Every time Huang Rong was thinking hard, Guo Jing had never dared to disturb her train of thoughts. He stayed quiet until he heard Zhou Botong called out from outside, “Hey! Get out of there quick; we need to visit the old emperor’s house for some ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ [minced five-treasure mandarin duck]!”
“Tonight?” Guo Jing asked.
Hong Qigong replied, “The earlier the better. I am afraid I can’t hold on much longer.”
“Shifu, don’t listen to the Old Urchin speaking a whole bunch of nonsense,” Huang Rong said, “We can’t go tonight; we will enter the city gate early morning tomorrow. If the Old Urchin has anymore weird ideas, we won’t let him come to the palace with us.”
“Humph!” Zhou Botong snorted, “Once again I am to be blamed.” He sulked and refused to talk.
That night four people slept on the straw beds strewn on the ground. Early the next morning Huang Rong and Guo Jing prepared some breakfast; four people plus Shagu ate together. Huang Rong turned the iron bowl and closed the cabinet walls; and then put all chipped bowls and broken utensils back inside the cabinet. Shagu was indifferent to what was going on around her; she held the handle of the blade in her hand and played with it.
Huang Rong took a small ingot of silver from her pocket and gave it to her; Shagu took it and casually tossed in on the table. “If you are hungry you can take the money to buy rice and meat,” Huang Rong said. It was hard to say if Shagu understood, since she only giggled foolishly.
Huang Rong felt sadness creeping into her heart; knowing this girl must have had some relation with Qi Lingfeng, if not his family member then she must be his disciple. Her six, seven stances of ‘bi bo zhang fa’ [jade-green waves palm technique] definitely came from Qu Lingfeng, even though she learned it carelessly. What Huang Rong did not know was whether she was retarded since birth, or did she experience some horrifying experience which gave her a shock and damaged her brain. She wanted to find some information in the village, but Zhou Botong kept urging them to move forward. Thereupon four people and one cart went straight entering the city of Lin’an.
Lin’an was originally the world’s most bustling city. When the Song government moved south it was established as the new capital. All kinds of people converged into the city, and it became increasingly flourishing.
Four people entering the city via the east gate and went straight to the front of ‘li cheng men’ [beautiful portal gate] of the imperial palace. Hong Qigong stayed inside the cart, while Zhou Botong and the others looked around. They saw the golden nails on scarlet doors, painted beams and engraved railings, and copper tiles covering the roof; with sculptures of flying dragon and phoenix all in magnificent splendor, dazzling their eyes.
“Interesting!” Zhou Botong called out loudly; he took a step to enter in.
The palace guards stationed in front of the gate had noticed these three people, one old and two young, with a mule cart making noise in front of the imperial palace gate; four guards with axes in their hands had already stepped forward with a menacing look on their faces.
Zhou Botong loved to make disturbance very much; seeing the guards with their distinctive armor, tall and powerfully built, he was itchy to have an interesting fight.
“Quickly go!” Huang Rong called out.
Zhou Botong stared at her. “What are you afraid of? Do you think these babies can eat the Old Urchin?” he asked.
Huang Rong quickly said, “Brother Jing, let’s go and play someplace else. The Old Urchin is not obedient, we’ll just ignore him.” She lashed her whip and the cart sped along to the west. Guo Jing followed behind. Zhou Botong was afraid he would be left behind while they were going someplace more interesting; he ignored the guards and ran to catch up. The guards thought they were simple villagers looking around the city; they laughed out loud but did not pursue.
Huang Rong drove the cart to a desolate place. Seeing nobody chased them, they stopped at last.
“Why didn’t we break into the palace? Can those wine bags and rice sacks stop us?” Zhou Botong asked.
“Certainly breaking in is not difficult, but let me ask you: are we here to fight or to go to the kitchen and steal some food?” Huang Rong said, “If you break in, the palace will be chaotic; do you think the chef will nicely make some ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ for Shifu to eat?”
“Fighting and capturing people is the guards’ business, it has nothing to do with the chef,” Zhou Botong reasoned. Actually what he said did make some sense so that Huang Rong momentarily was at a loss; but she did not want to yield to him, so she argued, “The imperial chef can both prepare food and capture people.”
Zhou Botong stared but did not know how to respond. Half a day later he conceded, “Fine, just consider I was wrong.”
“What do you mean ‘consider’? You were wrong from the start,” Huang Rong said.
“Fine, fine,” Zhou Botong said, “Don’t consider anything, don’t consider anything.” Turning his head to Guo Jing he said, “Brother, all women in the world are very ferocious; that’s why the Old Urchin said don’t take a wife.”
Huang Rong laughed, “Brother Jing is a good man, others won’t be ferocious toward him.”
“Are you saying I am not a good man?” Zhou Botong asked.
Huang Rong smiled, “Are you? You don’t want to take a wife, but other people don’t like the way you handle anything, only creating trouble and disturbance. Tell me, why don’t you want to take a wife?”
Zhou Botong leaned his head sideways to think, unable to answer. His face turned red, and then white; seemed like his mind was heavy with anxieties. Huang Rong very seldom saw him this serious; she was astonished.
“Let’s find an inn to stay; we’ll come back to the palace tonight,” Guo Jing said.
“That’s right!” Huang Rong agreed, “Shifu, as soon as we find an inn, I am going to prepare a couple of simple dish to be your appetizers; we will have a feast later on tonight.”
Hong Qigong was delighted, he cheered repeatedly.
Four people stayed at the Jin Hua hotel on the street west of the imperial palace. True to her words, Huang Rong prepared three dishes and a soup for Hong Qigong to eat. The aroma spread around the inn that the guests inquired with the innkeeper which famous chef cooked this kind of fine cuisine.
Zhou Botong was still mad at Huang Rong’s words that he could not find a wife; he sulked and did not want to eat. Three people knew his childish behavior; they only laughed and did not give him any attention.
After eating Hong Qigong laid down to rest. Guo Jing asked Zhou Botong to go out and play, but in his anger he ignored Guo Jing. Huang Rong chuckled, “Then you’d better look after my Shifu nicely; when I return, I will buy some fun things for you to play with.”