Smiling Proud Wanderer

 
 

Smiling Proud Wanderer Volume 2 Chapter 14


Chapter Fourteen: Wine Cups (draft)


As the boat came near the city of Kaifeng, a conversation about fellow martial people in Kaifeng started among the Yue Buqun couple and their apprentices.

“Even though Kaifeng is a big city, there’s not a great deal of interest in martial arts around here. And for people like old Escort Hua, senior Master Hai, or the Three Elites of Henan, they have neither truly outstanding martial arts skills nor great fame. Let’s just tour around some of the scenic spots and historical sites. We can skip visiting anyone or any studios so we won’t disturb anyone,” Yue Buqun suggested.

“But senior apprentice brother, have you forgotten that very famous figure in the city of Kaifeng?” Madam Yue grinned.

“A very famous figure? Who…who are you referring to?” Yue Buqun asked.

“‘Cure one and kill one; kill one then cure one. Cure as many as I kill; that shows my skill.’ Now who’s that?” Madam Yue gave a hint.

“Aha, you are talking about the ‘Killer Doctor’ Ping One-Finger. He is indeed very famous. But he’s so eccentric that he most probably wouldn’t want to see us even if we paid him a visit,” Yue Buqun said with a smile.

“That’s true. Or else we could have asked this Killer Doctor to take a look at Chong’s injuries since Chong’s inner wounds are not getting any better and we just happen to be coming to Kaifeng anyway,” Madam Yue agreed.

“Mom, what does the nickname Killer Doctor mean? If he is a killer, how can he be a famous doctor?” Yue Lingshan asked in curiosity.

“Well, this Doctor Ping is a weirdo…well…a strange fellow in the Martial World. He has profound medical knowledge and his magical hands can bring the dying back to life. It is said that regardless of how ill or how badly wounded the patient is, so long as he agrees to work on him the patient will be cured for sure. But he has this very odd rule. He says that God of Heaven and Lord of Underworld, of course, both know how many people are there in this world. If he cured too many people so that less people die, there would be too many living and too few dead. Certainly the Lord of Underworld is not going to be too fond of that. And when his final days come, even if the Lord of Underworld leaves him alone, his officers and goblins would for sure get even with him, therefore, his days in the underworld probably are not going to be easy at all,” Madam Yue explained with a light grin.

Quite amused by these words, all the apprentices giggled.

“That’s why he made an oath,” Madam Yue continued, “that so long as he cures someone, he must kill another one to even the numbers. And if he kills someone, he must cure another one to make up. He put up this big banner right in his office, which said clearly, ‘Cure one and kill one; kill one then cure one. Cure as many as I kill; that shows my skill.’ He says that because of this practice, the God of Heaven wouldn’t fault him for taking away lives, and Lord of Underworld wouldn’t blame him for taking over his business either.”

The entire audience burst into loud laughter.

“What a funny guy this Doctor Ping One-Finger is! But why does he have such a strange name? Has he only one finger?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“I think he has more than just one finger,” Madam Yue answered. “Senior apprentice brother, do you know why he picked such a name?” she asked her husband.

“Doctor Ping has all ten fingers. He called himself One-Finger because either to kill or to cure, he only needs one finger to do it. If he wants to kill someone, he just hits him with one finger, and if he wants to cure someone, he only uses one finger to check pulses,” Yue Buqun clarified.

“Oh, I see. Then I suppose he must be an expert in sealing pressure points,” Madam Yue remarked.

“That I am not too sure. There probably isn’t that many who has fought this Doctor Ping before. Everyone in the Martial World knows how good of a doctor he is. In one’s life, who can say that he is immune to unexpected misfortunes? Maybe one day he will need to ask for Doctor Ping’s help, that’s why no one wants to offend Doctor Ping. But unless it’s absolutely necessary, no one would just rashly ask for his help either,” Yue Buqun said.

“Why’s that?” Yue Lingshan couldn’t help but ask.

“Because whenever a fellow martial person asks him to cure a wound or disease, he would make this person swear an oath ahead of time that after the person is cured, he must obey Dr. Ping’s order to kill a person Dr. Ping specifies. This is called one life in exchange for another. It’s easier if the person is asked to kill someone totally unrelated to himself, but if he is asked to kill someone who’s a close friend of his, or even his father, brother, wife, or son, then wouldn’t it be real difficult?” Yue Buqun explained.

“This Doctor Ping is truly odd!” the apprentices remarked.

“Big apprentice brother, in that case, you can’t really ask him to work on you then,” Yue Lingshan concluded.

Linghu Chong had been propping against the door at the backside, listening to Master and Master-Wife discussing the peculiarity of the “Killer Doctor” Ping One-Finger. When he heard little apprentice sister’s words, he replied with a slight smile on his cheeks.

“That’s right! I would be very afraid if he asks me to kill my little apprentice sister, once he cures me.”

That brought loud laughter out from the rest of the apprentices.

Yue Lingshan also grinned. “This Doctor Ping has no grudge against me. Why would he ask you to kill me?” She turned her head and asked her father, “Dad, then is this Doctor Ping a good guy or a bad guy?”

“Well, it is said that he is quite grumpy, and always do things to his liking, sometimes chivalrous and sometimes irregular. He is really neither a good guy nor a bad guy. To say it nicely, he is a strange genius. But in plain words, he would be a freak,” Yue Buqun answered.

“Here’s what I think. Many of the rumors flowing around the Martial World are really exaggerations, and this might just be one of them. When we get to the city of Kaifeng, I’d like to go pay a visit to this Doctor Ping,” Yue Lingshan responded.

“Nonsense! Don’t be mischievous!” Both Yue Buqun and Madam Yue admonished almost in unison.

Seeing the solemn expression on her parents’ faces, Yue Lingshan was slightly stunned. “Why?” she asked.

“Meeting people like this? Are you out of your mind? Trouble will come looking for you if you do,” Yue Buqun reproached.

“Why would trouble come looking for me just for a visit? I am not asking him to cure me. What’s the big deal?” Yue Lingshan mumbled.

“We are here to enjoy visiting scenes, not to cause troubles.” Yue Buqun pulled a long face.

Seeing how angry her father had become, Yue Lingshan dared not speak another word. But her curiosity toward this “Killer Doctor Ping One-Finger” only grew bigger and bigger.

At early morning the next day, the boat entered the city limits of Kaifeng. But it was still quite a distance from the real city.

“Guess what?” Yue Buqun smiled a big grin. “There’s this place not far from here where a member of our Yue family once became the center of the limelight many years ago. We’d better pay a visit there.”

“Yay! I know! I know! It’s Zhuxian Town, where General Yue, Yue Pengju, kicked Jin Wushu’s behind big time,” Yue Lingshan cheered.

Yue Fei, who fought the Jin army and defended China, was a heroic figure all martial people admired deeply in their hearts, and Zhuxian Town was the place where Yue Fei had completely crushed the Jin army. Naturally, everyone in the group wanted to check it out.

“Hurry up! Let’s go to the Zhuxian Town first. Then we’ll have lunch inside the city of Kaifeng,” Yue Lingshan leapt ashore ahead of everyone else and shouted.

The passengers started walking off the boat except Linghu Chong who remained sitting by the backside of the boat.

“Big apprentice brother, aren’t you going?” Yue Lingshan asked.

Ever since Linghu Chong had lost all his inner energy, he often felt weary and tired and didn’t want to move much. He figured that since everybody else was going ashore to have fun, it would be the perfect opportunity for him to learn that “Song of Peace and Serenity.” Besides, seeing how Lin Pingzhi stood side by side with Yue Lingshan, looking intimate and affectionate, he felt even more uncomfortable.

“I am too tired. I won’t be able to keep up with you guys,” he answered.

“Alright, have a good rest then. I’ll get you some good wine from the city of Kaifeng,” Yue Lingshan replied.

Sorrow swelled Linghu Chong’s heart as he watched Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi walk away abreast, leading the way ahead of everyone else.

“Even if learning the ‘Song of Peace and Serenity’ could really cure my internal wounds, why would I bother to cure and why would I bother to learn the music?” he thought to himself.

Staring at the muddy waves of the Yellow River surging east continuously, he suddenly felt that life’s pain and suffering were really no different from the flowing river – both would come wave after wave and never stop. The thought triggered a disruption in his inner energy flow. An immense pain from his lower abdomen immediately consumed him.

Meanwhile, Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi certainly were in a completely different mood. Walking side by side, whispering in each other’s ears, the two were having a wonderful time.

“Lingshan and Pingzhi are both still young. A man and a woman walking together like this might be all right in the countryside, but it certainly wouldn’t be appropriate in a big city. Why don’t we give them some company?” Madam Yue gave her husband a pull on the sleeve and whispered.

“We are no longer young. I guess it would be totally appropriate for us to walk together then,” Yue Buqun joked.

Madam Yue let out a smile and then caught up with Yue Lingshan in quick paces. The four of them asked their way from pedestrians and then headed straight toward the Zhuxian Town. Just when they were about to enter the Zhuxian Town, a big shrine by the roadside caught their attention. The sign on top of the shrine had four words in golden paint, “Shrine of General Yang.”

“Dad, I know this one. This is the shrine for General Yang Zai-Xing. He went to River Shang by mistake and was killed by the Jin archers,” Yue Lingshan said.

“Correct! General Yang died defending his country. That is something that deserves great respect and admiration. Let’s go in the shrine to pay our respects to the spirit of a martyr,” Yue Buqun replied.

At the time, the many apprentices were still far behind, so the four of them decided to go inside without waiting for the rest of the group. A statue of Yang Zai-Xing occupied the middle of the shrine. The man in the statue had a white face and wore a set of silver-colored armor, looking very heroic.

“This General Yang is so handsome!” Yue Lingshan thought to herself. She couldn’t help but turn around and cast a glance at Lin Pingzhi to compare Lin Pingzhi with the statue in her heart.

Suddenly a voice came from outside the shrine.

“I bet you this Shrine of General Yang is built for Yang Zai-Xing.”

Recognizing the voice, both Yue Buqun and Madam Yue immediately grabbed onto the hilts of their swords and their faces turned pale.

Then another voice rose, “There are many generals named Yang. How can you be so sure that this is Yang Zai-Xing? Why can’t he be Golden Blade Grandpa Yang, or even Yang the Sixth or Yang the Seventh?”

“Just within the Yang Family Corp, there are many possibilities. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Grandpa Yang, or Yang the Sixth, or Yang the Seventh. Who says it can’t be Yang Zongbao or Yang Wenguang?” another voice argued.

“Why can’t it be Yang the Fourth?” yet another voice joined the debate.

“Yang the Fourth surrendered to the foreign invader. No one’s going to build a shrine for him,” the previous one explained.

“Are you implying that I will surrender to the foreign invader because I am the fourth?” the other one mocked.

“Sure, you are the fourth. But what has that gotten anything to do with Yang the fourth?” the previous one argued.

“You are the fifth. Yang the Fifth ended up becoming a monk on Mount Wutai. Why aren’t you a monk then?” the other one challenged.

“If I become a monk, you’ll have to surrender to the foreign invader,” the previous one responded.

Only after hearing the first sentence, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue had already figured out who they were – the bunch of Peach Valley’s Freaks. Yue Buqun waved a signal; the four of them quickly hid behind the statue, the Yue couple on the left and Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi on the right.

The bunch of Peach Valley’s Freaks kept arguing outside of the shrine, yet neither of them would simply come in to get the answer. Yue Lingshan couldn’t help but feel amused.

“What’s there to argue about? Whether it was Yang Zai-Xing or Yang the Fourth, why not just come in here and take a look? Wouldn’t that save a lot of trouble?” she thought to herself amusingly.

Madam Yue listened carefully and could only recognize five different voices. She figured that the sixth one must have died from her sword stab. The reason why she had left Mount Huashan with her husband was to stay away from those five freaks, afraid that they might go back for revenge. Who would have expected that they would meet right here? Even though the freaks hadn’t spotted their group of four yet, the other apprentices could show up any minute, and they would have no way of escaping at all. Worries clouded her mind.

The debate among the five freaks became more and more heated, and finally one of them suggested, “Why don’t we go inside and take a look. Then we’ll see which stinking guy this shrine was built for.”

The five of them all rushed in alongside, and one of them shouted excitedly.

“Aha, look here! It clearly says here ‘Shrine of General Yang Sir Zai-Xing’s Spirit.’ This of course is Yang Zai-Xing.” It was Branch Fairy.

Trunk Fairy scratched his head for a brief moment and then spoke, “It says ‘Yang Sir Zai’ here, not ‘Yang Zai-Xing.’ I see. This General Yang’s first name is Sir Zai. Hmm, Yang Sir Zai, Yang Sir Zai, what a great name!”

“This obviously is Yang Zai-Xing. You are so full of it. Why are you saying that it’s Yang Sir Zai?” Branch Fairy was infuriated.

“Read the words! It clearly says ‘Yang Sir Zai’, not ‘Yang Zai-Xing’.” Trunk Fairy argued.

“Then what do the words ‘Xing’s Spirit’ stand for?” Root Fairy joined in.

“Xing means happy. Xing’s Spirit means the spirit is very happy. After this chap Yang Sir Zai died, people even built a shrine for him, of course his spirit is going to feel very happy,” Leaf Fairy explained.

“Exactly! Exactly!” Trunk Fairy couldn’t agree more.

“Didn’t I say that the shrine was built for Yang the Seventh? I am right once again! Man, I am so smart!” Flower Fairy said contentedly.

“It is Yang Zai-Xing. How can it be Yang the Seventh?” Branch Fairy asked angrily.

“It is Yang Sir Zai. How can it be Yang the Seventh?” Trunk Fairy also asked angrily.

“Third brother, what’s Yang Zai-Xing’s ranking among his brothers?” Flower Fairy asked.

“I don’t know.” Branch Fairy shook his head.

“Yang Zai-Xing was the seventh child. He was Yang the Seventh,” Flower Fairy claimed. “Second brother, what’s Yang Sir Zai’s ranking among his brothers?”

“I used to know. But I don’t remember now,” Trunk Fairy murmured.

“Well, I do remember. He was the seventh child also. That’s why he was Yang the Seventh as well,” Flower Fairy said with a big grin.

“If this statue is Yang Zai-Xing, then it can’t be Yang Sir Zai. If it’s Yang Sir Zai, then it can’t be Yang Zai-Xing. How can it be both Yang Zai-Xing and Yang Sir Zai?” Root Fairy remarked.

“Big brother, think. What’s the meaning of the word ‘Zai?’ ‘Zai’ means again, another one. This must be a statue for two, not just one. That’s why it’s both Yang Sir Zai and Yang Zai-Xing,” Leaf Fairy explained.

“That sounds logical!” The other four Fairies all agreed.

“You say that if there’s the word ‘Zai’ in one’s name, that means one more, then it’s obviously public knowledge that Yang the Seventh had seven sons!” Branch Fairy suddenly remarked.

“Following that logic, then if someone’s name contained the word ‘Thousand,’ he will have to raise one thousand sons?” Root Fairy asked.

Hearing that the debate took such odd turns, Yue Lingshan almost broke into loud laughter. But she bit her lips hard and kept her silence.

The five Peach Valley’s freaks argued some more when Branch Fairy suddenly blurted out, “Yang the Seventh! If you give blessings to our sixth brother and let him live, I am willing to kowtow to you. Actually, I am going to kowtow right now.” He knelt down on the floor and kowtowed sincerely.

Hearing those words, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue exchanged a glance, each feeling somewhat relieved. Apparently that freak was still alive even though he took a severe stab from Madam Yue. Those Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ behaviors were so hard to make sense of; the Yue couple would rather not make an enemy out of them.

“But what if sixth brother dies?” Branch Fairy asked.

“Then I’ll smash this statue to bits and pieces and piss on whatever is left of him,” Trunk Fairy answered.

“Even if you smash the statue of Yang the Seventh into bits and pieces, and then piss on it or even shit on it, so what? Sixth brother would be dead already, and your kowtow would all be wasted!” Flower Fairy reminded him.

“You are right! I better hold the kowtow for now. Let’s go get a clear answer, whether sixth brother’s wound is curable or not. If it’s curable, we can come back to kowtow; if it’s not, then we’ll come here to piss on him,” Branch Fairy agreed.

“If it’s curable, he will be cured whether we kowtow or not. There’s no need to kowtow. If it’s not, he won’t be cured whether we piss or not. We can skip pissing,” Root Fairy remarked.

“If sixth brother’s wound is incurable, then we just skip pissing? Aren’t our bladder gonna explode if we skip pissing? We could die!” Leaf Fairy asked.

Trunk Fairy suddenly broke into a loud cry. “If sixth brother won’t survive this, we’ll all stop taking a piss, even if we’ll all die because of that.”

At those words, the rest four fairies also broke into loud cries.

“Wait a minute,” Branch Fairy suddenly stopped crying and instead, burst into loud laughter. “If sixth brother can be cured, wouldn’t we be just crying for nothing? Come on guys, let’s get a clear answer first, and then we can cry later.”

“What you just said doesn’t make sense at all. If sixth brother can be cured, then why would we be crying later?” Flower Fairy disagreed.

Amid the non-stop arguing, the five men rushed out of the shrine in quick steps.

“Whether that man will survive or not is of great importance to us,” Yue Buqun said to Madam Yue. “Let me go look into this. Junior apprentice sister, you, Lingshan, and the other apprentices can stay here and wait for me.”

“You can’t just go all by yourself. Let me go with you and watch your back,” Madam Yue replied in a determined tone and then ran out of the shrine first.

In the past, when Yue Buqun had important matters to deal with, Madam Yue would always go with him to aid. Hearing what his wife had said, Yue Buqun knew that it would be impossible to change her mind, so he simply followed quietly.

After the two of them went out of the shrine, from a distance, they could see the Peach Valley’s Five Freaks turn into a col from a small path. Following the five men quietly, they dared not stay too close and kept a good distance. Thanked to the loud and non-stop arguing from the five, it wasn’t hard for them to shadow the freaks from a long distance behind.

Following the mountain path, after passing by a dozen or so big willow trees, they came to a small creek. Several tile-roofed houses stood next by the creek. The arguing sound from the five freaks went straight into one of the houses.

“Let’s circle around to the backside of the house,” Yue Buqun suggested.

The couple ran toward their right using their Qing-Gong skills and circled back after about a quarter of a mile. A row of willow trees stood at the backside of the house. The two hid themselves behind the willow trees and listened.

Suddenly, the yelling voice of the Peach Valley’s five freaks broke out abruptly.

“You just killed our sixth brother!”

“Why…why did you cut his chest open?”

“I am gonna kill you son of a bitch!”

“We’ll cut your chest open too!”

“Oh, no! Sixth brother! You have died a horrible death! We…we’ll never take a piss again, even if our bladders explode.”

Yue Buqun and Madam Yue were astonished. “Did someone just cut their sixth brother’s chest open?”

After exchanging some gestures, the two of them crept next to the window and looked inside from a crack of the window.

About seven or eight lights lit the entire room and a large bed occupied the middle of the room. A naked man lay on the bed facing up, his chest cut wide open and blood gushing everywhere. The man’s eyes shut tightly as if he had been dead for sometime. His face showed clearly that he was none other than the Fruit Fairy who took a stab from Madam Yue on top of Mount Huashan. The remaining five Peach Valley Freaks stood around the bed, shouting and yelling hysterically at a short, stocky man.

The short, stocky man had a larger-than-average head. The sparse mustache on his lips and the way he moved his head back and forth added much comical effect to his appearance. Both of his hands were covered with blood, the short dagger in his right hand also had blood dripping down from the tip of the blade. He stared at the five Peach Valley Freaks for a while and finally spoke.

“Are you done farting?”

“We are done. It’s your turn now,” the five freaks answered in unison.

“This half-dead man took a stab in the chest,” the short, stocky guy replied. “You treated the wound with ointment and then carried him such a long way here so that I can save his life. But you were too slow. The wound had grown back together and all the nerves and internal passages had grown back the wrong way. Just to save his life is easy. But since his nerves and internal messages are all messed up, he will not only lose all his Kung Fu, but also become paralyzed from waist down. Why would I want to create such a good-for-nothing?”

“A good-for-nothing is still better than a dead man,” Root Fairy challenged.

“Humph, either I cure him completely or I don’t touch him at all. How utterly embarrassing it will be if I only make him into a good-for-nothing? Enough, enough! Now take this corpse and get out of here. I don’t want to work on him no more! You guys are annoying me to death!” the short, stocky man snapped.

“You said we ‘annoy you to death,’ why aren’t you dead yet?” Root Fairy asked.

“You have already annoyed me to death. Can’t you tell? How do you know that I am not dead already?” the short, stocky man stared right into Root Fairy’s eyes and answered in a chilly tone.

“If you are incapable of curing my sixth brother, why did you cut open his chest?” Trunk Fairy asked.

“What does my nickname say?” the short, stocky man asked coldly.

“Isn’t your stinking nickname something like ‘Killer Doctor’?” Trunk Fairy answered.

A chill went through the Yue Couple’s bodies as they cast a glimpse at each other, both thinking the same thing, “Who would have thought that this odd looking short fatty turned out to be the world-renowned ‘Killer Doctor?’ That’s right, it is said throughout the Martial World that this Ping One-Finger possesses the most excellent skills in healing and curing. It would only be natural that the five freaks took their seriously wounded brother to him for a cure.”

Ping One-Finger’s cold voice rose again. “Since my nickname is ‘Killer Doctor,’ what’s such a big deal when I kill one or two?”

“What’s so hard about killing somebody? Even I know how to do that. But you only know how to kill people, not how to cure people. You are not worth the part of the name where it says ‘doctor’,” Flower Fairy joined in.

“Who says I don’t know how to cure people? I cut open this half-dead man’s chest so that I can reconnect his nerves and internal passages. After I am finished with him, both his internal and external Kung Fu skills will remain the same as if he was never wounded. Only that will show the true skills of the ‘Killer Doctor’,” Ping One-Finger replied.

The five Peach Valley Freaks were overjoyed at these words. “So you are capable of curing our sixth brother. We shouldn’t have blamed you,” they responded in unison.

“Why…why aren’t you working on him? Sixth brother’s chest has been cut open. He is bleeding terribly. If you don’t hurry up, it will be too late,” Root Fairy reminded him.

“Now are you the ‘Killer Doctor’ or am I the ‘Killer Doctor’?” Ping One-Finger asked.

“Of course you are. What a dumb question that is!” Root Fairy answered.

“Very well! If I am, then how would you know whether it’s too late or not?” Ping One-Finger retorted. “Besides, I was already working on him after I cut his chest open. But how can I get on with my work when five wordy creeps simply wouldn’t shut up and leave me alone? Didn’t I tell you to go have fun at the ‘Shrine of General Yang’ for a half-day and then also check out the ‘Shrine of General Niu’ and the ‘Shrine of General Zhang?’ Why have you come back so soon?”

“Hey, get on with your work. You are the wordy one now, not us,” Trunk Fairy responded.

Ping One-Finger gave him a good stare for a moment, and then out of nowhere, he suddenly shouted out, “Get me the needle and the thread!”

The unexpected shout took the five Peach Valley’s Fairies and the Yue couple by surprise; everyone’s heart almost skipped a beat. A tall and thin woman walked in the room with a wooden basin in her hands. Quietly, she set the basin on the table. The woman was in her forties and had a square face with two big ears and a pair of sunken eyes. Her face looked pale and had little color in the cheeks.

“You want me to save this man here. I have already told you my rules, haven’t I?” Ping One-Finger spoke again.

“Sure. And we have agreed to it and swore our oath already. No matter whom you want dead, just let us know. We promise that we won’t disappoint you,” Root Fairy answered.

“Good,” Ping One-Finger nodded. “I haven’t thought of anyone that I want dead. I’ll let you know once I decide. Now, all of you stand over there and shut your mouth up. If I hear anything from you, I swear that I’ll give it up and not give a damn about this man no more.”

Ever since they were kids, the six Peach Valley brothers had always slept in the same room and eaten on the same table. They never stopped talking. Even in their dreams they kept on arguing back and forth. But now all they could do was to stare at each other, each had a stomach full of things he would love to spill out. When they thought that even a single word out of their mouth would get their sixth brother killed, each one of them bit his lips hard to fight the urge to talk, afraid of letting any sound out, not even a heavy breath or a fart.

Ping One-Finger picked up a big needle from the tray on the table. After threading in the thick, diaphanous thread, he quickly sewed Fruit Fairy’s chest back together. His ten fingers were short and chunky, almost like ten carrots, yet they moved with ultimate efficiency and accuracy. Within moments, he had already sewed the over nine-inch long wound back together. Then he took many kinds of medicine, some powder, some liquid, from the many china bottles behind him and applied them to the wound. Next, he pried Fruit Fairy’s mouth open and poured some different kinds of liquid down the throat before wiping the blood off Fruit Fairy’s body with a wet cloth. The tall and thin woman helped by the side, sometimes handing over the medicines, sometimes holding the needle for him, appearing to be very proficient.

Ping One-Finger glimpsed at the five Peach Valley’s Fairies. Seeing that all five of them had already opened their mouths and were in a rush to begin talking, he said, “This man hasn’t come back to life yet. You can begin talking after he comes back to life.” With their mouths still open, the five freaks’ faces froze instantly with a totally awkward look. Ping One-Finger let out a snort and then sat down by the side. The woman took the needle, thread, dagger and the rest of the stuff out of the room.

Hiding outside of the window, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue held their breaths. At the moment it was completely silent inside the room, so any little sound from outside of the window would, for sure, catch the attention of the people inside the room.

After a long while, Ping One-Finger stood up and walked by Fruit Fairy. All of a sudden, he struck out with his palm and smacked heavily on the “Bai-Hui” point on Fruit Fairy’s head. “Ah!” six men shouted out in shock. Out of the six men, five were the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies, and the sixth one was actually the man lying on bed who had been unconscious all the time – Fruit Fairy.

Right after the cry, Fruit Fairy sat straight up and scolded, “God damn it! What the hell did you hit my head for?”

“God damn it! If I didn’t drill open your Bai-Hui point with my inner energy, would you have recovered so quickly?” Ping One-Finger scolded back.

“God damn it! Quick or slow, my recovery is none of your business!” Fruit Fairy rebuffed.

“God damn it! If your recovery were slow, how would people know the brilliance of the Killer Doctor’s skills? And wouldn’t it be annoying to have you sleep in my room any longer than necessary?” Ping One-Finger replied.

“God damn it! Are you saying that I am annoying you? I am getting out of here. You think I care about you?” Fruit Fairy mocked. As soon as he said those words, he rolled out of bed and headed out.

The other five Peach Valley Freaks had not expected him to recover so quickly and were able to walk out just like he said he would. In great shock and joy, they all followed him out of the door.

Completely shocked and terrified, the Yue couple all came to the same conclusion, “That Ping One-Finger’s medical skills are indeed astonishing. Besides, his inner strength is nothing ordinary, either. When he smacked the Bai-Hui point on Fruit Fairy’s head, he must have injected vigorous inner energy into Fruit Fairy’s body to wake him up instantly.” Within the moment of hesitation, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies had gone far away.

Ping One-Finger stood up and then walked into another room. Yue Buqun gave his wife a signal, and the two quietly sneaked away. Not until they were hundreds of feet away from the room did they speed up their steps.

“That Killer Doctor’s inner strength is simply extraordinary. But his behavior was indeed very unusual,” Madam Yue exclaimed.

“Since the Peach Valley’s Six Freaks are around, the city of Kaifeng has gotten to be a place of trouble. We’d better leave here at once. There’s no need for us to get tangled up with them,” Yue Buqun suggested.

Madam Yue answered with a hum. Throughout her life, only the last several months had given her the most grievances. Even her husband, the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, a member school of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, had to run around in hiding. And it almost felt as if there was nowhere safe no matter where they went. The couple had never kept anything from each other, but every time when this topic came up, both of them would immediately change topic to avoid the embarrassment. Now when they finally knew that Fruit Fairy would live on, both felt great relief as if a big rock had been removed from their hearts.

The two of them went straight back to the “Shrine of General Yang” and found Yue Lingshan, Lin Pingzhi, Lao Denuo, and the rest of the apprentices waiting at the back hall.

“Let’s get back to the boat,” Yue Buqun ordered.

By then everybody had become aware that the Peach Valley’s Five Freaks were close by, so neither questioned the order and all returned to the boat in a hurry. Just when they were going to ask the boatman to set sail, the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies’ loud shouts suddenly came from ashore.

“Linghu Chong! Linghu Chong! Where are you?”

All faces of the Huashan Sword School members changed color as they watched six men rushing toward the wharf in trots. Besides the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies, there was also Ping One-Finger among the group. The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies had seen the Yue Buqun couple before, so when they recognized Yue couple’s faces from afar, all cheered uncontrollably. Within seconds, they had arrived and immediately all five of them leapt toward the boat.

Instantly Madam Yue unsheathed her sword and stabbed it forward toward Root Fairy’s chest. At the exact same time, Yue Buqun also drew his sword and pushed Madam Yue’s blade down using that of his own.

“Don’t be reckless!” he whispered.

The bow of the boat sunk slightly when the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies boarded the boat.

“Linghu Chong! Where are you hiding? Why don’t you come out?” Root Fairy yelled loudly.

“Why should I hide? Am I afraid of you?” Linghu Chong roared in fury.

Right at the moment, the boat bumped slightly and another person had leapt aboard – the “Killer Doctor” Ping One-Finger.

Yue Buqun felt a great shock inward. “The minute junior apprentice sister and I got back this dwarf shows up right here. Could we have left any traces when we sneaked about outside of his window? Could he have found the traces? The Peach Valley’s Five Freaks alone are already hard enough to deal with, not mentioning adding such a tough opponent on top of that. Alas, perhaps our lives are destined to end here at Kaifeng today.” Then he heard Ping One-Finger speak.

“May I ask which one of you is brother Linghu?”

Surprisingly, his words were quite polite.

“I am Linghu Chong. May I have your respectful name? May I ask what I can do for you?” Linghu Chong slowly walked onto the bow of the boat and answered.

Ping One-Finger looked Linghu Chong up and down. “Someone has asked me to treat your wounds,” he said.

Reaching out and grabbing Linghu Chong by his hand, he placed his index finger on top of Linghu Chong’s wrist and began checking his pulses. Suddenly, he raised his eyebrows and uttered a cry of surprise. But soon his eyebrows gradually knitted into a straight line and another cry of surprise followed. Raising his head high, he stared into the sky blankly, his left hand scratching his head madly.

“How odd! How odd!” he murmured to himself.

A long while passed before he reached out again to check Linghu Chong’s pulse from the other wrist. But as soon as his index finger touched Linghu Chong’s wrist, he sneezed all of a sudden.

“This is so weird. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he muttered.

Root Fairy could no longer hold his tongue and jumped in. “What’s so odd about it? It’s so obvious that he was wounded in his Heart Passage. I have already treated him with my inner energy.”

“Why are you still insisting on saying that he was wounded in his Heart Passage? Obviously he had problems with his Lung Passage. If it weren’t I who opened his many pressure points along the Lung Passage, you think he’d still be alive today?” Trunk Fairy immediately rebuffed.

Wasting no time, Branch Fairy, Leaf Fairy and Flower Fairy all jumped into the big debate, each claiming himself the only one that gave the right and critical treatment and the one who should get the credits.

Ping One-Finger suddenly gave a loud shout, “What crap!”

“Hey! Are you talking crap, or are we, the five brothers, talking crap?” Root Fairy mocked angrily.

“Of course you are!” Ping One-Finger answered. “Inside brother Linghu’s body, there are two streams of stronger energy flow, which seemed to have come from Monk No Commandment. There are also six streams of weaker energy flow, which probably came from you guys, you six fools!”

Yue Buqun and Madam Yue shot a glance at each other, both thinking, “This Ping One-Finger is indeed incredible. It’s not hard to detect the eight streams of energy flow inside Chong from his pulse, but it is completely amazing that he is able to identify the origin of the different energy streams and knew two of them came from Monk No Commandment.”

“Why are you saying that our six energy streams are weaker and the god-damned No Commandment’s energy streams are stronger? There’s no doubt that ours are stronger and his are weaker!” Trunk Fairy snubbed furiously.

“What a nerve!” Ping One-Finger sneered. “He was only one, yet his two energy streams overwhelmed all the energy streams of the six of you combined. How the hell could yours be stronger, huh? Monk No Commandment the old scumbag, he has outstanding Kung Fu skills yet no brain! God damn it! What an idiot!”

Flower Fairy stuck his finger out and pretended to also check Linghu Chong’s pulse. “Well,” he said, “it seems that the energy streams of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies are actually in total control and have completely overwhelmed Monk No Commandment’s….” Suddenly he cried out in pain and pulled his finger back quickly as if somebody has bitten it. “Ouch! God damn it!” he shouted.

Looking very pleased, Ping One-Finger burst into loud laughter. Everybody could tell that he must have passed his advanced inner energy through Linghu Chong’s body and gave Flower Fairy a painful shock.

After some more laughing, Ping One-Finger put the solemn face back on.

“Listen up, all of you! Go wait in the boat’s hold and be quiet! I don’t want hear a word out of you!”

“Wait a minute! What makes you think we’d do exactly what you tell us to do?” Leaf Fairy protested.

“Didn’t you swear an oath that you would kill a person for me?” Ping One-Finger asked.

“That’s right! But we only agreed to kill a person for you. We never agreed to follow your orders?” Branch Fairy answered.

“It’s totally up to you whether you want to follow my orders or not. But what if I ask you to kill the Fruit Fairy of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies? What do you think?” Ping One-Finger sneered.

The Five Fairies all shouted out in protests. “That’s outrageous! You have just cured him. Why are you asking us to kill him?”

“Well, what kind of oath did you five swear to me?” Ping One-Finger asked.

“We agreed that if you can cure our brother Fruit Fairy, then when you order us to kill a person, regardless of who that person is, we must do it. No excuses, whatsoever,” Root Fairy replied.

“That’s correct!” Ping One-Finger nodded. “Now did I cure your brother?”

“Yes, you did!” Flower Fairy concurred.

“Is Fruit Fairy a person?” Ping One-Finger pressed on.

“Of course he is a person. He is no ghost,” Leaf Fairy answered.

“Fine. I want you to kill a person for me, and this person is Fruit Fairy!” Ping One-Finger concluded.

The five Fairies looked at each other in blank dismay. All felt that this order was unspeakably queer, yet neither of them could think of any argument.

“If you are not willing to kill Fruit Fairy, I am sure we can work something out. Now will you follow my orders? I am telling you to go sit in the boat’s hold and behave yourselves. I don’t want any movement or any word out of you,” Ping One-Finger commanded.

The five Fairies hurriedly acknowledged the order, and within seconds, all five of them sat down in the hold, their hands on their knees and their backs straight up, making sure that no one could have behaved any better than them.

“Master Ping, I heard that you have this rule when you treat your patients: after you’ve cured the patient, he will have to kill someone for you. Is that true?” Linghu Chong asked.

“That’s correct! I do have this rule,” Ping One-Finger admitted.

“But I don’t want to kill anyone for you, so please save your trouble and don’t treat me,” Linghu Chong exclaimed.

“Huh!” Ping One-Finger uttered a cry of surprise. He looked Linghu Chong up and down as if he had seen something totally eccentric and abnormal. After a long pause, he spoke again.

“Firstly, your case is too severe and I can’t cure you; secondly, even if I could cure you, someone else has already agreed to kill for me. You don’t have to worry about it at all.”

Ever since Yue Lingshan had shifted her love interests to someone else, Linghu Chong had lost the joy of life. But when he heard from this famous doctor, who had such a great reputation with his capability of bringing the dying back to life, that even he couldn’t cure the wounds, Linghu Chong still found himself swept by utter desolation.

The Yue couple gave each other a stare, both thinking, “Who has gotten such great due respect that could have made ‘Killer Doctor’ to make house calls? What kind of relationship does he have with Chong?”

“Brother Linghu,” Ping One-Finger spoke again. “There are eight streams of foreign energy forces inside your body that could not be discharged, nor dissolved, nor tamed, nor overpowered, which have caused all the injuries and suffering. I was entrusted the task to cure your wounds. It’s not that I am holding any effort back from you. Because your injuries are related to inner energy, that’s why medicine and medical treatments won’t do you any good. Ever since I became a doctor, I’ve never seen any injuries like this. Alas, there’s really nothing I can do. I am so ashamed.”

He took a china bottle out from his chest pocket and then poured ten vermilion pills into his palm.

“These are ten ‘Heart-Soothing’ pills. They contain many kinds of precious medicinal materials and took me a long time to make. Take one pill every ten days and you will be able to live for another one hundred days.”

“Many thanks!” Linghu Chong took the pills respectfully.

Ping One-Finger turned around and headed toward the bank. But suddenly he turned back again. “There are two more pills in the bottle. I might as well give all of them to you.” He took out the china bottle and handed it out.

But Linghu Chong didn’t take it. “I can tell that senior master really treasure these pills very much. They must contain great healing power. It’s probably better to keep them with you to save someone else in the future. Even if I could live ten days or twenty days longer, it’s not gonna do anybody, even I myself, any good.”

Ping One-Finger threw a sideways glance at Linghu Chong for a moment and then murmured, “Having no regards of one’s own life, you do show the qualities of a true man. No wonder! No wonder! Alas, what a pity! I am sorry!”

He shook his giant head, turned around, leapt off the boat, and then walked off in big strides. He came and went so abruptly and completely ignored Yue Buqun, the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School. Yue Buqun was greatly annoyed. But there were still five menaces sitting in the boat’s hold. Getting rid of them was not going to be an easy task.

The five Fairies all sat absolutely still, their eyes looking down, their hands on their knees, as if they were monks meditating in trance. If Yue Buqun ordered the boat to start sail, then the five menaces would have, for sure, been brought along. If he didn’t order the boat to start sail, then nobody knew how long they were going to just sit there, or if they were going to jump up suddenly to attack in retaliation for the stab Madam Yue gave Fruit Fairy. Lao Denuo, Yue Lingshan, and some more apprentices had seen with their own eyes the horrible scene how the Fairies had ripped Cheng Buyou into pieces. Even now, each of them could still feel chills on their back from the fear. They simply gazed at each other in dismay, and neither was even brave enough to cast a glance at those five.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” Linghu Chong came back into the hold.

“We are just sitting here and behaving ourselves. We are not doing anything,” Root Fairy answered.

“We are about to start sail. You can go back ashore now,” Linghu Chong urged.

“Ping One-Finger told us to sit in the hold and behave ourselves, no talks and no movements. Otherwise, he is gonna ask us to kill our brother. That’s why we are sitting here behaving ourselves and dare not talk or move,” Branch Fairy replied.

Linghu Chong couldn’t help but grin at these words. “Doctor Ping has gone ashore already. You can start talking and moving now!”

“No way! No way! What if he sees us talking and moving about? That’s not going to be good!” Flower Fairy shook his head frantically.

Suddenly a croaky voice floated from ashore, “Hey, you five ugly goblins! Where are you?”

“I think he’s calling us,” Root Fairy suggested.

“Why do you think he’s calling us? Are we ugly goblins?” Branch Fairy argued.

The voice shouted again, “I have one more ugly goblin here. Doctor Ping has just cured him. Do you want him or not? If you don’t want him, I am gonna drop him in the river to feed the fish.”

Hearing those, the five Fairies instantly leapt out of the hold side by side and landed ashore. The middle-aged woman who had helped Ping One-Finger with the operation stood by the river straight as a ramrod. With her left arm extended to the side, she lifted a stretcher in her left hand, and Fruit Fairy lay on the stretcher. The woman looked ill from her face yet had great strength. To lift the over one hundred pounds Fruit Fairy plus the wooden stretcher using only one arm seemed so easy for her.

“Of course we want him. Why would we not want him?” Root Fairy said hurriedly.

“Why are you calling us ugly goblins?” Branch Fairy asked.

“Look at yourself, you look more like an ugly goblin yourself,” Fruit Fairy said while lying on the stretcher.

It turned out that after Ping One-Finger had sewed Fruit Fairy’s wound back together, fed him some miraculous medicine, and then smacked his head to inject advanced inner energy, he immediately stood up and walked out. But due to the loss of great amount of blood, he fainted again after only a short distance and was brought back into the room by the middle-aged woman. Even though he was still far from recovering, his wounds didn’t keep him from yielding to anyone orally, and he simply couldn’t help but contradict the woman.

“Do you know what Doctor Ping fears the most in his life?” the woman asked coldly.

“We don’t know. What does he fear the most?” the six Fairies replied in unison.

“He fears his wife!” the woman answered.

“We thought he feared nothing at all. Who would have though he actually fears his wife? Ha-ha! Oh my god! Ha-ha!” The Peach Valley’s Six Fairies laughed so hard that they almost laughed their heads off.

“What’s so funny? I am his wife,” the woman said in a chilling tone.

Instantly, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies shut themselves up.

“He never dare disobey my orders,” the woman continued. “If I want anyone dead, that person will be the one he tells you to kill.”

“Yes! Yes! May we ask you who you want dead, Mrs. Ping?” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies asked in unison.

The woman cast a glance toward the boat’s hold and looked at all the Huashan members one by one. Her eyes moved from Yue Buqun to Madam Yue, then to Yue Lingshan, then to the rest of the Huashan apprentices. Every one could feel goose bumps all over his back, all knowing that if this woman with the ugly and bloodless face had pointed at one of them, the five Fairies would instantly rip that person into pieces. Even first class fighters like Yue Buqun perhaps wouldn’t be able to escape from their hands.

The woman slowly looked away from the Huashan members and then turned her eyes to the faces of the six Fairies. The six brothers also felt their heart pounding in their chests from fear. “Uh,” the woman let out a sound, and the six Fairies immediately answered, “Yes! Yes!” “Hum,” the woman let out a snort, and the six Fairies again answered at once, “Yes! Yes!”

“I haven’t thought of whom I want dead,” the woman finally said. “But Doctor Ping said that there’s a Young Master Linghu Chong on the boat who he respects very much. You must wait upon him until he dies. Whatever he tells you to do, you will do it for him with no exceptions. Do you hear me?”

“Wait upon him until he dies?” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies asked with big frowns.

“That’s correct! Wait upon him until he dies. But he only has one hundred days left in this life. Within the next one hundred days, you must obey all of his orders,” Mrs. Ping explained.

Hearing that Linghu Chong only had no more than one hundred days left, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies all became happy again. “Sure, to wait upon him for one hundred days shouldn’t be that hard!” they all said.

“I am truly grateful for Master Ping’s generous offer, but I dare not trouble the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to care for me,” Linghu Chong rejected. “Will you please tell them to stay ashore? We hereby bid our farewell to you.”

Mrs. Ping kept her cold face without any sign of joy or anger, whatsoever. “Doctor Ping said that Young Master Linghu’s internal injury is solely caused by those six scumbags. Not only would Young Master Linghu die because of that, it also made Doctor Ping lose great face from not being able to cure him and give a satisfactory answer to the one who entrusted him for the task, that’s why he must punish these six scumbags to a great extent. Doctor Ping had planned to ask them to kill one of their brothers following their own oath, but he decided to show mercy and only ask them to wait upon Young Master Linghu.”

She paused for a moment and then continued. “If these six scumbags do not follow Young Master Linghu’s commands and Doctor Ping hears about it, he promises to kill one of them immediately.”

“Since brother Linghu’s injury was caused by us, it’s really nothing that we wait upon him for a while. A true man knows when to pay back a favor and when to settle a score,” Flower Fairy declared.

“A true man is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of friendship, much less waiting upon his injuries,” Branch Fairy added.

“My wounds also need someone to wait upon. So I’ll wait upon him and he will wait upon me. Back and forth, it’s good for both of us,” Fruit Fairy followed.

“Not mentioning that we can only wait upon him for a limited one hundred days. How short it is!” Trunk Fairy joined in.

Root Fairy smacked his own thigh loudly and said, “Even in the old days people could travel a thousand miles to help at the news of their friend’s trouble. For us six brothers, did we ever hesitate to jump in troubles and help the needed…?”

Mrs. Ping shot a glance of distain toward the six Fairies and then simply walked away. Branch Fairy and Trunk Fairy lifted the stretcher and leapt onboard. Root Fairy and the rest of the Fairies all followed. Then six voices shouted simultaneously, “Start the sail! Start the sail!”

By then, Linghu Chong knew that, for sure, they wouldn’t be able to keep the six Fairies from going together with them, so he said, “Six Fairy brothers! I can let you come together with us, but you must show good manners to my Master and Master-Wife. This is my first order. If you don’t do as I say, then I don’t want you to wait upon me.”

“We, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, have always been refined and courteous gentlemen. Everybody knows that. We will even show respects to your apprentice or your grand-apprentice, much less your Master and Master-Wife,” Leaf Fairy replied.

Hearing that he had called himself a refined and courteous gentleman, Linghu Chong found himself greatly amused. He turned to Yue Buqun and said, “Master, these six Fairy brothers would like to board our boat and sail east with us. Do you think it’s alright?”

Yue Buqun pondered. It seemed that, at least for now, these six wouldn’t make things difficult for the Huashan School. With everybody else on the same boat, they still remained a serious hidden danger. But it was probably impossible to drive them away under the current circumstance. Fortunately these six men appeared to be mentally deranged despite the outstanding Kung Fu skills they possessed. So it wouldn’t be entirely impossible to contain them by strategy. At that thought, he nodded.

“Alright. I guess they can take the boat with us if they insist. But I prefer a quiet life and would not want to listen to them argue back and forth non-stop.”

“You’ve said it wrong, Mr. Yue,” Branch Fairy argued. “Why do you think a person is born with a mouth? Other than eating, this mouth is also used to talk. And how about the two ears? Of course they are used to listen to people talking. If you prefer a quiet life, then you are really letting the Almighty Creator down for giving you a mouth and two ears.”

Yue Buqun knew too well that if he had argued back, when the other five brothers’ five mouths all joined in, that would be like opening a can of worms, and there would be no end to it. He couldn’t beat them in physical fight, nor would he be able to beat them in a word fight, so he simply let out a slight smile and then said, “Boatman, set sail!”

“Mr. Yue, didn’t you just open your mouth to tell the boatman to set sail? If you really prefer a quiet life, you should have signaled him to set sail with a gesture,” Leaf Fairy joined in.

“The boatman is at the back of the boat, and Mr. Yue is here in the middle section. If he had signaled yet the boatman couldn’t see him, then it would still be useless,” Trunk Fairy disagreed.

“Couldn’t he have walked to the back of the boat and then signal the gesture?” Root Fairy suggested.

“What if the boatman couldn’t understand his gesture and thought the ‘set sail’ command was the ‘sink the boat’ command? That would be terrible,” Flower Fairy argued.

Amid the arguments from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, the boatman had weighed the anchor and set sail.

Both Yue Buqun and Madam Yue cast a glance at Linghu Chong spontaneously followed by a brief glance at the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. After exchanging some looks at each other, the Yue couple all had the same thought.

“Ping One-Finger mentioned that someone had entrusted him to treat Chong’s injury. From his words, it seems that this person must have been someone with very high status in the Martial World, that was why Ping thought nothing of the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, yet was very polite to an apprentice of the Huashan Sword School. Who had entrusted Doctor Ping to treat Chong? Since Ping called Monk No Commandment a ‘god damned idiot,’ then obviously it wasn’t Monk No Commandment.”

In the old days, they would have called Linghu Chong over and asked him in detail, but unconsciously, much misunderstanding had emerged between the master and the apprentice. Both of them knew it was not yet the time to ask Linghu Chong. When Madam Yue thought of that even Ping One-Finger, the number one doctor in the Martial World, couldn’t cure Linghu Chong’s injury and that he only had one hundred days left in his life, sadness welled up in her heart and tears streamed down her cheek.

Sailing with the wind and downstream, the boat traveled speedily. By evening, they were already not far from the town of Lanfeng. The boatman anchored the boat along the bank and soon had prepared dinner. Just when everyone was ready for supper, suddenly, loud voices came from ashore.

“Excuse me! May I ask if the heroes of the Huashan Sword School are on this boat?”

Before Yue Buqun had a chance to answer, Branch Fairy had already answered, “Heroes of both the Huashan Sword School and the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies are all on this boat. What do you want?”

“Great! Great! We have been waiting here for an entire day and night. Hurry! Hurry up! Take those over!” the man replied gleefully.

Over a dozen hefty looking men walked out from a straw mat shed falling into two lines, each with a red-lacquered small case in his hands. An empty-handed man in a blue robe walked by the boat and bowed down.

“Our superior was very concerned when he heard that young hero Linghu was not feeling well. He really wanted to pay a visit himself but simply did not have enough time to make the trip back. So he sent me specific orders by homing pigeons and asked me to present some small gifts to young hero Linghu on his behalf.”

One by one, the dozen of men walked aboard in a file and placed the over a dozen of cases down on the boat.

Utterly surprised, Linghu Chong couldn’t help but ask, “I am Linghu Chong. May I ask who the respectful superior of yours is? I am afraid I am unworthy of such generous gifts.”

“Young hero Linghu is a man of good fortunes. I am sure you will fully recover in no time. Please take care!” the man replied. Bowing down respectfully, he led the bunch of men and walked away.

“I wonder who is sending me the gifts. This is so odd,” Linghu Chong murmured.

The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies could no longer hold their patience. “Let’s open them up!” they acclaimed in unison and soon had opened all of the red-lacquered small cases. Some of the cases were filled with exquisite refreshments and pastry; some contained smoked chicken or ham that were great to go with wine; some held all kinds of expensive and precious medicinal materials such as ginseng, pilose antler, swallow nest, and tremella; the last two cases were filled with small gold and silver ingots, apparently for Linghu Chong to use along his trip. These were no small gifts at all! As soon as the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies spotted the candies, cookies, candied fruits, and the pastries in the different cases, they wasted no time grabbing the treats and jamming them into their mouths. “This is delicious! So delicious!” they shouted cheerfully.

Linghu Chong checked the many cases carefully and thoroughly yet didn’t find any notes, seals, or signs that would give out a trace of the gift-giver’s identity.

“Master,” Linghu Chong said to Yue Buqun, “I really can’t figure this one out. These people seem to bear no ill will, and it doesn’t look like that they are playing pranks on us either.” Having said those words, he put some of the treats in front of his Master and Master-Wife respectfully before distributing the rest of them to his apprentice brothers and sisters.

Yue Buqun cast a glance at the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. They all had some of the treats, and none of them had any abnormal reactions from the food. It seemed that the food was not poisoned. So he asked Linghu Chong.

“Do you have any martial friends living in this area?”

“No.” Linghu Chong shook his head after he pondered for a moment.

Sound of hoof beats suddenly rose. Eight riders dashed toward them along the river. Someone shouted among the riders.

“Is young hero Linghu of the Huashan Sword School over there?”

“Yes, yes! He’s over here! What good stuff have you brought with you?” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies shouted cheerfully.

“Our chief heard that young hero Linghu had come to the town of Lanfeng. He also heard that young hero Linghu is quite fond of wine, so he told me to put together sixteen jars of excellent mellow wine and bring them here, so young hero Linghu can enjoy them on the boat along his trip,” the man shouted back.

Soon, the eight riders had arrived, and sure enough, each saddle atop the horsebacks had two wine jars hanging from it. And on the wine jars, some wrote “Best Quality Royal-Wine,” some wrote “High Grade Fen-Wine,” and some others wrote “Shaoxing Red Wine.” These sixteen jars of wine turned out to have contained sixteen different types of wine. In Linghu Chong’s mind, there was nothing else that could have been a better gift than these great wines. He hurried to the bow of the boat and then cupped his hands to salute.

“Please forgive my ignorance. Will you please tell me the name of your respectful clan? And what is your respectful name?”

“Our chief specifically told us again and again to not mention the name of our clan to young hero Linghu. He said that these are only very humble gifts. It’s embarrassing enough. Why embarrass ourselves even more by mentioning our names?” the man answered with a grin. He waved a signal to his companions, and all the riders carried the many wine jars onto the boat.

Yue Buqun gazed at the eight men from within the boat’s hold. Every one of them was vigorous and nimble. Carrying one wine jar in each hand, they leapt aboard easily. None of the eight had any outstanding Kung Fu skills, and it was obvious that they were all from different Kung Fu schools. They must have been telling the truth when they said that they were members of a clan.

After sending the sixteen jars of wine aboard, the eight men bowed to Linghu Chong, jumped back onto their horses, and soon faded into the night.

“Master, how strange this is! I wonder who is playing a joke with me and sent me this many jars of wine,” Linghu Chong grinned.

“Could it be Tian Boguang? Or could it be Monk No Commandment?” Yue Buqun murmured.

“Right!” Linghu Chong replied. “Those two tend to do things the odd way. Who knows, it might be them behind all these. Hey, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies! We have so much great wine here. Aren’t you going to have some?”

“Of course! Of course! We don’t’ see any reason not to!” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies agreed wholeheartedly.

Root Fairy and Trunk Fairy each picked up a jar. After opening the seal, they poured the wine into bowls. The wonderful smell immediately filled the air. The six Fairies didn’t even pretend to be polite to Linghu Chong, raising the bowls up and down, they began swallowing the great wine in big gulps.

Linghu Chong also filled a bowl with wine and took it to Yue Buqun.

“Master, please have some. This wine is not bad, indeed.”

Yue Buqun slightly frowned and hummed.

“Master,” Lao Denuo joined in, “taking precaution never hurts. We don’t know who sent us these wines. Who knows if there’s anything odd in these wines?”

Yue Buqun nodded in agreement. “Chong, we’d better be careful.”

But once the wonderful smell of high quality wine had gone into Linghu Chong’s nose, he could no longer hold his craving.

“I won’t be living much longer, anyway. It’s no difference for me whether the wine was poisoned or not,” he said with a grin.

Raising the bowl up with both hands, Linghu Chong poured all the wine in the bowl into his mouth and swallowed them in big gulps. “Great wine! Fabulous!” he praised.

Suddenly a voice came from ashore. Someone also praised loudly, “Great wine! Fabulous!”

Linghu Chong looked toward the direction the voice had come from and his eyes came upon a down and out scholar looking man in shabby clothes. The scholar had a torn folding fan in his right hand. Raising his head high, he sniffed again and again in the air, trying hard to catch as much of the great scent of wine as possible.

“Definitely great wine!” the scholar praised again.

“You haven’t even tasted it, how would you know if the wine was good or bad, brother?” Linghu Chong asked with a grin.

“As soon as you smell the scent of the wine, you should have known that this is sixty-two year old High Grade Fen-Wine. Then undoubtedly it has to be great!” the scholar replied.

Linghu Chong had become quite an expert in the subject of wine thanked to the enthusiastic teachings from the Elder Bamboo-Green. He had already figured out that the wine was about sixty years old. But it would be simply impossible to be so sure that the wine was exactly sixty-two years old. The scholar must be exaggerating, he thought.

“If this brother doesn’t mind, would you like to join us for some wine?” Linghu Chong invited with a smile.

“But you hardly know me at all,” the scholar replied while wagging his head back and forth. “We have only met by chance like patches of drifting duckweed. I’ve already disturbed you enough by sniffing the scent of wine here. How can I trouble you even further by drinking your wine? I really couldn’t do that! I certainly couldn’t do that!”

“The old saying said it well: We are all brothers within the four seas. From what you just said, I can tell that you must be an expert in the knowledge of wine. I’d love to consult you on some of the questions. Come aboard please! Don’t be too modest,” Linghu Chong invited again with a smile.

Hearing these words, the scholar strolled over slowly. After bowing down deeply, he said, “My surname is Zu, the same Zu that’s in the word ancestor. The famous Zu Di in history who trained at the first crow of a cock was indeed a remote ancestor of mine. My first name is Qianqiu, which means a thousand years. This brother! May I ask what your respectful name is?”

“My surname is Linghu, and my first name is Chong,” Linghu Chong replied.

“Great surname! Great surname! And your first name is great too!” Zu Qianqiu praised while walking aboard the boat from the springboard.

Linghu Chong was amused. “Just because I am inviting him for some wine, even my name is now a better name. Go figure!” he couldn’t help thinking.

He filled a bowl with wine and then handed the bowl to Zu Qianqiu.

“Here you go! Enjoy!” he said.

Zu Qianqiu was a man in his fifties. He had a sallow face, a pair of listless eyes, and a brandy nose. Sparse beard occupied the lower half of his face. The front of his garment had many oil stains. When he extended his hands out, filth could clearly be seen under the fingernails of all his ten fingers. He was a thin man yet had a big belly that was totally out of proportion.

Seeing that Linghu Chong had handed over the bowl of wine, Zu Qianqiu didn’t take it from him right away.

“Brother Linghu, although you have great wines, yet you don’t have any good vessels of wine. What a great pity that is!” he exclaimed.

“We are in the middle of a trip and only have a few rough bowls and cups. Mister Zu, you’ll just have to make do with them,” Linghu Chong replied.

“No way! No Way!” Zu Qianqiu shook his head and exclaimed. “Obviously you haven’t mastered the secret of the art of drinking; otherwise, you wouldn’t have been so careless about the vessels of wine. The art of drinking must have great regards to the vessels of wine. The kind of wine cup to use is very particular to what kind of wine you are drinking. If you are drinking Fen-Wine, then of course we have to use a Jade Cup. In the Tang Dynasty, a poet once wrote, ‘Jade Cups bring about the light of amber.’ Evidently a Jade Cup can help to perfect the color of the wine.”

“No doubt!” Linghu Chong agreed.

“Look at this jar of the Northeastern White-Wine,” Zu Qianqiu pointed at one of the wine jars and continued, “the flavor of the wine is excellent, but it lacks the sweet scent of good wine. You’d better drink it with a Rhino-horn Cup, which will make the wine taste just perfect. One should know that a Jade Cup will enhance the color of the wine and a Rhino-horn Cup will enhance the sweet scent of the wine. Our ancestors kid us not. Indeed!”

Back at Luoyang, Linghu Chong had listened to Elder Bamboo-Green teaching and explaining the subject of wine and had mastered a great deal of knowledge about the origin, the smell, the method of winemaking and storing procedures of the many kinds of famous wines, yet he knew nothing about wine vessels. And now when he listened to Zu Qianqiu speak with such fervor and assurance, he couldn’t help the feeling of suddenly seeing the light.

“As for Grape Wine, the answer is naturally the Luminous Cup. The ancients wrote in their poems, ‘Wonderful Grape Wine filled the Luminous Cups; I want to drink but the sound of Pipa is already calling me to my horseback.’ Grape Wine has this gaudy kind of reddish color, which doesn’t really promote the kind of heroic spirit us men should have shown when we drink it. But after we pour the Grape Wine into the Luminous Cup, the color of the wine is now no different from the color of blood. Drinking wine is almost like drinking blood. Yue Fei wrote in his poem, ‘With soaring aspirations I eat my foe’s flesh to rid my hunger; amid my talk and my smile I drink the enemy’s blood to rid my thirst.’ How brave and heroic!”

Linghu Chong nodded again and again. He had very little education in literature, so when he listened to Zu Qianqiu quoting various poems he wasn’t very clear as to what each sentence really meant. But when he heard the last one, “amid my talk and my smile I drink the enemy’s blood to rid my thirst”, he agreed wholeheartedly that this line indeed showed ultimately heroic spirit between the words, and could invoke great inspiration from the listeners.

Zu Qianqiu pointed at another wine jar and went on. “As for Sorghum Wine, it is the most ancient wine in human history. Yidi invented the method of wine brewing back in the Xia Dynasty when Yu was the king. Yu drank the wine and really loved the taste of it. Guess what? That wine was none other than this Sorghum Wine. Brother Linghu, ordinary people are so shortsighted. They only know that King Yu achieved a great deal in flood-control, which benefited the entire afterworld, but they didn’t know that flood-control was so insignificant compared to the real accomplishment he had achieved. Do you know what his real accomplishment was?”

“Making Wine!” Linghu Chong and the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies answered in unison.

“Precisely!” Zu Qianqiu confirmed, and all eight of them laughed out loud.

“To drink the Sorghum Wine, only a Bronze Jue can bring out the ancient meaning of it,” Zu Qianqiu continued. “And as for the Rice Wine, even though first-class Rice Wine has a fair taste, it lacks the appropriate amount of sweetness and seems to be thin and weak. We ought to drink it with big ladlers to show the lofty quality.”

“I am just a man from the wildness. I had no idea that the relationship between wine and wine vessels actually calls for such careful study,” Linghu Chong said.

Zu Qianqiu gave a gentle pat on a wine jar that had the words “Hundred-Grass Wine” written on it.

“In order to make the Hundred-Grass Wine, one must collect a variety of grasses and then soak them in top quality wine, that’s why it has a kind of faint, pleasant scent, the kind you would smell on a spring outing to the wilderness, that will make you tipsy even before you drink it. To drink the Hundred-Grass Wine, we ought to use an Age-old Rattan Cup. ‘Hundred-year-old rattan, carved into a cup, when used to drink the Hundred-Grass Wine, enhancing the wonderful fragrance it does.’”

“Hundred-year-old rattan, that had be precious,” Linghu Chong commented.

“Brother Linghu, you’ve said it wrong!” Zu Qianqiu disagreed with a stern countenance. “Compared to the hundred-year-old rattan, hundred-year-old wine is even more precious. Think about it, you can just go to a remote mountain area if you want to look for hundred-year-old rattan. But in regard to the hundred-year-old wine, everybody wants to drink it. After you drink it, it’s gone, yet even after you drink a thousand times using the Age-Old Rattan Cup, the cup is still there, nothing less, nothing more.”

“You are absolutely right! I am so very ignorant. Thank you for the advice,” Linghu Chong replied.

Throughout the entire time, Yue Buqun had paid great attention to Zu Qianqiu’s every single word. He could tell that Zu was definitely exaggerating, yet his words seemed reasonable. Seeing how Branch Fairy, Trunk Fairy, and the rest Fairies pick up the jar of Hundred-Grass Wine and splash it all over the table when they poured it, as if it were just some kind of cheap wine, even though Yue Buqun was not fond of drinking, he could still smell the pure and nice aroma of the wine assailing his nostrils. He knew that the wine must have been top quality, and it was such a pity for the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to abuse it like that.

“And to drink the Shaoxing Red Wine, we ought to use an Ancient-china Cup,” Zu Qianqiu went on explaining, “and it would be better to use a china cup from the Northern Song Dynasty. A china cup from the Southern Song Dynasty would be alright, but it certainly has the sign of waning. As for china cups from the Yuan Dynasty, they are inevitably uncouth. And for the Pear-Blossom Wine of course it has to be the Emerald Cup. Bai Juyi wrote in his poem Spring View of Hangzhou, ‘The red sleeves of the silk weaving girls reflected the persimmon leaves, and the emerald green flag of the wine shop sets off the Pear-Blossom Wine.’ Think about it, the wine shop in Hangzhou was selling the Pear-Blossom Wine and they had an emerald green flag hanging outside, which set off the Pear-Blossom Wine wonderfully. Then to drink the Pear-Blossom Wine, of course we have to use an Emerald Cup. And to drink the Jade-dew Wine, it ought to be the Glazed Cup. There are many small bubbles in the Jade-dew Wine, and only by drinking it with the crystal Glazed Cup can we appreciate the beauty of it.”

“Toot toot toot! Aren’t you just blowing your own trumpet!” a girl’s voice suddenly rose. It was Yue Lingshan, who also made a face while speaking.

“Lingshan, don’t be rude. What Mr. Zu said is very reasonable,” Yue Buqun admonished.

“How can it be reasonable? Wine can add to the fun, and that’s all it’s good for. Drinking days and nights yet with so many rules, a true hero would never do that,” Lingshan disagreed.

“Miss, you said it wrong!” Zu Qianqiu wagged his head back and forth. “Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han Dynasty. Isn’t he a great hero? If it weren’t because he became drunk and beheaded the white snake, how could he have established the Hang Dynasty that lasted several hundred years? Isn’t Fan Kuai a great hero? That day in the Banquet of Hongman, General Fan sliced the meat on his shield and drank the wine using a big ladler. Isn’t that the true display of heroic spirits?”

“Mister Zu, you know these are top quality wines, and you just mentioned that heroes also love drinking, then how come you are not drinking?” Linghu Chong asked with a grin.

“I’ve said it earlier. Without appropriate wine vessels we would just be abusing these great wines,” Zu Qianqiu answered.

“You are really boasting in the most fantastic terms when you talked about the Emerald Cup, Luminous Cup, and whatever else,” Trunk Fairy mocked. “Where are you going to find cups like that? Even if those cups do exist, there is probably only one or two apiece. Who’s able to collect all of them?”

“An elegant gentleman, who has poetic temperament, who cares about savoring the great taste of wine, would, of course, have them. The way you guys drink is like cows or donkeys drinking out of a manger, then, of course, any kind of coarse cups or bowls would do for you,” Zu Qianqiu mocked back.

“Are you an elegant gentleman?” Leaf Fairy challenged.

“Well, not too much, yet not too little, I do possess some quality of an elegant gentleman,” Zu Qianqiu answered.

Leaf Fairy burst into loud laughter. “Then the kind of wine cups you just described for these eight kinds of wine, how many do you have with you?” he asked.

“Well, not too many, yet not too few, I do have one for each kind,” Zu Qianqiu answered.

“Braggart! Braggart!” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies shouted in unison!

“How about a bet?” Root Fairy suggested. “If you have these eight kinds of wine cups with you, I’ll eat them one by one. What if you don’t have them? What’s that going to be?”

“Then I’ll eat all these wine cups and bowls here on the table one by one, also, as a forfeit!” Zu Qianqiu vowed.

“Wonderful! Wonderful! Let’s see how he is going to…,” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies all cheered.

But before they even finished their sentence, Zu Qianqiu had already reached into his chest pocket and took out a wine cup. Tender and smooth, it turned out to be a Jade Cup.

Greatly astonished, the six Fairies swallowed the rest of the sentence back down their throats. Staring at Zu Qianqiu in shock, they watched him taking out one wine cup after another continuously. Among them were indeed the Emerald Cup, the Rhino-horn Cup, the Age-Old Rattan Cup, the Bronze Jue, the Luminous Cup, the Glazed Cup, and the Ancient-china Cup. After taking out these eight wine cups, Zu Qianqiu didn’t stop and kept taking out more and more wine cups. There were the shinning Golden Cup, the exquisitely carved Silver Cup, and the multicolored and naturally patterned Stone Cup. Furthermore, there were the Ivory Cup, the Tiger-tooth Cup, the Cowskin Cup, the Bamboo-tube Cup, the Rosewood Cup, and so on and so on. Some were large, and some were small; each looked different from the other ones. Everybody was dumbstruck; neither had expected that the poor and pedantic scholar had so many wine cups hidden in his chest pocket.

“What about it?” Zu Qianqiu asked Root Fairy in a perky voice.

Root Fairy’s face saddened. “I lost! Fine, I’ll eat eight wine cups,” he said.

Picking up the Age-old Rattan Cup, Root Fairy bit it hard. Crack, the cup broke into two. He stuck the smaller half into his mouth, and after some loud chewing and crunching he swallowed the pieces down his throat.

Nobody had expected him to really eat the wine cup, and within seconds, he had already swallowed down half of the wine cup. Everyone gasped in astonishment. Extending his arm out, Root Fairy reached for the Rhino-horn Cup this time.

Suddenly, Zu Qianqiu whisked with his left hand and struck toward Root Fairy’s wrist. Root Fairy dropped his right hand slightly and then grabbed back at Zu Qianqiu’s wrist to counter, but Zu Qianqiu flicked his middle finger swiftly toward Root Fairy’s palm. Stunned, Root Fairy drew his arm back.

“Don’t you want me to eat them?” he asked.

“I give up! You surely have got the fortitude. Let’s just say you have already eaten all the eight wine cups. I’d rather keep my cups,” Zu Qianqiu replied. Everybody laughed at these words.

Yue Lingshan had been quite scared of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, at first, but since they showed no sign of vicious or ruthless intentions throughout the time they were on the boat, instead, they always talked and behaved in a funny and affable manner, Yue Lingshan’s fear slowly slipped way.

“Ahoy! Does that Age-old Rattan Cup taste any good?” she mustered up her courage and asked.

Root Fairy smacked his lips loudly and then lapped them with his tongue. “Yuck! What’s good about it? It’s too bitter!”

“Alas, you’ve really messed up my plan! You’ve eaten my Age-old Rattan Cup, what cup am I gonna use for the Hundred-Grass Wine now? Guess we’ll just have to put up with a wooden cup.” Zu Qianqiu frowned.

He took out a handkerchief from his chest pocket. Picking up what’s left of the Age-old Rattan Cup, he began wiping it with the handkerchief. After a short while, he picked the Rosewood Cup up and also wiped it in and out. The handkerchief appeared to be damp and dirty, so the more he wiped the cup with it, the filthier the cup had become. After spending a good while wiping the wooden cup, he finally put the wooden cup back on the table. Lining all eight cups in a row, he put the rest of the wine cups back into his chest pocket and then began pouring the Fen-Wine, Grape Wine, Shaoxing Red Wine, and the rest of the eight different kinds of wine into the eight cups. Then he let out a sigh of relief.

“Brother Linghu, please drink these eight cups of wine one by one. After you finish them, I’ll drink eight cups of wine to accompany you. Let’s savor them carefully and see how different they are from the kind of wine you used to have,” Zu Qianqiu invited.

“Sure!” Linghu Chong answered. He raised the wooden cup and then poured the wine down his throat in a single gulp. Suddenly, a strong flavor of pungency rose from his stomach and completely consumed him. In great shock, Linghu Chong thought to himself, “Why does the wine have such a peculiar taste?”

“These wine cups are truly the most valuable treasures of wine lovers,” Zu Qianqiu exclaimed. “I’ve met some cowards before who dared not to drink the second cup after tasting the strange flavor from the first cup. Through the ages, I yet have the chance to see one who had the courage to finish all eight cups of wine.”

“I don’t have many days to live anyway,” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “Even if the wines were poisoned, so what? It’s no different to die from poison. Why let him have an excuse to mock me?” So he picked up more cups from the table and drank two more cups of wine. One of them tasted utterly bitter while the other one tasted totally acerbic; neither tasted like good wine. At the time when he raised the fourth cup, Root Fairy suddenly uttered a cry.

“Oh, no! My stomach is burning! There’s fire inside my stomach.”

“You swallowed half of my Age-old Rattan Cup down, how could it not hurt?” Zu Qianqiu grinned. “The age-old rattan is as hard as steel. There’s no way you are going to digest that. You’d better take a lot of cathartic and hope you can get it out of your system. If that’s not gonna work, then you’d have no choice but to ask Killer Doctor Ping One-Finger to cut open your belly and take it out.”

  A thought suddenly emerged in Linghu Chong’s mind, “Something has gotten to be seriously wrong with those eight wine cups of his. After Root Fairy swallowed that Age-old Rattan Cup, even if the rattan were really that hard to digest, he should have suffered no more than some stomachache. Why would he get the burning sensation? Hum, a true man will look death calmly in the face. The more lethal his poison is the better. What am I afraid of?” At that thought, he slammed another cup of wine down his throat.

“Big apprentice brother, don’t drink any more of those wines! They are probably poisonous.” Yue Lingshan suddenly spoke out. “You blinded all those people with your sword, better be careful. It’s very likely that they would plot against you for revenge.”

“This Mister here is a man of the forthright kind. I am sure he won’t be plotting against me,” Linghu Chong said as a sad smile flashed across his lips. Deep in his heart, he actually wished that the wines were poisonous, so that they would kill him right after he drank them. “Would little apprentice sister feel the slightest sorrow when she sees my dying body right in front of her eyes?” he wondered as he drank another two cups of wine. The wine in the sixth cup tasted sour and salty, together with some kind of a stinking odor. The taste was not only far from the taste of great wine, it didn’t even qualify the taste of wine. He couldn’t help but frown.

Watching Linghu Chong drinking one cup after another by the side, Trunk Fairy was bursting to give it a try himself. “Let me have these two cups!” he pleaded and reached out for the seventh cup.

Zu Qianqiu waved his folding fan and smacked it at the back of Trunk Fairy’s hand.

“Patience! Patience!” he urged with a grin. “You’ll have to wait for your turn! Everyone will have to drink all eight cups in sequence to really appreciate the ultimate true taste of wine.”

Trunk Fairy could tell that the smack from Zu Qianqiu’s folding fan had carried a tremendous amount of force. If it had landed on the target squarely, the force probably was powerful enough to smash his bones. Flipping his palm over, he grabbed at the folding fan and shouted at the same time.

“I’d rather drink this one first! What are you going to do about it?”

Zu Qianqiu’s folding fan had been folded into the shape of a short stick, but when Trunk Fairy’s hand was just about to touch the fan, it suddenly opened up abruptly, and the edge of the fan shot swiftly toward Trunk Fairy’s index finger. That caught Trunk Fairy by complete surprise. He drew his hand back hastily and the shot barely missed his finger, but numbness still came from his index finger as the force carried by the fan swept by. Crying out loud in shock, he took a step back.

“Brother Linghu, hurry up with those last two cups of wine!” Zu Qianqiu urged hurriedly.

Giving it no more thoughts, Linghu Chong also drank up the last two cups of wine. Neither of the two cups of wine had that stinking odor. But one was so spicy that it almost felt as if someone was slicing Linghu Chong’s throat with a knife, while the other one had a very strong smell of herbal medicine. How could these be called wine when their flavors were even stronger than the strongest medicinal herb in the world?

Seeing the strange expression on Linghu Chong’s face, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies burst with curiosity! “How does it taste after you drink all eight cups?” they asked eagerly.

“Eight cups all together, taste the ultimate wonder of the Heaven. That’s recorded in ancient scripts,” Zu Qianqiu rushed to answer before Linghu Chong had a chance.

“That’s baloney! What ancient scripts?” Trunk Fairy rebuffed.

All of a sudden, four shadows leapt forward and each grabbed onto one of Zu Qianqiu’s limbs. Nobody had a clue as to what kind of odd signal Trunk Fairy must have given out that had prompted the sudden attack. The techniques of the Six Fairies were lightning fast yet utterly strange. When they suddenly charged at Zu Qianqiu completely out of the blue, even though Zu Qianqiu had excellent Kung Fu skills, himself, he still couldn’t escape. Within a fraction of a second, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies had already lifted Zu Qianqiu off the ground by his four limbs. Having witnessed the terrifying scene when the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies ripped Cheng Buyou into pieces, members of the Huashan School couldn’t help but cry in terror. In the split second, an idea suddenly flashed by Zu Qianqiu’s mind like a lightning. He shouted out loudly.

“The wine is poisonous! Don’t you want the antidote?”

The four Fairies that had grabbed onto Zu Qianqiu’s four limbs all had quite some wine. At the words “the wine is poisoned,” they were all seized by surprise.

That brief hesitation from the four Fairies was exactly what Zu Qianqiu needed. “Farts! Farts!” he cried out loudly.

The four Fairies only felt that something all of a sudden started to slip away from their grips. A loud exploding sound followed immediately after. The next thing they know was that a big hole suddenly emerged in the boat’s mat roofing and Zu Qianqiu had escaped through the opening. Both Root Fairy and Branch Fairy found themselves empty-handed while Flower Fairy had a stinking sock and Leaf Fairy had a stinking and muddy shoe in their hands. The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies also moved speedily. Everyone on the boat only saw a blur and the five had already leapt ashore. But Zu Qianqiu seemed to have vanished into thin air. Just when the five Fairies were about to chase after him using their Qing-Gong techniques, they heard somebody yelling from the far end of the street.

“Zu Qianqiu, you god damned rascal! Give me back my pills! If any pill is missing, I’ll rip all your tendons out and skin you alive!” the man yelled loudly as he dashed closer.

Hearing someone trashing Zu Qianqiu like that, the five Fairies felt great satisfaction and all decided to give up the chase, so they could take a good look at this man who would truly deserve to be called a friend. Standing still, all five of them stared toward the newcomer curiously.

A meatball rolled toward them, panting heavily along the way. Only after it finally rolled almost right next to the five Fairies were they able to recognize that the meatball was actually a man. The man was too short and too fat. It would be even generous to call him a human. He had no neck. His broad and oblate shaped head just sat on his shoulders directly as if somebody had smashed his head with a hammer at the time when he was born, which squashed his head down and stretched his cheeks, mouth, and nose horizontally.

No one could help but laugh inwardly, thinking, “That Ping One-Finger is also a short fatty, but he would certainly pale into insignificance by comparison with this fellow.”

Ping One-Finger was short with an ultra-broad shoulder, but this man also had ultra-thick chest and back. And on top of that, his arms and legs were so short as if he only had the lower arm but without the upper arm and the belly without the underbelly.

The man walked in front of the boat with arms akimbo and then asked arrogantly as if he had the ultimate seniority, “Where is Zu Qianqiu the dirty rascal hiding?

“That dirty rascal ran away. He surely runs fast! I bet you won’t be able to catch up with him rolling so slowly like that,” Root Fairy answered with a grin.

The man shot a glare at Root Fairy with his small and circular eyes and let out a grunt. But suddenly he started yelling again.

“My pills! My pills!”

Giving the ground a hard stamp, the meatball sprang onto the boat and then rolled into the boat’s hold. He first sniffed around a little before picking up an empty wine cup on the table and then put it next to his nose to breathe in. Suddenly, his complexion changed dramatically. Not very complementary to start with, now after the change, his face had transformed into something completely grotesque and impossible to describe in words. Apparently his grievance had reached the extreme. He picked the rest seven cups up one after another and gave each one a good snuffle before murmuring, “My pills!” After he said “my pills” eight times, the sorrow on his face looked so sad that no one could even bare to look into his face. Suddenly he flopped down onto the floor and burst into loud cries.

The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies became even more curious. They gathered around the man in a circle and all started talking at once.

“Why are you crying?”

“Did Zu Qianqiu bully you?”

“Don’t feel bad. We’ll find this dirty rascal and rip him into four pieces to vent your anger.”

“My pills are gone. He blended my pills in his wine and drank all of them. Even if I could kill…kill this dirty rascal, it’s already…already…too late,” the man replied in sobs.

Linghu Chong suddenly thought of something. “What kind of pills are they?” he asked.

“It took me a total of twelve years to collect the thousand-year old Ginseng, Tuckahoe, Glossy Ganoderma, Pilose Antler of young stags, Polygonum Multiflorum, Bear Gallbladder, Pseudo-Ginseng, Muskiness, and other precious medicaments. Then after nine steps of braising and nine times of solarization, I was finally able to refine those “Life-Extending Eight Pills” that had the power of bringing the dying back to life. But who had expected that god damned Zu Qianqiu would steal them from me and then blend them in the wine for a drink?” He shed some more tears.

Linghu Chong was astonished. “Do these eight pills of yours taste the same?” he asked.

“Of course not. Some had a stinking odor, some tasted extremely bitter. Some were so spicy that you’d almost feel like a knife had just slit your throat, and some had a strong flavor of pungency, so strong that you’d think you were on fire. If anyone takes the ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills,’ then no matter how bad his internal wounds or external wounds are, for sure he would come back to life,” the man explained.

“Oh, no!” Linghu Chong cried as he struck his thigh with his palm. “That Zu Qianqiu stole your Life-Extending Eight Pills, but he didn’t take them himself. Instead…instead…”

“Instead what?” the man asked.

“Instead, he blended them in the wine and then fooled me into drinking all of them down with the wine. I had no idea that the wine had contained precious medicinal pills. I actually thought he had poison in the wine,” Linghu Chong replied.

“Poison in the wine? Poison my ass!” the man cursed in fury. “Did you really take my Life-Extending Eight Pills?” he asked, his eyes blazing.

“Zu Qianqiu filled eight cups with good wines for me to drink. Some did taste very bitter, and some did have a terrible odor, some surely felt like somebody slit my throat, and some did have a burning sensation. But to be very honest with you, I didn’t see any pills at all,” Linghu Chong explained.

The man shot a nasty glare toward Linghu Chong and his fat face twitched again and again. All of a sudden, he uttered a loud cry as he sprang onto his feet and then charged at Linghu Chong.

Ever since the man put a wicked look on his face, the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies had been watching out for him. So as soon as he sprang off the floor, four out of the five Fairies had reached their hands out in blazing speed and each grabbed hold of one of his four limbs.

“Don’t hurt him!” Linghu Chong shouted out in a hurry.

But the strange thing was that after the four Fairies had grabbed onto his two wrists and two ankles, his four limbs actually retracted toward his torso and he looked even more like a meatball. In great surprise, the four Fairies gave a loud shout and then pulled harder. The more they pulled, the longer the man’s four limbs extended, and soon his upper arms and thighs all extended out from within his body just like when a turtle’s four limbs were extending out from within the shell.

“Don’t hurt him!” Linghu Chong shouted again.

The Peach Valley’s Four Fairies relaxed the pulling a little bit. The man’s four limbs immediately retracted back and he became a meatball, once again.

“This is so interesting! This is so interesting! What kind of Kung Fu is this?” Fruit Fairy shouted out loudly while still lying on the stretcher.

The Peach Valley’s Four Fairies gave it a good pull, and the man’s arms and legs again went a few feet longer. Yue Lingshan and the bunch of female apprentices simply couldn’t help but giggle by the side.

“Hey, don’t you think you look more handsome this way when we stretch your arms, legs, and your body longer?” Root Fairy joked.

“Oh, no!” the man screamed.

“Why?” the Peach Valley’s Four Fairies asked in shock, and naturally their grips relaxed slightly from the distraction.

The man suddenly pulled hard and his limbs slipped out from the four Fairies’ grips. In the echoing of a loud bang, he had cracked open a large hole in the bottom of the boat and escaped into the river. Everyone cried in astonishment, and water instantly gushed out of the hole and into the boat.

“Get the luggage and jump ashore,” Yue Buqun shouted the order.

The hole on the bottom of the boat was about four feet long and four feet wide. Water gushed in very quickly and only moments later, the water in the boat’s cabin had already risen to knee’s high. Fortunately, the boat was next to the bank and everyone made it ashore safely. Watching the boat sink slowly under the water, the boatman didn’t know what to do and only froze there looking dreadfully worried.

“Don’t be troubled. How much is your boat worth? We’ll pay you double that,” Linghu Chong comforted him. In the meantime, he was deeply puzzled, “I have never met Zu Qianqiu before. Why would he steal these precious medicinal pills and then trick me into taking them?” He tried to slightly redirect his inner energy. A warm feeling rose from his lower stomach, but the eight energy streams still roamed about inside him uncontrollably.

Lao Denuo found another boat to hire and directed people to load the luggage onto the boat. Linghu Chong took out a few of the silver ingots, the ones he had received earlier and had no clue as to who they had come from, and then gave them to the boatman who had lost the boat.

Yue Buqun found himself full of unease at what had happened. It seemed that there were simply too many eccentrics around here. None of the people who had visited had been very frank with them, and accidents just kept happening one after another. It would be the best for them to leave this troubled place as soon as possible. But since it was completely dark already, and it would be too risky to sail in the torrential river at night, he had to temporarily hold on to that thought and rested in the boat for the night.

And as regard to the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, having failed twice to secure their prisoners and letting Zu Qianqiu and the Meatball Man escape one after another, they certainly had a hard time. This was something that had never happened to them before. So being the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, the six brothers kept blowing their own trumpet and tried hard to prettify themselves from the incidents. After some great efforts and still failing to justify themselves, very unhappily, they drank some wine and finally went to bed themselves.

 

 A big city in Henan Province.

 Yue Fei, also named Yue Pengju, was one of the most legendary national heroes in Chinese history. He was the general in the Northern Song dynasty in charge of the Chinese army that defended Northern Song government against the Jin Empire’s invading army.

 Jin Wushu was the general in charge of the Jin Empire’s invading army.

 Yang Zai-Xing was a general under the command of General Yue Fei. He died a tragic death when he took a wrong path and found himself right in the middle of the enemy’s trap. He was shot dead by the Jin army’s many archers.

 Golden Blade Grandpa Yang is a figure from the folklore about the Yang Family Corp. Golden Blade Grandpa Yang was a general for the Northern Song dynasty. His army was surrounded by the Liao Empire’s army. He refused to surrender and committed suicide. He had seven sons, and all seven sons became generals in the Northern Song army and fought the Liao Empire’s invading army.

 Yang the Sixth was the sixth son of Golden Blade Grandpa Yang. He became the commander in chief for the Northern Song army. He was also the only heir of Golden Blade Grandpa Yang that lived long enough to have children to carry the Yang Family’s name down the line.

 Yang the Seventh was the seventh son of Golden Blade Grandpa Yang. He was the best fighter among the seven sons, but died in a young age.

 Yang Zongbao was the son of Yang the Sixth. He was also a general of the Northern Song army.

 Yang Wenguang was the son of Yang Zongbao. He fought in the Northern Song army also.

 In Chinese, Xing means happy.

 Fen-Wine is a famous type of wine that is made in Fenyang, Shan-Xi (first intonation) Province. Even today, Fen-Wine remains one of the best wine brands in China.

 The same Shao-Wine Tian Boguang mentioned in Chapter 9.

 In Chinese, “Zu Zong” means ancestor.

 Zu Di was a real historic figure in the Han Dynasty. When he was still young, he got up at the first crow of a cock every morning to train in sword arts. Later his training paid off and he became a famous general, and the story of the morning training also became famous.

 This is quoted from Li Bai’s poem: Written as a Guest. Li Bai is the most famous poet in the Tang Dynasty. If you still remember, his name was mentioned in Chapter 9. The poem described the poet’s deep gratitude toward the host. The entire poem goes like this:

Tulip leaves soaked the wonderful wine of Lanling,

Jade Cups bring about the light of amber.

If only the host can get the guest drunk,

Everywhere becomes hometown

.

 Pipa is an ancient Chinese music instrument.

 This is quoted from Wang Han’s poem: Poem of Liangzhou. Wang Han is a famous poet in the Tang Dynasty. This poem describes the feelings of soldiers before going to battles. The entire poem goes like this:

Wonderful Grape Wine filled the Luminous Cups;

I want to drink but the sound of Pipa is already calling me to my horseback.

If I get drunk and lie down on the battlefield, laugh me not.

From the many wars, how many soldiers can actually make it back?

 This is quoted from Yue Fei’s poem: Red River Poem (where Red River is the name of a poem style). Yue Fei was a legendary general who fought the Huns’ invading army and defended the Song Dynasty. He was not only a great hero, but also a great poet, and Red River Poem is the most well known poem of his. Because of the length of the poem, I will not include the entire poem here.

 Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in Chinese history. King Yu was very famous for his great achievement in flood-control.

 Jue is an ancient wine vessel with three legs and a loop handle.

 The reason Zu Qianqiu said so is because in the Northern Song Dynasty, China had a strong government and defeated many foreign invasions. During the Southern Song Dynasty, the government’s power declined more and more and China lost many battles with the foreign invaders. Then at the end of the Southern Song Dynasty, the Mongolian army invaded and took over China and founded the Yuan Dynasty. The Han Chinese overthrown the Mongolian ruler at the end of the Yuan Dynasty and started the Ming Dynasty.

 Bai Juyi is a famous poet in the Tang Dynasty. This poem illustrated the beautiful spring scenery of the city of Hangzhou. Because of the length of the poem, I will not include the entire poem here.

 Legend said that toward the end of the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang was a Pavilion Officer (the lowest ranking official at the time), and he was ordered to escort laborers to Mount Li. But during the trip, many of the laborers died because of the harsh conditions, so Liu Bang decided to let all the escorted laborers flee for life. Only about ten men decided to stay and follow him. That night, Liu Bang drank too much and became drunk. He sent one man ahead of the group to check the road, and that man returned with a report that a giant snake had blocked the road. In the drunkenness, Liu Bang feared nothing so he ran forward and slain the giant white snake to clear the way. Later he fell asleep a little further down the road. An old woman began crying at where he slain the snake. People asked her why she cried, and the old woman answered that someone had killed her son. People then asked her how her son was killed. She answered that her son was the son of the White Heaven and had transformed into the white snake, and was killed by the son of the Red Heaven. Later Liu Bang heard the story and his confidence was boosted dramatically, that was when he decided to start a rebellion army to overthrow the current emperor. (Emperors call themselves sons of the Heaven to establish the divine status.)

 Hongman is in Shanxi province. In 206 B.C., Liu Bang declared himself the Lord of Hanzhong. Xiang Yu, Liu Bang’s main rivalry, led his army and came to Hongman, ready to eliminate Liu Bang’s army. His advisor Fan Zeng suggested Xiang to set up a banquet and invite Liu Bang so they could assassinate him at the banquet. At the time, Liu Bang’s army was no match for Xiang Yu’s army, so he had to come to the banquet to apologize to Xiang. Only Liu Bang and his advisor, Zhang Liang, were allowed into the banquet. During the banquet, Xiang’s advisor Fan Zeng ordered Xiang Zhuang, Xiang Yu’s general, to perform a sword dance to entertain the guests and then assassinate Liu in the sword dance when he had a chance. Liu Bang’s advisor Zhang Liang immediately walked out of the tent and informed Liu’s general, Fan Kuai, who in turn, immediately ran into the tent and interrupted the banquet. Xiang Yu offered Fan some meat, which Fan ate using his shield as the plate. Xiang Yu then offered Fan some wine, which Fan drank using a big ladler. Xiang Yu liked the heroic spirit shown by Fan and called off Xiang Zhuang, the assassin. Later Liu Bang pretended to use the restroom and fled. By risking his own life, Fan Kuai saved Liu Bang’s life. Liu Bang eventually destroyed Xiang Yu’s army and then founded Han Dynasty.