Happy Heroes 42 Print
Monday, 28 July 2008 05:58

Chapter 41 –Tailing the Pock-Faced Person


The breeze blew, rustling the weeping willows and rippling the surface of the lake.

Guo DaLu was still strolling along slowly, peeling the skin off the lotus root and humming a little tune. After walking what could be considered a fair distance, he abruptly whipped his head around and noticed straight away that behind him, with a broken dish in hand, was a beggar. What’s more, this beggar had a pockmarked face.

The instant he turned back to look, the pock-faced man hid behind a tree. This man’s skill in following people really was not all that good. If Guo DaLu had not been so preoccupied with his own thoughts these last two days, he would have detected his presence a long time ago. Was this man with the pockmarked face the same one that Shui RouQing had spoken about?

Casually, Guo DaLu turned around and, with small steps, ambled over in the direction of that pock-faced man. He had planned that, as he got close to the man, he would suddenly jump forward and seize ahold of him.

But the pock-faced man, surprisingly, was on his guard and immediately turned and sped back along the way they had come. When Guo DaLu picked up his pace, the man’s footsteps would instantly quicken also. Out in broad daylight and in front of so many people, it would be rather ridiculous to use lightness kung fu, so all Guo DaLu could do was lengthen his strides and chase after him. In the beginning, it had been the man who was following Guo DaLu, but now, things had changed so that it was Guo DaLu pursuing him instead.

The girl on the boat gawked at them with an expression of surprise on her face as, one in front of the other, they ran past. She really could not understand why a constable would not try and catch a thief and would actually be chased by the criminal instead. To her, there were just too many things in the world that could not be explained and that was why she always felt troubled and worried. But as she gradually grew older and the number of things she knew became more and more, she finally truly understood that life had actually been happier when she did not know anything at all.

Early summer. The time for enjoying the lake.

On the lakeshore, young men and ladies were dressed up in bright, attractive clothing and tourists were swarming around. Of course, where there were many tourists, there would also be particularly many beggars. People who come out to have a good time are exceptionally generous, especially when there is a flower-like beauty at their side. And so, in that crowd of people, there were beggars to the east and the west. This time of the year had always been their busy season, so even the laziest of beggars was out and about today.

As the pock-faced man wove around in the crowd, there were several times that Guo DaLu nearly lost him. It was fortunate that Guo DaLu’s luck was quite good. Every time he reached a critical moment, he would always manage to spot the pockmarks on that face. People with distinctive appearances have never been suitable for tailing someone.

After a while, the pock-faced seemed to grow nervous about the pursuit and left the lake area to head towards a place where there were fewer people. It was as if he wanted to lure Guo DaLu to an isolated place to take care of him.

Guo DaLu, however, was not the least bit concerned and in fact, pursued him with even more fervor. He had originally been planning to find a secluded spot, seize the man, and question him until everything was clear – did he know Yan Qi and know her whereabouts. It was true that Guo DaLu had learned a thing or two from GunZi regarding the technique of making people tell the truth.

He had thought that he would be able to catch up to the pock-faced man very soon, but surprisingly, not only was the man incredibly swift, his endurance was also rather good. It seemed like he never grew tired as, amazingly, he was in fact running quicker and quicker. Guo DaLu, though, was starting to feel as if he would not be able to last much longer. With the lifestyle he had been living recently, one day was enough to make a person age one year. He could not help yelling, “Wei! Don’t run! I do not want to give you trouble. I just want to ask you a few questions.” The pock-faced man had not really been exherting himself before, and when he heard this, he actually unleashed his strides and tore off.

It was a common occurrence to see beggars being chased around as they ran wildly all over the streets. Whether he was being chased by a person or a dog, no one seeing this would find it out of the ordinary. However, a person dressed all neat and smart pursuing a beggar and running haphazardly around the streets was probably a little absurd.

Guo DaLu knew that people were starting to pay attention to him, two of whom appeared to be real constables. These two had been patrolling the neighbourhood, and now, they were preparing to bar the way in front of Guo DaLu and ask him what was going on. Once Guo DaLu was obstructed, the man with the pockmarked face would immediately be able to run off and vanish without a trace. This was his one lead and Guo DaLu would definitely not let it escape easily. His eyes glinted and he suddenly acted first to gain control of the situation. Pointing at the pock-faced man racing in front of him, he shouted, “That beggar is a pickpocket! Anyone who helps me capture him will be rewarded with twenty liang.”

That last sentence was very effective. Without waiting for him to finish, the two constables had already turned around to chase after the pock-faced man. People were also standing off to the side cheering and jeering.

The pock-faced man appeared to be truly nervous now, and with a sudden leap, he had flown over five or six people’s heads and onto the roof of a house up ahead. His lightness kung fu was very profound such that his skill was actually among the first-class of jianghu. But with this display, even the people who had not wanted to be nosy began jeering, “It seems that this person is not only a thief but a cat burglar as well. He absolutely must not be allowed to get away!”

The number of people creating the uproar may have been many, but there was not a single one who could go up on a roof to chase a person. Those two constables were only able to stand at the foot of the wall and watch with angst. After all, lightness kung fu was not something everyone could learn, and at most, only one or two out of 100,000 people had lightness kung fu that could compare with the pock-faced man’s.

Fortunately, Guo DaLu was amongst those one or two.

He also swept over the crowd and scurried onto the roof as loud shouts came from his lips: “I am a constable from the capital city who has come here specifically to capture this cat burglar. I hope that the heroes and good men from all around will lend a hand in assistance.”

He knew that, no matter where those heroes and good men came from, they would not come meddle in this very odd business of someone else. He was shouting and calling out loudly like this because he wanted to make the pock-faced man panicked and flustered. That was because he really did not have confidence that he could catch up to him. Even though he had practiced his lightness kung fu and had reached a level where it was quite good, he had not had many opportunities to put it in actual use. Regardless of whether one was comparing skill or experience, he still seemed to be a notch lower than that pock-faced man.

Sure enough, though, the man appeared to have grown nervous as a result of his shouts. Out there in broad daylight, there a person was leaping and soaring over someone else’s eaves. That really was too big of a target to miss. And so, he was finally forced to jump back down to the ground.

Down below was what could not be considered a very wide lane. Altogether, there were only six or seven households in it. As Guo DaLu sped over there, he was just in time to see the man’s shadow flit away and through the front doorway of one of the households near the entrance of the lane. This family’s door was actually open. No matter how peaceful the times may have been, there were not many households who left their door open all day long. This family must have some relations with the pock-faced man and, perhaps, this place was even his house.

Without giving any thought, Guo DaLu immediately followed after him and charged inside. There was no one in the courtyard. However, up ahead in the living room, someone was laughing and saying, “No wonder people always say, ‘Out of ten pockmarked people, nine are weird.’ You really are a monster.”

In exultation, Guo DaLu darted inside with one large stride. “This time, there is no way you can escape now!”

But, inside that living room, there was not even half of a pockmarked person, only a man and a woman who appeared to be a married couple, teasing and bantering flirtatiously with one another in that place. The woman was fair and plump and was very pretty. The man's complexion, however, was sallow, and he looked emaciated and as if he could not even stand up straight.

When a man has too beautiful a wife, there are times when it is not considered good fortune.

They were shocked when they saw this big man charge in from outside. The husband’s nerves appeared to be weaker than his wife’s as he nearly tripped on top of her in fright. “Who… who are you?” he stammered. “What do you want to do here?”

“I’m here to find someone,” Guo DaLu replied.

The husband: “Find… who?”

Guo DaLu: “A pockmarked person. Where is the pockmarked person that you were speaking about just a moment ago?”

The wife’s shimmering eyes had been fixed on Guo DaLu the whole while, and now, she suddenly stood and jumped in, “The pockmarked person he was talking about just now is me. Could it be that you are looking for me?” Sure enough, on the tip of her nose, a few faint pockmarks could be seen.

Guo DaLu paused in surprise.

The wife was still gazing at him from the corner of her eye. Smiling faintly, she asked, “Did you come looking for me because you came in admiration of my name? Unfortunately, you are too late. I am married now and no longer take clients.”

Not only did Guo DaLu pause this time from astonishment, he practically did not know whether he should laugh or cry. He should have been able to deduce this from the start. What kind of woman from a respectable background would keep looking at a man like that?

The man at last displayed some of his authority as the husband. Jumping up loudly, he barked, “Did you hear that? She is my wife now and everyone else should just forget about trying to come near her. Get out of here now!”

Guo DaLu could only smile wryly, but he could not help inquiring, “Just now, no one else came in here at all?”

The wife cast another glance at him and giggled, “Even if there are other reckless rascals in the city like you, they do not have the gall that you do. Who would dare charge into someone’s home and ask for someone else’s wife?” She actually believed that he was a lecher who had come there specifically to look for her.

The husband’s anger flared up even fiercer. Shoving a finger in Guo DaLu’s nose, he bellowed, “Why are you not going yet? What sort of stupid thoughts are you still harbouring? You be careful, you, that I don’t smash your head with my fist.”

Guo DaLu laughed. The man’s hands looked like chicken feet. They may not have even been able to kill a fly, and yet he still wanted to beat someone up with them. Patting the man on the shoulder, Guo DaLu chortled, “Don’t you worry. No one is going to come steal your wife, but your own body is not a stolen prize either. It’d be good to care of it a little bit. No matter what, you should not exert yourself too much.” He did not wait for the man to open his mouth in reply before, with a flourish of his sleeve, he had turned around and left.

He knew those words of his had been rather spiteful. Normally, he would never have said things like those, but when a person is feeling angry and frustrated, he will often want other people to experience a little bit of misery too.

He had plainly seen the pock-faced man go inside. How could he have suddenly vanished? Could he really have burrowed into the ground the instant he stepped inside? Obviously, that husband and wife couple were in cahoots with the pock-faced man and had planned out in advance to put on an act for Guo DaLu to watch. Guo DaLu knew this very well, yet he had no way of exposing them. Plus, there he was barging into someone’s home in broad daylight. When all was said and done, he had been the one who was in the wrong. And if you had told him to force them to take him around and search each room, he would not have been able to make himself do that either. Moreover, the pock-faced man had undoubtedly already seized the opportunity to sneak away, and there was no way Guo DaLu would have found him.

The more Guo DaLu thought over this, the more annoyed he became. “If it had been Wang Dong, the pock-faced man would have had no hope of escaping.” He decided to find a place to drink and gorge down a big meal as a way of comforting himself, and then he would come back at night to investigate and get to the bottom of everything. He had already made up his mind that he would loiter around this place. Until he found the pock-faced man, he would not let things rest so easily.

It was already nearing sundown, and it was not too early anymore to be drinking. The biggest restaurant in the city was called Hui Bin Liu. Their signature dishes were ‘three ways to eat one duck’ and live sea bass. The ‘Fen wine’ that had come from Fenyang was rather strong too.

Guo DaLu found a seat near the window and ordered a table full of dishes. Before he had left, the east end’s laoda had given him quite a large sum of money for the journey. Sometimes, those knight-errants of the streets were even more loyal and more true as friends than the heroes of jianghu.

Usually, Guo DaLu only needed a few cups of wine in his belly before his mood would immediately brighten. However, in these last couple of days, when the wine entered past his lips, it seemed to have a bitter taste, and additionally, he got drunk very easily. Since there were matters that needed to be attended to that night, he did not dare drink too much so all he could do was scarf down on food. The worse his spirits were, the more he ate. If he did not find Yan Qi soon, it was possible that he would become even fatter than that duck.

As the sun set, the seats in the restaurant gradually started to fill. All manners and sorts of people were coming continually up the stairs, including an ugly, sly-looking pimp [gui nu; lit. ‘turtle slave’] who, in answer to client’s requests, had brought with him some prostitutes dressed in glitzy attire. And so, from a private room that was partitioned off to the side by a screen drifted out the sounds of [traditional] stringed and woodwind instruments and singing, joking and laughter, and the clinking of cups, all intermixed with shouts from dice gambling and the noise of drinking games and riddle guessing. It all felt very lively and bustling with excitement.

But Guo DaLu appeared as if he was sitting in a completely different world. This normally would have been something he would have been very interested in, yet now, it seemed to hold no appeal to him. Not having Yan Qi by his side was like not having salt in the food: dry and tasteless. Sighing, he slowly poured himself a cup of wine.

All of a sudden, he saw five or six pretty young girls swarming around a man, who was dressed in opulent brocaded attire and wearing a sword, while they all came up the stairs, giggling and laughing. Not just the waiters but even Guo DaLu could tell that this man in the magnificent clothing was a generous patron who threw away gold like it was dirt. The tips he handed out would not be small. Guo DaLu could not help throwing another glance in that direction, but as his eyes landed over there, he nearly dropped the wine pitcher in his hand.

This wealthy patron in the garments of rich brocade was actually a pock-faced man, and furthermore, was the pock-faced beggar he had seen today by the lake. Just this afternoon, he was still a beggar, but come evening, he had suddenly turned into a rich man. The transformation really was too great.

No matter how he transformed himself, though – even if he turned into ash – Guo DaLu would still be able to recognize him in one glance. There were just too many pockmarks on his face.

Guo DaLu only stole a couple of glimpses before he quickly turned his head away to look out the window at the shopsign. This time, he was determined to keep his cool and not act out rashly or blindly. If he went over right now, seized ahold of the pock-faced man, and questioned him regarding why he had given those pearls to Shui RouQing and did he know Yan Qi, other people would think he was a lunatic. And of course, the pock-faced man could just answer the questions with a few “I don’t knows” and neatly brush off the entire situation.

The pock-faced man had gone into the private room now. The women who accompanied him were evidently not of any respectable sort of background. Before long had passed, singsong words of “little lover” and “dearest big brother” [intimate way to address a man] came echoing out. It was simply nauseating.

Strangely enough, the world contains many men who actually enjoy this sort of “music.”

Speaking from his conscience, Guo DaLu had to admit that he, too, had rather liked it before, but now as he listened to it, goosebumps formed on his entire body.

The key to whether a person will change for love lies not in whether that person is male or female but rather, in whether his love is true enough, deep enough.

The restaurant was still very lively.

Guo DaLu ordered another pitcher of wine and added a few more dishes. He was prepared for a drawnout battle. Even if the pock-faced man drank until daybreak, he would still keep calm and wait until daybreak.

End of Chapter 41


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 05 August 2008 00:08 )