Happy Heroes 41 Print
Friday, 25 July 2008 10:28

Chapter 40 – The Village Girl


Off in the distance, the mountains were a dark green color. The waters of the lake were a clear, deep blue. Those dark green mountains were being reflected in the lake, merging the two colors so the blue seemed brilliant like the jade-green and the green rich like the blue color.

Guo DaLu wandered forward slowly along the lakeshore like a roving soul. He neither had a purpose nor a direction that he was following. When he had heard news of Yan Qi, he had wished that a pair of wings would grow from his ribs so he could fly straight to Jinanfu, as if so long as he was able to get there, he would immediately be able to find her. It was only now, since he had arrived there, that he realized his way of thinking had been too naïve. This d*mn Jinanfu was really not that small. Inside the city, there were at least hundreds, even thousands, of households and tens of thousands of people. Trying to find Yan Qi in such a large place and amid so many people was like trying to fish a needle out of the sea. All he could do was wander around everyday like an aimless soul, hoping that there would a day where his luck was particularly good and he could run into Yan Qi. And though the chance of this happening really was too slim, he also knew himself that any chance, regardless of how slim it was, was better than no chance at all.

By now, he was nearly able to list off how many trees were growing beside the lakeshore. Beneath a weeping willow up ahead, a small boat was anchored to sell lotus seed pods and fresh lotus root. The young girl who rowed the boat knew him well already. From far away, she beamed at him, her smile brilliant like the sun. For that smile alone, Guo DaLu had to go over and buy some lotus seed pods from her.

The heart of the lotus is bitter, just like Guo DaLu’s heart was right then.

Other people would have only been able to buy six seed pods with two fen of silver, but Guo DaLu was able to buy seven or eight of them. This young girl, who was wearing a wide-brimmed bamboo hat and whose pale feet were bare, seemed to very much fancy Guo DaLu. Once he came over, she would always give him a couple extra and, sometimes, would even secretly stuff a fresh lotus root to him. In the past, Guo DaLu may have already sat himself into the boat, rowed it out into the center of the lake, and been kissing her little apple cheeks or caressing those pale white feet. But now, Guo DaLu was not in the mood for that. He already had enough worries.

He accepted the lotus seed pods and was about to leave when, unexpectedly, the young girl beckoned to him. “Come here,” she whispered to him secretly. “I have something to say to you.”

Guo DaLu really did not want to bring any more troubles onto himself, but he did not have the heart to refuse this young girl’s kindness either. He sighed inwardly and was preparing to put on the face of a good big brother. If the girl tried to ask him out on a romantic rendezvous, he would have to teach her a good lesson and tell her that none of the men in the world are good people and it was fortunate that the one she encountered was him because otherwise, she would have been deceived by now.

As his thoughts reached this point, he felt that he practically was like a saint. What a pity that Heaven would not allow him the opportunity to be a saint. He placed one foot on the bow of the boat and deliberately pulled his face into a frown. “What do you want to say?”

The young girl’s eyes seemed to be glowing as she hissed, “Are you an undercover high-ranking government official who has disguised himself in order to understand the conditions of the commonfolk?”

Guo DaLu was completely taken aback by this and stood there stunned for quite a while. He could not hold in a laugh as he countered, “From my head to my feet, which part of me looks like a high-ranking government official?”

“You’re not?” the young girl asked.

Guo DaLu: “Not only am I not one, I will actually start to tremble when I do see a high-ranking official.”

The young girl’s expression grew even more thrilled. Dropping her voice even further, she said, “Then that means you must be an infamous bandit.”

With a wry smile, Guo DaLu answered, “Nope. For me, even if I was a bandit, I would end up losing my money.”

Staring intently at him, she tested, “You honestly aren’t?”

Guo DaLu: “Why would I lie to you?”

The girl sighed, obviously extremely disappointed with this. She seemed as if she could not be bothered to say anything to him anymore. So the only reason she had been interested in Guo DaLu was because she thought he was a thief. In the eyes of an adolescent girl, a bandit really was much more alluring than any other type of person. Only now did Guo DaLu realize that she had not truly been interested in him. He also had no need to worry about bringing troubles onto himself anymore. This should have been a happy thing, but yet, for some reason, he actually felt slightly disappointed. Feeling a little unwilling to accept this, he inquired, “What about me made you think I was a bandit?”

The young girl’s manner towards him had already grown cold. “Because these last couple of days, I always seemed to have a feeling that there is a person tailing you.”

Guo DaLu: “Oh? What sort of person?”

Young girl: “Sometimes, this person dresses up as a peddler while other times, he will disguise himself as a beggar. However, no matter how he dresses himself up to look, he still has no hope of trying to hide from me.”

Guo DaLu: “Why is that?”

A smug look came over her face. “Because I can recognize his face in one glance.”

“Is there something out of the ordinary about his face?” Guo DaLu asked.

Nodding, the girl replied, “His face is all pockmarked.” Guo DaLu nearly could not stop himself from leaping into the air. Even his blood seemed to be pumping much faster. The young girl looked at him again, her eyes filled with an expression of hope. “So is he tailing you? Do you know him?”

Guo DaLu batted his eyes at her and, purposely lowering his voice, said, “If I tell you the truth, you are not allowed to tell anyone else.”

“I swear, I won’t tell anyone,” the girl immediately promised, “otherwise may my face be covered in pocks too.”

In a furtive voice, Guo DaLu said, “Alright, I will tell you. That pock-faced man is a very famous constable, and he really is here to follow me.”

The girl became excited again. “Why… why is he following you?”

Guo DaLu’s voice grew even quieter. “Because I really am a notorious thief. Others call me ‘The Grand Thief Who Flies All Over the Sky.’ I just recently committed seven, eight big crimes in the capital city, so I came here to lay low and wait everything out.”

Trembling in exhilaration, the young girl nibbled her lip as she asked, “You… you aren’t a ‘thief who picks flowers’ [rapist], are you?”

Guo DaLu held in a guffaw as he winked and returned, “What do you think?”

The young girl’s face was burning so brightly it looked like a freshly roasted red sweet potato. Still nibbling on her lip, she spoke, “Even if you are, I am not scared of you. I…… I……” Her legs seemed to have grown weak so that she was unable to stand and nearly fell into the water.

Roaring in laughter, Guo DaLu stretched his hand out and stroked her cheek. “Don’t you worry. Even if I was to come find you, we would have to wait for two to three years to pass. You are still just a child right now.” Laughing loudly, he shook his sleeve and swaggered off.

The young girl watched him go, staring blankly for a long while. Maybe consciously or maybe unconsciously, she reached up and discreetly felt her own chest. The red glow on her face had spread to the base of her ears.

Guo DaLu was secretly amused, knowing well that the girl undoubtedly would not be able to sleep that night. He was not deliberately trying to be cruel to her. He merely wanted to add some spice, some colour into this girl’s ordinary life so that some day in the future, when she was married and had children and was washing dishes, she had a memory to reminisce about that made her beat faster.

How many girls in the world have actually seen a real “thief who picks flowers”?

End of Chapter 40