Happy Heroes 43 Print
Tuesday, 05 August 2008 00:08

Chapter 42 – Dragon King Temple


But the pock-faced man surprisingly came back out very quickly. He was already completely intoxicated as he supported himself on the shoulder of a seventeen, eighteen year old girl and loudly asked a waiter where the restroom was.

So it seemed he had drank too much and was looking for a way out. Guo DaLu stayed cool, watching him as he walked downstairs, but after a long time passed, he still did not see him come back up. “Could he have discovered that I am here and is using the excuse of going to relieve himself as a means to escape?” Guo DaLu finally could not hold his impatience back any longer and was ready to charge down the stairs and chase after him.

Right at that moment, though, from the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of someone across the street shuffling away with his head down. It was the pock-faced man. Sure enough, he was sneaking off.

In a moment of anxiousness, Guo DaLu leaped through the window. Patrons in the restaurant starting yelling loudly, thinking that someone had just tried to commit suicide by jumping out of the building.

The pock-faced man cast a quick glance over his shoulder, then in a flash, slipped into a grain shop on the other side of the street.

Piled by the entrance of the shop were bag after bag of flour and basket upon basket of rice, millet, and other various sorts of grains. A runny-nosed boy was kicking a jianzi [Asian shuttlecock; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jianzi] near the doorway.

By the time Guo DaLu hurried over, the pock-faced man had once again disappeared so that even his shadow could not be seen. Inside, the worker and shopkeeper were leaning idly against the front counter playing a game of chess. Judging from their laid-back manner, they certainly did not look as if they had just seen someone dart into their shop. Was it possible that these two people had also conspired with the pock-faced man ahead of time and were planning to put on another act for Guo DaLu?

Guo DaLu had learned, though, and was more clever this time. He did not go in and ask. Instead, he hid off to the side and beckoned the runny-nosed child to come over to him. Fishing out a string of coins, he smilingly enticed, “If you answer all my questions obediently, I will give you this string of coins for you to buy candy to eat.” The boy was holding the jianzi in one hand and wiping at his nose with the other while he stared at the money. Regardless of whether it is a child or an adult, there are not many who, when they see money, do not like it. “Do you understand? As long as you tell the truth, these coins will be yours,” Guo DaLu said.

The boy immediately nodded his head and replied, “Everything I say is the truth. Papa told me that if children tell lies, their tongues will rot off after.”

Patting the child’s shoulder, Guo DaLu laughed, “That’s right. The child who tells the truth is a good child. Is it your family who owns this grain shop?”

Nodding again, the boy told him, “My family has lots and lots of rice. Even if we eat for one hundred years, we won’t finish all of it.”

“Is there someone in your family with a pockmarked face?” Guo DaLu inquired.

The boy blinked, seeming very surprised. “How do you know?”

Guo DaLu gave a chuckle. Tricking a child into speaking the truth was not a difficult thing to do. However, an adult deceiving a child really was not something to be proud of. And so, feeling a little embarrassed, he first stuffed the string of coins into the boy’s hand before asking with a smile, “I have never seen anyone with a pockmarked face before. Could you bring me to go see?”

The boy was grinning now also. “Of course. He just went inside, and he’ll be coming out really soon.”

“He really will come back out?” Guo DaLu asked again.

The boy nodded. His eyes flit away briefly and then he giggled unexpectedly, “He’s already out now.” He was gripping tightly onto the coins with one hand, but the jianzi in the other hand had been tossed off to the side now as he went to tug the pockmarked person who had just stepped out of the grain shop over to Guo DaLu.

A little pock-faced person, only seven or eight years old.

Guo DaLu was taken aback, not able to cry or laugh.

The boy, however, was laughing very gleefully. “His name is XiaoSanZi. He’s my little brother and he’s had pockmarks on his face since he was little. We only have this pock-faced person in our family.”

Guo DaLu stood in shock for quite a while before finally turning around to leave.

Behind him, he could hear the boy chortle, “XiaoSanZi, if everyone who takes one look at you gives me a string of coins, we’ll be rich. You don’t need to worry then that you won’t be able to find a pretty wife in the future. As long as you have tons of money, even if you are pock-faced, people will still fight to marry you.”

Guo DaLu was both annoyed and amused, but he could not get angry, nor was he able to laugh. He knew those kids must think he was a walking patsy and a big, stupid oaf.

His thoughts were not all that different from theirs.



The instant he got back, he saw one of Hui Bin Liu’s waiters glaring at him, wearing one of those looks where the skin smiled but the muscles did not. “Keguan [respectful way to address a patron], your tab from just now is three liang, six fen of silver. You can even pack up and take away what is left of the duck bones, too.” Naturally, a waiter would not be very pleasant to a patron who had finished his wine, jumped out a window, and taken off.

There was not even a spark of anger left in Guo DaLu by now. He pulled out an ingot of silver and handed it to him. “That pock-faced man from a moment ago who had that really impressive manner,” Guo DaLu spoke up suddenly, “do you recognize him?”

The waiter accepted the ingot from him and briefly weighed it in his palm before a smile immediately came onto his face again. “Although I [original xiao de; literally ‘small’] do not recognize him, I can still send for those prostitutes who accompanied him here for you, sir.”

Guo DaLu: “The one I am looking for is the pock-faced man. Have you really never seen him before?”

The waiter shook his head. It was obvious that he found this very weird. “What is wrong with this person? He does not want those gorgeous girls and wants a pock-faced man instead.”

Guo DaLu could not be bothered to say any more words to him. He knew, too, that if he went to ask those girls, he would not be able to get any answers regarding who that man was either.

That pock-faced man truly was very peculiar. He was apparently trying to hide from Guo DaLu, yet he always seemed to appear before Guo DaLu’s eyes. If you were to say that this was not intentional, then how could there be such coincidences in the world?

Since the grain shop and the husband-wife couple had some sort of close relationship with him, he must have been in this city for quite some time already, yet other people seemed to have never seen him before. For no apparent reason, he had given pearls, worth thousands in gold, to Shui RouQing, all in Guo DaLu’s behalf. It was certainly not without motive that he would do this. But what was that motive? Why would he do all these unfathomable things? Even if you split open Guo DaLu's head, he still could not think of a single reason. He was nearly ready to give up on this person.

Then unexpectedly, the girl who had supported the pock-faced man down the stairs walked over towards him from across the way, her hips swaying. What's more, she was smiling and casting a coquettish look at him. The restaurant waiter looked at her, then over at Guo DaLu. Secretly making a face, he slipped away. People in his line of work knew to be discreet and how to behave in these sorts of delicate situations.

The young girl had come up to Guo DaLu now and, smiling sweetly, addressed him, "This person here must be Young Master Guo."

Nodding curtly, Guo DaLu glared at her and responded, "Did the pock-faced guy tell you?"

The young girl also nodded. "I am MeiNan," she told him. "I belong to Liu Chun Yuan ["Keeping Spring Court"; this name is obviously one that belongs to a brothel]. In the future, Young Master Guo, you must come visit and support me."

"If you can find that pock-faced man for me, I will visit and support you everyday," Guo DaLu replied.

MeiNan batted her lashes. "Honestly?"

Guo DaLu: "The one who speaks but then does not keep his promise is a b**tard."

MeiNan smiled again, even more sweetly than before. "I came to find Young Master Guo precisely because that pockmarked master had a message he wanted to pass on to you."

Guo DaLu: "What message?"

MeiNan: "He said, tonight at midnight, he will wait for you at the Dragon King Temple east of Daming Lake. He also said… also said…"

Guo DaLu pressed anxiously, "What else did he say?"

In a hesitant tone, MeiNan answered, "He also said that if you do not have the courage to go, it is fine as well." She suddenly gave a charming giggle. "Now Young Master Guo, you are able to find him. Young Master, you should keep the promise you made – it is not a very pleasant feeling for a man when he turns into a b**tard." And then, her hips swishing from side to side, this young girl, who was dressed up and adorned like a little demoness, finally left again. Before going, though, she did not forget to first give the address of Liu Chun Yuan to Guo DaLu.

Only now did Guo DaLu realize that he had said the wrong thing again. Why was it that he could not have kept his cool and just waited – waited for the little demoness to give him the message the pock-faced man had asked her to pass on? Why was it that he always somehow bafflingly managed to find lots of troubles for himself?

But that pock-faced man was even more baffling. Clearly, he was trying to hide from Guo DaLu, yet he arranged a meeting between the two of them. Could this be some sort of ploy? Could he have already prepared an ambush in the Dragon King Temple and was simply waiting for Guo DaLu to walk into the trap? Even though he seemed to know much about Guo DaLu’s matters, Guo DaLu had never even seen him before and certainly did not have any grudges or hatreds between them. He had put so much thought and money into all this, but what was the motive behind it?

Guo DaLu let out a sigh and muttered, “Out of ten pockmarked people, nine are weird. It seems this saying is not wrong in the least bit.”

Dragon King Temple.

Where there was water, there always seemed to be a Dragon King Temple. Dragon King Temples seemed to be like the shrines of the [local] earth god[18], which had become like ears on a deaf person, existing merely as a decoration. No incense burned in front of them and Taoist priests or monks were never there. This Dragon King Temple was the same.

Guo DaLu had ridden a donkey cart there because he did not know the route and also wanted to conserve his strength in order to deal with pock-faced man. The driver was an old man, who had a head of gray hair and was also hunchbacked. Guo DaLu originally had not wanted to ride this particular cart, but other drivers were not willing to go to such a lonely and remote place as the Dragon King Temple at night. Indeed, this road was a difficult route to take. It was dark and there were no lamps.

All along the way, the old driver had appeared to be dozing off, but as they reached this place, he suddenly gave a clucking noise and reined in the donkey. Turning around, he remarked, “Straight ahead is the Dragon King Temple. You go yourself.”

Guo DaLu could not help asking, “Why are you not taking me right to the door?”

The hunchbacked old man grinned unexpectedly, “Because this old life of mine wants to live for a couple years longer.” The dim night was chilly and that smile seemed to emit a ghastly feeling.

Guo DaLu’s brow knit together. “Are you not going to live if you take me there?”

The smile grew even more mysterious as the hunchbacked old man answered lightly, “Tonight, I fear that anyone who goes there will not come back alive. I would advise that it is best if you do not go.”

Guo DaLu: “What is different about tonight?”

All of a sudden, the hunchbacked old man stopped speaking. His wide-eyed gaze was fixed unwaveringly on the darkness behind Guo DaLu, like he had suddenly seen a ghost.

[18] Orig. tu di miao; shrine to worship Tu Di Gong [tu di means ‘earth’; gong literally means ‘old man’]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_Di_Gong These shrines were numerous as they were in nearly every village.


Guo DaLu seemed to feel a tingle between his shoulder blades, and he could not help turning around for a look.

The night was still. There was no one. In the darkness, the willow branches stirred by the breeze did indeed look like individual phantoms writhing with threatening gestures.

But, at most, they only looked 30% like ghosts. Very few people would actually be frightened by them. A chuckle slipped out from Guo DaLu. “Go ahead and take me there. If you die, I…” His voice broke off.

When he turned back, the hunchbacked old driver had already disappeared.

Off in the distance, it, too, was a sheet of blackness. Not only were no humans visible, even if there really were ghosts, they would not be able to be seen either.

How did that hunchbacked old man suddenly vanish? Could he really have been snatched away by a menacing ghost that had been waiting in the dark to devour a human?

A gust of wind blew past. Guo DaLu could not restrain the shiver that came over him. “Fine. If you are not going, I will drive the cart there myself,” he grumbled. When a person is alone in silence and darkness, hearing the sound of his own voice can help bolster his courage. Jumping up onto the front seat, he found the horsewhip and with a wave of it, tried to drive the donkey forward.

But for some reason, the donkey’s four legs seemed as if they were nailed to the ground. No matter what, it refused to walk forward. Could it be that it smelled some sort of sinister omen up ahead?

Let us not even speak about ghosts eating humans. In this sort of place, this sort of circumstance, it would not have been surprising if humans ate other humans. Guo DaLu did not know the area or any person here, so if he really was eaten by someone, he would not have a place [in his afterlife] where he could plead his grievance, nor would he even know how to find his own skeleton. If it had been someone else in his place, the best method to deal with the situation would have been to hurry back the way he had come, find a place to drink a couple cups of warmed wine, and then find a nice, comfortable bed to have a good sleep before even thinking about anything else.

Alas, Guo DaLu had a bit of a mule’s temperament. If you wanted him to draw back, he would deliberately proceed forward instead. Even if up ahead was a dragon’s pool or a tiger’s lair, he would still charge in.

“You aren’t willing to walk. Well, I have legs too. Do you think I cannot walk myself?” He leapt down from the cart and started to stride forward.

“Is Dragon King Temple really up ahead?” He still was not certain and could not see the outline of any building.

Up ahead, it was empty. Nothing could be seen. Nobody would ever arrange a meeting in this type of d*mned place.

Unless, that person had planned some sort of evil plot.

Guo DaLu threw his shoulders back and gave a cold laugh. From behind him, a strange sound suddenly echoed, like the sound of someone hissing. He whipped his head around before realizing that it was merely the neighing of the donkey – this donkey also seemed to have seen a ghost, appearing almost to be flying as it dashed back along the route they had come.

With a sneer, Guo DaLu muttered, “I am not a donkey. You can scare it, but you cannot scare me.”

He turned around and got a scare.

In the blackness before him, at some unknown time, a single lantern and a human shadow had materialized. The lantern glowed a green color. The sickly green light shone upon the person’s body and legs, but it did not reach the face. On his head, the person wore a very large, wide-brimmed bamboo hat. It was pulled down very low, nearly covering his entire face.

However, Guo DaLu could see that he was not the pock-faced man. That was because this person only had one leg. His left leg had been severed off at the knee and a wooden leg had been mounted in its place.

Yet, when he arrived, he had not made a single noise.

He stood there at a distance, one hand gripping the lantern and the other holding a black staff. It was not apparent whether that staff was carved of wood or made of iron. Even though the man only had one leg, his bearing was steady and stable as Mount Tai.

In the middle of the night and in a place where there was no one to be seen in any direction, anyone, regardless of who it may be, would have been frightened if a person suddenly appeared in front him. But Guo DaLu very quickly recovered his composure, and, in fact, smiled and nodded at the man. No matter who the other person was, so long as he had not tried to harm him yet, Guo DaLu would always be very friendly. “I am surnamed Guo. My name is Guo DaLu – ‘da’ as in ‘da fang’ [generous, magnanimous] and ‘lu’ as in ‘shang lu’ [start a journey].”

The one-legged man spoke up coolly, “I did not ask for your esteemed name.”

Guo DaLu grinned, “But the fact that we could come across one another in a place like this means we were brought together by fate.”

One-legged man: “How do you know that it was by chance that we met here?”

Guo DaLu: “You mean, it was not for you?”

One-legged man: “No.”

Guo DaLu: “Do you mean you specifically came here to find me?”

One-legged man: “Yes.”

Guo DaLu: “Why would you want to find me?”

One-legged man: “To make you go back.”

Guo DaLu: “Go back? Go back to where?”

One-legged man: “Wherever you came from is where you should go back to.”

Guo DaLu blinked. “You do not want me to go to the Dragon King Temple?”

One-legged man: “Yes.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

One-legged man: “That is an ill-fated place. Disaster inevitably falls on whoever goes there.”

“Thank you for your advice,” Guo DaLu said with a smile, “but we do not know one another. Why are you so concerned for me?”

One-legged man: “You insist on going?”

Guo DaLu: “Yes.”

One-legged man: “Fine. Strike me down first and then you may proceed by stepping over my body.”

Sighing, Guo DaLu realized, “So it turns out that you actually came here specifically to fight me.”

The one-legged man did not say anything else. With a wave of his arm, the lantern in his hand glided through the air and stabbed straight into a willow branch beside the road.

“Excellent technique,” Guo DaLu could not help complimenting. “Just based on this display of skill alone, I may not be able to defeat you.”

The one-legged man told him, “It is still not too late for you to go back.”

Grinning again, Guo DaLu replied, “It’s precisely because I may not be able to beat you that I am going to fight. If I am certain I am going to win, what fun would it be?”

The one-legged man nodded his head slowly. “Good,” he said approvingly. “You’ve got guts. I never kill a person who has guts. At most, I will only chop off his two legs.”

Guo DaLu laughed, “At most, I will only chop off your one leg because you only have one leg.”

He had never been a bitter and spiteful person and usually would not be willing to say such bitter and spiteful words, but at that moment, he had realized that the pock-faced man, the hunchback, and this one-legged man were all in collusion and had arranged this trap for him to step into. Now, he had fallen into it, but he still did not even know what type of trap it was. This battle was one where “the enemy is in the darkness and I am in the light; the enemy is many and I am few.” The fight seemed to be lacking in fairness. There was not much of a chance for Guo DaLu, so even if he did say a few spiteful words, he could be forgiven.

At least, he had forgiven himself.

Sure enough, the one-legged man’s anger flared. With a loud shout, the short staff in his hand came sweeping towards Guo DaLu, carrying with it a fierce wind.

The short staff was at most three, four feet long, and there was at least two or three zhang [1 zhang = 3 1/3 metre (10 feet)] between him and Guo DaLu. However, the instant he waved his arm, the staff had already reached Guo DaLu’s face.

The staff attack had come extremely rapidly. Guo DaLu was unarmed and had no way of warding it off. He could only dodge.

This one-legged man’s moves flowed continuously with each one swifter than the previous. Guo DaLu was not able to clearly see the stances of this staff skill, but he knew that its origins were not insignificant. Of the highly skilled martial artists in jianghu, only two types of people would use a short staff: one was beggars, the other was monks.

For the most part, beggars generally belonged to the Beggar’s Union, which was also commonly referred to as “Poor Guy’s Union.” The short staff they used was usually called a “dog beating stick.” This name allegedly had been thought up by one of the former leaders of the union who had been surnamed Zha, but nobody had actually researched its real origins. And so, the staff art that they used was also named “Dog Beating Stick”, and its transformations were intricately ingenious and strangely complex. It had always been that not many people were able to truly master it.

The stances that this one-legged man used, though, were fiercely hard, powerful, and unstoppable, and as he executed them, there was nothing complicated at all about the variations in them. Guo DaLu may not have been very seasoned in the ways of jianghu, but he had heard others talk about Dog Beating Stick before. He could tell that this one-legged was definitely not using Dog Beating Stick, and therefore, he could not be someone of the Beggar’s Union either.

Guo DaLu’s eyes twinkled and he unexpectedly spoke up with a laugh, “I know who you are; you can’t hide the truth from me.”

The one-legged man’s staff suddenly slowed, and the muscles in his entire body seemed to stiffen slightly. Why was he startled when he heard this sentence? Did he have a secret that others could not know about and was afraid that people would figure out his whereabouts?

As soon as the one-legged man’s attacks slowed, Guo DaLu sped up. His two fists shot out like wind, striking at the opening the one-legged man left. Now, even moreso, the one-legged man was not able execute his staff stances.

A battle between martial masters is sometimes like a game between famous chess experts – it only takes one wrong move for the entire game to be lost.

Guo DaLu suddenly unleashed three successive punches, aiming at the one-legged man’s chest and stomach. By the time the man had executed a stance to defend and block, though, Guo DaLu had abruptly changed his move. With a wave of his arm, his hand came down on the bamboo hat on top of the one-legged man’s head.

Of course, if he had wanted to actually hit his head, he would not have been able to, but that bamboo hat was wide and big. In addition, whenever a person fights, he will only think about protecting his own head. Who would actually concern himself with the hat on his head?

The instant the bamboo hat fell off, the colorless face of the one-legged man was revealed along with a bald head. On the top of his head, there were also nine round incense burn scars of a monk who has taken his vows.

Guo DaLu somersaulted into the air and withdrew back seven feet. “My guess was correct,” he proclaimed loudly. “You really are a buddhist monk.”

The one-legged man’s complexion became even more wretched. With a sudden stomp of his foot, the short staff flew out of his hand and hit the lantern that was hanging from the willow branch, knocking it to the ground. All around, the sheet of blackness returned again. The one-legged man’s outline seemed to flit, and then he had vanished into the darkness.

Guo DaLu actually found this rather peculiar. “What secret does this monk have that he does not want others to know about? Even if someone saw through that he is a monk, what is the big deal? Why is he so panicked, so much so that he is even more nervous than if someone had recognized that he was a wanted criminal?” Guo DaLu could not figure any of this out.

But right now, he had enough troubles already. Where could he find the time to think about other people’s issues?

Since there was nobody obstructing his way anymore, he proceeded forward again. He walked and walked along. All of a sudden, in a place up ahead, lamplight miraculously flared up. The radiant light revealed a small temple.

Dragon King Temple. He had finally arrived.

He had arrived at Dragon King Temple, but who had lit the lamps inside? Why would that person suddenly light so many lamps in the temple?

Not only were the actions of those three people – the hunchbacked old man, the one-legged monk, plus the pock-faced man – extremely secretive and strange, their backgrounds were also mysterious and difficult to guess. From their martial arts abilities, you could tell that they must be among the best of the first-class martial artists in jianghu, but yet no one had ever heard of them before. It was as if they did not even have names.

Seven lamps were lit in the temple, but there was not a single person inside. If the person had lit lamps so that Guo DaLu could find this place, why, then, would he also leave?

Guo DaLu gazed all about him, extremely relaxed, as if he was a tourist. In reality, in his heart, how could he not feel nervous? Naturally, the madman did not do all this as a joke. No one would waste all that effort and thought and spend so much money just to play a joke on someone. So now, Guo DaLu could only wait for him to expose his own identity and reveal his motive. That instant was certain to be dangerous and extremely terrifying and perhaps would even be the moment that decided whether Guo DaLu would live or die.

Waiting has always been a very painful thing to have to do, let alone waiting when Guo DaLu did not even know what he was waiting for.

Guo DaLu had just heaved a sigh when a lamp on the altar extinguished suddenly. There was no wind inside. Why would a lamp that was burning perfectly fine all of sudden go out? Puckering his brow, he walked over and carefully examined it for a long while before discovering that the reason why this lamp had suddenly snuffed out was merely because its oil had dried up.

The lamp may have extinguished itself without any help, but beneath the altar, there seemed to be something moving and shaking non-stop. Guo DaLu immediately retreated three steps. “Who is it?” he asked in a low voice.

There was no answer, but the object quivered even more fiercely so that ripples undulated through the cloth covering the altar.

All of a sudden, Guo DaLu dashed over and whipped up the cloth. He paused in surprise.

So late in the night, so desolate a place.

In this spooky, mysterious Dragon King Temple, underneath that worn, old altar was a sixteen or seventeen year old girl, beautiful as a spring flower.

In order to get to this place, Guo DaLu had come across many weird people and encountered many strange events. It could almost be said that he had risked his life for it. No matter how dangerous an ambush or how terrible an enemy was hidden beneath that altar, he still would not have found it strange. However, never in his dreams would he have thought that what he encountered would be a girl like this one.

She was so delicate and petite, so pitiable, and the clothes she wore were very thin. Her entire body was trembling uncontrollably, but it was not known whether it was from cold or from fright. Seeing Guo DaLu, she began shaking even harder. Her arms were wrapped around her chest and her body pulled tightly into a ball. Dread filled those beautiful eyes and they also seemed to plead for mercy as, with great difficulty, she stammered out a few words: “I beg you… Please let me go.”

Guo DaLu was still stunned as he stood there. A long time passed before he could finally speak. “Who are you? What are you doing in a place like this?”

The young girl’s lips were pale as she continued to quaver, “I beg you… Please let me go.” She was so terrified it was as if her soul had flown away. Besides these two phrases, she was not able to say anything else.

With a sigh, Guo DaLu said, “You do not need to beg me. I did not come here to harm you.”

The young girl stared at him, and only after quite a while did she slowly manage to recover her composure. “You… you mean you are not that person?”

Guo DaLu: “Which person?”

Young girl: “The person who kidnapped me here.”

Guo DaLu answered with a wry smile, “Of course not. Don’t you even know yourself who kidnapped you to this place?”

Nibbling on her lip, the girl said, “I… I never saw him.”

Guo DaLu: “Well then, how did you get here?”

The young girl’s eyes grew red, as if she was ready to cry at any moment.

Guo DaLu hurriedly spoke up again, “I told you already that I am not going to hurt you, so you have no need to be afraid now. Just say it slowly. It doesn’t matter.” It would have been better if he had not tried to console her. As soon as he did, the young girl actually covered her face and began sobbing uncontrollably.

Guo DaLu was again at a loss for what he should do. To tell a sixteen or seventeen year old girl to have a good hard cry is something that any man can do successfully. But to be able to successfully tell her to stop crying requires a man who is rich in experience. In this aspect, Guo DaLu’s experience was not enough. And so, he could only watch from off to the side. He did not know how much time elapsed, but at last, with sniffles and hiccoughs, the sounds of her weeping finally died out. Only then could Guo DaLu breathe out in relief. “Do you not know yourself how you got here?” he asked gently.

The young girl was still covering her face with her hands. “I had been asleep. Afterward, when I suddenly awakened, I was already here.”

Guo DaLu: “When you woke up, was there no one else here?”

Young girl: “This place is so dark and cold. I really was terribly frightened. Luckily, I felt a flint on the table…” Sure enough, on the altar was a flint and knife set.

Guo DaLu: “So you lit all the lamps in this place?”

The young girl nodded her head.

At least Guo DaLu understood this one thing now, but he still could not help inquiring, “Since there was no one here just now, why didn’t you seize that opportunity to escape?”

Young girl: “I had originally wanted to try and escape, but once I step out the door, it will be even darker and colder outside and I... I did not even dare take one step out.”

Up until this point, her body had still been trembling gently but at least her words were clear now. A young maiden, whose foot never even stepped beyond the doorway of her home, suddenly awakened to find herself in a deserted temple but still managed not to grow crazy with fright – this was already a miracle.

Guo DaLu gazed at her with eyes full of compassion. Her face was still hidden behind her hands, but she was starting to peep out at Guo DaLu through the spaces between her fingers. Guo DaLu really did not look like a bad person – not only did he not look like one, he wasn’t one.

He had wanted to help her stand up from beneath the table, but just as he stretched out his hand, he immediately retracted it again. Although she appeared petite and delicate, her body was already maturely developed. The clothes she wore really were pitifully thin. Since her hands were already covering her face, they could not be used to cover up other places on her body.

The light was still very bright.

Not only did Guo DaLu dare not stretch out his hand, he did not even allow himself to look.

At that instant, another light went out. The third lamp extinguished even more quickly. It seemed that right from the start, the oil in the lamps had already been nearly exhausted. All of a sudden, all seven lamps were snuffed out. With a squeal of fear, the girl threw herself into Guo DaLu’s arms.

Guo DaLu suddenly found the soft flesh and warm fragrance of a beauty in his embrace, and his heart started beating twice as fast. He immediately warned himself, “You are a man, not an animal. You must not take advantage of other people’s times of difficulty. You must not do that sort of thing. Not only must you not do it, you are not even allowed to think about it; otherwise, you have not just wronged yourself but you will have wronged Yan Qi too.” He reminded himself this in his heart, sincerely wanting to restrain himself. However, there are many parts on a human body that you just cannot control.

The first part was his nose.

The delicate fragrance of a virgin and the sweet scent of her hair flooded him in waves with every breath and bored into his heart.

Plus that warm, soft feeling that was in his embrace.

Plus that god-awful darkness.

“Do not take advantage of a dark room.” These words are so simple to say, but only someone who has personally experienced this situation is able to understand how difficult it actually is to do. Guo DaLu was not a saint, nor was he a god. If one was to say that at this very moment, he was able to completely keep his focus, then that would be a lie. But there was a powerful force that enabled him to control himself. This power was neither a god or anything else but rather, was the sincerity and purity of the feelings that he had for Yan Qi.

He did not push away the young girl. He did not have the heart to. The way this young girl was curled up in his embrace was like a little pigeon that had suffered through countless torments and frights and finally, amid a windy and rain-filled sky, had found a safe place to perch and rest. Guo DaLu lightly hugged her shoulders and said in a soothing voice, “You have no need to be afraid. I will take you back.”

Young girl: “Really?”

Guo DaLu: “Of course, and in fact, I can take you back right now.”

Young girl: “But… you came here in the middle of the night. It must have been for very important matters. How can you set aside your own things just to take me back?”

Guo DaLu gave an inward sigh. Reaching this place had not been easy for him, and to have him just walk away from it was not something he was really willing to do. Perhaps that pock-faced man would be arriving momentarily; perhaps he would have information about Yan Qi shortly.

However, there was no room for choice for him. For a man who is alive in the world, not only must he adhere to “things a man cannot do”, but he should also do the “things a man must do.” The choices that need to be made in the meantime will naturally be very difficult, and moreover, not only will they require courage but also self-confidence to make them.

He patted the girl on the shoulder again. “It is going to be light very soon. If your parents discover that you are missing, they are going to be very worried. If other people find out that you did not go home for an entire night, you don’t even know how much gossip there will be. You are still young now and may not know yet how scary that gossip can be, but I know.” Sometimes, that type of gossip may not only ruin a person’s reputation, it could even ruin her life. As his thoughts lead to this point, Guo DaLu’s resolve became even firmer and he declared determinedly, “And so, I must take you back now.”

The young girl suddenly hugged him tightly. After quite some time, she finally softly said, “You truly are a good person. I have never before seen anyone as good as you.”

“My house is in that lane up ahead, the third one on the right. It is the one with a willow tree growing in front.”

It was very peaceful inside the lane. In the east, the light of early dawn was just starting to show and it shone upon the dew on the bluestone tiles.

“They must not have realized yet that you are missing,” Guo DaLu observed in a quiet voice. “Are you able to sneak back inside without them knowing?”

The young girl nodded. “I can go in through the back door. My room is on that side.”

Guo DaLu advised, “It would be best if you changed the room that you sleep in and have an elderly maidservant with you.” He paused briefly in thought, then added, “These next couple of nights, I will stay nearby at all times and come to check on you. Perhaps I may even be able to help you find out who was the one who kidnapped you.” The early dawn light in the east shone on his face and on his beads of sweat, which seemed as bright and sparkling as the dewdrops. His face also seemed to be glowing.

The young girl lifted her head to gaze up intently at him. “Why haven’t you asked what my name is?” she asked unexpectedly. “Do you really never want to see me again?”

With a forced chuckle, Guo DaLu answered gently, “I am a wanderer and also someone who does as he pleases. If I have interactions with you, people will also gossip about it behind your back.”

Young girl: “I’m not afraid of that.”

Guo DaLu: “But I am afraid.”

She blinked at him. “What are you afraid of?”

Guo DaLu did not give her a reply, only patted her shoulder again and told her, “In the future, you will know what it is I am afraid of. Right now, though, you should be good and go back to your room and have a good sleep. It would best for you if you are able to completely erase this whole incident from your memory.”

The young girl had lowered her head. After a long time, she finally said softly, “When you walk out of this lane, it will be good if you turned right.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

She did not give him an answer to his question either. Raising her head suddenly, she gave a charming smile. “You truly are a good person. Good people will never be lonely.”

The morning fog had risen.

Early morning at the beginning of summer. There was still a slight chill in the air.

Guo DaLu’s heart, though, was warm because he knew he had not wronged or let anyone down – he had not let down those friends of his who were good to him, nor had he let himself down. That is not an easy feat to achieve for anyone, no matter whom it may be.

He lifted his head to the sky, gave a big stretch, and exhaled a lengthy breath. “This day was very long.” Nearly everything that had occurred this day was completely beyond what he had foreseen. That mysterious pock-faced man, that hunchbacked old man who had vanished into the darkness, that one-legged monk with the extremely high martial arts and secretive background, and also that pitiable and lovable young girl – the appearance of these people were also all beyond what he had expected.

He had encountered many dangers and been angered and frustrated, and still he had not been able to obtain any information regarding Yan Qi. But he had reaped some good already. He had not been hoping for any sort of repayment from people when he did what he did, but it had already caused his heart to be flooded with warmth and happiness.

Good people will never be lonely. One who does good deeds will also be blessed.

“When you walk out of this lane, it will be good if you turned right.” Guo DaLu did not know what this was about, but he still did turn to the right.

He immediately discovered something very strange.

End of Chapter 42

Last Updated ( Monday, 11 August 2008 05:17 )