The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 21-25

Chapter 21 Golden scissors silently utter winding ground, treasured hairpin dreams of swallow clinging to a man.

One day the boat reached Qinhuangdao [Hebei]; they came ashore and continued to Beijing. Wei Xiaobao said, “I must think of a way to sneak into the Imperial Palace, but I don’t know which day I will succeed. We all must find a place where we can take shelter.” Quickly Lu Gaoxuan rented a house at the Xuanwu Gate, Hair Alley, in a quiet neighborhood; they moved in immediately.

After settling down, Wei Xiaobao went out alone to the Water Well Alley, to look at Tian Di Hui’s temporary lodging. He saw that the place had been turned into a tea-leaves shop. He tried to ask several questions according to the secret code of the Society, but the man was just staring at him not understanding what he was talking about; obviously the Society had moved out of that place.

Next he strolled around the Heavenly Bridge area, thinking that even if the Eight-arm Ape Xu Tianchuan was also forced to join the Divine Dragon Cult and was no longer at Heavenly Bridge, he might come across the rest of the brethrens like Gao Yanchao, Fan Gang, Qian Laoben and the others. Who would have thought that after strolling back and forth around the Heavenly Bridge several times he unexpectedly did not see anybody he knew. Thereupon he went to Xizhimen [main northwest gate of Beijing], to the inn he stayed at the last time he came to Beijing. He took out three taels of silver and tossed it to the counter, saying that he wanted the best room.

Seeing how liberal he was with money, the innkeeper greeted him very respectfully. Wei Xiaobao took out five more qian, and stuffed it into the inn servant’s hands, insisting that he wanted the Heaven Wing, room number three on the second floor. By coincidence this room was unoccupied, so it can be considered that the servant had made an easy five qian.

Wei Xiaobao drank a cup of tea, then he lay down and closed his eyes to rest. After making sure there was no noise everywhere, he pulled his dagger out and pried the hole on the wall. The copy of sutra Emperor Shunzhi gave him was still nicely tucked inside the hole. He unwrap the oilcloth to inspect the book. Finding nothing out of ordinary, he put the brick back on the wall. Fat Toutuo had become his subordinate; therefore, there was no need for him to summon the Imperial Bodyguards to escort the sutra. Putting the book into his bosom he walked toward the Forbidden City.

When he reached the Palace, the Imperial Bodyguard on duty saw a young man in civilian clothes walking toward the Palace gate; he shouted, “Little fellow, what are you doing?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You don’t recognize me? I am Gui Gonggong of the Palace.”

The Imperial Bodyguard looked at him carefully, and recognized him, it was indeed the Gui Gonggong, His Majesty’s most favored eunuch. Quickly a big smile appeared on his face as he said, “Gui Gonggong, you are wearing this kind of clothes, hee … hee …”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “His Majesty sent me out on an important assignment, I was hurrying to go back and did not have time to change.”

“Yes, yes,” the Imperial Bodyguard said, “Gui Gonggong’s face is glowing with good fortune, naturally this assignment is completed without any trouble at all, His Majesty will definitely reward you handsomely.”

Wei Xiaobao returned to his own residence to change into his eunuch uniform. He wrapped the sutra using a piece of old cloth and then went directly to the Upper Study Room to see the Emperor. As soon as Kangxi heard that Xiao Guizi was seeking an audience, he said delightedly, “Come in quickly, come in quickly.”

Wei Xiaobao quickly entered in and saw Kangxi, filled with joy, was waiting at the inner study room’s door. “Damn it,” he said, “Xiao Guizi, roll in quickly, why have you gone so long this time?” He only said those three character ‘damn it’ [ta ma de] in front of Wei Xiaobao, he had suppressed his desire to say those words for very long.

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down and kowtowed; he said, “Congratulations Your Majesty, it’s an enormous happiness.”

As soon as he heard it, Kangxi knew his Fu Huang [father emperor] was indeed still alive; emotion surged in his heart, his body swayed several times, he reached out to hold the door frame as he said, “Come in and tell me slowly.” His chest ached, tears nearly flowed down his face.

Wei Xiaobao entered the inner study room, turned around to close the door and put on the door bolt. He looked around the bookshelves and after making sure there were no other eunuchs who usually serve the Emperor, he said in a low voice, “Your Majesty, I saw the Old Emperor on Mount Wutai.”

Kangxi grabbed his hand tight; he said in a trembling voice, “Fu Huang … really became a monk on Mount Wutai? He … what did he say?”

Thereupon Wei Xiaobao narrated how he met the Old Emperor in the Qing Liang Temple, how the Tibetan Lama intended to harm the Emperor, how summoning up courage and determination he had rendered his assistance, staking out his life to escort the Emperor, how luckily the Eighteen Luohan of Shaolin had come to their rescue; he told him everything one by one. This matter was already very thrilling, as it was being narrated by Wei Xiaobao, the excitement grew thirty percent, his own loyalty and gallantry grew by fifty percent.

He heard Kangxi was rubbing his cold-sweated hands and repeatedly saying, “How dangerous, how dangerous!” Kangxi also said, “We must send a thousand Imperial Bodyguards immediately to go up the mountain to protect the Emperor.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Most probably the Old Emperor won’t want that.” Thereupon he repeated everything Shunzhi had told him.

Kangxi heard how his father did not want him to go up Mount Wutai, and how he had praised him with these words, “He is a good emperor, thinking about the important matters of the imperial court first, not like me …” He could not bear and broke in loud cry as he wailed, “Definitely I must go, definitely I must go!”

Wei Xiaobao waited until he had cried for a while before he took out the sutra and presented it with both hands, saying, “The Old Emperor wanted me to tell you: ‘In the matters of the world, he must let nature take its course, nothing can be forced. It would be best if he could benefit the common people of the Central Plains. But if the common people wanted us to leave, then from the place we came, there we should come back to.’ The old emperor also wanted me to tell you: ‘If he wants the whole world at peace, ‘never raise taxes’, these four words [yong bu jia fu] should be firmly planted in his mind. If he can accomplish these four words, it is good enough for me, my heart will be happy.'”

Kangxi listened in daze, tears flowing down his face and dripped onto the cloth wrapper of the sutra; with trembling hands he received the bundle, opened up the wrapper, and saw a copy of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’. Turning the cover, he saw on the first page four large characters ‘Never Raise Taxes’ [yong bu jia fu]. The brush stroke was delicate yet supple, it was indeed his father’s handwriting. With a sob he said, “Fu Huang’s admonition, child will never dare to forget.”

He calmed himself down, and then asked in details whether Shunzhi was in good health, how was his appearance now, whether he was suffering greatly in the Qing Liang Temple. Wei Xiaobao reported everything according to the facts. Kangxi was overwhelmed with grieve again and broke out crying.

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao had an idea, “Damn it,” he mused, “I’d better accompany him crying for a while, then he would definitely give me more rewards; tears are free anyway.” As soon as he had that thought, he started to sob, tears flowing copiously from his eyes. ‘Boo hoo hoo …’ the more he cried, the more miserable he sounded.

Although Kangxi’s grief was hard to endure and he cried audibly, but he had a reputation to maintain and must not demean himself, thereupon he constantly tried to suppress his emotion. Wei Xiaobao, on the other hand, intentionally putting an act and wailed loudly. This particular skill was developed when he was still in Yangzhou, and he was quite an expert on this. Before his mother’s feathered bamboo clappers even reached his bottom, he was already crying an earth-shattering cry; moreover, although he was not really crying, but real tears would cascade down his face. It would be very difficult for other people to tell whether he was really crying or not.

Kangxi cried for a while, and then he wiped his tears and asked, “I miss my Fu Huang, hence I cried. But you are crying even sadder than I am; why is that?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “I saw how grieved you are, and I remember the Old Emperor’s gentle affection; he commended me repeatedly, saying that without giving any thought of my own life I protected him. He likes me very much, and thus I feel even more grieved.” While saying that, he did not stop whimpering. He continued, “If I did not know how much you were concerned over this matter and wanted to rush back to report to you, I really wanted to stay on Mount Wutai to attend to the Old Emperor, so that I won’t be worried over bad people bullying him.”

“Xiao Guizi,” Kangxi said, “You are very good, I will definitely reward you heavily.”

Wei Xiaobao’s tears had not stopped flowing; sobbing and sniffling he said, “Your Majesty is already very good to me, I don’t want any reward. I only hope that the Old Emperor is safe and sound, we, as the servants, will be very happy.” On the Divine Dragon Island he had heard people shouting loudly, ‘Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life will be the same as the heaven’s’, and thought nothing of how shameful they were; inevitably his face grew thicker and thicker, his boot-licking skill made a tremendous progress. The more the Cult people wanted to make their Cult Leader happy, the more exaggerated their talk become.

Kangxi, however, accepted his speech as the truth. He said, “I am also deeply concerned that Fu Huang has nobody to attend to him. You said that that Monk Xing Dian is rude and impetuous, he is very clumsy; Fu Huang has no competent people by his side, it really makes me more anxious. Xiao Guizi, it’s beyond my expectation that Fu Huang likes you …”

Hearing this, Wei Xiaobao’s jaw dropped and he could not close it up; while groaning inwardly, “Aiyo! Aiyo! This time Laozi is in a very big trouble; Laozi is blowing my horn a bit too hard.”

He heard Kangxi continued, “… actually, I don’t want to lose you either, but as a son, I have to have filial piety toward my father. Whatever I have in my hands, always give the best to my father. You are my most competent subordinate; although you are young, you are actually very competent, and very loyal and devoted to us, father and son …”

Wei Xiaobao cried out in his heart, “Obedient my @ss! Mother! You send laozi to Mount Wutai to accompany the old monk, it’s the same as sending me to prison.”

Sure enough, he heard Kangxi continue, “Let’s do it this way: you go to Mount Wutai, be a monk at the Qing Liang Temple and take care of my Fu Huang …”

Wei Xiaobao realized the urgency of the situation: not only he had to accompany the old monk, he himself must become a little monk; the situation was far from encouraging, nothing could be worse than that. Thereupon without waiting for Kangxi to finish, he hastily said, “Taking care of the Old Emperor is very good, but you want me to be a monk, this … I don’t want to!”

Smiling slightly, Kangxi said, “I did not mean for you to be a monk forever. It’s just that Fu Huang has wholeheartedly decided to meditate; if you become a monk, it will be somewhat more convenient to serve him. In the future …. in the future, if you want to leave the monastic order, it will be up to you.” The implication was clear: someday Shunzhi would grow old and die [the original world denotes ‘the dying of Buddhist monk or nun’], if at that time you don’t want to be monk anymore, nobody can stop you.

It does not matter if Wei Xiaobao had a hundred excuses, right now he had his hands bound and was unable to do anything about it. Although he knew that the young emperor was very good to him, since the Emperor had issued an order, if Wei Xiaobao resolutely refused to go, not only his previous merit would go down the drain, the Emperor might become hostile to him and immediately had his head chopped off; now that would not be fun. Thereupon he sullenly said, “I … I hate to part with you … Wah …!” he broke into crying. But this time it was not a fake cry, he was crying for real. Only it was not because he was loyal to his lord or he loved his master, but because he really did not want to be a little monk.

Kangxi was greatly moved; he gently patted Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder and warmly said, “How about this: you become a monk for several years, serve my Fu Huang well. Later I will send someone else to take your place so that you can return to my side; won’t that be good? Fu Huang does not allow me to have audience with him, I simply cannot come to him. It does not have to be too long before you can come back and see me again. Xiao Guizi, be a good boy and listen to me, in the future I will make you a good government official.”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao did not stop crying, he said consolingly, “When you have time in the temple, you may study and learn to read, so that when you take an official post someday, you can be a high-ranking official.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Whether I be a government official in the future or not, it does not damn matter, but right now, I am afraid me being a little monk has already been decided.” But then he had a second thought, “If I go to Mount Wutai, I can talk nonsense and making a ruckus so that the Old Emperor will let me go; I think it won’t be difficult. I will say that without me serving the young emperor, he does not feel like eating, this time I left him for a month or two, he already lost several catties and grew thin. The Old Emperor cherishes his son, certainly he would send me back to the Palace.”

With this plan formed in his mind, he slowly stopped crying. He said, “Whatever mission you send me, I will go through water and tread on fire for you, under no circumstances I will decline. Let’s not say being a monk, even if you ask me to be a turtle son of a b1tch, I will gladly do it. Your Majesty, set your heart at ease, I will definitely do my utmost to serve the Old Emperor, to make him, the Senior, strong and healthy, that he will reach a hundred years … and … and enjoy the immortal good fortune forever, his long-life will be the same as the heavens.”

Kangxi was greatly delighted; he laughed and said, “You left Beijing for several months, unexpectedly your knowledge also progressed, your use of the idiom is not bad. Why did you tarry on Mount Wutai for so long? It was not easy to meet the Old Emperor, was it?”

Wei Xiaobao thought that it would be best if he did not say anything about the Divine Dragon Island. “That’s right,” he replied, “No matter what, the Abbot of Qing Liang Temple, also that Old Yulin Fashi, did not want to admit that the Old Emperor was in the Temple, while I felt it was inappropriate to point it out bluntly; I had no choice but to rove around at another temple on the mountain while thinking of a plan. Today I went to Xian Tong Temple to perform sacrifice, tomorrow I go to Fo Guang Temple to feed the starving ghosts. From among several thousand big monks, little monks on Mount Wutai, I know at least a thousand of them. If not for those evil Lama coming to harass the Old Emperor, perhaps I would still be donating Buddhist robes and vegetarian meals even today.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “You must have spent a lot of money! To get reimbursement of your expense, go to the office of the internal affairs.” He did not even ask the amount, thinking that Wei Xiaobao had already set up great merit, plus he was willing to be a little monk; he thought that even if Wei Xiaobao wanted to embezzle some money, he would simply let him.

Unexpectedly Wei Xiaobao said, “To tell Your Majesty the truth, the last time you sent me to search and seize Oboi’s home, your servant had already taken quite a bit of advantage. At that time I was embarrassed to report to you, so this time I went to Mount Wutai, after seeing the Old Emperor and receiving the Senior’s lesson, I understand that I must not commit any dishonesty toward Your Majesty, thereupon I donated all the money I previously acquired to the temple. Just consider your servant is helping Your Majesty to amass secret virtue, hoping that Bodhisattva will bless and protect, so that the Old Emperor and Your Majesty will reunite sooner. That money originally belonged to Your Majesty, you do not need to reimburse me.” He thought that if you, father and son, reunite sooner, the time I have to become a little monk would be reduced by several days; while at the same time he was covering his own back, just in case someday someone lodged an accusation against him by saying that during the search of Oboi’s home he embezzled a huge sum of money, then he would say, “I have already donated the money on Mount Wutai on your behalf, what else do you want to investigate about?”

When Kangxi heard this, he was even happier; he nodded his head repeatedly and asked, “Is Mount Wutai fun?” Immediately Wei Xiaobao described the scenery of Mount Wutai. Kangxi listened with keen interest; he said, “Xiao Guizi, you go first, I will come soon. We have to think of a way to get Fu Huang back to the Palace. If the Senior is determined not to return to normal life and regain the throne, he could meditate in the Palace; won’t that be the same?”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “I am afraid that would be very difficult …”

Suddenly they heard the sound of boots outside the door, followed by a sharp and clear female voice calling out, “Huangdi Gege [Older brother the Emperor], why didn’t you come to have a martial art competition with me?” While saying that, ‘bang, bang bang!’ she knocked the door as hard as she could.

Kangxi’s face showed a faint smile as he said, “Open the door.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Who is that? Could it be she is Princess Jianning?” Walking to the door, he lifted up the bolt and opened the door.

Like a whirlwind a girl wearing crimson embroidered clothes rushed in; she said, “Huangdi Gege, I have waited for a long time, you did not show up. You must be afraid of me, aren’t you?”

Wei Xiaobao saw this girl was approximately fifteen, with an oval face and thin lips, her facial feature showed that she was quick-witted, there was a hint of heroic spirit in her mannerism.

Kangxi laughed and said, “Who’s afraid of you? I’ll say you can’t even beat my disciple, you are not even worthy to fight me.”

The young girl was surprised. “You have received a disciple?” she asked, “Who is it?”

Kangxi winked his left eye to Wei Xiaobao and said, “This is my disciple, Xiao Guizi; his martial art came from me.” Turning to Wei Xiaobao he said, “Quickly pay your respect to your Shigu [martial aunt] Princess Jianning.”

“Indeed she is Princess Jianning,” Wei Xiaobao mused. He knew that the Old Emperor fathered six daughters; five died in childhood, only this princess grew up. [Author’s note: Actually, Princess Jianning was Qing Taizong’s[1] daughter, or Shunzhi’s younger sister. The title Head Princess Jianning was bestowed only during Kangxi’s sixteenth year. Shunzhi’s daughter, Princess Heshuo, was actually Kangxi’s older sister, who married Oboi’s nephew. But in this novel, everything does not necessarily have to fit with historical fact; scholars and well-learned people do not need to perform an in-depth investigation.] She was the daughter of the Empress Dowager. Wei Xiaobao was extremely afraid of the Empress Dowager, normally he would not go to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful, while the Princess had never been to the Emperor’s study room. Consequently, today was the first time that they met each other.

Listening to Kangxi, Wei Xiaobao knew that the brother and sister loved to play around; thereupon he readily complied to please them. With a tee-hee giggle he stepped forward to pay his respect, “Shizhi [martial nephew] Xiao Guizi kowtowed in salute to senior Shigu; wishing Shigu ten thousand golden good fortunes …”

Princess Jianning also giggled; but suddenly her foot flew up and hit Wei Xiaobao right on his chin. This kick arrived without the least bit or warning, Wei Xiaobao was bending one leg, bowing in front of her foot, how could he evade? He had not finished speaking, his chin suddenly got heavy kicked; his lower jaw closed, biting his own tongue. “Ah!” he cried out in severe pain. When he opened his mouth, fresh blood streamed down the front of his lapel.

Kangxi was shocked. “You … you …” he stammered.

Princess Jianning laughed and said, “Huangdi Gege, your disciple’s martial art skill is totally useless; I kicked him to test his skill, unexpectedly he could not evade. I think your own martial art skill is more or less just like this.” Finished speaking, she giggled happily.

Wei Xiaobao was furious, in his heart he cursed several dozen times, ‘stinky little mother, rotten little miss’; but in the Palace, Princess was his master, how could he dare to curse openly even for a word?

Expressing his sympathy, Kangxi asked Wei Xiaobao, “How is it? Your tongue is bitten? Is it very painful?”

With a forced laughed Wei Xiaobao replied, “Not too bad, not too bad!” But since his tongue was bitten, he could not talk clearly.

Copying his voice, Princess Jianning said, “Not too bad, not too bad! Most of my life has gone bad!” And then she broke out in laughter. Pulling Kangxi’s hand, she said, “Come on, let’s have a martial art match.”

When the Empress Dowager taught Kangxi martial art earlier, Princess Jianning was watching with keen interest, so she nagged at her mother to teach her as well, and the Empress Dowager taught her a little bit. Seeing her mother was half-hearted, only taught her with far less attention she gave to her brother, in her desire to outdo others, she went to the Palace’s Imperial Bodyguards and asked them to teach her boxing. Learning several moves from the east, training several styles from the west, she had been practicing diligently for two, three years, unexpectedly she made some progress.

These past several days she had learned several moves of qin na [grab and capture/grappling] techniques and had tested the new skill against the Imperial Bodyguards. Naturally everybody was yielding to her, they all put on an act and the little princess managed to rout them out completely. Yet she knew these Imperial Bodyguards were trying to make her happy, and was dissatisfied instead, thereupon she came to her Huangdi Gege to get him to have a martial art match with her.

Kangxi has not had any sparring with Wei Xiaobao for quite a long time, his hands and feet were itching, so he agreed to indulge his imperial younger sister and happened to have a match with her once. The two of them sparred in the small palace hall. Kangxi was half-hearted, half yielding and half serious; from five rounds, he won four. Princess Jianning was unbearably angry; she came back to her mother and badgered her to teach her some new moves.

The Empress Dowager was just recovering from her heavy injury, her vitality had not yet returned, so she expelled her out. Princess Jianning had no alternative but went to find Imperial Bodyguards again and learned qin na some more, and made an appointment with Kangxi today to have a match.

Unexpectedly Wei Xiaobao returned to the Palace and had a long talk, so that Kangxi forgot about this martial art match altogether. Obtaining news about his father emperor, Kangxi had mixed feelings of grief and joy, his heart and spirit were perturbed, how could he have any interest to play with his sister? He said, “Right now I have a very important matter to attend to, I don’t have time to play with you. Go and train some more, we will have a match in a few days.”

Knitting her pair of curved eyebrows Princess Jianning said, “When the heroes of Jianghu made an appointment for a martial art competition, they are dead set on not leaving until they meet. You don’t come to keep your appointment, won’t you be the laughingstock of the warriors under the heavens? You don’t come to have the match; that means you admit defeat.” It was the Jianghu’s custom, which she learned from the Imperial Bodyguards.

“Alright,” Kangxi said, “Just consider I concede. Princess Jianning’s martial art skill is number one in the world, punching the fierce tiger of the southern mountain and kicking the legendary dragon [orig. ‘legendary dragon with the ability to control rain and floods’] of the northern sea.”

Princess Jianning laughed and said, “Kicking the caterpillar of the northern sea!” Her foot flew up again toward Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao leaned sideways to evade; her foot kicked empty air.

She knew that the Emperor was not willing to have a martial art match with her today, while the Imperial Bodyguards were all tall and powerfully built, if she fought them for real, she knew she was not their match. This little eunuch, both in terms of age and height, was about the same as she was, plus his movement was very agile, he was just the right person to test her martial art skill. “Alright!” she said, “Your Shifu is scared of me, he does not dare to fight me. You come with me.”

Kangxi had always been very fond of this vivacious and witty younger sister, he could not bear to sweep down her excitement. “Xiao Guizi,” he ordered, “Go accompany the Princess to play, tomorrow you may wait on me again.”

Princess Jianning suddenly shouted, “Huangdi Gege, en garde!” She threw both fists toward Kangxi’s temples [orig. ‘sun’ acupoints] in ‘bell and drum sounding simultaneously’.

“Good move!” Kangxi called out. He raised one hand to block, while turning his wrist and leaning sideways, executing the move ‘pushing the window to look at the moon’, pushing her back lightly. The Princess staggered and tumbled several steps forward.

“Pfft!” Wei Xiaobao stifled his laughter.

The Princess’ shame turned into anger, “Dead eunuch,” she cursed, “What are you laughing at?” Reaching out, she grabbed his right ear and dragged him out of the study room. If Wei Xiaobao really wanted to evade, the Princess would not be able to catch him, but in the end he did not dare to be rude and had no choice but to let her twist his ear.

Still twisting his ear Princess Jianning dragged him along the corridor. Outside the study room stood a large number of Imperial Bodyguards and eunuchs who were serving the Emperor. Seeing the two people, no one did not find it amusing, but being afraid of Wei Xiaobao’s power and influence, nobody dared to laugh audibly.

“Alright, alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let me go; wherever you want to go, I’ll come with you.”

The Princess said, “You are the leader of a gang of bandits who were running amuck lawlessly; today I managed to catch you, how can I easily let you go? I will seal your acupoint first and then we’ll talk.” Stretching out her forefinger, she stabbed Wei Xiaobao’s chest and lower abdomen several times. She did not know how to seal acupoints, naturally these several stabs were merely random poking.

Wei Xiaobao cried out loudly, “My acupoints are sealed!” He dropped sitting down, acted stunned, and thus motionless.

The Princess was startled but delighted. She lightly kicked him, Wei Xiaobao did not budge. The Princess shouted, “Get up!” Wei Xiaobao was still motionless. The Princess still thought that she accidentally did seal his acupoints; she said, “Let me unseal your acupoints!” She gave his lower back a kick.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “If this stinky little mother sees that she can’t unseal my acupoints, she will kick me again.” Thereupon he cried out, “Ah!” and sprang up and said, “Princess, your acupoint sealing skill is excellent, I am afraid even His Majesty cannot do it.”

“You, this little eunuch, is very crafty and sly,” the Princess said, “Since when do I know how to seal acupoints?” However, seeing his well-intention to please her, she was happy. “Come with me!” she said.

Wei Xiaobao went along with her, to the room where he and Kangxi used to have their martial art competition in the former days. “Bolt the door,” the Princess said, “Don’t let anybody steal my boxing style.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, while in his heart he mused, “Just with your meager martial art skill, who would want to steal your boxing style?” Immediately he turned toward the door and closed it. The princess picked up the door bolt, as if she was going to give it to him, but suddenly there was a loud ‘Bang!’ on Wei Xiaobao’s ear, with a severe pain on the top of his head, he passed out instantly.

When he regained his consciousness, he opened his eyes and saw the Princess was standing in front of him with arms akimbo, grinning, “What a good-for-nothing trash. People who learn martial art will pay particular attention to the eyes watching the six pathways and the ears listening to eight directions. I struck you this time, why didn’t you guard against it? What kind of martial art did you learn?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I … I … I …” he felt a splitting headache; suddenly he realized his left eye was wet and sticky, he could not open this eye. His nose smelled blood, and suddenly it dawned on him that he had been struck with the door bolt that his head was broken and his blood flowing.

The Princess waved the door bolt in front of him and shouted, “If you have guts, quickly get up.” ‘Whoosh!’ she swung the door bolt toward his shoulder.

“Ah!” Wei Xiaobao cried out and sprang up.

The Princess swept the door bolt horizontally, aiming toward his leg’s bone. Wei Xiaobao sidestepped while reaching out to snatch the door bolt away.

“Good move!” the Princess called out. The door bolt went up, fiercely jabbing the pit of his stomach. Wei Xiaobao dodged to the left, unexpectedly the door bolt made a turn and ‘Bang!’ it hit his right cheek heavily.

Wei Xiaobao saw golden stars dancing randomly before his eyes, he staggered several steps. The Princess called out, “You are a big bandit of Lulin [Lit. ‘green wood’ – a reference to the criminal world], I must exterminate you immediately.” The door bolt swept across violently, Wei Xiaobao threw himself onto the floor. The Princess was greatly delighted, she raised the door bolt and heavily swung it toward the back of his head.

Wei Xiaobao only heard the strong and swift wind at the back of his head. In his shock, he quickly rolled away. ‘Bang!’ the door bolt struck the floor. “Aiyo!” the Princess cried out. She had used too much force that the door bolt jolted the palm of her hand and gave her severe pain. In her rage, she kicked his waist as hard as she could.

“I surrender! I surrender!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, “Don’t hit me!”

The door bolt shot down, this time the Princess hit his lower abdomen. ‘Crack!’ luckily it hit the Five Dragon Command hidden inside Wei Xiaobao’s pocket. Wei Xiaobao was just about to spring up, but was thrown down again.

Again and again the Princess swung the door bolt trying to hit him, while cursing in rage, “Dead eunuch, I want to hit you, you dare to evade?” Although her strength was not too big, she was dealing with Wei Xiaobao without any leniency, as if she wanted to beat him to death on the spot.

Wei Xiaobao was scared and angry at the same time, he did everything he could to turn around and leap. The Princess raised her door bolt directly toward his face. Wei Xiaobao raised his left hand to block. ‘Crack!’ the bone of his arm nearly broke. His mind was racing, “Obviously Princess is not playing with me, why would she want to kill me? Ah, right, she must be under the Empress Dowager’s order to take my life!” Thinking to this point, he no longer wanted to allow her to beat him. Stretching out the two fingers of his right hand, he swiftly aimed the Princess’ eyeballs using the move ‘a pair of dragons fights over a pearl’.

“Aiyo!” the Princess cried out and took a step backward. Wei Xiaobao swept away with his left foot, the Princess hit the ground head first. “Dead eunuch,” she yelled, “You hit me for real?”

Wei Xiaobao clamped his hands over the door bolt and seized it, he wanted to strike the top of her head, but seeing the fear in her eyes mixed with anger on her face, he was startled, “This is the inner courtyard of the Imperial Palace, once my door bolt strike down, it will be a matter of treason and heresy. Unless I kill her and use transforming corpse powder to pulverize her, it will cause no end of trouble.” With this slight hesitation, the door bolt in his hand stopped midair.

“Dead eunuch,” the Princess cursed, “Pull me up.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “She really want to kill me, but it won’t be easy.” Instantly he reached down to pull her up.

The Princess said, “Your martial art skill is not as good as mine, it’s just that I was not careful and I tripped; that’s all. Just now you called out you want to surrender, why did you hit me? As a real man, why didn’t you keep Wulin’s custom?”

Wei Xiaobao’s forehead was drenched with blood, it covered his eyes. He reached up to wipe it with his sleeve. The Princess laughed and said, “You lost, such a useless thing. Come, let me wipe the blood off you.” From her bosom she took out a snow white handkerchief, and took several steps closer.

Wei Xiaobao took a step back and said, “Your servant does not dare to accept the honor.”

The Princess said, “As the heroes and warriors of Jianghu, we must enjoy blessings and endure misfortune together.” She then used her handkerchief to wipe the bloodstain on his face.

Wei Xiaobao could smell a delicate fragrance coming out of her body; his heart was slightly shaken. Right now the two of them stood very close to each other, he could see her beautiful face and very fair skin; he thought, “This little princess is actually very pretty!”

The Princess said, “Turn around, let me have a look at the wound at the back of your head.”

Following her instruction, Wei Xiaobao turned around, thinking, “Previously I was over suspicious; turns out the little princess is really playing, it’s just that her desire to outdo others is too strong, when making her move, she did not realize the gravity of things.”

The Princess gently ran her hand over the wound at the back of his head; she asked with a laugh, “Is it really painful?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Not bad …” Suddenly there was a sharp pain on Wei Xiaobao’s back, she swept his feet away and sent him tumbling down on the floor. Turned out the Princess quietly took out a short dagger she had hidden inside her small boot and caught him off guard with a sneak attack.

Her left foot treaded on his back, she raised her blade and stabbed his left and right legs. And then she laughed and said, “Is it really painful? Since you said ‘not bad’, I added several stabs with my dagger.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly astonished; he groaned inwardly, “Laozi is about to die!” His back was protected by the treasured clothes he was wearing, the blade could not stab him there, the cuts on his legs were not serious injury, but the pain made him hover between life and death. He wanted to unleash the second move ‘Little Lian lies in disarray’, which was taught by Madame Hong, to escape, but because of his previous injury, he did not have any strength. Besides, he had not trained this move to perfection. He struggled hard trying to crawl in between her legs toward her back, but his movement was way too slow, he had just started moving when his buttocks suffered another stab. He heard her giggling as she said, “Is it really painful?”

“Very painful,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Princess’ martial art skill is superior, your servant is not the Senior’s match. The … heroes of Jianghu, the great warriors, after they seize people, they would definitely spare their lives.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Capital offence might be forgiven, but living hell is difficult to spare.” Squatting down, she sat on his buttocks and shouted, “If you move, I will stab you dead immediately.”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your servant cannot move half an inch.” But the Princess happened to sit right on the wound; he could not bear not to groan loudly.

The Princess loosened his belt and used it to bind his legs together, and then using the dagger she cut the front piece of his jacket and used it to bind his hands together. She laughed and said, “You are my prisoner, we are going to practice a new move, called … called ‘Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times’.” Everybody in the imperial family of Manchurian Qing was very familiar with the stories of the ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’; in fact, she had read the story three times.

Wei Xiaobao had also seen the play of this story; “Yes, yes,” he hastily said, “Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times and released him seven times; Princess Jianning captures Xiao Guizi, but she has caught him only once and released him only once. If you release me, I am not going to revolt against you. Compared to Zhuge Liang, you are seven times more formidable.”

“That won’t do!” the Princess said, “Zhuge Liang must burn down the rattan-armored troops.”

Wei Xiaobao was scared out of his wits; he hastily said, “Your servant does not … does not wear rattan armor.”

The Princess laughed and said, “In that case, burning your clothes is just the same.”

“No, don’t! You can’t do that!” Wei Xiaobao shouted.

The Princess angrily said, “What do you mean I can’t do that? Zhuge Liang wanted to burn, he just burned, the rattan-armored troops did not have anything to say.” Seeing a candlestick and a fire-blade flint next to it on the table, she immediately made fire and lighted the candle.

Wei Xiaobao screamed, “Zhuge Liang did not burn Meng Huo to death. You want to burn me to death. You are not Zhuge Liang, you are Cao Cao!”

The Princess grasped the corner of his clothes with her fingers; she was just about to light it with the candle flame when suddenly she saw his glossy and shining black braided hair, she had an idea, and used the candle flame to light the tail of his braided hair.

Hair is extremely easy to catch fire. As soon as it was lighted, it immediately burned, making a ‘chi, chi’ sound. A burning smell filled the room. Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his soul flew to the outer sky. “Help, help!” he cried out, “Cao Cao is burning Zhuge Liang to death!”

Grasping the root of his pigtail, the Princess swung it back and forth while laughing heartily and said, “It’s a torch, it’s much more amusing.” In the blink of an eye the flame burned toward the head. The Princess let it off her hand. In an instant Wei Xiaobao’s head would caught fire. In this desperate situation, his strength suddenly increased greatly. He struggled free and rammed his head toward the Princess’ bosom.

“Aiyo!” the Princess cried out, it was too late for her to dodge, Wei Xiaobao had already struck her lower abdomen, unexpectedly the flame on his head died out. With both hands the Princess swatted the ashes and burning hair from her clothes, her lower abdomen felt very painful. She was startled and frightened at the same time, and raised her foot to kick several times randomly on Wei Xiaobao’s head. After a few kicks, Wei Xiaobao fainted.

In his daze, Wei Xiaobao felt severe pain on the wounds all over his body. When he regained his consciousness, he realized he was lying on his back on the floor. His chest was bare, his clothes, vest, and undergarments were unexpectedly undone. The Princess, with her left hand holding some kind of white powder, was cutting a three, four fen [about one, one and a third centimeter] deep cut on his chest using her short dagger, and then scattered the white powder on the wound. “What are you doing?” Wei Xiaobao screamed.

The Princess laughed and said, “The Imperial Bodyguards told me that when they capture bandit or evil thief and the thief did not confess, they would put salt on his wound. The thief would then scream for his life and he would definitely confess. Therefore, I brought along this salt to especially deal with you, a Jianghu big thief.”

Wei Xiaobao felt his wounds were throbbing with pain; he screamed, “Help! Help! I confess, I confess!”

The Princess giggled and said, “You are useless; you readily confess, where’s the fun in that? You should say: ‘Today laozi has fallen into your hands, you want to kill me, you want to cut me into pieces, if I frown I am not a real man.’ I’ll cut some more wounds and put a bit more salt on you. And then you can beg for your life; now that should be interesting.”

Wei Xiaobao was furious. “Damn it,” he cursed, “You are a stinky little mother … hey, hey, I wasn’t cursing you; I … I am not a real man. I confess, I confess!”

The Princess sighed. She was about to throw the salt away when suddenly she had a second thought; scattering the salt to his wounds, she grimly said, “I am the Zhangmen [sect leader/head master] of Jianning Pai [Sect], my martial art skill is number one in the world. I have just captured this big bandit who does not shrink from any crime …”

“Alright, alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am the big pirate of the rivers and oceans, today my skill is inferior to others, and am being caught by the Zhangmen of Jianning Pai, whose martial art skill is number one in the world, my lot is death, not life. The saying in the Jianghu is right: It’s all exaggeration, you don’t need to take it seriously. Since zaixia has already submitted, so be it.”

Hearing him speaking the Jianghu lingo, which was similar to what Zhang Kangnian and the other Imperial Bodyguards had told her, the Princess was very happy. “Now you are talking,” she praised, “Since we want to pretend, we must do it properly.”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao cursed ‘stinky little mother, rotten little miss’; he felt like the pain he suffered had entered his bone and marrows. In that instant he could not tell whether she had received the Empress Dowager’s order to take his life, or she was simply imitating the way of life of Jianghu’s heroes. He thought that this stinky little mother was so vicious; even if she was simply playing with me, laozi‘s life would be gone under her hands for sure. Suddenly he recalled the effective scheme he played on Mu Jianping when he was trying to threaten her: young misses are always afraid of ghosts. Thereupon he suppressed his pain and said, “On second thought, Laozi does not want to submit. Senior Master Zhangmen, if you have guts, let me go, we’ll compete again. If you are afraid of Laozi‘s superior martial art skill and do not dare to fight with me, then kill me with a stab of your dagger. I will die in injustice and become a ghost; I will follow behind your back during the day, and will enter your quilt during the night, to grip your neck and suck your blood …”

“Ah!” the Princess screamed. “Why would I want to kill you?” she said in a trembling voice.

“Quickly let me go, then,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“I won’t let you go!” the Princess said, “Dead eunuch, you scared me.” Picking up the candlestick, she put the flame on his face.

As soon as the flame made contact with the face, there was a ‘chi’ sound; Wei Xiaobao suffered a terrible pain, he threw he head backward and used his right shoulder to bump her arm as hard as he could. The Princess’ arm was jolted, the candlestick fell to the ground and the flame died instantly. In her anger, she picked up the door bolt again, and swung it toward the back of his head.

Wei Xiaobao’s pain was unbearable; he was extremely terrified, “This time I won’t live anymore,” he thought, and cried out loudly, “I am dead.” Pretending to be dead, he lay down motionless.

The Princess was angry, “You pretend to be dead!” she said, “Quickly wake up, accompany me playing!” Wei Xiaobao did not move at all. The Princess lightly kicked his foot. Seeing he did not budge the least bit, she said in a gentle voice, “Alright, I won’t hit you anymore, please don’t die.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “When I am dead, I am dead; how could I not die? Dog’s fart nonsense.”

The Princess tore off the precious hairpin for her hair and poked his face and neck several times. Wei Xiaobao tried hard not to move. The Princess said in gentle voice, “Please, please … don’t … don’t scare me. I … I did not mean to kill you, I only wanted to have a martial art match and fight with you, who told you … who told you to be that useless and unable to defeat me …” Suddenly she realized that there was a very light sound of breathing coming from Wei Xiaobao’s nose, she was very happy; reaching out toward his chest, she felt that his heart was still beating. She laughed and said, “Dead eunuch, turns out you are not dead yet. This time I’ll spare you. Quickly open your eyes.”

Wei Xiaobao was still motionless. But the Princess did not fall into his trick; she shouted, “I’ll dig your eyes, so that after you are dead, you will become a blind ghost and can’t find me.” Picking up the short dagger, she placed the tip of the dagger on his right eyelid.

Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he rolled away to evade immediately. The Princess angrily said, “Spoiled little demon, you scared me. I … I must prick your eyes blind.” Leaping over, she stretched her foot and slammed it onto his chest, while raising her dagger and jabbed it toward his right eye. This time she was not pretending, she threw her body along to increase the momentum of the stab. If Wei Xiaobao was hit, not only his eye would be blinded, undoubtedly the dagger would be thrust straight into his brain.

Wei Xiaobao hurriedly bent his legs and struck her chest with his knees. ‘Bang!’ the Princess staggered and slowly fell down. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, bending his body over, he extracted the dagger from his boot and cut the cloth binding his legs first. As soon as he was able to stand, he kicked the top of the Princess’ head heavily, to make sure that she would not awake for a while. Only then did he stick the dagger into the table’s leg, turned around, and gently ran the belt binding his hands over the edge of the blade. He only needed to run the belt twice, and it was instantly cut.

He heaved a deep sigh; after a narrow escape, his heart was unspeakably happy, momentarily the painful wounds all over his body were forgotten. He thought, “How am I going to handle this stinky little mother? This is an extremely difficult matter. Listening to her tone, apparently she really wanted to play with me; if she received the Emperor Dowager’s order to take my life, why would she be afraid to see I pretended to be dead? But if this is merely child’s play, why would she have to be that vicious? Ah, I get it: she is the Princess, she has never considered eunuchs and palace maids as humans; people die or live, she does not care, in her eyes, it’s like pinching an ant.”

The more he thought, the angrier he was, and he landed another kick on her chest. Unexpectedly, this kick had opened up the breathing passage that was blocked before. The Princess moaned softly and woke up. She slowly propped herself up while cursing, “Dead eunuch, you …”

Wei Xiaobao was still angry, he reached out and slapped her face twice, and punched her chest once; still not enough, his right foot swept across, the Princess tumbled down again. Wei Xiaobao leaped and sat astride her back, and then, like beating a drum, his fists kept punching her legs, her back, her buttocks, as hard as he could, while shouting, “Dead little mother, stinky little mother, daughter of a wh0re, Laozi is going to beat you to death.”

“Don’t hit, don’t hit!” the Princess yelled, “You are not following the rule, I am going to have the Empress Dowager kill you, I will have … have the Emperor kill you, to … to put you to death by a thousand cuts.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart turned cold; his hands immediately stopped moving. But then he had a second thought, “I will keep beating you, you might as well enjoy it.” Moving his fists, he started beating her again, while cursing, “Laozi f*ck your eighteen-generation ancestors, I will beat you, stinky little mother, to death!”

After being beaten several times, suddenly the Princess giggled. Wei Xiaobao was greatly surprised, “I beat her this hard, how come she did not cry, but she is laughing instead?” he thought. He pulled the dagger from the table leg and pointed it to her neck, with his left hand he turned her body over and shouted, “What are you laughing at?”

He saw her silk-like brows and eyes, there was a smiling expression on her face, as if she was really happy, so she was not pretending at all. With a tender voice she said, “Don’t hit too hard, but don’t hit me too light either.”

Wei Xiaobao was unable to make any sense of it; he was afraid she would suddenly play a trick on him, so he planted his right foot firmly on her chest and shouted, “Whatever trick you are playing on me, Laozi will not fall into it.”

The Princess struggled, while making grunting noise, twice, with her nose, as if she wanted to spring up. “Don’t move!” Wei Xiaobao shouted. He pushed her forehead, hard, the Princess fell back down instantly.

Wei Xiaobao felt his wounds were throbbing with pain, his rage was blazing again. ‘Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!’ he slapped her face left and right four times. The Princess moaned a few more times, her chest was heaving up and down, the expression on her face was that of an unspeakable pleasure. “Dead eunuch,” she said softly, “Don’t hit my face. If you injure my face and the Empress Dowager asked about it, I am afraid I cannot conceal it from her.”

“Stinky little mother,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “You rebellious s1ut, the more you are beaten the happier you are, right?” Reaching out, he heavily pinched and twisted her left arm, twice. “Aiyo, aiyo!” the Princess cried out; her eyebrows were knitted, but there was a smiling expression in her eyes.

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Does it feel good?” The Princess did not reply. Slowly she closed her eyes, but suddenly her foot flew up, kicking Wei Xiaobao’s thigh, right on the dagger cut earlier.

Feeling severe pain, Wei Xiaobao threw himself onto her shoulder and violently pinched and twisted her arms, shoulder, chest, and abdomen. The Princess giggled incessantly and cried out, “Dead eunuch, little eunuch, good gong-gong, good Gege, please spare me, I … I can’t take it anymore.”

Her voice was so tender that Wei Xiaobao’s heart was shaken; he thought, “Her cry sounds just like Miss Fang when she was pleading to me on the boat.” His anger greatly subsided, but as for her real intention, he really had no idea; therefore, copying her action earlier [orig. ‘draw a gourd from the model’ – to copy something mechanically without attempt at originality.], he loosened her belt and bound her hands and feet.

The Princess laughed and said, “Dead little demon, what are you doing?”

“So that you won’t get any bad idea of harming others,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He stood up with a labored breathing, his body was hurting all over that he felt he was about to pass out.

The Princess laughed and said, “Xiao Guizi, I had so much fun playing with you today. Are you going to hit me again?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “If you don’t hit me first, how could I dare to hit you?”

“I can’t move,” the Princess said, “If you want to hit me, there is nothing I can do.”

Wei Xiaobao spat and said, “You are not a princess, you are a s1ut.” And then he kicked her bottom again.

“Aiyo!” the Princess cried out, “Are we still playing?”

“Most of Laozi‘s life has gone from your playing; why would I want to continue playing?” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Right now I am Zhuge Liang, I want to burn down the rattan-armored troops, I am going to burn your hair and your clothes.”

“You must not burn my hair …” the Princess said anxiously. Suddenly she giggled and said, “It’s alright for you to burn my clothes; even if you burn me until my body blisters, I am not scared.”

“Pei!” Wei Xiaobao spat, “You are not afraid of death, Laozi will not accompany you return to heaven. I must go to tend to my injuries, you have put salt on my wounds, do you think it is fun?” It was only now that he was convinced that the Princess really did not have any intention to kill him; thereupon he loosened the belt binding her hands and feet.

“You really don’t want to play anymore?” the Princess asked, “How about tomorrow?” There was earnestness in her voice.

“If the Empress Dowager and His Majesty found out,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Do you think I will still live?”

The Princess slowly stood up; she said, “As long as I did not say anything, how could the Empress Dowager and His Majesty find out? Tomorrow you must not hit my face. More bruises on my body are not a big deal.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “I can’t come tomorrow. You have beaten me really bad. One or two months will not be enough for me to recuperate from my wounds.”

“Humph,” the Princess snorted, “You won’t come tomorrow? Just now you curse me what? You said you were going to f*ck my eighteen-generation ancestors. My eighteen-generation ancestors are exactly Huangdi Gege‘s eighteen-generation ancestors, my Emperor Grandpa’s seventeen-generation ancestors, Taizong Huangdi‘s [posthumous name given to the second emperor of a dynasty] sixteen-generation ancestors, Taizu Huangdi‘s [posthumous name given to the first emperor of a dynasty] fifteen-generation ancestors …”

Wei Xiaobao was dumbstruck; he groaned inwardly. But suddenly he had a bright idea; he said, “You are not the Old Emperor’s daughter, I was cursing your ancestors, it has nothing to do with His Majesty, the Old Emperor, or some Taizong Huangdi and Taizu Huangdi.”

The Princess was enraged; “What do you mean I am not the Old Emperor’s daughter?” she shouted, “You dead eunuch is talking nonsense. Tomorrow afternoon I am going to wait for you here, if you, dead eunuch, do not come, I will tell the Empress Dowager that you beat me.” While saying that, she stretched out her arm and pulled her sleeve, showing patches of black and blue bruises on her white, tender arm, from his pinching and twisting earlier.

Wei Xiaobao was secretly alarmed, “How could I beat her that heavy a moment ago?”

“Humph,” the Princess said, “If you don’t come tomorrow, I want to see if you can keep your life.”

Things have come to this, even if Wei Xiaobao did not want to yield, he simply did not have any choice. He nodded and said, “I will come to accompany you playing tomorrow, but you must not hit me.”

The Princess was greatly delighted; she said, “It’s great that you are going to come. If I hit you, you can hit me back. We, the heroes of Jianghu, make a clear distinction between gratitude and grudges.”

With a bitter smile Wei Xiaobao said, “If you beat me again, I will turn from a hero to a malicious ghost.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I can’t possibly kill you for real.” After a short pause, she continued, “At most I will beat you half-dead and half-alive.” Seeing his changed countenance, she smiled sweetly and said in a gentle voice, “Xiao Guizi, there are a lot of eunuchs and Imperial Bodyguards in the Palace, but I only like you, one person. Those other fellows are too lacking in courageous spirit, even if I beat them to death, they would not dare to curse me any ‘stinky little mother, s1ut …'” she was imitating his accent, “… daughter of a wh0re! Hee … hee … no one has ever curse me like that.”

Wei Xiaobao was happy, but also amused, “You like to be cursed?” he asked.

The Princess laughed and said, “Only if you curse me like that. The Empress Dowager would also reprimand me with a wooden face, telling me to abide by the rules. I don’t like that kind of cursing.”

“In that case,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You’d better go to the Lovely Spring Courtyard.” He was thinking, “If you become a wh0re, there will be a lot of people cursing you. The pimp [orig. ‘female brothel keeper’] will curse and hit you, the brothel’s patron may burn you, or beat you and curse you.”

The Princess’ spirit was aroused; she asked, “What kind of place is the Lovely Spring Courtyard? Is it a fun place?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed in his heart; he said, “It’s a very fun place, but it is in Jiangnan, you can’t go there. If you stay in the Lovely Spring Courtyard for three months, I guarantee you will be awfully happy that you won’t want to be a Princess anymore.”

The Princess sighed; her thought wandered far away as she said wistfully, “When I grow up, I must go there.”

With a straight face Wei Xiaobao said, “Good, good! In the future I will definitely take you there. A real man gave his words, dead horses cannot chase it.” He could never remember the phrase ‘a team of four horses cannot chase it’, but instead of saying ‘some horses cannot chase it’, he said ‘dead[2] horses cannot chase it’.

The Princess grabbed his hand and said, “When I fight with those eunuchs and Imperial Bodyguards, everybody always intentionally yields to me, it’s not fun at all. Only yesterday when Huangdi Gege had a martial art match with me, he really hit me 30%, but he was not willing to hit too hard to hurt me, to pinch too hard to hurt me. Good Xiao Guizi, you are the only one who hit me for real. Don’t you worry, I definitely will not kill you.” Puckering her mouth, she landed a kiss on his lips. Her face blushed, and she dashed out of the room.

In that instant Wei Xiaobao felt the sky spun, the earth turned over; he fell sitting down on the floor, thinking, “I am afraid this Princess is a little bit insane, the more I hit her and curse her, the happier she is. Damn it, could it be that the Old Wh0re’s little girl really take a liking on a fake eunuch like me?” Recalling her beautiful face, his heart was befuddled. Slowly he stood up and walked back toward his residence. He was so exhausted that as soon as he touched the bed, he fell asleep instantly.

He slept for more than ten hours [orig. 5 shichen] straight. By the time he woke up, the sky had turned dark. Feeling the pain on his entire body, he could not bear not to groan. He got up, thinking that he was going to wash the salt from his wounds. Who would have thought that as he tried to take off his clothes, the blood from his wounds had congealed and stuck firmly onto his clothes? When he tried to pull it, it was so painful that unavoidably he rained curses again, ‘stinky little mother, rotten little miss’. Finally he washed off the salt and spread metal-cut wound medicine on his injuries.

When he went to see the young emperor the next day, Kangxi saw his nose was blue and his eyes swollen, his hair and his eyebrows were burned, everything was broken and in disarray. Kangxi was shocked; he immediately guessed that it must be his precious imperial younger sister’s masterpiece. “Did the Princess beat you?” he asked, “Is the injury heavy?”

With a forced smile Wei Xiaobao said, “Not too bad. Shifu, your disciple has brought disgrace to you [orig. ‘throw away your face’], Senior. I will have to painstakingly train for three more years before I can retrieve it back and bring honor to you, Senior.”

At first Kangxi was worried that in a towering rage Wei Xiaobao would ask Kangxi to stick out for him. It’s just that although his imperial sister was in the wrong, it had always been her right as the master to beat up the slaves. However, if Kangxi ignored him, he was afraid when Wei Xiaobao went up Mount Wutai to serve his father emperor, he would not do so with all of his heart. While he was feeling awkward, suddenly hearing Wei Xiaobao say so, i.e. he did not complain over this matter, but consider it as child’s play, Kangxi was ecstatic. He laughed and said, “Xiao Guizi, you are really good! I must reward you well. Tell me, what do you want?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Shifu did not reproach disciple for being not proficient in my training, disciple is already very grateful, I do not need any reward.” After a short pause, he continued, “Shifu may pass on to me some brilliant moves, so that when I meet with danger in the future, I won’t be bullied by others. That’s all I want.”

Kangxi burst out laughing; he said, “Alright, alright!” Thereupon he taught him several exquisite moves the Empress Dowager had bestowed to him.

Although these several qin na techniques were quite extraordinary, they were far inferior compared to the six moves Hong Jiaozhu, husband and wife, had taught him. When Wei Xiaobao was having martial art match with Kangxi previously, he had seen Kangxi use these moves. Now that he had special instruction, he managed to master the moves without spending too much time.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “When I fought with him earlier, we were wrestling as friends. But he is the Emperor, I am a slave, this friendship will not last too long. This time I return to Beijing, I can see that although physically he did not grow too much, his power and prestige have actually grown considerably. I can’t call him ‘Xiao Xuanzi’, three characters, anymore; but if I simply change the way I address him, it will be no more than an ingenious way of flattering him.” Thereupon he kneeled down, ‘dong, dong, dong’ he knocked his head against the floor eight times, and said, “Shifu, disciple Wei Xiaobao is your, Senior’s first disciple [orig. ‘first disciple of cutting into a mountain’ – a reference to opening a monastery].”

Kangxi was startled; but he understood his intention immediately. On one hand, he felt it would be fun, on the other hand, he also felt that the appellation ‘Xiao Xuanzi’ was no longer appropriate. He laughed and said, “Being a ruler I can’t go back on my own words! Since I have had you call me Shifu, I have no choice but to receive you as my disciple.” Then he called out, “Guards!”

Two eunuchs and two Imperial Bodyguards entered the study room. Kangxi said, “Turn around.”

“Yes,” the four people complied. But the rule said that subjects should never turn their backs toward the Emperor, otherwise, it would be extremely disrespectful. The four people did not understand Kangxi’s intention, they only turned their bodies slightly, no one dared to turn his back.

From his desk Kangxi picked up a pair of golden scissors and walked toward the four people’s backs. Again the four of them turned their bodies slightly. Kangxi looked at the four people’s braided hair, and saw a court eunuch had the most glossy and shiny black hair. His left hand grabbed the pigtail, ‘crash’ he cut the braid down from the base.

The eunuch was so scared that he felt his soul had flown to the outer sky. Instantly he kneeled down and kowtowed repeatedly, saying, “Your servant deserves to die, your servant deserves to die!”

Kangxi laughed and said, “Don’t be afraid, I reward you ten taels of silver. Everybody get out!” The four of them were bewildered; they only thought that the power of Heaven was hard to fathom, they walked backward out of the room.

Kangxi gave the pigtail to Wei Xiaobao and said with a laugh, “You are going to be a monk, the Princess has burned your hair, it seems that this is the will of Heaven. The Heaven is borrowing the Princess’ hand to tell you to shed your hair and become a monk. You may tie this false braid on your head first, otherwise you will look unsightly.”

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down and said, “Yes, Shifu cherishes your disciple, you are very considerate.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “You have done obeisance, taking me as your master, you must not mention it to anybody else. I know you are tightlipped, very prudent and careful, and that was the reason I agreed. If you act ostentatiously outside, as the Zhangmen, I will cripple your martial art skill and expel you from my school.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao repeatedly promised, “Disciple will not dare.”

When Kangxi had martial art match with Wei Xiaobao, other than the Empress Dowager and Hai Dafu, nobody else in the Palace knew about it. He thought that by playing along and taking him as disciple, as long as nobody else knew, he would not lose face as the Emperor. But his natural disposition was cautious, hence he repeatedly warned Wei Xiaobao.

Kangxi sat down and mused, “The Empress Dowager is sinister and ruthless, she can’t be teaching me martial art with all of her heart; otherwise, she knew a formidable martial art that can break people’s bones in pieces, why didn’t she teach me even for half a move? Although I am the Shifu, in reality I am not much stronger than this kid, I don’t have any superior martial art that I can teach him. The monks of Shaolin Temple have extremely high martial art skill, I only hope that when Fu Huang is in trouble, they would come to help him again …” Thinking to this point, a plan started to formed in his mind. He said, “Go and take a rest, take care of your wounds, come again tomorrow to see me.”

Wei Xiaobao returned to his residence, he ordered the eunuch working for him to invite the imperial physician to treat his injury. Although his wounds were painful, they were actually flesh wounds, his muscles and bones were not harmed at all. The imperial physician said that after recuperating for ten days to half a month, he should be healed completely, so he told him not to worry.

After eating his lunch, Wei Xiaobao went out to keep his appointment with the Princess. His mind was in a mess; he was afraid she would beat him up again, but he was also excited to see her again.

As soon as he pushed the door open, the Princess yelled and pounced on him. This time Wei Xiaobao was prepared; with his left arm he blocked, with his right foot he hooked, while grabbing the back of the Princess’ neck with his right hand and pressed her body that she was bending forward.

The Princess laughed and cursed, “Dead eunuch, how come you are so formidable today?”

Wei Xiaobao grabbed her left arm and twisted it behind her back; he said in a low voice, “If you don’t call me ‘Good Guizi, Good Gege‘, I am going to twist your arm broken.”

“Pei!” the Princess cursed, “You are a dead slave!”

Wei Xiaobao twisted the Princess’ arm heavily and shouted, “You don’t call, I will twist and break this arm of yours.”

The Princess laughed and said, “I won’t call.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “This little mother’s skin [小娘皮 – see Chapter 10] is indeed a rebellious s1ut. The more I beat her, the happier she is.”

‘Slap!’ he heavily slapped her buttocks with his left hand. The Princess jumped, but she was giggling incessantly. “Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Turns out you love to take a beating.” With all his might he punched her repeatedly. It was so painful that the Princess curled on the floor, unable to get up. It was only then did Wei Xiaobao halt his hand.

The Princess panted. “Alright,” she said, “Now it’s my turn to beat you.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head. “No,” he said, “I won’t let you beat me.” He thought that this little miss was so ruthless, if he let her beat him, he might lose his life at any time. The Princess pleaded with him in gentle voice, but Wei Xiaobao simply refused.

The Princess threw a fit, she pounced on him, beat him and bit him. Wei Xiaobao slapped her on the face, sending her tumbling to the floor. He pulled her hair and hit her buttocks, thinking that since he had hit her buttocks, he did not need to be polite anymore, thereupon he pinched and twisted randomly all over her body.

The Princess crouched by his feet, hugging his two legs. She gently rubbed her face against his calves, in a coquettish and lithe manner, and said in a flirtatious way, “Good Guizi, Good Gege, let me beat you just once, I promise not to hit you too hard.”

Wei Xiaobao thought she looked like a timid and helpless little girl, and he heard her affectionate request, his heart was shaken. He had the urge to consent. The Princess added, “Good Gege, I love nothing more than to see blood coming out of your body.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; “That is out of the question!” he angrily said. Lifting his left foot, he kicked her head and said, “Let me go, I must leave. If I stay around you, inevitably there will come a day when I die in your hands.”

The Princess sighed and said, “You don’t want to play with me anymore?”

“It’s too dangerous,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I may lose my old life any time.”

The Princess giggled. She stood up and said, “Fine! In that case, help me back to my room. You have hit me too hard that I cannot walk.”

“I won’t help you,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Propping herself against the wall, the Princess slowly hobbled out, saying, “Good Guizi, will you come again tomorrow?” Suddenly her left leg gave up, she almost fell down. Wei Xiaobao rushed forward to hold her.

The Princess said, “Good Guizi, sorry to bother you, but could you get two eunuchs to help me go back to my room?”

Wei Xiaobao thought that if he called the eunuchs, the Empress Dowager would probably find out, and then she would investigate why the Princess was injured. As soon as this matter was leaked ever so slightly, he would be charged with capital offense punishable by beheading. Having no other choice, he supported her and said, “I will help you back to your room.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Good Guizi, thank you very much.” Leaning on his shoulder she walked westward.

The Princess’ residence was located west of the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful, right next to the Shou Kang [Abundant Long-live] Palace. The two of them slowly approached the garden of Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful. Recalling the Empress Dowager’s manner, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was trembling with trepidation. When they reached the corridor, the Princess suddenly blew air into his ear.

Wei Xiaobao blushed. “No … don’t,” he stammered.

With a gentle voice the Princess said, “Why? I am not hitting you.” While saying that, she gently bit his earlobe; she stuck out her tongue and licked his ear slowly.

Wei Xiaobao felt the itch was unbearable, he said in a low voice, “If you bit and hurt my ear, I am not going to see you again, ever. A real man gave his words, dead horses cannot chase it.”

The Princess actually wanted to bite a piece of his earlobe off, but listening to his words, she did not dare to continue, she only laughed softly. This laugh made Wei Xiaobao flushed with excitement, his whole body turned limp and aching.

Finally they reached the Princess’ personal quarter. Wei Xiaobao turned around to leave. The Princess said, “I want you to come in, I have something interesting to show to you.” At that time, there were four eunuchs and four palace maids standing outside the door of the Jianning Palace, to wait upon her. Wei Xiaobao did not dare to blatantly disobey, he had no choice but to follow her.

Pulling his hand, the Princess took him straight into her own bedroom. Two palace maids followed in, they presented hot towel for the Princess to clean her face. The Princess took one towel and handed it over to Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao took it, and wiped the sweat on his face.

Seeing the Princess unexpectedly broke the rule by giving this little eunuch a deferential treatment, the two palace maids could not help but stare in disbelief. She had never been this polite even toward the Empress Dowager or the Emperor, and the little eunuch also unexpectedly accepted it calmly, which was considered extremely rude.

The Princess caught a glance; she glowered and said, “What are you looking at?”

“Yes, yes!” the two palace maids replied. Bending their waists, they withdrew immediately. Who would have thought that it was already too late? The Princess stretched out her hand to dig the eye of the palace maid nearer to her. The palace maid dodged slightly, and let out a miserable cry. Although her eyeball was safe, her face was drenched with blood, from her forehead down to her chin, as four nail marks appeared. The two palace maids were scared out of their wits and hastily withdrew from the room.

The Princess laughed and said, “Did you see that? Those slaves could only shout, begging for mercy; where is the fun in that?”

Seeing the ruthlessness of her action, Wei Xiaobao thought that this little wh0re was too violent, she was more or less the same as her mother, the old wh0re, it would be best for him to get away from her at the earliest possible time. “Princess,” he said, “His Majesty sends me out to do something for him, I must go.”

“What’s the rush?” the Princess asked. She turned around, closed the door, and bolted it. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was pounding, he wondered what kind of strange thing she was going to do. The Princess laughed and said, “I have been the master for fifteen years, I always have people serving me, it’s getting quite tasteless. Today we change roles, you are the master, I am the slave.”

Wei Xiaobao waved his hands wildly, “That won’t do, that won’t do,” he said, “I don’t have that good fortune.”

The Princess’ pretty face sank, she said, “You don’t want to? I am going to scream, I will say that you are being rude to me, and beat me black and blue.” Suddenly she raised her voice and called out, “Aiyo, it hurts!”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly bowed with cupped fists and said, “Don’t shout, don’t shout, I’ll listen to your instruction.”

This was the Princess’ personal chamber, there were many eunuchs and palace maids standing outside to wait on her, she only had to call several times, there would be a throng of people rushing in; it was completely different from the small room where they were having the martial art match, where there were nobody around.

The Princess smiled and said, “Miserable wretch! I talked to you nicely, you did not want to listen; you insist on refusing a toast only to be forced to drink a forfeit.”

“You are the miserable wretch,” Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “You don’t want to be the master, you want to be the slave instead.”

The Princess bent her knees and respectfully paid her respect to him, saying, “Prince Gui[3], do you want to sleep now? Your servant will help you change your clothes.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao snorted, “I don’t want to sleep. You may give me a gentle pound with your fist on my legs.”

“Yes!” the Princess replied. She sat on the floor, lifted his right foot and placed it on her own legs, and then gently pounded it with her fists, being careful not to touch the wounds on his leg.

“What a good servant,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are serving me exceptionally well.” Stretching out his hand, he gently pinched her cheek.

The Princess was very happy, “Thank you for Master’s praise,” she said in low voice. Taking off his boot, she kneaded his foot for a while, then she started working on his left foot. After pounding it for half a day, she took the boot and massaged his foot. “Prince Gui,” she said, “Lie on the bed, I will pound your back gently.”

Massaged by her, Wei Xiaobao was very comfortable; he thought that if I did not satisfy this miserable wretch’s craving of being the slave, she would not let me go anyway. Thereupon he climbed on her bed and lay down. His nostrils were assaulted by bursts of fragrance. “This miserable wretch’s bed is so gorgeous,” he mused, “Even the top wh0re in the Lovely Spring Courtyard did not have this kind of pretty bedding and pillow.” The Princess pulled a thin quilt over his body and then gently beat his back with her fists.

Wei Xiaobao was in a daze. While he was enjoying being the Prince Gui, suddenly he heard the voices of many people outside the door, “The Empress Dowager has arrived!” His shock was really not a small matter, hastily he sprang up.

The Princess’ face also showed terrified expression. “No time to escape,” she said in trembling voice, “Don’t move, get into the quilt.” Wei Xiaobao pulled his head and sank into the quilt; he heard faint knocking on the door, and was so scared that he almost fainted.

The Princess pulled down the mosquito net before turning around and unlatched the door. As soon as she opened the door, the Empress Dowager strode into the room. “Clear sky in the middle of the day, why did you close the door?”

The Princess laughed and said, “I am very tired, I was about to take a nap.”

The Empress Dowager sat down and asked, “What kind of trick are you playing? Why is it that your face does not have any color of blood?”

“I said I am very tired,” the Princess replied.

The Empress Dowager looked down and saw a pair of boots in front of the bed, she also saw the embroidered screen was moving slightly; she knew something was different. Turning toward the eunuchs and palace maids, she said, “Go wait outside.” When everybody was out, she said, “Close the door, put the bolt on.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Empress Dowager also wants to play some trick?” Obeying her order, she closed the door. She then followed the Empress Dowager’s vision and saw the boots; she could not stop her countenance from changing greatly. With a forced laugh she said, “I was going to put on men’s clothing, I want to dress up as a boy and show it to the Empress Dowager. I want to know when I put on the men’s clothing, whether you think I will look handsome or not.”

The Empress Dowager coldly said, “Is the boy on the bed handsome or not?” Suddenly she stood up and walked toward the bed.

The Princess was greatly shocked, she pulled the Empress Dowager’s hand and called out, “Empress Dowager, he and I are just playing games …”

The Empress Dowager flung her hand to throw her several steps away; she opened the screen, pulled the quilt away, grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s neck, and lifted him up.

Wei Xiaobao kept his face facing the inside of the bed, he did not dare to turn his head around and see her, he was already so scared that his entire body was trembling.

“Empress Dowager,” the Princess called out, “This is the little eunuch Huangdi Gege likes the most, you … you must not harm him.”

“Humph,” the Empress Dowager snorted; she thought that her daughter was growing up, her interest in the opposite sex had opened, she was hiding a little eunuch in her bed, it was no more than a shady business of playing fake (male) phoenix and empty (female) phoenix, so it could not be considered a big deal. Her right hand circled, she turned Wei Xiaobao around, ‘slap, slap’, she slapped his face twice, and shouted, “Get lost! If I ever see you fooling around with the Princess again …” Suddenly she saw his face clearly and was startled, “So it’s you!”

Wei Xiaobao turned his face away, “It isn’t me,” he said. These three characters were an oxymoron [orig. unfathomable mystery], but while his heart alarmed, he was trembling in fear, what else could he say?

The Empress Dowager firmly grabbed the back of his neck and slowly said, “There are many roads in the heavens but you don’t want to take, there is no gate in hell but you insist on breaking in. You are being rude to the Princess, today you cannot blame me.”

“Empress Dowager,” the Princess anxiously said, “It was me who wanted him to sleep in here, you must not blame him.”

The Empress Dowager lightly patted Wei Xiaobao’s forehead with her left palm; raising her left arm, she concentrated her strength on her hand ready to shoot it down, to kill him instantly with one palm strike.

In this extremely critical situation, Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered the move ‘Di Qing subduing the dragon’, which was taught by Hong Jiaozhu. His hands reached backward to grope the front of the Empress Dowager’s chest. The Empress Dowager was startled, she pulled her chest back and scolded, “You are asking to die!”

Wei Xiaobao kicked on the bed with both feet, he made a somersault backward, and landed astride the Empress Dowager’s neck, with both his forefingers on her eyes, and both his thumbs on her temples. “If you move,” he shouted, “I am going to dig your eyeballs out!”

He had not trained this move to perfection, so it was actually difficult for him to use it properly; fortunately, he was standing on the bed, while the Empress Dowager was standing on the floor. One on higher position, the other on lower position, so it was easier for him to ride on her. Moreover, the fingers with which he threatened to dig her eyeballs should be the middle fingers, but he was using forefingers instead; and when he somersaulted, the tip of his foot caught the mosquito net. Indeed he executed the move sloppily [lit. ‘wading in mud and water’], and it looked very awkward. If Hong Jiaozhu personally witnessed this, he would have been angered half dead. However, although the execution was incorrect, the style was indeed ingenious; the Empress Dowager still fell under his control, although she reacted hastily, unexpectedly it was still hard for her to ward off.

The Princess burst out laughing and called out, “Xiao Guizi, don’t be rude. Quickly let the Empress Dowager go.”

Wei Xiaobao raised his right leg, he drew the dagger with his right hand and pressed it against the middle of the Empress Dowager’s back; it was only then did he slide down from her neck. Suddenly ‘splat!’ a multi-colored, glittering object fell onto the floor; it was exactly the Divine Dragon Cult’s Five-Dragon Command.

The Empress Dowager was very shocked. “This … this … thing … where did it come from?” she said.

Wei Xiaobao remembered that the Empress Dowager was secretly in collusion with Divine Dragon Cult’s fake palace maid, Deng Bingchun and Liu Yan; perhaps he could use this Five-Dragon Command to force her into submission. “What do you mean this thing or that thing?” he said, “This is our Cult’s Five-Dragon Command, don’t you know it? What a nerve!”

The Empress Dowager’s entire body trembled, “Yes, yes!” she said.

Hearing her deferential tone, Wei Xiaobao could not help bursting with joy; he said, “Seeing the Five-Dragon Command is like seeing Jiaozhu in person. Hong Jiaozhu enjoys immortal good fortune forever, his long-life is the same as the heaven’s.”

With a trembling voice the Empress Dowager repeated, “Hong Jiaozhu enjoys immortal good fortune forever, his long-life is the same as the heaven’s.” She stooped down to pick the Five-Dragon Command and lifted it up high above her head.

Wei Xiaobao reached out to receive it. “Are you going to obey my command?” he asked.

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “I will respectfully obey your command.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable!”

The Empress Dowager respectfully followed, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable!”

It was only now did Wei Xiaobao let out a sigh of relief; he loosened the dagger, and haughtily sat down on the edge of the bed.

The Empress Dowager turned toward the Princess and said, “Go outside, don’t say anything, otherwise I will kill you.”

The Princess was startled. “Yes,” she replied. She cast a glance toward Wei Xiaobao, her heart was filled with doubts. “Empress Dowager,” she said, “Is this Huangdi Gege’s imperial edict?”

As Kangxi gradually grew older, his power and authority gradually grew bigger; when eunuchs, palace maids, as well as Imperial Bodyguards, were talking about His Majesty, their fear and respect also grew steadily. The Princess also knew earlier that the Empress Dowager was rather afraid of the Emperor. The Empress Dowager nodded and said, “Yes, he is the Emperor’s trusted aide, there is some important matter he needs to talk to me. You must never, ever reveal this secret. In front of the Emperor, you must never mention it even more, so as to avoid … to avoid the Emperor getting angry at you.”

“Yes, yes,” the Princess replied, “I am not that stupid.” While saying that, she went out of the room and closed the door behind her.

As she sat face-to-face with Wei Xiaobao, the Empress Dowager’s heart was filled with doubts. After a while, she said, “The walls have ears, this is not a good place to talk. Would it be better if you please go to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful to discuss it further?”

Hearing her using the word ‘please’, plus her tone was asking for opinion, not authoritatively making a one-sided decision, Wei Xiaobao felt even more relieved; but he was still thinking, “This old wh0re is vicious and merciless, I wonder if she is luring me to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful to use some crafty scheme to harm laozi?” Thereupon he nodded and said in a low voice, “I am the newly-appointed White Dragon Envoy of our Cult, under Hong Jiaozhu’s order to bear this Five-Dragon Command.”

The Empress Dowager immediately felt deep veneration toward him, she bowed and said, “Subordinate pays her respect to the White Dragon Envoy.”

Although Wei Xiaobao had long suspected that since the Empress Dowager was in collusion with the Black Dragon Gate’s people, she was bound to have utter veneration toward Hong Jiaozhu, so this Five-Dragon Command most probably would have some effect on her; but never in a million years would he guess that she herself was a member of the Divine Dragon Cult. Based on her status as the Empress Dowager, there was nothing in the world that she could not get, yet shockingly she still entered the Divine Dragon Cult. Not only that, her rank was far below that of his own, which was really unthinkable. Seeing her respectfully making her salutations, he could not help but was shocked and at a loss of what to do.

Seeing him sitting silently without saying anything, the Empress Dowager thought that he was still thinking of the former hatred, she was very frightened and said in a low voice, “Previously subordinate did not know honorable envoy’s status, and thus has offended you a lot, and now I am very terrified, only hoping for the honorable envoy’s magnanimous forgiveness.”

She saw that he was very young, yet was holding a very high position within the Cult, in the end it was still hard to believe. But then again, for the past few years Jiaozhu and Madame had promoted young people to higher position on a large scale, the older brethrens of the Cult were either slaughtered, or were met with suspicions, their power were gradually reduced. Therefore, this little child being the newly-appointed White Dragon Envoy was absolutely not an unusual happening. She thought further, “Even if he is really the White Dragon Envoy, if I kill him right now, nobody in the Cult would know. This little demon bears an extreme grudge toward me, if I let him live, it will only cause no end of trouble for me.”

Her murderous intention aroused, her eyes could not help but revealing a malicious look. Wei Xiaobao immediately caught it, and said in his heart, “Not good, the old wh0re is going to kill me.” He said in a low voice, “The technique I used to capture you just now, obviously you know who had taught me that, don’t you?”

The Empress Dowager was startled; she recalled the technique used by this little demon a moment ago, and found it to be immeasurably secretive, just in one move he was able to subdue her. It was precisely the Cult Leader’s technique. “Could it be … could it be that Jiaozhu has personally taught you?” she asked in a trembling voice.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Jiaozhu taught me thirty killer moves, Madame Hong taught me thirty qin na techniques. Comparing the two of them, naturally Jiaozhu’s techniques are a lot more formidable. It’s just that each one of the Senior’s moves will take the human’s life. I did not want to kill you, therefore, I only used the move that Madame taught me, the ‘the flying swallow circle around overhead’.”

Since bragging did not need any capital, he multiplied the number of moves by a factor of ten. But the Empress Dowager did not have the slightest doubt. She knew that the moves Madame Hong used all have ancient beauties’ name in it; she could not help but broke into cold sweat. She thought, “Luckily he used Madame Hong’s move to deal with me. If he had used the move Jiaozhu taught him, I would have been dead by now.” This moment, how could she still have the intention to harm him? She said respectfully, “Thank you for honorable envoy’s kindness in not killing me.”

Feeling very proud of himself, Wei Xiaobao said, “I did not dig out your eyeballs, compared to Madame’s instruction, I was being lenient to you thirty percent.” These words were actually the truth, if he really wanted to dig the Empress Dowager’s eyes, he could do that. It’s just that when she was severely injured, she would strike back with all of her strength, and then she would definitely want to take his life.

The more the Empress Dowager heard him, the more she was afraid. “Thank you for being lenient to me,” she said, “Subordinate appreciates it very much. I will certainly repay honorable envoy’s benevolence.”

Originally, each time Wei Xiaobao saw the Empress Dowager, it was like a mouse seeing a cat, he could not stop his entire body from trembling; who would have thought that this time unexpectedly he managed to control her that she became docile, standing in front of him in fear and trepidation. He was very pleased with himself, and it was very hard to contain. He lifted his left leg and crossed it above his right, and swayed it several times. He said in a low voice, “This time, we have Fat Toutuo and Lu Gaoxuan, two people following the Envoy from Shen Long Jiao coming to Beijing.”

“Yes, yes,” the Empress Dowager said. She thought that Fat and Lu, two people were martial art experts from their Cult, unexpectedly they were second to him. It was really fortunate that she was not being reckless a moment ago; if she did kill him, forget that she would have to face the Cult Leader’ investigation later, as soon as Fat and Lu, two people find out, death would be her only way out. She saw the finger marks on his face from her slaps earlier, and said in a trembling voice, “Subordinate has committed all kinds of heinous crimes in the past. I am hoping for honorable envoy’s magnanimous, generous and boundless good fortune.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “The White Dragon Envoy Zhong Zhiling betrayed Jiaozhu, Jiaozhu and Madame have him killed, and ordered me to take over the White Dragon Gate. The Black Dragon Envoy Zhang Danyue did not do his best in handling his assignment, Jiaozhu and Madame are very angry. The mission to fetch the sutras now becomes my responsibility.”

The Empress Dowager’s entire body trembled. “Yes, yes,” she said. Recalling the several copies of sutra that she had just obtained but then lost, day and night she had been feeling uneasy these past few days, and now finally the matter was brought to light. She said in a trembling voice, “This matter is complicated and not easy to explain succinctly. Would honorable envoy take the trouble to visit the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful? Subordinate will present detail reports to you.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said, “Very well.” He thought that there were too many things he did not understand about this matter, and was about to question her anyway; thereupon he stood up.

The Empress Dowager turned around, pulled the door bolt, and opened the door. And then she stepped aside to let him walk out first. Wei Xiaobao said loudly, “The Empress Dowager is leaving!”

“Excuse me!” the Empress Dowager said in a low voice, as she went out the door. Wei Xiaobao followed behind her. Dozens of eunuchs and palace maids followed from a far.

The two of them arrived at the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful. The Empress Dowager led him into her bedroom. After sending out the palace maids, she closed the door, and then personally poured a bowl of ginseng soup, which she offered to Wei Xiaobao with both hands. Wei Xiaobao accepted it and drank several mouthfuls; he thought, “My prestige today is comparable to the Old Emperor Shunzhi in the past. I don’t think the Empress Dowager would treat the young Emperor with this kind of respect.” He was very happy in his heart.

The Empress Dowager opened a trunk and took out a brocade box. From the box she took out a small jade bottle; she said, “Reporting to honorable envoy: there are thirty ‘snow ginseng jade moon pills’ in this bottle, it was a tribute from King of Korean Joseon dynasty, incomparably priceless. After taking this, the body will be invigorated, it will not be invaded by a hundred poisons. From these, would honorable envoy please forward twelve pills to Jiaozhu, ten pills to Madame Jiaozhu, and would honorable envoy take the remaining eight pills for yourself, as a token of … a token of subordinate’s negligible appreciation.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “Thank you very much,” he said, “But I wonder if these pills will clash with the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’?”

“It won’t clash at all,” the Empress Dowager replied, “Congratulations, honorable envoy, on receiving Jiaozhu’s gracious gift the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’. I wonder … I wonder if Jiaozhu has instructed honorable envoy to bring subordinate’s antidote for this year.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “This year’s antidote?” he asked, but then he immediately understood. The Empress Dowager must have had taken the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’. Jiaozhu bestowed her the antidote every year, which would not eradicate the poison thoroughly, and thus it has to be taken once every year, so that it would not flare up. Otherwise, she was deep in the Palace, with countless martial art master Imperial Bodyguards, even if Jiaozhu had a higher skill, he would not be able to control her. Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You and I both have taken the ‘leopard embryo pill’, how can I bring the antidote with me?”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “But honorable envoy enjoys special favor from Jiaozhu, how can subordinate be compared to you?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “She is really terrified, I must comfort her a little bit.” Thereupon he said, “Jiaozhu and Madame said that as long as you display utter loyalty to Jiaozhu, and will not have any infidelity, you work on his behalf with all your might, Jiaozhu will never treat you unfairly. Don’t worry.”

The Empress Dowager was greatly delighted; she said, “Jiaozhu’s benevolence is as heavy as the mountain, subordinate cannot repay it even with ten thousand deaths. Jiaozhu enjoys immortal good fortune forever, his long-life is the same as the heaven’s.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “You are originally the Empress, and now you are the Empress Dowager, other than the Emperor, no one in this world has a higher rank than you. Even if Shen Long Jiao is more formidable, it still can’t be compared to you; why would you want to enter the Cult and take orders from Jiaozhu? Aren’t you being a rebellious s1ut? Ah, right, maybe you are just the same as your daughter, you are both miserable wretch, you won’t be happy unless other people beat you and curse you.” He was still too young, his life experience was limited; for the time being, he was unable to grasp the importance of the information he had just received.

Seeing he was hesitating, the Empress Dowager thought that he was about to ask her about the sutra; therefore, without waiting to be asked, she volunteered, “Subordinate has sent Deng Bingchun and Liu Yan, two people, to forward those three copies of sutra to Jiaozhu. Has he, the Senior, received it?”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; he thought, “The fake palace maid Deng Bingchun was killed by Tao Gugu, Liu Yan was stabbed to death by Miss Fang’s sword; what sutra has been forwarded to Jiaozhu?” Unclear of her real intention, he asked, “Did you say three copies have been forwarded to Jiaozhu? I have never heard about it. Jiaozhu said that the Black Dragon Envoy took too long to get hold of the sutra, yet he has not gained anything. Jiaozhu was very angry, he almost forced him to commit suicide.”

The Empress Dowager showed an astonished expression. “That’s strange,” she said, “Subordinate clearly sent Deng Bingchun and Liu Yan, two people to make a special trip to Divine Dragon Island to deliver those three copies of sutra. Naturally it was before honorable envoy put Liu Yan to death.”

“Oh,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Is there such thing? Deng Bingchun? Was he your bald Shixiong?”

“Exactly,” the Empress Dowager replied, “When the honorable envoy return to the Divine Dragon Island in the future, please ask him, you will understand everything.”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly realized; he mused, “That’s right, Deng Bingchun was killed by Tao Gugu, this old wh0re thinks I know nothing of it. She lost three copies of sutra, for fear that Jiaozhu would blame her, she pushes all the blame on to those two dead people; this is called ‘dead men tell no tales’, she is really smart. She would not know that those three copies are actually in Laozi‘s hands. If she used this lie to swindle others, it is indeed a damn top-notch lie; unfortunately, whatever trick she is performing, she cannot deceive Laozi. I’d better not expose your trickery for the time being.” He said, “You have already obtained three copies, your merit cannot be considered small. On the other five, you must make the extra effort.”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “From dawn to dusk subordinate always thinks about how to get the other five copies of the sutra, to repay Jiaozhu’s benevolence.”

“That’s very good!” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are actually this loyal, the poison in the ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’ has been dissolved one time for you, you should not have any problem. I will see Jiaozhu soon, I will definitely speak several words of praise on your behalf.”

The Empress Dowager was ecstatic; she bowed to salute and said, “Honorable envoy’s great kindness, subordinate will never dare to forget. It will be best if subordinate can transfer to the White Dragon Gate, to follow honorable envoy’s leading; it will be my greatest good fortune.”

“That can be done easily,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “But about you entered the Cult and everything you went through, you must tell me in detail, don’t conceal anything at all.”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied, “Subordinate will not dare to speak even half a sentence of incomplete, untrue words toward our Gate’s Envoy …”

Suddenly there were footsteps outside the door, a palace maid coughed and said, “Reporting to the Empress Dowager: His Majesty summoned Gui Gong-gong, saying that there is an urgent matter, to have him return immediately.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said in a low voice, “Don’t worry about anything, we’ll continue later.”

The Empress Dowager replied in a low voice, “Thank you honorable envoy.” And then in loud and clear voice said, “His Majesty summons you, you may go now.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I wish the Empress Dowager ten thousand good fortunes and peace like gold.”

As he went out the door, he saw eight Imperial Bodyguards standing outside the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful; he was slightly shocked, thinking, “What urgent matter could it be?” So he rushed toward the Upper Study Room.

“Good, you are alright,” Kangxi happily said, “I heard the old traitor took you away, so I was worried, I was afraid she might harm you.”

“Many thanks for Shifu’s concern,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That old … old … she asked me where have I been these past several days? I thought that I must never say anything about the Old Emperor, I must not even mention Shanxi or Mount Wutai, but I also am not a good liar. When pressed by her, an inspiration appeared in a moment of desperation, I said that Your Majesty sent me to Jiangnan to see if there is any amusing gadget, to be bought and brought back to the Palace. I also said that Your Majesty instructed me not to let the Empress Dowager find out, so that the Empress Dowager would not blame Your Majesty being the Emperor, yet still loves to play like a child.”

Kangxi laughed aloud, while patting his shoulder and said, “It’s best that you said it that way. Let the old traitor thinks that I am still like a child who love to play; that way she won’t guard against me. So you are not a good liar? What you said is very interesting.”

“Do you think so?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant was worried that Your Majesty won’t be happy to hear it.”

“Very good, very good,” Kangxi said, “Just now I was afraid the old traitor would harm you, so I sent eight Imperial Bodyguards to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful. If the old traitor was unwilling to let you go, I ordered them to break into the Palace and get you out of there. I know I would have had direct confrontation with her, but it was a desperate situation.”

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down and kowtowed. “Emperor Shifu’s kindness is as heavy as the mountain, your servant disciple cannot repay even if I have my body crushed to powder.”

Kangxi said, “If you serve the Old Emperor well, then you are repaying my kindness to you.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Kangxi picked up a large sealed yellow envelope from his desk and said, “This is an imperial edict to the monks of the Shaolin Temple. You pick forty Imperial Bodyguards and two thousand valiant cavalry’s officers and men, and go to Shaolin Temple to announce the imperial decree for them to do something for me. What it is that I want them to do, everything is written in the letter, which you may open when you arrive at the Shaolin Temple. You are to obey and act accordingly. And now I promote your official position to the Vice Commander of the Plain Yellow Banner’s Valiant Cavalry, which is a 2a rank[4]. You are actually a Han, but now I bequeath you the status as a Manchu, we call it ‘entering the Manchurian’s Flag Bearers’. The Plain Yellow Banner is the Emperor’s personal Manchurian Banner men, the Valiant Cavalry is the Emperor’s personal elite soldiers. You are still holding the Imperial Bodyguard Deputy Chief.”

He knew Wei Xiaobao was without learning or skills, plus he was still too young, he could not serve as a real official, consequently, both positions were deputy position.

Wei Xiaobao said, “As long as I can always be at the Emperor Shifu’s side, high ranking or low ranking position, your servant disciple does not care.” While saying that, he kowtowed vigorously to express his gratitude. He mused, “I am fine being a Han, now I have to change shape in a single shake and become a Manchu Tatar.” He thought further, “Emperor Shifu did not order me to hasten to the Qing Liang Temple and become a little monk there, but to lead the troops to Shaolin Temple first to deliver the imperial edict, to reward those Dashi [great master] who rendered meritorious service in saving the Old Emperor. Most likely he is simply letting me to enjoy the limelight. This is called ‘sweet first, bitter later’, I become the master first, and then he would spank my bottom later.”

Kangxi had the Commander of the Plain Yellow Banner’s Valiant Cavalry Chalju [orig. Cha’er Zhu] summoned. He made him aware that Xiao Guizi was not a court eunuch at all, but he was actually the Imperial Bodyguard Deputy Chief, and his real name was Wei Xiaobao. For the purpose of capturing Oboi, he was ordered to disguise himself as a eunuch. And now he was bestowed the status as a Manchu, under the Plain Yellow Banner, and was promoted to be the Vice Commander of the Plain Yellow Banner’s Valiant Cavalry.

When Oboi was still in power, Chalju had suffered greatly from the internal strife, so much so that he was put in prison, and day and night his life was in danger. Fortunately for him, Oboi was defeated and he was released from prison, hence early on he has had deep gratitude to Wei Xiaobao who had killed Oboi. Hearing that the Emperor had assigned Wei Xiaobao to be his own deputy, he was greatly delighted. Immediately he congratulated Wei Xiaobao, saying, “Wei Xiongdi, the two of us are going to work together, there is nothing better than that. You are a young hero, from now on our Valiant Cavalry will show our face.”

Wei Xiaobao uttered some modest remarks. Chalju had made up his mind: this Wei Xiaobao had received great favor from the Emperor, although officially he was his assistant, in reality Chalju was the one who ought to be the assistant. As long as Chalju could win Wei Xiaobao’s favor, there would be no problem for him to make a rapid career advance in the future.

Kangxi said, “I am sending Wei Xiaobao on a mission. You two may carry on, prepare your troops. Wei Xiaobao is to leave Beijing tonight, no need to take your leave from me.” He took the golden seal, the symbol of authority to maneuver Valiant Cavalry troops and gave it to Wei Xiaobao.

Wei Xiaobao received the golden seal and kowtowed to bid Kangxi farewell. He thought, “I have not investigated clearly why the old wh0re entered Shen Long Jiao. It’s not a big deal, most likely it was because she is a s1ut. I will ask her again next time I return to the Palace.” He thought further, “Last night I was beaten by the Princess, my body aches all over, and I slept until the sky was bright, thus I was unable to go see Tao Gugu. I wonder how she is doing, living the Palace. Next time I return, I must meet with her.”

The two of them immediately went to see the Imperial Bodyguard Chief Dolong. Wei Xiaobao produced the imperial decree Kangxi gave him earlier, the one where he was appointed the Imperial Bodyguard Deputy Chief, and showed it to Dolong. Dolong repeatedly congratulated him, saying, “Wei Xiongdi can freely select whichever Imperial Bodyguards you want. As long as His Majesty nods his approval, I can even accompany you on this mission.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I do not dare to accept the honor. Protecting His Majesty is a great responsibility. Dolong Zongguan may find strolling around the Capital is not an easy thing for you to do.”

Dolong laughed and said, “Next time I will ask His Majesty, the two of us can change our duties, you become the chief, I become your deputy. And then whenever there is good assignment going out of the Capital to catch the autumn breeze, you can let your Gege to go.”

Wei Xiaobao selected Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian, two Imperial Bodyguards, telling them to select a group of Imperial Bodyguards who were close to them. Chalju selected two thousand Valiant Cavalry officers. Each officer was ordered to pay their respect to their new Deputy Commander.

The articles Kangxi wanted to give to the Shaolin Temple’s monks were prepared promptly; everything was loaded into several dozen carriages. Whatever the Emperor wanted, his shout and his sigh, would be done immediately. In about more than four hours, everything was completely ready.

Actually, Wei Xiaobao was supposed to wear the Valiant Cavalry military uniform, but such a small-sized general uniform was not readily available. Chalju came up with an idea: he gave Wei Xiaobao his own set of uniform, and sent for four highly-skilled tailors to come along. He ordered them to work on altering the uniform inside the large carriage, told them not to sleep that night, and would not allow them to return to Beijing unless the uniform was ready. If they goofed off, the reward would be heavy flogging with army stick.

Wei Xiaobao found the time to go back to the Hair Alley, and told Lu Gaoxuan and Fat Toutuo, “Today I managed to sneak into the Palace, the plan of stealing the sutra has begun to materialize.” He instructed the two of them to stay quietly in the house, waiting for his news; they must not go out recklessly, to avoid revealing their secret. As Lu and Fat, two people saw that Wei Xiaobao had handled this matter without a hitch, that he managed to obtain a clue in just two days, they were both very happy, and thus repeatedly expressed their gratitude and promised to follow his instruction.

Wei Xiaobao had Shuang’er changed into men’s clothing, to disguise herself as his attendant and travelled together with him.

[1] Posthumous title of Hung Taiji (1592-1632), eighth son of Nurhaci; reigned 1626-1636 as Second Khan of Later Jin dynasty, then founded the Qing dynasty and reigned 1636-1643 as Emperor.

[2] In original Chinese, the word ‘a team of four horses’ sounds like the word ‘dead’ (si).

[3] Orig. Gui Bei Lei, ‘a prince with blood ties to the royal family’ – see footnote 15 of Chapter 13.

[4] A fudutong (副都统) actually was a 2a rank (正二品; zhengerpin). It was equal in rank to a Regional Commander (总兵; zongbin). During the Qing Dynasty, the system of nine pin-ranks (品) was used. Each pin-rank was divided into upper class (zheng [正]/a) and lower class (cong/b) (Courtesy of Ace High).

Chapter 22 The old cassock of the mountain altering revealed secret, the out-of-this-world beautiful woman altering the adornment.

By the time Wei Xiaobao set out on the journey, it was already late afternoon, but the imperial decree required him to leave the Capital that very same day, so no matter what they had to exit the city wall. Going out the Yong Ding Gate, they only travelled for twenty li when they had to pitch camp for the night.

The Valiant Cavalry was the Emperor’s personal guards, its members were all the children of Manchurian royal family, close relatives or trusted subordinates of the Emperor. Its provision was ten times better than regular soldiers. They have been staying in the Capital for quite a long time, hence going out of Beijing, without exception everybody was in high spirit, much less they were not going out to fight any battle. This assignment to go to Henan was like going on a scenic tour funded by the imperial court; it was completely different from their regular duties.

After dinner, it was too early for Wei Xiaobao to go to bed, thereupon he summoned Zhang Kangnian, Zhao Qixian, and the other Imperial Bodyguards, along with the officers of the Valiant Cavalry, to assemble in the command tent. They all thought, “I wonder what important matter His Majesty wants Vice Commander Wei to handle; he is summoning us all, it must be because he wants to brief us on the special imperial decree.”

After everybody had paid his respect, Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “We, boys, do not have anything to do. His granny, let us gamble, Laozi will be the banker.”

The officers stared at him blankly; they thought he was joking. But then they saw him took out four dice from his pocket and tossed them to the small table in front of him, the dice rolled around, and only then did the people cheered thunderously. Generally, the soldiers were not prohibited from gambling, except when they were marching into battle, then gambling was strictly prohibited, to avoid the troops from having unstable minds and thus damaging the important matter. But how could Wei Xiaobao understand this rule? Although the officers of the Valiant Cavalry knew this martial law, they thought that this time they were not marching to battle, why would they want to obstruct the Vice Commander’s esthetic pleasure?

Wei Xiaobao fished a pack of banknotes from his pocket and placed it on the small table, it worth at least five or six thousand taels silver. He said, “Who has the ability to win?” The officers scattered back to their tents to get their money.

Although there were a lot of low ranking officers in the Valiant Cavalry, their families were rich. Hearing that Vice Commander Wei was opening a gambling table, they quietly sneaked into the tent.

Wei Xiaobao called out, “There is no young and old on the gambling table, only money and banknotes! Heroes and warriors, the more they lose, they happier they are. Turtles and lambs, they win and immediately run away!” He blew on the four dice before tossing them onto the table.

When he was in Yangzhou, he envied the power and prestige of the bankers of the casino. Being the Deputy Chief, the Vice Commander, was nothing to him. Today he had a couple of thousands crowd and he was being the banker, now that was the thing he was most proud of in his entire life.

One after another the officers placed their bets, some won, some lost. After a while, their spirit aroused, the stake was growing higher and higher, the lower ranking officers at the back were starting to lay their bets. The Imperial Bodyguard Zhao Qixian and a Manchu officer stood by Wei Xiaobao, helping him collect the winning and pay the winners. The large army tent was filled with the shouts of people winning and the cry of those losing, just like the sound of a big gambling establishment. More than two hours later, there were more than twenty thousand taels of silver piling up on the gambling table. Some people lost all, they went back to their tents to borrow more capital from their companions who were not gambling.

Wei Xiaobao threw the dice, all four dice showed red spots, which means sweep the decks. Everybody was dejected, some cursed, some sighed. Zhao Qixian reached out to take all the money. “Wait!” Wei Xiaobao called out, “This is the first day that Laozi leads the troops and be the banker. This time I am giving away everything to the friends here, I won’t take the money!”

The troops cheered happily, they shouted, “Vice Commander Wei is a true hero!”

“Anybody wants to increase his bet may do so!” Wei Xiaobao called out.

Having been through a narrow escape, they all felt that their luck was really good. One after another they put more money that it piled high on the table. Suddenly a loud and clear voice said, “I bet on the Gate of Heaven!” and he threw a watermelon-shaped object on the Gate of Heaven.

As soon as they saw it, everybody was shocked. The object on the gambling table was a badly mangled human head. The severed head was still wearing an officer hat, unexpectedly he was an Imperial Bodyguard. “Getong!” Zhao Qixian cried out in fear. Turned out it was the Imperial Bodyguard Getong’s head. He was on duty, patrolling outside the tent tonight, and had his head chopped by the intruders.

The crowd raised their heads in alarm, and saw at the entrance of the army tent stood a dozen or so people wearing blue clothes, each one held a long sword. The officers’ attention was focused on the gambling table, nobody knew when did these people come in? The crowd of military officers in the tent did not bring any weapons, momentarily they were at a loss of what to do.

A young man, about twenty five or twenty six, stepped toward the gambling table, both hands were empty, he said, “Gambling Officer, do you accept the bet?”

“Seize him!” Zhao Qixian called out, immediately four Imperial Bodyguards pounced on the young man.

The man spread his arms and grabbed two men on the pit of their stomachs. ‘Bang!’ he banged the two heads against each other, the two men immediately fainted. Immediately afterwards white ray flashed, two swords were thrust forward, the swords pierced the other two Imperial Bodyguards’ backs and went straight through to their chests. The two Imperial Bodyguards cried miserably as they fell to the ground, dead. The blue-clothed men who thrust their swords were a middle-aged man and a Taoist priest. They pulled their swords and waved their hands, the two swords flew up and ‘pop, pop!’ the swords stuck onto the gambling table.
The middle-aged man shouted, “I bet on the Upper Gate!” The Taoist priest shouted, “I bet on the Lower Gate!” The two swords, not surprisingly, landed on the Upper and Lower Gates, respectively.

The young man waved his left hand, four people in blue rushed forward, four swords were pointed at the vital points all around Wei Xiaobao’s body.

With a trembling voice Zhao Qixian shouted, “Who are you? What … what a nerve! You killed officers, broke into an army camp, aren’t you … aren’t you afraid of … of being beheaded?”

Suddenly from among the four people pointing their swords at Wei Xiaobao came a scoff as someone laughed and said, “We are not afraid; are you afraid?” It was a tender and delicate voice of a woman.

Wei Xiaobao stole a glance sideways, and saw a young woman, about fourteen or fifteen years old, her face was rather round, her appearance very sweet, her pair of large eyes were pitch-black and bright, there was a smiling expression at the corner of her mouth. He was actually scared out of his wits, but as soon as he saw this good-looking girl, his courage involuntarily grew. He laughed and said, “With Miss one person pointing your sword at me, I am already scared.”

The girl raised her sword a little, the tip of the sword was pressed against his shoulder; she said, “Since you are scared, why are you laughing?”

Immediately Wei Xiaobao’s face turned serious, he said, “I am most obedient to women, Miss says for me not to laugh, I am not laughing.” Sure enough, there was no trace of smiling expression left on his face. Seeing him putting on an act, the girl could not help but stifling her laughter.

The young man who acted as their leader frowned slightly and said with a cold laugh, “Manchurian Tatars will soon meet their end, they send this little baby whose smell of mother’s milk has not yet dried to lead the troops. Hey, two swords and one head are already placed on the table, why haven’t you rolled the dice?”

With a good-looking young woman by his side, also hearing the man said to throw the dice, Wei Xiaobao’s panic diminished somewhat; he asked, “If I lose, what must I pay?”

“Do you need to ask?” the young man said, “You lost to a sword you pay a sword, you lost to a head you pay a head!” He thought this juvenile general would definitely beg for mercy.

Who would have thought that when Wei Xiaobao was having martial art match, when he lost he would simply surrender, but on the gambling table, whatever happened he would never be a coward, and admit himself to be useless, much less there was a pretty young lady by his side; while he was still alive, how could he lose face in front of a good-looking girl? He also thought, “Your four swords are pointed to me already, if you want to kill me, it won’t matter if I win or lose, you will kill me anyway, why would I want to give you the satisfaction of winning the argument?” Immediately he picked up the dice and said, “Alright, I accept! If I lose to a sword, I’ll pay a sword, I lose a head I pay a head, I lose a pair of pants I’ll take my clothes off! You throw first!”

The young man did not expect this young general to have such courage and insight; he was stumped for words instead. The middle-aged man said in a low voice, “Large army outside, if we delayed, there will be a big change of the plan!” He wanted him not to waste time senselessly, if those two thousand Manchurian troops burst in, contrary to what he might expect, they would not be easy to deal with.

The young man cast a glance to Wei Xiaobao, he noticed there was not a scared look on his face. “If I don’t bet with you this time, you won’t submit to me even in your death,” he said. Taking the dice, he threw a six. The Taoist priest and the middle-aged man also threw the dice and both got eight.

Wei Xiaobao picked up the dice and held them in front of the young woman. “Miss,” he said, “Please blow on the dice!”

The young woman smiled and asked, “What for?” But she still blew on the dice.

“That will do!” Wei Xiaobao said, “When a beautiful woman blew on the dice, I would only make a kill and would not lose!”

He shook the dice several times in his hands and was about to throw when Zhao Qixian suddenly said, “Hold on! Vice Commander Wei, ask … ask them what they really want.” He was afraid that when Wei Xiaobao threw the dice this time, he would get less than six dots, inevitably there would be someone’s life to be concerned about. Moreover, he was afraid that instead of compensating the loss with his own head, Wei Xiaobao would want to pay with his, Zhao Qixian’s, head; who told him to stand on the side to be the banker’s assistant?

The young man laughed coldly and said, “If you are scared, just kneel down and beg for mercy.”

“Only turtle bastards are afraid!” Wei Xiaobao said. His hands had not stopped moving, his only fear was that his technique was not too good. Tossing the four dice, they rolled around on the table. When the dice stopped, it did not show a couple of Heavens, but showed six dots. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “Six beats six!” he called out, “I killed the Heavenly Gate, and lost to the Upper and Lower.” He picked Getong’s head and placed it in front of him. “Zhao Dage,” he said, “Get a couple of swords to pay for the Upper and Lower Gates.”

“Yes!” Zhao Qixian replied. He walked toward the tent’s entrance, but a man in blue stuck out his sword on Zhao Qixian’s chest and shouted, “Stop!”

“You won’t let him get the swords?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Very well, not a problem. One sword can be considered a thousand taels of silver.” From the pile of money in front of him, he took two thousand taels, and divided it equally and placed the money by the swords.

This group of heroic visitors rushed into the army tent and took control of the commander in chief, the military officers were at a loss. Not only the enemy had high martial art level, they killed people without the slightest scruple. Although their side had more men, they were all outside the tent, and had not been alerted. When a tangled battle ensued, the people in the tent were unarmed and defenseless, perhaps everybody would lose their lives. While they were trembling in fear, they saw Wei Xiaobao and the enemy were tossing the dice, gambling, talking and laughing as though nothing had happened. They could not help but admiring his courage, but some people thought, “Little child does not know the immensity of heaven and earth; do you think this bunch of bandits are here to have fun with you?”

The young man laughed coldly and said, “With our two treasured swords we only win your two thousand taels? Take all the money on the gambling table!” Six, seven men in blue stepped forward and took all the money and banknotes on the table. The young man took a sword and pointed it toward Wei Xiaobao’s throat and shouted, “Little slave, are you a Manchu or a Han? What’s your name?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Even if Laozi surrenders, you have already barged in, if I surrender now, it would be ‘starting without able to finish’, ‘completely discarding previous achievement’; a real man want to fight, he will fight to the end.” Thereupon he laughed aloud and said, “Laozi is the Plain Yellow Banner’s Deputy Commander, my name is Huacha Huacha Xiaobao. You want to kill then just kill, you want to gamble then let’s gamble! Hey, hey, the big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct.” By saying the last eight words [the big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct] he was in reality begging for mercy, but in the way he said it there was a little bit of heroic spirit.

The young man smiled and said, “The big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct. You are right. Xiao Shimei [little younger martial sister], you are more or less of the same age as him, you can fight him.”

The young girl laughed and said, “Alright!” Raising her sword, she stepped forward and said with a laugh, “Hey, General Huacha Huacha Xiaobao, I am asking some advice of your masterstroke.”

The other three people pointing their swords to Wei Xiaobao pushed the swords slightly, nudging his clothes, they said, “Go out and fight!”

The young man waved his hand, the sword in his hand flew and landed on the table in front of Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao mused, “I don’t know anything about swordsmanship, I won’t have any guarantee I can beat this little miss.” He said, “The big bullying the small, not a hero’s conduct. I am bigger than this Little Miss, how can I bully her?”

The young man grabbed the back of his neck and lifted him up. He shouted, “You don’t dare to have a sword duel, then kowtow to my Xiao Shimei and beg for mercy.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Alright, you want me to kowtow, I will kowtow. Men have gold on their knees, it’s best that we kneel in front of women every day!” Bending his knees, he kneeled in front of the young girl. The group of people in blue clothes roared in laughter.

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao leaned sideways, and turned toward the young man’s back, the dagger in his hand was pointing to his back. He laughed and said, “Are you going to surrender or not?”

This changed happened so suddenly and amazingly that although the young man’s martial art skill was high, unexpectedly he was caught off guard and the vital point on his back was threatened by Wei Xiaobao.

What happened was that realizing that the six moves to save his life he learned on the Divine Dragon Island had not been trained to perfection, Wei Xiaobao was forced to act happy and keep giggling, to jest and assume the role of a clown, so that the enemy would laugh while looking at him making a fool of himself. When he kneeled down, he reached out to grab the handle of his dagger, and suddenly used the move ‘the flying swallow circle around overhead’, and unexpectedly succeeded in turning the tide. If he were a grownup, the opponent would guard against him, and if he had not mastered the move, the half-baked move would definitely be in vain. But first of all, the move was indeed very ingenious, although it was not used properly, it still had quite a formidable power; secondly, how could the young man think that this clown-like teenager unexpectedly was able to come up with such a smart trick? Consequently Wei Xiaobao succeeded.

The people in blue clothes were shocked, seven or eight swords were immediately pointed toward Wei Xiaobao’s body. They shouted together, “Let him go!” But seeing that Wei Xiaobao’s dagger was aimed at the young man’s back, although there was no doubt that each one of these seven, eight swords could stab him to death, but he only needed to push the dagger lightly, and then the young man would undoubtedly lose his life. Thereupon as the points of the swords were about a chi away from Wei Xiaobao’s body, nobody dared to advance anymore.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You want me to let him go, then I’ll let him go; what’s so strange about that?” Brandishing his dagger, he cut around in a circle, ‘clang, clang!’ and cut the tip of the seven or eight swords down, and then he put the dagger back on the young man’s back. The people in blue clothes were shocked, they all take a step back.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Put the money back, I’ll spare your leader’s life.” The people in blue who were holding the money did not hesitate at all, they put all the money and the banknotes back on the table.

They heard several hundreds of people yelling outside the tent, “Don’t let the bandits escape!” “Quickly surrender!” Turned out in the chaos just now, two officers in the tent managed to escape and gathered the troops; they had surrounded the army tent.

The Taoist priest shouted, “Kill the little Tatar first!” He pulled the sword from the gambling table; a white ray flashed, ‘stab’ he thrust the sword into Wei Xiaobao’s right chest. This sword strike was accurately calculated; it cut down in an oblique angle, stabbing from the front of Wei Xiaobao’s body into his back, he knew for sure that when Wei Xiaobao was hit by the sword, his body would be pushed backward, then the tip of the dagger would definitely move away from the young man’s back. To his surprise, however, the sword bent, and ‘crack!’ it snapped off instantly.

Wei Xiaobao called out, “Aiyo! The stab did not kill me!” Seeing that unexpectedly blade and spear could not enter his body, the people in blue clothes were startled that they were staring blankly at him.

The Taoist priest felt that the tip of his sword had bumped into a soft flesh, not a hard steel armor; momentarily he did not understand what was going on. How could he know that Wei Xiaobao was wearing the treasured vest to protect his body that he could not be injured by sharp blade?

By this time, several hundred officers had burst into the tent, the people in blue were densely covered by spears and broadswords all around, the Imperial Bodyguards and the officers had also obtained weapons from their subordinates’ hands. Even if those people in blue had higher martial art skill, it would be difficult to break through the tight encirclement; much less several people had their swords broken, and their leader was under the enemy’s control. Their upper hand had instantly reversed, and they were now completely beaten and in a hopeless position.

The young man shouted loudly, “Don’t mind me, everybody kill the enemy and rush out!” But the Imperial Bodyguards and the officers rushed forward, each group of seven, eight people surrounded one person in blue. As soon as one person moved ever so slightly, he would face the calamity of blades raining on his body that he would turn into a minced corpse; they had no choice but throwing down their weapons, with hands tied and waiting to be captured.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “These several people have superb martial art skill, and are opposing the imperial court, perhaps they have some association with Tian Di Hui, how to release them and let them go?” Thereupon he laughed and said, “Laoxiong [old chap], just now you could have killed me but you didn’t. If at this time I killed you, and not giving you any chance to recover your capital, unavoidably you would think I am not a hero and a warrior; this is called ‘turtles and lambs, they win and immediately run away’. How about this: let us bet over our heads again.” At this time there were seven, eight different weapons were pointing toward the young man. Wei Xiaobao drew back his dagger and with a chuckle he sat down.

The young man angrily said, “You want to kill me just kill, no need to toy with Laozi.”

Wei Xiaobao picked up the four dice; he laughed and said, “I be the banker, we bet on your heads. Each one of you throws the dice, whoever wins, then you can walk out immediately, plus take a hundred taels as your travel expenses; whoever loses, Zhao Dage, you get ready with a sharp blade on the side, chop down and cut their heads away to avenge our Getong Dage.”

He counted the opponents, altogether there were nineteen people. Immediately he set aside some money, altogether he made nineteen piles, each pile a hundred taels of silver.

Those people in blue killed government official and thus they were starting a rebellion; since they were captured, naturally they would be beheaded without the slightest hope of lucky escape. Unexpectedly this young general wanted to be a real man and opened up a path to life. If they lose, they were doomed to die anyway. The Taoist priest called out, “Very well, a real man gave his words …”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Dead horses cannot chase it! When I, Huacha Huacha Xiaobao, do my business, I never take advantage of other people. This Xiao Jiejie, or perhaps Xiao Meimei [little older sister, little younger sister, respectively], just now helped me by blowing on my dice and thus helped me preserving my head; you don’t have to throw dice. Just consider it I have won your little head, and am giving it back to you as a bonus. Take these hundred taels and walk out the tent first. Pass on this order: the guards outside must not give her any difficulty.”

An aide announced the order in loud voice, “Deputy Commander’s order: those who are released out of the command tent are to be allowed to leave on his own, they are not to be stopped or given any difficulty.” The guards outside the tent complied in loud voices.

Wei Xiaobao took two yuanbao worth fifty taels each and pushed them in front of the young woman. The young woman’s countenance alternated between white and red as she shook her head slowly and said in a low voice, “I don’t want to. We … nineteen of us of the same school, we … we will live and die together.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You do have yi qi. Since you will live and die together, then there is no need for each one of you to throw the dice. Little Miss, you and I are going to gamble. If you win, all nineteen of you will walk away with the money; if you lose, all nineteen heads will roll. Don’t you think it’s straightforward and quick?”

The girl looked at the young man, waiting for his decision. The young man had a difficult time making one; if the nineteen people bet separately with this young general, some would be bound to lose while some would win. If the general was as good as his word, then about half of the nineteen people would live, and someday they might try to get revenge. But if he let the Xiao Shimei to toss the dice, if she won all of them would withdraw, if she lost, it would be a complete wipe-out; unavoidably it would be too dangerous. His gaze slowly swept his companions.

A big man in blue said loudly, “Xiao Shimei is right, we live and die together. Xiao Shimei please throw the dice. Otherwise, even if I won, I can’t live alone.” Seven or eight people echoed his sentiment.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Very well! Little Miss, you may throw first!” He pushed the dice bowl in front of the young woman.

The girl looked at the young man, she wanted to see how he would handle this matter. The young man nodded and said, “Xiao Shimei, life and death is a fate. Be courageous and throw the dice. We live and die together anyway!”

The girl reached out into the bowl and grabbed the four dice, her long eyelashes drooped down, suddenly she looked up and cast a glance toward Wei Xiaobao; her hand holding the dice trembled slightly, she let the dice dropped into the bowl, creating a sharp and clear tinkling noise. The girl closed her eyes, she did not dare to look. She only heard all around her people were shouting, “Three! Three! Three! Three dots!” The shouts mixed with the sound of Imperial Bodyguards and army officers laughing and cursing. Although the girl did not understand dice and gambling rule, hearing the enemy was shouting and laughing happily, she knew that her throw must be extremely lacking. Opening her eyes slowly, she saw all of her companions’ faces were deathly pale.

The largest value four dice could be thrown was a pair of six and three, followed by the Heaven pair, Earth pair, Man pair, Harmony pair, Plum Blossom, Long Three, Wooden Bench, Ox Head, and other pairs. Even if it was not in pair, there were nine dots down to four dots, which were greater than three dots. When these three dots were thrown, nine out of ten it would lose. Even if Wei Xiaobao also threw three dots, as the banker his three would beat the opponent’s three; he could still chop the nineteen people’s heads.

A man in blue clothes suddenly shouted, “My own head, I want to gamble it myself. Other people’s throw does not count.”

The Taoist priest angrily said, “How can a real man so greedy for life, afraid of death like this? You are damaging our Wangwu Pai’s prestige.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “So all of you are from Wangwu Pai?”

The Taoist priest said, “Everybody is going to die anyway, so it’s not a big deal to let you know.”

The man in blue loudly said, “It was my father, my mother who gave birth to me, other than my father, my mother, nobody has any right to decide my life or death.”

The Taoist priest angrily said, “Before your Xiao Shimei threw the dice, you did not say anything, after she threw three dots, you speak out. In our Wangwu Pai there should not be any unreasonable character like you.”

The man wanted to preserve his life, he loudly said, “Wu Fu Shishu [fifth martial uncle surnamed Fu], there is nothing serious with me not being a disciple of Wangwu Pai.”

Another man in blue coldly said, “You only want to save your life and won’t care about anything else, do you not?”

The man said, “This young general plainly said that each of us should bet against him. Xiao Shimei throwing the dice, it was you who agreed to it, have I even said that I agree?”

The young man in blue grimly said, “Alright, Yuan Shixiong, from this moment on, you are not a Wangwu Pai disciple. You may gamble with him yourself.”

The man surnamed Yuan replied, “The sooner I am out the better.”

“You, surnamed Yuan,” Wei Xiaobao said, “What’s your name?”

The man surnamed Yuan hesitated a little bit, seeing that his companions had become his enemy, if he told him a false name, someone would uncover his lie, thereupon he said, “Zaixia Yuan Yifang.”

“Humph,” the young man snorted and said, “There is no harm in Sire changing your name to Yuan Fang.”

“Why does he have to change his name?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Hmm, Yuan Fang, Yuan Fang, short one character ‘Yi’ [justice/righteous], he is scolding you as having no ‘yi qi’ [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice]. Hey, friends of Wangwu Pai, anybody else want to bet with me?” His gaze was fixed on those people in blue; he saw two people with their lips moving slightly, as if they wanted to gamble themselves, but after hesitating for a moment, they did not say anything.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Very good, everybody under Wangwu Pai is a hero and a warrior, you really have yi qi. This Yuan Xiong does not belong to Wangwu Pai anyway, so it does not matter if he has yi qi or not.”

The young man showed a faint smile and said, “Thank you very much.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Pour some wine! I want to drink a cup with these eighteen friends. Either they lose or win, we will part for ever. These eighteen friends have heavy yi qi, I cannot not make friends with them.”

The sergeant under his command poured nineteen cups of wine, he placed one cup in front of Wei Xiaobao, and handed over one cup to each of the eighteen people in blue clothes. As the people in blue saw the young man their leader took the cup, they also accepted the cups.

In a loud and clear voice the young man said, “We will never make friends with Manchu Tatars. It’s just that your conduct is straightforward, plus you hold our Wangwu Pai in high regard, drinking a cup of wine with you is not a big deal.”

“Good,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Cheers!” He tossed down the wine. The eighteen people also downed their drinks, and then one after another they tossed the cup to the ground. Yuan Yifang’s face was ashen, he turned his head around, not wanting to look.

Wei Xiaobao shouted, “Prepare eighteen sharp blades, if I throw three dots or more this time, these eighteen good friends’ heads will be chopped down.” The officers complied with loud voice; eighteen officers raised their sabers or swords and stood behind the eighteen people.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “My set of dice is loaded, it won’t be difficult to throw one or two dots. But I rarely practice lately, my hand skill is out of practice; just now I wanted to throw a pair of Heaven, but it turned out to be six dots. If I made the slightest mistake, inevitably I would harm these eighteen people’s lives. I don’t care if these stinky men are dead, but if this flower-like little girl is also dead, isn’t it a pity?”

He picked up the four dice and shook them inside his hand, blew on them himself, his finger turned lightly, and he tossed the dice. Immediately his left palm covered the mouth of the bowl. He heard the dice were rolling several times, and when they stopped, he did not immediately take his palm away, but only opened a crack from which he took a peek. He saw out of four dice, two showed two dots, one showed one dot, and one showed five dots, so the total was only ten. ‘Departing Ten’ was equal to zero, there was nothing smaller than that. Originally he had concocted a plan, if his technique was ineffective, that is, he threw three dots or more, he would say either one or two dots, and then shook the bowl to disturb the dice, and hence the dead cannot testify, the opposite party would be overjoyed at unexpected good news, at most his own troops would be suspicious, but no one would dare to openly confront him. Now that he succeeded in cheating, he was ecstatic, but cursed himself, “Damn it, Laozi’s hand deserves to be chopped!” With his left hand he slapped his own right hand several time.

As everybody saw the dice, they all shouted, “Departing Ten! It’s Departing Ten!”

Having been in mortal danger and escaped alive, the people in blue clothes could not help but cheering loudly. The young man, the leader of the people in blue, looked at Wei Xiaobao and thought, “Manchu Tatars do not speak in good faith, I wonder if he will keep his words?”

Wei Xiaobao pushed the money on the gambling table forward and said, “You have won the money, take them. Could it be that you still want to gamble with me?”

“We don’t dare to accept the money,” the young man said, “Sire is as good as your word, you are a real hero. I’m sure we’ll meet again someday.” Cupping his fists, he turned around to leave.

“Hey,” Wei Xiaobao called, “You won but don’t want to take the money, aren’t you looking down on Zaixia, Huacha Huacha Xiaobao?”

The young man thought, “We are in a dangerous spot, must not delay too much.” He said, “Thank you very much then.” The eighteen of them took the money, turned around and went out of the tent.

Wei Xiaobao kept staring at the girl’s face. After taking the money, she could not help but casting a glance toward Wei Xiaobao. Four eyes met, the girl blushed; she smiled and said in a low voice, “Thank you.” After taking two steps, she turned her head around and said, “Little General, do you mind giving me the four dice?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “Of course I don’t, why should I?” he said, “Are you going to bet against your Shixiong?”

The girl smiled and said, “I am not. I want to keep it well. I was so frightened a moment ago that I lost half of my life.” Wei Xiaobao grabbed the four dice and put them in her hand; he took this opportunity to gently pinch her wrist. He always wanted to take this kind of small advantage. The girl said again, “Thank you,” and left the tent in quick steps.

Seeing his companion walked out the tent, Yuan Yifang was about to follow. “Hey,” Wei Xiaobao called, “I have not bet against you.”

Yuan Yifang’s face immediately paled; he thought, “This is so wrong, if I knew he would throw a Departing Ten, why should I become a vile character?” He said, “General does not have the dice anymore, I … I thought you don’t want to bet.”

“Why not?” Wei Xiaobao said, “We can bet on anything, we can play finger-guessing game, or rolling copper coin.” Casually he grabbed a pack of banknotes and said, “You can guess altogether how many taels of silver in here.”

Yuan Yifang said, “How can I guess it?”

Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and shouted, “This bandit is being rude to the General, seize him and off with his head!” The crowd of officers complied in chorus.

Yuan Yifang was so scared that his face turned ash-grey, his knees turned soft, he kneeled down on the ground and said, “Xiao … Xiaoren does not dare, Great General … Great General please spare my life.”

Wei Xiaobao was very happy; he thought, “This fellow is calling me Great General[1].” He shouted, “I am going to ask you questions, answer everything truthfully, if there is the slightest bit of covering the truth, your head will be chopped down.”

“Yes, yes!” Yuan Yifang repeatedly said.

Wei Xiaobao ordered his men to get foot fetters and handcuffs, and had him shackled. Then he ordered to have the money returned to those who lost and told them to withdraw. Only Zhang Kangnian, Zhao Qixian, two Imperial Bodyguards, and the Valiant Cavalry Can Ling [Regimental Commander] Fu Chun, remained in the tent. Zhang Kangnian commenced the interrogation immediately. He asked one sentence, Yuan Yifang answered one sentence; as expected, he did not conceal anything.

Turned out the Zhangmen [Sect Leader] of Wangwu Pai was Situ Bolei, a deputy general during the Ming Dynasty, an affiliate and subordinate of the Shanhai Pass Commander Wu Sangui, who, at that time, was fighting against Manchurian’s invasion. He was a brave and very able fighter, and had rendered quite a bit of meritorious deeds. Afterwards Li Zicheng broke into Beijing and Wu Sangui led the Qing army entering the Pass, Situ Bolei led his troops to fight Li Zicheng, killed the enemy using extreme force of will, attacked them back into Beijing. At that time he only knew that the Qing troops entered the Pass in order to avenge Emperor Chongzhen; to his surprise, however, the Qing troops seized that opportunity to occupy the Han people’s rivers and mountains, and Wu Sangui became the great traitor to China.

In his rage, Situ Bolei immediately relinquished his official position and went to Wangwu Mountain to live in seclusion. A considerable number of his former subordinates were not willing to surrender to the Manchurian Qing, they came to Wangwu Mountain to live with him. Situ Bolei’s martial art skill was actually very high, having no other engagement, he taught his former subordinates martial art, and after a long time, they automatically became the Wangwu Pai. They were master and disciples first before becoming a sect or a martial art school, so it was not quite the same as other schools. Mentioning Situ Bolei’s name, Zhang Kangnian and the others had also heard about him.

Yuan Yifang said that the young man who led them was Situ Bolei’s son, Situ He; the rest of their group was his martial brothers, and several of his seniors, equivalent to his martial uncles. The young girl was called Zeng Rou; her father was Situ Bolei’s subordinate, who passed away several years earlier. Toward the end of his life, he ordered his daughter to do obeisance and enter his former superior’s school.

Recently they obtained information that Wu Sangui’s son, Wu Yingxiong had come to Beijing. Situ Zhangmen then sent them to meet with him. Passing this place, they saw the Qing troops’ camp. Situ He was young and like to meddle, sneaking into the camp, they saw everybody was gambling, so he had the urge to rob them. His real intention was not for the money, he wanted to kill some Manchu soldiers to vent his anger.

“What do you want to see Wu Sangui’s son for?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Shifu’s order,” Yuan Yifang replied, “Is for us to think of a way to kidnap him and bring him back to Wangwu Mountain, thereupon threatening Wu Sangui, coercing him … coercing him …”

“What?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Coercing him to revolt?”

“It was what Shifu had said,” Yuan Yifang said, “It has nothing to do with Xiaoren. Xiaoren is loyal to the Great Qing, I will never dare to revolt. Today Xiaoren has made a clean break [orig. one knife two segments] with Wangwu Pai, it was exactly because I am unwilling to be attached to the rebels, I want to throw away the dark and invest in the light, to be in the front of the troops against the insurrection.”

Wei Xiaobao kicked him and said with a laugh, “Damn it, you are a big loyalist.”

Yuan Yifang did not dodge at all, he received the kick and said, “Yes, yes! I rely entirely on Great General’s training. Hereafter Xiaoren will be Great General’s servant, Great General’s slave; I will be loyal and devoted, will go through water and tread on fire, under no circumstances will I decline to obey your command.”

Wei Xiaobao thought that this time the opponent had killed three Imperial Bodyguards, yet I have let Situ He, Zeng Rou and the others go, I am afraid Zhang Kangnian and the other Imperial Bodyguards would not accept, or at least blame Laozi’s luck in throwing the dice was too disappointing. Seeing the case in front of him, he thought that he must give everybody some benefit, so that he could save his own face as the banker that day. After pondering for half a day, he came up with an idea. Stretching out his hand, he heavily slapped the table and shouted, “What a brazen traitor, clearly you are in collusion with Wu Sangui, planning a rebellion, yet you still say you wanted to kidnap his son. How much have you received from Wu Sangui that you are willing to cover up the truth for him? Damn it, son of a b1tch, get someone here, beat this guy severely for me!”

From outside the tent entered seven or eight sergeants, who spread Yuan Yifang on the ground and beat him with the army stick until his flesh was bruised and lacerated.

“Are you going to confess now?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “You said you are going to kidnap Wu Sangui’s son, why did you come to our army camp and kill our Imperial Bodyguards? The Imperial Bodyguard and the Valiant Cavalry are the Emperor’s most trusted subordinates; by offending the Imperial Bodyguard and the Valiant Cavalry, you are not giving the Emperor any face.” Hearing this, Zhang Kangnian, Fu Chun and the others were very pleased, they spoke out together to threaten him.

Wei Xiaobao said, “This fellow utters graceful words, flowery speech, he is fabricating lies to deceive us. This kind of rebellious traitor, how can he tell the truth unless he is beaten? Beat him again!”

The crowd of sergeants shouted and randomly struck their army sticks down. Yuan Yifang screamed, “Don’t hit, don’t hit! Xiaoren is willing confess!”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “Altogether, how many of you live on Mount Wangwu?”

“Altogether we have more than 400 people,” Yuan Yifang replied.

“Including your families?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Approximately two thousand people,” Yuan Yifang replied.

Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and cursed, “F*ck your granny! How can there be so little? Beat him again!”

“Don’t hit, don’t hit!” Yuan Yifang screamed, “There are more than four thousand … five thousand people.”

Wei Xiaobao cursed again, “F*ck your granny’s eighteen-generation ancestors, why don’t you just speak straightforward; nine thousand is nine thousand, why do you have to divide it into four thousand and five thousand?”

“Yes, yes!” Yuan Yifang said, “There are more than nine thousand.”

“You are a rebellious traitor,” Wei Xiaobao said, “How can you tell the truth? If you say nine thousand, there must be at least nineteen thousand of you.” ‘Bang!’ he slapped the table again and shouted, “The rebels gathering on Mount Wangwu, how many are there?”

Listening to his tone, Yuan Yifang realized that the higher the number he mentioned, the happier the young general was; thereupon he said, “I heard … I heard there are thirty thousand people altogether.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “That’s more like it.” Turning toward the Regimental Commander Fu Chun he said, “This miserable wretch will not confess unless he is beaten.”

“Exactly,” Fu Chun replied, “But he must be beaten ferociously.”

“No need to hit,” Yuan Yifang shouted, “Whatever Great General ask, Xiaoren will confess.” He had already decided that he would simply follow this young general’s tone of speech so that his skin and flesh would not suffer.

Wei Xiaobao said, “With more than thirty thousand of you, each one is trained in martial art, is that right? The young miss just now, she is only fourteen or fifteen, but she is trained in martial art. You are all Wu Sangui’s former subordinates, but some of you are young, you must be the offspring of his former high-ranking military officer, are you not?”

“Yes, yes!” Yuan Yifang said, “Everybody knows … knows martial art, all of us are Wu Sangui’s former subordinates.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your leader Situ Bolei, he was Wu Sangui’s favorite general, when he fought a battle, he was very formidable, was he not? He said he wanted to completely wipe us, the Manchu people, out?”

“That was his talk of treason and heresy,” Yuan Yifang said, “It was … it was extremely wrong of him.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “He sent you to Beijing to see Wu Sangui’s son, to discuss how you are going to revolt. Why didn’t you go to Yunnan and discuss it with Wu Sangui face to face?”

Yuan Yifang said, “This … this … perhaps … perhaps there is another reason.” In reality, they only wanted to kidnap Wu Yingxiong, so it was really not easy to answer Wei Xiaobao’s question.

“Scoundrel!” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “What other reason? Your Situ Bolei has already gone to Yunnan and has reached an agreement with Wu Sangui, hasn’t he?”

“Probably … probably he has,” Yuan Yifang replied.

Wei Xiaobao cursed, “What do you mean probably or probably not? Damn it, if yes say yes, if no say no.”

“Yes … yes,” Yuan Yifang said, “He has.”

Zhang Kangnian, Zhao Qixian and Fu Chun, three people heard how Wei Xiaobao was guiding the confession, gradually pushing the blame of major crime of scheming a rebellion to Ping Xi Wang Wu Sangui’s head. They could not help but look at each other in blank dismay, while worrying inwardly, not knowing Wei Xiaobao’s real intention.

Wei Xiaobao asked further, “Situ Bolei was Wu Sangui’s favorite general, he raised these more than thirty thousand elite troops, why didn’t he set up his garrison in Yunnan? Your granny, where in the world is Wangwu Mountain?” He thought, “If Wangwu Mountain is in Yunnan, my question is a wrong question.” Fortunately Yuan Yifang replied, “It’s in Jiyuan County, Henan province.” But Wei Xiaobao did not have the slightest idea what kind of place Jiyuan County, Henan province was. He asked, “That’s close to Beijing, is it?”

“It’s not too far,” Yuan Yifang replied.

“F*ck your granny,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “Close to Beijing is close to Beijing, what do you mean not too far?”

“Yes, yes,” Yuan Yifang said, “It’s very close, it’s very close.”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “So it is very close to Beijing! You, rebellious thieves indeed have a malicious intention, on a mountain very close to Beijing you dare to raise elite troops. When Wu Sangui in Yunnan raises a rebellion, you will immediately go down the mountain to attack straight to Beijing, and will have each and every one of the Imperial Bodyguards and Valiant Cavalry killed like chopping melon or slicing vegetables, you will make a killing until the blood flow like a river, the corpses pile up like a mountain. You will attack like a billowing sandstorm and leave us to piss in our pants in terror, right?”

Yuan Yifang kowtowed and said, “This is Wu Sangui and Situ Bolei, two rebellious thieves’ conspiracy on treason and heresy, it has nothing … nothing to do with Xiaoren.”

Wei Xiaobao showed a faint smile; he mused, “This fellow is very clever.” He said, “In your Wangwu Pai, how many people have worked as military officers under Wu Sangui? I want you to give me names, one by one.”

“There are too many of them,” Yuan Yifang said. Immediately he started mentioning names, but this time he did not fabricate the names.

“Very good!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Write down these people’s names, I also want the names of those who were previously holding official positions under Wu Sangui.”

Yuan Yifang said, “Some … some names Xiaoren is not too clear.”

“You are not clear?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Drag him down and beat him thirty more times. I am sure he will be clear.”

Yuan Yifang busily said, “No … don’t hit, Xiaoren will … will write down everything.” A sergeant brought pen and paper, Yuan Yifang wrote a list of names.

Seeing he had not finished after writing for half a day, Wei Xiaobao was getting impatient; he turned to Zhang Kangnian and said, “Get Mr. Secretary to record his oral confession.” He shouted to Yuan Yifang, “I want you to repeat the oral confession you gave just now, if you are being unclear for even half a sentence, your head will roll. Take him away.” Two officers took him away.

Wei Xiaobao chuckled and said to his three companions, “Laoxiong, this time we are really lucky, to be able to uncover this gargantuan rebellion conspiracy; all four of us will definitely enjoy big promotion.”

Zhang Kangnian and the others, three people, were surprised and happy at the same time. Zhao Qixian said, “This is Commander’s clear eye and brave decision, what merit do subordinates have?”

“Everybody has a share in seeing this matter,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Everyone has meritorious service.”

Zhang Kangnian said, “About Ping Xi Wang staging a rebellion, I wonder if we have enough evidence?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This bunch of rebellious thieves of Mount Wangwu is planning to revolt, isn’t that the truth? They are going to Beijing to see Wu Sangui’s son, what good thing can possibly come out of that meeting?”

Zhang Kangnian said, “This man surnamed Yuan said that they wanted to kidnap Ping Xi Wang’s Heir Apparent, to compel Ping Xi Wang into revolting, I am afraid Ping Xi Wang did not necessarily have prior contact with them.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Zhang Dage has had some dealings with Ping Xi Wang Mansion’s people, therefore, you know quite a bit of inside information, don’t you? If their rebellion succeeded, Ping Xi Wang will become the Emperor, hey, hey.”

Hearing the ill-intention in the tone of his voice, Zhang Kangnian was shocked; he hastily said, “I don’t know even one of the Ping Xi Wang Mansion’s people. Com … Commander is … is right, that servant Wu Sangui is … is planning treason and heresy, we must … must immediately report this to His Majesty.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Would the three gentlemen discuss it with Mr. Secretary on how we are going to present this memorial to the throne.”

After Zhang Kangnian, three people and the armed force secretary finished writing the memorial to the throne, they read it out for Wei Xiaobao. The content was just like Yuan Yifang’s oral confession, with the list of names of Wu Sangui’s former subordinates on Wangwu Mountain attached to the letter. The memorial was replenished with sauce and spice, recounting how Wei Xiaobao had seen the rebellious traitors during the day, and pretended to be unprepared when they set up camp in the night, to lure the bandits to attack. The rebellious traitors were exceptionally fierce; Wei Xiaobao led the troops to fight bravely, he provided the leadership and captured the chief of the traitors, whose name was Yuan Yifang, alive, and learned about the rebellion plan. The Imperial Bodyguard Getong and two others gallantly died for their country, asking the Emperor to bestow grace by generously rewarding comfort and aid to the three persons’ bereaved families.

After listening to this, Wei Xiaobao said, “Please also add several sentences on the meritorious service of the Regimental Commander Fu and Zhang and Zhao, two captains of the Imperial Bodyguards.” Fu Chun and the others, three people, were greatly delighted and immediately expressed their gratitude.

Wei Xiaobao added, “Also, add several sentences about we captured nineteen rebellious thieves, but no matter what, those rebellious traitors were unwilling to reveal the rebellion plan, therefore, according to His Majesty’s prior instruction, I intentionally release eighteen rebellious traitors, so that we can investigate clearly the entire rebellion plan.”

The three people asked together, “So releasing the eighteen rebellious traitors was part of His Majesty’s plan?”

“Naturally,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I am so young, how can I be that smart? If not for His Majesty’s foresight, how can I uncover this major rebellion plan?”

Previously, Kangxi had ordered Wei Xiaobao to release Wu Lishen, Ao Biao, Liu Yizhou, three people, in order to find the fact about the rebels entering the Palace. Zhang Kangnian and the others thought that the Emperor had already known that Wangwu Pai people would come to attack. In that case, the framing of Wu Sangui was also part of the Emperor’s plan. Seeing that for no rhyme or reason great riches and honor was being delivered into their hands, they were all overjoyed and did not stop expressing their thousand thanks and ten thousands gratitude.

According to Manchurian Qing custom, when a general went into battle, he could not return without an imperial edict. Although Wei Xiaobao was only about twenty li from Beijing, he could not personally return to Beijing to submit the memorial to the throne. Thereupon he sent two Company Commanders and ten Imperial Bodyguards to lead one company [orig. ‘niru’] of three hundred ordinary soldiers that very same night, with Yuan Yifang in custody, to present the memorial to the throne to Kangxi.

[Author’s note: in the Eight Banners Army, three hundred men formed one ‘niru’. The idea behind ‘niru’ was ‘big arrow’, the leader held a big arrow as the symbol of his authority. Five ‘niru’ formed one ‘jalan’, five ‘jalan’ formed one ‘gusa’.]

Wei Xiaobao was very proud of himself; he thought, “This time I am giving Wu Sangui enough trouble. Mu Palace is having a competition against us, Tian Di hui, to see who will topple Wu Sangui first. Today Laozi has rendered great service to both Shifu. Shifu Chen of Tian Di Hui will be happy, Emperor Shifu will also be happy.”

The next day he led his troops to continue their journey slowly southwards. By noon, two Imperial Bodyguards from Beijing, riding fast horses, caught up with them. They said, “His Majesty has a secret imperial edict.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, immediately he gathered all the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry officers in his tent to receive the imperial decree. The Imperial Bodyguard bearing the imperial decree stood in the middle and read in loud and clear voice: “The Deputy Commander of Valiant Cavalry of Plain Yellow Banner, who simultaneously hold the Deputy Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards position, Wei Xiaobao, listen to this: Zhen told you to go to Shaolin Temple on a mission, who told you to meddle in other people’s business along the way? You have listened to lowly characters speaking nonsense, bringing a false charge against a minister who has given outstanding service, foolishly pursuing this kind of business; how could you not bitterly disappoint your lord? Henceforth you are forbidden to mention that kind of rubbish talk, if even a word or a sentence leak out, all of you will return to Beijing to see Zhen with your heads hanging by your sides. By the Emperor himself.”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard it, he was so scared that his back was wet with cold sweat. He had no choice but to kowtow and thank the Emperor’s favor. The faces of everybody else in the tent went pale, they were very ashamed. Fu Chun, Zhang Kangnian and the others did not dare to talk too much, they thought that this little child was fooling around deliberately, His Majesty did not blame him for the crime, it could be considered that the Emperor treated him very well. Realizing that right now Wei Xiaobao’s mood must be very bad, they did not want to look for a nail to bump, thereupon they took their leave and walked out the tent.

The Imperial Bodyguard bearing the imperial decree walked toward Wei Xiaobao and said in a low voice, “His Majesty’s order: you must be very careful in everything.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “His Majesty’s grace, servant Wei Xiaobao is extremely grateful.” Taking out four hundred taels of silver, he gave the money to the two Imperial Bodyguards.

After the two Imperial Bodyguards left, Wei Xiaobao was puzzled, “Could it be that the Emperor knows that I am slandering Wu Sangui? Or after he arrived in Beijing that servant Yuan Yifang retracted his statement and reported that he had confessed under torture? The Emperor seems to be very fond of Wu Sangui, toppling him is actually not going to be easy.”

That evening, the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry soldiers who were sent to escort Yuan Yifang caught up with them. After Wei Xiaobao bumped into this big nail, everybody did not have any interest to gamble anymore. Without speaking too much, one day the group arrived at the Shaolin Temple on Mount Song.

Having received the report of the arrival of the imperial decree, the Abbot led a group of monks going down the mountain to welcome the party, and then they took Wei Xiaobao and his entourage into the Temple.

Wei Xiaobao took out the imperial decree, opened the sealed envelope, and handed it over to Zhang Kangnian to be read. He heard quite a bit of lengthy and flowery sentences, something like ‘The Masters[2] have profound understanding of mysterious principles of Buddhism, have the foreknowledge of wonderful reason, able to establish auspicious scheme, supporting the Emperor on both sides’, or ‘In the Palace of Nirvana hang the sun and the moon in their splendor, changing the color of the mist and cloud in the garden of Buddha’, or ‘The cloud circles peaks of Mount Song, the luan[3] return to Shaoshi[4], the grass bend down of the immortal dew, peaceful forest under Buddha’s sun, the manifest of Buddhist people, the clear wisdom of our generation’. Following those sentences, the Head Monk of Shaolin Temple, Abbot Hui Cong was bestowed the title of ‘The Zen Master [orig. chan shi] Protector of the Country, Blessing to the Sages’, also, the eighteen Shaolin monks who had rendered great service on Mount Wutai were duly rewarded. Finally Zhang Kangnian read, “Hereby I am sending the Deputy Commander of Valiant Cavalry of Plain Yellow Banner, who simultaneously hold the Deputy Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards position, the wearer of Yellow Magua bestowed personally by the Emperor, Wei Xiaobao, to act on Zhen‘s behalf, to become a Buddhist monk in Shaolin Temple, granted by the Emperor to spend time to learn Buddhist law, namely, to take the tonsure. By the Emperor himself.”

Listening to the bookish part in the front, Wei Xiaobao had no idea where the Emperor was driving at, but toward the end, he actually understood; he could not restrain his countenance from changing greatly. Kangxi wanted him to go to Mount Wutai and be a Buddhist monk there, and he had agreed. But never in his wildest dream would he expect that he was being sent to Shaolin Temple to have his head shaved here. He had the imperial decree continuously in his possession, but before arriving at the destination, how could he dare to open it? Besides, even if he took a peek, he would not know what was written on it anyway.

Hui Cong Chanshi[5] led the monks to thank the Emperor’s favor. The officers took out the gift and distribute it. Wei Xiaobao stood on the side, watching. His heart was in chaos.

Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Wei Daren is going to be a monk in place of His Majesty, this is our Temple’s rare honor.” He took out a razor on the spot, and said, “Wei Daren is His Majesty’s proxy, this is not a small matter, even Lao Na [lit. old cassock] does not dare to be your Shifu. Let Lao Na‘s late master receive you as his disciple, you are Lao Na‘s Shidi [younger martial brother], your Buddhist name will be Hui Ming. In all Shaolin Temple, other than you and Lao Na, two people, nobody else has this ‘Hui’ generation-character in his name.”

Facing this situation, Wei Xiaobao had no choice but kneeling down with tears in his eyes to have his head shaved. Using the razor, Hui Cong Chanshi shaved his head three times first, and then the tonsure monk continued shaving his sparse hair, whatever was left of his burnt pigtail, until nothing was left. With authority Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Do not consider Shaolin’s unadorned wall as an obstruction. Do not consider becoming a monk on the Emperor’s behalf as grandeur. The glory and splendor of the dust was unlucky [‘Hui’] in the past, but now it is bright [‘Ming’]. No coming, no going, no decrease, no increase!” Taking out the document conferred by the Emperor, he filled in the name ‘Hui Ming’ onto the document and had Wei Xiaobao kneeled down to worship the Tathagata[6]. The crowd of monks chorused in calling the name of Buddha.

Wei Xiaobao cursed in his heart, “You, bald-headed thief, do not have eighteen generations ancestors who accumulate merits, but come here and shave Laozi‘s head. You recite Amitabha Buddha, Laozi recite hot piece Mama in my heart.” Suddenly he was overwhelmed with grief and bawled. The officers filling the hall were startled and stared at him. The monks continued their recitation; nobody paid him any attention.

After crying for a while, Wei Xiaobao had no choice but to stop. Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Shidi, among the monks in our Temple, currently we have eight characters of seniority, namely ‘Da Jiao Guan Hui, Cheng Jing Hua Yan’. Our master Guan Zheng Chanshi has passed away twenty-eight years ago, all the Cheng generation monks in our Temple are your Shizhi [martial nephew].”

Immediately the monks, in the order of seniority, stepped forward to pay their respect; among them were Cheng Xin, Cheng Guang, Cheng Tong, and the others, who had had friendship with him before. The Cheng generation old monks with their white, silvery beards were all calling him as Shishu [martial (younger) uncle]. Among the Jing generation monks, there were quite a few of old men, yet they were all calling him Shishuzu [martial granduncle]. The most interesting thing was the Hua generation monks; some of them were thirty, forty years old, but they paid their respect to him by calling him Tai Shishuzu [martial great-granduncle]. Wei Xiaobao was amused and could not help but bursting into loud laughter. Seeing the tears on his face had not been wiped, yet he was laughing happily, everybody smiled.

Turned out the reason Kangxi dispatched the Imperial Bodyguards and his personal troops the Valiant Cavalry to Shaolin Temple was no more than escorting Wei Xiaobao to take the tonsure and become a Buddhist monk; however, as the Emperor’s proxy, how could he be compared to ordinary person? If not for the fanfare, how could the Shaolin monks see the grandeur of this matter?

The Regimental Commander Fu Chun of the Valiant Cavalry, the Imperial Bodyguards Zhao Qixian, Zhang Kangnian, and the others bade their farewell to Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao took out three hundred taels of silver and asked Zhang Kangnian to rent a private house at the foot of the mountain where Shuang’er could stay. Shaolin Temple has never accepted female benefactors inside their temple. Although Shuang’er was wearing a man’s clothing, the eighteen Luohan of Damo Hall had all known her as Wei Xiaobao’s servant girl; therefore, she was waiting at the foot of the mountain. She only knew that Wei Xiaobao was going to pass on the imperial decree, and hand over the rewards to the monks; afterwards, Wei Xiaobao would come down the mountain and return to Beijing. Who would have thought that he was supposed to be a monk in the Temple?

Not only Wei Xiaobao was the Emperor’s proxy, he had the ‘Hui’ character in his name, denoting him a senior monk; therefore, everybody in the Temple revered him. The Abbot reserved a large meditation room for him. Abbot Hui Cong said, “Shidi, you are free to do anything in the Temple, you may do morning and night chores as you wish. Other than abstaining against taking life, stealing, being lascivious, lying, drinking wine, five major Buddhist monastic disciplines, you can choose whether to observe or not to observe the minor discipline.” And then he explained in details what those five major Buddhist monastic disciplines mean.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Lying is included in these five major Buddhist monastic disciplines, to Laozi, I don’t want to guard against whatever I say.” He asked, “Is gambling also to be abstained?”

Abbot Hui Cong was taken aback. “What gambling?” he asked.

“Gambling for money?” Wei Xiaobao said.

Hui Cong smiled and said, “Within the five major Buddhist monastic disciplines, gambling is not mentioned. Other people may want to abstain against it, but Shidi may do as you wish.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Damn it, if I am the only one who does not abstain against it, what’s the use? Could I be betting against myself?”

After living in the Temple for several days, he was already bored to death; he pondered, “Xiao Xuanzi wanted me to serve the Old Emperor, but he sent me to Shaolin Temple to be a monk. I wonder when is he going to let me go to Mount Wutai?”

One particular day he wandered aimlessly to the outside of the Luohan Hall. He saw Cheng Tong was overseeing six disciples in martial art training. As soon as those monks saw his arrival, they bowed together to salute. Wei Xiaobao waved his hand and said, “Don’t be too polite, you may continue your training.”

He saw the six ‘Jing’ generation monks boxing technique was precise and rigorous, their movements were very nimble, the changes in their stances were very dynamic; compared to this ‘martial granduncle’ of theirs, they were actually much more superior. He heard Cheng Tong giving them directions, how firm and how fast should this punch be, how to be powerful but flexible, how to position this kick, how not to kick too high, and so on. Wei Xiaobao did not understand anything, so he was just watching without any interest. After a while he turned around and walked away, thinking, “I always hear people say that Shaolin Temple’s martial art skill is number one under the heavens. Now that I am a monk in the Temple, won’t it be a pity if I don’t learn the skill?” Suddenly it dawned on him, “Aiyo! I got it! The dog fart Shaolin martial art that the old turtle Hai Dafu taught me was fake, it is totally useless. Xiao Xuanzi is sending me to Shaolin Temple to be a monk here, he wants me to learn the real skill of Shaolin Pai before I can protect the Old Emperor. But my Shifu died twenty eight years ago, who will teach me martial art?”

After pondering for half a day, he finally understood one thing: “Old Monk Abbot makes me his Shidi, it’s precisely so that I don’t have any Shifu; this old bald thief is very crafty. Hmm, that’s right, he knew I am the Emperor’s trusted aide, who is a high-ranking Manchu official; there is no way he would be willing to pass on excellent martial art skill to this little Tatar. Humph, you don’t want to teach me, do you think I cannot learn by looking?”

In Wulin world, when people were teaching martial art, it was a big taboo for any school or sect to have other people watching on the side. However, this Hui Ming Chanshi was their own Temple’s ‘Senior Monk of Older Generation’. When their Sect’s disciples and grand-disciples were practicing martial art and he wanted to watch on the side, nobody could raise any objection.

Wei Xiaobao looked to the east and gazed to the west in all courtyards and halls around the Temple. Whenever there were people training martial art, he would stand and watch for a while. Unfortunately, this ‘senior monk’s’ foundation was indeed too superficial. What Hai Dafu taught him was not a real martial art, while what Chen Jinnan taught him, the internal energy cultivation technique, he only practiced for several days. Shaolin Pai’s martial art was wide-ranging and profound, by casually watching like this, how could he reap any benefit? Much less he did not have any patience to watch for an extended period of time.

Therefore, after wandering around Shaolin Temple for more than a month, he did not learn even one bit of martial art skill. However, he had an easy-going personality, he loved to mingle around and make friends. Since in term of seniority his position in the Temple was second only to the Abbot, and he was willing to make friends with other people, all monks were very warm toward him.

One day, the spring breeze was gentle and pleasant, Wei Xiaobao felt his entire body was comfortably warm. Living in a monastery with monks as his only companions was really not the most fun thing to do, thereupon he went out the Temple’s gate and strolled down the mountain. He thought that he had not seen Shuang’er for quite a while, he wanted to know how this girl was doing, so he wanted to see her. Moreover, day in and day out he ate vegetarian dishes in the Temple, he had already cursed the green vegetables and tofu’s ancestor several thousand, several tens of thousand times. He wanted Shuang’er to buy some chicken, fish and meat, and let the great monk eat to his heart’s desire.

Walking near the Welcoming Guest Pavilion [Ying Ke Ting] outside the Temple, he suddenly heard the sound of people quarreling; he was delighted, “Wonderful, wonderful! A fight.” Quickening his steps, he heard the voices of men, intersperse with the sharp and clear voice of several women.

When he came near, he saw two young women in the Pavilion squabbling with four of their Temple’s monks. When the four monks saw Wei Xiaobao, they said together, “Shishuzu is here, let’s have the Senior be the judge over this matter.” Welcoming him to the Pavilion, they put their palms together and bowed. These four monks were of the ‘Jing’ generation. Wei Xiaobao knew that they were in charge of receiving guests and benefactors outside the Temple. Usually they were very well-disposed and very affable, yet somehow they were engaged in a squabble with these two young women. Looking at the two women, one was approximately twenty years old, wearing blue garment, the other was younger, perhaps around sixteen or seventeen years old, wearing light green garment.

As soon as Wei Xiaobao looked at this young woman, he could not stop his heart from jumping, he felt as if the pit of his stomach was beaten by an invisible iron hammer, in an instant his lips were parched, his tongue dried, he was dumbstruck and could only thought, “I am dead, I must be dead! Where did this beautiful woman come from? If this beautiful woman is given to me as my wife, even if the young emperor wanted to switch places with me, I don’t want it. Dead or alive, the heaven above the earth below, forest of spears or rain of arrows, mountain of blade or a deep fryer, no matter what Wei Xiaobao must take this miss as a wife.”

Seeing how these four monks were calling the young monk ‘martial granduncle’, and were treating him with great respect, the two women were very surprised. And then they noticed his eyes were staring blankly at the girl in green clothes. Even a common man ought not to be so impolite, much less this was someone who had left home to become a monk. The girl in green blushed, she turned her head away. An angry look started to appear on the woman in blue’s face.

Wei Xiaobao was oblivious; he mused, “Why did she turn her head away? When she is blushing slightly like that, even if a hundred girls of Lovely Spring Courtyard stand together, they do not look as good as one strand of her eyebrow. If I have to give her ten thousand taels each time she laugh, it is still worth it.” He also thought, “Miss Fang, Xiao Junzhu, Madame Hong, Princess Jianning, that girl Shuang’er, plus that Miss Zheng who threw the dice, put together are not as beautiful as this fairy. I, Wei Xiaobao, do not want to be the Emperor, I don’t want to be the Shen Long Jiao’s Jiaozhu, I don’t want to be Tian Di Hui’s Zongduozhu. Some Yellow Magua or three peacock feathers, one-pin or two-pin rank officer, I don’t care about all those things, I … I only want to be this Miss’ husband.”

In that instant, myriads of thoughts filled his mind, he was determined to go through water and tread on fire, to risk his life and limbs, to realize his dream; consequently, his expression looked very strange. To the four monks and two women who were looking at him, he looked just like an idiot: suddenly beaming with joy, and then suddenly clenching his jaw.

“Shishuzu,” Jing Ji and Jing Qing called several times, but Wei Xiaobao was totally oblivious to them. Only after a long time, did he finally wake up as if from a dream, and blew out a breath.

At first the woman in blue thought that Wei Xiaobao was a horny philanderer; afterwards, seeing his blank look, she thought this little monk must be a lunatic, and found it amusing. She asked, “So this little monk is your Shishuzu?”

Jing Ji hastily said, “Miss, please be a bit more respectful. This senior monk’s Buddhist name is Hui on the top and Ming on the bottom. In our Temple, he is one of the only two Senior Monks with ‘Hui’ generation-character; he is our head monk, the Abbot’s Shidi.”

The two women were slightly startled, but then they thought they were joking; they shook their heads in disbelief. The woman in green laughed and said, “Shijie, he is swindling us, don’t be fooled. This little … little master, how can he be a senior monk?”

Her voice was melodious, sweet and charming, tender and alluring. Hearing her, Wei Xiaobao’s soul flew and scattered away, he could not help but repeating, “This little … little master, how can he be a senior monk?” But the way he said it sounded frivolous, with no effort to conceal his uncouthness. The two women’s faces immediately sank, the four Jing generation monks also felt that this young martial granduncle kind of forgetting his manners too much, hence they were very ashamed.

“Humph,” the woman in blue snorted and asked, “Are you a Shaolin Temple’s senior monk?”

“A monk is a monk,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Nothing senior about it. You can see that I am short, I am nothing more than a short monk[7].”

The eyebrows of the woman in blue shot up; in loud and clear voice she said, “I heard people say that Shaolin Temple’s martial art is the leader of the world, their seventy-two unsurpassed skills are immeasurably deep. We, the two sisters, envied it in our hearts, and have come here specifically to admire it. Unexpectedly, your martial art is so-so, worse yet, the monks of the Temple do not observe propriety, oily-mouthed and smooth talking, just like the hoodlums of the marketplace, making other people sorely disappointed. Shimei, let us go!” Finished speaking, she turned around to exit the Pavilion.

Jing Qing blocked in front of her, “Nu Shizhu [female benefactor] has come to Shaolin Temple, committed violence and hit people, even if you want to go, you must at least leave your revered master’s name.”

Hearing the words ‘committed violence and hit people’, Wei Xiaobao thought, “Turns out they have already assaulted people, no wonder Jing Qing and the others quarreled with them.” He saw red palm marks on the left cheeks of Jing Qing and Jing Ji, evidently they both have suffered a palm strike each.

Wei Xiaobao had chatted with everybody in the Temple, so he already knew the level of martial art skill of these four monks who were in charge of receiving the guests; in the Temple, they could be classified as less-developed. Because they had low martial art skill yet they were eloquent and fluent speakers, the Abbot assigned them the duty of receiving the benefactors who were going to perform their charitable deeds.

In the Wulin world, Shaolin Temple’s fame spanned more than a thousand years. The number of people who came to the temple each month to experience their martial art was too numerous to mention. The monks in charge of receiving the guests had low martial art skill, it was precisely because they were not supposed to fight. Otherwise, the Shaolin Dhyana Temple would turn into an arena where people fought for martial art supremacy. Not only it would disrupt their peace in meditation, it would also be a great disobedience to the Buddhist’s teaching about mercy, hence fighting was an unacceptable behavior.

Obviously the woman in blue did not understand this reason, she only thought that since with one strike she had succeeded in beating two Shaolin monks, she had a reason to be very proud of herself. She said, “Based on your mediocre martial art, you want your Miss to leave behind Shifu’s name, humph, do you think you deserve it?”

Jing Ji has just suffered defeat; he knew that with the five of them combined, they could not stop the women. If these two young women went down the mountain and proclaimed that they had beaten two Shaolin monks and then shook their sleeves and left, while even their origins were unknown, where would they put Shaolin Temple’s reputation at? Thereupon he said, “The four of us have the duty to receive benefactors, our martial art skill is extremely low, and those who have left home hold friendship as our foundation, how can we meaninglessly fight with others? Since the two of you have come to get advice about our humble Temple’s martial art, please wait for a moment, pinseng [impoverished monk] will invite several Shibo and Shishu [martial (older) uncle and martial (younger) uncle] to come, we will introduce them to you.” Finished speaking, he turned around to rush toward the Temple.

Suddenly a blue shadow flashed. Jing Ji angrily shouted, “You …” ‘Slap’ he was thrown tumbling down on the ground. It was the woman in blue who ran after him and stretched out her leg to hook his feet. Jing Ji sprang up and angrily said, “Nu Shizhu, why are you …”

The woman in blue laughed aloud and sent a right punch. Jing Ji hastily raised his right arm to block. The woman in blue grabbed with her left hand, ‘Crack!’ unexpectedly she dislocated his right arm joint. There was a series of ‘Crack!’, ‘Aiyo!’, ‘Clack, clack!’ as in an instant she also broke either the other three monks’ wrist bones or their arm joints. The four monks withdrew to the side, completely unable to resist. Jing Ji turned around and rushed back to the Temple to report.

Wei Xiaobao was so scared that he was at a loss of what to do, and was completely helpless. Suddenly the back of his neck tightened, someone grabbed him, while at the same time sealed the acupoint on the back of his neck. Immediately his whole body went limp and painful, he could not exert his strength. He saw the woman in blue was standing in front of him, in that case, the one grabbing his back was obviously the girl in green. His heart was wild with joy. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” he shouted loudly.

Having his back grabbed by the girl, Wei Xiaobao felt he had not walked in this world in vain. It would be best if she added several kicks to his behind, or landed several punches on the top of his head. Even if he were killed immediately, he would enjoy infinite pleasure and would think that his good fortune in love department was great. This moment his nostrils caught a whiff of light, delicate fragrance, hence he called out, “Smells good, smells good!”

The woman in blue angrily said, “This little bald thief is so rotten. Meizi, cut his nose!”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao heard a charming voice from behind him, “But let me dig his pair of thief eyeballs first.” And then he felt the fingers of a warm, soft and smooth hand pressed against his left eyelid.

“Please dig it slowly, don’t do it too quickly,” Wei Xiaobao shouted.

The girl was surprised, “Why?” she asked.

“It would be best if you grab me like this,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Grab me for a lifetime, never let me go, forever.”

The girl angrily said, “Little monk, you are at the death’s door, and still speaking nonsense to me?”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly felt a sharp pain on his right eye; the girl was really going to dig his eyeball out. Greatly shocked, he bent his waist and lowered his head, all reasons and logic were thrown away beyond the ninth level of clouds, both hands reached backward, he only hoped he could pry open the hand holding the back of his neck. The girl punched him on the back. Wei Xiaobao screamed, “Aiyo! Mama!” His hands frantically clawed backward, unconsciously he had launched the move ‘Di Qing subduing the dragon’ that Hong Jiaozhu had taught him. Suddenly he felt both of hands touched something soft; unexpectedly he had grabbed the girl’s breasts.

This style was originally intended to force the enemy behind his back to withdraw, then he would somersault backward and ride on the enemy’s neck. Who would have thought that the girl did not have much experience dealing with the enemy and did not guard against Wei Xiaobao’s grabbing her chest? Since the result was entirely different than what was expected, naturally the second half of the move ‘Di Qing subduing the dragon’ could not be executed.

The girl was shocked and ashamed at the same time, she brought her outstretched arms inside and caught Wei Xiaobao’s arms and ‘crack, crack!’ she broke the joints of both of his elbows. This move was called ‘the young swallow returns to its nest’, a refined name, but was actually a killer move from the ‘separating tendon dislocating bone technique’. It was followed by a flying kick, sending Wei Xiaobao reeling about a zhang or so.

The girl was extremely angry, she pulled the willow-leaf saber from her waist and violently chopped it down on Wei Xiaobao’s back. Wei Xiaobao hastily rolled around and finally rolled underneath the stone table in the middle of the pavilion. The girl’s saber struck the ground, sparks flew in all directions; she kicked with her left foot, kicking Wei Xiaobao from underneath the table.

“Shimei,” the woman in blue called out, “You must not kill him!”

The girl in green acted as if she did not hear, she forcefully chopped down on Wei Xiaobao’s back again. “Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao screamed again, “I want my Mommy!” The girl in green chopped down twice more, the chop was so hard that Wei Xiaobao felt the pain in his bone and marrow. Luckily he had his treasured undergarment to protect him that he was not injured.

The girl in green wanted to chop again, but the woman in blue pulled her own saber; ‘clang!’ she stopped her steel saber while calling out, “This little monk will not live, let us quickly leave!” She thought that they had killed a monk in the Temple, the disaster they brought to themselves was indeed not small.

The girl in green had received significant disgrace, plus she believed she had killed this little monk, shock and shame mixed together, suddenly tears streamed down her cheeks, she raised her saber and slashed it across her own neck. The woman in blue was greatly alarmed, hastily she stretched out her saber to block; although she managed to divert the blade of her saber, but the tip of the saber still scratched across her neck, blood gushed out instantly.

“Shimei,” the woman in blue cried out in fear, “You … you … what are you doing?”

The girl in green’s vision darkened, she blacked out and fell down to the ground. The woman in blue threw her saber away and rushed to catch her. “Shimei!” she cried out, “You … you … you must not die!”

Suddenly she heard a voice behind her. “Amitabha Buddha, must save her quick.”

The woman in blue cried, she said, “It’s … it’s too late.”

She saw a hand reached out from behind, the fingers continuously moving, sealing the acupoints surrounding the wound on the girl in green’s neck, followed by a voice, “Saving people is urgent, Miss please don’t blame me.” ‘Rip, rip’ he tore a piece of his own robe and wrapped the girl in green’s neck, and then he stooped down to carry her up.

The woman in blue was at a loss of what to do; she stood up and saw the man was an old monk with white long beard hanging down to his chest. As he held the girl in green in his arms, he rushed up the mountain. The woman in blue was frightened; she had no choice but to follow behind him. She saw the old monk was carrying her martial sister entering Shaolin Temple’s main gate, immediately she followed in.

Wei Xiaobao crawled out from underneath the stone table; his arms had already refused to follow his command, they hung down limply on his sides. He thought, “This … this Miss is very vicious, why did she want to commit suicide? If she is really dead, what will happen? I … I’d better escape, damn it.”

But as soon as he thought about the girl’s exceptional countenance, his heart boiled, and he made up his mind: “I must not run away, I must take a look at her.” His arms were extremely painful, cold sweats as big as soy beans were dripping from his forehead; bracing himself, he walked up the mountain.

He only walked for about a dozen steps when he saw more than ten monks rushing out from the Temple to help him and the other three Jing generation monks back to the Temple. All five of them were treated from their dislocated bones injuries. Grab and capture [qin na], tumbling and bare-hand fighting were the best among Shaolin Pai’s martial arts, immediately there was a monk coming to fix their arms.

Wei Xiaobao was eager to see the girl, he asked the two women’s whereabouts, and immediately walked toward the eastern courtyard’s meditation room. He had just rounded a corner along a corridor when he saw eight monks with jiedao[8] in their hands, walking straight toward him. These eight monks were law enforcer monks from the Jielu [monastic disciple] Courtyard. The leader bowed and said, “Shishuzu, Fangzhang Dashi requests the pleasure of seeing you.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I want to see that little Miss first, I wonder if she is alive or dead.”

The monk said, “Fangzhang Dashi is waiting at the Jielu Courtyard, asking Shishuzu to come over immediately.”

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “I said I want to see that pretty little Miss first; didn’t you hear?” Usually his temperament was good, now that his heart was anxious, unexpectedly he was cursing at people in the Temple.

The eight monks looked at each other in dismay, they did not dare to stop him. Immediately four monks followed behind him, while the other four continued to summon Jing Ji and the others, four welcoming-guest monks.

Wei Xiaobao arrived at the Eastern Courtyard’s meditation room and asked, “The Little Miss did not die?”

An old monk replied, “Reporting to Shishu: the injury is not heavy, Xiao Seng [little/lowly monk] is giving her medical treatment.” Wei Xiaobao felt relieved immediately.

The woman in blue was standing by the door, she pointed to Wei Xiaobao and cursed, “This little monk is not good.”

Wei Xiaobao stuck out his tongue to her. He hesitated for a moment, but in the end he did not dare to enter the room. Turning around, he went to Jielu Courtyard. He saw the gate to the Courtyard was wide open, several dozen monks wearing kasaya were standing on either side of the gate, their expression solemn. The four monks escorting him with the Buddhist knife in their hands opened their mouths together, “Reporting to Fangzhang [Abbot]: Monk Hui Ming is here.”

Seeing this kind of expression, Wei Xiaobao mused, “Who do you think you are? The Grand Master of the Courtroom? His granny, what an air.” Entering the great hall, he saw several dozen candles were lighted in front of the image of Buddha, the Abbot, Hui Cong Chanshi stood on the left head-position, while on the right stood an old monk, big and tall, whose expression did not show any anger, yet his standing was evident; he was the head of Jielu Courtyard, Cheng Shi Chanshi. Jing Ji, Jing Qing, and the others, four monks, stood below the head-position.

“Shidi,” Hui Cong Chanshi said, “Pay your respect to Tathagata.” Wei Xiaobao kneeled down in worship.

Hui Cong Chanshi waited until Wei Xiaobao finished paying his respect and stood up before saying, “I will have to bother Shidi to explain what happened at the Pavilion halfway up the mountain to the Head of Jielu Courtyard.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I heard them quarrelling, hence I came over to take a look. As for why they quarreled, I don’t have any clue. Jing Ji, why don’t you explain?”

“Yes,” Jing Ji said. Turning around, he said, “Reporting to Fangzhang and Head of Jielu Courtyard Shishu: disciples, four people, were welcoming the guests at the Pavilion halfway up the mountain. Those two Nu Shizhu have come to the Temple to join in charitable deeds. That was what they tactfully reported to us. Our Temple has always had a custom of not receiving Nu Shizhu. The Nu Shizhu who is slightly older said, ‘I heard Shaolin Temple claims itself to be the orthodox school of martial art, each one of the seventy-two unsurpassed artistry is unequalled in the present age. We are here to increase our knowledge, we want to see how formidable it really is.’ Disciple replied, ‘Our humble Temple does not dare to claim to have unequalled martial art in the present age. Each school, each sect under the heavens has its own strong points, how can Shaolin Pai dare to be arrogant and conceited?'”

Hui Cong Fangzhang said, “You said it well, it was very fitting.”

Jing Ji said, “That Nu Shizhu said, ‘In that case, Shaolin Pai only enjoys unearned reputation with their ‘three-legged cat’ boxing technique, isn’t that a joke?’ Disciple said, ‘May I ask which school do the two Nu Shizhu belong to? Whose senior Wulin master’s distinguished disciples are you?'”

“Exactly,” Hui Cong said, “Those two young women came to this Temple to cause trouble, to look down on our Sect’s martial art, their background must be noteworthy, so we should ask clearly their school’s origin.”

Jing Ji said, “That Nu Shizhu said, ‘Do you want to know our school’s origin? That’s very easy; as soon as you see it, you will know.’ Suddenly she made her move and struck disciple and Jing Qing Shidi with her palm. Her movement was very fast, disciple did not guard beforehand, I am very ashamed, unexpectedly I was not able to evade at all. Jing Qing Shidi said, ‘How can you play rough and beat people?’ That Nu Shizhu laughed and said, ‘You asked my school’s origin; talking is cheap, action shows result. Now you have seen it, don’t you recognize it?’ Speaking to this point Hui Ming Shishuzu arrived.”

Cheng Shi asked, “When that Nu Shizhu struck you, what technique did she use?”

Jing Ji, Jing Qing lowered their heads and said, “Disciple did not see clearly.”

Cheng Shi turned to the other two monks, “You did not take a beating, shouldn’t you be able to see the technique that Nu Shizhu used?”

The two monks said, “We only heard ‘slap, slap’ twice, two Shixiong have been slapped, the woman’s hand did not seem to move at all, even her body did not move.”

Cheng Shi looked at the Abbot, waiting for his decision. Hui Cong pondered deeply for a moment, then he ordered the monk on duty, “Invite the Heads of Damo Hall and Bo’re Hall[9] to come over here.”

Not too long afterwards, the two head monks arrive in succession. The Head of Damo Hall was Cheng Xin, the head of the Eighteen Luohan who went to Mount Wutai to rescue the Old Emperor. The Head of Bo’re Hall was Cheng Guan Chanshi, an old monk about eighty years of age. The two monks paid their respect to the Abbot.

Hui Cong said, “There are two Nu Shizhu who came to our Temple to create trouble; we don’t know which school or sect they belong to. The two of you have extensive knowledge and vast experience, please join us in considering this matter in detail.” And he recounted what had happened immediately.

Cheng Xin said, “All along the four martial nephews have never seen her move, but two of you suffered palm strike on your faces. Our Sect’s Thousand-Leaf Hands, Wudang Pai’s Circling Wind Palm, Kunlun Pai’s Falling Wild Goose Fist, as well as Kongtong Pai’s Flying Phoenix Hand, all have this kind of technique.”

Hui Cong said, “Just based on these two palm strikes, we cannot tell her martial art school. Shidi, how did you fight with them?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That lady in blue broke four … four monks’ hands first …” Hui Cong inquired how the four monks had their arms and wrists dislocated. The four monks then successively narrated and acted what had happened to them.

Cheng Xin was watching with rapt attention; he questioned in detail about the woman’s technique one by one, finally he turned to Wei Xiaobao and said, “May I ask Shishu, how did that Miss break the Senior’s arms?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The back of my, the Senior’s, neck was grabbed by that good-looking Miss, immediately my body was numb, she was grabbing right here.” While saying that, he pointed to the back of his neck.

Cheng Xin nodded and said, “That is the Dazhui [big hammer] acupoint, the most vital acupoint on human’s body.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I reached backward to get her arm off me, but she punched me on my back; it was so painful I almost died. I, the Senior, was anxious, I clawed wildly backward, and grabbed her chest. This little Miss was also anxious, she broke my arms, threw me to the ground, and chopped me randomly. Damn it, killing people does not need any capital, she was determined to murder her husband and wanted to be a young widow.”

Hearing him blabbering nonsense, the monks looked at each other in consternation. Cheng Xin stood behind him, he reached out to examine Wei Xiaobao, and saw that there were three saber slashes on the back of his Buddhist robe. He was shocked and said, “She chopped you three times; Shishu, how is your injury?”

Wei Xiaobao was immensely proud of himself; he said, “I have treasured clothes to protect me, I am not injured at all. Fortunately those three chops did not land on my bald head. That little sister chopped me but I did not die, she must be scared out of her wits, thinking that my, the Senior’s, martial art skill was immeasurably deep; therefore, she had no choice but slashing her own neck. Actually, my martial art skill is sloppy and ordinary, but she has a countenance of a flower, face like the moon, so I, the Senior, can’t possibly make things difficult for her …”

Hui Cong was afraid he might continue blabbering nonsense, hence he interrupted, “Shidi, that’s enough.”

Now the crowd of monks understood the reason why that young woman wanted to kill herself; it was because her breasts were grabbed, she had received enormous humiliation. But at that time Wei Xiaobao’s life was hanging on a thread, the three slashes on his robe were the evidence. In critical situation, he randomly grabbed backward and touched whatever part of the enemy’s body, so nobody could say he should be blamed. His martial art skill was low, he was grabbed by the enemy and was struggling for his life, how could his action follow any kind of rule?

Cheng Shi’s countenance immediately turned gentle; he said, “Shishu, previously I heard that Nu Shizhu kept saying and cursing that you did not observe Buddhist monastic rule, that you violated religious commandment by taking liberty with women, therefore, you have committed a serious offense. Turns out it was an accident during the struggle, so we cannot say that you have violated the monastic discipline. Shishu, please sit down.” Personally he picked a chair and placed it next to Hui Cong. By doing this, he was saying that since you did not violate the monastic discipline, Jielu Courtyard did not need to deal with you, you were still my superior in the Temple, then I should show my respect to you.

Giggling, Wei Xiaobao sat down. Seeing his frivolous behavior and senseless talk, Cheng Shi could not help but saying, “Although Shishu did not violate the Buddhist monastic discipline against sexual conduct, when you see the Nu Shizhu, you must maintain your dignity and stern facial expression, you must not fail to show the Shaolin Temple’s eminent monk’s elegant demeanor.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “My eminent monk status is informal, I got it just to make up the number, it should not be taken seriously.”

Hui Cong was about to open his mouth in admonition when the Head of Bo’re Hall, Cheng Guan, suddenly said, “There is no school.”

Cheng Xin asked in surprise, “Shixiong is saying that those two Nu Shizhu do not belong to any school?”

“They learned martial art by stealing!” Cheng Guan said, “The ‘separating tendon dislocating bone technique’ of those two women contains Wudang, Kunlun, Kongtong and Diancang, four Sects’ technique. The three saber slashes on Shishu’s back contain Emei, Jingcheng and Shanxi’s Luhe Saber[10], three schools’ saber technique. It was a random mixture of several techniques; not only that, their mastery is not perfect. There is no sect in the world with that kind of martial art.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly astonished, “Uh,” he said, “You can tell the origin of each move in the style they used?”

He did not know that Cheng Guan left home to become a Buddhist monk in the Shaolin Temple when he was only eight years old; for more than seventy years he had single-mindedly study martial art, and had never left the Temple’s gate for even one step. He had read extensively ancient books on martial art, his knowledge was vast.

In Shaolin Temple, Damo Hall specialized in researching their own martial art, while Bo’re Hall actually specialized in researching the martial art of each house and sect under the heavens. The several dozen of eminent monks of the Bo’re Hall were all proficient in one or more sects’ martial art.

In the last years of Sui Dynasty, the monks of Shaolin Temple had helped Li Shimin flattening Wang Shichong[11]; from that moment on, their martial art has overawed the world. For the next thousand years their reputation did not diminish, admittedly it was because their Sect’s martial art was broad and profound; but the fact that Bo’re Hall researching other sects’ martial art was also one of the principal factors. After acquiring thorough understanding of other sects’ martial art, first, they would analyze the strength and weakness of each martial art style, to patch up the inadequacy of their own martial art; second, if they had any confrontation with other sects’ experts, by knowing the ins and outs of the opponents’ skill, they would gain great advantage.

As Shaolin disciples went out in Jianghu to perform their heroic deeds, when they returned, they would pay their respect to the Abbot and their own master first, and then they would go to Jielu Courtyard to report if there was any fault, next they would go to Bo’re Hall to report what they saw and heard. If there was any style or move belonging to other sect worth having, the monk of Bo’re Hall would then record everything. In this way, after accumulating such records for a thousand years, they knew various schools’ martial art from all over the world like the back of their hands. Even if there was no talented person with outstanding ability and wisdom in the Temple, Shaolin Pai could still be considered the leader of the realm.

Cheng Guan single-mindedly studied martial art, he knew nothing about the way of the world, his conduct was rather naive, but his understanding of each school and sect’s martial art was very clear. When a scholar reads too many books, he is known as a ‘bookworm’; this Cheng Guan Chanshi learned too many martial arts that he had become ‘martial art worm’[12]. In all his life, other than sparring with his fellow disciples, he had never exchanged a move or half a style with outsiders; yet his knowledge of martial art studies was vast, he could even be considered the top among his peers, the monks of the Temple.

Cheng Xin said, “Turns out the two Nu Shizhu do not belong to any school or sect; this matter become slightly easier to handle. When that Miss’ injury is healed, we can send them off from the Temple, then there won’t be any future trouble.”

Cheng Shi said, “Those two martial sisters’ technique are compatible with each other, apparently they have a Shifu.”

Cheng Xin said, “Even if they have a Shifu, it can’t be a renowned master from a famous school or major sect.”

Cheng Shi nodded. Abbot Hui Cong said, “The two Nu Shizhu are young and love to meddle. In this affair we have not made any serious error. Nevertheless, we must not fail to show courtesy, we must treat the two Nu Shizhu well. You are dismissed.” Finished speaking, he stood up.

Cheng Xin smiled and said, “At first I thought there was a martial art in Wulin world who instructed these two young women, with the intention to humiliate our Sect; I was a little worried. Shaolin Temple has enjoyed our reputation for a thousand years, it must not fall in our hands.” All the monks smiled and nodded their heads.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly said, “In my opinion, the name of Shaolin Pai’s martial art is resounding, but actually it is only so-so.”

Hui Cong had just about to go out the door, as soon as he heard it, he turned his head in shock. Wei Xiaobao said, “Jing Ji, Jing Qing, how long have you been training martial art?”

Jing Ji said that he had been training for fourteen years, Jing Qing for twelve years; they both admitted that their intelligence was low, and had not made any progress, hence they were extremely ashamed.

Abbot Hui Cong said, “We are studying Buddhism here, our aspiration is to understand the way to free ourselves, whether our martial art skill is high or low is inessentials.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “I think there’s a major flaw in that argument. These two young girls are at most twenty years old, plus they were only stealing one move from the east, one style from the west, to create some hodgepodge three-legged cat moves of their own school or sect, yet they were able to beat Shaolin monks with more than ten years of training that we flee to the wilderness and piss in our pants in terror, without any ability to parry and die without a burial site. It seems to me that Wudang Pai, Kunlun Pai’s one move or half a style is a lot more formidable than our orthodox Shaolin Pai’s martial art.”

Hui Cong, Cheng Shi, Cheng Xin, and the other monks looked very awkward. Although Wei Xiaobao’s words were extremely offensive to hear, momentarily they found it very difficult to refute. They all thought, “Jing Ji and the others, four people’s martial art skill is extremely disappointing, how can we say it is an orthodox Shaolin Pai’s martial art?”

Yet Cheng Guan nodded his head and said, “What Shishu said makes a perfect sense.”

Cheng Shi was surprised, “Why did Shixiong say it makes sense?”

Cheng Guan said, “Other people’s hodgepodge martial art beats our orthodox martial art; there is something wrong here.”

Hui Cong said, “People’s natural endowments are not the same. Jing Ji and the others are not very good at martial art, but they are busy with receiving visitors to our Temple, it means they are rendering great merit in propagating Buddhist teaching. Jing Ji, Jing Qing, Jing Ben, Jing Yuan, the four of you delegate your receiving-visitors duty to others, you may devote your time in practicing martial art.” Jing Ji and the others, four monks bowed in compliance.

The monks left Jielu Courtyard. Wei Xiaobao shook his head. Cheng Guan knitted his brows; he was deep in thought for half a day, then he also shook his head. Hui Cong and Cheng Xin looked at each other; they both thought, “These two, one old the other young, are both ignorant people, we should not pay them any attention.” Without a word they walked out.

Cheng Guan turned his gaze toward the courtyard, where a maidenhair tree’s leaf was floating slowly to the ground; he had a sudden inspiration. “Shishu,” he said, “I want to see those Nu Shizhu.”

Wei Xiaobao was ecstatic, “Nothing could be better than that,” he said, “I am coming with you.”

The two of them went to the Eastern Courtyard’s meditation room. The old monk treating the girl in green’s injury came out to greet them. Wei Xiaobao asked, “Can she die?”

The old monk replied, “The saber cut is not deep, nothing serious, she won’t die.”

“Wonderful, wonderful,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, as he entered the meditation room.

He saw the girl in green was lying on the couch, her eyes were shut tight, her face was so white that it looked almost transparent, her neck was wrapped with cotton and a piece of plain white cloth, her right hand was outside the quilt, her five fingers were slender and looked delicate, it really looked like the fingers were carved from a piece of white jade. At the end of the fingers, there were five tiny round spirals. Wei Xiaobao’s heart was greatly moved, he could not control his strong desire to stroke the beautiful, extremely adorable small hand. “I wonder if she still has the pulse,” he said. Pretending to feel the pulse, he reached out to touch the hand.

The woman in blue had been standing at the foot of the bed. Seeing Wei Xiaobao walked in, her anger had already shot to the sky. “Don’t touch my Meizi!” she shouted. Seeing he did not withdraw his hand at all, her left hand stretched out, she wanted to grab his wrist.

Cheng Guan flicked his middle finger toward the Yanggu [lit. positive valley] acupoint on the side of her left palm; he said, “You are using the Hao Family of Shanxi’s qin na technique.”

The woman in blue withdrew her hand, while sending her elbow out at the same time. Cheng Guan extended his finger to flick the Xiaohai [lit. minor ocean] acupoint at the base of her elbow. The woman in blue countered with a right backhand strike. Cheng Guan’s middle finger flicked again, forcing her to stop midway and withdrew one step back. The young woman was startled and angry at the same time, she moved her fists like whirlwind, and in an instant she had already sent seven or eight punches.

Cheng Guan nodded his head continuously, while his finger also flicked seven, eight times. “Aiyo!” the girl screamed, the Qinglengyuan [lit. clear and cold abyss] on her right arm was hit by his finger, her arm immediately went limp. “Dead monk!” she cursed.

Cheng Guan was surprised. “I am alive,” he said, “If I were a dead monk, how could I use my finger to flick you?”

Seeing his formidable martial art, the girl was actually scared, but she was unwilling to lose the argument; she cursed, “You are still alive today, you will be dead tomorrow.”

Cheng Guan was startled. “How does Nu Shizhu know?” he asked, “Could it be that you have the foreknowledge?”

“Humph,” the girl said, “Shaolin Temple monks are oily-mouthed and smooth talkers.”

She thought Cheng Guan was joking with her, she did not know that although this old monk had a superb martial art skill, he was completely oblivious of other affairs. All his life he had never left the Temple. All the monks in the Temple strictly maintained Buddhist monastic disciple against wild talk, there had never been one person who told him any lie; thereupon he always thought that there was no such thing as untrue statement in the world.

Hearing the girl said that Shaolin Temple monks were oily-mouthed and smooth talkers, he thought, “Could it be that in the vegetarian dish today there was too much soy bean oil?” Extending his sleeve, he wiped his lips, but did not see any oil. He rolled his tongue around in his mouth, but did not feel anything greasy or slippery.

While he was still in the state of bewilderment, the woman in blue hissed, “Get out! Don’t wake my Shimei.”

“Yes, yes …” Cheng Guan said, “Shishu, let’s get out of here.”

Wei Xiaobao was staring at the girl lying on the couch, he was already not in his right mind for quite some time. He grunted his acknowledgement, but did not move a single step. The woman in blue slowly walked toward his back, suddenly her palms shot out, she gave him a violent push. “Ah!” Wei Xiaobao screamed, he was sent flying out of the room, and ‘Bang!’ he landed heavily on the ground. “Aiyo, aiyo!” he cried out, unable to crawl up.

Cheng Guan said, “That was the ‘rivers pour away by the day’, part of the Laoshan Pai’s palm technique. But Nu Shizhu did not use it properly.” While his mouth was prattling, he walked out of the room to help Wei Xiaobao up and said, “Shishu, the palm push that she did, altogether there are thirteen ways to deal with it. If you did not want to fight with her, then there are six ways to dodge it, any one of those six may be used easily. Supposing you want to strike back, you can employ wrist hook, elbow strike, finger flick, reverse acupoint sealing, arm seizing, diagonal block, or backward kick, seven techniques; each technique can be used to neutralize her.”

Wei Xiaobao was thrown down that his back and arms were hurting, he was not in a good mood at all. “Why do you tell me all this now?” he asked, “What’s the use?”

“Yes,” Cheng Guan said, “Shishu’s admonition is correct, your Shizhi [martial nephew] was wrong. If I told you beforehand, even if Shishu did not mean to make things difficult for her, if you only wanted to evade, you would not have to be thrown like that.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was moved, “Those two girls are very vicious; when we meet again later, they would immediately punch and kick me, which would be hard to ward off. This old monk is very familiar with those two girls’ martial art; just with a flick of his finger he forced them away that they did not dare to come over anymore. I want to take that girl to be my wife, I must swindle the old monk that he will be with me to protect me.” But then he had a second thought, “This old monk is so old, I don’t know how many more days he will live; supposing he is gone tomorrow, won’t that be really bad for me?” Thereupon he said, “Just now you flicked your finger several times and that girl is immediately tamed. What kind of martial art was that?”

Cheng Guan said, “It is called ‘one finger Dhyana’; Shishu does not know it?”

“I don’t,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Why don’t you teach me?”

Cheng Guan said, “Shishu’s order ought to be followed. This ‘one finger Dhyana’ is not difficult to learn; if you know the accurate location of acupoints, and the power on your finger can penetrate the opponent’s acupoint, then you can do it.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “That’s wonderful,” he hastily said, “Quickly teach me.” He thought that if he could master this skill, he only needed to flick several times, the girl in green would not be able to move a single step, and then if he wanted her to be his wife, wouldn’t that be easy? Besides, the words ‘not difficult to learn’ were more important to him; all the amazing martial art skills in the world, nothing exceeded this. In an instant he was beaming with joy, his heart was unbearably itching.

Cheng Guan said, “I wonder Shishu’s ‘tendon altering sutra’ internal energy cultivation has been trained to which level? Would you please try to flick your finger?”

“How do you flick your finger?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Cheng Guan bent his finger and flicked. ‘Chi’ a burst of powerful wind shot out, a dead leaf on the ground floated up.

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “That looks fun,” he said. Copying Cheng Guan, he bent his right hand thumb to hold his middle finger, and then flicked the middle finger out. Naturally this time there was no sound, nothing happened; even no dust was stirred the least bit.

Cheng Guan said, “Turns out Shishu has not trained ‘tendon altering sutra’ internal energy cultivation. If you want to train this internal energy cultivation, you must train Bo’re [Prajna/Wisdom] Palm first. Let me spar with you in Bo’re Palm, I want to see the depth of Shishu’s palm strength, then I can teach you the ‘tendon altering sutra’.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I don’t know Bo’re Palm.”

“Not a problem,” Cheng Guan said, “Let us spar in ‘Picking Flower Grab and Capture’.”

“What ‘Picking Flower Grab and Capture’? I have never heard of it,” Wei Xiaobao said.

An awkward expression appeared on Cheng Guan’s face, he said, “How about we try something more basic? ‘Vajra [Budda’s warrior attendant] Divine Palm’ should be fine. You don’t know it either? How about ‘Boluomi [Paramita] Hand’? Don’t know as well? How about ‘Scattering Flower Palm’? Ah right, Shishu is still young, you have not learned these different palm techniques. How about ‘Weituo Palm’? ‘Subduing Tiger Fist’? ‘Luohan Fist’? ‘Shaolin Long Fist’?” Each time he mentioned a fist technique, Wei Xiaobao shook his head.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao did not know any fist technique, Cheng Guan did not get angry; he said, “Our Shaolin Pai martial art must be trained in sequence. When one enters our school, one must learn ‘Shaolin Long Fist’ first. After he masters it, then he will learn ‘Luohan Fist’, afterwards ‘Subduing Tiger Fist’. When he has appropriate foundation in both internal and external energy, he may learn ‘Weituo Palm’. If he does not want to learn ‘Weituo Palm’, he can train ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’ instead …”

Wei Xiaobao’s lips started to move, he wanted to say, “I know this ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’.” But he stopped himself immediately, realizing that the ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’ Hai Laogong taught him, perhaps nine out of ten moves were fake; no matter what, he could not say that he ‘knew’ this technique.

He heard Cheng Guan continued, “Either the ‘Weituo Palm’ or the ‘Great Compassion Great Sorrow Thousand-Leaf Hand’, one with intelligence and diligence will need about seven or eight years to master. If his comprehension is strong, he can continue with ‘Scattering Flower Palm’. After he masters the ‘Scattering Flower Palm’, not many disciples of Wulin’s other sect can defeat him. Whether he can continue with Boluomi Hand depends on his temper. Take Jing Ji, Jing Qing, those several martial nephews for example, they all trained in ‘Subduing Tiger Fist’, but they don’t have the patience to train martial art, their progress is rather slow. In ten years’ time, Jing Qing perhaps can train ‘Weituo Palm’. Jing Ji cannot concentrate in learning martial art, I think it would be better for him to specialize in Vajra Sutra’s Zen meditation.”

Wei Xiaobao sucked in a mouthful of cold air; he said, “You said that that ‘one finger Dhyana’ is not difficult to learn, but from ‘Shaolin Long Fist’ followed by those other fist and palm techniques, all the way to mastering the ‘one finger Dhyana’, how many years must I train?”

Cheng Guan said, “This thing is actually recorded in the ancient book in Bo’re Hall. During the Later Jin of the Five Dynasties period, there was this Fa Hui Chanshi in our Temple, he had the innate intelligence, in less than thirty-six years from the time he entered the Temple, he had already mastered the ‘one finger Dhyana’; his advancement was amazingly quick, no one, before or after him, ever have the same progress. I guess he must be a great martial art scholar in his previous incarnation, so he brought with him many martial art skills from his previous existence. Next in line was during the establishment of the Southern Song Dynasty, there was this Ling Xing Chanshi, who spent less than thirty-nine years. Those two are rare talent with divine-given wisdom and intelligence, geniuses who are hard to come by in hundreds of years, who make other people full of admiration; a model older generation, someone who younger generation can only imagine.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “How many years did you spend from the time you started training martial art until you master the ‘one finger Dhyana’?”

Cheng Guan smiled and said, “Shizhi has started training Shaolin Long Fist when I was eleven, I have been very lucky to have Hui Zhi Chanshi as my benevolent master, so I got to learn martial art at a lot higher pace than my fellow disciples. By the time I was fifty-three, I was able to comprehend my prying into our school’s sutra of this finger technique.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since you were eleven, until you were fifty-three, you were able to comprehend the kneeling in front of the door bolt (he did not know that the expression ‘lue kui men jing’ [comprehend the prying into the school’s sutra], what he heard was ‘lue gui men shuan’). So altogether you spent forty-two years before you master it?”

Cheng Guan was very proud of himself, he said, “To be able to master the ‘one finger Dhyana’, in the thousand plus years of our Sect’s history, Lao Na [old cassock] ranks the third.” After a short pause, he continued, “It’s just that Lao Na’s internal energy cultivation is only average. Strictly speaking about finger power, I am afraid my rank is lower than seventieth.” Speaking to this point, he could not help but feeling dejected.

Wei Xiaobao mused, “I don’t care if you rank the third or the seventy-third, Laozi did not bring any martial art skill from my previous incarnation, neither did I start training in my mother’s womb. If I have to spend forty-two years to master this finger technique, that girl and I will both be old man, old woman in our fifties or sixties; Laozi might as well train a fart!” He said, “Other people’s little miss only trains for one or two years, you must train for forty, fifty years to beat her; it’s extremely disappointing.”

Actually, Cheng Guan had already thought about this fact as well, all along he had been pondering about it. “Yes, yes!” he said, “Our Shaolin martial art is this inferior to others’, it’s really … really not … not too good.”

“What do you mean not too good?” Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s practically very bad. All of a sudden our Shaolin Pai is unable to grab Wulin’s cow’s ear, horse’s ear. You are the Head of Bo’re Hall, if you don’t think of something, won’t you let down the several thousands, several tens of thousands years of Shaolin Temple’s eminent monks? When you die and see that Fa something Chanshi, Ling something Chanshi, and my Shixiong, Hui Zhi Chanshi, everybody will ask you, saying that you only eat and defecate, but don’t care about anything else, you don’t want to think of a way to protect Shaolin Pai’s prestige, won’t you be so ashamed that you want to die all over again?”

Cheng Guan’s old face turned deep red; he was completely terrified. Repeatedly nodding his head, he said, “Shishu’s instruction is very true, when Shizhi comes back, I will peruse the ancient books in the Bo’re Hall, to see if there is an ingenious technique that can be learned in a short time.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “If you cannot find any, our Shaolin Pai needs not mingle in the Wulin world anymore. We might as well invite those two little misses to let the older one becomes the Abbess, the younger one becomes the Head of Bo’re Hall. Let those two teach us martial art. Compared to our stupid head stupid brain clumsy martial art, theirs must be a lot stronger.”

Cheng Guan was startled, he asked, “Those two Nu Shizhu, how can they be our Temple’s Abbess and Head?”

“Who told you not to be able to find a martial art that can be trained quickly?” Wei Xiaobao said, “Fangzhang will lose face, you will lose face; that need not be mentioned, from now on Shaolin Pai will lose its foothold in Wulin, the several thousand monks of our Temple will have to do obeisance to these two little misses as their new masters. Everybody will question what’s the use of many dozens of years of training Shaolin martial arts? The two little misses only train for a year or half a year and they can ‘crack, crack, crack’ break Shaolin monks’ hands and feet. Everybody will think that preserving their hands and feet is more important, hence they might as well respectfully ask the Little Miss to be the Head of Bo’re Hall!”

This speech had made the sweat on Cheng Guan’s forehead streaming down his face; his hands did not stop trembling as with a trembling voice he said, “Yes, yes! Asking those two ladies to be our Temple’s Abbess and Head, ay, that … that will be too humiliating.”

“Isn’t that so?” Wei Xiaobao said, “By that time we cannot call ourselves Shaolin Pai anymore.”

Cheng Guan asked, “Then … then what should we call ourselves?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We might as well bluntly call ourselves Shaonu[13] Pai. Shaolin Temple becomes Shaonu Temple. We must take down the signboard above the mountain gate, erase that ‘Lin’ character and change it to ‘Nu’ character. Only one character. That should be easy to do.”

Cheng Guan’s face turned ash-grey. “That won’t do, that won’t do!” he hastily said, “I … I am going to think of something. Shishu, please forgive Shizhi for not keeping you company you anymore.” Putting his palms together, he saluted, then turned around and left.

“Wait a moment!” Wei Xiaobao called, “This matter must be kept in strict confidence. If anybody in the Temple knew about it, it will be highly improper.”

“Why?” Cheng Guan asked.

“Nobody will believe you,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “They won’t know if you have thought of something. Those two young ladies are still recuperating in our Temple, if everybody is frightened, they might do obeisance and take those women as their masters. Shaolin Pai is such a big Sect, how can we scatter away just like that?”

Cheng Guan said, “Shishu’s direction is very true. This matter concerns the rise and fall, the existence or perishes of our Sect; absolutely it must be kept secret.” He was very grateful in his heart, thinking that although this martial uncle was young, his insight was far-reaching; indeed he deserved to be the respected Senior. If not for his clear sight and superior judgment, Shaolin Pai will inevitably become Shaonu Pai. Thousand-year fame cannot be redeemed in ten thousand years.

Seeing him leaving in a hurry, with the sleeve of his robe trembling, an obvious sign that he was in extreme panic, Wei Xiaobao thought, “Now that the old monk will stake his old life to find something, he is bound to find something. Everybody else would find a hundred mistakes in my speech, but as long as he did not say anything to anybody, this stupid monk won’t find out that I am swindling him.”

Thinking about the flowery countenance of the young woman lying on the couch, his heart was like a frisky monkey, his mind was like a cantering horse. He wanted to re-enter the room to look at her again. But after turning around and walking for only several steps, he suddenly saw the flashing blue skirt behind the curtain on the door. Thinking about the ruthlessness of the woman in blue, while he did not have Cheng Guan by his side to protect him, if he entered the room alone, he would definitely pay dearly. Without any other choice, he sighed and returned to his own meditation room.

The next day he woke up early in the morning and went straight to the Eastern Courtyard to visit. The old monk who treated her injury put his palms together and greeted him, “Good morning Shishu.”

“Is the Nu Shizhu’s injury getting better?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The old monk replied, “That Nu Shizhu came to her senses in the middle of the night; realizing she was in our Temple, she insisted on leaving immediately, while saying rude words. Shizhi persuaded her nicely, but she said even if she died, she did not want to die in little … little … little monk’s temple.”

Hearing him humming and hawing, Wei Xiaobao knew that if the little miss did not scold him as ‘little pervert thief’, then she must have said ‘little wicked monk’. “And then what happened?” he asked.

The old monk replied, “Shizhi advised her to leave the next morning, the Nu Shizhu struggled to get up, her Shijie helped her out. Shizhi did not dare to stop them, besides, that Nu Shizhu‘s injury won’t be a problem anyway, so I had to let them go. I have reported this matter to the Abbot.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded; he was quite disappointed, thinking, “Once this little miss left, I don’t know where she is going. I don’t even know her name or her surname, how am I going to find her?” He blamed the old monk for not handling this matter at the best of his ability and grumbled for a while. And then he had a second thought, “Those two girls are beautiful, they will greatly stand out from the masses. When they make their move, they have all schools all sects’ martial arts in it; it should be possible to find them eventually.” Thereupon he strolled toward Bo’re Hall.

He saw Cheng Guan was sitting on the floor, with several hundred books piling up all around him. He had his hands supporting his head, and seemed to be very deep in thought; his eyes were bloodshot, most likely because he did not sleep at all the previous night. Looking at his appearance, it was obvious that he had not found anything good. He saw Wei Xiaobao walking in, but he simply stared at him blankly, as if he did not see him at all. Unexpectedly he was so immersed in his thought that he was completely oblivious of everything around him.

Seeing his distressed expression, Wei Xiaobao wanted to utter some words of encouragement, telling him that the two young ladies had left and that he had nothing to worry about for now. But then he had a second thought, “If he did not work diligently, how could he come up with good result? I am afraid as soon as I tell him, this old monk will goof off.”

Quickly one month had passed. Wei Xiaobao often took a walk toward Bo’re Hall. He saw Cheng Guan was getting thinner to the bone and looked alone and helpless, his countenance was wan and sallow, and never said anything to him. He looked like an idiot, sometimes he would stand up and punch and kick for a while, and then he would shake his head and sit down again. Wei Xiaobao only thought that this old monk was very stupid, after working hard for more than a month, he was still unable to find anything useful. He did not know that each one of Shaolin Pai martial arts paid particular attention to strong foundation, slow progress was preferable to a fast one. A crash course was precisely Shaolin martial arts’ big taboo. Although Cheng Guan knew almost all martial arts under the heavens, for him to violate his own Sect’s rule by creating a crash course technique was actually akin to asking him not to conform to the teachings he had been following all his life.

The weather was gradually getting warmer. Wei Xiaobao had been staying in the Temple for several months. Recently, there was not a day pass by when he did not think about that girl in green several dozen times in a day.

One particular day he felt stifled and was extremely bored. Taking his money, he went down Mount Shaoshi to the west, toward a small town of considerable size called Tantoupu. He went to a clothing store and bought a set of clothes, head covering, shoes and socks. Then he changed in a cave outside the town, putting the monk robe and shoes into a bundle, which he then slung over his shoulder. When he looked at his reflection on a mountain stream, he looked like a son of a wealthy family.

Returning to the small town, he went to a restaurant and indulged himself with chicken, duck, fish and meat. “I’ll find a casino and gamble for a bit,” he thought. Knowing that gambling establishments are usually located in alleys, he went through the streets and alleys, looking to the east and glancing to the west.

Each time he entered an alley, he listened to shouting and drinking sounds. By the time he entered the seventh alley, finally he heard someone shouted, “Pair of earth, heavenly nine king, sweep the decks!” As soon as these words entered his ears, he felt an indescribable comfort in his heart; compared to the ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha’ that he heard all the times in Shaolin Temple, it was like comparing the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss with the eighteen layers of hell.

He quickly went to the door and stretched out his hand to push it. A man in his forties, wearing a hat at a crooked angle, came out, and looked at him with squinted eyes. “What do you want?” he asked.

From his pocket Wei Xiaobao took out an ingot of silver and tossed it back and forth from one hand to the other, and said with a laugh, “My hands itch, I want to lose a few taels.”

“This is not a casino, it’s a brothel,” the man said, “Xiao Xiongdi, you want to visit a prostitute, come back in several years.”

Wei Xiaobao had been craving for some gambling for a long time, as soon as he heard the words ‘pair of earth, heavenly nine king, sweep the decks’, even if the sky was falling, he simply must bet. What’s more, coming to a brothel was just like coming home; how could he be willing to leave? He laughed and said, “Just find me several free ladies and prepare some tea, tonight Shaoye [young master] wants to have three tables of drinking party.” And he stuffed the silver ingot worth two taels into the man’s hand and said with a laugh, “To buy you a drink.”

The turtle slave[14] was greatly delighted; seeing the visitor was a grand customer, immediately his face was blooming with smile. “Thank you for Shaoye‘s gift!” he said. Raising his voice, he called out, “We have visitor!” while respectfully invited him to enter.

The female brothel keeper came out to greet him. Seeing it was a fourteen, fifteen years old teenager with luxurious clothing, she thought, “This kid stole money from his home and come here to squander it; must rip him off heavily.” With a giggle she pulled his hand and said, “Xiao Shaoye, we have a rule here, just like the lucky poster on the door[15]. You want to see a girl, you must pay up front.”

With a wooden expression Wei Xiaobao said, “Do you think I am a newly hatched bird who has never visited a brothel before? We are the experts here, Laozi opens this kind of establishment at home.” He groped his pocket for a pack of banknotes, roughly three, four hundred taels, and slapped it onto the table. He said, “A table of tea five qian, including one girl. A ‘flower head’ is three taels, the servant who pours tea five qian, the Auntie five qian. Laozi is in a very good mood today, I’ll double everything.”

A succession of brothel shoptalk without half a word of layman term had caught the procuress off-guard; she was stunned and stared blankly for half a day before finally she laughed and said, “Turns out Xiao Shaoye is of the same profession, I was mistaken. I wonder which courtyards does Xiao Shaoye open?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In Yangzhou Laozi opens Li Chun Yuan [Lovely Spring Courtyard] and Yi Qing Yuan [Harmony Passion Courtyard], in Beijing I open Shang Xin Lou [Bountiful Heart Balcony, ‘lou’ – multi-storied house] and Chang Chun Ge [Carefree Spring Pavilion], in Tianjin I open Rou Qing Yuan [Tender Feeling Courtyard] and Wen Ju Lou [Yearning for Chrysanthemum Balcony]; six affiliates.” Actually these six establishments were Yangzhou’s famous brothels, otherwise, he would not be able to fabricate six brothels’ names in such a short period of time.

Listening to him, the procuress thought, ‘Oh my goodness, the big boss of six courtyard affiliates is here; his business must be very big.’ Thereupon she laughed and asked, “What kind of girl would Xiao Shaoye like to accompany you to have a heart-to-heart talk?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I suppose a little place like this won’t have a Suzhou girl. Do you have any Datong [prefecture level city, Shanxi] girl?”

The procuress’ face showed an awkward expression as she said in a low voice, “We do have one, but she is fake goods; actually she is a Shanxi Fenyang [county level city, Luliang prefecture, Shanxi] girl, she can only fool someone with more money than sense, but not a connoisseur.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Just call all the girls in the courtyard, Shaoye will reward everybody three taels each.”

The procuress was greatly delighted; she passed on the order for all the girls to come. In an instant the room was crammed with twittering and squawking girls. In this little town brothel, naturally the girls had rough hands and thick feet, with faces adorned with coarse rouge powder. Each one pulled his hand or embraced his waist; everybody was doing her utmost to curry his favor. Wei Xiaobao was really happy. Although these prostitutes had thick eyebrows, high cheekbones or mouths as big as sacrificial bowl, which were practically several points more ugly than himself, but since he was little, he was determined to be the rich man and show extravagance in the brothel. Today his life-long dream had come true, hence he was immensely proud of himself. Pulling the prostitute by his side, he planted a kiss on her lips, and was assaulted by a flourishing stench of green onion and garlic that he almost threw up.

Suddenly the door curtain was lifted up, two women walked in. “Alright!” Wei Xiaobao shouted with glee, “Two more Meizi come together. Come here and give me a kiss first …” Before he finished, he had seen clearly the appearance of these two girls, and could not help but was greatly shocked.

He cried out, sprang up, and overthrew the two prostitutes in his arms to the ground. Turned out these two women were the girl in green, whom he thought of during the night and he missed during the night, and her older martial sister.

With a cold laugh the woman in blue said, “As soon as you entered the town, we have been following you, we want to see what evil deed you are going to commit.”

Wei Xiaobao’s back was wet with cold sweat; forcing a laugh he said, “Yes, yes. This Miss, your … your neck’s wound … neck’s wound healed?”

“Humph,” the girl in green snorted, but she ignored his question. The woman in blue angrily said, “We waited outside Shaolin Temple every day, to cut your body into ten thousand pieces to repay my Shimei‘s deep enmity and great hatred. Humph, finally the Heaven did not disappoint those who try, and have you, evil monk, fallen into our hands.”

Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly, “Laozi will definitely return to Heaven today.” But he laughed and said, “Actually … actually I did not offend … did not offend Miss; it’s just that … it’s just that one grab was not a big deal. I think … I think …”

The girl in green blushed, a killing aura appeared in her eyes. The woman in blue coldly said, “What did you say a moment ago? What did you call us?”

“Bad, it’s really bad luck,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I … thought the two of you were … were also flower ladies of this pleasure house.”

The girl in green said in a low voice, “Shijie, why do you talk too much to this bald-headed thief who committed all kinds of evil things? Just kill him with a chop.”

‘Shua!’ white light flashed, Wei Xiaobao screamed and shrank his neck, the hat on his head was slashed by her willow-leaf saber, exposing his bald head. The prostitutes were thrown into confusion, they screamed, “Murder, murder!”

Wei Xiaobao ducked and hid behind a prostitute. “Hey!” he called out, “This is a pleasure house, only wh0res are allowed here. If you do not get out quickly and people knew about it, it would be … would be very shameful …”

‘Shua, shua!’ the two women repeatedly slashed around, but the room was crowded with a dozen or so prostitutes, how could they chop him? The blades swept past, they narrowly missed two prostitutes. Wei Xiaobao called out loudly, “Laozi is visiting a brothel, what’s there to be looked at? I … I am going to undress, I am going to take off my pants.” He loosened the bottom part of his garments and tossed it away.

The two women were furious, yet they were afraid Wei Xiaobao would really act shamelessly by taking off his pants. The girl in green turned around and bolted out the door. The girl in blue was startled, but she also dashed out of the room. ‘Bang, bang!’ she bumped the procuress and the ‘turtle slave’ [see my note earlier] who came in to look, and sent them tumbling down to the left and right.

In that instant the screams in that brothel shook the sky, and the curses moved the earth. For the time being Wei Xiaobao escaped the danger of the blades, but he knew those two women would definitely guard the exits; as soon as he left the brothel for even one step, they would immediately kill him. Raising his voice, he shouted, “Everybody, don’t move randomly, everyone will get ten taels, no exception, nobody will be skipped.” As soon as they heard it, everybody calmed down immediately.

Wei Xiaobao took out twenty taels and handed it over to the turtle slave, ordering him, “Quickly go and get me a horse, wait at the mouth of the alley.” The turtle slave received the money and left.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to a prostitute and said, “I’ll give you twenty taels, take off your clothes quickly, let me change into it.” The prostitute was greatly delighted, she took off her clothes immediately.

Everybody started to talk at once, they wanted to know what was going on. Wei Xiaobao said, “Those two are my first wife, my second wife. They shaved my head, forbidding me from visiting a brothel. I ran away, then they pursue me to kill me.”

When the procuress and the prostitutes heard this, they could not help but were delighted. It was quite common for the wife and children of a patron to come to the brothel to quarrel and fight; nothing special about it. But raising a saber to kill was a rarity. As for the wife and concubine working together to shave their husband’s head and forbidding him from visiting a brothel, it was the first time that they ever heard such thing.

Wei Xiaobao hurriedly changed into the prostitute’s clothing, and used a piece of printed cloth to wrap his head. When the prostitute realized that he wanted to dress up to escape, laughing and giggling, they helped him apply rouge and face powder. When the other patrons of the brothel who were gambling heard the news, they all came over to watch the fun.

Soon the turtle slave returned and reported that the horse was ready. After knowing the reason, he said, “Shaoye, you must be careful. Your first madam is guarding the back door, the young madam is guarding the front door. They both have sabers in their hands.”

Wei Xiaobao produced a large sum of money while swearing, “Those two vixens maintain such a tight control over their husband; it’s really rare and highly unusual.”

Receiving thirty taels gift from him, the procuress said, “Those two tigresses are destroying others’ clothes and food. If all women in the world are like your two wives, won’t we drink the northwest wind? May Er Lang Shen[16] curse those two tigresses that they be without a son or a grandson. Aiyo, Xiao Shaoye, I did not mean you. You’d better divorce those tigresses and then you can come here to play without any care every day.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “That is actually a brilliant idea. Mama, go to the front door and curse that vixen for a while; but you’d better hide behind the door to protect against her resorting to violence and harming you with the saber. Sisters, everybody dash out from the back door. Those two brutish wives of mine won’t be able to catch me.” Immediately he took out some money and distributed it among the prostitutes. Without exception, all of them jumped for joy.

Because of the generous reward, those who were inherently brave would be braver, while those who were not brave gathered enough courage. As the prostitutes received the shining white silver, everybody suddenly put ‘loyalty’ above everything else, they would strife to put their lives at stake.

They heard the voice of the procuress raining curses from the front door, “Old vixen, little vixen, if you want to keep your husband, you must obey him, winning his favor is the right thing to do. If you don’t have any ability, he will go to the brothel to seek pleasure. You use the saber to scare him, to kill him, what’s the farting use? Your husband is kind-hearted and generous, he is the number one good person in the world, you, two tigresses are not his match. Let Laoniang [old lady, referring to self; the counterpart of Laozi] tell you: you must behave, quickly kowtow and apologize to him, and then do obeisance to me, let Laoniang be your master, I’ll teach you skills you can use in bed, so that you can serve him well. Otherwise, he might decide to sell you to Laoniang, let you become prostitutes in here. We’ll make a deal today … aiyo, aiyo, it hurts so much I am going to die.”

Wei Xiaobao knew that the woman in blue had lost her patience and beat the procuress. He said, “Everybody, let’s go!” More than twenty prostitutes rushed out from the back door, with Wei Xiaobao mingled among them.

The girl in green was guarding the back door with willow-leaf saber in her hand. Suddenly she saw more than twenty heavily made-up women burst out of the door. Her beautiful eyes widened, she was completely at a loss.

The crowd of prostitutes rushed toward the alley. Wei Xiaobao jumped onto the horse and galloped toward Shaolin Temple.

Seeing the change of events, the woman in blue abandoned the procuress immediately and turned around to give chase. The prostitutes crowded the alley, they reached out to pull her, while shouting, “Tigress, your husband is gone riding a horse, you won’t catch him! Hee! Hee! Ha! Ha!”

The girl in blue was so furious that she almost pass out; she raised her saber in threatening gesture, but the crowd of prostitutes knew she would not dare to really kill anybody. “Lowly vixen, vinegar pot, wicked b1tch,” they taunted incessantly.

The girl was anxious; raising her voice, she called out, “Shimei, that wicked thief ran away, quickly pursue him!” But she heard the hooves beat was getting farther and farther away; how could they pursue him?

Wei Xiaobao rushed out of the town, while taking off the female clothing he was wearing and tossed it away one by one. In his rush and panic to get out of the brothel, he had left the bundle containing his monk robe in the room. Spitting into his sleeve, he wiped the cosmetics from his face, thinking, “Laozi’s lot on life this year is really bad; first I became a monk, then I dressed up as a prostitute. Ay, if only that miss in green is willing to be my wife, even if my head is chopped down, I won’t want to go to the brothel.”

In one breath he galloped back to Shaolin Temple; he steered the horse toward the back of the mountain, jumped down the horseback, and quietly sneaked into the Temple via the side door. Covering his face, he dashed madly into his own meditation room. Only after washing off the rouge and the powder from his face, and putting on the monk robe, did his heart finally calmed down. He mused, “If those two old wife and little wife came to the Temple to make trouble, even if I die, Laozi will not admit anything to them.”

Toward the afternoon the next day, Wei Xiaobao was still lying on the bed in his meditation room, dreaming about the girl in green’s figure, which moved his heart; he could not bear not to take chances again, thinking, “How can I find a way to see her again?”

Suddenly Jing Ji entered his meditation room and said in a low voice, “Shishuzu, for the next few days you must not leave the Temple; this affair is getting somewhat worse.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; hastily he asked for the full details. Jing Ji said, “A worker from the Xiang Ji kitchen told me just now: he was chopping some firewood at the side of the mountain when he came across two young women with sabers in their hands; they were inquiring about you.”

“What did they ask?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“They asked him if he knew you,” Jing Ji replied, “They asked him what time do you usually go out, where do you usually go. Shishuzu, those two young women harbor evil designs toward you, they are guarding outside the Temple, they want to harm you. As long as you stay inside the Temple, they won’t dare to come in.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We, Shaolin Temple eminent monks, are afraid of them and do not dare to go out the Temple, what kind of talk is that?”

“Shizhisun [martial grandnephew] has already reported this to Fangzhang,” Jing Ji said, “The Senior ordered me to report to Shishuzu, asking you to yield one step to them. Presumably those two young women will not persevere, if they don’t see you after waiting for several days, naturally they will leave. Fangzhang said that Wulin friends can only say that we are great and magnanimous people, they cannot possibly say that the grand Shaolin Temple is unexpectedly afraid of two young women that don’t belong to any school or sect.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Young women that don’t belong to any school or sect, humph, they may be much more formidable than us, the great monks who belong to a school or sect.”

“Who said it wasn’t true?” Jing Ji replied. He remembered his hatred because of his broken arm, which would be difficult to avenge. He said, “It’s just that Fangzhang has ordered that no matter what we must keep the peace and patch up a quarrel.”

After Jing Ji left, Wei Xiaobao thought, “I’d better see that old monk Cheng Guan; it would be best if he has come up with a wonderful idea.”

When he got to Bo’re Hall, he saw Cheng Guan with his head between his hands, his eyes were looking at the beam of the roof, while pacing back and forth around the room, and mumbling incessantly. Wei Xiaobao did not dare to interrupt his train of thought, he waited for a long time, watching Cheng Guan circling the room several times, while still looking like he did not see him. Wei Xiaobao coughed several times. Cheng Guan did not pay any attention. Wei Xiaobao called, “Lao Shizhi [old martial nephew], Lao Shizhi!” Cheng Guan still did not hear.

Wei Xiaobao stepped forward, he reached out to tap Cheng Guan’s shoulder, while saying with a laugh, “Lao …” His palm had just touched his shoulder, suddenly his body was jolted and he was thrown away. ‘Bang!’ he crashed onto the wall, his breathing was blocked, he opened his mouth to cry, but nothing came out.

Cheng Guan was shocked; hastily he came forward and kneeled down. Putting his palms together he saluted and said, “Shizhi is guilty, deserving ten thousand deaths, by offending Shishu. Shishu, please punish me heavily.”

After lying down for half a day, Wei Xiaobao was finally able to breathe; he forced a laugh and said, “Please get up, please get up, don’t be overly courteous, it was my own fault.”

Cheng Guan still did not stop apologizing. Propping himself against the wall, Wei Xiaobao crawled up, and then, helping Cheng Guan up he asked, “What kind of martial art was that? It was so formidable.” He thought, “If this martial art is not too difficult to learn, perhaps there is a benefit for me to learn it.”

Cheng Guan’s face showed a terrified expression. He said, “I am really sorry. In response to Shishu‘s question, this is the ‘hu ti shen gong’ [divine skill to protect the body] from Bo’re Palms.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded; he thought that to learn this skill, he would have to master some Shaolin Long Fist, Luohan Fist, Subduing the Tiger Fist, Weituo Palm, Scattering Flower Hand, Boluomi Hand, Vajra’s Divine Palm, Picking Flower Grab and Capture, all kinds of gibberish set of martial art techniques. He did not have time; even if he did, he would not have the mind to take the trouble to practice hard. He asked, “Have you found anything that can be learned in a short time?”

With a dejected expression Cheng Guan shook his head and said, “Shizhi has already thought that without using ‘one finger Dhyana’ or ‘tendon altering sutra’ internal energy cultivation, we can neutralize those two Nu Shizhu‘s martial art by using only the Bo’re Palm; it’s just that … it’s just that …”

Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s just that to train Bo’re Palm, I will need twenty, thirty years; isn’t it?”

Cheng Guan haltingly replied, “Twenty, thirty years, I am afraid … I am afraid …”

Wei Xiaobao’s face showed contempt as he flatly said, “You are afraid it might not be enough?”

Cheng Guan looked very ashamed as he said, “Exactly.” After staring blankly for a moment, he continued, “Let Shizhi think: I wonder if Picking Flower Grab and Capture will be effective against them.”

Wei Xiaobao thought that this old monk was one who rigidly adheres to formalities; whatever he was doing must be in sequence. Even if the Picking Flower Grab and Capture was effective, he would have to spend at least a dozen or so years to train. This old monk had a profound level of internal energy, perhaps he was not inferior to Cult Leader Hong. Yet Cult Leader Hong was able to casually creating new moves, which were able to change according to the situation, which were free, natural and unrestrained. This old monk, on the contrary, was a blockhead; Wei Xiaobao must show him the enlightened path.

“Lao Shizhi,” he said, “In my opinion, those two women are very young, they can’t possibly have several years of martial art training.”

“That’s right,” Cheng Guan said, “That’s why I feel very strange.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since they can’t possibly train step by step, we also do not need to strictly practice step by step. I don’t believe they have internal energy cultivation as deep as yours. In my opinion, to deal with those two girls, we simply do not need to cultivate internal energy.”

Cheng Guan was shocked; his voice was trembling as he said, “Training martial art without … without good foundation, won’t that be … won’t that be heretical?”

“But they are not heretical,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Only without school without sect. To deal with martial art without school and without sect, we must also use without school without sect technique.”

Cheng Guan was completely bewildered; he mumbled to himself, “Without school without sect, without school without sect? This … Shizhi does not understand.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You don’t understand? Then let me teach you.”

Cheng Guan respectfully said, “Would Shishu please give your advice?”

In all his life, all the martial art uncles with a ‘Hui’ character in their names were virtuous eminent monks with outstanding martial art skill. He thought that this little martial art uncle was very young, his internal energy cultivation was insufficient, but he must have some outstanding quality; otherwise, how could he be his martial art uncle? For the past several days he had racked his brain trying to find a martial art skill that can be learned quickly, but all along he did not make any breakthrough. It seemed that even if he spent another ten years or twenty years, even until his death, he would not be able to solve this problem. Now that there was this young eminent monk with ‘Hui’ character in his name who was willing to give him direction, inevitably he was surprised but delighted at the same time; feeling of respect sprang up automatically in his heart.

Wei Xiaobao said, “You said that those two girls were using some Kunlun Pai, Emei Pai moves. If we compare our Shaolin Pai martial art to these random mix of school and sect’s martial arts, which one is stronger?”

“Perhaps our Shaolin Pai is somewhat stronger,” Cheng Guan replied, “Even if we are not stronger, at least we are not weaker than they.”

Wei Xiaobao clapped his hands and said, “That makes it easy. They do not use internal energy, but only use some Xili Hulu [meaning: gibberish] Pai style; we do not need internal energy either, just use some Shaolin Pai style, then we will be able to defeat them. I don’t care if it is Bo’re Palm, Vajra’s Divine Fist, Boluomi Hand or Amitabha Buddha Foot, as long as internal energy cultivation is not needed, then it will be very easy to learn, won’t it?”

Cheng Guan knitted his brows. “Amitabha Buddha Foot?” he said, “I don’t think our Sect has that martial art; I wonder if it is other sect’s martial art? But without internal energy cultivation, our Sect’s fist or palm techniques won’t have the least bit of formidable power; if we came across other sect’s martial art expert with profound internal power, we might get our tendon broken and our bones fractured in just one move.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and said, “Those two young women, are they martial art experts with profound internal power?”

“They are not,” Cheng Guan replied.

“Why worry, then?” Wei Xiaobao said.

It was as if Cheng Guan had just been woken up by this last sentence; he blew off a deep sigh and said, “So that’s how it is, so that’s how it is! Shizhi has never thought about it.” He was quiet for a moment before continuing, “But there is another problem: our Sect’s has eighteen different palm techniques, special skills, inside and outside, thirty-six techniques, unique skills, seventy-two. Each technique has at least several dozen variations, at most more than a thousand. It’s really not easy to master all of these different techniques to perfection. Even without internal energy cultivation, that is, learning the style only, we are talking about several decades here.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “This old monk is really annoyingly dumb.” He laughed and said, “Why do we have to master everything to perfection? As long as we know the girl uses what style, we’ll simply counter soldiers with arms, counter water with an earthen wall; the young girl attack with what move, the old monk neutralize her with what move. I guarantee they will be beaten so badly that they’ll flee to the wilderness and will be wiped out to the last man.”

Cheng Guan repeatedly nodded his head with a happy expression on his face, as if murky darkness was suddenly opened.

Wei Xiaobao said, “That Miss wearing blue has used some Laoshan Pai’s ‘rivers pour away by the day’; you said there are six ways to dodge it, seven ways to counterattack. Actually, why bother with all those stuffs? As long as I can use one move to defeat her, why should I learn the other twelve techniques? Won’t it be a lot simpler?”

Cheng Guan was greatly delighted. “Absolutely right! Absolutely right!” he exclaimed, “Those two Nu Shizhu has broken Shishu‘s arms and injured martial nephew Jing Ji and the others, four people, using the ‘separating tendon dislocating bone technique’ involving four different sects’ techniques. We can use Shaolin Pai martial art to counter their move.” Immediately he demonstrated the technique used by the girls one by one, and then he explained the technique to counter each move, followed by demonstrating it for Wei Xiaobao.

Sometimes the technique proposed by Cheng Guan was too complicated and too difficult to learn; sometimes unwittingly he used internal energy. Wei Xiaobao would then ask him to think about other technique that was simple and clear. Shaolin Pai martial art was indeed very broad and greatly abundant, while Cheng Guan was really patience. As soon as Wei Xiaobao felt that the move was too hard to learn, he simply shook his head, and then Cheng Guan would try different technique. If it did not work, he would try a different move, until Wei Xiaobao was able to execute the move effortlessly.

Seeing in less than an hour this young martial uncle was able to master a particular style, while he himself had painstakingly spent many days to solve the problem, Cheng Guan was so happy that he pulled his own ear and stroked his own cheek, while his heart was unbearably excited. But suddenly he remembered something and said, “What a pity, what a pity.” And then he shook his head and said, “Dangerous, dangerous.”

Wei Xiaobao hastily asked, “What do you mean ‘what a pity’? What’s the danger?”

[1] A little bit of explanation here: so far, the people in blue had always called him ‘Xiao Jiangjun’ – Little/young general, now Yuan Yifang was calling him ‘Da Jiangjun’ – Big/great general.

[2] Orig. ‘fashi’ – one who has mastered the Buddhist sutras.

[3] Mythical bird, related to Phoenix.

[4] Shaoshi Peak was the location of Shaolin Temple.

[5] I remember in White Hair Demoness Faerie Queene translated Chanshi as Dhyana Master, but I think I am going to keep it in its original form.

[6] From the dictionary: Buddha’s name for himself, having many layers of meaning – Sanskrit: thus gone, having been Brahman, gone to the absolute etc.

[7] The character ‘gao’ in Gao Seng (Senior Monk) literally means ‘tall’.

[8] Buddhist monk’s knife (not used for killing).

[9] ‘Damo’ – Dharma, the teaching of Buddha, ‘Bo’re’ – Prajna, the great wisdom. Actually, for Damo, the original Chinese uses ‘courtyard/institution’ (yuan) instead of ‘hall’ (tang), but since the term ‘Damo Hall’ is widely known, I decided to use ‘Damo Hall’.

[10] Not sure about this, Shanxi Luhe Dao literally means ‘six-direction (north, south, east, west, and up and down) saber of Shanxi’.

[11] Li Shimin was the personal name of second Tang Emperor Taizong, Wang Shichong was a general of late Sui, opponent of early Tang.

[12] Bookworm: orig. 书呆子 (shu daizi) – bookish fool; Cheng Guan was a 武呆子 (wu daizi) – martial art fool.

[13] The character ‘shao’ of Shaolin means ‘young/little/lesser/minor’. Shaolin means ‘lesser forest’, Shaonu means ‘young maiden’.

[14] This is literal translation. FYI, ‘turtle’ in Chinese can also mean ‘son of a b1tch’ or ‘b@stard’.

[15] Referring to poster, envelope, etc. made of red paper, used especially at Chinese Ney Year.

[16] Er Lang Shen is a Chinese God with a third truth-seeing eye in the middle of his forehead.

Chapter 23 Scholars with innate talent have a lot of hobbies, the Lord made pictures to convey a message.

Cheng Guan said, “If I want Shishu [martial uncle], the Senior and Jing Ji and the others, four people to go out and fight those two Nu Shizhu [female benefactor], to have them break your hands and feet. If they break your limbs really bad and cannot be cured easily, you will be crippled for life; won’t that be a pity? Moreover, if the two Nu Shizhu are too ruthless and unexpectedly kill the five of you, won’t that be dangerous?”

Wei Xiaobao was puzzled, “Why would you want us, five people, to fight?” he asked.

Cheng Guan said, “I am sure these are not the only move those two Nu Shizhu learned. Shizhi [martial nephew] does not know what other moves they have, naturally I cannot devise a technique to counter them. If the five of you do not go up to take a beating to test their moves, how can I investigate and find out?”

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter. “So that’s how it is,” he said, “I have an idea: as long as you can fight with them, it won’t be a pity, and there won’t be any danger.”

Cheng Guan’s expression became awkward. “Those who left homes must not get angry,” he said, “We must not fight other people without rhyme or reason; that would be greatly inappropriate.”

“I got it!” Wei Xiaobao said, “The two of us can go out the Temple to take a walk. If the two Nu Shizhu have already gone far away, nothing could be better than that. This is called ‘if you don’t offend me, I won’t offend you’. Whatever other moves they might have, we don’t have to pay them any more attention.”

“Absolutely right, absolutely right!” Cheng Guan said, “But Shizhi has never gone out the Temple gate. As soon as go out deliberately creating trouble seems to be ill-will. When my master first taught me Buddhist teaching at the Luye Garden, he taught me about the Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold Noble Way. This ‘righteous intention’ is one of Eight-fold Noble Way …”

“We don’t need to go far,” Wei Xiaobao cut his discourse, “Just take a stroll around the Temple. It would be best if we do not meet them at all.”

“Exactly, exactly,” Cheng Guan said, “Shishu has a virtuous heart, unwilling to strife and struggle against other people, it could be considered ‘righteous intention’. Shizhi definitely must follow your example.”

Wei Xiaobao was secretly amused, taking along his hand, he went out Shaolin Temple via the side door. Cheng Guan had never seen even the forest by the Temple; seeing a vast stretch of pine trees, he could not help but clucking his tongue in amazement as he praised, “Those many pine trees grow together, it’s quite a spectacle. In our Bo’re Hall courtyard there are only two …”

Before he could finish, suddenly they heard female voice from behind, “The little bald thief is here!” Followed by a flash of white ray, a steel saber chopped down on Wei Xiaobao.
Cheng Guan said, “This is the Fierce Tiger Descends the Mountain from Five Tiger Breaking Gate’s Saber Technique.” Reaching out, he grabbed the saber using ‘grabbing blade from someone’ technique, but then he suddenly recalled that the move he used was from the ‘Picking Flower Grab and Capture’; which was too difficult to learn. “It won’t do!” he said, and hastily pulled his hand back.

The ‘one using the blade’ was precisely the woman in blue; seeing Cheng Guan withdrew his hand, she swiftly flipped her willow-leaf saber and swept toward his waist. Right this moment, the girl in green dashed out from among the pine trees and brandished her saber to chop Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao hastily dodged and hid behind Cheng Guan, thereupon the girl in green’s saber chopped down on Cheng Guan’s shoulder.

“This is Taiji Saber move,” Cheng Guan said, “There is no simple and easy way to neutralize it …” Before he finished speaking, the two women’s sabers attacked him together, the sabers swung faster and faster, Cheng Guan shouted, “Shishu, it won’t do, it won’t do! The two Nu Shizhu are moving too fast, I can’t … I can’t think fast enough. Please … please ask the two Nu Shizhu not to be impatient, ask them to chop slowly.”

The girl in blue sent out several ruthless moves in succession, but all along she failed to chop the old monk, several times she almost had her saber snatched away by him. Hearing him making such a big fuss, she thought he was deliberately mocking her. In her fury, she chopped even more violently.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Hey Miss, my Shizhi is asking you not to be impatient, to execute your moves slowly.”

“Exactly,” Cheng Guan said, “My brain is not that quick, I can’t think of this many ways of neutralizing your moves in such a short period of time.”

The girl in green hated Wei Xiaobao to the bones; after several times trying to chop Cheng Guan to no avail, she swung her saber onto Wei Xiaobao. Cheng Guan stretched out his hand to block, while saying, “This Nu Shizhu, my Shishu has not learned the technique to neutralize this saber move of yours; don’t chop him now, wait until he has learned it and know how to block your move. It won’t be too late for you to chop him again. Ay, my moves won’t work. Shishu, forget everything you see, the moves I am using right now are quite useless. After we’re back, we will slowly think it over again.” While his mouth was prattling incessantly, his hands did not stop grabbing and snatching, poking and striking, tightly entangling the two girls; how could the girl in green kill Wei Xiaobao?

Seeing he was out of danger, Wei Xiaobao giggled happily as he leaned against a tree to watch the fight. His eyes feasted on the girl in green’s face, body, hands, feet, and then back to her face again; he looked very satisfied and extremely happy.

When the girl in green did not see Wei Xiaobao anymore, she thought he had run away; when she found out that he was watching her closely, her face blushed. Without giving any thought to Cheng Guan, she turned around with raised saber and rushed toward Wei Xiaobao. Who would have thought that right this moment, Cheng Guan was aiming his finger toward her flank? He intentionally moved his finger slowly; she could have been able to evade it, but in her excitement to kill Wei Xiaobao, she was hit by the finger and fell down to the ground with a shriek.

“Aiyo!” Cheng Guan hastily said, “I am so sorry. The finger power behind Lao Seng’s [old monk] move, ‘laughing finger southern sky’, was not too formidable, Nu Shizhu must use one move from the Five Tiger Breaking Gate’s Saber called ‘vicious tiger blocking the road’. By slanting your saber slightly, you could have parried it. Although Nu Shizhu had not used this move, but that Nu Shizhu in blue had used it; Lao Seng thought that Nu Shizhu must also know how to use it; who would have thought … Ay, I have committed an offense, I have committed an offense.”

The girl in blue was fuming mad; her steel saber swept horizontally, swiftly and fiercely, but her martial art skill was much too inferior to Cheng Guan’s, all along she was unable to even touch the corner of his monk robe. Cheng Guan’s mouth was mumbling nonstop, he was trying to memorize all her moves. Since he was unable to find a simple and easy way to break her stances on the spot, he had no choice but to understand clearly her saber techniques, so that he could consider it in detail later.

Wei Xiaobao went toward the girl in green; he praised, “This kind of good-looking little beauty, throughout the world there’s only you, one person, tsk, tsk, tsk! Just by looking at you my soul is flying up to the sky.” Stretching out his hand, he lightly caressed her face.

The girl was shocked and angered, her breath failed to flow, she fainted immediately. Wei Xiaobao was startled; he no longer dared to be frivolous and reckless. Standing up, he called out, “Cheng Guan Shizhi, seal that Nu Shizhu’s acupoint as well; we’ll have her explain her moves slowly later, so that we won’t harm our friendship.”

Cheng Guan hesitated. “Don’t you think it will be rather bad?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “By exchanging blows and kicks right now, it is already too unsightly. Asking her to talk is fairly more refined and in good taste.”

Cheng Guan was delighted. “Shishu is right, exchanging blows and kicks is not the ‘just way’.”

The girl in blue knew that as soon as this old monk went all-out, she would not be able to withstand even his single move or half a style. Right now her martial sister was captured; if she also fell into his hands, nobody would report their capture and ask for help. Thereupon she leaped back and called out, “If you harm a single strand of my Shimei’s hair, I will burn your Shaolin Temple to the ground.”

Cheng Guan was startled. “How can we dare to injure this Nu Shizhu?” he asked, “If she sheds a single strand of her own hair, are you going to set our temple on fire?”

The girl in blue had already rushed several steps; she turned her head around and cursed, “Old bald thief is oily-mouthed and smooth talking, little bald thief …” She was going to say ‘obscene, heretic and lecherous’, but felt it was inappropriate to say those four words. Stomping her foot, she disappeared into the forest.

Wei Xiaobao gazed on the girl in green lying on the ground, her white jade-like tender face on the green grass, her white jade-like pair of hands truly looked like the white jade image of Guanyin sitting on an emerald pedestal; he could not help but staring blankly at her.

Cheng Guan said, “Nu Shizhu, your Shijie [older martial sister] has left. You’d better go as well, don’t let a single strand of your hair falls, otherwise, your Shijie will come and burn our Temple.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Good opportunity must not be missed. Since this little beauty has fallen into my hands, whatever happens, I must not let her go.” Putting his palms together he said, “This is our Buddha’s blessing. Cheng Guan Shizhi, our Buddha wants you to expand Shaolin’s martial art study, to uphold our Pai’s thousand-plus years of martial prestige; you are indeed our Pai’s greatest contributor of meritorious service.”

Cheng Guan was puzzled, “Shishu, what are you talking about?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We were concerned over what other moves those two Nu Shizhu might have. It is very fortunate that our Buddha has pity on us, by sending this Nu Shizhu to honor our Temple with her presence, so that she can explain everything one by one.” Finished speaking, he bent down to carry the girl and said, “Let’s go home.”

Cheng Guan was astonished and puzzled; he only felt that there was something greatly amiss in this matter, but what exactly was wrong, he could not tell. After a while he said, “Shishu, inviting this Nu Shizhu inside the Temple does not seem to follow the rule.”

“What do you mean not following the rule?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Hasn’t she been in the Temple before? Fangzhang [Abbot] and Jielu Courtyard Head both said nothing was wrong, clearly it was in accordance with the rule, wasn’t it?”

The more he talked, the lower Cheng Guan hung his head; he only felt that each sentence cannot be disputed. He saw the little martial uncle took off his monk robe and wrapped it around the girl’s body, and carried her into the Temple via a side door. Cheng Guan had no choice but to follow behind him. He looked lost, his brain was in confusion.

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was pounding; although from head to toe the girl was covered by the monk robe and nothing was visible from the outside, but if any monk in the Temple saw them, unavoidably they would raise some suspicion. He was carrying a warm, fragrant, and tender jade, in his bosom, but in his heart he was afraid. Fortunately, Bo’re Hall was located in a secluded area at the back of the Temple; while he was hurrying toward the Hall, they did not meet any other monk.

When he entered the Hall, the monks on duty saw their grand-martial uncle personal visit, with their chief following behind him, they all stepped aside respectfully to let them pass. By the time they entered Cheng Guan’s meditation room, the girl had not regained her consciousness. Wei Xiaobao put her down on the couch. His hands were wet with cold sweats, he wiped his palms on the side of his legs and heaved a deep sigh. “There!” he said with a laugh.

“We are going to invite this … this Nu Shizhu to stay in here?” Cheng Guan asked.

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “This is not the first time she stays in the Temple. Previously, when her neck was injured, didn’t she stay at the Eastern Courtyard?”

Cheng Guan nodded. “Yes,” he said, “But … but that time it was to treat her injury, it was a matter of life and death; we did not have any choice but temporarily taking care of her.”

“That’s very easy,” Wei Xiaobao said. Pulling the dagger from his boot, he said, “I only need to ruthlessly cut her once, so that her life will be in danger, and then we won’t have any choice but temporarily take care of her.” Finished speaking, he stepped toward her and raised his hand, poised to make a cut.

“No, no,” Cheng Guan hastily said, “That … that won’t be necessary.”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I will listen to you then. But you must not let anybody know. After she finishes explaining all kinds of moves and styles, we will quietly escort her out. Otherwise, I have no choice but to slash her.”

“Yes, yes,” Cheng Guan said, “I won’t say anything.” He only felt that this young martial uncle’s conduct was really strange; but recalling that he was his superior from the ‘Hui’ character generation, his knowledge and experience must be superior to his own. Listening to his order, he did not have the slightest inclination to question it.

“This Nu Shizhu’s temperament is strong,” Wei Xiaobao said, “She is determined to snatch the Bo’re Hall Chief position from you, I must advise her well.”

Cheng Guan said, “If she insists, Shizhi will let her have it, and that’s the end.”

Wei Xiaobao was taken aback; he did not expect this old monk to have a very simple character, without any desire to compete at all. “She is not a monk of our Temple,” he said, “If she took over the Bo’re Hall leadership, where would we put our Shaolin Temple’s face? If you harbor that kind of mindset, you are letting down Shaolin Pai.” While saying that, his expression was grim, so that even Cheng Guan was also scared into thinking that that was the truth.

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said with wooden expression, “Get out now, wait for me outside, I must persuade her.” Cheng Guan bowed to comply, walked out of the meditation room, and closed the door behind him.

Wei Xiaobao untied the monk robe wrapped around the girl. The girl was about to scream when she saw a dagger, glittering like frost and snow, right in front of her nose. Her mouth was opened wide, but she did not dare to make any noise. Wei Xiaobao giggled and said, “Little Miss, as long as you obediently listen to me, I won’t harm a strand of your hair. Otherwise, I won’t have any choice but to cut your nose before letting you out of the Temple. When one lacks a nose, one can’t smell fragrance or stench, not a big deal, isn’t it?”

The girl was scared and angered at the same time; her face was devoid of any color even more. “Are you going to listen to me?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The girl was extremely angry. “Quickly kill me,” she said in a low voice.

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “You have a countenance of a flower, face like the moon; how could I bear to kill you? Yet if I let you go, from now on day and night I will always miss you, and then I will die from lovesickness; that means I am spoiling the virtue given to me by the Heaven.”

The girl’s face turned red, but immediately turned back to white. Wei Xiaobao said, “There is only one way: I must cut your nose, then your appearance won’t be beautiful anymore, hence I won’t die of lovesickness.”

The girl shut her eyes tight, two drops of clear tear seeped through her long and beautiful eyelashes. Wei Xiaobao’s heart softened; “Don’t cry, don’t cry!” he said consolingly, “As long as you listen to me nicely, I would rather cut my own nose than yours. What’s your name?”

The girl shook her head, more tears flowed from her eyes. Wei Xiaobao said, “Oh, so your name is Yaotou Mao [shaking-head cat]; that’s not a nice name.”

The girl opened her eyes; with a sob she said, “Who’s Yaotou Mao? You are Yaotou Mao.”

Hearing her reply, Wei Xiaobao was ecstatic. “Alright,” he said with a laugh, “I am Yaotou Mao. Who are you, then?”

The girl angrily said, “I won’t tell you!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since you don’t want to tell me, I’d better give you a name. How about … how about Yaba Mao [mute cat]?”

“Rubbish!” the girl said, “I am not mute.”

Wei Xiaobao was sitting on a stack of books on Shaolin martial art, crossing his leg on top of the other, and was swaying gently back and forth. Seeing the angry look on her beyond-compare-beautiful face, his heart was excited. He laughed and said, “What is your honorable surname and your great name, then?”

“I said I won’t tell you, I won’t tell you,” the girl replied.

“I have something I’d like to discuss with you,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If you don’t have any surname and have no name, it’s going to be awkward. Since you are unwilling to tell me, I’ll have to give you one. Mmm, what name should I give to you?”

“I don’t want it, I don’t want it, I don’t want it,” the girl repeatedly said.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I got it! Your name is Wei Menyao[1].”

The girl was startled. “How quaint,” she said, “I am not surnamed Wei.”

Wei Xiaobao grimly said, “Emperor of Heaven above, Empress of Earth below, in all my life I will climb the mountain of sabers, or go down a deep fryer, to be cut into pieces, to be executed along with my whole family unto the third generation, committing heresy and treason, with dozen unpardonable evil crimes, let my sons be robbers, my daughters be prostitutes, let me be without sons without grandsons, beaten by the sky stricken by thunder, my entire body covered with 1001 big and deep boils, I must take you as my wife.”

Listening to him uttering that many heavy oaths in one breath, the girl was dumbfounded. But when suddenly she heard the last sentence, she could not help but blushing deep red. “Pei!” she spat.

Wei Xiaobao said, “I am surnamed Wei, and thus you are already decreed by fate to be surnamed Wei as well. I don’t know your surname, and you always shake your head, thereupon your maiden name is Wei Menyao.”

The girl shut her eyes and angrily said, “There has never been a crazy and unfounded ravings monk like you on the earth. You have left home, yet you want to take … take something … Aren’t you afraid Bodhisattva will punish you, when you die you will enter the eighteenth level of hell?”

Wei Xiaobao put his palms together and threw himself prostrate on the floor. When the girl heard the noise of him kneeling, her curiosity was piqued; she opened her eyes and saw him facing the window, kowtowing several times while saying, “My Tathagata Buddha, the merciful Buddha, Bodhisattva Guanyin, Bodhisattva Manjushri, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, the Jade Emperor, Four Great Vajrapani, King Yama, the underworld judge, Little Demon Wuchang, please listen to me. I, Wei Xiaobao, simply must take this Miss as my wife. Even if after I die I will enter the eighteenth level of hell, have my tongue pulled out, my skull sawed, will not reincarnate for ten thousand years, it’s not a big deal. When I am alive, I don’t care about anything, when I am dead, I am not afraid of anything. Taking her as my wife has been decided.”

The girl noticed how resolute and decisive he was [orig. ‘chop the nail and slice the iron’], without the slightest hint of frivolous attitude; she knew he was not joking. She began to feel afraid and begged, “Please stop, please stop.” After a brief pause, she said bitterly, “I don’t care if you kill me or beat me every day. I hate you to the death, I will never … will never comply.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up and said, “I don’t care if you comply or not, in brief or at length, from now on I will spend the next eighty years with you. Even if you have changed into a 100 year-old woman, if I don’t succeed in taking you as my wife, I will not die with my eyes closed.”

The girl angrily said, “You have disgraced me like this, there will come a day that you will die in my hands. I am going to kill you first before I’ll kill myself.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You can always kill me, but that means you are committing a premeditated murder against your own husband. If I cannot be your husband, I won’t die that easily.” Speaking to this point, he could not stop his voice from trembling.

Seeing him gnashing his teeth with the blue vein on his forehead stuck out, the girl was scared and closed her eyes again. Wei Xiaobao wanted to take several steps toward her, but his entire body went weak, his hands and feet trembled, suddenly he had a strong urge to kneel down and prostrate himself in front of her, to plead with her sincerely; but as he took another step toward her, his throat emitted a low growling noise like a wounded beast, followed by a desire to strangle her to death.

As the girl heard the strange noise, she opened her eyes and saw the strange gleam on his eyes; she shrieked. Wei Xiaobao was startled; he withdrew several steps and sat down dejectedly, thinking, “In the Imperial Palace I called Miss Fang and Xiao Junzhu my first and second wife. We were laughing hee-hee ha-ha, so relaxed and unrestrained. When I wanted to embrace them I just embraced them, when I wanted to kiss them I simply kiss them. This little girl’s acupoint is clearly sealed by the old monk, she is unable to move a single step; how come I do not dare to even caress her hand?”

He saw her beautiful and delicate hand was peeking underneath the monk robe; he only wanted to hold her hand gently, but he did not have any courage to do so, and could not help but swearing, “Hot piece mama!”

The girl did not understand; she stared at him. Wei Xiaobao’s face blushed; he said, “I was cursing my own cowardice and uselessness; I wasn’t cursing you.”

“You disregard the law and natural morality, yet still saying that you are a coward,” the girl replied, “If you are truly a coward, I should really thank the Heaven and thank the Earth.”

As soon as he heard this, Wei Xiaobao’s spirit soared. He stood up and said, “Alright, I want to disregard the law and natural morality. I want to strip you naked.” The girl was so shocked that she almost fainted.

Wei Xiaobao walked near her and saw the deep hatred in her eyes; he said in his heart, “Forget it, forget it. I, Wei Xiaobao, am a turtle son of a b1tch. I surrender to you, I don’t dare to make a move.” In a gentle voice he said, “I have always been afraid of my wife since I was born. I will let you go.”

Only now did the girl’s fright diminished; but her anger flared up again as she said, “You … in that town, what kind of rubbish did you tell those … those bad women? You said my Shijie and I … are … are your … whatever. You said we were going to seize you and take you back. You … you are an evil man …”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and said, “What do those bad women understand? Later on, after I take you as my wife, the hundred thousand prostitutes of a thousand brothels in the world lining up in front of me, Wei Xiaobao won’t even cast a glance with the corner of my eyes. From morning till night, from night till morning, twelve sichen a day, I will only have eyes for my beloved wife.”

The girl said, “If you call me one more time as your … your … whatever, I will not speak to you again, ever.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he hastily said, “Alright, alright, I won’t call you out loud, I will only call you in my heart.”

The girl said, “You must not call me in your heart.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “I will secretly call you in my heart, you won’t know it.”

“Humph,” the girl said, “How can I possibly not know? Looking at the weird expression on your face, I know you are calling me in your heart.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “When Mama gave birth to me, my expression has already been weird like this. Most likely it was because ever since I was in my mother’s womb, I have already known that in the future I am going to marry you as my wife.”

The girl shut her eyes and no longer paid attention to him. Wei Xiaobao said, “Hey, I have not called you my wife, how can you ignore me?”

“You haven’t?” the girl said, “You lie to my face. You said you were going to marry me as your … whatever; that was it.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Alright, I won’t say it. I was only saying that in the future I will be your husband …”

The girl was extremely angry; she shut her eyes as tight as she could. Afterwards, no matter what Wei Xiaobao said to her, whether he was rambling incoherently or teasing her, she did not respond at all.

Wei Xiaobao was at a loss; he wanted to say, “If you ignore me, I am going to kiss your face.” But as the word was at the tip of his tongue, he swallowed it back again, thinking that by coercing this fairy-like beauty, he would actually be profaning her. He sighed and said, “I only have one favor to ask you. If you tell me your name and surname, I will let you go.”

“You deceived me,” the girl said.

“I deceived a lot of people in the world,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are not the only one. This is called being a real man, whatever I say, dead horse cannot chase it. Little wife does not say anything, a live horse can chase it easily.”

The girl was startled; “What dead horse cannot chase, a live horse can chase easily?” she asked.

“It’s our Shaolin Pai’s saying,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In short, I am not deceiving you. Just think, I single-mindedly want your grandson to call me yeye [paternal grandfather]; if I deceived you today, your son won’t call me Dad, and then where can I get the grandson?”

At first the girl did not understand his rambling about grandson, grandfather, etc. After thinking about it, she understood he was saying the same thing in a roundabout way. She said in a soft voice, “I don’t want you to let me go, you have bullied me like this, I have already decided I don’t want to live. Just kill me quickly with your blade!”

Wei Xiaobao saw the blade’s scar on her neck was still new; a long red scar remained visible. Feeling deep remorse, he kneeled down on the floor, ‘Dong! Dong! Dong! Dong!’ he knocked his head heavily in front of her. “I have offended Miss!” he said. With both hands he slapped his own cheeks heavily left and right more than a dozen times, his face immediately turned red and swollen. He said, “Miss, please don’t be sad; Wei Xiaobao, this son of a b1tch, indeed deserves to be beaten!” Standing up, he opened the door and said, “Hey, Old Shizhi, I want to unseal this Miss’ acupoints. How do I do that?”

Cheng Guan had been standing outside the door, waiting. His internal energy was deep, although Wei Xiaobao and the girl were talking in low voices, nothing escaped his ears. He only felt that the way this little martial uncle’s ‘persuaded’ the female benefactor was a profound mystery. All those ‘husband, wife, grandson, grandfather’ and so on did not seem to have anything to do with martial art, the little martial uncle’s wisdom and witticism were too deep to comprehend, his own cultivation in the teachings of Buddha was inadequate so that he failed to understand. Later on he heard the little martial uncle kneeled down and kowtowed, and struck his own cheeks; Cheng Guan could not help but feeling even more admiration.

In Zen Buddhism, when a master passes on the Buddhist doctrines to his disciples, if the disciple did not understand the subtlety of the master’s magnificent teaching, the master oftentimes beats the disciple with a stick and shouts at him. Using the stick to pass on the doctrines originated from De Shan Chanshi [Dhyana Master Virtuous Mountain(?)] of the Tang Dynasty; the shout was supposed to urge the person to come to see the truth, it was also originated from a Tang Dynasty dhyana master. The saying ‘stick and shout on the head’ [i.e. ‘severe warning’] came from this custom.

Cheng Guan thought that the eminent monks of the past were using a stick to enlighten people, his little martial uncle was slapping his own face to enlighten the female benefactor. It was an act of abandoning self for others, his heart of mercy surpassed those of his predecessors; he could only admire with gratitude and sigh in admiration. Hearing him asking about how to unseal the acupoints, Cheng Guan hastily replied, “The Nu Shizhu‘s acupoints being sealed are the ‘Da Bao’ [large bundle] acupoint belonging to the Foot Taiyin Channel of the Spleen. Shishu only needs to ‘push the blood to the palace’ (?) of the ‘ji men’ [winnow basket gate] and ‘xue hai’ [blood ocean], two acupoints on her leg; that should unseal it.”

“‘Ji men’ and ‘xue hai’ acupoints, where are they located at?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Cheng Guan lifted his robe and pointed to the inside of his knee to show him the locations of the acupoints, he let Wei Xiaobao to run his finger on the acupoints to verify that he got the correct ones. He also taught him how to ‘push the blood to the palace’; saying, “Shishu has not practiced internal energy, the way you unseal the acupoints will be somewhat slower. But after massaging for about an hour, the acupoints will definitely open.” Wei Xiaobao nodded, closed the door, and returned to the couch.

The girl heard the exchange between those two, she cried out in fear, “I don’t want you to unseal my acupoints, I don’t want you to touch me!”

Wei Xiaobao contemplated, “Massaging the inside of her knee for an hour is indeed not too proper. I really want to unseal her acupoint, but she will definitely think that I am being frivolous. Although a husband can be frivolous toward his wife, I still have to follow Heaven’s rule and the Earth’s way; much less this is a good opportunity that I must not lose, if I fail, I will lost her forever. It’s just that this girl’s temper is very fierce; as soon as I unseal her acupoints, I am afraid she would immediately drive me to the wall and kill me. And then Wei Xiaobao indeed won’t have any son and won’t have any grandson.”

Turning his head, he raised his voice and asked, “Men and women should not have direct contact. As people who have left home, we must pay special attention to the rule. If I don’t want to massage her, is there any other technique I can use?”

“Yes,” Cheng Guan said, “Shishu precisely and rigorously abides by the commandments, Shizhi is full of admiration. There is a way to unseal other people’s acupoint without touching. You can use the light brushing of the corner of your sleeve, or use the ‘one finger Dhyana’ through the empty air … Aiyo, it’s not right, Xiao Shishu [young martial uncle] has not cultivated internal energy, you cannot use these techniques. Let Shizhi think it over …”

Actually, all he had to do was to enter the room himself and lightly brush the corner of his sleeve, or perhaps use the ‘one finger Dhyana’ through the empty air, then the girl’s acupoint would be unsealed immediately. But since his martial uncle had asked, he must try to come up with an answer. However, how difficult it was for someone without internal energy to unseal acupoint without using fingers or massage? Even if he thought about it for a year or so, he would not necessarily be able to come up with anything.

Listening to him for a long time without getting any answer, Wei Xiaobao pushed the door a little bit, and saw Cheng Guan was looking up with a blank stare, lost in thought. He would not be surprised if Cheng Guan could stay motionless and speechless like that for six hours. Thereupon he closed the door and turned around, thinking that when he unsealed Mu Jianping’s acupoint at the Imperial Palace that day, he was using first-class technique all the way to the ninth-class technique: pinching, massaging, beating and jabbing, without the least bit of second thought. Although she was a junzhu who should be respected, in his eyes, he did not consider her important at all; however, in front of this nameless young woman, why did he tremble with fear and venerate her as if she was a deity?

Glancing toward the girl, he saw her delicate eyebrows were tightly knitted together with a distressed expression; he could not help but feeling a deep compassion toward her. Picking up a wooden fish mallet, he walked over toward her and said, “In the previous life Wei Xiaobao owed you a debt. In this life I fear neither the Heaven nor the Earth, yet I fear you, a young Miss. Right now I surrender to you, I really want to unseal your acupoints, and not deliberately want to take advantage of you.” Finished speaking, he took off his monk robe, and gently struck the inside of her left knee several times with the wooden fish mallet.

The girl stared at him coldly, her small mouth was tightly shut. Wei Xiaobao jabbed the mallet several more times and asked, “How do you feel?”

The girl said, “You … other than speaking some rogue words, you don’t know anything.”

Cheng Guan’s internal energy was deep, his light poke with his finger penetrated deep into the acupoint, although Wei Xiaobao’s placement of the wooden fish mallet was very accurate, his strength was lacking, he failed to unseal the acupoint. Hearing the girl’s sarcastic remark, he could not suppress his anger, and struck the wooden fish mallet heavily down several times. “Ah!” the girl screamed. Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Does it hurt?” he asked.

“I … I … I …” the girl angrily said. Wei Xiaobao moved to her right knee, but this time he started beating gently. After pounding several times, the girl’s body slightly trembled. “That’s it!” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “Originally Shaolin Pai only has 72 unique skills, from now on there will be 73. This new unique skill is invented by the Eminent Monk Hui Ming Chanshi, it is called … it is called the ‘Wooden Fish Mallet Acupoint Unsealing Divine Technique’, hey hey …”

While he was feeling complacent, suddenly he felt a dull pain on the small of his back; he was dumbstruck. The girl suddenly rolled around and sat up, she reached out to snatch his dagger and thrust it into his chest. “Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, “You murder your own husband …” and fell sitting down on the ground.

The girl snatched her willow-leaf saber that was placed by her side; pulled the door open, and bolted out of the meditation room.

Cheng Guan stretched out his arms to block, he called out in alarm, “Nu Shizhu, you … killed … killed my Shishu … that … that …”

The girl moved the willow-leaf saber from her left hand to her right, ‘Shua! Shua! Shua!’ she hacked three times in succession. Cheng Guan flicked the sleeve of his robe. The girl’s legs went numb and she tumbled down.

Cheng Guan rushed toward Wei Xiaobao’s side; he flicked several times with the middle finger of his right hand to seal the acupoints all around Wei Xiaobao’s wound. “Amitabha, my Buddha is merciful,” he said. With three fingers he pinched the hilt of the dagger and gently pulled it out, blood was seeping out of the wound. Noticing the bleeding was not too bad, Cheng Guan hurriedly untied Wei Xiaobao’s clothes, and saw the wound to be approximately half a cun [± ½”], and the cut was not too wide. He repeatedly said, “Amitabha.”

Wei Xiaobao was wearing his treasured vest; if not for the fact that his dagger was incomparably sharp, he would not have been wounded at all. Although the dagger penetrated his clothes, its force was greatly reduced and only went into his flesh shallowly. However, looking at his bleeding chest and feeling the pain from the wound, he thought his life would be difficult to save. He mumbled, “Murder your own husband … (cough, cough) … murder your … your own …”

The girl was lying on the floor, she cried and said, “It was me who killed him, Old Monk, quickly kill me to … to pay for … for his life.”

“Ay,” Cheng Guan sighed, “My Shishu has enlightened you. Nu Shizhu, if you persist on your wrong doings, there is nothing I can do. But a violent crime like this … a murder, it is rather too much.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I … I’m about to die. (Cough), you murder your own …”

Cheng Guan stared blankly. Dashing out of the room, he fetched the medicine to treat metal-cut wound and applied it on Wei Xiaobao’s wound, saying, “Shishu, you have great compassion and great mercy, you enlightened the fierce and uncontrollable, your karmic reward has not been exhausted yet, you won’t die this easily. Besides, your injury is not serious, it’s not a big deal.”

Hearing Cheng Guan said that his injury was not serious, Wei Xiaobao’s spirit was greatly aroused, and felt that his wound was not too painful after all. “Stoop down,” he said, “Aiyo, I am going to die, I am going to die!”

Cheng Guan stooped down and put his ear next to Wei Xiaobao’s mouth. Wei Xiaobao said in a low voice, “You may unseal her acupoint, but don’t let her out of the room. Wait until she finishes using all martial art skills she knew, and then … and then …”

“And then what?” Cheng Guan asked.

“At that time … at that time we …” Wei Xiaobao stammered, while saying in his heart, “Even until then, we still cannot let her go.” He said, “Just … just follow my instruction … quickly … quickly … I am about to die; once I died, I cannot die again!”

Although Cheng Guan did not understand his intention, hearing the urgency in his voice, he turned around and snapped his fingers to unseal her blocked acupoints.

The girl saw how sneaky Wei Xiaobao was talking to Cheng Guan, she thought that this young evil monk was wily and mischievous, at the death’s door, he must be planning some treacherous scheme to deal with me, otherwise, why would he want to let me go? Immediately she wanted to leap up, but her acupoints had just been unsealed, the blood had not flowed freely yet, her legs were still numb and weak, she tumbled down again. Cheng Guan looked at her with blank expression on his face, while his mouth repeatedly calling the names of Buddha.

The girl was frightened even more, she shouted, “Quickly kill me with one palm strike, tormenting people like this is not the act of a hero and warrior.”

Cheng Guan said, “Xiao Shishu said we cannot let you go at this time, naturally we cannot kill you either.”

The girl was greatly alarmed; her face blushed, she thought, “This young evil monk said that no matter what he must take me as his wife, otherwise he would die without his eyes closed. Could it be … could it be that before he breathes his last he wants … he wants to make me … make me … whatever … whatever wife?” Leaning sideways, she picked up the willow-leaf saber from the floor and forcefully chopped it onto her own forehead.

Cheng Guan flicked the sleeve of his robe again, it coiled around the edge of the blade, while the left sleeve brushed toward her face. The girl felt a strong gust of wind sweeping her face, and had no choice but to release her grip on the saber and leaped backward to evade. Cheng Guan flicked his sleeve again, the willow-leaf saber shot up, ‘pop!’ it stuck on the beam of the roof.

Seeing Cheng Guan was looking up at the saber, the girl kicked her left foot and slipped away from his left side. Cheng Guan stretched out his hand to block. Forming her right hand’s five fingers into a claw the girl attacked his eyes. Cheng Guan flipped his hand to catch her right elbow, he said, “’Smoke Over the Eyes’, this is Jiangnan’s Jiang Family’s martial art.”

The girl’s leg flew toward his lower abdomen. Cheng Guan slightly bent his waist and the kick hit an empty air. “This is ‘Sound of Footsteps in an Empty Valley’, originated from Jin Yang of Shanxi, a Shatuo people’s martial art,” he said, “But Shatuo people must have another name, Lao Na is ignorant and inexperienced, I looked everywhere but could not find out. I wonder if Nu Shizhu knew the original name of this move.”

Why would the girl pay him any attention? Her fists punched, her feet kicked, her fingers poked, her elbows struck; launching move after move endlessly. Cheng Guan identified all the moves one by one, only her movement was really fast, he did not have enough time to say it out loud; he had no choice but parrying the attacks and simply memorized everything in his heart. The girl successively launched several dozen moves, but Cheng Guan effortlessly neutralized everything. Seeing it would be difficult for her to escape, she was extremely frightened; her breathing failed to flow, she swayed several times, and then she fell down, fainted.

Cheng Guan sighed and said, “Nu Shizhu is greedy and covetous, you learned various schools and sects’ exquisite moves, yet without possessing enough internal energy; naturally you won’t last in a prolonged fight. In Lao Na’s opinion, you’d better cultivating internal energy from the beginning, and in a proper way. Fighting this time, your strength failed. If I help you by waking you up, undoubtedly you will want to fight again, and then inevitably you will suffer internal injury; you’d better lie down to rest for a moment, what does Nu Shizhu think? But you must never misunderstand, thinking that Lao Na is only watching with folded arms, knowing you are fainting and paying you no attention. Aiyo, Lao Na is so muddle-headed, you are already fainted, of course you won’t hear a thing, yet I kept talking endlessly.”

He went toward the couch to check Wei Xiaobao’s pulse, and found it to be steady and solid, there was no indication of danger at all; he said, “Shishu, don’t you worry, your injury is not the least bit serious.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Do you remember all the moves that the Little Miss used?”

“I do,” Cheng Guan replied, “But to find techniques to deal with her that are simple, clear and easy to practice is indeed not easy.”

“Just remember the moves she used,” Wei Xiaobao said, “As for how to deal with her, we can think about it slowly, it won’t be too late.”

“Yes, yes,” Cheng Guan said, “Shishu’s direction is right.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “After she has finished using all her punching and kicking skills, have her use her saber, and take note of her moves.”

“Right,” Cheng Guan said, “We must also remember her moves using a weapon. There is one difficulty though: her willow-leaf saber is stuck on the beam. I am afraid she cannot jump that high, she won’t be able to retrieve it.”

“What about you?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Can’t you jump up to get it?”

Cheng Guan was startled, then he burst out laughing and said, “Shizhi is indeed muddle-headed.”

His laughter had awakened the girl. Propping herself up with both hands, she ran toward the door. Cheng Guan flicked his left sleeve to push the side of the girl’s body. The girl staggered and hit the wall. Cheng Guan flicked his right sleeve toward the wall to support her body gently. Instantly the girl was able to steady her footing. She was startled, and realized at once that in all honesty that the difference between her martial art and this old monk’s is simply too far. If she continued fighting, he would make a fool of her without she being able to do anything. Thereupon she took two steps back and sat down on a chair.

“Uh,” Cheng Guan was puzzled, “You are not fighting anymore?”

The girl angrily said, “I am not your match, why would I want to fight you?”

Cheng Guan said, “If you don’t fight, how can I recognize the style you are using? How can I think of a way to counter that style? Quickly fight!”

The girl thought, “Fine, turns out you want me to fight so that you can understand my martial arts, I simply won’t let you know.” Suddenly she sprang up, her fists went straight up and down, waving wildly and hitting arbitrarily, her feet also kicked randomly, without using any technique at all.

Cheng Guan was greatly astonished. “Uh! Ah!” he exclaimed, “That’s odd! Strange! Ay! Wow! What’s that? Amazing! That’s weird!” He had a feeling that he had seen those moves before, but it also seemed that he had never seen them. Some moves seemed similar to certain school or sect’s style, yet the resemblance was so little, the difference was so great; the moves looked right, but felt wrong. In that instant his brain was overloaded with confusion. He felt that the martial arts he diligently and painstakingly accumulated over the dozens of years had suddenly changed, the moves he learned following the Heaven’s law and Earth’s principle, the golden rule and jade regulation, in a split second everything was shattered and nothing was left.

He did not realize that the girl did not move according to any martial art style, she was simply beating and kicking randomly. She knew that no matter what move she used, this old monk could not possibly harm her, at most he would only seal her acupoint so that she would lie down on the floor without being able to move at all, nothing more. If he really wanted to subdue her, it would be as easy as lifting his own hand. Even if she had used the most exquisite of martial art move, the result would be the same; so she might as well beating and kicking randomly. You want to study my martial art style, I simply won’t let you take a single glimpse.

Cheng Guan was very familiar with the world’s each school and sect’s martial art; however, he had never thought that in this world, there are millions of people who have never learned martial art, who, when they fight, if they want to punch they would simply punch, if they want to kick, they would simply kick. They do not understand any fist technique or kicking technique, do not know whether certain move is correct or wrong. Seeing the girl executing strange move and weird style, each one seemed more bizarre than the previous one, each one he had never seen in his entire life, each one he had never even heard about, he could not help but feeling frightened and was at a loss.

In all his life he had always lived inside Shaolin Temple, from the time he shaved his head he had never left the Temple’s gate even for a single step. Whenever someone was using his fist and feet in Shaolin Temple, naturally each move would follow some kind of style or technique; whenever someone was talking about each sect’s martial art, naturally he would mention some exquisite and original move. Everybody in the world would have seen people punching and kicking wildly like this little girl, only this Head of Bo’re Hall of Shaolin Temple, who was extremely knowledgeable in martial art, Cheng Guan Dashi [great master], had never seen anything like this, and had never heard people mentioning this either.

After watching a dozen more moves, he was even more stunned, he could not even sigh or say something like ‘strange, amazing, weird’, and so on. All kinds of styles came thick and fast before his eyes. “That looks like ‘Falling from Dragon Ride’ of Wudang’s Long Fist, but the style appears to be incorrect. Perhaps it is an alteration of Kongtong Pai’s ‘Dragon Prancing on the Cloud’? Uh, that kick looks even weirder, if she kicks straight out like that, the opponent could easily catch it, and grab her ankle. But in martial art study, greatly skillful person may not necessarily win over clumsy one, there must be an extremely formidable change that comes later. Ah, in this move she is grabbing with both hands, apparently she wants to grab my hair, but obviously I do not have any hair, so this move must be a fake one. Martial art study pays particular attention to solid in the midst of void, and void in the midst of solid. Why would she want to grab Buddhist monk’s hair? There must be a profound meaning behind this, I simply must consider the details carefully …” The more the girl moved arbitrarily, the more Cheng Guan was baffled. From being puzzled, his admiration slowly grew; from admiration, he slowly became frightened.

Wei Xiaobao could see that the girl was moving randomly, yet in all seriousness Cheng Guan was diligently watching and studying everything; he could not help but make a ‘Ha!’ sound as he broke into laughter. This laugh affected his wound, which became really painful that he could only clench his teeth trying to endure. In that moment pain and amusement mixed together, and it was really difficult to endure.

Cheng Guan was at a loss, anxious and perplexed, suddenly hearing Wei Xiaobao’s laugh, he blushed from ear to ear, thinking, “Shishu is laughing because I do not know this Nu Shizhu’s fantastic moves; perhaps he would ask her to be the Head of Bo’re Hall.” When he turned his head around, he saw Wei Xiaobao’s painful expression, and felt even more grateful, “Shishu is indeed kind-hearted, he wants me to hand over the Head position to this Nu Shizhu, but he cannot bear to say it.”

Seeing the girl’s punching and kicking was getting more and more chaotic, he thought, “The people of old said that when one has reached outstanding attainments in martial art, even hanging something on the antelope’s antler won’t leave any trace that’s possible to seek[?]. I heard that in the previous dynasty there was this Dugu Quibai [Dugu Seeking-a-loss] Daxia [great hero/knight], and then there was Linghu Chong Daxia, who defeat a move without a move; they were unequalled in their era. Could it be … could it be …”

He wanted to try, hence he stepped forward and casually punching and kicking, trying to overthrow the girl. However, when a martial art master is making his move, he must look clearly the opponent’s move first, and then thinking about a way to counter it later. Since he was already at a complete loss over the girl’s random punching and kicking, it was like a tiger cub that saw a donkey for the first time, who was terrified endlessly.

Actually, the girl did not dare to attack him. One was punching and kicking randomly with anger that was difficult to restrain, the other was having his imagination running wild while his heart was extremely frightened. After moving around randomly for quite a while, the girl’s hands and feet were exhausted and aching. Thinking that in any case it would be difficult for her to escape, her heart turned bitter, she swayed and abruptly sat down on the ground.

Cheng Guan was greatly shocked; he thought, “According to legend, when someone has trained martial art to an extremely high level, he could sit down on the ground and still injure the opponent from a distant. I am afraid … I am afraid …” His brain was overloaded with confusion; in his fright, his blood surged up, slowly he sat down and passed out.

The girl was startled but delighted; afraid that those two monks were setting up some sinister scheme, she did not dare to step forward and kill those old and young, two monks, but sprang up and ran out of the meditation room.

Suddenly seeing a woman rushing out, the monks of Bo’re Hall were taken by surprise. Without their superior’s order, who would dare to step forward and stop her? Wei Xiaobao was lying on the couch and could only watch helplessly.

After quite a while, Cheng Guan slowly regained his consciousness. With an ashamed expression he said, “Shishu, I … I am really ashamed to face our Temple’s forefathers and ancestors.”

Forcing a laugh, Wei Xiaobao said, “Where do you think you want to go?”

Cheng Guan said, “That Nu Shizhu’s martial art is exquisite, Shizhi did not recognize a single move, I am ignorant and inexperienced, I am really ashamed.” He tried hard to remember the girl’s style, but her moves changed irregularly without any pattern, completely without any set of rule he could follow; how could he remember it? Shakily he tried to stand up while supporting himself against the wall, but he almost faint again.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You … you think moving around wildly like that is an exquisite martial art? Ha ha … hee hee … this … this is so … so funny … I want to die!”

Cheng Guan was puzzled. “Is Shishu saying that … that was moving around wildly? And not … not exquisite martial art?”

Wei Xiaobao pressed down his wound and struggled hard not to laugh. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. He could not refrain from coughing and said with a laugh, “That was something that … that all children in the world can do well. Ha ha … aiyo … I will die of laughter!”

Cheng Guan blew out a breath, in his heart he was still half believing half doubting, but a smile appeared on his face. “Shishu, was that really moving around wildly?” he asked, “How come I have never seen anything like that?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Naturally there has never been such martial art in Shaolin Temple.”

Cheng Guan stared at the ceiling and was lost in thought for half a day. Finally he slapped his thigh and said, “That’s right. Although that Nu Shizhu’s punching and kicking is peculiar, it is actually very easy to neutralize, we only need to use Shaolin Long Fist’s shallowest move to prevail. It’s just that … it’s just that Shizhi thought that there is no such easy thing like that in the world, great skill may appear as clumsiness, great intelligence may appear to be stupidity, good merchant may hide his treasure away so that no one knows about it. There must be a profound martial art principle hidden inside a style that looks extremely easy on the outside. Who would have thought that those random punching and kicking were not profound martial art at all? This is very strange. Why did that Nu Shizhu display such style, which seems to be unfit for elegant hall, in here? Won’t that means she was simply making a fool of herself?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I think it’s not strange at all. She could not produce any new style, hence she simply moved her hands and feet randomly. Ay, ha ha … hee hee …” He could not help bursting into laughter again.

Wei Xiaobao’s injury was light, plus Shaolin Temple’s metal cut wound medicine was extremely effective; after recuperating for about ten days, he was completely healed. He was the current Emperor’s proxy, he held a place of honor in the Temple, nobody would dare to ask about his business. Since nobody knew about this, as long as he did not say anything, others would not find out.

During his recovery, Cheng Guan recorded the two women’s each style and each move clearly, he also figured out a way to counter each one. As soon as Wei Xiaobao was healed, he passed on each move each style to him. Although the moves Cheng Guan taught him were quite diverse, they were based primarily on the ‘Picking Flower Grab and Capture’ technique. ‘Picking Flower Grab and Capture’ was Shaolin Pai’s profound martial art, it used pure and profound internal energy as the foundation, the moves were not complicated, but were powerful and elegant, without the slightest degree of aggressiveness.

According to Zen Buddhism legend passed down from generation to generation, at the assembly on Lingshan, Sakyamuni Buddha picked a golden Boluo flower and showed it to the crowd. The audience was silent, no one understood his meaning, only Revered Monk Jiaye [Kasyapa] broke into a smile. Buddha said, “I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle [D]harma [G]ate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa.[2]”

Mahakasyapa was one of Buddha’s ten main disciples, he was known as ‘the first toutuo[3]’, the Zen Buddhists revered him as their forefather. Shaolin Temple can be classified as Zen Buddhism, who pays particular attention of self-awareness. Thinking about Buddha picking the flower, Kasyapa smiled. Without a word, he had already comprehended the meaning; wasn’t that a state of comprehension beyond amazing?

The people of later generation used the term ‘picking flower’ as a name for this qin na [grab and capture/grappling] technique. Naturally each move was beautiful and each style elegant, a lot more interesting to watch than ordinary flipping of the hand or pulling of the leg. It’s just that Wei Xiaobao did not have any foundation in internal energy cultivation; using this kind of refined and elegant technique against a martial art master, as soon as the opponent lightly pushed, he would be immediately thrown down and roll around several times on the ground. He fell down until his nose turned blue and his eyes swollen, needless to say, he would either wail or laugh loudly. Luckily those two women did not have any internal energy either, hence the technique he learned would come in handy in dealing with them. Cheng Guan thought that the opponents were a couple of girls, they must not treat them roughly, hence the reason he put emphasis on this kind of technique.

When Wei Xiaobao learned martial art from Hai Dafu, because he was under supervision, he received double benefits: learning the move and how to use it, as a result, he did learn something from Hai Dafu. Later on Chen Jinnan gave him a martial art manual, which he only learned several times, and then he stopped altogether because it was too difficult. As for the six moves taught by Cult Leader Hong, husband and wife, he only practiced carelessly to get the general idea; he stopped practicing as soon as he left the Divine Dragon Island. The reason he learned martial art this time was to get that green-clothes girl as his wife. He had made an oath that in order to be her husband, he was willing to climb the mountain of blades or go down a deep fryer, when he died he would enter the eighteenth level of hell. It was indeed not a small matter; not surprisingly, he trained very diligently. He learned every move every style, and sparred with Cheng Guan.

After training for several days, his laziness came back, suddenly he thought about Shuang’er, “That girl’s martial art is not weak, most likely she will be able to deal with these two girls. I only need to have Shuang’er by my side as my escort, I don’t need to personally practice martial art.” But then he had a second thought, “I must use my own skill to get that green-clothed girl. It would be great to smell the fragrance of her face. If I ask Shuang’er to seal her acupoint and then I smell the fragrance of her face, I would appear too gutless, that green-clothed girl will look down on me even more. Besides, if I ask Shuang’er to do this kind of thing, although she would obey me, in her heart she must be grieved, I must not wrong her too much. Even if their faces both look happy, I have to be fair, neither one of them must be discontented.” In the end, he made a strenuous effort to learn the style.

One particular day Cheng Guan said, “Shishu, You are diligently learning this martial art, actually … actually it won’t do you any good. If you grab me like this, and I reacted using my internal energy, your wrist … your wrist will be … will be …”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “My wrist will be ‘crack!’ broke in two.”

Cheng Guan said, “You are my superior, no way would I use my internal strength against you, Shizhi absolutely will not dare. However, in Shizhi’s opinion, practicing Shaolin Long Fist from the start, step-by-step in proper order is the way to go.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Why do you say that what we are practicing right now is not the way to go?”

“This style does not have any internal energy foundation,” Cheng Guan replied, “If you are facing a martial art master, it does not matter how ingenious the changes are, inevitably you will fail and be wiped over the floor. It is only useful to deal with those two Nu Shizhu.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed. “That’s wonderful,” he said, “The only reason I learn this is only to deal with those two Nu Shizhu.”

Cheng Guan looked at him with a baffled expression, he was completely lost. He said, “Supposing Shishu will not come across those Nu Shizhu again in the future, won’t the effort of learning this martial art be wasted? Not to mention you will delay the time to learn proper martial art.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “If I can’t see this Nu Shizhu again, I will definitely die; what use will learning proper martial art be?” What Cheng Guan said was ‘those two Nu Shizhu’, but Wei Xiaobao was referring to ‘this Nu Shizhu’.

Cheng Guan was even more baffled; he asked, “Could it be that Shishu has been hit by that Nu Shizhu’s poison and thus must find her to get the antidote, otherwise your life would be difficult to protect?”

Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “I was talking about the matter between a man and a woman, where did this old monk get that idea?” With a grim expression he said, “Exactly, exactly, I was hit by her poison; the poison has entered my five viscera and six bowels, into the bones and marrows of my entire body, only she can neutralize it.”

“Aiyo!” Cheng Guan exclaimed, “Our Temple’s Cheng Zhao Shidi is adept at neutralizing poison, let me ask him to come here to examine Shishu.”

Suppressing his laugh, Wei Xiaobao said, “No need, no need, the poison that hit me is actually slow to take effect, she is the only antidote, other people are useless. The old monk Cheng Zhao is even more useless.”

Cheng Guan nodded. “Turns out only she has the antidote,” he said. Wei Xiaobao was saying ‘only she was the antidote’, Cheng Guan erroneously assumed that ‘only she has the antidote’. One word makes the meaning entirely different.

The old monk was anxious, he muttered to himself, “Ay, Shishu is being hit by the strange poison of this Nu Shizhu’s unique school, luckily it is slow to take effect …”

The girl’s martial art was actually very broad and diverse, the techniques Cheng Guan came up with to counter her were not a few either, some were more challenging than the others, Wei Xiaobao did not have any martial art foundation at all, how could he learn everything in such a short period of time? Every day he sparred with Cheng Guan, oftentimes he treated this white-bearded old monk as that beautiful young green-clothed girl.Sometimes he went as far as speaking with him frivolously and treated him tenderly. Luckily Cheng Guan did not understand anything, he thought this young martial uncle had a deep comprehension of Buddhist teaching, and that he was using a profound Buddhist allegory. Cheng Guan blamed himself for being stupid for failing to grasp the essence of the attainment of the spiritual learning.

One day the two of them were talking about the two girls’ saber technique in Cheng Guan’s meditation room when the Bo’re Hall monk on duty came to the door and said, “Fangzhang Dashi [great master abbot] is inviting Shishuzu and Shibo [grand martial uncle and martial (older) uncle] to the main hall to discuss something.”

The two of them went to the Hall of Great Strength[4] and saw several dozens of guests in the Hall, some were sitting down, some were standing up. Abbot Hui Cong Chanshi was sitting on the second seat of honor to accompany the guests. On the main seats of honor sat three people. The first one was wearing Mongolian nobleman attire, he looked about twenty or so; the second one was a middle-aged Lama, thin, short and swarthy; the third one was a military officer, from his uniform it looked like he was a commander of the army, about forty something years old. Standing behind these three were a mix of several dozen military officers, Lamas, and about a dozen or so men in civilian clothing. They all looked strong and heroic, obviously they knew martial arts.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao entering the Hall, Abbot Hui Cong stood up and said, “Shidi, honored guests are descending on our Temple. This is His Highness Prince Galdan [ge’er dan] of Mongolia, this is Da Fashi[5] Great Lama Chang Qi of Tibet, and this one is Ma Bao, Ma Daren[6], a military commander under Ping Xi Wang’s banner.” Turning toward the three guests, he said, “And this is Lao Na’s Shidi, Hui Ming Chanshi.”

Everybody could see that Wei Xiaobao was young man with a flippant expression, a complete picture of a frivolous teenager, yet unexpectedly he was a Chanshi of the same standing as the Abbot himself; they were all astonished. Prince Galdan could not help but laughing; he said, “This little eminent monk is really young and fascinating. Ha ha … odd, very odd.”

Wei Xiaobao put his palms together and said, “Amitabha, this big prince is really big and amusing. Hee hee … strange, very strange!”

Galdan angrily said, “What’s so amusing and strange aboutme?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Whatever is fascinating and odd about the little monk is the same as whatever is amusing and strange about Your Highness; it’s hard to differentiate between the elder and younger brother, one is just as bad as the other.” Finished speaking, he sat down on the seat below Abbot Hui Cong, while Cheng Guan stood behind him. Hearing Wei Xiaobao, everybody thought that it was an unfathomable truth, and they all secretly praised him.

Abbot Hui Cong said, “I wonder what instruction the three honored guests have by gracing our humble Temple with your presence.”

Lama Chang Qi said, “The three of us came across each other by accident along the way. Upon talking to each other, we agreed that Shaolin Temple is the Mount Tai and Big Dipper constellation [i.e.the ultimate] of martial art study in the Central Plains, worthy of our admiration. The three of us are uncouth people of the borders, what we see and hear is shallow, thereupon we come to your precious temple together to admire. We will be much honored to see the eminent monks’ respected example.” Although he was a Tibetan Lama, he spoke with good Beijing bureaucratic language, his voice was sharp, clear and bright, his manner in speaking was elegant.

“We do not dare,” Hui Cong said, “In Mongolia, Tibet and Yunnan, three places, Buddhist teaching is usually flourishing. The three gentlemen have received Buddha’s illumination for a long time, your wisdom and self-awareness must be clear, what other direction we can hope to give you?” Chang Qi Lama was talking about martial art study, but Abbot Hui Cong was talking about the Dharma. Although Shaolin Temple was renowned all over the world for its martial art, yet all the eminent monks of the Temple took diligently cultivated Buddhist doctrine as the proper way, they always thought that the martial art study was merely a minor detail to protect and sustain the Buddhist teaching.

Galdan said, “I heard that Shaolin Temple’s previous generations passed on altogether seventy-two special skills, which overawe the world, not often to find a match. Is it possible for Fangzhang Dashi to ask the eminent monks to demonstrate them one by one so that Xiao Wang [little king, referring to self] and the others could have our eyes opened?”

Hui Cong said, “It is only proper to let Your Highness know that the hearsay of the Jianghu is not to be trusted. Our humble Temple’s monks are diligently cultivating Zen meditation in order to reach true enlightenment. Although some of us have spare time to practice martial art, it is nothing more than to have a strong and healthy body. Trivial small skills, not worth mentioning.”

“Fangzhang,” Galdan said, “You are indeed frank and candid. All we ask is that you demonstrate these 72 unique skills, we only want to watch, not to steal it; why should you be narrow-minded?”

ShaolinTemple’s reputation was simply too great, over the last thousand years, nearly every month there were people who pay a visit asking for advice. Some came with sincerity because they really wanted to learn, some with evil intention to pick a quarrel. The monks of the Temple always politely declined. Even if the visitors were extremely arrogant, the Temple’s monks always treated them with due respect, and would never argue. Only when the visitors resorted to violence would the monks be forced into fighting back. Otherwise, they would always send off the visitors with good wishes. Something like this Prince Galdan just said, Abbot Hui Cong had heard countless times. He simply smiled and said, “If the three gentlemen are willing to expound the Zen teaching and discuss the Buddhist doctrine, Lao Seng [old monk] will convene the monks to respectfully listen to your discourse. As for some martial art, our Temple always follows the rule that we do not dare to show off our meager skills before an expert, to be presumptuous toward the visiting benefactors.”

Galdan’s eyebrows stood up as he loudly said, “In that case, Shaolin Temple only enjoys unearned reputation. The Temple’s monks’ martial art is not as good as dog fart, not worth a qian.”

Hui Cong smiled and said, “Everything is life is indeed fabricated, is indeed not as good as dog fart, not worth a qian. The Five Aggregates [from Sanskrit ‘skandha’] are empty, our bodies are empty, reputation is no more than worldly possessions. Your Highness says our humble Temple only enjoys unearned reputation; that is the truth.”

Galdan had not expected this old monk did not get the least bit angry; he could not help but was startled. Standing up, he laughed loudly while pointing his finger at Wei Xiaobao and said, “Little monk, are you also not as good as dog fart, not worth a qian?”

Wei Xiaobao giggled and said, “Naturally Big Prince surpasses Little Monk. Little monk is indeed not as good as dog fart, not worth a qian. Big Prince is definitely as good as dog fart, and worth a qian. This is called you win by a gambling chip.” Immediately some people from among those who stand snickered.

Galdan was furious; he wanted to leave his seat and use force against Wei Xiaobao immediately, but then he had a second thought, “This little monk’s seniority in Shaolin Temple is very high, perhaps there is something wrong here, which I don’t know yet.” Panting with rage, he struggled hard to suppress his anger.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Highness does not need to lose your temper. You must know that the smelliest thing in the world is not dog fart, rather, it is one’s words. There are some people, who, when they speak, stink to the high heaven, just like … just like … hey, hey, I don’t need to say it. As for not worth a qian, it is not the lowliest thing. The lowliest thing is someone who owes other tens of million, hundreds of million taels, yet refuse to pay. Whether Your Highness owe others money or not, you alone know it in your heart.” Galdan was stunned with his mouth agape, temporarily he did not know how to respond.

Abbot Hui Cong said, “Shidi’s words contain profound Buddhist allegory; my admiration, my admiration. Affairs of life, karma and retribution, everything has its cause and definitely has its fruit. Committing evil deeds will result in evil consequence. Not worth a qian is no more than ‘without virtue, without malice’, it is a lot better than owing innumerable evil debts.”

Eminent monks of Zen Buddhism were constantly in search of Zen truth. In actuality, Wei Xiaobao was saying those things only to ridicule Galdan’s casual remark, yet in Abbot Hui Cong’s ears, it concealed deep crucial points.

Listening to the Abbot’s explanation, Cheng Guan was immediately enlightened; he could not help but sighing in admiration, “Hui Ming Shishu is young yet virtuous,” he said happily, “He had attained the wonderful comprehension of the truth. Lao Na has been studying under him for several months, when I meditate recently, my brain seems to be clearing up a lot.”

A little monk babbled nonsense, two old monks echoed each other; to outsiders, they seemed to be deliberately trying to embarrass Galdan. Galdan’s face turned deep red; suddenly he sprang up from his chair and pounced on Wei Xiaobao. The hosts and the guests were sitting opposite to each other, separated by a distance of approximately two zhang [±20 feet/6 m], but his movement was vigorous and nimble, quickly he arrived in front of Wei Xiaobao, both hands formed a couple of claws, one clawed Wei Xiaobao’s face, the other clawed his chest. Before the claws even arrived, Wei Xiaobao had already felt a strong gust of wind enveloping his body. He wanted to dodge, but there was not the least bit of leeway, and had no choice but to resign himself to extinction.

Abbot Hui Cong’s right hand sleeve lightly brushed away to block in front of Galdan. As Galdan’s powerful force collided with his sleeve, Galdan felt the chi and blood inside his chest bubbling up, as if he was hitting a thick steel wall, lined with a layer of cotton on its surface. Without being able to control his own body, he staggered back three steps. He made a strenuous effort to halt, but unexpectedly he could not control his feet and was pushed back three more steps. In the meantime, the incoming force vanished, but in that instant, his own strength also vanished without a trace. He was greatly shocked; his knees went soft and he fell sitting down. “Bad,” he thought, “This time I am greatly humiliated.” He had just had that thought when he suddenly realized that his buttocks came in contact with a hard wooden board; unexpectedly he was returning to his own chair.

The force behind the flick of Abbot Hui Cong’s sleeve was soft and dispersed, there was no trace of aggressiveness at all. The force that collided with the opponent was exceptionally accurate, it was just enough to push Galdan back to his own chair. If the force was slightly stronger, Galdan would undoubtedly crash and break the chair, and he would tumble backward. If the force was slightly lighter, Galdan would not reach the chair so that when he fell down, he would sat on the ground.

When some of the visitors who happened to have profound martial art witnessed how Hui Cong’s light flick with his sleeve was brimming with an outstanding attainment in martial art training, they could not help but bursting out in loud cheer.

Not being humiliated on the spot, Galdan was somewhat consoled. Quietly he took a deep breath and felt that his internal energy was not damaged; the old monk did not injure him internally at all, hence was delighted. But then he recalled that just now he was so hot-headed, yet it seemed that he was not humiliated; he realized that in fact he had made a complete fool of himself, immediately his face turned red. Hearing some people behind him cheering, he presumed that they were not cheering him being beaten by the old monk; his anger flared again.

Wei Xiaobao was still shaken. Hui Cong turned around and said to him, “Shidi, your mental power is indeed superior, external force coming fiercely, you neither see nor take any notice. The ‘Collection of Great Treasures Sutra’ says: ‘Like a man in a forest of thistles and thorns, being motionless means the thorn will not harm him. Rashness does not arise in his heart, anxiety will fade away happily. Rashness moves in his heart, the thorns will immediately prick him.’ The ancient sutra says, ‘When the heart is bitter, there will be no mood for happiness.’ Shidi is young, yet unexpectedly your meditation cultivation has reached the extremely high state of ‘constantly not in the mood, constantly motionless’; your root is indeed very deep, you have great wisdom and great intelligence.”

How would he know that not only Wei Xiaobao did not have the power to fight back, even if he had the desire to dodge, he simply could not? Galdan’s pounce was too fast; it was called the ‘thunderbolt surpass the covering of the ear’; it was not that one did not want to cover his ears, but rather he did not have time to cover his ears. With a clear heart Abbot Hui Cong was always looking for orthodox skill, normally he diligently and single-mindedly trying to reach the ‘non-self’ realm; therefore, when he saw Wei Xiaobao surprisingly did not care about either his own life and death or safety and danger, he could not help but admiring him completely. As for him warding off Galdan’s attack using the ‘worn-out cassock skill’ by sending his force via the flick of his sleeve, he felt it was not worth-mentioning instead.

Cheng Guan was even more full of admiration, he said, “Vajra Sutra says, ‘no self, no people, no living things, no long life’; unexpectedly Hui Ming Shishu has reached that state. Some other day he must have reached the Aruduoluo[7], three-despise three-enlightenment.”

Galdan had been in an uncontrollable rage, listening to these two old monks showering praises to this little monk, he roared, “Halisiba’er, nimahong, jianubiding’er!” Several warriors under his command behind him quickly waved their hands, several yellow rays flashed, nine golden projectiles separately flew toward Hui Cong, Cheng Guan and Wei Xiaobao’s chests.
The two sides were very close to each other, plus Wei Xiaobao and the others did not understand since Galdan gave the order to throw the projectiles in Mongolian, hence the projectiles were totally unexpected.

The nine projectiles came swiftly and were already at their chests. Hui Cong and Cheng Guan simultaneously cried out, “Aiyo!” Hui Cong still used the ‘worn-out cassock skill’ by flicking his sleeve to wrap around three projectiles. Cheng Guan joined his palms together with the move ‘saluting three precious treasures[8]’ to catch the three golden projectiles in his palms. ‘Pop!’ the three projectiles flying toward Wei Xiaobao all hit his chest.

These nine projectiles arrived almost at the same time, Hui Cong and Cheng Guan were going to help him, but it was simply too late. They were all shocked, but they only heard ‘plink, plink, plonk’, the three projectiles fell to the ground. Wei Xiaobao was wearing his treasured vest, the golden projectiles could not harm him.

Instantly the main hall was abuzz with sensation. Everybody saw how this little monk was very young, yet unexpectedly had mastered Shaolin Pai’s highest internal energy cultivation, the ‘Jin Gang Hu Ti Shen Gong[9]’; it was indeed inconceivable. They all thought, “No wonder this little monk belongs to Shaolin Pai’s ‘Hui’ generation, of the same standing with Shaolin Temple’s head monk, Hui Cong Fangzhang, who has made his name for several decades.”

Actually, Hui Cong and Cheng Guan’s techniques in catching the projectiles were also extremely brilliant; were it not for their internal energy cultivation had reached the stage of perfection, what they did would be very difficult to accomplish. It’s just that Wei Xiaobao’s ‘skill’ was too marvelous that the crowd did not pay attention to these two old monks.

While the crowd was still in awe, Chang Qi Lama laughed and said, “Little eminent monk’s ‘Jin Gang Hu Ti Shen Gong’ has been trained to such level, it is indeed not easy. However, it seems to me that this divine skill still has some shortcoming, it is still unable to shake the secret projectiles off completely, to such an extent that the monk robe is poked by three small holes.”

According to old legend, when this ‘Jin Gang Hu Ti Shen Gong’ has been trained to reach the pinnacle, there will be a layer of invisible force field around the body, so that before the enemy’s weapon or secret projectile even reaches the body, it will be shaken off immediately. However, it was no more than a legend circulating among the Wulin world, nobody knew whether there was a real person who had really trained to that level. When Chang Qi Lama said those words, people knew he was simply trying to ‘look for a bone in a chicken egg’, he was bent on playing down the opponent’s marvelous ability.

Being hit by the three golden projectiles, Wei Xiaobao’s chest was really painful, one of the projectile hit really close to his wound that the pain penetrated deep into his bones and marrow; he could not even breathe, how could he speak? All he could do was forcing a laugh. Yet the crowd thought that his cultivation had reached such an extremely high level that he did not feel it was worth the trouble to respond to Chang Qi’s pointless provocation. Quite a few people mused, “You said his divine skill has not been trained to perfection, I want to see if I shoot you three projectiles, whether three big holes will appear on your chest or not, not just three small holes appear on your clothes.” It’s just that they came together, so it was inconvenient to ridicule their companion.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao’s fierceness, Galdan’s rage immediately vanished. He thought, “Shaolin Pai’s martial art is indeed formidable.”

Chang Qi continued, “Finally Shaolin Temple’s martial art has indeed increased our knowledge; definitely it was not an unearned reputation, not as good as dog’s fart. However, we heard that your precious Temple has given shelter to women, which is rather deficient in following the clear regulation of monastic discipline.”

Hui Cong’s countenance sank; he said, “Great Lama is wrong! Our humble Temple does not accept female benefactors to enter the Temple to worship Buddha; where did you get the idea that we give shelter to women?”

Chang Qi laughed and said, “But the Jianghu is abuzz, a lot of people are saying that.”

Abbot Hui Cong smiled and said, “Why would we want to pay attention to rumors in Jianghu? Ultimately we must be like Hui Ming Shidi, external force coming fiercely, our hearts will be unmoved. That is the self-awareness of the wonderful truth, the evidence of true enlightenment skill.”

Chang Qi Lama said, “I heard that in this young eminent monk’s meditation room hidden an outstandingly beautiful woman, furthermore, it was he who kidnapped her with force. Could it be that Hui Ming Chanshi’s heart is also completely unmoved by this beautiful woman?”

By this time Wei Xiaobao had been able to catch his breat; he was shocked and thought, “How did they know?”

Then he immediately understood, “That’s right, that Miss wearing blue clothes ran away. Obviously she went back to their teacher to report. Looks like these men are the reinforcement she sent; today they are here to rescue my wife. He said I have a beautiful woman in my room, in that case, after my wife ran away, she has not met with them.” At once he smiled and said, “Whether there is a beautiful woman in my room or not will be evident as soon as you look. Gentlemen, there is no harm in you going to look.”

In a loud voice Galdan said, “Alright, we will search the Temple. As the water receded, the rocks appear.” Finished speaking, he rose up and waved his left hand. “Search the Temple!” he ordered. The men under his command started to move toward the back of the Hall.

Hui Cong said, “Your Highness wants to search our Temple, I wonder under whose order?”

Galdan said, “My order is enough, why must I receive other people’s order?”

Hui Cong said, “You are mistaken. Your Highness is a Mongolian Prince, if we were in Mongolia, you may give order at will. Shaolin Temple is not within Mongolian borders, hence we are not under Your Highness’ jurisdiction.”

Galdan pointed to Commander Ma and said, “He is an imperially appointed official, with him issuing the order to search the Temple should be enough.” He saw how superior Shaolin monks’ martial arts were, plus they had many more people. If a fight broke, the several dozen men on his side would not be their match. Thereupon he added, “You are defying the Imperial Court’s order; that can be considered rebellion.”

“Defying the Imperial Court’s order, Shaolin Temple will not dare,” Hui Cong said, “However, this gentlemen is a military official under the Ping Xi Wang of Yunnan’s banner. Even if Ping Xi Wang’s power grew, it won’t reach Henan province.”

Hui Cong actually was an astute man, it was only when discussing Zen’s truth that he gave no thought to worldly affair. Apart from that, he was quite knowledgeable in other affairs; he was completely different from Cheng Guan who did not understand anything about the outside world.

Chang Qi Lama laughed and said, “This young eminent monk has agreed, why should Fangzhang Dashi use that pretext to stop the search? Could it be that the beautiful woman is not in Hui Ming Chanshi’s room, but actually in … in … hee hee … in Fangzhang Dashi’s meditation room?”

“Amitabha,” Hui Cong said, “Sin, sin. Why would Dashi utter such words?”

Suddenly someone behind Galdan spoke in a delicate voice, “Your Highness, my Shimei was clearly captured by this little monk, quickly tell them to hand her over, otherwise we definitely won’t let this matter drop, we will burn Shaolin Temple to the ground.” It was a female voice, but the one speaking was a man, with sallow complexion and face full of beard.

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard it, he knew this person was that girl in blue in disguise. She put some yellow wax on her face and stuck some fake beard. He was unable to restrain his ecstasy, “These past several days I was worried because I did not know my wife’s school or sect, I did not know her name or surname. She turned her back on her husband and ran away, where would I go to find her? Now I know that they belong to this Mongolian Prince’s group. Very good, very good. She won’t escape from me.”

Hui Cong also recognized her; he said, “Turns out this is the Miss who came to our Temple and injured people the other day. There was another Miss who was mending her wound in our Temple; she is not coming with Miss this time?”

The girl angrily said, “Afterwards my Shimei was captured and brought to your Temple. That old monk was his accomplice, it was him who defeated my Shimei.” While saying that she pointed to Cheng Guan.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly alarmed; he mused, “Aiyo! Not good! The old monk Cheng Guan cannot lie, this affair will be exposed. What should I do?” Momentarily he was at a loss of what to do.

The girl pointed to Cheng Guan and loudly said, “Old monk, tell me, tell me, am I telling the truth?”

Cheng Guan put his palms together and said, “Please tell us where did the Nu Shizhu, your respected Shimei go? My Shishu was hit by her violent poison, only she has the antidote. Nu Shizhu is infinitely merciful, please beseech your respected Shimei to quickly grant the antidote. Although Hui Ming Shishu’s wisdom is profound, he is free and does not care about life and death, considering life and death as the Nirvana, the Nirvana as life and death, but … ay …”

He was babbling a string of incoherent sentences. Although other people could not comprehend what he was saying, they all knew that the girl was not in the monastery; moreover, Wei Xiaobao was poisoned by her and was looking for her for the antidote, otherwise his life would be difficult to protect. Everyone could see Cheng Guan’s simple appearance, his words were extremely sincere, they all believed he was not lying. They thought, “Even if the woman was indeed hidden in the Temple and the Abbot allow us to search, Shaolin Temple has hundreds of rooms and thousands of residence, how could we search everything in such a short period of time? If we really want to search, most likely we will only invite a rebuke in vain.”

With a sharp voice the girl shouted, “Clearly you have captured and brought my Shimei into the Temple, perhaps you have already killed her. You are evil monks who offend the Heaven and disregard reasons, you must have had destroy her body to leave no trace, naturally we won’t find her.” Toward the end, her anger mixed with anxiety that her voice turned into sobbing.

Galdan nodded, “That makes sense. This … this little monk is not a good person.”

The girl pointed to Wei Xiaobao and cursed, “You are an evil man, that day in the brothel you fooled around with a lot of bad women, when you saw my Shimei’s beauty, you were having an evil thought. It must be because my Shimei was unwilling to … unwilling to come with you that you killed her. If you can go to the brothel, what other bad things you can’t do?”

When Hui Cong heard this, he showed a faint smile, thinking that it was absurd. Cheng Guan did not know what kind of place was a ‘brothel’, he thought it was a place similar to Shaolin Temple’s Jielu Courtyard, Damo Courtyard, or Bodhi Courtyard[10]. He thought, “Xiao Shishu is fearlessly forging ahead, diligently doing good works and practicing Buddhist teachings. This is the ‘forging ahead vigorously boluomi[11]’ of the six paramita. Leading a pious life in a brothel is also very good!”

In his heart, Wei Xiaobao was very anxious; he was afraid she would go into the details and narrate how he deliberately created some trouble.

Suddenly from behind Commander Ma a man stepped forward, cupped his fist and said, “Miss, Xiaoren knows that this Chanshi is practicing strict and refined monastic discipline; he would never set foot in a brothel. I am afraid it was a baseless rumor.”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao saw him, he was delighted. Turned out this man was Yang Yizhi whom he had met in Beijing. He was escorting Wu Yingxiong to Beijing. Presumably Wu Yingxiong had returned to Yunnan and now he came to Henan with Commander Ma. All along he was hanging his head low and stood behind other people, thereupon Wei Xiaobao did not immediately recognize him.

The girl angrily said, “How do you know? Do you know him?”

“Xiaoren knows this young Chanshi,” Yang Yizhi respectfully replied, “Our Heir Apparent also knows him. This young Chanshi has shown enormous kindness toward our Wangye’s [master king] family. Before he left home, he was a Gong-gong in the Imperial Palace. Consequently, there must be no such thing as going to a brothel, or forcing your respected Shimei, and so on. Please Miss understand.”

When the crowd heard him, “Oh!” they exclaimed. They all thought, “If he was a court eunuch, naturally he could not visit a prostitute, even more impossible for him to kidnap a woman and hide her in the Temple.”

Looking at everybody’s expression, the girl realized that they did not believe her; she grew even more angry. With a shrill voice she said, “How do you know he was a eunuch? If he was a eunuch, why did he say he wanted to take … to take my Shimei as … as his wife? Not only this little monk talked nonsense, that old monk is also oily-mouthed and a smooth talker, they love to take advantage of other people.” While saying that, she pointed her finger at Cheng Guan.

The crowd could see that Cheng Guan was over eighty years old, with a rather dumb expression. Only a while ago they heard him stammering, when he was trying to express his thought with difficulty. It would be almost impossible to find someone more ‘oily-mouthed and smooth talking’ than he was. Hence they did not believe the girl even more. They all thought that because they listened to her one-sided wild fantasy today they had come to Shaolin Temple and made a fool of themselves; they were quite regretful.

Yang Yizhi said, “Miss, you did not know that before he left home, this young Chanshi was very famous; he was the Gui Gong-gong who has put that big treacherous court official Oboi to death. Our Prince was framed by some crafty scoundrels, he was in danger of suffering an unredressed injustice if not for this young Chanshi vigorously explaining the facts in front of His Majesty. This great kindness and great favor so far has not been repaid yet.”

Everybody had heard the name Xiao Guizi who killed Oboi, they all knew that he was Kangxi’s most favorite little eunuch. They could not help but exclaimed, ‘Oh!’ while their faces showed admiration.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Yang Xiong, long time no see. Is your Heir Apparent well? It was a minor matter of the past, why do you keep mentioning it?”

Yang Yizhi came along to Mount Shaoshi with Commander Ma. Other than Ping Xi Wang’s people, Galdan and Lama Chang Qi’s people did not know his name and surname. Hearing Wei Xiaobao greeted him as ‘Brother Yang’, they had no doubt that they knew each other. They heard Yang Yizhi continued, “Chanshi’s benevolence comes from your heart, being of service to others, you say it was a small matter, but our Wangye is endlessly grateful. Although His Majesty is an enlightened sage, knowing right and wrong, black and white, and would be able to clarify in the end, yet were it not for Chanshi stated the actual truth at the earliest possible time, the twists and turns of this matter might be difficult to say.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are too kind, you are too kind. Your Wangye is also too polite.” But in his heart he said, “I really wish to pull down your traitor-to-China Wangye. It was the Emperor who was the enlightened sage and ascertained the truth on his own; I was only doing a favor without costing me anything, which I had to do anyway. Finally the good karma that day bears the fruit today as this man came out to help me out of trouble.”

Galdan look at him from top to bottom, sizing him up, and then said, “Turns out you are the little eunuch who killed Oboi. Even in Mongolia I have also heard your reputation. Oboi was known as the number one warrior of Manchuria, in that case you did not learn your martial art from Shaolin Temple.”

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “My martial art is extremely lacking, not worth mentioning at all. The number of people who taught me martial art is actually quite a few. This Yang Dage once taught me the move ‘sweeping a thousand army’ and the move ‘flowing water from a high mountain’.” Finished speaking, he stood up and demonstrated the two moves he mentioned. He did not use the slightest bit of force, so others could not see the level of his martial art skill; however, undoubtedly the style was from ‘Mu Family Fist’.

Yang Yizhi said, “It was because Chanshi demonstrated these two moves in front of His Majesty that he understood clearly that our Wangye was framed by a personal enemy.”

The girl’s expression was not as angry as she previously looked. “Yang Dage,” she said, “This little … this man is a eunuch? Has he really shown kindness to Ping Xi Wang mansion?”

“Absolutely,” Yang Yizhi replied, “There are many people in Beijing who knew about this.”

The girl hesitated a little bit, and then she asked Wei Xiaobao, “In that case, you were … you were joking with us, sisters, like that, what is your intention?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I was not joking, of course I have an intention.” In his heart he said, “My intention is to marry your Meizi, but there are too many people here, of course I cannot say it out loud.”

“What is your intention?” the girl asked.

Wei Xiaobao only showed a faint smile without saying anything. Everybody else thought, “Since he has an intention, naturally it is inconvenient to expose it in the presence of everyone.”

Chang Qi put his palms together and said, “Fangzhang Dashi, Hui Ming Chanshi, we have come here on impulse, please forgive our offense, we are taking our leave now.”

Hui Cong put his palms together to return the propriety and said, “Good guests coming from afar, please enjoy vegetarian dish with us first. However, this Nu Shizhu …” he thought that you disguised yourself as a man and sneaked into the Temple, we did not look into it, and that’s that. But by inviting you for a vegetarian meal, we are inevitably breaking the Temple’s regulation too much.

Chang Qi laughed and said, “Thank you very much, thank you very much! To avoid giving Fangzhang Shixiong too much trouble, all of us won’t eat this vegetarian feast.” Immediately they all bade their farewell and walked out. The Abbot and Wei Xiaobao, Cheng Guan and the other walked them out to the mountain gate.

Suddenly they heard the sound of horses’ hooves, about a dozen or so riders galloped- toward them. When they were near, it could be seen that the riders were wearing Imperial Bodyguards’ uniform, altogether there were sixteen men. Before they even reached the Temple, all sixteen of them stopped and dismounted the horses, and walked toward the Temple in formation. The two foremost men were none other than Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian.

As soon as Zhang Kangnian saw Wei Xiaobao, he called out loudly, “Du … Du … Daren, are you, Senior well?” He was going to call ‘Dutong [commander] Daren’, but seeing Wei Xiaobao was wearing monk robe, he had no choice but to call vaguely. Immediately the sixteen of them kneeled down to pay their respect to Wei Xiaobao.

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. “Gentlemen, please rise,” he said, “No need to be overly courteous. I have been looking forward to seeing you daily.”

Galdan and the others noticed that these sixteen men were imperial bodyguards whose pin rank[12] was not low, yet they were that respectful toward Wei Xiaobao. They all thought, “This little monk indeed has some background.”

According to Qing military system, commanders were of regular second pin rank, first-class imperial bodyguards were of regular third pin rank, and the second-class imperial bodyguards were of regular fourth pin rank. Although compared to army commanders the official rank of Zhang Kangnian and the others was quite low, they were the Emperor’s personal bodyguards, they did not have any regard toward ‘outside’ military officials. They only nodded slightly toward Commander Ma as a way of greeting, and then were back showing their eager attention to Wei Xiaobao.

Seeing how these Imperial Bodyguards doing everything they could to please Wei Xiaobao while turning a blind eye to everybody else, Galdan was angry. “Humph,” he snorted, and said, “Let’s go, I can’t bear to see this kind of attitude.” His party cupped their hands toward Abbot Hui Cong and then walked down the mountain.

Wei Xiaobao invited the Imperial Bodyguards to enter the Temple. Zhang Kangnian walked beside him and said in a low voice, “His Majesty has a secret edict.” Wei Xiaobao nodded.

When they entered the Hall of Great Strength, Zhang Kangnian took out the Imperial Edict and read it out loud; it was only several sentences of official announcement: the Emperor bestowed five thousand taels to Shaolin Temple, to build more monks’ residence, to repair the gilded image of Buddha, and also to confer Wei Xiaobao the title of ‘Fu Guo Feng Sheng Chanshi’ [Dhyana Master Revered Sage Supporter of the Country]. Hui Cong and Wei Xiaobao kowtowed to express their gratitude.

Zhang Kangnian said, “His Majesty’s order: for ‘Fu Guo Feng Sheng Chanshi’ to get ready to set on a journey, your destination will be Mount Wutai.”

Wei Xiaobao had already anticipated this matter; he bowed to comply and said, “Your servant obeys the Emperor’s decree.”

After they all had been served tea, Wei Xiaobao invited Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian, two people toward his own meditation room to chat. From his pocket Zhang Kangnian produced a secret imperial edict, which he presented with both hands while saying, “His Majesty has another decree.”

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down and kowtowed, and received the edict with both hands. Seeing that it was sealed with stamped lacquer wax, he thought, “I wonder what instruction His Majesty might have. The letters written on the Imperial Edict may recognize me, but I don’t recognize them. Since it is secret, I am not supposed to let Zhang and Zhao to know, I’d better ask Fangzhang Shixiong for guidance. I am sure he won’t reveal the secret.”

Thereupon, carrying the secret edict, he went to Hui Cong’s meditation room and said, “Fangzhang Shixiong, His Majesty has a secret order for me, I am asking you to give me directions.” Breaking the secret edict’s seal, he saw a large sheet of fine writing paper. Upon spreading it out, he saw four drawings.

The first drawing depicted five mountain peaks. Wei Xiaobao recognized it as Mount Wutai. On the southern peak there was a drawing of a temple, with the caption ‘Qing Liang Si’ three characters. Wei Xiaobao has stayed in Qingliang Temple for many days, and was somewhat familiar with these three characters. If the characters were written someplace else, he would never recognize them; but written on a temple, it could be considered meeting an acquaintance.

The second drawing depicted a little monk entering a temple, written above the temple also the three characters ‘Qing Liang Si’. The little monk was followed by a group of monks, above these monks’ heads there were five characters ‘Shao Lin Si He Shang’ [monks of Shaolin Temple]. Wei Xiaobao recognized the first three characters. Although he did not know the last two characters ‘he shang’, he could guess what they mean.

The setting on the third drawing was the Hall of Great Strength, where the little monk sat in the middle, happy and grinning, his face looked a lot like Wei Xiaobao, but he was wearing red kasaya, the apparel of an abbot. Next to him were many monks standing up. Wei Xiaobao realized that the little monk in the picture looked a lot like him, the more he looked, the more he was fascinated by it, unconsciously he broke into laughter.

The fourth drawing showed the little monk was kneeling on the ground, in front of a middle-aged monk. The middle-aged monk looked thin, it must be the Emperor Shunzhi who assumed the Buddhist name Xing Chi after leaving home.

Other than these four drawings, there were no other characters written on the secret edict. Turned out Kangxi was very adept at painting; knowing that Wei Xiaobao’s literacy was limited, he put the imperial decree in paintings. These four drawings could not be clearer, he wanted Wei Xiaobao to go to the Qing Liang Temple to be the head administrator and serve the Old Emperor.

At first Wei Xiaobao found it amusing, but his delight quickly disappeared; he groaned inwardly, “It’s alright for me to be a little monk, but now he wants me to be an old monk; that’s very bad!”

Hui Cong smiled and said, “Congratulations Shidi, His Majesty is sending you to be the head monk of Qingliang Temple. Qingliang Temple is a distinguished ancient temple, it was established during the reign of Emperor Xiao Wen of Northern Wei Dynasty, a lot earlier than Shaolin Temple. Being the head of a large monastery, Shidi will have great opportunity to proclaim Buddhist teachings, helping all living beings to cross over and help our religion to flourish.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said with a forced smile, “I can’t be a head administrator of a temple, I will definitely make ridiculous mistake and will collapse in confusion.”

Hui Cong said, “It is clear from the drawing in the imperial edict that Shidi is to lead a group of our Temple’s monks to accompany you going there. Shidi may choose whoever you want. Everybody is your younger generation whom you know well, they will support you with all their hearts, absolutely no one will let you be careless. Shidi may set your heart at ease.”

Wei Xiaobao was staring blankly for half a day before it suddenly dawned on him: the young emperor had meticulously planned everything. When he was sent to Shaolin Temple to be a monk, the Emperor had already arranged today’s matter. The Emperor let him live in Shaolin Temple for about half a year, so that he could get to know the monks well, in order for him to select desirable monks to accompany him to Qingliang Temple. Since the Old Emperor had left home, certainly he did not want to have any Imperial Bodyguards to guard him; perhaps he would even leave and henceforth could not be found anymore.

Shaolin monks had outstanding martial art, plus it was Wei Xiaobao who personally led them, they would be a lot more dependable than the officers of Imperial Bodyguards. Besides, this matter was a huge secret, if the Emperor sent the officers and men of the Imperial Bodyguards to guard an old monk on Mount Wutai, it would be bound to create sensation and then the whole world would know. There must be someone in the Imperial Bodyguards who would recognize the Old Emperor. To have a Shaolin monk entering Qingliang Temple to be the head monk was actually very ordinary. The former head monk of Qingliang Temple, Cheng Guang, was one of Shaolin Temple’s Eighteen Luohan anyway.

Wei Xiaobao also thought, “If Xiao Huangdi [young emperor] sent me to be a monk at the Qingliang Temple, it would be too conspicuous, but by coming to Shaolin Temple first and then take a turn, nobody will suspect anything.” Thinking to this point, he could not help but was full of admiration to Kangxi’s planning ability.

Returning to his meditation room, he took out six thousand taels and instructed Zhang Kangnian to distribute the money to the Imperial Bodyguards. Zhang and Zhao, two people did not expect after becoming a monk Wei Xiaobao was still this generous; they were pleasantly surprised. “Since ancient times,” they praised, “There has never been any monk who gives money to the Imperial Bodyguards, except you, Wei Daren, one person. It is indeed unprecedented and will never be duplicated. There has never been a person from the ancient time, there will never be a person from the future generation.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “There has never been a monk from the ancient time, there will never be a monk from the future generation.”

Zhang Kangnian lowered his voice and said, “Wei Daren, we do not dare to ask what business His Majesty is sending you to attend to, but whatever it is, please do not hesitate to give your orders. Handling matters for you is the same as handling matters for His Majesty; all of us will strive to do our best all the same.”

Zhao Qixian said, “If Wei Daren needs to do something but for the time being is not convenient to do, perhaps we can strive a little and make insignificant contribution. For instance … for instance, if Wei Daren needs to fetch a martial art manual from Shaolin Temple, we can set the monastery on fire, so that in the confusion, Wei Daren may seize the opportunity to make your move.”

Zhang Kangnian cackled, and then said in a low voice, “That’s right, this is called ‘fishing in troubled water’.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, but understood immediately, “Right, they must be thinking that there must be a reason the Emperor sent me to Shaolin Temple to be a monk. Plus this time they came here to deliver a secret order without knowing what’s written inside. They knew the Emperor is fond of martial art; he sent me to be a monk in Shaolin Temple, naturally it is to steal a treasured martial art manual from the Temple.” He chuckled, and then also said in a low voice, “Gentlemen, don’t worry! This … I have already succeeded.”

Zhang and Zhao, two people were delighted, they bowed and paid their respect together, saying, “His Majesty’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens, Wei Daren is astute, capable and experienced. Congratulations for setting up this great merit.”

Zhao Qixian said, “Do you want us to smuggle it out for you? If the monks get suspicious, they might search Wei Daren’s clothes.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “That’s not necessary. Go back to His Majesty, report to him that his servant Wei Xiaobao has solemnly received the imperial edict, and will remember the drawings firmly in my heart. I will handle this matter diligently; His Majesty may set his heart at ease.”

“Yes,” the two people replied. Zhao Qixian thought for a moment, he understood, “Turns out this martial art manual is a diagram. Wei Daren looked at it and remembers the drawings firmly in your heart,” he said.

Zhang Kangnian also saw the truth, “That’s even better,” he said, “If the treasured manual was stolen, the monks of Temple would naturally find out, in the end … in the end the outcome would be worse. By memorizing it, the deities will not know, the ghosts will not realize. Fortunately by nature Wei Daren is extremely intelligent; if you are blunt like me, you won’t remember anything.”

Realizing that these two misunderstood the drawings he was talking about as Shaolin Temple’s martial art diagram, Wei Xiaobao was secretly amused. “Zhang Xiong need not be too modest,” he said, “By staying in the Temple and looking at it slowly, one or two days may be inadequate, but after several months I can finally remember everything.”

The two of them expressed their agreement together; they both thought that after living in the Temple for more than half a year, you must have memorized not a few of Shaolin Pai’s martial art manuals.

They took their leave. Wei Xiaobao remembered something; he asked, “The group of men you met outside the mountain gate just now, do you happen to know their background?”

“We don’t,” Zhang and Zhao replied.

“Quickly go and investigate for me,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That group of people came to Shaolin Temple sneakily, evidently they also want to steal treasured martial art manuals from the Temple. That troop commander in particular, I wonder whom he is working for. He is acting as an imperially appointed official, yet has the audacity to spoil His Majesty’s important matter; it is indeed treason and heresy, he wants to rebel intentionally. Go and investigate what kind of person is the man behind this, you will render an enormous service.”

“That’s easy,” the two of them delightedly said, “They have not gone down the mountain too long, we will definitely able to catch up with them. That troop commander has a name and a surname, we will find out as soon as we investigate.”

Wei Xiaobao knew perfectly well that that Commander Ma was Wu Sangui’s subordinate, yet deliberately entrap him, pretending that he did not know his background, letting the Imperial Bodyguards to investigate and report to the Emperor so that they may take the credit. It would be a lot better compared to if he brought the false charge himself.

Wei Xiaobao added, “With this group of people, there is a young woman disguised herself as a man. They are looking for another young girl, sixteen, seventeen years old, with beautiful face. These two girls are heavily involved in this big rebellion conspiracy. You try to verify in detail these two girls’ names and family background. After finding out, report to me in a sealed envelope.”

By saying those things, naturally he was trying to use official authority for private interests. He was sending the Emperor’s personal bodyguards to trace his own sweetheart. They were seeking after monetary reward, they would undoubtedly make every effort to handle this matter. When the Imperial Bodyguards wanted to investigate a case, the government officials all over the world would follow their orders by sending their people to investigate. With this kind of ‘pass like thunder and move like the wind’ investigation, how can there be any information they would not be able to find?

Zhang and Zhao, two people patted their chests, guaranteeing that they would investigate until the truth comes to light. They promised to repay Wei Daren’s graciousness, his kindness in recognizing their worth and employing them, his concern for their country, and for the generous reward he bestowed to them.

[1] Orig. ‘Wei Menyao Shi’, shi – maiden name. Menyao –shaking/rocking the gate.

[2] From Wikipedia: Mahakasyapa actually means ‘Great Kasyapa’.

[3] Toutuo is Buddhist monk who did not shave his head.

[4] Reminder: the main hall of a Buddhist temple containing the main image of veneration.

[5] Reminder: fashi is one who has mastered the sutras.

[6] Reminder: daren [lit. big man] is a title of respect toward government official.

[7] Transliteration of Sanskrit term, Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi – “Obtaining no greater passing over, all pervading perfect awakening” (Courtesy of Ace High).

[8] Referring to the Three Precious Treasures of Buddhism: the Buddha himself, his teaching (Dharma) and his monastic order (Sangha).

[9] Jin Gang – Buddha’s warrior attendant or diamond (or hard metal), hu ti – protect the body, shen gong – divine ability.

[10] In Chinese, the literal translation of the word ‘brothel’ is actually ‘prostitute courtyard’, the exact same word of the other ‘courtyards’. Actually, it can also mean ‘institution’.

[11] From Sanskrit word: paramita, in Buddhism, means to cross over to the other shore. Paramita may also be translated as perfection, perfect realization, or reaching beyond limitation.
According to Mahayana Buddhism, there are six Paramitas:
1. Dana Paramita, the perfection of generosity (布施波羅蜜)
2. Sila Paramita, the perfection of ethics (持戒波羅蜜)
3. Kshanti Paramita, the perfection of patience (忍辱波羅蜜)
4. Virya Paramita, the perfection of joyous effort, vigor / enthusiastic perseverance (精進波羅蜜)
5. Dhyana Paramita, the perfection of concentration (禪定波羅蜜)
6. Prajna Paramita, the perfection of wisdom (智慧波羅蜜)
(Courtesy of Gubrak)

[12] During the Qing Dynasty, the system of nine pǐn-ranks (九品中正制/九品官人法) was used. Some of the pǐn-ranks were further divided into zhèng (正; regular), cóng (從; deputy), shàng (上; upper) and xià (下; lower) grades. Therefore in theory, the whole classification system actually holds more than eighteen grades (等; děng). In reality the subdivisions were customized in specific central and local departments; for instance, one department can consist of twelve ranks whereas another composed of sixteen.
1b ProvincinalCommander (提督), Commander-in-Chief (都统)
2a Regional Commander (总兵), Vice Commander-in-Chief (副都统)
2b Regional Vice-Commander (副将)
3a Administrator (参将), First Grade Bodyguards (一等侍卫) or Bodyguards Supervisors (侍卫领班)
3b Brigade Commander (游击)
4a Vice Brigade Commander (都司), Second Grade Bodyguards (二等侍卫)
5a Commandant (守备)
6a Company Commander (千总)
7a Squad Leader (把总)
8a Detached Fiscal Commissioner

There are some confusion on a Commander’s (都统) pin-rank which I can’t elaborate without giving a lot of spoiler. (Courtesy of Ace High)

Chapter 24 The river of love dries up entirely from a thousand calamities, the sea of bitterness cannot be used to measure compassion.

After the Imperial Bodyguards left, Wei Xiaobao went to see the Abbot, telling him that since he had the Emperor’s order, he had to start the journey to Qingliang Temple the next day.

“So be it,” Abbot Hui Cong said, “Shidi has the innate intelligence, you have an amazing comprehension of Buddhist truth. It’s a pity that the days of our meeting are not many and now we have to part, we cannot learn from each other too much, to live the Buddhist law together. I suppose our destiny has brought us to this point of life. I wonder which fellow monks Shidi wants to take with you?”

“I want Head of Bo’re Hall Cheng Guan Shizhi, and the eighteen masters of Luohan Hall,” Wei Xiaobao replied. In addition, he also named more than a dozen more monks that he wanted to go with him, altogether there were thirty-six names.

Hui Cong did not have any objection, he summoned these thirty-six Shaolin monks, and told them that Hui Ming Chanshi was going to take over the head administrator position of the Qingliang Temple on Mount Wutai, he exhorted them to accompany him, to protect the Buddhist teaching and maintain orders, to obey Hui Ming Chanshi’s instruction, and not to go against him.

Early in the morning the next day, accompanied by thirty-six monks, Wei Xiaobao took his leave from the Abbot and the others. When they reach the foot of the mountain, he went alone to see Shuang’er.

Shuang’er had been boarding at a commoner’s home, and had not seen him for more than half a year. At the first glance, she was both surprised and happy. Although she had heard from Zhang Kangnian that her master was becoming a monk in Shaolin Temple, and had cried for him countless times, when with her own eyes she saw his bald head and his monk robe, she could not bear not to cry again.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Good Shuang’er, why are you crying? You are upset because I have not come to visit you these many days, aren’t you?”

“No … it’s not that,” Shuang’er replied, “You … you … Xianggong has left home …”

Wei Xiaobao pulled her right hand and lifted it up; he gently kissed the back of her hand. He laughed and said, “Silly girl, Xianggong did not become a monk for real.” Shuang’er was happy and bashful at the same time, even her ears had turned red.

Wei Xiaobao examined her face carefully; he noticed that she looked wan and sallow, she looked a lit thinner, but she had grown a bit taller, bringing out the grown-up gracefulness in her, she looked even more delicate and pretty. Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Did you lose weight? You were thinking about me every day, weren’t you?” Shuang’er blushed even deeper. She wanted to shake her head, but she lowered her head slowly instead.

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Quickly change into your boy’s clothes and come with me.” Shuang’er was greatly delighted. Without asking any question she immediately changed into men’s clothing and disguised herself as a young attendant.

Their journey does not need to be narrated. One day they arrived at the foot of Mount Wutai. They were just about to climb the mountain when they saw four monks coming down to meet them. The old monk at the front put his palms together and asked, “Are you all Shifus from Shaolin Temple?”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. The old monk said, “And I suppose you are the Chanshi whose Buddhist title is Hui at the top and Ming at the bottom?” Wei Xiaobao nodded again.

The four monks dropped down on their knees immediately and said, “Knowing that Chanshi is coming to administer Qingliang, the monks cannot contain our happiness and have been waiting at the foot of the mountain for many days.”

Since Cheng Guang had returned to Shaolin Temple, Qingliang Temple was administered by the old monk Fa Sheng. Kangxi had separately dispatch people to proclaim a secret imperial decree to Fa Sheng, transferring him to Ciyun Temple [lit. compassionate cloud] in Chang’an [modern day Xi’an] to be the head administrator there. He was to leave as soon as the Shaolin monks arrived. Ciyun Temple of Chang’an was a lot bigger than Qingliang Temple. Fa Sheng was very happy, he sent these four monks to wait at the foot of Mount Wutai.

When Wei Xiaobao and his party arrived at Qingliang Temple, Fa Sheng immediately performed the ceremony of handing over the administrator duty. All the monks came to pay their respect, only Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three monks did not personally come. Yulin only wrote a short letter to pay their respect to the new head monk.

Fa Sheng went down the mountain the next day, heading west toward Chang’an. Now Wei Xiaobao was officially the head of Qingliang Temple. Fortunately there were Cheng Guan and the other monks who at any time gave him directions on all kinds of ceremonial protocol and compass and set square. As a little monk assuming the role of the Abbot, he must emulate the manner of an abbot, and must not make any mistake.

When Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er drove off the enemies coming to attack Qingliang Temple the other day, they saved the lives of the monks in the Temple, all the monks knew it in their hearts. Now that he suddenly left home to become a monk, and came to Qingliang Temple to be the head monk, they were all baffled, yet since he had shown kindness to their Temple, everybody showed their gratitude by serving him. Wei Xiaobao ordered Shuang’er to live in a small hut outside the Temple, so that she would be just a shout away.

Since the most important mission for him in coming to be the head administrator of Qingliang Temple was to thoroughly protect the Old Emperor, he inquired from the monk on duty and found out that Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three monks still lived in a small vihara behind the mountain. He did not go to disturb them, only after discussing it over with Cheng Xin Dashi, he sent people to separately build four thatched hut about half a li on the east, west, south and north of the vihara, and assigned eight Shaolin monks to take turn on guard duty in the thatched huts.

All things were settled, the only thing he had to do was painstakingly waiting for Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian’s letter, he was dying to know that girl in green’s name and surname, and her background. Yet after waiting for several months unexpectedly there was no news at all. In his loneliness, he sparred with Cheng Guan, treated the old monk as ‘that female benefactor’. Occasionally he would slip out to the little cottage to talk and joke with Shuang’er, to stroke her small hands. Sometimes he thought, “I have taken Hong Jiaozhu’s ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’. If within a year I did not deliver a copy of sutra to the Divine Dragon Island, the poison might flare-up then it won’t be fun. Come to think about it, only several months left. If I turn into an old and stupid man, I would look like Cheng Guan Shizhi. And then when that green-clothed wife of mine sees me, she would call me the ‘oily-mouthed and smooth talker old monk’. Worse yet, she would cut a piece of green cloth from her skirt and have me wear it on my head as a hat, that won’t be good at all!”[1]

One day he was overcome with boredom, so he went alone wandering about aimlessly on Mount Wutai; the only thing in his mind was that girl in green. He arrived at the bank of a mountain creek, and saw a weeping willow continuously swaying in the wind. “If this willow tree is that green-clothed wife of mine, naturally laozi would not show any politeness, I would step forward and hug her. She would definitely be unwilling, and use Kunlun Pai’s move ‘thousand rocks vying to be the most beautiful’, sending me a succession of palm strikes. That’s nothing, laozi will use the move ‘going begging from door to door’, to ward off her strike with poise. Cheng Guan Shizhi says that this move should be executed in such a way that the heavy will seem light, with the poise of famous, orthodox martial art school. Laozi lifts heavy stuff as heavy and light stuffs as light, why do I care about damn famous or secretive, orthodox or heretical sect? Once I launch this move, I will follow it up with ‘holding the pearl of wisdom’; left hand grabs her left hand, right hand grabs her right hand, and firmly hold on to her, even if my head is chopped, I won’t let her go …”

He was happily fantasizing, and thus his hands moved in the style he was thinking about, ‘puff, puff’, he grabbed two willow branches, one on each hand, and using all his strength he firmly hold on to the branches.

Suddenly he heard a deep and gruff voice of a man, saying, “Look at this little monk putting an act!”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; when he looked up, he saw three lamas wearing red clothes. They were walking toward him while gesticulating, chatting and laughing. Wei Xiaobao blushed, in that instant he thought that his heart’s content had been seen by those lamas. The Grand Abbot of majestic Qingliang Temple at a desolate, uninhabited part of the mountain was thinking of grabbing a beautiful girl, in all honesty it was too embarrassing. He turned around and left at once.

When he rounded a bend, he saw several more lamas walking straight toward him. There were so many temples of Tibetan Buddhism on Mount Wutai, Wei Xiaobao gave them no thought. Only because of what happened just now he was unwilling to meet with them. Turning his head around, he was pretending to enjoy the scenery, letting those lamas to pass behind him.

He heard one of the lamas said, “The order from above says that no matter what we must climb up Mount Wutai before wushi hour [between 11am-1pm]; it sounds so urgent. But there is nothing fun to do on Mount Wutai, could it be only a joke?”

Another lama said, “Our superior has made this arrangement, it must be for a reason. You just hate to part with that Datong town’s girl, don’t you?”

Wei Xiaobao took no notice; on the contrary, he had a favorable impression on them, he thought, “Those lamas drink wine and stroll around the pleasure house, at least they are not hypocrites. If laozi really want to leave home, I want to be a lama, not a monk.”

Back at Qingliang Temple, he saw Cheng Tong was waiting at the mountain gate. As soon as he saw Wei Xiaobao, immediately he met him and said in a low voice, “Shishu, I think something is going on.”

Looking at his serious expression, Wei Xiaobao hastily asked, “What happened?”

Cheng Tong beckoned, asking him to follow him along several stone steps toward a small peak at the side of the Temple. Wei Xiaobao took a glance, and saw on the south side there were countless yellow dots all around. He focused his eyes and saw that the spots were actually lamas wearing yellow robes. If not a thousand, there were at least nine hundreds of them, forming groups of three to five, scattered around the bushes and mountain rocks.

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright. “That many lamas!” he said, “What are they doing?”

Cheng Tong pointed to the west and said, “There are some more over there.”

Wei Xiaobao quickly looked to the west. Sure enough, he saw thousands of lamas. They were either standing or sitting in groups. The sun was shining from east to west, white light flickered, those lamas were all bringing weapons. Wei Xiaobao was even more shocked. “They are carrying weapons,” he said, “Could it be … could it be …” he looked at Cheng Tong.

Cheng Tong slowly nodded and said, “Shizhi’s guess is: it looks that way.”

Wei Xiaobao turned his gaze to the north and then to the east; each sides had several hundreds lamas. When he looked more carefully, he noticed that in each group of lamas, there was one wearing deeper yellow kasaya; those must be the leaders. “His granny,” Wei Xiaobao swore, “There must be at least four, five thousand men.”

Cheng Tong said, “One hundred twenty five leaders, altogether there are three thousand two hundred and eighty lamas.”

“Good for you,” Wei Xiaobao praised, “How did you count that clearly?”

“What should we do?” Cheng Tong asked.

Wei Xiaobao did not answer. Meeting difficulty face-to-face, lying and deceiving, slipping away from danger, Wei Xiaobao was an expert in all those things. But now the enemy had assembled more than three thousand men, surrounding them from every direction; evidently, it was the result of meticulous planning. As for how to handle them, he did not have the slightest idea. Hearing Cheng Tong’s question, he asked back, “What should we do?”

Cheng Tong said, “It seems to me that the enemy’s intention is to snatch away Xing Chi Dashi. Most likely they are waiting for the darkness, and then they will launch a four-way attack.”

“Why are they waiting for the darkness?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Cheng Tong replied, “On Mount Wutai, the yellow monasteries of the lamas are always in good relationship with our green Central Plains’ monasteries. Our green temples have many monasteries and many monks: the ten big monasteries on the platform’s peaks, the big monasteries outside the platform[2]. Although the lamas of yellow monasteries are overbearing, they won’t dare to push around. If they attack in bright day light, it will undoubtedly give rise to all green monasteries’ support.”

“In that case we’d better send people out immediately to notify the administrators of all the green monasteries,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Ask them to send great number of monks, we will fight these lamas to the death. Tell them also: Monks of Mount Wutai to arm ourselves, the monks of green monasteries are in war with the lamas.”

Cheng Tong shook his head and said, “About 80-90% of the monks of green monasteries of Mount Wutai do not know martial art. Those who do, their skill are only so-so, I haven’t heard about anybody with superior skill.”

“So they are not willing to lend a hand?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“I don’t believe anybody will be unwilling,” Cheng Tong said, “But I am afraid that they will only deliver their lives in vain.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Are you telling me that we just surrender like that?” His fighting spirit was not always strong, whenever he thought that he would not be able to defeat the opponent, he would immediately think about surrendering.

“Whether we are surrendering or not, it’s not important,” Cheng Tong said, “But Xing Chi Dashi will undoubtedly be captured by them.”

Wei Xiaobao carefully considered, “I wonder if Shaolin monks know the real status of Xing Chi Dashi.” Thereupon he asked, “They carried out a large-scale operation to capture Xing Chi Dashi previously, in the end, what was their intention? Several months ago they had come here once, it was fortunate enough that several good friends scared them off that they retreated. This time their number is actually much greater.”

Cheng Tong hesitatingly said, “Xing Chi Dashi must be a person with a long history behind him. If he is not involved in the prosperity and decline of the Wulin world of Central Plains, then he must have a significant correlation with the struggle between the green and yellow monasteries. Cheng Xin Shixiong has never mentioned anything about the affairs of the Central Plains. Since Shishu does not know about it, much less we.”

Wei Xiaobao remembered that he had with him the imperial note written with the Emperor’s personal handwriting; he could dispatch civil and military officials. He said, “The matter at hand is urgent, although our Shaolin monks’ martial art skill is superior, the few are no match for the many. How can our thirty seven monks fight more than three thousand lamas? I must go down the mountain to seek for help.”

“I am afraid distant water cannot quench nearby fire,” Cheng Tong said.

“Then we escort Xing Chi Dashi to break through their encirclement,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Cheng Tong nodded. “Looks like that’s the only way,” he said, “It’s impossible for our thirty seven Shaolin monks plus Shishu’s attendant to ward off more than three thousand lamas; but to rush through a gap in their midst is actually not too difficult.”

“My only fear is that Xing Chi Dashi and his Shifu Yulin Dashi are not willing,” Wei Xiaobao said, “They said life and death are just the same, escape or not does not make any difference.”

Cheng Tong frowned and said, “For that, we must ask Shishu to persuade.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Persuading Xing Chi Dashi, I can still think of a way, but persuading that old monk Yulin, laozi admit defeat. It is called ‘the cat pulling a tortoise’, there’s nowhere I can put my mouth at.”

Looking down, he saw the lamas were scattered everywhere, seemingly in disorder and at random, but they were actually evenly distributed; the pathways up the mountain, down the mountain, were all packed with people. As soon as it was dark, these three thousand lamas would swarm up, the monks of Qingliang Temple could only cry out, “Buddha have mercy.”

“Damn it,” he mused, “Why did I become a monk? If I was a lama, won’t I be joyfully satisfied right now, without the slightest bit of load on my mind? Not to mention eating meat and strolling the pleasure house in normal time.”

As soon as he thought about ‘strolling the pleasure house’, it was as if a divine light flashing in his mind, he had an idea. Immediately he calmed down and said, “I am going back to my meditation room to have some damn sleep.” Cheng Tong was stunned; he stared at him with eyes open wide. Wei Xiaobao ignored him, without saying anything he went down the peak and returned to the Temple into his room.

Not too long afterwards, Cheng Xin, Cheng Guan, Cheng Guang and Cheng Tong, four monks came to see him. Wei Xiaobao let the four of them into his room. He noticed that all four of them had alarmed and frightened expression. He stretched and yawned, before languidly asked, “Gentlemen, what is it?”

Cheng Xin said, “The lamas have gathered down the mountain, obviously they have ill-intention toward our Temple, I wish to hear Fangzhang Shishu’s [abbot martial uncle] plan on how to deal with them.”

“I have thought about it for half a day,” Wei Xiaobao said, “And have not come up with any good plan; therefore, I decided to go to sleep. We are all doomed anyway, we’d better resign to adversity. The blade comes, the neck receives. Other people’s blades chop down, we use our necks to meet them head on, we need to see whether their blades are sharp enough to chop into our necks.”

Cheng Xin and the others, three monks, knew that he was blathering nonsense, but Cheng Guan thought he was serious; he said, “Those lamas’ blades look really sharp, I don’t think our necks can withstand. Shishu, those who have left homes stand aloof from worldly affairs, resign ourselves to adversity; that is actually the truth. But ‘the blade comes, the neck receives’ is a bit too much. In the past, even Damo Zushi [ancestor master] did not teach us to suffer the blade without fighting back. Otherwise, why would we learn martial art?”

Wei Xiaobao nodded, “So in Cheng Guan Shizhi’s opinion, ‘the blade comes, the neck receives’ is incorrect?” he asked.

“It is,” Cheng Guan replied, “But if ‘the fist comes, the chest receives; the kick comes, the abdomen receives’, that’s still alright.” His internal energy was profound, when the opponent punched or kicked, he did not need to fight back, all he needed to do was to direct his internal strength, and the opponent’s fist or foot would bounce back.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Those lamas are carrying jiedao and chanzhang[3]; I wonder if there is a way for us to ward them off without using any weapon?”

Cheng Guan was taken aback. “I am afraid those lamas won’t listen to reason,” he said, “Asking them to lay down the butcher knife is not a ‘dawn to dusk’ type of merit.”

“That’s difficult,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I wonder what excellent plan four Shizhi might have.”

Cheng Xin said, “The only plan for now is that for everybody to protect Yulin, Xing Chi, Xing Dian, three men, and rush out by exploiting a loophole. Their only target is to capture Xing Chi Dashi, the rest of the monks in the Temple do not know martial art, surely those lamas will not harm them.”

“Altright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s go talk to those three old monks.” Leading the four monks, he went to the small vihara at the back of the mountain.

A young apprentice monk announced their arrival. As Yulin and the others heard that the head monk had arrived, they went out the door to receive them. When they saw him, Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian were greatly surprised. The three monks only heard that the new head monk Hui Ming Chanshi was Shaolin Temple’s Abbot Hui Cong’s martial brother, a very young eminent monk, but they did not expect it to be him. Yulin and Xing Chi immediately understood that it must be the Emperor who arranged all these, with the purpose of protecting his father.

Buddhist’s customs was very strict, the head monk was the master of the monastery, Yulin and the others immediately paid their respect. Wei Xiaobao respectfully returned the propriety, and then they all went into the meditation room together. Yulin invited him to sit on the middle putuan[4], while the remaining monks stood on either side.

Wei Xiaobao was very happy in his heart, “Laozi sits in the middle, the Old Emperor stands at the side to wait upon me; even the young emperor does not have this kind of awe-inspiring authority.” Trying hard to suppress his smiling face, he said, “Yulin Dashi, Xing Chi Dashi, please sit down.” Yulin and Xing Chi sat down.

Yulin said, “Fangzhang Dashi is the head monk of Qingliang, for us Xiao Seng [little monk] to pay our respect to our superior, Fangzhang has to toil your honorable self to personally pay a visit, indeed our hearts are disturbed.”

“You are too kind,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Xiao Na [little cassock] knew that the three of you did not like others to disturb you, for this reason I have not come to see you thus far. If not for today we have an important matter, Xiao Na would still not come here.” He often heard old monks referring to themselves as Lao Na [old cassock]; thinking that since he was young, he should refer to himself as Xiao Na. The other monks heard him having a weird idea, fabricating a way to refer to himself, they were secretly amused.

“Yes,” Yulin said; but he did not ask what the important matter was.

“Cheng Guang Shizhi,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Would you please tell the three gentlemen?”
Yulin knew that the knew head monk had a Buddhist title ‘Hui Ming’, and he knew that in Shaolin Temple, the ‘Hui’ generation was one generation higher than the ‘Cheng’ generation, yet he was still stunned to see that this young, cunning and glib monk addressed the former head monk of their temple, the stately and benevolent, virtuous old monk as ‘martial nephew’.

Cheng Guang respectfully complied, and then explained the situation of their temple, how it had been heavily besieged by several thousand of lamas. Yulin closed his eyes to think for half a day; finally he opened his eyes and asked, “May I ask Fangzhang Dashi, what is your plan to deal with it?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “These lamas are either sitting down or standing up, they are merely enjoying the scenery, they have no other intention. The scenery here is clear and elegant, they come here on scenic tour [orig. roaming the mountain playing (on) the water], that is all.”

Xing Dian could not bear not to speak up, “If they are enjoying the beauty of nature, they can’t be surrounding our Temple, and did not leave for several hours. They must be here to capture Xing Chi Shixiong.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Xiao Na thought that all the green and yellow temples under the heavens are disciples and family of our Buddha, if they wanted to invite Xing Chi Dashi, it must be because they are in admiration the three Dashi’s profound Dharma [the teachings of Buddha], and thus are inviting you to go to lama monastery to preach the sutra. Perhaps those lamas admire our Central Earth’s Dharma, perhaps they don’t want to be lamas anymore but to be monks; won’t that be an excellent opportunity?”

Xing Dian repeatedly shook his head, “Maybe not, maybe not,” he said.

“Fangzhang Shishu,” Cheng Guan said, “If that’s the case, why are they bringing weapons?”

Wei Xiaobao put his palms together and said, “They brought chanzhang and jiedao, looking so fierce and imposing, perhaps they want to kill the head of our Temple’s monks. Buddha said, ‘If I don’t go to hell, who would go to hell?’ We will have the attitude ‘the blade comes, the neck receives’, this is called ‘if I don’t let others chop my head, who would be chopped by others?’. No life no perishes, no disgrace no purity. When there’s life, there will be death, when there’s head, there will be beheading. Buddha has three virtues: great determination, great wisdom, great sorrow. The lamas came with blades, we do not hear we do not see, we do not care we do not know. This is the great determination. They raise their blade to chop, we regard their blades as emptiness, the emptiness as the blades. This is the great wisdom. The blades chop down, chopping all our bald heads off, everybody perishes. This is the great sorrow.” He had lived in monasteries for a long time, and had heard quite a lot of Buddhist sutra being preached, thereupon he talked nonsense unguardedly.

“Fangzhang Shishu,” Cheng Guan said, “I am afraid the ‘sorrow’ of the Great Sorrow refers to merciful sorrow, not grieving sorrow.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Shizhi is right. Remember that our Buddha cut his own flesh to feed a hawk, giving his own life to raise a tiger; it was indeed great compassion and great sorrow. Although those lamas are fierce and uncontrollable, compared to vicious hawk and fierce tiger they are somewhat better. If we give our lives for the sake of those wicked lamas, we are also showing ‘great compassion and great sorrow’ intention.”

Cheng Guan put his palms together, “Shishu is amazingly intelligent, I am full of admiration.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Yulin Dashi has once said, ‘Those who have left homes stand aloof from worldly affairs, resign themselves to adversity, if Qing Liang Temple is really facing a misfortune, we’ll leave it to fate to escape from calamity’. We will pass away together under the wicked lamas’ blades, we will go together to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. It will be a lively journey, it must be very interesting.”

The monks looked at each other in dismay. They all thought that although Wei Xiaobao’s words sound reasonable, all in all he adhered to old ideas too much. Perhaps it was due to misinterpretation of the Buddhist doctrine. Cheng Xin and Cheng Tong felt that these words were completely incompatible with the way he usually talked. They suspected that he was simply making ironic remark; most probably he wanted to incite Yulin and Xing Chi to speak up, asking for help on their own accord. Cheng Guan was the only one who believed without any doubt; he sighed in admiration delightedly.

The monks were silent for half a day. Suddenly Xing Dian loudly said, “Shifu once said that the Tibetan Lamas want to capture Shixiong because they want to oppress and harm common people, to take possession of our beautiful world. Our own life or death is not important, but millions of common people will be bullied and oppressed by them, won’t it be an enormous guilt for us? Shifu once said that we must never let them commit outrages like that.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said, “Shixiong’s words are very rational; compared to what Xiao Na has just said, you are one level higher. It’s just that the lamas’ power right now is too great, I am afraid we are heavily outnumbered.”

Xing Dian said, “Protecting Shifu, Shixiong, we break through their lines. I believe those lamas won’t be able to stop us.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I am afraid in the battle we will inevitably kill and injure those lamas. Amitabha, our Buddha is virtuous, saving one person’s life is better than building a seven-floor pagoda; killing one life is like demolishing an eight-floor pagoda. Among various Buddhist monastic disciplines, the first one is abstaining from taking life. What should we do?”

Xing Dian said, “It is they who want to take life, we are compelled by circumstances and have to strive to defend ourselves. Naturally it would be best if we can avoid killing people, but we can’t simply helplessly let our hands tied and waiting for death.”

Suddenly there were footsteps outside the door, Shaolin monk Cheng Jue quickly walked in and said, “Reporting to Fangzhang Shishu: the crowd of lamas down the mountain has just gone uphill, they advanced for about a hundred zhang [approx. 1000ft/300m] and then stopped.”

“Why did they advance halfway and then stopped?” Wei Xiaobao wondered, “Perhaps they suddenly received our Buddha’s guidance that they repent and understood the truth about turning around and reach the shore.”

“No, no,” Xing Dian loudly said, “They are simply waiting for darkness; and then in a spurt of energy they will break in.” In the years past, he was a general of the Plain Yellow Banner, who had fought many battles when they were entering the Pass. He understood military strategy very well. Later on he became the commander [orig. zong guan – chief manager] of Shunzhi’s Imperial Bodyguards.

Wei Xiaobao said, “When they enter our Temple’s Hall of Great Strength and see our Buddha Tathagata’s stately treasured image, they will suddenly hang … hang something and reining their horses, or something like that.”

Xing Dian angrily said, “You, Xiao Fangzhang, you are really si … si …, ay, that’s impossible.” He was going to say ‘really silly’, but in the end thought that he should not be rude to the Abbot; the word was already at the tip of his tongue, but he was able to ‘rein the horse at the edge of the precipice’.

All along Yulin had been silent, listening to the debate; seeing the bulging blue veins on Xing Dian’s forehead, while his voice was getting louder, he smiled and said, “Xing Dian, you are the silly one; Fangzhang Dashi has already held the pearl of wisdom, he has the ‘success bamboo’ in his heart. Why are you worried too much?”

Xing Dian was startled. “Ah,” he said, “Turns out Fangzhang Dashi already has brilliant scheme.”

Showing a worried expression Wei Xiaobao said, “Brilliant scheme, that I do not have. The thirty-sixth stratagem: escape; since everybody agrees that we should break through, then let us break through! It’s just that unless we do not have any choice, we must not harm people’s lives too much.” Xing Dian, Cheng Xin and the others voiced their agreement.

Wei Xiaobao said, “In that case, let us get ready; we’ll wait for the dark, before they make their move, we’ll dash down the mountain, toward the east to Fuping county seat. Even if these lamas were more vicious than this, they won’t dare to attack the county seat openly.” Again Xing Dian and the others voiced their approval.

Suddenly Xing Chi said, “I am the unlucky one. Last time several lives were lost for my sake. Even if this time we can escape disaster, they will never give up and put this matter down. There will be many more lives lost, there will be no end to this.”

“Shixiong,” Xing Dian said, “These evil lamas want to abduct you to cruelly devastate common people under the heavens.”

Xing Chi sighed and said, “I am the embryo of misfortune of the world; when they arrive here, I will set myself on fire, let them henceforth lose heart, and that’s the end.”

Xing Dian anxiously said, “Your … your … no, Shixiong, you must never do that. Let me burn myself on your behalf.” [He was going to say ‘your majesty’ – huang shang.]

Xing Chi smiled and said, “You want to burn yourself on my behalf? What’s the use? They only want me, to force me into submission. That’s all.”

The monks were silent for half a day. Yulin finally said, “Shanzai, shanzai[5]! Xing Chi has become aware of the Great Way. This is indeed the real meaning of what Buddha has said, ‘If I don’t enter the hell, who would enter the hell?’”

Wei Xiaobao cursed in his heart, “Stinky monk, so what he said is the real meaning, and what I said was the fake meaing?”

Yulin continued, “When those lamas arrive, Lao Na and Xing Chi will set ourselves on fire together. Fangzhang Dashi and numerous Shixiong must not stop us.”

Wei Xiaobao and the other monks looked at each other in dismay; they were all dumbstruck.

Xing Chi slowly said, “When we besieged towns and took over lands in the past, all living creatures were turned to coal; Xiao Seng should have been dead a hundred times to redeem the atrocity. Today I can give my life for the common people, it is merely to compensate the past sin. If for Xiao Seng’s sake the battle continues, many more lives are harmed, it will only add to my guilt. I have made up my mind, I am asking gentlemen to protect and support me to fulfill this destiny. If by doing this I can reform the lamas, transforming the wicked to virtue, this indeed is a good deed.” While saying that, he stood up, and bowed and put his palms together toward Wei Xiaobao and the other five Shaolin monks.

Looking at his expression, Cheng Xin and the others knew that his mind was firmly set, it would be difficult to persuade him; therefore, they had no choice but to take their leave and return to Wenshu[6] Hall. Wei Xiaobao summoned all thirty-six Shaolin monks to discuss this matter. All the monks agreed that they must not allow the two masters to set themselves on fire; if things had come to a head, they would have to use force to stop them.

“We are all in agreement that we must protect the three masters completely, are we not?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Yes!” all the monks replied.

Wei Xiaobao said, “That’s not difficult. Listen to me: all thirty-six of you rush out the Temple, attack the east side together, pretend that you want to break the siege and escape down the mountain, but since it is difficult, you have to retreat back to the Temple. However, while doing that, capture forty or fifty lamas and bring them up here.”

“I wonder if Fangzhang wants to use these lamas as hostage, so that they will not dare to act rashly,” Cheng Xin said, “If that’s the case, we might as well capture the lamas with high position; the higher the better.”

“I am afraid it won’t be easy to capture big lamas,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Inevitably we will kill and injure too many people. Capturing several dozen lamas is enough.” The monks were unclear of his intention, but since the Abbot had issued an order, they had to follow it and went out of the Temple.

Not too long afterwards, Wei Xiaobao heard loud commotion coming from the waist of the mountain. He stood on the drum tower to watch, and saw the thirty-six Shaolin monks were charging into the crowd of lamas. The blades flickered, the battle had begun.

These thirty-six monks were Shaolin Temple’s martial art masters, naturally any regular lama was not their match. After rushing out for several dozen zhang, the number of lamas blocking their way was growing exponentially. Cheng Xin and the others moved their fists to punch, their feet to kick, their palms to slap, and their fingers to jab; in an instant they had overthrown several dozen men. In a loud voice Cheng Xin shouted, “The enemy is too powerful, we can’t go through them, let’s go back to the Temple for the time being and talk it over.” His internal energy was deep, his voice travelled far and echoed on the valley.

Cheng Tong also called out, “We can’t go through, what should we do?”

Cheng Xin shouted, “Everybody grab a lama and go back, we must teach them not to act rashly and randomly harm other people.” The monks grabbed the lamas, some caught two by carrying them in their arms, some caught one by carrying them over their shoulders; together they retreated to the Temple. Cheng Xin and Cheng Guang brought up the rear, they sealed several more people’s acupoints. They heard from the back of the lamas someone shouted an order in Tibetan. The crowd of lamas was shouting, yelling, cursing, but nobody ran after them.

Grinning from ear to ear, Wei Xiaobao ran to the gate to meet them. Upon counting the prisoners, he found that they had captured forty-seven lamas. Returning to Wenshu Hall, Wei Xiaobao said, “Strip these fellows naked, each one to have his eighteen acupoints sealed, and lock them up in the firewood shed at the backyard.”

The monks all felt that their Abbot’s order was a profound mystery. They stripped the forty-seven lamas naked, and sealed their acupoints, and locked them up inside the firewood room.

Wei Xiaobao put his palms together and said, “Everything in the world is empty, everything is nothingness, no self, no people, no monk, no lama. Emptiness is real, realism is empty. Monk is lama, lama is monk. All Shizhi, I want you to take off your cassock, and put on these lama robes!”

All the monks were stunned; they looked at each other in dismay. Wei Xiaobao called out loudly, “Shuang’er, come here. Help me dress as a young lama.” Shuang’er had been waiting outside the hall, she immediately came in. Rummaging through the stack, she found the smallest lama’s robe, and helped him to change. Wei Xiaobao was short; the robe he wore was still too big, so he pulled his dagger and cut a section each off the lower part of the robe and the sleeves. He tied his robe on the waist and forced a lama hat onto his head, and thus turned into a young lama. He said to Shuang’er, “You also have to dress as a young lama.”

Cheng Guang asked, “Shishu wants us to dress as lamas, I wonder what your intention is.”

Cheng Guan said, “Could it be that we are going to surrender to the lamas and join their yellow monasteries?”

“Absolutely not!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Everybody dresses as a lama, we go to the little vihara at the back of the mountain, and seize Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three monks, and seal their acupoints. And then we force them to change into lama attire …”

Listening to here, Cheng Tong clapped his hands and laughed. He said, “Ingenious plan, ingenious plan! Several dozens of us, fake lamas, rushing down the mountain in the middle of the night, those lamas will have difficult time in distinguishing the real from the fake, hence it will be difficult for them to stop us.”

The rest of the monks also exclaimed in praise, immediately smile spread across their faces. Naturally nobody guessed that Wei Xiaobao’s ingenious plan was merely a repeat of the trick he played the other day by disguising himself as a prostitute to escape the great disaster.

Cheng Xin said, “This way we can rush out without too much killing and injuring; this is the best plan.”

Cheng Guang hesitantly said, “It’s just that we are going to offend Xing Chi Dashi and the others, three masters; it is rather disrespectful.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Amitabha, saving three lives surpasses building a three by seven, twenty-one level Buddhist stupa. Tiny offense is better than burning themselves in a raging inferno.”

“Shishu is right,” Cheng Guang said.

Immediately the monks took off their monk robes and changed into lama attire. In all their lives, these monks had always adhered strictly to Buddhist monastic discipline, they always acted stern and dignified, yet this time they had to follow Wei Xiaobao fooling around. Seeing that after putting on lama clothing their appearances looked weird, they all could not bear feeling amused.

Wei Xiaobao said, “You all must wrap your monk robe into a bundle and carry it with you. We’ll change back after we escape. After we dash out down the mountain, if we are separated, well meet again at the Jixiang Temple in Fuping County.” He told Shuang’er to pack their money and other belongings, made it into a bundle and carried it on her back.

When the sky turned black, Wei Xiaobao said, “Let us smear some dust on our faces, and each one has to carry a bucket of water. Let’s move!”

Hearing the religious edict, the monks received it happily, and execute the order to the letter: immediately they smeared dust onto their faces, took a bucket of water and his weapon, and rushed toward the back of the mountain.

Arriving outside the small vihara, the monks babbled loudly and charged into the vihara. Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three men, had determined to burn themselves. They piled up firewood in the middle of the courtyard, and drenched themselves with sesame oil. They only waited for the lamas’ arrival, to explain the purpose of their self-burning, and then they would ignite the fire. Who would have thought that the ‘lamas’ arrived so suddenly, without the least bit of forewarning? As soon as they heard the strange ‘wulu wulu huacha huacha’ shouts, which sounded like Tibetan, but not quite like Tibetan, dozens of lamas had already crashed into the vihara.

In a loud and clear voice Yulin said, “Gentlemen, please wait a bit, Lao Na has something to say …” Suddenly his head was drenched by a bucket of cold water, followed by several dozen buckets of cold water, one after another, were splashed onto the three of them.

It happened so quickly that not only the three of them did not have time to light the fire to burn themselves, even if they did, the fire would be quickly extinguished by the pouring of the water.

Shuang’er leaped to seal Xing Dian’s acupoint first. Xing Chi did not know martial art; Yulin’s martial art skill was not weak, but he was unwilling to fight back. In that confusion, their acupoints were quickly sealed. The monks quickly moved their hands and feet, they stripped the three monks, and put the lamas’ robe on. Wei Xiaobao was thinking of pretending to speak Tibetan by uttering some gibberish words, but he was afraid Yulin might recognize his voice; thereupon he restrained himself. He pursed his lips toward Shuang’er to signal her, she fetched a candlestick and lighted the firewood piled in the middle of the courtyard. Wei Xiaobao saw Xing Dian’s golden pestle lying on the floor at the corner of the room, he thought he would take it away, but to his surprise the golden pestle was very heavy, unexpectedly he could not even lift it up. Cheng Tong reached down and picked it up. Wei Xiaobao waved his hand, the monks rushed down the mountain eastwards, with Xing Chi, three monks, protected in the middle.

They were rushing only for several dozen zhang when the black smoke and the blaze from the small vihara shot up to the sky. The big pile of firewood had also been drenched with sesame oil that it was so easy to catch fire.

Halfway up the mountain, the lamas had also seen the fire, they shouted and yelling in alarm, immediately there was confusion everywhere. The leader of the lamas sent his men to fight the fire. Under the flame light they saw Wei Xiaobao and the monks, but they thought they were their own people. In the confusion, who had the thought of stopping and interrogating these people?

The monks reached the bottom of the mountain. After leaving the lamas a great distance behind them, they turned their head around and looked up toward the mountain. They saw the blaze illuminated the sky, the small vihara had been burned to the top of its roof. Cheng Tong said, “Once the small vihara is burned down, they will never find Xing Chi Dashi. They must have thought that he was burned to death inside the vihara, and thus they will lose heart and will not come to create trouble anymore. This is a very good deed indeed.”

Cheng Guang nodded and said, “What Shidi has said is very true.”

Wei Xiaobao asked Cheng Guan to unseal Xing Chi and the other two monks’ acupoints. He said, “We have offended you too much, please do not blame us.”

Xing Chi and the others had their acupoints sealed, they were unable to move a single step, yet their eyes and ears were open. Seeing what was going on around them, they had already understood it was the Shaolin monks who came to their rescue. Xing Dian cheered loudly, saying, “Brilliant scheme, brilliant scheme! All of us escaped easily. Fangzhang Dashi, you have just saved our lives, we are grateful you did not come too late, who would want to blame you?”

Xing Chi was determined to disappear by committing suicide by fire. Xing Dian was loyal and devoted, he had to accompany his master in death, but in his heart he was not really willing to die like this. Now that they escaped the great catastrophe, he was extremely delighted.

Xing Chi smiled and said, “We did not harm a single person in this matter, that is indeed remarkable.”

Suddenly they heard footsteps on the mountain road right in front of them, a large crowd of people were hurrying up the mountain. Cheng Tong said, “Shishu, a large group of lamas is coming to attack.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We’ll continue walking forward, we’ll mumble some gibberish, and when we see them, show some smiling expression and point up the mountain. In short, do not fight with them.” The monks voiced their compliance, even Xing Chi and Yulin also nodded in agreement. In his heart Wei Xiaobao was very happy, “The Old Emperor is following my order, even the Old Emperor’s Shifu is also following my order.”

With Xing Chi in the middle, the crowd of monks rushed along the main road. They saw from the other side of a dip on the road a group of people was rushing their way. There were lanterns and torches in their hands; they were not lamas, but Buddhist pilgrims on their way to offer incense. There were yellow pouches hanging from their necks, on the pouches were written these characters: ‘devoutly submitting incense’ [or ‘going on pilgrimage devotionally’] and so on.

When the group of Shaolin monks came near, both sides were equally surprised. Cheng Tong and the others had already stopped talking, but Cheng Guan and some others whose brains were quick started mumbling some gibberish in ‘fake Tibetan’.

From among the pilgrims a man stepped out and shouted, “What are you doing here?”

This man was tall and powerfully built, his voice was loud and clear. As soon as Wei Xiaobao saw him, he was greatly delighted, for he recognized the man as the Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards, Dolong. He rushed forward immediately and called out, “Duo Dage [in Chinese, Dolong is spelled ‘Duo Long’], look here, do you know who Xiao Di [little brother] is?”

Dolong was startled; he took a lantern from someone by his side and lifted it up to illuminate Wei Xiaobao’s face.

Wei Xiaobao winked and him and burst into laughter. Dolong was surprised and delighted at the same time. “It’s … It’s Wei Xiongdi,” he said, “You … how come you are here? And dress as a young lama too?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “And how come you are here?”

While they were talking, from behind Dolong a group of pilgrims rushed over, the leader of these pilgrims was actually Zhao Qixian. As soon as Wei Xiaobao saw them, he recognized the pilgrims to be imperial bodyguards in disguise; in fact, he knew most of these people. The bodyguards surrounded Wei Xiaobao, they talked and laughed in an intimate way.

In a low voice Wei Xiaobao asked Dolong, “Did His Majesty send you here?”

Dolong also replied in low voice, “His Majesty and Empress Dowager are going to Mount Wutai to burn incense; right now they are at the Lingjing Temple.”

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised. “His Majesty is coming to Mount Wutai?” he asked, “That’s wonderful! That’s wonderful!” While musing in his heart, “And what does that Old wh0re come here for? The Old Emperor can’t wait to kill her.”

Not long afterwards, a group of valiant cavalry troops arrived; all of them also dressed as pilgrims. Wei Xiaobao asked, “In total, how many pilgrims are coming from Beijing to Mount Wutai this time?”

In a low voice Dolong replied, “Apart from us, the Imperial Bodyguards, the Valiant Cavalry, the Vanguards, and the Personal Guards are accompanying the Emperor.”

“So there are about thirty, forty thousand troops?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“More than thirty-four thousand troops,” Dolong replied.

“And who is in command of this Emperor-protector force?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“It’s Prince Kang,” Dolong replied.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Another old friend.”

He beckoned Zhao Qixian. When he came near, Wei Xiaobao said, “Zhao Dage, please report to Prince Kang, I need to mobilize the troops for an important mission. This is urgent, there is not enough time to ask for instructions from him first.” Zhao Qixian obeyed the order and left.

Finally the Commander [orig. ‘du tong’, see previous note on Qing military] of Valiant Cavalry of Plain Yellow Banner, Chalju, also arrived. Wei Xiaobao said, “Duo Laoge [old brother], Dutong Daren, there are several thousand Tibetan lamas who found out about His Majesty’s pilgrimage. Just now they are surrounding Qingliang Temple with the intention to start a rebellion. I ask you, two gentlemen, to arrest these rebellious thieves. You are going to render an enormous service.”

The two of them were delighted; they thanked Wei Xiaobao, saying, “Wei Daren is handing us a great merit, how can we deserve it?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Everybody is devotedly working for His Majesty, why make any distinction between you and me? This is called ‘blessing we enjoy together, difficulty we bear together’.”

They issued the order immediately to guard all roads around the mountain, and send a group of elite cavalry to charge up the mountain. Wei Xiaobao called loudly, “The Holy Sage is benevolent and wise, he is also virtuous; you are to arrest the rebellious thieves only, you must not harm too many lives. Our Emperor is ‘raw bird fish soup’ [niao sheng yu tang], and not a bad Emperor.” The Imperial Bodyguards and the Emperor’s personal bodyguards acknowledged the order together.

Although Kangxi had explained briefly the four-word phrase ‘yao shun yu tang’ [see note 9 of Chapter 14], it was still very hard for Wei Xiaobao to understand; he always remembered the phrase as ‘niao sheng yu tang’. This bowl of soup is a very good soup, not a bad soup; every emperor who heard it would be extremely delighted.

Actually, he said those words for the benefit of the Old Emperor; he thought that today the old and the young Emperors, father and son, would meet, he needed to lick the Old Emperor’s behind, which he thought would be more effective that licking the young Emperor’s behind. He turned around and walked toward Xing Chi. “Three masters,” he said, “Our clothes are nondescript [orig. ‘neither fish nor fowl’], we need to go to Jing’e Temple ahead to change. We must find a peaceful and quiet place to rest, so that idle people will not disturb the three masters’ quiet meditation.” Xing Chi and the others nodded their approval.

They walked several more li and arrived at Jing’e Temple. As soon as he entered the gate of the monastery, Wei Xiaobao took out a thousand-tael banknote, which he handed it over to the head monk, saying, “We need to temporarily borrow your precious monastery to rest, you must not ask too much. If you ask one question, I will deduct ten taels; you do not ask any question, all these thousand taels are our offering. If you ask a hundred and one questions, you owe me ten taels. Fair and square, cheating neither young nor old.”

Seeing the huge sum of money, the head monk was surprised and happy at the same time; instantly he said ‘yes, yes’ repeatedly. “Shixiong,” he said, “You …” The words were at the tip of his tongue, suddenly he was startled and busily changed his statement, “You must drink a cup of tea.” And he hurriedly went in to serve the tea.

Originally, he was going to ask, ‘Shixiong, you want to drink a cup of tea or not?’ but his mind was quick and he changed his statement, and thus saved himself ten taels.

Wei Xiaobao went out the monastery and secretly passed an order to have more than a hundred Imperial Bodyguards to guard Jing’e Temple all the way around, he also dispatched two Imperial Bodyguards to report to the Emperor: “Your servant Wei Xiaobao is under great responsibility, does not dare to leave without permission, waiting your gracious presence at Jing’e Temple.”

One of the Imperial Bodyguards said, “Reporting to Wei Fu Zongguan [deputy chief]: as subjects, we should go and kowtow in front of His Majesty, we cannot wait for the Emperor to see us.”

Wei Xiaobao spread out his hands, and said with a laugh, “Can’t be help. This time good or bad I have to break the rules and have a bad manner.”

The two Imperial Bodyguards complied. They turned around and left, while sticking out their tongues and thought, “What a nerve, he does not even want his life anymore.” Right away they rushed to report to the Emperor.

After changing their clothes, the monks sat down to rest. They heard the battle cry on the mountain shaking the earth, the Imperial Bodyguards and the Emperor’s personal guards were rounding up the lamas. The commotion continued for quite a while. Finally the noise gradually died down, until more than an hour later suddenly not a sound was to be heard [orig. ‘ten thousand pipes are still’], but they heard a few dozen men’s footsteps from the distance approaching, and stopped in front of the monastery. And then there were the heavy thumping sound of boots as a group of men entered the monastery.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The young Emperor is here.” Pulling out his dagger, he held it tight as he stood in front of Xing Chi’s meditation room, while his face showed a determined expression to protect his master, the ‘ten thousand deaths will not prevent me’ look, one that would put Xing Dian’s loyalty and brave sacrifice, to shame.

The sound of footsteps continued from the outside to the inside, about a dozen Imperial Bodyguards in civilian clothes came over in quick steps, with lanterns in their hands. And then they stopped and stood on either side of the pathway. One Imperial Bodyguard hissed, “Quickly take your knife away.”

Wei Xiaobao retreated several steps, with his back against the door and the dagger in front of his chest, he struck a pose ‘one man guards the pass, ten thousand men cannot enter’, and shouted, “The masters are resting inside the meditation room, no one is allowed to come to create disturbance.”

A young man wearing blue garment stepped out, it was none other than Kangxi. It was only then did Wei Xiaobao put the dagger back to its sheath; he rushed forward to kowtow, and said in a low voice, “Your Majesty, rejoice. The old … old fashi[7] is inside.”

With a trembling voice Kangxi said, “You call … call [or ‘announce’] for me.” Turning around, he said, “All of you, get out!”

After the Imperial Bodyguards had left, Wei Xiaobao knocked twice lightly on the meditation room’s door, he said, “Hui Ming desires to have an audience.”

After a long time, there was still no response from inside. Kangxi could not bear not to rush ahead one step and knocked twice on the door. Wei Xiaobao shook his hand to him, signaling him not to speak. The cry ‘Fu Huang’ [father emperor] was already at the tip of Kangxi’s tongue, but he fought hard to swallow it back.

After a long time, they heard Xing Dian’s voice from behind the door, “Fangzhang Dashi, my Shixiong’s spirit is exhausted, please forgive him not to grant audience. His body has entered the gate of emptiness, there is no more earthly destiny. Please tell the outsider not to harm his peaceful cultivation.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Please open the door, we just want to see him one time.”

Xing Dian said, “My Shixiong’s meaning is: this is Jing’e Temple, where we all are guests here, we are not required to accept Fangzhang’s religious edict, please don’t blame us.”

Wei Xiaobao turned his head to look at Kangxi, he saw his miserable expression and thought, “You said that I am not the Abbot here and thus cannot tell you to open the door. How about I call this temple’s abbot to knock on your door? That will be too easy.” He was about to turn around to call the Abbot, when Kangxi could not endure anymore and suddenly broke into a loud cry.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “If I have this temple’s abbot telling you to open the door, that means I am forcing the old emperor. Beseeching him gently is better.” Thereupon he beat his own chest several times and cried out loudly. He cried and wailed at the same time, “In this world, I am an orphan with no mother and no father, alone and forsaken, no one loves me. What joy is there to stay alive? It would be better for me to crash my head against the wall and be done with it.” Faking a cry was the skill he had perfected since he was little, just by bawling a few more times, tears started to pour down like rain; it was exceptionally sorrowful.

Hearing him crying, at first Kangxi was startled, but then he could not bear his grief and cried out even louder.

Suddenly they heard a creaking noise, the meditation room’s door opened. Xing Dian stood at the door and said, “Xiao Shizhu [young benefactor], please come in.”

Kangxi was overwhelmed with mixed feelings of grief and joy; he rushed into the room and embraced Xing Chi’s feet, while crying loudly.

Xing Chi gently stroked his head while saying, “Chi’er, Chi’er[8].” Tears also streamed down his face.

With bowed head Yulin and Xing Dian went out of the meditation room and closed the door behind them. Without even looking at Wei Xiaobao, who was standing outside the door, they walked straight outside. Xing Dian felt he was being rude, especially since he was grateful to Wei Xiaobao; so after walking about a dozen steps, he turned his head around and called, “Fangzhang.”

Wei Xiaobao was focusing his attention to listen to the conversation between Xing Chi and Kangxi, father and son, inside the room, he completely ignored Xing Dian. He heard Kangxi was crying, “Fu Huang, child misses you very much.”

Xing Chi said something, but from behind the door Wei Xiaobao was unable to hear clearly. Afterwards Kangxi stopped crying and started talking, but the two of them spoke in a very low voice that Wei Xiaobao could not hear anything. Although he was curious, he did not have the audacity to shove the door open even a crack; without any choice he had to wait outside with his ear against the door.

A moment later, he vaguely heard Kangxi mentioning ‘Empress Duan Jing’, four characters. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Last time when the Old Emperor told me to pass on his message to the young emperor, he did not want me to give the old wh0re any trouble; therefore, following his order, I did not mention these words at all. Perhaps now the Old Emperor changed his mind?”

Another moment, he heard Xing Chi said, “Today you and I met, it was a mistake; it harms my cultivation considerably. Later, you must not come again.” Kangxi did not make any noise. Xing Chi continued, “You sent someone to wait upon me. Although it came from your filial piety, those who have left their homes experience strong opposition from the evil spirit. Although your intention was proper, having someone to serve me was very thoughtful, but it is inappropriate …”

The two of them talked some more. Finally Xing Chi said, “You may go now. Take a good care of yourself, by cherishing the common people, you are fulfilling your filial duty toward me.”

Kangxi apparently was reluctant to part, he did not want to leave yet. At last Wei Xiaobao heard footsteps toward the door. Wei Xiaobao hastily took several steps back, and turned his eyes away from the door, looking toward the front courtyard. ‘Creak’, the door opened. Xing Chi walked out, holding Kangxi’s hand. Father and son looked at each other for a moment. Kangxi was holding his father’s hand firmly. Xing Chi said, “You are very good, you are much better than I was. I feel very relieved, you must feel the same!” Gently he pulled his hand from Kangxi’s grip, and withdrew back to the room and closed the door. A moment later, ‘click’, he put the latch on.

Kangxi threw himself to the door, while sobbing uncontrollably. Wei Xiaobao stood by his side, accompanying him shedding some tears.

Kangxi cried for a while. He knew his father would not open the door again, but he was unwilling to leave just like that. Pulling Wei Xiaobao’s hand, they sat side by side on the stone steps in front of the main hall. Taking out a handkerchief, he wiped his tears, and looked up at the white cloud in the sky. When he had calmed down, he said, “Xiao Guizi, Fu Huang said that you are very good, but he does not want you to wait upon him anymore. Fu Huang said although having the subjects to guard was very thoughtful, but it will make him, Senior, not like those who have left home.” While saying the words ‘those who have left home’, he shed tears again.

Hearing the Old Emperor did not want him to serve anymore, Wei Xiaobao was extremely delighted, yet his face did not show the least bit of happiness, he also did not dare to appear extremely ‘loyal, dashing on bravely with no thought of personal safety’, for fear that it would give him future trouble. He said, “There are too many people who want to harm the Old Emperor, Your Majesty have to think of a way to protect him in secret.”

“Definitely,” Kangxi said, “Those evil lamas, humph, his granny, what scheme are they playing?” Originally he could only curse ‘damn it’ [ta ma de – lit. his mother]; several months they did not see each other, he had learned one more cussing word, ‘his granny’ [ta nainai de].

“Shifu,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You have one more cuss word.”

There appeared a slight smiling expression on Kangxi’s face; he said, “It’s my Meizi [younger sister], she learned it from the Imperial Bodyguards. She and Empress Dowager came with me to the mountain …” his countenance sank, “Fu Huang does not wish to see them.” Wei Xiaobao nodded.

Kangxi continued, “Those lamas must want to kidnap Fu Huang, in an attempt to force me into submission, to put me under their control. Humph, they think it’s that easy? Xiao Guizi, you are very good, this time you saved Fu Huang, your merit is not small.”

“Your Majesty’s strategy is divine,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You have thought about everything early on, you sent your servant here to be a monk, it was exactly for this reason. Your servant does not have any merit, it does not matter who Your Majesty sent here, anybody can do it.”

“That is not necessarily so,” Kangxi said, “Fu Huang said you understood his wish not to harm anybody in your escape.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant saw the Old Emperor was about to light the fire to burn himself, saying that no matter what he wanted to give up his life and vanish; it scared me that my soul was about to leave me, I nearly pissed in my pants.”

Kangxi was startled, “What do you mean lighting the fire to burn himself? To give up his life and vanish?”

With a lot more spice Wei Xiaobao told him everything so that Kangxi broke into cold sweat. Wei Xiaobao said, “In a moment of desperation, your servant drenched the Old Emperor with a bucket of cold water; it was greatly disrespectful.”

Kangxi said, “Your intention was to protect your master. Very good, very good.”

He was silent for half a day. Turning his head to take a glance at the meditation room’s door he said, “The Old Emperor told me to cherish common people, never to raise tax. You have already passed on this message to me, this time the Old Emperor personally exhorted me. Naturally I will never dare to forget.”

“What is ‘never raise endowment’ [yong bu jia fu]?” Wei Xiaobao asked[9].

Kangxi smiled and replied, “It’s ‘fu’ from ‘fu shui’ – taxation. Those emperors from the Ming Dynasty indulged in lives of luxury, deployed troops to go to war, never had enough money; therefore, they issued imperial decree for the common people to pay more taxes. Ming Dynasty’s government officials were extremely corrupt, the Emperor wanted to raise one million taels in tax, the government officials, big and small, extorted at least two million taels. The common people were already poor, the imperial court raised taxes this year, and raised duties the next, how could the common people still have enough rice to eat? The millet and wheat crops harvested from the fields were all taken by the government officials, very soon the common people’s entire family would die of starvation; they had no choice but to revolt. This is called ‘the government official drive the people to revolt’.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “I understand,” he said, “So the common people of the Ming Dynasty revolted because the Emperor and the government officials were bad.”

“Isn’t that so?” Kangxi said, “During the last years of Ming Dynasty’s Chongzhen, everywhere in the world the common people did not have rice to eat; therefore, rebellion arose in the east and in the west. The Henan rebellion was crushed, Shanxi arose; Shanxi was suppressed, Sichuan arose. Those poor people migrated to the east and fled to the west just to scrape a living. The Ming Dynasty perished in these poor people’s hands, the Han people say it was roving bandits’ rebellion. Actually, those rebels and roving bandits were forced to existence by the imperial court.”

“So that’s what happened,” Wei Xiaobao said, “The Old Emperor wants Your Majesty never to raise tax, then there won’t be any roving bandits in the world. Your Majesty is ‘raw bird fish soup’, iron and barrels are like rivers and mountains, long live the Emperor!”

“Yao shun yu tang; isn’t it easier said than done?” Kangxi said, “But we, Manchu people, came to be China’s Emperor, we must strive to be better than those tyrannical and muddle-headed rulers of the Ming Dynasty; only then will we not let down the common people of the world.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The people of Tian Di Hui and Mu Palace say that Manchurian Qing’s Tatars occupy our Han people’s rivers and mountains, there is no single person who does not hate them with clenched teeth. Yet the young emperor says that Ming Dynasty’s emperors were no good, and that he, a Tatar emperor, is better. That’s not strange, there are always people who like to praise themselves.”

Kangxi added, “Fu Huang also told me that over the years he quietly cultivate Zen meditation, whenever he recalled our Manchu people’s conduct and deeds in the years past, oftentimes he would feel so ashamed that cold sweats drenched his back. Chongzhen of Ming Dynasty was persecuted to death by Li Zicheng’s roving bandits. Wu Sangui came to lend his troops to us, the Great Qing, and defeated Li Zicheng, and thus he avenged the Ming Dynasty emperor’s great enmity. Yet not only the common Han people are not grateful to the Great Qing, they consider us as their enemy. Tell me, what kind of logic is that?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I suppose they are muddle-headed. In fact, in this world, muddle-headed people are many, smart people are a few. Or perhaps they simply forget favors and violate justice.”

“That’s not necessarily so,” Kangxi said, “Han people say we are barbarians, ethnic minority from outside, who are taking possession of their beautiful rivers and mountains. When the Qing troops entered the pass, they killed and burned everywhere, they murdered countless common people; it was the reason they hate us, Manchus, to the bones.”

Wei Xiaobao was actually a Han, but Kangxi bestowed him to be a Manchu person of the Plain Yellow Banner, when he talked to him, he always said ‘we or us’, treating him as a Manchu. Actually, speaking about national affairs, Wei Xiaobao did not understand anything. It’s just that Kangxi was excited since he had just met his father. Thinking about his Father Emperor’s earnest admonition, he discussed it with this little trusted aide.

Wei Xiaobao said, “When your servant was still in Yangzhou, I have heard people mentioning the tragedy of Qing troops massacring people.”

Kangxi sighed. “Yangzhou’s Ten Days, Jiading’s Three Slaughters, people were killed that their number cannot be counted; those are enormously evil deeds that we, the Great Qing, committed. I am going to issue an imperial edict to exempt Yangzhou and Jiading of land tax for three years.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Yangzhou people do not have to pay taxes for three years, everybody will be rich, Lovely Spring Courtyard’s business will greatly flourish. How can I get the young emperor to send me to handle this matter for him in Yangzhou? I will tell Mama not to be a prostitute anymore, I will open three brothels for her, laozi will be the boss, and then I will be a banker, I will open a big gambling event for ten days, it will be another ‘Yangzhou’s Ten Days’. Afterwards, I will bring a lot of money to Jiading and damn it, I will gamble three days. It will be ‘Jiading’s Three Gambles’[10].”

He also thought, “Both the Old Emperor and His Majesty said that during Jiading’s Three ‘du’ [see note 10 referred above] the number of people being killed is too many, this is an enormous disaster. How could they kill a lot of people by gambling three times? I wonder what kind of place Jiading is. In that place, the people’s gambling skill is very formidable, I must be very careful.”

“Xiao Guizi, what do you think?” Kangxi asked.

“Good, very good,” Wei Xiaobao busily replied, “That way, everybody will have rice to eat, have money … nobody will revolt.” He was about to say ‘have money to gamble’, but as the word was about to come out, he withdrew it.

Kangxi said, “Although everybody has rice to eat and has money to be used, not necessarily nobody will revolt. When you left Beijing, you sent the Imperial Bodyguards to escort a man, whom you said was a rebel from Mount Wangwu. I personally interrogated him several times.”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked in his heart; he stood up hastily and said, “Your Majesty ordered your servant not to meddle in other people’s business; henceforth I did not dare to do that.”

“Sit down,” Kangxi said, “You managed this matter very well. It was not other people’s business at all, in fact, from now on we must pay close attention to this matter.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, but in his heart he was unable to make head or tail of it.

Kangxi said in a low voice, “I sent those Imperial Bodyguards to rebuke you, it was to block the ears and eyes of the enemy, so that the rebellious thieves won’t guard against me.”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. He sprang up, and then sat back down again and said in a low voice, “Your servant understands. Turns out Your Majesty are afraid this rebellious thief Wu Sangui would be alarmed.”

“Whether Wu Sangui wants to rebel, it is still hard to say,” Kangxi said, “But since the beginning he did not have a loyal heart; he took advantage of my young age and did not have me in his eyes at all.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty can always use little tricks here and there to let him know how formidable you are. Wu Sangui, his granny, what’s so great about him? Your Majesty only need to stretch out your little finger, you will sweep away a thousand army, high mountain flowing water.”

Kangxi smiled, “You did not use those two idioms correctly. You should say ‘stretch out your little finger, you will sweep away a thousand army, kill him to be utterly defeated[11]’.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant has become a monk for several months, my literary knowledge did not make any progress; from now on I must serve Your Majesty more often, so that my usage of idiom will be like ‘sweeping away a thousand army’, so that people who hear it will be ‘utterly defeated’.”

Kangxi could not help but bursting in laughter, his melancholy was somewhat reduced. In a low voice he said, “That servant Wu Sangui is very good at military strategy, the number of fierce generals and elite troops under his command is indeed not a few. If he really wanted to rebel and allied himself with Geng Jingzhong of Fujian and Shang Kexi of Guangdong, the three forces would make a thorny problem indeed. We can only take our time, must make our move only after fixing our plan, so that once we move, we will make his granny Wu Sangui utterly defeated and piss in his pants in terror.”

Kangxi was diligent and studious, every day after he personally attended the government affairs, he would have members of Hanlin Imperial Academy to attend upon him, to explore classic books in Confucianism, poetry and literature. He learned a lot about the writings and poems of Confucius; therefore, to suddenly hear him saying phrases like ‘his granny’ or ‘piss in his pants in terror’, it was clear that he was really not happy.

Meeting with his father today, he was both delighted and grieved; but after only less than an hour of intimacy, he was already thrown out of the door without knowing if he would ever see him again in the future, he was deeply wounded emotionally. Luckily there was this Wei Xiaobao whose words were amusing, so that the melancholy in his heart was somewhat relieved. Moreover, speaking about major political affair like crushing rebellion and restoring order had aroused the lofty aspiration in his heart.

He stood up, took four piece of stones from the courtyard, arranged them on the ground, and said, “Of the four kings of Han army, the east side, the south side and the west side must be separated from each other, they cannot be allowed to ally with each other. Luckily that fellow Ding Nan Wang[12] Kong Yude has died, leaving behind a daughter, hence it will be easy to deal with her.” While saying that, he lightly kicked a piece of stone.

He said, “Geng Jingzhong is bold but not very astute, nothing to worry about. Only he must be prevented from making an alliance with the Zheng clan of Taiwan.” And he kicked another stone.

He said, “Shang Kexi, father and sons, do not get along well with each other. His two sons are like fire and water, they are always in conflict with each other, rendering him powerless.” And he also kicked the third stone away, leaving one stone left, the biggest one, to which he stared while seeming lost in thought.

“Your Majesty,” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Is that Wu Sangui?” Kangxi nodded. Wei Xiaobao cursed, “That treacherous bandit, he is old but refuses to die, yet he gives my lord of ten thousand years a big headache. Your Majesty, soak him with your pee.”

Kangxi burst out laughing; his childish heart was aroused, he really untied his pants and peed on that piece of stone. He said with a laugh, “Come, your turn.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and peed on the stone. He said with a laugh, “This chapter is called, ‘Lord of Ten Thousand Years High Mountain Flowing Water, Xiao Guizi … Xiao Guizi …’” He was going to say ‘sweeping a thousand army’, but thought that in this case this phrase was not appropriate. Suddenly he remembered the storyteller telling about the tale of Three Kingdoms, there was a chapter about ‘Guan Yunchang flooded seven armies with water’, thereupon he said, “Xiao Guizi flooded seven armies with water.”

Kangxi was amused even more. He tied up his pants and said with a laugh, “There will come a day we catch that stinky thief, then we will really pee on his body.”

Kangxi sat down on the stone steps again. They heard sound of footsteps outside; although nobody said anything, it was obvious that there were quite a number of people gathering outside. Wei Xiaobao said, “It looks like they have caught all those evil lamas. Your Majesty really have flood of good fortune filling the heavens; it was so fortunate that you have arrived just in time to catch all those evil lamas in one net.”

“Actually, that was not luck,” Kangxi said, “As soon as I received your secret report, I sent people to investigate. After I found out, I rushed here, but actually I was one step too late, so that those evil lamas have alarmed the holy sage. If not for your quick-wit, I will regret it for the rest of my life, and won’t escape from guilt.”

Wei Xiaobao was puzzled, “But your servant has never sent you any secret report,” he said.

Kangxi said, “When I sent the Imperial Bodyguards to Shaolin Temple to deliver the imperial edict, they said that they saw a Mongolian prince, several lamas, and several military officers; is that right?”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Kangxi said, “You instructed them to investigate in secret, what were they up to, and what was their power. Under investigation, they found out that the Mongolian prince was called Galdan. The military officer was Ma Bao, a commander under that servant Wu Sangui. They were conspiring with the lamas in rebellious scheme, something that would not be good to Fu Huang.”

Wei Xiaobao slapped his thigh, “So that’s what happened!” he exclaimed, “Your servant saw that they were sneaky, definitely not good people, I did not know they are Wu Sangui’s people.” Actually, he had known about those people’s name and background, the reason he wanted Zhao Qixian and the others to investigate was to track down the girl in green, while bringing false charge against Wu Sangui. He did not think that it would lead the young emperor to catch up to Mount Wutai.

Kangxi said, “Later on those three groups went their separate ways. Imperial Bodyguard Zhang Kangnian followed the lamas. He heard that they were assembling a large group of manpower; they were going to Mount Wutai to kidnap an important person. He did not realize the significance of this matter. After following them for several more days, he returned to the Capital and presented a memorial to me. As soon as I heard it, how could I not be anxious? I wanted to set off at once; but when the Emperor leaves the Capital, there are so many formalities and rites that have to be performed. Although I issued an imperial decree to have everything conforms to simplicity, I was still one day late.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That rebellious thief Wu Sangui is so brazen, he dares to dispatch several thousand lamas to come and offend the Old Emperor. That … won’t that be blatant rebellion?”

Kangxi sucked his breath. “Not too loud!” he hissed, “I only know that his officer was travelling together with those lamas. Whether he is rebelling or not, we can’t say for sure for the time being.”

“I am sure he is, I am sure he is!” Wei Xiaobao said, “If he was a good person, how could he send a general under his command to conspire with those evil lamas to secretly bring harm to the Old Emperor?”

“He is definitely not a good person,” Kangxi said. After hesitating for a moment, he slowly said, “It’s just that I am still too young, in deploying troops and fighting a battle, I am not his match. It would be best for us to wait several more years, wait till I grow up some more, and he grows older some more. When we fight that time, I am sure that victory will be within our grasp. Xiao Guizi, you need not be impatient, waiting one day longer will give us one day more advantage, while at the same time will give him one day more harm.”

Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “What if he grows old and die? Won’t that be too easy for him?”

Kangxi smiled. “Then that is his luck,” he said. After a short pause he continued, “Just now Fu Huang admonished me: it would be best if I can not resort to arms and go to war; once we go to battle, it does not matter the outcome, soldiers will be dead and injured, that need not be mentioned, but the common people in all the world will suffer countless suffering. For that reason, if Wu Sangui died early and did not wait for me to take action against him, although it won’t be fun …”

While he paused for a moment, Wei Xiaobao interjected, “It’s definitely not fun at all.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “As far as common people and soldiers are concerned, war is not a good thing. Xiao Guizi, if you want something fun, I can take you to Liaodong (Peninsula) to hunt black bears, hunt tigers.”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. “Wonderful, wonderful!” he called out.

Kangxi turned his gaze to the meditation room’s door and quietly said, “When I was six, Fu Huang took me to go hunting at Liaodong. And now …” Slowly he walked toward the door. His hand gently stroked the wooden door, while his throat choked and his eyes moist. After a while, he kneeled down and did obeisance several times, while saying in a low voice, “Fu Huang, take a good care of yourself, Child’s leaving.” Wei Xiaobao also kneeled down and kowtowed.

Kangxi went to the Hall of Great Strength. Prince Kang, along with prominent military leaders such as Valiant Cavalry Commander Chalju, Imperial Bodyguards Chief Dolong, several top ranking officers who accompanied the Emperor such as Songgotu, the Vanguard Regiment Commander, the Personal Guard Commander, and the others, have been waiting in the hall. Seeing the Emperor’s arrival, they all kneeled down to pay their respect. When the officers stood up, they took a furtive glance and noticed that the young emperor’s eyes were red, obviously he had been crying; they were all surprised.

Although the Emperor was young, he had outstanding knowledge and experience, he had demonstrated wise judgment in handling matters; the court official’s reverence to him was growing day by day, nobody dared to belittle him due to his age. Unexpectedly the young Emperor could cry; it was indeed an unusual happening. They also noticed the tearstains on Wei Xiaobao’s face, and thought, “This kid Wei Xiaobao must have teased the Emperor to tears. Two youngsters, I don’t know what kind of games they are playing.”

Kangxi tightly concealed the fact that Shunzhi has left home on Mount Wutai, even the closest family member, his own little sister Princess Jianning was not aware, naturally the court officials were in the dark even more.

Prince Kang stepped forward to present a memorial, “Submitting a report to Your Majesty: We found several thousand lamas creating havoc and disturbing peace outside the Qingliang Temple with unknown reason. Right now all of them have been captured and been brought here, awaiting the imperial decree on how to deal with them.”

Kangxi nodded. “Get the leader and bring him here,” he said.

Chalju dragged three old lamas, they were all shackled and handcuffed. The three lamas did not know that Kangxi was the ruling Emperor, they maintained their obstinate behavior and mumbled and grunted incessantly. Kangxi suddenly also mumbled and grunted. The officers were stunned; nobody expected that the Emperor could speak Tibetan. Actually, these lamas were Mongolian lamas, they did not come from Tibet at all. Kangxi was talking with them in Mongolians.

After talking for a while, the three lamas bowed their heads without saying anything; apparently they have surrendered. Kangxi said, “Take them to the side room, Zhen will investigate them confidentially.”

“Yes,” Dolong replied, and have the three of them brought to the scripture room [library] next to the main hall.

Kangxi beckoned to Wei Xiaobao, the two of them also entered the scripture room. Wei Xiaobao closed the door. Pulling his dagger, he continuously waved it in front of the lamas’ eyes, throats, noses and ears. Kangxi spoke several sentences loudly in Mongolian. Respectfully and submissively the oldest lama answered his questions one by one. The two of them were exchanging questions and answers for quite a while. As soon as Wei Xiaobao noticed that Kangxi raised his voice and had an angry look on his face, he drew his dagger threateningly. When he saw Kangxi’s expression turned gentle, he giggled while standing by the lama’s side, nodding his head in encouragement.

Kangxi’s interrogation lasted for more than an hour. Finally he ordered the Imperial Bodyguards to take the lamas away, and told Wei Xiaobao to close the door. “This is strange,” he muttered to himself.

Wei Xiaobao did not dare to interrupt his train of thought, he simply stood on the side without saying anything. Kangxi pondered for a moment, and then asked, “Xiao Guizi, how many people are aware that Fu Huang has left home and become a monk in here?”

“Other than Your Majesty and your servant,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Those who know this matter include the Old Emperor’s Shifu, Yulin Dashi, and his Shidi Xing Dian Dashi. There was also a eunuch, Hai Dafu, but he is dead. The former head monk of Qingliang Temple, Cheng Guang Dashi, did not seem to know the details, he only knew that the Old Emperor was a person of great background. Apart from these people, there is that old … old … that Empress Dowager.”

Kangxi nodded, “That’s right,” he said, “Those who know this matter, in this world, including Fu Huang himself, and the two of us, are not more than six people. But when I interrogated that Mongolian lama just now, he said that they received the order of the Living Buddha, Dalai Lama of Lhasa, Tibet, to go to Qingliang Temple to invite a monk and take him to Tibet. I interrogate him in details, which monk in Qingliang Temple, what kind of person he is, why did the Living Buddha of Lhasa want to invite him? I repeatedly asked the questions, he definitely does not know. Finally he said that it seems that this monk understands a lot of tantra’s religious chant and incantation, the Living Buddha wishes for him to teach these secret incantation, to help spreading the Dharma. Naturally it was all rubbish; but looking at his expression, I don’t think he was lying. Most likely other people are deceiving him, yet he believes it was the truth.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Whether that Tibetan Living Buddha knew the Old Emperor’s real identity, it is difficult to know at this moment, but the person who instigated the Living Buddha to come and offend the Old Emperor, I am afraid … I am afraid he knew the inside information.”

Kangxi nodded. Suddenly Wei Xiaobao was scared; he said, “Your Majesty, your servant will keep my mouth as tight as a … as something. I know this matter is of grave importance; even in my dream I won’t divulge half a word.”

“You won’t say anything,” Kangxi said, “I trust you completely. Naturally Yulin and Xing Dian also won’t say anything. Even if Shaolin Temple’s Abbot Hui Cong and Cheng Guang Dashi may have guessed something, they are virtuous eminent monks, they can’t possibly reveal it to anybody. After thinking it over, there is only that … that old … old s1ut.”

“Right! Right!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Must be that old … old …”

Kangxi muttered to himself, “She is concealing a man who dressed as a palace maid in the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful; indeed I have seen it with my own eyes. It’s only natural that she is afraid her secret would be revealed. She murdered Empress Duan Jing, Fu Huang hates her to the bones. Although Fu Huang has already left home, he still sent Hai Dafu back to the Palace to investigate this matter. You knew all the details, and you are always by my side. Humph, how could that old s1ut sleep well at night? She simply must do harm to Fu Huang. Only after conspiring to murder Fu Huang, conspiring to murder me, and killing you, will she feel safe.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The old wh0re has long had relationship with Shen Long Jiao [Divine Dragon Cult]. Since she knew the Old Emperor has not died yet, she must have reported it to Hong Jiaozhu. Apparently this lamas arrival on Mount Wutai is somehow related to Hong Jiaozhu.” However, he must not mention to Kangxi that he had become the White Dragon Envoy of Divine Dragon Cult.

Kangxi saw the change in his countenance. “What is it?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao hastily said, “Your servant thought … thought … Your Majesty’s speculation is not the least bit wrong, it must be that old … the Empress Dowager who leak the secret. Other than she, there can’t be any other people.”

Kangxi stretched out his hand to slap the table heavily; gnashing his teeth, he said, “This s1ut murdered the Empress, my birth mother; she also caused Fu Huang to leave home, rendering me without a father or a mother. I … if I don’t make mincemeat of this s1ut, it will be difficult for me to purge the hatred in my heart; but … but Fu Huang clearly told me not to make things difficult for her. What should I do?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The Old Emperor does not allow you to kill the old wh0re, but he did not tell me not to. Even if he told me not to kill her, laozi is his Abbot, he is obligated to follow my order, I don’t have to listen to his order. However, if this matter is exposed, it may not be effective.”

“Your Majesty do not need to worry,” he said, “This Empress Dowager has committed all kinds of evil, she won’t have a good end. Your Majesty may open your dragon eyes wide, open your dragon ears, you’ll just wait and see.”

Kangxi was very keen; he had already understood his meaning, he fixed his eyes on him for half a day, finally he nodded and said, “That’s right, that s1ut has committed all kinds of evil, she won’t have a good end.”

He paced back and forth in the scripture room. “Right now we must find a way to prevent the lamas from offending Fu Huang again,” he said, “It would be best if we can send a trustworthy man to be the Tibetan Living Buddha. All the lamas throughout the world will be under his management, then there won’t be any future danger. It’s just that Tibetan Living Buddha is always the reincarnation of the previous one, I am afraid the one the Emperor sends won’t work. There must be a way …”

Listening to this, Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his soul flew away and scattered; he mused, “Today I dressed up as a young lama, I must not turn a fake into reality. As soon as the Emperor opens his golden mouth, it will be hard to take back, I must strike first.” Hastily he said, “Your Majesty, your servant absolutely do not want to be a Tibetan Living Buddha.”

Kangxi burst out laughing. He said, “You are quick. Actually, what’s not good about being a Tibetan Living Buddha? His jurisdiction is a lot wider than Wu Sangui’s Yunnan; being a Living Buddha means becoming the king of Tibet.”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly shook his hand, he said, “I’d rather be an imperial bodyguard by your side. Once I become the Living Buddha, it will be hard for me to be with you. I don’t care if it is King of Xizang [Tibet, xi – west] or King of Dongzang [East Zang], even King of Dizang[13], I don’t want to be one.”

He was not lying. He had been with Kangxi for a long time, they were almost of the same age, they got along with each other well; although one was the young emperor, the other was a young imperial bodyguard, they were like best friends. Neither one was willing to be separated from each other.

Kangxi laughed and said, “How can you make such a irresponsible remark about the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name?” Shoving the door open, he walked out, and said to Chalju and Dolong, “The two of you have handled this matter well, Zhen wants to reward you.”

Chalju and Dolong were greatly delighted; they kowtowed to express their gratitude. Kangxi said, “Zhen respect and believe the Dharma. Sure enough, these last several years by the will of the Heaven and the blessing of the Bodhisattva, the country is safe and sound, the common people have peace and happiness. Wei Xiaobao is here as Zhen’s proxy, becoming a monk on my behalf, and has rendered a great merit.” Wei Xiaobao also kowtowed to express his gratitude.

Kangxi continued, “Now Wei Xiaobao’s time to be my proxy has been fulfilled, he will follow me returning to Beijing. It is Chalju’s turn to leave home for two years, but you won’t be a monk, rather, you will be the Great Lama of Mount Wutai. You may select 1000 competent officers and sergeants of Valiant Cavalry to be lamas with you, to be stationed on the ten major lama monasteries on the mountain. During your time leaving your homes, everybody’s pay will be doubled, and all of you will be generously rewarded.”

Chalju was startled; although he was not actually willing, he had no choice but thanking the Emperor for the kindness shown. Kangxi said, “If you are doing a good deed but announce it to the world, it won’t be really a good deed. You must tell everybody to guard his mouth like a closed bottle in this matter, no one is to reveal the secret, otherwise he will be dealt with according to the martial law, there won’t be any excuse. Dolong is to bring all Mount Wutai’s lamas back to the Capital, and have them locked up in detention. Send people to inform the Dalai Lama Living Buddha that the Emperor is inviting these lamas to Beijing to promote the Dharma, to make clear the mystery of the Buddhist doctrines. After seventy, eighty years, when the Dharma is flourishing, they will be sent back to Tibet.” For each sentence he said, Chalju and Dolong responded one time.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “Laozi escapes the will of Heaven, henceforth I don’t have to be a monk anymore.” He also thought, “After seventy, eighty years, will these lamas still alive to return home? They brazenly offended the Old Emperor, His Majesty is being magnanimous by not chopping their heads. Imprisoned for life is a great convenience for them.”

Kangxi continued, “Wei Xiaobao, I promote you to be the Commander [du tong] of the Valiant Cavalry Regiment of the Yellow Banner, while concurrently holding your present Deputy Chief [fu zongguan] position of the Imperial Bodyguards. Chalju, if you are performing your duty as the Great Lama well, when you return to the Capital, I will send you to another province to be the provincial governor.” The two of them expressed their gratitude.

Wei Xiaobao did not care much; for him, being the commander or vice commander did not have any difference. On the other hand, Chalju was very happy; in Beijing, high-ranking officials were extremely numerous, it’s just that Valiant Cavalry Regiment Commanders were the Emperor’s trusted aide. He was only one Valiant Cavalry Regiment Commander; each one of the eight banners had one commander, a total of eight Valiant Cavalry Regiment Commanders. When they see the royal princes, the royal princes’ children, the dukes and marquis[14], he must bend his knees and pay respects. Other than his soldier’s pay, there was no extra income. If he was to be sent to other provinces and become the provincial governor, not only his prestige and authority would spread to eight directions, his financial resources would also increase tremendously.

In the meantime, it was daybreak. Kangxi give his order that he wanted to go to the Qingliang Temple to worship Buddha. When they reach the outside of the Temple, they saw sabers and spears scattered around, the grass and rocks were red with bloodstain. It was clear that the capture of lamas the previous night involved an intense battle; obviously they were fighting fiercely. Kangxi entered the Temple to worship the Tathagata and the Manjushri [orig. ‘ru lai’ and ‘wen shu pu sa’], before he went to the back of the mountain to visit the small vihara where Shunzhi sat in meditation. He saw charred wood and ruined bricks, the vihara had been burnt to the ground.

Kangxi was secretly scared, “If Fu Huang did not escape last night, he would be burned inside the temple. I … I …” He did not dare to continue his thought. He ordered Songgotu to donate two thousand taels of silver to reconstruct the vihara. He knew his father would not want to have this matter publicized; therefore, he did not dare to casually donate too much.

Returning to the Hall of Great Strength, the Shaolin monks came to see him. They saw this young benefactor had a lot of attendants, he carried an imposing aura around him; they thought he must be a person of great importance, perhaps he was one of the royal princes [qin wang bei lei]. Athough the monks did not curry favor with powerful people, they acknowledge the fact that this benefactor donated a large sum of money to reconstruct the small vihara, so they put their palms together to express their thanks. Cheng Tong and the others could also see that among those attendants disguised as pilgrims, there were quite a few who knew martial art.

Upon seeing the place where his father has left home, Kangxi was unwilling to leave so soon; he said, “I want to stay at your precious monastery for three, five days; I wonder if it is possible?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Da Shizhu [great benefactor] graces us with your presence, it is something that we seek but fail to get …”

Suddenly there was a loud crashing sound, dust and dirt fell down, a hole appeared on the ceiling of the Hall of Great Strength. A white shadow flashed, a white object dropped down from the roof; it was a monk wearing white robe, with a long sword in his hand, which was thrust swiftly toward Kangxi. “Today I am taking revenge for the Son of Heaven of the Great Ming!” the monk called out.

Kangxi hastily retreated. Because they were in the presence of the Emperor, Dolong, Chalju, Prince Kang, and the others did not carry any weapon. Greatly alarmed, they pounced on the monk. The monk swiftly flicked the left sleeve of his robe, a strong gust of wind swept Dolong and the others, seven, eight men, so that they could not hold their ground and were thrown down backward.

Cheng Xin, Cheng Guang and the others shouted together, “Must not harm people!” and moved to stop the monk.

The monk’s sleeve brushed away again. Each one of Shaolin Temple’s ‘Cheng’ generation monks used his own unique skill to parry, but these monks’ tiger claw, dragon claw, ‘picking flower qin na’ [grab and capture], ‘capturing dragon’ skill, and so on failed to seize the monk. The Shaolin monks were surprised, they all thought, “Unexpectedly there is such person in this world!”

The white-robed monk did not stop, his sword went straight toward Kangxi. Kangxi had his back against the sacrificial table in front of the image of Buddha, he could not retreat further.

Wei Xiaobao hastily leaped forward to block in front of Kangxi’s body. ‘Stab!’ the tip of the sword pierced his chest. The long sword bent, but unexpectedly it failed to enter Wei Xiaobao’s body. Wei Xiaobao felt severe pain on his chest. He had already had the dagger in his hand; by waving it randomly he managed cut the enemy’s sword into two pieces.

The monk in white was stunned. Cheng Guan called out, “Don’t hurt my Shishu!” His left palm flew toward the monk in white’s right shoulder. The monk in white threw his broken sword and turned around to meet Cheng Guan’s palm head on. Cheng Guan felt his blood bubbling up in his chest, while stars appeared in his eyes.

“Good skill!” the monk in white praised. Seeing that he was surrounded by martial art masters, while just a moment ago his sword failed to stab the little monk’s body, he was greatly shocked. No longer dare to prolong the fight, he stretched out his right hand to grab the back of Wei Xiaobao’s collar, and suddenly his body flew up, he escaped via the hole on the roof of the hall.

This turn of events happened so quickly that although there were thirty-six Shaolin masters in the hall, unexpectedly nobody had enough time to stop him. Cheng Xin, Cheng Guang, and the others hurriedly follow the monk through the hole on the roof. They saw the white shadow flashing at the back of the mountain, the monk was already more than a dozen of zhang away. This person’s qing gong [lightness skill] was amazing, it was indeed unbelievable.

The Shaolin monks realized they would not be able to catch up, but their Temple’s abbot was being kidnapped, although they could not catch up with him, they still had to run after him. Shouting loudly, the thirty-six monks ran to give chase. In the blink of an eye the white shadow disappeared behind a dip on the mountain path.

Book note: The title of this chapter came from a Buddhist saying, the word ‘jie’ [which I translated as ‘calamity’] is an extremely long period of time. The Buddhists believe that because human live is a sea of bitterness without boundary, which is difficult to break, even by relying on compassion and mercy.

[1] ‘Wearing green hat’ is an expression about a husband whose wife is having an extra-marital affair.

[2] Reminder: Mount Wutai literally means ‘five platforms’.

[3] Buddhist knife and Buddhist staff, respectively, neither are supposed to be used to kill.

[4] Buddhist round meditation mat, usually made of woven cattail.

[5] Lit. ‘good, peace’. Just like ‘amituofo’, I feel like this phrase should not be translated.

[6] Manjushri, the Boddhisattva of keen awareness.

[7] Reminder: fashi – one who has mastered the Buddhist sutras.

[8] The ‘chi’ character is the same as his name ‘Xing Chi’, meaning ‘imbecile / sentimental / stupid / foolish / silly’. ‘Er’ is a term of endearment. I don’t know why he called his own son ‘the silly one’.

[9] ‘Fu’ can mean ‘poetic essay / taxation / to bestow on / to endow with’.

[10] In original Chinese, the words slaughter ‘tu’ sounds like gamble ‘du’.

[11] Wei Xiaobao said ‘gao shan liu shui’ – high mountain flowing water [reminder: these two idioms were the name of Mu Palace’s stances], Kangxi corrected him ‘utterly defeated’ [‘luo hua liu shui’ – falling flower flowing water].

[12] Ding Nan Wang, the King who Stabilized the South. Kong Yu De (? – 1652) was given Guangxi Province for his services in conquering China. He was one of the three leaders of Chinese Bannermen who has went over the Manchus in early 1630’s. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[13] Lit. earth ‘zang’, Kṣitigarbha, the Bodhisattva of the Great Vow (to save all souls before accepting Bodhi) / also translated Earth Treasury, Earth Womb, or Earth Store Bodhisattva. All three words: Xizang, Dongzang and Dizang have the same ‘zang’ character.

[14] Orig. ‘qin wang bei lei’ (see note 15 of Chapter 13), ‘bei zi’ (son of ‘bei’), ‘gong’ (duke, the highest of five orders of nobility) and ‘hou’ (marquis, second of the five orders of ancient Chinese nobility).

Chapter 25 The crow flew over old exiled Emperor’s child, the horse stored the red powder of weeping palace beauty[1].

Wei Xiaobao was being carried while they were travelling swiftly; he felt as if they were soaring in the clouds or riding on the fog, the big trees swept pass his sides. He felt that they were climbing the mountain higher and higher, his heart was filled with unspeakable fear, “This bald thief failed to kill me with a stab of his sword, he must be quite upset. Now he wants to use different method, he want to see if by throwing me down from a ten thousand zhang high peak, I, this little bald thief, will die or not.” Sure enough, the monk in white suddenly released his grip and throw Wei Xiaobao down.

Wei Xiaobao screamed, but very soon his back touched the ground; it turned out that he was just being tossed to the ground. The monk in white looked at him coldly and said, “I heard Shaolin Pai has a divine skill to protect the body, so that saber and spear cannot penetrate. I did not expect a little monk like you have also mastered it.”

Wei Xiaobao heard that person’s voice to be clear and bright, carrying thirty percent gentleness and charms; he was rather astonished. When he looked up at the person’s face, he saw a snow-white melon-seed face, with curved eyebrows, and phoenix-like eyes filled with worry. Unexpectedly she was an extremely beautiful woman, roughly thirty years of age. Only her hair was shaved clean, with the incense-stick scar on her head; turned out she was a Buddhist nun. Wei Xiaobao was delighted, “Talking to nuns is always better than talking to monks,” he mused.

Hastily he wanted to sit up, but the pit of his stomach was very painful. Actually, when she stabbed him a moment ago, although the treasured clothes protected his body, so that the sword did not harm his skin and flesh, her internal power was too strong that he felt severe pain. “Aiyo!” he cried out and collapsed again.

The nun coldly said, “I thought there must be something amazing with Shaolin’s divine skill; turns out it is only like this.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Let me be honest to Shitai[2], from those thirty-six Shaolin monks in the Hall of Great Strength of Qingliang Temple, one was the Head of Damo Courtyard, one was the Head of Bo’re Hall … aiyo … aiyo … even the Shaolin Pai’s renowned Eighteen Luohan were there; each one was Shaolin Pai’s first class martial art master. Yet all thirty-six men were not your match, one Shitai, alone … aiyo …”

After a short pause, he continued, “If I had only known, I would not enter Shaolin Temple. Aiyo … I’d rather do obeisance to you and take Shitai as my master; it would be a hundred times more superior.”

There was a hint of smile appearing on the grave and stern face of the white-clothed nun. “What’s your name?” she asked, “How long have you been training Shaolin Temple’s unique skills?”

Wei Xiaobao pondered, “She tried to assassinate the Emperor, saying that she wanted to avenge the Great Ming’s Son of Heaven, obviously she belongs to the ‘overthrowing Qing restoring Ming’ group. I just don’t know if she is a friend or a foe of Tian Di Hui; I’d better not to tell her the truth.” Thereupon he said, “I am an orphan from a Yangzhou poor family, my father was killed by Tatar soldiers, from childhood I was sent to the Imperial Palace to become a little eunuch, and was called Xiao Guizi. Later on …”

The nun in white muttered to herself, “Little eunuch Xiao Guizi? I seem to have heard your name. There was a big treacherous official in the imperial court called Oboi; I heard he was killed by a little eunuch, who killed him?”

Hearing the name ‘Oboi’ plus the words ‘big treacherous official’, Wei Xiaobao hastily said, “It was … it was me.”

The nun in white was half believing, half doubting; she asked, “It was really you? That Oboi’s martial art skill was very high; he had the reputation as the Number One Warrior of Manchuria. How did you kill him?”

Wei Xiaobao slowly sat up and narrated how they captured Oboi, how the young emperor gave the order to attack, how Wei Xiaobao unexpectedly managed to stab Oboi with a knife, how he scattered the incense ashes into Oboi’s eyes, and how afterwards he stabbed Oboi’s back in the prison. By this time Wei Xiaobao had already told this story many times, each time he retold the story, he always added a little bit more oil, salt, soybean sauce, vinegar and other spices.

The nun in white listened quietly until he finished. Finally she sighed and muttered to herself, “If it happened like that, those widows of the Zhuang family must really thank you.”

Wei Xiaobao delightedly said, “Did you, Senior, talk about the Zhuang family’s Third Madame? She has already thanked me, and even gave me a servant girl by the name of Shuang’er. By this time she must have already died, she …”

The nun in white cut him off, “How did you know the people from Zhuang family?”

Wei Xiaobao told her the truth. Finally he said, “If you, Senior, do not believe me, you may ask Shuang’er.”

The nun in white said, “You know the Third Madame and Shuang’er; that’s enough. How did you become a monk?”

Wei Xiaobao thought that the matter of the Old Emperor left his home must be concealed; he said, “The Young Emperor sent me to be his proxy to become a monk at Shaolin Temple, and later on he sent me to Qingliang Temple. Shaolin Pai’s martial art that I learned was really very few. In fact, even if I trained for several decades, and have mastered those Wei Tuo Palm, Bo’re Palm, Picking Flower Qin Na, and so on, it won’t be of any use in front of you, Senior.”

Suddenly the nun in white’s countenance sank; she sternly said, “You are a Han, why acknowledge the bandit as your father, risking your life to protect the Emperor? You were indeed born with a slave mentality!”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart turned cold; this accusation was really not easy to respond. When the nun in white assassinated Kangxi, in a moment of desperation he thrust himself in front of Kangxi to shield him. In all honesty, he did not have any thought of flattering the Emperor; he was only thinking that Kangxi was the only person closest to him in this world, he was like a real brother to him, no matter what, he would never let anybody kill Kangxi.

The nun in white coldly said, “Manchurian Tatars came to take away our Great Ming’s world, that may not be considered bad; what’s really bad is Han people who ‘act as accomplice to the tiger’, those who for the sake of seeking their own glory, splendor, wealth and rank, they would do anything.” While saying that, her eyes shot a piercing gaze on Wei Xiaobao’s face. She said slowly, “I’ll throw you down from this mountain peak. I want to know if your ‘protecting body’ divine skill can still be used or not?”

“Of course it can’t be used,” Wei Xiaobao loudly said, “Actually, you don’t even have to throw me down the mountain, you only need to lightly strike the top of my head with your palm, my skull will immediately shatter into seventeen, eighteen pieces.”

The nun in white said, “Then you were fawning on the Tatar Emperor, what good will it do to you?”

“I was not fawning on him,” Wei Xiaobao loudly replied, “The Young Emperor is my friend. He … he said that he will never raise taxes, that he will cherish the common people. We, Jianghu people, attach most importance to yi qi, we must also cherish the common people.” Actually, toward Kangxi he indeed have yi qi, but ‘cherishing the common people’, even in his dream he had never thought about it. Right now facing the matter of life and death, he had no choice but to lift up high his hat to defend himself.

There was a flash of hesitation on the nun in white’s face; she asked, “He said never to raise taxes and cherish the common people?”

“That’s right, that’s right,” Wei Xiaobao busily said, “I don’t know how many hundred times he said that. He said that when the Tatar Emperor entered the pass, he massacred the common people, which he never should have done. Those ‘Yangzhou’s Ten Days’, ‘Jiading Three Gamblings’, were practically things that are done by beast. In his heart he is restless; therefore … therefore he came to Mount Wutai to burn incense and worship Buddha, he will also issue an imperial decree to exempt Yangzhou and Jiading three years of taxes.” The nun in white nodded.

Wei Xiaobao continued, “That treacherous court official Oboi killed so many loyal and good subjects, the Young Emperor ordered him to stop doing that, he refused flatly. The Young Emperor was enraged, he ordered me to kill him. Good Shitai, if you killed the Young Emperor, the affairs of the imperial court will be taken over by the Empress Dowager. This old wh0re is desperately worse, if she came into power, she would do another ‘Yangzhou’s Ten Days’ or ‘Jiading Three Gamblings’. If you want to kill the Tatars, it would be better if you go and kill that old wh0re the Empress Dowager.”

The nun in white shot a glaring look at him; she said, “In front of me, you must not speak any vulgar rude words.”

“Yes, yes!” Wei Xiaobao said, “In front of you, Senior, in the next seventy, eighty years I will not mention even half a word of vulgar talk.”

The nun in white looked up to the white clouds in the sky, ignoring him completely; after a while, she asked, “What’s not good about the Empress Dowager?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The bad things that the Empress Dowager did have nothing to do with this Shitai, I must fabricate some wild accusation and heap it on her head.” He said, “The Empress Dowager said that this is the Great Qing’s world, she wanted to dig the Great Ming’s seventeen, eighteen generations of emperors’ grave, to see if there is any treasures in those graves. She also said that all Han people in the world with the surname of Zhu are no good, they should be executed along with their families unto the third generation, so that they won’t snatch away the Great Qing’s rivers and mountains …”

The nun in white was enraged, with her right palm she slapped a rock, instantly the rock shattered, fragments of rocks flew everywhere. With a stern voice she said, “That woman is so malicious!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Isn’t she? I advised the Young Emperor that those kind of things must never be done.”

“Humph,” the nun in white snorted and said, “What knowledge do you have? What argument can you give? Why would the Young Emperor listen to your advice?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “My argument was very reasonable. I said, ‘Your Majesty, human being will definitely die. While it is true that the world of the living belongs to you, Manchu people, do you know if Yanluo Wang [King of Hell] of the underworld is Han man or Manchu man? What about Pan Guan [mythological underworld judge], the little demon, the ox head, the horse face, the Black Wuchang [ghost taking away soul after death], White Wuchang? Are they Han people or Manchu people? Each one of them is a Han. In the world of the living you oppress Han people, even if you live to a hundred years, there will come a day you will have to face the calamity.’ The Young Emperor said, ‘Xiao Guizi, how fortunate that you reminded me.’ As a result, the Young Emperor did not want to listen to a word the Empress Dowager was saying. On the contrary, he said that he would grant some money to restore the graves of the Great Ming’s emperors, from Hongwu Yeye [grandfather] all the way to Emperor Chong Zhen. Ah right, there were some Fu Wang, Lu Wang, Tang Wang, Gui Wang [each ‘wang’ means ‘king’], which I am not clear how many emperors in total.”

Suddenly the nun in white’s eyes reddened, and tears started to fall down, drops of tears rolled down from her robe to the grass. After quite a while, she stretched out her sleeve to wipe the tears; she said, “If it is really so, not only you are not disloyal, you have rendered great merit. If my … if the grave of my Great Ming’s previous dynasty’s emperors were dug by this … this evil woman …” Speaking to here, her voice turned into sobs, she was unable to continue. She stood up and walked toward an overhanging cliff.

“Shitai,” Wei Xiaobao called out, “You … must not … must not be shortsighted.” While shouting that, he rushed to pull her left arm. In this short period of time, he had developed a favorable impression toward this beautiful Buddhist nun; he felt that she was simple yet beautiful, lofty and elegant, refined and amiable; from among the women he had met in his life, no one could surpass her. As soon as he pulled, he felt that the sleeve was empty; only now did he realize that she did not have a left arm.

The nun in white turned her head around and said, “You are fooling around! Why would I be shortsighted?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I saw how grieved you were, I was afraid you were not able to take a lighter view.”

The nun in white said, “If I committed suicide, you would return to the Emperor, henceforth you will be very rich; won’t that be better?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “No, no! I am a little eunuch, I was compelled by circumstances, the Tatars killed my papa, how can I acknowledge bandit as … as my father?”

The nun in white nodded; she said, “You still have conscience.” From her pocket she took more than ten taels and gave it to him, saying, “Use it as your travel expense, go back to Yangzhou, to your native place.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “When I give money to others, if not two hundred taels, I would give at least a hundred taels, how can I be happy with your little bit of money? This Shitai’s heart is soft, I might as well exploit her goodness.” Without accepting the money, he suddenly fell to his knees and embraced her legs, while crying loudly.

The nun in white knitted her brows and said, “What are you doing? Stand up, stand up.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I … I don’t want money.”

The nun in white said, “Then why are you crying?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I have no father no mother, I never have anybody loving me. Shitai, you … you are like my mother. I often think that … that how nice would it be to have a mother who loves me dearly.”

The nun in white blushed, “Pei!” she spat softly and said, “Rubbish! I have left home …”

“Yes, yes!” Wei Xiaobao said. He stood up with tearstains across his face. Crying at will was one of his consummate skills.

The nun in white hesitantly said, “I need to go to Beijing anyway, in that case I’ll take you along. But you are a little monk …”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Returning to Beijing? Nothing can be better than that.” Thereupon he hastily said, “I am a fake little monk. As soon as we are down the mountain, I’ll change clothes, then I won’t be little monk anymore.”

The nun in white nodded. Still not saying anything, she simply walked down the mountain peak with Wei Xiaobao following behind her. When they came across steep path, which was hard to pass, the nun in white grabbed his collar and lightly and nimbly jumped down. Wei Xiaobao praised her endlessly, saying that although Shaolin Pai’s martial art was well known throughout the world, it was not even close to hers. The nun in white simply turned a deaf ear, until Wei Xiaobao spoke seven, eight times, she said, “Shaolin Pai’s martial art has its own origin, little child is like a frog at the bottom of a well, you must not talk an idle talk. Just your divine skill of protecting your body, so that saber and spear cannot penetrate, I don’t have that kind of skill.”

On an impulse Wei Xiaobao said, “The divine skill of protecting my body is fake.” Untying his outer garment, he revealed his vest and said, “This is the vest that cannot be penetrated by saber and spear.”

The nun in white reached out to pull, while sending her strength to the tip of her finger. This pull was very powerful that even steel wire would be pulled apart, but unexpectedly the vest did not move the slightest bit. She smiled and said, “So that’s how it is. I was feeling strange, even if Shaolin internal energy is indeed marvelous, based on your young age, you would not have trained it to this level of maturity.”

Now that one suspicion in her heart was resolved, she was very happy. She laughed and said, “Child, you are indeed an honest person.”

Wei Xiaobao was secretly amused; in all his life, it was the first time somebody ever praised him to be honest, it was indeed rare. He said, “I am not that honest to anybody else, but I don’t know why, I just want to be honest to Shitai. Most likely because I consider you to be my … my mama …”

The nun in white said, “Later on you must not say those things, it is very unpleasant to hear.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, while in his heart he said, “You stabbed me on my chest, it is still very painful. I called you ‘mama’ several times, now we are even.” When he called someone ‘mama’, he was actually cursing that person as a prostitute. While he was feeling smug, he cast a glance toward the nun in white, and saw her lofty and magnificent aura, which he could not help but to revere; he felt quite regretful that he had called her ‘mama’ several times.

He stole a glance toward the nun in white again, and saw her eyes were brimming with tears, as if she was about to cry; he felt quite strange. Naturally he did not know that at the moment the nun in white was thinking, “I should have thought about that vest. Didn’t he … he also have something like that?”

The nun in white and Wei Xiaobao went down the mountain from the north side, heading eastwards. They arrived at a small town, Wei Xiaobao immediately went to buy some clothes, and turned himself into a young master of a rich family. Even when he was dressed up as a lama to protect Shunzhi leaving the Qingliang Temple, naturally the several hundred thousand taels of banknotes had never left his body. Along the way he ordered the restaurant owners and innkeepers to prepare fine vegetarian cuisine. He was very attentive in attending to the nun in white. The nun in white was very particular toward the quality of the vegetarian dishes, as if she was coming from a very rich family; she was completely different from those Shaolin monks. Although she was not intentionally picky, but when the vegetarian dishes were exquisite, she would eat several chopsticks more.

Wei Xiaobao had a lot of money, as long as certain thing was available in the market, whether it was ginseng, swallow’s nest, fu ling, white mushroom, ‘money’ mushroom, no matter how expensive, he would simply buy it. When he was in charge of the imperial kitchen, whenever the Empress Dowager and the Emperor were celebrating Buddha’s birthday or Guanyin’s birthday, they would want to abstain from meat dishes and would request vegetarian dishes; therefore, he was quite an expert in selecting vegetarian dishes. Sometimes the restaurant’s chef did not know how to prepare certain dishes, he would then go to the kitchen to give directions. As a result, the dishes were seventy, eighty percent similar to those of the imperial kitchen.

The nun in white was habitually quiet; often times she did not speak a single word all day. Wei Xiaobao showed her utmost respect, he did not dare to talk nonsense at all. One day they arrived in Beijing. Wei Xiaobao looked for a large inn. As soon as he entered, he gave a ten taels tip. Although the innkeeper thought that for a nun to stay in an inn was somewhat too lofty, but this rich young master was very liberal with money, hence he gave a very attentive reception. The nun in white seemed to regard everything as it should be, she never questioned anything.

After lunch, the nun in white said, “I want to go to the Coal Hill.”

“Coal Hill?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “That is the place where Emperor Chongzhen returned to Heaven. We must kowtow several times there.”

Coal Hill was located next to the Imperial Palace, they were able to reach it in a very short period of time. Arrived at the hill, Wei Xiaobao pointed his finger at a big tree and said, “Emperor Chongzhen hanged himself on that tree.”

The nun in white reached out to caress the tree, her arm did not stop trembling, tears streamed down her face, suddenly she cried out and dropped on her knees.

Seeing her deep grief, Wei Xiaobao wondered, “Could it be that she knew Emperor Chongzhen?” His heart was moved, “Is it possible that she is just like Tao Gugu, a palace maid in Imperial Palace of the Great Ming? Perhaps she was Emperor Chongzhen’s imperial concubine. No, her age is not right, she looks younger than the old wh0re, she can’t be Emperor Chongzhen’s imperial concubine.”

He heard her cry was extremely sorrowful that she nearly could not breathe; he could not help but shedding some tears as well. He dropped on his knees and kowtowed to the tree several times.

The nun in white wept in sorrow for a long time. Finally she stood up to embrace the tree trunk. Suddenly her entire body trembled and she lost her consciousness, her body slowly slid down. Wei Xiaobao was shocked; hastily he held her up and called out, “Shitai, Shitai, wake up quickly!”

After quite a while, the nun in white slowly regained her consciousness. After calming herself down, she said, “Let’s go to the Imperial Palace to take a look.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s go back to the inn first. I’ll fix a eunuch uniform for me, Shitai also needs to change, I’ll take you into the Palace.”

The nun in white angrily said, “How can I wear Tatars’ eunuch uniform?”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In that case … in that case … I got it, Shitai can be a lama. There are usually a lot of lamas going in and out of the Palace.”

“I don’t want to dress as a lama either,” the nun in white said, “I’ll just rush into the Palace like this, who can stop me?”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Even those Imperial Bodyguards are not able to stop Shitai. It’s just that … by doing this inevitably you will have to abandon the Buddhist monastic disciple against taking life. Shitai will be preoccupied with killing people, you won’t be able to quietly look at other things.” He was really unwilling to follow the nun in white breaking into the Palace just like that.

The nun in white nodded. “You are right,” she said, “Tonight I will take advantage of the darkness to break into the Palace. You wait for me in the inn, so that you won’t meet any danger.”

“No, no,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am coming with you. If you enter the Palace alone, I won’t feel at ease. I am very familiar with the Palace like my own home; I know the places, I know the people. Whichever place you want to go, I can take you there.” The nun in white did not answer; she only stared blankly.

By the second watch that night [around 9-11pm], the nun in white and Wei Xiaobao left the inn and went to the Palace’s wall. Wei Xiaobao said, “Let us circle to the northeast corner, the Palace wall on that side is rather low; that is where the sula and odd jobs workers live, no imperial bodyguards ever patrol there.”

Following his direction, the nun in white went to the thirteenth row on the north side; grabbing the back of Wei Xiaobao’s waist, she lightly leaped into the Palace. Wei Xiaobao said in a low voice, “This side is the Le Shou [lit. happy and long life] Hall and Yang Xing [mental/spiritual cultivation] Palace. Shitai, which place do you want to see?”

The nun in white muttered softly, “I want to see everything.”

Going west from Le Shou Hall and Yang Xing Palace, winding around a long corridor, passing the Xuan Qiong Bao Dian [black/mysterious dome throne hall], the Jing Yang Gong [bright yang/positive Palace], Zhong Cui Gong [pure bell palace], they finally arrived at the imperial garden. Although it was dark, the nun in white was still walking very fast; winding and turning around the pathways, she did not have the slightest degree of hesitation. Whenever they came across the Imperial Bodyguards or the night watchmen on patrol, she simply hid behind a building’s corner or behind the bushes.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly amazed, “How can she be this familiar with the Palace situation? She must have lived in the Palace before.” Following her going over the imperial garden, they continued westward, going out of Kun Ning Gate, and arrived outside the Kun Ning[3] Palace.

The nun in white hesitated. “Doesn’t the Empress live here?” she asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “The Emperor is not married yet, there is no Empress. Previously the Empress Dowager lived here, but now she moved to the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful [Ci Ning]. Presently the Kun Ning Palace is unoccupied.”

“Let’s take a look,” the nun in white said. Arriving just outside the Kun Ning Palace, she stretched out her hand to push the window frame. Exerting a little bit of strength, with a soft ‘chi, chi’ noise, the window latch broke easily. She pulled the window open and leaped inside. Wei Xiaobao crawled in to follow.

Kun Ning Palace was the Empress’ personal quarter, Wei Xiaobao had never been there before. The Palace had been unoccupied for a long time, the smell of dust and mold assaulted their nostrils. Under the soft glimmer of the moonlight through the paper on the window, Wei Xiaobao vaguely saw the nun in white was sitting on the edge of the bed, without moving at all. After a while, he heard the dripping noise as her tears flowed onto the front piece of her robe. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Right, she is just like Tao Gugu; she must be a maid in the Palace who was serving the previous dynasty’s empress.”

He saw she was looking up at the beam of the roof. “Empress Zhou had … had killed herself in here,” she said in a low voice.

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied. The doubt in his heart was gone; he asked in a low voice, “Shitai, would you like to see my Gugu?”

The nun in white was surprised. “Your Gugu?” she asked, “Who is she?”

“My Gugu is surnamed Tao,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Her name is Tao Hongying …”

“Hongying?” the nun in white cried out in shock.

Wei Xiaobao said, “That’s right. Perhaps you know her. My Gugu was a former maid who served Princess Chang of Emperor Chongzhen.”

“Alright, alright,” the nun in white said, “Where is she? Quickly … quickly call her to see me.” All along she had been cool and collected, ever since that day when she tried to assassinate Kangxi at the Qingliang Temple, even though she moved very fast, she had never lost her calm. But this time her voice unexpectedly appeared to be very anxious.

“I can’t call her tonight,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“Why? Why?” the nun in white asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “My Gugu is very loyal to the Great Ming, one time she assassinated the Tatars’ Empress Dowager, unfortunately she did not die, hence she has to hide in the Palace. She will have to see my secret signal first, and then we can meet the next night.”

“Very good,” the nun in white said, “That girl Hongying has guts. What secret signal you have to make?”

“My Gugu and I have arranged it well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I will have to make a pile of rock in the burning ground, and stick a piece of wood on it. She will know.”

The nun in white said, “Let us go make the secret signal then.” Leaping out the window, she pulled Wei Xiaobao’s hand, went out the Long Fu [grand happiness] Gate, passed Yong Shou [eternal long life] Palace, Ti Yuan [Primary Form] Court, Bao Hua [defending China] Court, and continued northward to the Burning Ground. Wei Xiaobao picked up a piece of wood charcoal and drew a sparrow on a piece of wood. He gathered some rocks and made a pile, and then stuck the piece of wood on the pile of rocks.

“Someone’s coming!” the nun in white suddenly said.

The Burning Ground was the place where the waste from the Palace was burned; it was very unusual that someone would come over here in the middle of the night. Wei Xiaobao pulled the nun in white’s hand and took her hiding behind a large earthen jar. They heard the intermittent sound of footsteps; somebody was hurrying over. The person stood still while scanning the area, and was slightly startled to see the wooden piece Wei Xiaobao stuck onto the pile of rocks. Immediately she came over and picked it up. As soon as the person turned around, the moonlight shone on her face. Recognizing her face, Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted to see that it was indeed Tao Hongying.

“Gugu,” he called out, “I am here,” and walked out from behind the earthen jar.

Tao Hongying rushed forward to meet him; holding her arms around him, she happily said, “Good child, finally you are here. Every night I come here to take a look, hoping that I may see your face earlier.

“Gugu,” Wei Xiaobao said, “There’s someone here who wants to see you.”

Tao Hongying was slightly taken aback; releasing her embrace, she asked, “Who is it?”

The nun in white stood up and said in a low voice, “Hongying, you … do you still recognize me?”

Tao Hongying did not expect there was someone else behind the earthen jar; she was startled and retreated three steps back, her right hand reached to her waist to draw a dagger. “Who … who are you?” she asked.

The nun in white sighed and said, “Turns out you don’t recognize me anymore.”

Tao Hongying said, “I … I can’t see your face; you … you are …”

The nun in white slightly turned her body sideways, so that the moonlight shone on half of her face. She said in low voice, “Your appearance has also changed a lot.”

With a trembling voice Tao Hongying said, “You are … you are …” Suddenly she threw her dagger away and called out, “Princess, is it you? I … I …” Throwing herself forward, she embraced the nun in white’s legs. Prostrating herself on the ground, she sobbed, “Princess, to be able to see you today, I … even if I have to die instantly, I … I will die happy.”

As soon as he heard the word ‘Princess’, to say that Wei Xiaobao was mildly surprised was a gross understatement. But immediately he recalled the story Tao Hongying had told him: she was a palace maid serving the previous dynasty, and all along had been attending Princess Chang. When the Roaming King Li Zicheng broke into Beijing, with a sword in his hand Chongzhen wanted to kill Princess Chang, but chopped her arm instead. In that confusion Tao Hongying passed out. By the time she regained her consciousness, the Emperor and the Princess had disappeared.

Wei Xiaobao cast a glance toward the nun in white, thinking, “She lost an arm, and she is very familiar with the situation of the Palace, plus she wept at the Kun Ning Palace; I should have guessed it early on. She appears this noble, how could she be a palace maid? I realized it only now; I am really stupid.”

He heard the nun in white asked, “Have you always lived in the Palace these days?”

Still sobbing, Tao Hongying replied, “Yes.”

The nun in white said, “This child says that you have assassinated the Tatars’ Empress Dowager; that’s very good. It’s just that … that you put yourself in trouble.” Speaking to this point, she could not stop the tears from streaming down her face.

Tao Hongying said, “Princess has a ‘ten-thousand gold body’, you must not stay in here. Let your servant escort you out of the Palace right away.”

The nun in white sighed and said, “I have not been a princess for a long time.”

“No, no,” Tao Hongying said, “In your servant’s heart, you are a princess forever, you are my Princess Chang.”

The nun in white let out a mournful laugh. Under the moonlight, the tears on her cheek glistened, making the laughter even more dismal. She said slowly, “Does anybody live in Ning Shou [peaceful long life] Palace nowadays? I want to take a look.”

Tao Hongying said, “Ning Shou Palace … nowadays is … is the residence of Tatars’ Princess Jianning. It’s just that these days, Tatars’ Emperor, Empress Dowager and the Princess are not in the Palace; I don’t know where they are. There are only several palace maids and court eunuchs remain in Ning Shou Palace; let your servant kill them all. Princess, please.” Ning Shou Palace was the princess’ personal quarter; it was precisely this Princess Changping of the Great Ming’s former residence.

The nun in white said, “You don’t need to kill anybody. We are only going to take a look.”

“Yes,” Tao Hongying said. She did not know that Princess Changping had mastered exceedingly good, arhat-like martial art; she thought that Wei Xiaobao brought her into the Palace in disguise. Having met her former master by accident, her heart was excited, she would not think twice about rushing onto a mountain of blades or going into a deep fryer for her, let alone only going to the Princess’ old residence.

Immediately the three of them went north, out of the Xi Tie [western iron] Gate, turned east passed the Shun Zhen [loyal] Gate, through Bei Wu Suo [northern five-building], the tea storehouse, arriving outside the Ning Shou Palace.

In a low voice Tao Hongying said, “Let your servant drive off the palace maids and the eunuchs.”

“No need,” the nun in white said. Stretching out her hand, she pushed the gate, the latch broke with only a light noise. The palace gate opened, the nun in white walked in.

Although the dynasty had changed, the Palace’s custom did not change at all. Since Ning Shou Palace was the nun in white’s old home, she knew very well where the palace maids and the court eunuchs were. Without waking up anybody, she sealed their acupoints one by one to make them lose their consciousness, before going to the princess’ bedroom.

Tao Hongying was pleasantly surprised. “Princess,” she said, “I did not expect your martial art skill to be this superb!”

The nun in white sat on the bed, thinking back of what had happened here more than twenty years ago, where once she drew a portrait of someone, and had shared the same pillow with this someone. And now the world was occupied by the Tatars, her own bedroom was occupied by a Tatar princess, while that someone was far away, in a remote area tens of thousand li away; this life, this age, it would be hard for them to meet each other again.

[Author’s note: for the story of Princess Changping of the Great Ming, please read my unworthy manuscript ‘Sword Stained with Royal Blood’.]

Tao Hongying and Wei Xiaobao waited on her on the side without making any noise. After quite a long time, the nun in white sighed and gravely said, “Light the candle.”

“Yes,” Tao Hongying said, and lit the candle.

They saw the wall, the table and chair, were full of sabers, swords, whips and other weapons, just like a room of a warrior; it did not look like a ‘golden branch, jade leaves’ princess’ bedroom at all.

The nun in white said, “Turns out this princess is also good at martial arts.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This Tatar princess has a very strange character; not only she loves to beat people, she also likes people beating her. But her martial art skill is sloppy and ordinary, she can’t even beat me.” He cast a glance toward the bed, recalling the day when he hid underneath the Princess’ quilt, and was seized by the Empress Dowager. If not for the Five-Dragon-Command fell down from his pocket, right now he would be a little eunuch in the underworld, serving Yanluo Wang’s princess.

The nun in white said in a soft voice, “My paintings, my books; did she throw everything away?”

“Yes,” Tao Hongying replied, “I am afraid that barbarian woman only knows several characters, what does she know about paintings and books?”

The nun in white raised her left arm, her sleeve waved lightly, the candle light was extinguished immediately. She said, “Come with me out of the Palace.”

“Yes,” Tao Hongying replied. And then she remembered something, “Princess,” she said, “Your skill is this superb, if you catch the Tatar Empress Dowager, you could compel her to hand over those several copies of sutra, then you could break the Tatars’ dragon vein.”

“What sutra? What Tatars’ dragon vein?” the nun in white asked.

Thereupon Tao Hongying briefly narrated the origin of the eight copies of the Forty-two-chapter Sutra. The nun in white silently listened to the end, and then after thinking deeply for half a day she said, “If those eight copies of sutra really hide such a great secret, with which we can break the Tatars’ dragon vein, then nothing can be better than that. When the Tatar Empress Dowager returns to the Palace, we will come again.”

The three of them left Ning Shou Palace, went out the Imperial Palace via the same wall bordering the northern thirteen-row, [Anybody familiar with the Forbidden City please feel free to jump in and help me out with these names] and returned to the inn to rest. Tao Hongying and the nun in white stayed in one room. After being separated for more than twenty years, tonight unexpectedly she could share the same room same bed with her former master, Tao Hongying was delighted beyond measure; how could she fall asleep again for the rest of the night?

Wei Xiaobao, on the other hand, was thinking, “I have five copies of sutra in my hands, one copy is in the Emperor’s hands, while the other two copies are unknown. This Princess Shitai wants to force the old wh0re to hand over the sutra; naturally she won’t be able to give her anything. I’d better in a few words urge Princess Shitai to kill her, and thus get rid of the nail in His Majesty’s and my eyes.”

For the next several days, the nun in white and Tao Hongying stayed in the inn without putting a foot outside. Every day Wei Xiaobao went out and asked around whether the Emperor had returned to the Palace. By the morning of the seventh day, he saw Prince Kang, Songgotu, Dolong, and the others leading a large group of Imperial Bodyguards, marching around several large sedan chairs, entering the Palace. Hence he knew the Emperor had returned. Sure enough, not too long afterwards, he saw parties of royal princes [qin wang bei lei] and ministers of various departments entering the Imperial Palace one after another, to pay their respects and wish the holy sage well.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the inn to report. “Very good,” the nun in white said, “I am going into the Palace tonight. Since the Tatar Emperor has returned, the security must be several times more strict than the last time. The two of you better stay in the inn and wait for me.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Princess Shitai, I am coming with you.”

Tao Hongying also said, “Your servant wishes to follow Princess. Your servant and this child is well-acquainted with the topography of the Palace, we won’t be in any danger.” Since she had been reunited with her former master, she was unwilling to part with her even for a single step, no matter what. The nun in white nodded, consenting to their request.

That night the three of them entered the Palace via the same route, and went straight to Ci Ning Palace [compassionate and peaceful] where the Empress Dowager resided. All around was extremely quiet, the nun in white led them circling around to the back of the palace. Grabbing Wei Xiaobao’s lower back, she leaped over the wall and landed without making any sound. When Tao Hongying leaped, the nun in white supported her waist with her left sleeve so that when she landed, she also did not make any noise.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to the side window of the Empress Dowager’s bedroom, indicating that that was where the Empress Dowager lived, and then he led them into the back garden. It was the dwelling place of Ci Ning Palace’s palace maids. They saw pale yellow light from all three windows of the building. The nun in white peeked inside from a crack on the window and saw a dozen or so palace maids were sitting side-by-side on a bench, each one lowered her head and knitted her eyebrows, unmoving as if they were in meditation. The nun in white quietly lifted up the curtain and entered the Empress Dowager’s bedroom. Wei Xiaobao and Tao Hongying followed her in.

Four red candles were shining on the table, but there was nobody inside. Tao Hongying said in a low voice, “Your servant has opened three suitcases and looked all-around the drawers, but did not even see the sutra’s shadow; that’s when the Tatar Empress Dowager and that fake palace maid walked in … Aiyo, somebody’s coming!”

Wei Xiaobao gave her sleeve a tug and hastily he ducked behind the bed. The nun in white nodded, with Tao Hongying she also hid behind the bed. They heard a female voice outside the room, “Ma, I have completed the task you asked me to do, what are you going to give me as a reward?” It was Princess Jianning’s voice.

And then they heard the Empress Dowager’s voice, “Ma sent you to do a small task, and you are asking for a reward. How unreasonable is that?” While talking, the two of them entered the bedroom.

Princess Jianning said, “Aiyo, so that was a small task? If Huangdi Gege found out, he would know that I took it; he would definitely be raging mad.”

The Empress Dowager sat down and said, “Just a Buddhist scripture, what’s the big deal? We went to Mount Wutai to offer sacrifice, it was for the purpose of asking the Bodhisattva to bless and protect. When we return to the Palace, we must continue chanting the sutras and praying to Buddha, only then will the Bodhisattva be happy.”

The Princess said, “If it’s not a big deal, then I can tell Huangdi Gege that you sent me to get his Forty-two-chapter Sutra, to be used for chanting the sutras and praying to Buddha, to ask the Bodhisattva to bless and protect his country so that it prospers and the people at peace, and Huangdi Gege will live a long, long live.”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. “Wonderful,” he mused, “Turns out you sent the Princess to steal the sutra.” But then he realized that his luck was not good; if he did not come with the nun in white this time, most likely the sutra will fall into his hands, but now he had no hope.

The Empress Dowager said, “You have agreed. If the Emperor came to ask me, I will deny everything. Little child babbling nonsense, which one he will believe?”

Princess Jianning said, “Aiyo, Ma, you want to renege on your words? The sutra is obviously in here.”

The Empress Dowager sneered and said, “That’s easy. I will simply toss it into the stove and have it burned.”

The Princess laughed and said, “Alright, alright. I always say that I can’t win against you. Stingy mother, if you don’t want to reward me, then so be it; why did you bully your daughter?”

“You already have everything, what reward might you want from me?” Empress Dowager asked.

“I have everything, only one thing’s lacking,” the Princess replied.

“What’s lacking?” Empress Dowager asked.

“I lack a little eunuch to accompany me playing,” the Princess said.

The Empress Dowager laughed. “Little eunuch,” she said, “There are hundreds of them in the Palace; if you are lacking one who can accompany you playing, just send for one; and you are still dissatisfied?”

“No,” the princess said, “Those little eunuchs are extremely stupid, they are not fun at all. I want the little eunuch who’s serving Huangdi Gege, Xiao Guizi …”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was shaken, “Unexpectedly this dead girl still remembers me,” he mused, “Accompanying her playing is not an easy task. Once I am not careful, laozi will deliver my old life.”

He heard the princess continued, “I asked Huangdi Gege, he said that he had sent Xiao Guizi out of the Capital on a mission. But it’s been so long and he is not back yet. Ma, go talk to the Emperor, tell him to give Xiao Guizi to me.”

Wei Xiaobao cursed her in his heart, “Demon girl, she wants to get me. If laozi fell into your hands, if in a day I don’t have seventeen, eighteen cuts and bruises, laozi will change my surname to yours. Aiyo, what’s the Princess’ surname? Princess has the same surname as the young emperor, what’s the Emperor’s real surname? Laozi is really muddle-headed, I don’t know these things.”

The Empress Dowager said, “The Emperor sent Xiao Guizi on a mission; how did you know? What mission?”

“I actually know this one,” Princess Jianning said, “I heard the Imperial Bodyguards said that Xiao Guizi is on Mount Wutai.”

“Ah!” the Empress Dowager cried out softly, “He … he is on Mount Wutai? How come we did not see him this time?”

The Princess said, “It was only after we were back at the Palace that I heard the Imperial Bodyguards mentioning about it, but I don’t know what mission Huangdi Gege was sending him for. I heard the Imperial Bodyguards were saying that Huangdi Gege has given him another promotion.”

“Hm,” the Empress Dowager was silent for half a day. “Very well,” she said, “As soon as he is back at the Palace, I will talk to the Emperor.” She sounded indifferent, apparently she did not really mean what she said. “It’s late,” she said, “Go back and sleep.”

“Ma,” the Princess said, “I am not coming back, I want to sleep with you.”

“You are not a baby,” the Empress Dowager said, “Why don’t you want to go back to your room?”

“My room is haunted,” the Princess said, “I am scared!”

“Nonsense!” the Empress Dowager said, “What do you mean haunted?”

“Ma, really,” the Princess said, “My palace’s palace maids and eunuchs all said that a few nights ago everybody was bewitched; when they went to sleep, they slept straight to midday of the second day before they finally woke up, and everybody had a nightmare.”

“How can there be such thing?” the Empress Dowager said, “Don’t listen to the servants’ nonsense. When we are not in the Palace, the servants are scared, hence they are terribly suspicious and fearful [orig. ‘suspect the gods and suspect the ghosts’]. Quickly go back.” The Princess did not dare to say anything else; she wished her well and then withdrew.

The Empress Dowager sat by the table with her cheek resting on her palm. She stared blankly at the candle flame, lost in thought. After a long time, she turned her head around and saw two shadows on the wall; the shadows were dancing following the flickering candle light. She thought it was due to her dimmed vision. But when she focused her attention, she still saw two shadows; one was her own, the other shadow was right next to her own. Her shock was not a small matter; thinking that she had killed many people, she could not stop the hair on her body to stand up. Although she knew martial art, unexpectedly she did not dare to turn her head around.

After quite a while, she thought, “Ghosts do not have shadow, if it has shadow, it is not ghost.” But when she held her breath to listen, to her surprise, she did not hear the second person breathing by her side. She was so scared that her hands and feet went weak, she was unable to move a single step. Staring at two shadows on the wall, she almost fainted.

Suddenly she heard a faint breathing behind the head; she was delighted, and instantly turned her head around. She saw a nun wearing white clothes was sitting on the table opposite to her, her pair of beautiful eyes was staring at her, her appearance was delicate and pretty, but her expression was wooden; momentarily she could not tell whether this nun was a person or a ghost.

With a trembling voice the Empress Dowager said, “You … who are you? Why … why are you here?”

The nun in white did not answer. A moment later, she coldly said, “Who are you? Why are you here?”

Hearing her speaking, the Empress Dowager’s fright diminished somewhat. “This is the inner courtyard of the Imperial Palace,” she said, “You … how dare you?”

The nun in white coldly said, “You’re right, this is the inner courtyard of the Imperial Palace. What ‘thing’ are you? How dare you come in here?”

The Empress Dowager angrily said, “I am the Empress Dowager; a witch from what place are you?”

The nun in white reached out and placed her right hand on the Forty-two-chapter Sutra in front of the Empress Dowager, and slowly took it. “Take off your hand!” the Empress Dowager shouted. ‘Whoosh!’ she sent a strike toward her face.

The nun in white flipped her right hand and met her palm head-on. The Empress Dowager staggered, she was forced to leave her chair and stand up. “Good,” she hissed, “Turns out you are a Wulin martial art master.” Since she now know that the opponent was a human and not a ghost, her fear was gone. ‘Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!’ she sent out four palm strikes in succession.

The nun in white was still sitting on the chair; without standing up, she calmly put the sutra in her pocket first before lifting up her palm to neutralize the Empress Dowager’s four attacks one by one. Seeing her taking the sutra, the Empress Dowager was alarmed and angered at the same time. Increasing the strength of her palm, successively she sent out seven, eight more moves rapidly. The nun in white parried the attacks one by one, but all along she did not counterattack. The Empress Dowager reached down along her right leg, a short blade, glittering like frost and snow suddenly appeared in her hand.

Wei Xiaobao was watching with rapt attention; he saw the blade in the Empress Dowager’s hand was the platinum steel alloy Emei Sting with which she killed Hai Dafu the other day. With the weapon in her hand, her courage soared, she repeatedly stabbed the nun in white. A series of whooshing noise was heard, the palm hacked, the sting stabbed, the bedroom was filled with flickering white lights. Wei Xiaobao said in a low voice, “Let me get out to warn her not to harm Shitai.”

Tao Hongying pulled him down and said in a low voice, “No need!”

They saw the nun in white was still sitting steadily on the chair, the forefinger of her right hand pierced to the east and jabbed to the west, warding off the Empress Dowager’s swift and fierce attacks one by one. The Empress Dowager abruptly advanced and abruptly retreated, she abruptly leaped up and abruptly crouched down with extreme speed; the wind from her palms forced the flame of the four candles to lean backward. Suddenly the room darkened, from four candles, two went out. A few more stances later, the other two also went out.

In the darkness, the sound of palms seemed louder, intermingled with the Empress Dowager’s heavy breathing. Suddenly they heard the nun in white’s cold voice, “You are the Empress Dowager, where did you learn martial art from?”

The Empress Dowager did not answer, but still doing her utmost to attack. Suddenly ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’, there were four ringing slapping noise, apparently the Empress Dowager was slapped on her face four times; followed by an ‘Ah!’ as she cried out with a voice brimming with fury mixed with panic. After this sudden burst of noise, the room went completely silent.

In the darkness, suddenly there was a spark, as the nun in white lighted the flint [orig. ‘fire booklet’] in her hand. The Empress Dowager kneeled stiffly in front of her, unmoving. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “The old wh0re must be killed today,” he thought.

They saw the nun in white lightly tossed the flint upward, the flame flew several chi up, her left sleeve waved, the flint was carried by the wind generated by the sleeve, it flew slowly toward the candle, unexpectedly the four candles were lighted one by one, as if an invisible hand was holding the flint. The nun in white waved her sleeve inward, a burst of puling force sucked the flint back to her, which she received with her right hand. After gently blowing off the fire, she put the flint back into her bosom. Wei Xiaobao was dumbstruck in watching this; in his heart he was prostrating himself in admiration.

The Empress Dowager’s acupoints were sealed that she was kneeling on the floor, her face alternated between swollen-colored purple and deathly pale as she said in a low voice, “Just kill me quickly; torturing others like this is not the conduct of a martial art master.”

“That’s strange,” the nun in white said, “Your martial art skill is from the Snake Island. How can a person with such a noble rank deep inside the Palace have any relationship with the Shen Long Jiao [Divine Dragon Cult]?”

Wei Xiaobao was secretly amazed; he thought that this Shitai did not seem to know anything, but next time he lied to her, he must be extra careful.

The Empress Dowager said, “I don’t know anything about Shen Long Jiao. My negligible martial art skill was taught by a eunuch in the Palace.”

“Eunuch?” the nun in white said, “How can a eunuch in the Imperial Palace have any relation with Shen Long Jiao? What’s his name?”

“He is called Hai Dafu,” the Empress Dowager replied, “He has died a long time ago.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed heartily in his heart; he mused, “The old wh0re talks utter rubbish; if she knew that I am hiding in here, she would not dare to broadcast such a gargantuan lie.”

“Hai Dafu?” the nun in white muttered to herself, “I have never heard of such character. Just now you attacked me with seven palm strikes in succession, the power behind your palm was dark and sinister; what kind of palm technique was that?”

The Empress Dowager said, “According to my Shifu, it was Wudang Pai martial art; it is called … it is called the Soft Cloud Palm.”

The nun in white shook her head. “No, it’s not,” she said, “It was the ‘Transforming Bones Soft Palm’. Wudang Pai is a prestigious upright sect, how can they have such a sinister and ruthless skill like that?”

“Shitai is right,” the Empress Dowager said, “It was what Shifu told me. I … I did not know that.” Seeing the nun in white’s profound martial art skill and her extensive knowledge, the reverence in her heart grew; the way she talked was also more polite.

The nun in white asked, “Using this kind of palm technique, how many people have you harmed?”

The Empress Dowager replied, “I … junior has always been deep in the Palace; training martial art is only to strengthen my body, I have never injured a single person.”

“Shameless,” Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “Blowing your horn loudly does not need any capital.”

He heard she continued, “Shitai, please understand, junior has always had others to protect me, in all my life I have never fought anybody. Fighting against Shitai tonight was the very first time. The martial art that junior learned has never been used the least bit.”

The nun in white smiled and said, “Your martial art skill can be considered not bad at all.”

The Empress Dowager said, “Junior is a frog at the bottom of a well; if I did not see Shitai’s exceptional divine skill, how would I know that the world is so big?”

“Oh,” the nun in white said, “That eunuch Hai Dafu, when did he die? Who killed him?”

The Empress Dowager said, “He … he passed away many years ago, he died of illness because of his age.”

The nun in white said, “Although you yourself have not done any evil, but you, Manchurian Tatars occupy our Great Ming’s rivers and mountains, you have caused the death of our Great Ming’s Son of Heaven. You are the first Tatar Emperor’s wife, the second Tatar Emperor’s mother; I can’t spare you.”

The Empress Dowager was shocked; with a trembling voice she said, “Shi … Shitai, junior did not give birth to the current Emperor. His birth mother was Empress Xiao Kang, who had died a long time ago.”

The nun in white nodded. “So that’s how it is,” she said, “But as Shunzhi’s wife, when he massacred thousands upon thousands Han people, why didn’t you persuade him even for one sentence?”

The Empress Dowager said, “Shitai, please understand, the former Emperor only doted on that foxy charmer Imperial Concubine Dong’e [Donggo]; it was difficult for junior to even see the Emperor. It is truly beyond my ability to persuade him.”

The nun in white silently contemplated for a while; and then she said, “What you said is not without reason. I won’t kill you today …”

The Empress Dowager said, “Thank you very much Shitai, for your kindness in not killing me. From now on junior will surely chant the sutra and pray to Buddha daily. That … that Buddhist scripture, would Shitai return it to me?”

“What do you want that copy of Forty-two-chapter Sutra for?” the nun in white asked.

The Empress Dowager said, “Junior will reverently worship Buddha, from now on, for the rest of my years, I will chant the sutra day and night.”

The nun in white said, “Forty-two-chapter Sutra is a very common scripture, no matter which temple or monastery you go, you will find at least ten or eight copies; why do you insist on having this copy?”

The Empress Dowager said, “Shitai did not know it. This sutra was the one the late Emperor read aloud every day and evening in the past; junior do not forget old affection, I regard this sutra as the late Emperor.”

“That’s not right,” the nun in white said, “When you are chanting the sutra to worship Buddha, your heart and mind must be empty, you must not have the slightest degree of entanglement with predestined love. When you are chanting the sutra while remembering your deceased husband, what good will that bring?”

“Thank you Shitai, for giving directions,” the Empress Dowager said, “It’s just that … it’s just that junior is simple-minded, I cannot break away from old entanglement.”

A mysterious gleam suddenly appeared in the nun in white’s eyes; she asked, “What exactly is the strange thing about this sutra? Tell me truthfully.”

The Empress Dowager said, “Really … really it is junior’s infatuation. Although the Late Emperor did not treat junior well, but all along I cannot forget him. Seeing this sutra every day somewhat eases up the pain of missing him.”

The nun in white sighed and said, “Since you persist in your own wrong doings and unwilling to tell the truth, it is entirely up to you.” Her left sleeve flicked, the tip of the sleeve struck the Empress Dowager’s body, the sealed acupoints immediately opened.

The Empress Dowager said, “Thank you Shitai for showing mercy!” And she kowtowed before standing up.

The nun in white said, “I did not show any mercy. After your ‘Transforming Bones Soft Palm’ hit someone, then what happen?”

The Empress Dowager said, “That eunuch had never told me, he only said that this palm technique is very fierce, not too many people in the world can resist it.”

“Hm,” the nun in white said, “Just now you attacked me with seven palm strikes, I did not resist it at all; I only return the palm power of those seven ‘Transforming Bones Soft Palm’. Where it came from is where it would return. Since the palm power came from you, then it returned to you. This matter is your own doing, you are reaping what you have sown, you must not blame anybody else.”

The Empress Dowager could not stop her soul from flying out of her body. Naturally she knew very well the fierceness of this ‘Transforming Bones Soft Palm’; when one was hit with this palm power, all the bones in one’s body would turn soft, the bones would break into one cun segments [approx. 1 inch], until finally the entire body would be like silk floss, so that one could not even lift one finger. She had struck Imperial Concubine Dong’e, her sister, and Imperial Concubine Dong’e’s son, Prince Rong, with this palm power. She had witnessed with her own eyes the miserable condition of these three people at the point of their death. This nun in white’s martial art skill was this superb, plus the ability to return the enemy’s palm power to the enemy’s body was quite common in the martial art study, so her statement must not be false. This kind of person would indeed be able to return the seven palm strikes of ‘Transforming Bones Soft Palm’ onto her body.

When she attacked just now, for fear that her power was not fierce enough, she had exhausted her entire strength. Just one palm strike would be unendurable, much less seven palm strikes in a row? In that instant she was extremely frightened; dropping on her knees, she called out, “Shitai, please save my life.”

The nun in white sighed and said, “You have brought it upon yourself, you must resolve it yourself, other people are powerless.”

The Empress Dowager kowtowed and said, “I am still hoping for Shitai’s mercy, please give me direction to the bright road.”

The nun in white said, “You conceal everything, you are unwilling to tell the truth. The bright road is right in front of your eyes, yet you are unwilling to take; who are you going to blame? Even if I have mercy in my heart, it is only for my fellow Han people. You are a Tatar Manchu woman, there is a deep enmity between you and me; by not killing you with my own hand, I have already shown you extreme mercy.” Finished speaking, she stood up.

The Empress Dowager knew the opportunity was fleeting; as soon as this person left, the several days before her own death would be unspeakably unbearable. In that split second, the sight of Imperial Concubine Dong’e and her sister’s ten thousand anguish at the death’s door, where they were tossing about on the bed in excruciating pain, appeared in her eyes. She could not help but shivering all over. “Shi … Shitai,” she called out, “I am not a Tatar, I am … I am …”

“You are what?” the nun in white asked.

The Empress Dowager said, “I am … I am … a Han.”

“Up to this point you are still spouting nonsense,” the nun in white said, “How can a Han fill the post of Tatar Empress?”

“I am not talking nonsense,” the Empress Dowager replied, “The current Emperor’s birth mother came from Tong Jiashi, her father Tong Tulai was from Han army banner, he was a Han.”

The nun in white said, “She was a nobility because of giving birth to a son; I heard that she was originally an imperial concubine, not the Empress at all. She had never been an empress, it was after her son became the Emperor that she was granted the posthumous title as the Empress.”

With bowed head the Empress Dowager said, “Yes.” Seeing the nun in white took a step to leave, she anxiously said, “Shitai, I am really a Han; I … I hate the Tatars to the bones.”

“And why is that?” the nun in white asked.

The Empress Dowager said, “This is a very big secret, I … I shouldn’t say it, but … but …”

The nun in white said, “Since you shouldn’t say it, then don’t say it.”

At this very moment the Empress Dowager was like having the fire burned her eyebrows; if she blew this matter, the rest would not matter anymore. Clenching her teeth, she said, “I am a fake Empress Dowager, I … I am not the real Empress Dowager!”

As soon as she said that, no doubt the nun in white was shocked, but Wei Xiaobao who was hiding behind the bed was even more shocked. The nun in white slowly sank back down into the chair and asked, “What do you mean you are a fake?”

The Empress Dowager said, “My father and mother were harmed by the Tatars, I have mortal hatred toward the Tatars. I was forced to enter the Palace to be a palace maid, to serve the Empress. Afterwards … afterwards I impersonated the Empress.”

The more Wei Xiaobao listened, the more he was amazed, he thought, “This old wh0re courage in telling lies is indeed not small, she even dares to speak this kind of ridiculous talk. Blabbering nonsense like that, the old wh0re has not even entered my White Dragon Gate, yet she has completely mastered the Zhangmenshi [emissary to the sect leader, see Chapter 20] Little White Dragon’s consummate skill in blowing his horn. I entered the Palace posing as a little eunuch, could it be that she really entered the Palace posing as the Empress Dowager?”

He heard the Empress Dowager said, “The real Empress Dowager is a Manchu, her surname is Borjigit [bo’er ji ji te], the daughter of Horqin [ke’er qin] Beilei [royal prince]. Junior’s father is surnamed Mao, he was a Han from Hangzhou, Zhejiang, a Great General of the Great Ming, Mao Wenlong. Junior’s name is Mao Dongzhu [lit. eastern pearl].”

The nun in white was startled. “You are Mao Wenlong’s daughter?” she asked, “The Mao Wenlong who guarded the Pi [lit. leather/skin/fur] Island?”

“Exactly,” the Empress Dowager replied, “My father fought the Tatars for many years; later on he was killed by the Great Commander Yuan Chonghuan. Actually … actually it was due to the Tatars’ stratagem of sowing dissension.”

“Oh,” the nun in white said, “This is indeed a fantastic story. How can you impersonate the Empress Dowager for many years without anybody discovering it?”

The Empress Dowager said, “Junior has served the Empress for many years. I managed to learn her speech intonation, her expressions and mannerism rather well. This facial appearance of mine is also fake.” While saying that, she walked to the bedside desk and picked up an embroidered handkerchief, which she then soaked it with the water inside a golden case; and then she wiped her face rigorously. She also peeled off two pieces of human-skin-like substance from her cheeks. Her facial appearance immediately changed completely. Originally her face was round and rather plump, suddenly it turned into melon-seed shape and quite thin, her eye sockets were rather deep.

“Ah!” the nun in white exclaimed; she was very shocked. “Indeed your appearance is greatly different.” After hesitating for a moment, she asked, “But impersonating the Empress was not an easy matter after all. Are you saying that even the palace maids who were very close to the Empress did not recognize you? What about your husband?”

“My husband?” the Empress Dowager said, “The late Emperor only doted on that foxy charmer Imperial Concubine Dong’e, one person. In the last several years, he had never spent even one night in the Empress’ place here. He had never given the real Empress a look, naturally he did not give the fake empress any look at all.” Her voice was filled with bitterness and pain; she also said, “Let’s not mention that I impersonated her really well, even if my look was completely different, how could he know?”

The nun in white nodded slightly; she asked, “So those palace maids and court eunuchs who served the Empress also did not recognize you?”

The Empress Dowager said, “As soon as junior has the Empress under my control, I had her to change all the palace maids and court eunuchs of the Ci Ning Palace with the new ones. I very seldom went out, when I occasionally had to, according the Palace’s regulations, palace maids and court eunuchs would not dare to look at me directly. Even if they stole a look from a distance, how could they tell the fake from the real?”

The nun in white suddenly remembered something. “That’s not right,” she said, “You said the Old Emperor had never paid attention to you, but … but you gave birth to the Princess.”

“That girl is not the Emperor’s,” the Empress Dowager said, “Her father was a Han; sometimes he would sneak into the Palace to see me, dressed as a palace maid. This man … not too long ago he met a misfortune … unfortunately he died of illness.”

Tao Hongying pinched Wei Xiaobao’s palm; they both thought, “There was indeed a man who dressed as a palace maid, but he did not die of illness.”

Wei Xiaobao also thought, “No wonder the Princess is so barbarous in creating trouble, turns out she is a b@stard daughter of that fake palace maid. The Old Emperor is benevolent and gentle, his daughter cannot have that kind of manner.”

The nun in white thought, “You suddenly got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, if the Old Emperor did not have any sexual intercourse with you, how could he not grow suspicious?” It’s just that it was kind of private question, plus she left home to be a nun when she was still virgin, so she could not ask the question. She considered further, “Since this woman has been deliberately and methodically thinking it through to impersonate the Empress, as soon as she found out that she was pregnant, she would find a way to cover it up; I need not examine her in details.” Shaking her head, she said, “All along you have not been telling the truth.”

The Empress Dowager anxiously said, “Senior, even in a shameful matter like that I have told you the truth, what else do I dare to conceal from you?”

The nun in white said, “If that’s the case, then you must have killed the real Empress. Your hands must be reeking with quite a bit of blood.”

The Empress Dowager said, “Junior chants the sutras and worship Buddha; although I harbor deep hatred toward the Tatars, I do not dare to kill people carelessly. The real Empress Dowager is still alive and well.”

This statement was completely beyond the three people’s, in front and behind the bed, anticipation. “She is still alive?” the nun in white asked, “Aren’t you afraid she might reveal your secret?”

The Empress Dowager walked to the front of a big hanging rug. She pulled a woolen cord next to it, the hanging rug slowly rolled up, revealing two-leaved wardrobe door. From her bosom the Empress Dowager fished a golden key, and opened the lock of the wardrobe door. When she opened the wardrobe door, everybody could see a woman was reclining inside, her body was covered in embroidered quilt.

The nun in white softly exclaimed in shock. “She … she is the real Empress Dowager?” she asked.

The Empress Dowager said, “Senior, please look at her appearance,” while fetching a candle-holder and let the candlelight illuminating the woman’s face.

The nun in white saw that the woman’s countenance was extremely wan and sallow, there was not the least bit trace of blood on it, but her facial features were extremely similar to the fake Empress Dowager before she took off her disguise.

The woman slowly opened her eyes, but immediately closed them again. She said in a low voice, “I won’t tell you. You … you kill me quickly.”

The Empress Dowager said, “I have never killed anybody, how can I kill you?” While saying that, she closed the wardrobe door and let down the hanging rug.

“You have her locked up in here for many years?” the nun in white asked.

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied.

“What do you press her to tell you?” the nun in white asked, “It is because she firmly refused to tell you that you have kept her alive until today. As soon as she tells you, you will immediately kill her, will you not?”

“No, no,” the Empress Dowager replied, “Junior knew that Buddhist teaching admonishes against taking life. I often fast and eat vegetarian dishes, I can’t possibly harm her life.”

“Humph,” the nun in white snorted, “You think I am a three-year-old child that doesn’t understand your thought? This woman is locked up in here, she poses a danger to you at all times, you did not kill her, there must be an important scheme here. If she shouted from inside the wardrobe, won’t your plot fall through and stand exposed immediately?”

“She won’t dare to shout,” the Empress Dowager said, “I told her that if this secret was leaked, I would kill the Old Emperor first; and then when the Old Emperor died, I told her I would kill the young Emperor. This Tatar woman is really loyal and devoted to those two Emperors, she won’t let them receive any harm.”

“What is it exactly that you wanted her to tell you?” the nun in white asked, “She did not want to speak, why didn’t you use the Emperor’s life to threaten her?”

The Empress Dowager said, “She told me that if I harmed the Emperor, she would immediately go on a hunger strike to kill herself. She does not stop eating only because I promised her I won’t harm the Emperor.”

The nun in white considered this matter carefully: these two real and fake Empress Dowager, one threatens by killing herself by going on a hunger strike, the other threatens by harming the Emperor, both are afraid of the other, they are locked in a stalemate for many years; it is indeed a deadlock. It is reasonable to say that the real Empress Dowager is also a dangerous character, nothing of her should be allowed to remain, after she is killed, her corpse must be burned to ashes, so that she won’t leave even half a trace. Unexpectedly she is still allowed to live in the Palace, it must be because she is still holding on to a big secret, which all along she refuses to tell. It is obvious that this secret must be very important. She asked, “My original question to you, you keep talking about this and that, but never give me a straight answer. What exactly did you force her to tell you?”

“Yes, yes,” the Empress Dowager said, “This big secret concerns the rise and fall of the Tatars. The Tatars’ dragon flourished in Liaodong (Peninsula); they managed to occupy our Great Ming’s world because their ancestors’ feng shui was exceedingly good. Junior found out that on the Changbai Mountain of Liaodong Peninsula, there is a dragon vein of the Aisin Gioro[4] Clan. By digging and breaking this dragon vein, not only we can recover the Han family’s mountains and rivers, everything that the Tatars have inside the pass will be destroyed as well.”

The nun in white nodded; thinking that this story corresponds with what Tao Hongying had told her earlier. She asked, “Where is the location of this Dragon Vein?”

“That is exactly the big secret,” the Empress Dowager replied, “When the late Emperor died, the young Emperor was still little, he did not understand anything, while Imperial Concubine Dong’e, whom he most doted on, had already died before him; therefore, he told this big secret to the Empress, telling her to wait until the young Emperor grew up, and then she is supposed to inform him. At that time junior was the palace maid serving the Empress, I overheard the late Emperor and the Empress’ conversation, but I was unable to hear the whole thing. I only want to ascertain this matter, and then assemble a group of warriors with aspiration, to go to Changbai Mountain to break the dragon vein, and then my Great Ming’s world might recover.”

The nun in white said doubtfully, “The matter of feng shui and dragon vein is vague, with nothing to support it; it is very difficult to believe. Our Great Ming lost the world because the successive dynasties’ administration was bad, they treated the common people harshly, to such an extent that the government official drove the people to revolt. I understood this truth clearly only after I travelled to the four winds these past several years.”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager said, “Shitai understands this affair thoroughly, although it is beyond junior’s reach. However, in order to recover our Great Ming’s world, I would rather believe the matter of feng shui and dragon vein than not believe it at all. If we can dig the dragon vein, the worst that can happen is that we don’t do the Tatars any damage. However, if this matter is effective for real, won’t we be able to save the thousands upon thousands common people throughout the world from the deep water and scorching fire?”

The nun in white appeared emotionally moved; she nodded and said, “What you said is true. Whether this matter is real or not, we cannot know it now. Even if it is useless, there won’t be any harm done. We only need to make this matter known all over the world, the Tatars ruler and his ministers firmly believe in this dragon vein, their hearts would be discouraged first, and if that time we conspire to recover the nation, everybody will have an additional layer of confidence. So the thing you press the real Empress Dowager is actually this big secret?”

“Precisely,” the Empress Dowager said, “But this s1ut understands that this matter correlate with her offspring’s foundation, she would rather die than disclosing it. No matter how junior tried to swindle her gently or threaten her with force, I have exhausted everything, yet all along she would rather die than talking.”

The nun in white took out the Forty-two-chapter Sutra from her bosom and said, “You must ask her, where are the other copies of this sutra?”

The Empress Dowager jumped in fright; she retreated two steps back, and said in a trembling voice, “You … you knew?”

The nun in white said, “The big secret is hidden in this sutra. How many copies do you have in your hands?”

The Empress Dowager said, “Shitai’s magical power is remarkable, nothing escape your knowledge, junior does not dare to conceal anything. Originally I had three; the first was given by the Late Emperor to Imperial Concubine Dong’e. After she died, junior had it in here. The other two were taken from the home of the treacherous court official Oboi. But one night there was an assassin in the Palace, my chest was stabbed, and those three copies were stolen. Shitai may see it for yourself.” While saying that, she untied her outer garment, undergarment and dudou[5], to reveal an enormous scar on the pit of her stomach.

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was pounding. “If this interrogation continues, I am afraid Shitai’s suspicion will fall on me,” he mused.

He heard the nun in white said, “I know who tried to assassinate you, but this person did not take those three copies of sutra at all.” She thought that if those three copies of sutra were taken by Tao Hongying, she could not possibly conceal it from her.

The Empress Dowager was startled. “The assassin did not steal the sutra?” she asked, “Then who stole those three copies of sutra? This … this is really strange.”

“You want to speak up or not, it’s entirely up to you,” the nun in white said.

The Empress Dowager replied, “Shitai hates the Tatars to the bones, you also have remarkable magical power, if this big secret can be handed over to you, the Senior can take charge of this situation and dig the Tatars’ dragon vein. It is something that I always seek but fail to achieve. How can junior hide it from you? Besides, all eight copies of the sutra must be obtained before the location of the dragon vein can be found. Right now there is one copy already in Shitai’s hand; even if junior have three copies, what good would that bring?”

The nun in white coldly said, “Whatever scheme you have in your heart, I don’t need to take the trouble to guess. Since you are the daughter of Mao Wenlong of Pi Island, you must have a deep relationship with Shen Long Jiao.”

With a trembling voice the Empress Dowager said, “No, I … I don’t. Junior … has never heard of Shen Long Jiao.”

The nun in white stared at her for a moment; and then she said, “I am going to teach you a formula to disperse the power in your body. Every day, morning, noon and night, three times you must strike a tree according to this method. Each time nine by nine, eighty-one strikes; perhaps the sinister palm power of the ‘Transforming Bones Soft Palm’ in your body will be dispersed.”

The Empress Dowager was greatly delighted; she kneeled down and kowtowed again to express her gratitude. Right away the nun in white passed on the theory; she said, “From now on, as soon as you use your internal strength trying to harm someone, the bones in your body will immediately break to pieces, then nobody can save you.”

“Yes,” the Empress Dowager replied in a low voice; she looked dejected.

Wei Xiaobao was bursting with joy; “When I see the old wh0re hereafter, even if I do not have the Five Dragon Command, I don’t need to be afraid of her.”

The nun in white brushed her sleeve to seal her consciousness acupoint; immediately the Empress Dowager’s eyeballs rolled back until only the white was visible, she fell backward and fainted. “Come out,” the nun in white said in a low voice. Wei Xiaobao and Tao Hongying came out from behind the bed.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Shitai, this woman speaks three parts the truth, seven parts lies. You must not believe her.”

The nun in white nodded and said, “The secret hidden in the sutra concerns not only the Tatars’ dragon vein, but money and treasures as well, which she intentionally did not mention.”

“Let me look around,” Wei Xiaobao said. He pretended to look to the east and search to the west, he uncovered the beddings, and saw the copper ring on the wooden board covering the secret compartment. “The sutra’s here!” he said in a low voice.

Pulling the wooden board up, he saw the secret compartment was hiding not a few of jewels and banknotes, but there was no sutra. He sighed and said, “No sutra! What good does these jewels for?”

“Take the jewels,” the nun in white said, “We will need the money for the future uprising.”

Tao Hongying took all the jewels and money and put them inside an embroidered bundle, which she then handed over to the nun in white. Wei Xiaobao thought, “This time the old wh0re is really bankrupt.” He thought further, “How come there was no jewels or banknotes in the secret compartment last time? Ah right, last time I only had my eyes on the sutra and did not see other stuffs. What a pity, what a pity!”

The nun in white said to Tao Hongying, “This woman impersonated the Empress Dowager, most likely she has other scheme. You hide in the Palace and make a thorough investigation. Luckily she has lost her martial art skill, there is nothing to fear.”

Tao Hongying complied. Actually, after meeting her former master only for a short time, and now they had to part, she was really reluctant to leave.

The nun in white took Wei Xiaobao leaping over the wall and returning to the inn. She took the sutra out to examine it. This copy of sutra had a yellow silk envelope, it was precisely the one Emperor Shunzhi ordered Wei Xiaobao to take to Kangxi. The nun in white opened the cover and saw on the first page four large characters ‘never raise taxes’ [yong bu jia fu]. She nodded and said to Wei Xiaobao, “You said that the Tatar Emperor will ‘never raise taxes’, those four characters are indeed written in here.”

She flipped the book page by page. The Forty-two-chapter Sutra was a very short scripture, each chapter only has several lines, but the characters were very big, so that each chapter filled one or sometimes two pages. She knew this scripture like the back of her hand; after reading every word from top to bottom one time through, she did not find anything different from the one she was already familiar with. Holding it near the candlelight, she did not see any writing between the lines. After pondering over it for a long time, she noticed that the inside was only several dozen pages, but the front and back covers were actually a lot thicker than the inside. Suddenly she remembered how Yuan Chengzhi obtained the ‘Golden Serpent Manual’ in the past. Immediately she use fresh water to moisten the outer skin of the cover, and gently peeled it off. She saw the inside was actually two layers of sheepskin, sewed together on all four sides with silk yarn. When she disassembled the silk thread, she saw more than a hundred cut pieces of extremely thin sheepskin.

Wei Xiaobao called out delightedly, “That’s it, that’s it! This is the big secret.”

The nun in white spread the pieces on the table. She saw some of the pieces were big some were small, some were square some were round, some were triangular in shape, some were diamond-shaped. On some of the pieces, a lot of red curvy lines were drawn; on some others, Manchurian characters were written in black ink. However, all the drawings and characters were cut, nothing was complete, the more than a hundred pieces did not match with each other, so that it was hard to put together.

Wei Xiaobao said, “It looks like each copy of the sutra hides pieces of leather, only when all eight copies are obtained will we be able to put together a complete map.”

“I think so,” the nun in white said. She put all the pieces together back into the original two layers of sheepskin envelope, wrapped it securely in embroidered cloth, and put it into her inner pocket.

The next day the nun in white took Wei Xiaobao leaving the Capital heading west. They arrived at the graveyard on Mount Jinping in Changping County. It was where the Emperor Chongzhen was buried. In front of the tomb, wild grass was growing very thick, making the grave looked very desolate. Along the way the nun in white did not utter a single word, but now she was unable to show restraint anymore; she threw herself in front of the grave and cried out loudly.

Wei Xiaobao also kneeled down and kowtowed. Suddenly he felt that the tall grass by side was moving. Turning his head around, he saw green skirt. It was the green skirt that Wei Xiaobao thought about millions of time during the day, the green skirt that he had dreamt about thousands of time during the night. As he suddenly saw the skirt this moment, his heart jumped. He was afraid it was just a dream, hence temporarily he did not dare to look.

He heard a tender and delicate voice calling out something, and then he heard, “Finally you are here; I … I have been waiting in here for three days.” And then she sighed and said, “But you must not grieve too much.”

It was precisely the girl in green’s voice. As soon as this gentle, tender voice entered his ears, Wei Xiaobao immediately felt as if the sky spins, the earth goes round, he felt his entire body was about to burst into pieces just like the pieces of leather inside the Forty-two-chapter sutra; some were big some were small, some were square some were round, some were triangular in shape, some were diamond-shaped.

“Yes, yes,” he said, “You have been waiting for me for three days, thank you very much, thank you very much. I … as soon as I heard your voice, I am not grieving anymore.” While saying that, he stood up, and in a glance saw that it was indeed the lovely countenance of that green-clothed girl, whose gracefulness was beyond compare; only her gentle and soft expression suddenly turned into astonishment, and then turned into anger.

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “I also miss you very much …” Before he could finish, there was a sharp pain on his lower abdomen, his body flew more than a zhang backward and he fell heavily on the ground; because he was kicked by the girl.

He saw the girl raised her willow-leaf saber and hacked it down on his head. Hastily Wei Xiaobao rolled away, ‘whack!’ the saber struck the ground. Before the girl could chop again, the nun in white shouted, “Stop!”

“Wah!” the girl broke in cry, she dropped her saber off and threw herself into the nun in white’s bosom, while crying, “This evil man, he … he always bullies me. Shifu, quickly kill him for me.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, delighted, but also embarrassed; he mused, “Turns out she is Shitai’s disciple. Those two sentences she spoke a moment ago were not directed to me.” Sullenly he sat down slowly, thinking, “Things have come this far, I can only try my best to be a good person. It would be best if I could swindle Shitai, invoking her great mercy so that she would make the decision to join her with me as my wife.”

Thereupon he stepped forward, bowing deeply toward the girl with cupped fist and said, “Xiaoren has unintentionally offended Miss. I am asking for Miss to show magnanimity by not hold it against me. If Miss wants to hit me, please go ahead and do it; I only hope Miss would spare Xiaoren’s life.”

The girl was hugging the nun in white with both hands; without turning around, she kicked backward, her heel hit Wei Xiaobao’s lower jaw. “Ah!” Wei Xiaobao cried out and was thrown backward. Groaning and moaning, temporarily he was unable to get up.

The nun in white said, “Ah Ke, how can you disregarding propriety and kicking someone you just met two times?” The tone of her voice carried a reprimanding meaning.

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard her, he was ecstatic. “Turns out your name is Ah Ke [jade-like stone]. Finally I know it,” he thought.

He had accompanied the nun in white for many days that he knew she like people being respectful, serious and modest. In her presence, the more he suffered some losses, the more beneficial it was for him. Hastily he said, “Shitai, Miss’ two kicks are well-deserved; it was I who was in the wrong, no wonder Miss is very angry. Even if she kicks me a thousand times, ten thousand times, it is really Xiaoren that deserves to die.” He crawled up with both hands cradling his lower jaw, the pain made his tears flowed down. This time he was not pretending, the kick was really not light.

Sobbing and sniffling, Ah Ke said, “Shifu, this little monk really deserve to die, he … he bullied me.”

“How did he bully you?” the nun in white asked.

Ah Ke blushed. “He … he has bullied me many … many, many times,” she said.

“Shitai,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In short, it was I who was muddle-headed, plus my martial art is lacking. That day Miss went to play at the Shaolin Temple …”

“You went to Shaolin Temple?” the nun in white asked, “How can a girl go to Shaolin Temple?”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted in his heart, “Turns out she went to Shaolin Temple not instructed by Shitai, that’s even better.” He said, “It was not she who wanted to go, it was her Shijie who wanted to go. Miss could not disobey her, hence she had no choice but to come with her.”

“How do you know?” the nun in white asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “At that time I was ordered by the Tatars’ Young Emperor to be his proxy to be a monk in Shaolin Temple. I saw another Miss came to Shaolin Temple, this Miss was following behind her, apparently she did not wish to come.”

The nun in white turned her head and asked, “Was it Ah Qi who take you there?”

“Yes,” Ah Ke replied.

“And then what happened?” the nun in white asked.

Ah Ke said, “Those Shaolin Temple monks were very vicious; they said that their Temple’s rule did not allow women to enter the Temple.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That is an unacceptable rule; why can’t nu shizhu [female benefactor] enter the Temple? Bodhisattva Guanyin is a woman.”

“And then what happened?” the nun in white asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Miss said, since they were not allowed to enter the Temple, they would better go back. But those four Shaolin Tempe monks in charge of receiving the guests did not have any manners; they babbled nonsense and thus offended the two ladies, while their martial art skill is very disappointing.”

The nun in white asked Ah Ke, “Did you fight with them?”

Wei Xiaobao barged in, “It was entirely the welcoming monks’ fault, I saw it with my own eyes. They stretched out their hands to push the two ladies. Shitai, just think, the two ladies have ‘thousand gold’ bodies, how could they let the four monks’ filthy hands touching them? Naturally the two ladies moved sideways to evade; the four monks were careless, they bumped their own limbs on the mountain pavilion’s pillars, inevitably they were slightly hurt.”

“Humph,” the nun in white snorted, “Shaolin Temple’s martial art is the leader in Wulin world, how could it be that bad? Ah Ke, when you made your move, which stances did you use?”

Ah Ke did not dare to conceal anything; she lowered her head and told her in a low voice. The nun in white asked, “You two knocked down four Shaolin Temple monks?”

Ah Ke cast a glance toward Wei Xiaobao, and hatefully said, “Five, including him.”

“You have quite a nerve, going to Shaolin Temple and beat five Shaolin Temple monks that their hands and feet were dislocated.” With eyes like lightning she looked at her up and down. Ah Ke was so frightened that her face turned even paler.

The nun in white saw the red scar across her neck. “That blade wound, was it the Temple’s martial art master who injured you?”

“No, it was not,” Ah Ke replied, “He … he …” She looked up and shot Wei Xiaobao a glowering look; suddenly her cheeks blushed, while tears streamed down on her face. “He … he humiliated me so much, disciple … disciple slashed my own saber across my neck, but … but I did not die.”

When she first heard about her two disciples went up Shaolin Temple to create trouble, the nun in white was furious, but seeing the scar on her neck was really long, she felt sorry for her; she asked, “How did he humiliate you?”

“Wah!” Ah Ke cried.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Indeed, it was me who was being greatly inappropriate, I spoke without manners, I did not act with propriety. Miss was only grabbing me, scaring me to death, telling me that she was going to dig my eyeballs, but she did not really mean it. Indeed it was me who was a coward and useless; I was scared out of my wits that with both hands I randomly hit and grab backward, and in my carelessness had touched Miss’ body. Although it was unintentional, I wouldn’t wonder that Miss was so angry.”

Ah Ke was so embarrassed that her beautiful face turned completely red, but her eyes was filled with resentment, anger and pain.

The nun in white asked further about the several stances Ah Ke was using when they fighting. After gaining a clear understanding, she said, “It was unintentional, you don’t need to take it seriously.” Gently patting Ah Ke’s shoulder, she said in a tender voice, “He is only a little child, and … and a eunuch too, it’s not a big deal. You have already used the ‘young swallow returning to the nest’ to break his arms; you have punished him enough.”

Ah Ke’s tears did not stop rolling down; in her heart she said, “He is not a little child at all, he went to the brothel to do bad things.” But she did not dare to say it out loud, for fear that Shifu would investigate, and then she would know that Ah Ke had followed her older martial sister to a brothel and beat people there. Her heart was dismayed, she cried even louder.

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down on the ground, kowtowed again and again, while saying, “Miss, you are upset, please kick me several more times to vent your anger.”

Ah Ke stomped her feet and cried, “I simply won’t!”

Wei Xiaobao raised his palm, ‘whack, whack, slap, slap!’ he slapped his own face several times. “I deserve to die, I deserve to die!” he said.

The nun in white knitted her eyebrows and said, “It can’t be considered your fault in this matter. Ah Ke, we can’t bully people too much.”

Sobbing and sniffling, Ah Ke said, “It was he who bullied me, he kidnapped me and locked me up in the Temple and did not let me go.”

The nun in white was startled. “Is that so?” she asked.

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I know I was wrong. Because I wanted to win Miss’ favor, I invited her to the Temple. I thought that since Miss has always wanted to tour the Shaolin Temple but the monks did not allow her to enter the Temple, no wonder Miss was angry. And thus … and thus gathering my courage, I invited Miss to go and play at the Bo’re Hall; I also asked an old monk to accompany Miss to chat and relieve her boredom.”

“Fooling around, fooling around,” the nun in white said, “Both children are fooling around. Which old monk?”

“It was the Head of Bo’re Hall, Cheng Guan Dashi,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “He was the one exchanging palm strikes with Shitai in Qingliang Temple.”

The nun in white nodded. “That Dashi’s martial art skill is superb,” she said. She patted Ah Ke’s shoulder again and said, “Alright, that’s enough. Not only this Dashi’s martial art skill is high, he is also an old man. Xiaobao asked him to accompany you, he cannot be considered ill-treating you. Let’s not talk about this matter further.”

Ah Ke said in her heart, “This little evildoer is really bad; only, there are many things that are not convenient to say, otherwise, if Shifu investigated, Shijie and I would ended up being blamed for many things.” She said, “Shifu, you don’t know, he … he …”

The nun in white no longer paid any attention to her; she was looking at Chongzhen’s grave as if she was entranced. Wei Xiaobao stuck out his tongue at Ah Ke and made a face. Ah Ke was furious, she shot him a vicious look. Wei Xiaobao felt that although she was extremely angry, she was still unspeakably beautiful; his heart was very happy. He sat on the side, unable to take his eyes off her, admiring her features. He saw that from her head to her toe, her hair, her eyebrows, even the tip of her little finger, everything on her was extremely beautiful.

Ah Ke cast him a sidelong glance, and saw that he was staring blankly at her, she blushed, pulled the nun in white’s sleeve and said, “Shifu, he … he is looking at me.”

“Mmm,” the nun in white simply grunted. She was recalling the scene from the past, when she was at the Palace. Ah Ke’s words did not enter her ears at all.

Sitting until the sun was leaning to the west, the nun in white was still unwilling to leave her father’s grave. Wei Xiaobao wished that she would sit like this for ten days or half a month, as long as he could look at Ah Ke, even if he did not eat, he would not mind. Ah Ke, on the other hand, was feeling quite uncomfortable being the object of his stare. Although she did not turn her head to look at him, she knew his eyes were fixed on her. She was feeling bashful, fretful, and also furious; she thought, “This little evil person is full of graceful words, flowery speech; I don’t know what lie he told Shifu so that she always protected him. As soon as Shifu is not around, I must kill him. Even if Shifu will punish me harshly for this, I simply can’t let him humiliate me like this.”

More than two hours later, the sky was gradually turning dark. The nun in white heaved a long sigh, stood up, and said, “Let’s go.”

That night the three of them lodged in a peasant family home. Wei Xiaobao knew that the nun in white love cleanliness, so before dinner he rubbed and washed the two women’s bowls and chopsticks in hot water, he also wiped the stools, the dinner table where those two women would be sitting, until there was not a speck of dust on it. He also wiped the bed and swept the floor, making sure that wherever the two women sit or sleep on would be immaculate. He had always been lazy; hence in all his life he had never strained himself working as hard as that.

The nun in white nodded in secret; she thought, “This child is hardworking. Having him during our travel will be much more convenient.” Before she turned fifteen, she had always lived deep in the Palace; since childhood she was accustomed to have palace maids and court eunuchs taking care of her. After having the misfortune of her country changed its master, she wandered destitute in Jianghu; the daily food and drink was completely different.

Wei Xiaobao was accustomed to be a eunuch, plus he did not spare any effort to get what his heart desired, he went as far as making her enjoying the happiness of the former days when she was still a princess in the Palace. The nun in white had left home and devoted herself to religious practice, she did not care about the luxury of the past, yet how one spends one’s childhood will be imprinted in one’s heart and mind, and will forever stay and can never be erased. She was not looking to be a princess, but Wei Xiaobao was treating her like a princess; she was touched and was delighted.

After dinner, the nun in white asked Ah Qi’s whereabouts. Ah Ke said, “I have not seen Shijie since that day when we were separated outside the Shaolin Temple; perhaps … perhaps she was killed by him.” While saying that she cast a sidelong glance toward Wei Xiaobao.

“How can there be such thing?” Wei Xiaobao busily replied, “I saw Miss Ah Qi was with Mongolian Prince Galdan, and several lamas, and an army commander under Wu Sangui’s command.”

As soon as the nun in white heard Wu Sangui’s name, her expression looked very angry. “Why did Ah Qi hang around with people we have no relation with?” she angrily asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “When those people arrived at the Shaolin Temple, probably they came across Miss Ah Qi by accident. Shitai, if you want to find her, let me come with you, I am sure she will be very easy to find.”

“Why is that?” the nun in white asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “I still remember the appearance of those Mongolians, Lamas, and military officers from Yunnan. We only need to find one, the rest will be easy to deal with.”

“Very well,” the nun in white said, “In that case you’ll come with me, we’ll look for her together.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Thank you very much Shitai,” he said.

The nun in white was puzzled, “You are helping me to do this matter, I should be thanking you, why did you thank me instead?” she asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Nothing delights me more than to be with Shitai every day; it would be best if I could be by Shitai’s side forever. If I cannot, then being with Shitai one more day means happiness for one more day.”

“Is that right?” the nun in white asked. Although she had received Ah Qi and Ah Ke, two girls to be her disciples, usually she treated her disciples coldly. The two girls revered her very much, they had never dared to tell her what’s in their hearts; how could they act like Wei Xiaobao with his graceful words and flowery speech, sweet mouth and honeyed tongue? Although her personality was strict and cold, those words were really pleasing to her ears; she could not stop a smile from appearing on the corners of her mouth.

Ah Ke said, “Shifu, he … he does not …” She was fully aware that Wei Xiaobao’s enthusiasm to help them find her Shijie was just a ruse to be with her. Those ‘Nothing delights me more than to be with Shitai every day; it would be best if I could be by Shitai’s side forever’ and so on was actually the real desire of his innermost being, only the word ‘Shitai’ should be changed to ‘Ah Ke’.

The nun in white stared at her, “Why not?” she asked, “How do you know the content of other people’s heart? I have often told you before, in Jianghu, the people’s hearts are sinister and deceitful, their words cannot be trusted. But this child has followed me for many days, there was no pretense in him, I know he can be trusted. He is only a little child, how can you lump him together with those Jianghu men?”

Ah Ke did not dare to say anything anymore, she bowed her head and mumbled, “Yes.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he said in his heart, “Ah Ke, my good wife, naturally your husband stands out from the masses, how can you lump him together with those Jianghu men? Just listen to your Shifu, I guarantee you won’t suffer any losses. The worst that can happen to you is that you will be given in marriage to me. Do you think I will be willing to part with you and don’t want you anymore? Just set your hundred and twenty heart at ease.”

Book note: the Emperor’s child is a reference to the Emperor’s daughter, it usually refers to the Princess. In the ‘Nine Songs, Madame Xiang’ of the Songs of Chu [ancient book of poems, c. 500 BC]: ‘The Emperor’s child fell north of the islet’. The Emperor’s child here was the Emperor Yao’s daughter. In the poem ‘Escorting the Golden City Princess to the Western Foreign Land’, Ma Huaisu wrote: ‘Where is the Emperor’s child now? She is engaged to be married in a strange land.’

[1] Palace beauty, orig. Chinese Gong’E (as in Tao Gong’E).

[2] Shitai is a term of respect to address Buddhist nuns, the counterpart of Dashi [great master].

[3] Kun – one of the Eight Trigram (Ba Gua), symbolizing earth/female principle. Ning – peaceful.

[4] Orig. Aixin Jueluo, Manchu: Golden Clan, the surname of the Qing Emperors.

[5] Dudou is an undergarment covering chest and abdomen.

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