Happy Heroes 20 Print
Friday, 11 July 2008 11:32

Chapter 19 – A Hell of Darkness

--------------------------------------------------

Daybreak.

The table was laden with many different dian xin [* dim sum, smaller snack-sized foods] and each one was delicious.

Eating is not only a type of enjoyment, it is also an art. Madam Wei appreciated both the enjoyment and the art. When she ate, she did it slowly and attractively. No matter what it was she was eating, she was able to make others feel that she was indulging in something extremely delectable. Besides, these dian xin were, indeed, all scrumptious. And since their flavors were so delightful when eaten, their aromas definitely were also mouthwatering when they were inhaled.

Guo DaLu could not help himself as he started to swallow his own saliva hungrily while trying to not be seen. As the tipsy effect of the alcohol faded, his belly seemed to feel famished especially quickly. The feeling you have when watching someone eat and drink extravagantly while your stomach is starving is worse than any possible punishment. Guo DaLu suddenly cried out, “The host is pigging out by herself while she makes the guests sit hungrily off to the side watching her. That does not seem the proper way to treat the guests.”


Madam Wei nodded in agreement. “That truly is not the proper way to treat guests.” She then countered, “But are you my guests?”

Guo DaLu mulled over that for a bit. Finally, he sighed and with a wry smile, admitted, “No.”

Madam Wei: “Would you like to be my guests?”

Guo DaLu: “No.”

Madam Wei: “For what reason? For Lin TaiPing?”

Guo DaLu breathed another long sigh of regret and lamented, “Alas, he is our friend!”

Madam Wei: “You may indeed be loyal friends, but you are also fools.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?’

Madam Wei: “Up until this point, you still have not asked me why I am looking for Lin TaiPing.”

Guo DaLu: “There is no need to ask.”

Madam Wei: “Why is that? Do you know whether my intentions are good or malicious? Perhaps the reason I am looking for him is just to give him some gifts.”

Guo DaLu: “I only need to know one thing: if he does not want to see you, then we must not let you find him. It makes no difference whether your intentions are kind or malicious.”

Madam Wei: “How do you know that he is not willing to see me?”

Guo DaLu: “Because you are too anxious about finding him. It seems too much like you are harboring evil intentions. Otherwise, you should just let us go back to inform him and then tell him to come see you.”

Madam Wei laughed, “Apparently you are not too foolish – just a little bit.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh?”

Madam Wei: “You may be concerned that I will pursue you in the shadows, but all that you need to do is not return home. You could still go to other places. Why would you need to tie yourself up here?”

Guo DaLu considered what she said, then looked over at Yan Qi. “What she said seems to be quite logical. Why are we not going yet?”

Madam Wei: “Because I am no longer letting you leave.”

Guo DaLu protested, “You had said yourself that we could leave at any time we wished.”

Madam Wei: “I have changed my mind.” She gave a little laugh and added, “You know that women can change their minds at any time.”

Guo DaLu groaned, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you were not a woman?”

Madam Wei: “What would be nice about it?”

Guo DaLu’s eyes were fixed upon the shao mai dumplings and steamed dumplings that were in front of her. “If you were a man, we could at least be thick-skinned and seize the food from you by force.”

A faint smile showed on her face as she challenged, “Why don’t you treat me as a man and give it a try?”

Guo DaLu’s eyes glanced over at Yan Qi. Yan Qi blinked.

Madam Wei goaded them again, “The two of you might as well come over together and try and steal it from me.”

Yan Qi snorted, “The skin on my face is not as thick as his. I will let him fight himself.”

Guo DaLu gave a sad sigh. “When a person is at a point of extreme hunger, he will have no choice but to be a little thick-skinned.” Unexpectedly, his body suddenly flew upwards and he threw himself at that table that was covered in dian xin. His ten fingers spread, curving menacingly like the talons of an eagle. He was using an extremely powerful stance of the Eagle Talon Skill called “Flying Eagle Catches the Rabbit.”

To use a move like “Flying Eagle Catches the Rabbit” to snatch steamed dumplings seemed rather ridiculous, but when someone has reached utmost starvation, he is willing to do things that are even more ridiculous.

Madam Wei complimented him, “Your Eagle Talon Skill is pretty good.” As her lips spoke these words in an indifferent tone, the chopsticks in her hand lightly stabbed forward. She was using chopsticks made of jadeite. Ordinarily, chopsticks such as these would break with just a little bump. The tips touched Guo DaLu’s middle finger lightly. The chopsticks did not snap.

However, Guo DaLu’s body looked like it had snapped as he abruptly came plummeting down from midair. It appeared as if he would crash onto the dian xin-covered table. Madam Wei’s chopsticks unexpectedly changed direction and clamped onto his waistband as his entire body weight bore down on that pair of chopsticks that would snap with even a light bump. The chopsticks still did not snap. Madam Wei’s hand hung in air, using those chopsticks to hold him up like he was a dried shrimp.

Yan Qi could only gawk in amazement.

A small smile was seen on Madam Wei’s lips as she said, “Such a large dumpling should be enough for you to eat.” Before she had completed her sentence, Guo DaLu’s body was sent soaring in Yan Qi’s direction. Yan Qi tried to catch him but could not. Their two bodies collided, and they were both sent tumbling to the ground.

A long time passed, yet Guo DaLu still could not climb back up onto his feet. With wide eyes, he stared at Madam Wei. It seemed like he was dumbstruck.

Yan Qi spoke up, “Do you know the name of the martial art for the move she just used?”

Guo DaLu shook his head.

Yan Qi: “Since you know the Eagle Talon Skill, then you should also know that there is one stance in it called ‘Old Eagle Snatches the Chicken.’ ”

Guo DaLu’s head nodded.

Laughing, Yan Qi told him, “This move of hers is a variation of ‘Old Eagle Snatches the Chicken’ and is called ‘Chopsticks Clamp the Chicken.’ ”

With a sigh, Guo DaLu complained, “So am I a chicken or a dumpling?”

Yan Qi: “A dumpling with chicken meat filling.”

Guo DaLu let out a little chuckle as well. “I did not realize that you knew so many things.”

All of a sudden, his body was darting forward like an arrow. This time, he did not reach for the tabletop and instead, scurried under the table.

Madam Wei had been listening to their dialogue with a smile on her face, as if what she was hearing was very entertaining. She had not anticipated that he would suddenly rush over while he was still speaking, and even more so, had not expected him to dash under the table. There was no dian xin under the table. Why would he dart under there? Did he want to pick up some bones? But dumplings do not have bones. Madam Wei could not help feeling slightly puzzled.

Then, out of the blue, the dian xin on the table leapt into midair. With the palm of his hand, Guo DaLu had hit the bottom of the table, sending the dian xin seven, eight feet up into the air. Yan Qi gave a flick of his hand, and the rope that had been tied around his legs suddenly went flying outwards like a rainbow. In one quick coil like a serpent, seven or eight different types of dian xin were swept away by the rope. Guo DaLu had already darted out from under the table. As Yan Qi loosened his grip, three or four dian xin toppled down. Stretching out his hand, Guo DaLu caught two or three of them. At the same time, his jaws opened wide so that a tender shao mai dumpling made of glutinous rice fell square into his mouth.

These few moves they had just used were not any remarkable martial art, but the coordination was so tight and masterful that it took one’s breath away to watch. Surprisingly, Madam Wei gave a regretful sigh and conceded, “After watching your display of martial arts, even if I let you eat some food, it was still worth it.”

In two or three bites, Guo DaLu had swallowed the shao mai. Grinning, he said, “All things considered, this person still has a bit of her conscience.”

As he started to gobble his second shao mai, Yan Qi had already devoured a baozi [*stuffed bun]. It had not been an easy feat to eat it, and so each little bit of flavor in his mouth seemed to be especially tasty. With a wide smile, he asked, “This baozi is really delicious. May I ask what was used as its filling?”

Madam Wei smiled in return. “There were two types of fillings for the shao mai and baozi.”

Guo DaLu: “Which two?”

Madam Wei: “One of them is dried shrimp with fresh meat.”

Guo DaLu: “And what is the other meat filling?”

Madam Wei: “Rat meat. Poisoned rat meat.”



Normally, meat from a rat was edible; however, consuming the meat from a poisoned rat could take a person’s life. The shao mai that Guo DaLu had just swallowed seemed to have gotten stuck at the top of throat and would not go down. He had wanted to ask which filling had been in the shao mai he had just eaten, but now, that was not necessary. His four limbs suddenly felt limp and his head grew dizzy. Looking over, he saw that Yan Qi’s face had become an ashen color and furthermore, was slowly turning black.

Madam Wei was still smiling.

Just when Guo DaLu was about to march over to her, she suddenly seemed to him to shift to a location far, far away. Her face was becoming increasingly blurry until gradually, he could see it no longer. All he could sense was Yan Qi rushing over and embracing him as he whispered in his ear, “Before I die, I have a secret that I must tell you.”

Guo DaLu asked shakily, “What… what secret?”

Yan Qi: “I…” He had not finished revealing his secret before he collapsed to the ground. But even if he had finished, Guo DaLu would not have heard anything.

“Humans will die for riches; birds will perish for food.”

This saying is not very correct. Some people do not care about money and valuables and would certainly not risk their lives for these, but yet, oftentimes, they will die for good food. Are you thinking that it is a real waste to die for that reason? Wait until you are weak and dizzy from starvation; perhaps you, too, would think that you would rather die.

But why were they suffering from hunger? Friendship. Of course, this was all for their friend. “Those who die for their friends will certainly not go to hell.” However, if their friends were in hell already, it could be that they would rather join them there than go to heaven.

********************



Since time immemorial, the only hardship is death. Indeed, death can be considered as the most terrifying thing. It means that you are finished, you have completely faded away. From this point on, there is no hope. Your physical body will rapidly decay. Your name will also very quickly be forgotten by people.

What else in this world could be more frightening than death? If, after you die, you must go down to hell, then this definitely would be even more frightening. But what is hell really like? No one knows. Presumably, it would be very dark, dreadfully dark…



Darkness. So dark that, not only could you not see other people, you also could not see yourself.

Guo DaLu could not see himself. All he could sense was that his eyes were open. But what type of place was he in? Did it exist? He did not know at all.

To “not know,” is a fear in itself – perhaps it is the greatest fear of all humanity. People fear death for the very reason that that they do not know what it is like to be dead.

Guo DaLu could not help feeling frightened. He was so scared that he was nearly immobilized. Fear is something that mankind will never be able to conquer. A long time passed before Guo DaLu became aware that there seemed to be the sound of breathing next to him. But he could not be certain if it was a human breathing. In such deep darkness, it was impossible for anyone to have faith in his own judgment.

Fortunately, he still had faith in one thing: since Yan Qi had been with him when he was alive, even if he was dead, Yan Qi would still stay with him. There are some friends that, in life or death, will never be separated. So Guo DaLu gathered his courage and asked, “Yan Qi… is that you?”

Another long while went by before a feeble voice was heard from within the dark saying, “Is it Xiao Guo [Little Guo]?” At last, Guo DaLu could breathe a sigh of relief. As long as he had friends by his side, life or death did not matter.

Guo DaLu: “Is this your hand?”

The hand gave a little twitch, then immediately gripped tightly onto Guo DaLu’s hand. Yan Qi’s voice said weakly, “What place is this?”

Guo DaLu: “I don’t know.”

Yan Qi: “Are we still alive?”

Sighing, Guo DaLu answered, “I don’t know.”

Yan Qi also sighed. “So it seems, when you were alive, you were a muddleheaded person; now that you are dead, you are a muddleheaded ghost.”

Guo DaLu laughed in response. His voice full of mirth, he countered, “And it seems, alive, you had to mock me; dead, you still have to mock me.”

Yan Qi did not speak, and instead, grasped Guo DaLu’s hand even tighter. He normally was a very strong person, yet now, he suddenly seemed to become dependent on Guo DaLu. Perhaps he had always relied on Guo DaLu but had forced himself to keep that dependency in check. Only in times of real fear will a person’s true feelings surface.

Guo DaLu was silent for a long period. He suddenly spoke, “Can you guess what I most want to know right now?”

Yan Qi: “You want to know where this place is?”

Guo DaLu: “Incorrect.”

Yan Qi: “You want to know whether we are still alive?”

Guo DaLu: “Also incorrect.”

Yan Qi groaned, “I am not in the mood, at the moment, to guess what is on your mind. Just say it out yourself.”



End of Chapter 19