Smiling Proud Wanderer

 
 
 

Smiling Proud Wanderer Volume 3 Chapter 21


Chapter Twenty-one: Life in Prison (draft)


When Linghu Chong finally came around, he found himself surrounded by complete darkness, knowing neither where he was nor how long he had been out cold. The headache was so bad that he almost felt as though somebody had cracked his head open and loud thunder-like rings still rumbled continuously in his ears. He tried in vain to get back onto his feet but found no strength left in him at all.

“I must be dead already and have been buried into a grave,” he thought as the strong sense of grief and fuss quickly overwhelmed him and he fainted once again.

By the time he woke up the second time, although his headache didn’t get any better, the ringing in his ears did lighten up a great deal. He felt something cold and hard underneath him as though he was lying upon something made of iron or steel. A quick feel with his hand soon confirmed that it was indeed an iron plate underneath the straw mat. As soon as he moved his right hand, a light clank broke out, and at the same time he felt something icy-cold tied around his wrist. When he tried to feel it with his left hand, the clanking sound rose again. Turned out that his left wrist also had something tied around it. A mixed feeling of shock, joy, and fear soared in his heart. Now he was sure that he had not died but had been shackled. He felt it again with his left hand and then came to realization that it was a thin steel chain tied around his wrist. A slight move of his two feet also revealed steel chains shackled around his ankles. He opened his eyes as wide as he could and stared forward, but did not see even a glimmer of light.

“I was having a sword match with the Revered Mr. Ren right before I fainted. How did I fall for the machination of the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan?” he asked himself. “It looks as though I am also locked up in the dungeon underneath the lake. Have I been locked up in the same cell together with the Revered Mr. Ren?” At that thought, he called out immediately, “Revered Mr. Ren? Revered Mr. Ren?”

He called out twice, but did not hear anything in return. Feeling of great shock grew stronger and stronger in his heart and he called out even louder, “Mr. Ren! Mr. Ren!” But once again, all he could hear in the pitch black were his own hoarse and vexed cries.

As desperation began to sink in, he shouted out at the top of his lungs, “First Master! Fourth Master! Why have you locked me in here? Let me out! Let me out!” But other than his own shouting, there was not another sound all the while.

Soon panic turned into rage, and he began pouring our streams of abuses, “You despicable, brazen, evil scum! You couldn’t beat me in the sword matches, so you figured that you could lock me up here to get even? How shameless you are!” But the thought that he would be locked up in the dark dungeon underneath the lake for the rest of his life just like the Revered Mr. Ren instantly made his hair stand on end and his heart filled with despair. The more he thought about it, the more afraid he became, he couldn’t help but bawl on top of his lungs, and before he knew it, the bawling had turned into loud wails, and tears had streamed down his cheeks uncontrollably.

“You four…four despicable scoundrels…of the Plum Manor,” he cried in a hoarse voice, “If I can make it out of here one day, I’ll…I’ll blind…blind your eyes with my sword, and cut…cut off both your arms and legs…. Once I escape the dark dungeon….” But suddenly he fell silent when a loud voice echoed in his head, “Can I ever escape the dark dungeon? Can I ever escape the dark dungeon? Even Revered Mr. Ren, such a capable man, couldn’t get out. How…how can I ever get out?” Anxiety immediately surged in his heart. Feeling really sick in his stomach, he vomited, and after a few gags of blood, he fainted again.

In the wooziness, he thought he heard a cracking sound, and immediately after, bright light dazzled his eyes. Waking up abruptly, he leapt to his feet, but he forgot that both of his wrists and ankles were still shackled by steel chains. Furthermore, he did not have much strength left in him, so only instants later, he fell back down heavily and all the bones in his body seemed to have been falling apart. Having been in complete darkness for a long while, his eyes were not adept to sudden lights, but for fear that the gleam of light might just vanish as abruptly as it appeared, voiding him of any opportunity to escape, he kept his eyes wide open and stared hard toward the origin of the light despite the stinging pain.

The gleam of light had come from a one-foot wide, square-shaped opening. And he remembered at once: the dungeon cell Revered Mr. Ren lives in also had a squared-shaped opening on the iron door. In fact, it had one exactly identical to this one. He took a quick glance around and then confirmed that he was, indeed, also locked in the same kind of dungeon cell.

“Let me out of here! Huang-Zhong, Black-White, you despicable scoundrels, let me out if you’ve got any guts!” he shouted out.

A large wooden tray came forth slowly through the square-shaped opening, on top of which was a large bowl of rice with some cooked food piled on top. There was also an earthen jar, which apparently held some soup or water.

This sight made Linghu Chong even angrier, thinking, “Bringing food and water to me only means that you want to lock me in here for an extended period.” So he cussed loudly, “You four dirty swine, listen up! If you want me dead, just come forward and give me your best shot. Stop playing games with your uncle here!”

But the wooden tray remained still. The person outside the door obviously wanted him to take the tray in. Infuriated, Linghu Chong reached out and struck it hard. Loud clangs echoed as the rice bowl and the earthen jar fell to the ground and smashed into pieces. Food and soup splashed everywhere. Slowly, the wooden tray retracted out of the opening.

In a storm of rage, Linghu Chong threw himself at the squared-shaped opening, and then he saw a completely gray-headed old man, a light in his left hand and the wooden tray in his right hand, turning away unhurriedly. Deep wrinkles covered the man’s entire face, a face Linghu Chong had never seen before.

“Go get Huangzhong or Black-White here! Tell those four shameless scoundrels to come here and fight me like a man if they’ve gotten any guts!” Linghu Chong shouted out.

But the old man didn’t pay him the slightest attention and kept walking further and further away unhurriedly, stooping low with his back.

Linghu Chong watched on as the man slowly disappeared around the corner of the tunnel. The light also gradually dimmed until it finally faded into gloom. After a short while, he vaguely heard the sounds of gates opening followed by sounds of the wooden gate and the iron gate closing down one after another. And then once again, the tunnel was enveloped by complete darkness, without a glimmer of light or the slightest of sound.

Linghu Chong felt another strong dizziness in his head. After staring blankly into the blackness for a moment, he decided to lie down on the bed for better concentration with his thoughts.

“The old man delivering food to me must have had strict orders to not exchange any word with me. It would be useless to shout at him,” he thought to himself. “This dungeon cell looked identical to the one Revered Mr. Ren lives in. I guess there are quite a few prison cells built under the Plum Manor. I wonder how many people they have locked up down here. If somehow I can connect with the Revered Mr. Ren, or with any other fellow prisoners here, by working together and uniting our efforts, who knows, we might be able to find a way out of here.”

At that thought, he extended his arm and knocked on the wall. But the clanking sounds clearly indicated that it was made of sheer steel. The sounds were both heavy and dull. Obviously there was no space on the other side of the wall except solid ground.

He walked to another wall and also knocked on it, but again, the responding sounds were both heavy and dull. Not willing to give up, Linghu Chong sat back on the bed and knocked on the wall behind him. Once again, the sounds were still the same.

Feeling his way along the walls, he carefully knocked on every inch of all the three walls, but other than the side of the wall with the iron door, this dungeon cell seemed to have been buried deep underground all alone. There, of course, had to be other dungeon cells underground, at lease one another, which had the Ren named old man locked in. But he had no clue where that dungeon cell might be or even how far it was from his own cell.

Leaning against the wall, he very carefully reviewed, in his head, the series of events that had happened before he fainted. He could remember how the old man’s sword moves became faster and faster as his shouting also became louder and louder. Then, all of a sudden, there was that earthshaking roar, right after which he lost his consciousness. But how on earth was he captured by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, and then sent to this prison cell, he couldn’t remember a thing about it.

“The four Manor Masters all appeared to be talented persons of poetic temperament on the surface, even their day-to-day amusements are related to Music, Gamesmanship, Calligraphy, and Painting these Four Arts. Who would have imaged that underneath their pretending skin, they were all filthy, contemptible characters who stop at no evil,” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “There were many vile characters like these in the Martial World and it shouldn’t have come to one’s surprise. But the strange thing was that these four Manor Masters did hold genuine interests in the art of music, gamesmanship, calligraphy, and painting, which would have been impossible for them to pretend. When Mr. Bald-Brush wrote the “General Pei Poem” on the wall, his writing was completely free from inhibition, something not a normal martial arts master could have accomplished.”

Then he thought, “Master once said, ‘Only people with extreme aptitude are capable of extreme evil.’ That is so true. The scam the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan pulled is indeed hard to guard against.”

Suddenly a thought struck him. He cried out and jumped back onto his feet, his heart pounding madly. “What happened to Big Brother Xiang? Has he fallen for their murderous scheme as well?” But then he thought, “Big Brother Xiang is a man of shrewdness and improvisation. He seems to have known about the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan’s conducts beforehand. As the Right Advisor of the Demon’s Cult, he has roamed the Martial World for many years. He won’t fall for their trap easily. And as long as he is not stranded by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, he will try to rescue me for sure. Even if I were to be locked up one thousand feet below ground, Big Brother Xiang would still be able to get me out of here. He has the ability to do that.” At that thought, he found himself much relaxed. Carrying a big grin on his face, he muttered to himself, “Linghu Chong! Linghu Chong! Did you know that you are a real coward? Scared into crying like a baby, where are you going to put your face if people find out about it?”

Feeling relieved, he stood up slowly, then immediately realized how thirsty and hungry he had been. “Too bad I threw a fit and knocked over the perfectly fine rice meal and the water. If I don’t stuff myself, after Big Brother Xiang rescue me out of here, where am I gonna find strength to battle the Four Skunks of Jiangnan? Ha-ha, that’s right, the Four Skunks of Jiangnan! How can such vile skunks be worthy of the title the ‘Four Playfellows of Jiangnan?’ Out of the four skunks, Mr. Black-White had to be the most sinister one, always wearing that blank, collected countenance on his face. He is probably the one who came up with the entire scheme. Once I break out of here, killing him will be the first thing on my list. Mr. Paint, on the other hand, seems to be relatively frank; I might as well spare his despicable life. But in regard to his collection of great wines, ha-ha, I’ll drink them all up, leaving not even one drop behind.” At the thought of Mr. Paint’s great wines collection, he found his mouth burning with thirst.

“How long have I been unconscious? Why hasn’t Big Brother Xiang come to my rescue?” he wondered. Then another thought popped out, “Oh, no! If it were a fight one-on-one, Big Brother Xiang’s Kung Fu skills are more than sufficient to defeat any one of the Four Skunks of Jiangnan. But if those four skunks attack Big Brother Xiang all at once, then Big Brother Xiang would have a hard time winning the battle. Even if Big Brother Xiang gave full play to his ability and kill all four of them, it would be impossible for him to find the entrance of this underground dungeon. Who would have expected to find the dungeon entrance hidden underneath Mr. Huang-Zhong’s bed?”

Feeling completely worn out, he lay down on the bed when another thought suddenly came upon him. “The Revered Mr. Ren’s Kung Fu skills are undoubtedly greater than those of Big Brother Xiang’s, and his wit, experience and foresight also outclass that of Big Brother Xiang. Even he became a prisoner in the dungeon, what makes Big Brother Xiang so special that he could ensure victory? Straightforward gentlemen often fall prey of machination from the vile. It is well said that covert attack is far more difficult to defend against than overt attack. Since Big Brother Xiang hasn’t come to my rescue after such a long while, could he have fallen for their trap?” He instantly forgot all about his own trouble, but began worrying about Xiang Wentian’s safety, instead.

He let his thoughts went off into wild flights of fancy, and before long, he fell asleep. When he woke up again, he had no idea what time it was, and all he could see was still complete darkness.

“It is simply impossible for me to escape by myself,” he thought to himself. “If, unfortunately, Big Brother Xiang also falls for their scheme, then who else might come to free me? Master has announced to the entire world that I am expelled from the Huashan Sword School; of course people from the orthodox schools won’t be coming to my rescue. Ying-Ying, Ying-Ying….”

As soon as he thought of Ying-Ying, his spirit soared, and he sat up, thinking, “She asked Old Man to spread the word to the entire Martial World that she wants me killed; those people from the unorthodox schools of course won’t be coming to my rescue, but what about her, herself? If she learned that I am trapped here, she would surely come to save me. Many people from the unorthodox schools follow her command. All she needs to do is to let the word out. Ha-ha….” He suddenly chortled, thinking, “This girl is so bashful. What she fears the most is people saying that she likes me. Even if she does come to my rescue, she would surely come alone and would never ask for help from anyone. And if someone learns that she is coming to save me, he most probably would lose his life because of that. Alas, what goes on in a girl’s thinking is truly incomprehensible. Like, for example, Little Apprentice Sister….”

As soon as Little Apprentice Sister came to his mind, his heart ached, and the feeling of grief and despair deepened. “Why am I hoping that someone might come and rescue me? By now, Little Apprentice Sister and junior apprentice brother Lin probably have already wedded. Even if I can get out of here somehow, what’s there to look for outside? It’s probably much better if I get locked up in this dark dungeon for the rest of my life and I never find out what happens outside.”

Once he figured out the benefit of being locked up in the dungeon, his worries seemed to have slipped away and he even felt somewhat pleased with the situation. But the elated feeling did not last long when he was soon overwhelmed with hunger and thirst. Haunted by the memories of the great enjoyments he had when he drank bowls after bowls of wine served with large steaks in the various wine houses, he decided it would still be better if he could get out of the dungeon, after all.

“Well, if Little Apprentice Sister wedded junior apprentice brother Lin, so what? I’ve already been pushed around by them many times, anyhow. I am already an invalid with none of my inner strength left in me. Doctor Ping said that I don’t have many days left. Even if Little Apprentice Sister is willing to marry me, I can’t marry her. How can I let her stay a widow the rest of her life?”

But deep in his heart, he still felt that even though he wouldn’t let Yue Lingshan marry him even if she wanted to, Yue Lingshan’s falling in love with Lin Pingzhi was just too agonizing for him to withstand. But what could he wish for? “I wish Little Apprentice Sister were still the same as before. I wish none of this had ever happened, and I would still be practicing sword arts with her in the waterfall atop Mount Huashan, and junior apprentice brother Lin never came to Mount Huashan, and Little Apprentice Sister and I would be happily spending the rest of our lives together. Alas, Tian Boguang, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, apprentice sister Yilin….”

At the thought of Heng-Shan Sword School’s little Sister Yilin, he could no longer hold a straight face and a gentle smile crept onto his lips. “I wonder how this apprentice sister Yilin is doing right now,” he thought. “If she learns that I am locked up here, she must be very worried. Her Master undoubtedly wouldn’t allow her to come and save me after reading the letter from my Master, but she might ask her father, Monk No Commandment, to do it for her. Who knows, Monk No Commandment might even invite the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to tag along. Ha, those seven are a total mess and would only mess things up even more. But having people coming for my rescue is still better than having no one paying any attention.”

When he thought of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ constant nagging and arguing, he couldn’t help but grin. When they were around him in the past, he did belittle the six brothers somewhat, but at this point in time, how he wished they could be accompanying him inside the prison cell. Their unintelligible remarks would have sounded like heavenly music to his ears at the moment. He let his thoughts run wild and soon dozed off once again.

In the pitch black dungeon cell he had no way of knowing the time. In his wooziness, he noticed a glimmer of faint light coming though the squared-shaped opening. Linghu Chong was ecstatic. He sat up immediately, his heart thumping wildly, thinking, “Who has come to rescue me?” But his joy did not last long. Soon came the sound of heavy and slow footsteps, apparently from the old man who brought food to him. Much dispirited, he let his body collapse back down.

“Ask those four skunks to come here; see if they’ve still got any guts to show their faces here!” Linghu Chong shouted.

He could hear the sound of the footsteps getting closer and closer. The light also became brighter and brighter. Then a wooden tray was pushed in from the squared-shaped opening on the door. On the wooden tray were a large bowl of rice and an earthen jar just like the last time. Linghu Chong had been fighting his hunger for a good while and his thirst had also become unbearable. After a slight hesitation, he reached out and took the wooden tray. As soon as the old man let go of the wooden tray, he turned around to walk away.

“Hey! Hey! Wait a second! I have something to ask you!” Linghu Chong called out.

But the old man completely ignored him. Sound of footsteps faded gradually as the old man dragged his feet along the way and the light also fainted gradually. Linghu Chong murmured a few curses and then picked up the earthen jar. Raising the jar next to his mouth, he poured the content into his mouth. Sure enough, the jar was filled with clear water. He drank up almost half jar of water in one breath before touching the bowl of rice. Piled on top of the rice were some vegetables. He tasted them in the dark and was able to tell there were some radish, tofu, and the like.

The same routine went on for seven or eight days. The old man would bring food to him once everyday and then collect the previous day’s utensils and water jar together with the jug for human waste. Regardless of what Linghu Chong said to him, his face remained expressionless. Then one day, as soon as Linghu Chong saw the light, he threw himself at the square-shaped opening and grabbed the wooden tray, shouting, “Why don’t you speak to me? Haven’t you heard me?”

The old man pointed at his own ear and shook his head, indicating that he was deaf. Then he opened his mouth. What Linghu Chong saw shocked him and he couldn’t help but gasp. The old man only had half of his tough left in his mouth; the scene was horrific.

“Someone cut your tongue off? Did the four god-damned Manor Masters do this to you?” Linghu Chong uttered.

The old man did not answer and simply pushed the wooden tray through the square-shaped opening. He obviously could not hear Linghu Chong’s words. Even if he could, he had no way of answering.

Linghu Chong was terrified. Even after the old man had long left, he couldn’t bring himself to eat. The terrifying image of the old man’s remaining portion of his tongue flashed again and again in front of his eyes.

“Those Four Skunks of Jiangnan are too evil,” he murmured to himself as hatred quickly filled his heart. “Unless I am locked up here for life, if one day Linghu Chong can escape from this dungeon, I swear that I’ll find the four skunks and one by one, I’ll cut off their tongues, drill their ears, and prick their eyes….”

Suddenly he thought of something from deep within his memories. “Could it have been them…them…?” He remembered that night how he blinded the fifteen masked men’s eyes outside of the monastery, but as to the origin of those people, he never found out. “Could it be that they locked me up in this dungeon cell to take vengeance for their suffering?” At that thought, he heaved a long sigh, and much of the grudge and hatred built up in the past many days evaporated instantly. “I blinded those fifteen men’s eyes. It’s only natural that they want their revenge,” he thought aloud.

Once his anger eased off, each day seemed to be a bit easier to get by. There was no difference between days and nights in the underground prison; Linghu Chong completely lost track of days and could only tell that each day was hotter than the previous day. He figured that it must have been mid-summer already. There was not even a whiff of wind in the small dungeon cell. The humid heat just got worse and worse everyday. Then the day came when the heat became simply unbearable. With steel chains shackled around his wrists and ankles, he could not take off his clothes completely. Having no other alternatives, he could only pull his shirt upward and pushed his pants downward as much as he could. After rolling the ragged mat on the bed and placing it to a corner of the bed, he lay down on the steel plate half naked. Immediately, he felt cool and refreshing and his perspiration also improved dramatically. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep. A few hours went by quickly. In the daze, when he felt the part of steel plate under his body had been heat up by him, he moved his body inward to find a cooler spot. Pressing his left palm on the steel plate, he vaguely felt some kind of lines of patterns carved onto the steel plate, but in the heavy drowsiness, he paid no attention to it and soon was sound asleep.

This nap was so comfortable; when Linghu Chong woke up, he felt completely refreshed. Not long after, the old man came as usual, delivering food to him. Linghu Chong had great sympathy for the old man, and every time when the old man pushed the wooden tray in through the square-shaped opening, he would always pinch the old man’s finger gently or pat a few times on the old man’s hand to show his compassion. This time was no exception. After he took the wooden tray and was just about to retract his arms, all of a sudden, under the dim light, he spotted three words imprinted on the back of his left hand. It clearly said, “Woxing gets stranded.”

Linghu Chong was dumbfounded, having no clue where these words had come from. After a short contemplation, he hurriedly placed the wooden tray on the floor and reached out to feel the steel plate on the bed. Turned out the steel plate was covered with carved words, so thickly dotted, he couldn’t even tell how many there were. Linghu Chong understood at once. The words were carved onto the steel plate before he even came, but because the steel plate had always been covered by the mat, he never found out about it, until yesterday when he slept half-naked directly on top of the steel plate. That was how the words got imprinted on the back of his hand. Extending his hand to his backside he felt his back and his behind, and he was unable to stifle a laugh. There were words marked on his skin everywhere he felt. Each character was about the size of a copper coin. The strokes were very deep, but the handwriting was hasty and careless.

By then the old man who delivered the food had been long gone and the dungeon cell was once again engulfed in complete darkness. Linghu Chong’s curiosity overpowered his hunger. After taking a few quick drinks from the earthen jar, he began feeling the words carved on the steel plate slowly from the very beginning, one character at a time, and read them out in a soft voice:

“I have been straightforward and willful all my life, killing people like flies. Imprisonment underneath the lake probably is the retribution I deserve. Only that when the old fellow Ren Woxing gets stranded…” At this character, Linghu Chong thought, “So the words ‘Woxing gets stranded’ came from this sentence.” He went on feeling the characters and the words continued, “…here, his extraordinary divine art which exceeds lofty will inevitably perish together with the old fellow’s skeleton, and people in the aftertime would not have known his exceptional and magical power. What a great pity that would be!”

Linghu Chong paused and raised his head. “Old fellow Ren Woxing! Old fellow Ren Woxing!” he pondered. “Then the man who carved these words of course is named Ren Woxing. So this man’s last name is Ren as well. I wonder if he is related to the Revered Mr. Ren in anyway.” But then he thought better of it, “This underground prison probably was built a long time ago, and the man who carved these words probably had passed away decades or even centuries ago.”

He went on feeling the characters and the carvings read, “That’s why I am writing down the succinct principles and secrets of my divine art, so people from the aftertime can practice the divine art and gain the ability to freely roam the world, then although the old man’s flesh will parish, his name will become immortal. Number one, Sitting Meditation….” Then what followed were various breathing exercises and meditation techniques.

Ever since Linghu Chong learned the “Dugu Nine Swords,” he was only fond of sword art in the many types of Martial Arts, and since he had lost all his inner strength, when he recognized the words “Sitting Meditation,” his heart was filled with disappointment. He hoped that somewhere in the remaining words he would be able to find a form of exceptional sword art, and he might as well learn this sword art as self-entertainment inside the dark dungeon cell. The hope of escape had become more and more distant and indistinct. If he didn’t find something to occupy himself, life in prison could be very difficult. But the words afterwards were always terms for inner strength cultivation such as “breathing,” “concentrate the spirit in the lower abdomen,” “redirecting the strength to Jin-Jing,” “Ren Channel” and the like. He followed the characters all the way to the end of the steel plate and still couldn’t find even one character resembling the character “sword.”

Linghu Chong found himself utterly frustrated. “What extraordinary divine art which exceeds the lofty? This man has played a good joke on me! It could have been any other type of Martial Arts; why did it have to be an art of inner strength cultivation, the only one I cannot practice? As soon as I try to gather my inner strength, the energy streams inside my chest and abdomen would roll over and over, clashing with each other. I’d be asking for trouble myself if practice inner strength cultivation.” He heaved a heavy sigh and picked up the rice bowl to eat, thinking to himself, “What kind of character is this Ren Woxing? He was certainly very arrogant, talking about exceeding lofty and roaming the world, as though he had no match in the entire world. It turned out this dungeon is specifically used to imprison superior Kung Fu Masters.”

When first discovered the words carved on the steel plate, his excitement soared high, but by now he had the least interest left in him, thinking, “Heaven can really play tricks on mortals. I probably wouldn’t feel so down if I never found these words.” Then he thought, “If that Ren Woxing was as capable as how he boasted himself, why he was still stranded here and couldn’t get away? Evidently this underground prison is simply too durable and secure to break out. Regardless of how capable the captive is, once he is locked in, all he could do is to slowly and painfully wait for his end to come.” Having come to a conclusion, he paid no more attention to the words on the steel plate.

The city of Hangzhou almost turned into a steam box in the hot summer time. The dungeon was located deep underneath the lake. Without getting the heat from the direct sunshine, it should have been much cooler, but firstly, the dungeon had no ventilation, and secondly, it had always been overly humid, it was simply a different type of misery for its occupant. Everyday Linghu Chong would strip as much clothing as he could and sleep on the steel plate half-naked. Whenever he moved his hand, he would feel the carved characters on the steel plate. As days went by, he had memorized many of the words and sentences unconsciously. One day when he was wondering where his Master, Master-Wife and Little Apprentice Sister might be and whether they ad returned to Mount Huashan, he suddenly heard the sound of footsteps coming toward him. This time, the sound was quick and light, completely different from the sound made by the old man who delivered food. After spending many days locked inside, he had not been as anxiously looking forward to a rescuer, so when he suddenly heard the sound of a different set of footsteps, the feeling of surprise and joy instantly welled up his heart. He had wanted to leap to his foot, but the ecstasy was so strong and overwhelming, he suddenly lost all his strength and could only lie still on the bed not able to move a muscle. The sound of footsteps quickly approached the iron-door.

A voice came from outside the iron-door, “Mr. Ren, it has been very hot in the last coupon of days. May I ask if you still enjoy your good health?”

 

 Ren Woxing means “go anywhere I wish” in Chinese.