancholies can be an enjoyment as well.


“The two of you may have gone separate ways, but maybe as a result, you are living happier lives.”

“Maybe she has found a good husband. As for you… if that incident had not occurred, perhaps by now, each day you would have been holding children, changing diapers, and maybe even getting in fights over wood, rice, oil, and salt [*i.e. meeting the basics of life].”

“In the future, you can mutually reminisce about one another and cherish the memories of the sweet moments in your past and each other’s good aspects. And later, should you happen to come across one another again, you will feel glad.”

“Even if you never see each other again, it doesn’t matter because at least you have a collection of tender memories. When you are sitting by the fire, you will have something to think about that will warm your heart.”

“Everyone has his own fate. You cannot force things, nor should you force them.”

“That is why there really is nothing for you to feel pained about.”

All of these were Wang Dong, Yan Qi, and Lin TaiPing’s final conclusion for this incident.

From then on, no one ever brought up the incident again, nor did they mention the gold necklace. They knew how Guo DaLu felt and understood the necklace’s worth in his heart. There are some things that people can never put a value on.

Wang Dong, as usual, was lying on the bed, when he suddenly heard Guo DaLu cry from outside, “Uncle is here!”

Guo DaLu did not have an uncle. “Uncle” referred to the pawnshop owner, “HuoBoPi.” [*Recall, the nickname HuoBoPi literally means to skin (his customers) alive; “huo” = live; “bopi” = flay] HuoBoPi obviously was not surnamed Huo. He actually was not too cutthroat either. At most, he would try and scrape a little extra profit off of you. Naturally, he would scrape you quite thoroughly. Strangely, though, the more a person tries to scrape profits off of other people, the skinnier he often is. He looked like a wild rabbit that had been hung out to dry. His back was always hunched and his eyes were constantly squinting. Whenever he spoke, he would look at you from the corner of his eye, as if he was at all times appraising the value of the goods that you had on you.

Even though Wang Dong and the others would frequently visit him, this was the first time he had been to their place. That was why Wang Dong forced himself to get out of his bed.

Given the type of person that HuoBoPi was, if he was willing to hike for half a shi chen up the mountain to “visit” someone, there usually was only one reason for this. That reason was not too different from the reason a weasel would go to visit a chicken.

When Wang Dong walked into the guest hall, Guo DaLu was smiling and in the middle of asking HuoBoPi, “Which gust of wind blew you over here? Could it be that you came to purchase this house of Wang Dong’s?” He knew that Wang Dong had tried more than twenty different schemes to try and sell the house, but sadly, it seemed that even if he would offer to give it away, people would not take it.

The way HuoBoPi shook his head made it seem as if it was going to topple off his neck at any time. With a dry laugh, he responded, “How could I afford such a big house? Ever since I met all of you, I have nearly lost all my original capital. It is lucky that I have not had to sell my own house.”

Guo DaLu: “What if he is willing to sell it to you at a bargain price?”

HuoBoPi: “What use would I have for it if I bought it?”

Guo DaLu: “You could turn around and sell it to someone else. Or you could move in here yourself.”

HuoBoPi snickered, “Unless the person is crazy, who would want to live in here?”

Guo DaLu wanted to see if he could still bring in some business, but HuoBoPi unexpectedly asked, “Are you lacking money right now?”

Wang Dong replied with a laugh, “Which day are we not lacking money?”

HuoBoPi: “Would you like to earn an easy five hundred liang of silver?”

“Of course we would.”

But everyone knew that HuoBoPi’s money was not easy to earn. It would be easier to pluck a hair from the head of a tiger. A porcelain rooster [*i.e. a stingy person] has no feathers for you to pluck.

But five hundred liang of silver was just too enticing.

Guo DaLu eyed him up and down a few times before he asked, “Have you been drinking?”

HuoBoPi: “I am very sober. So long as you agree, I am willing to first pay half as a deposit.” He had always trusted this group because he knew that, though they may not have a penny to their name, the words they spoke weighed more than a thousand jin of gold [*i.e. would certainly be kept].

Sighing, Guo DaLu asked him, “What has to be done to earn this money?”

HuoBoPi: “Easy. Once you all take a walk with me to Xiancheng, the money will be in your hands.”

Guo DaLu: “Take a walk? How?”

HuoBoPi: “Naturally, you would use your legs.”

Guo DaLu took a couple of steps. “Just like this?”

HuoBoPi: “Mm hm.”

Guo DaLu: “And then?”

HuoBoPi: “And then you can bring five hundred liang of silver back here with you.”

Guo DaLu: “There is nothing else?”

HuoBoPi: “No.”

Guo DaLu looked over at Wang Dong. “You take a walk and then you have earned five hundred liang. Have you ever heard of something like this before?”

Wang Dong: “No.”

HuoBoPi: “There are lots of things that you have never heard about, but that may not mean it is not real.”

Wang Dong: “You losing money will be real too.”

HuoBoPi heaved a sigh. “Business has been getting more and more difficult lately. More people are coming to pawn things but few return to redeem them. Items for which the loan period has expired are not selling either. And the interest I charge is small.”

Wang Dong nodded his head. A very sympathetic expression showed on his face. Unable to contain his curiosity, Guo DaLu inquired, “So if it is a money-losing business, why are you still doing it?”

Sighing again, HuoBoPi said, “What else I can do? Ai. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong career.”

Wang Dong: “Then you should keep that five hundred liang for yourself to use slowly.”

HuoBoPi interrupted quickly, “That is different. I am willingly giving that to you to earn.”

In a dull tone, Wang Dong countered, “Your money does not come easily. All we need to do, though, is take a walk with you and we have earned your five hundred liang. How could we not feel ill at ease about something like that?”

HuoBoPi’s normally pale face seemed a little flushed. He coughed drily a few times. “What is there to feel ill at ease about? Plus, I, of course, have my reason for asking you to accompany me on a trip.”

Wang Dong: “What reason?”

HuoBoPi gave a few more dry coughs. Forcing a smile onto his face, he reassured, “You can set your mind at ease. In any event, I am not going to ask you to be bandits, nor will I tell you to go murder someone.”

Wang Dong: “I am not going.”

Startled, HuoBoPi asked, “You don’t want five hundred liang of silver?”

Wang Dong: “No.”

HuoBoPi: “Why?”

Wang Dong: “No reason.”

HuoBoPi was silent for a long while, then broke into a smile. "It does not matter. You are the only one who does not want to go; I still…”

Yan Qi cut him off, “He is not alone.”

HuoBoPi: “You are not going either?”

Yan Qi: “I am not going and I have no reason as well. Not going means not going.”

With a laugh, Lin TaiPing confessed, “I thought I would be the only one who did not want to go, but it turns out we are all thinking in the same way.”

HuoBoPi was getting anxious. He cried, “Is my money no good? Haven’t you taken it before?”

In an unconcerned tone, Wang Dong responded, “If we want your money, we will bring items to pawn.”

HuoBoPi: “I am not taking any of your items this time. I am only asking that you make a short trip with me and then I will give you five hundred liang of silver. But you actually are not willing to accept?”

Wang Dong: “That is right.”

HuoBoPi looked like he wanted to jump up from where he was sitting. He yelled, “What is wrong with all of you?... I bet that one day, you will all die of starvation… For people like you, it would be a real oddity if you were not poor.”

There really was something wrong with Wang Dong and the others. They would rather die in poverty and of starvation than accept suspicious money of which they did not know the origin. Taking items to pawn was not something to be ashamed of. They had basically pawned nearly every item possible. But they only pawned items; they did not pawn themselves. They could trade in their own pants, but they would never give up their dignity or conscience. They only did things that they were willing to do and thought they should do.

Everyone has to use the lavatory and, in fact, will use it at least seven or eight times a day. This is not filthy or comical; it is merely a very normal and ordinary action that must be done, and therefore, does not deserve to be brought up in this story of ours. If someone were to include this in their writing, then a 100,000 word story would become at least 250,000 words.

But there are some times when going to the bathroom has to be mentioned.

When he was done and had returned to the guest hall, he found that there was something different about the expressions on Yan Qi and Lin TaiPing’s faces, as if they had something they needed to say, yet they did not want to speak it out. So, Wang Dong did not ask. He was always one who kept his calm, and he also knew that in a situation like this, if he really wanted to ask, he would be better off waiting for them to say it out themselves.

As expected, Yan Qi could not contain his impatience and suddenly spoke up, “Why aren’t you asking?”

Wang Dong: “Asking about what?”

Yan Qi: “You have not noticed that there is someone missing here?”

Wang Dong nodded. “There does seem to be someone missing.”

The one that was missing was Guo DaLu.

Yan Qi: “Why aren’t you asking where he has gone?”

Wang Dong answered with a little laugh, “Where he has gone truly does not matter, but if you really would like me to, it is no big deal if I ask either.” He sat down slowly, looked around in all four directions, and then finally asked, “Where has Xiao Guo [*Little Guo] gone?”

Yan Qi gave a cold laugh. “You will never be able to guess.”

Wang Dong: “It’s because I am not able to guess, that is why I am asking.”

Yan Qi bit down on his lip. “He is chasing after HuoBoPi. The instant HuoBoPi left, he went and followed after him.”

Only now did Wang Dong feel that something was odd. His brow furrowed as he wondered, “Why would he chase after HuoBoPi?” Yan Qi’s lips were pressed tightly together and his face was slightly pale. Wang Dong was looking at him as he muttered, “Could it be that for five hundred liang, he is willing to be HuoBoPi’s lackey?” He shook his head in denial. “I refuse to believe it. Xiao Guo is definitely not that kind of person.”

In a chilly tone, Yan Qi said, “I do not want to believe it either, but I have no choice but to believe.”

Wang Dong: “Why?”

End of Chapter 15