The Legend of the Condor Heroes – Chapter 23

Seeing Huang Rong was back, he was afraid she would scold him; he turned around and went back into the hotel. Huang Rong smiled, she took the masks out. Zhou Botong was delighted, squealing again and again; he put on the mask and become the judge of hell, and then turned into a little demon.

Huang Rong expressed their desire to take him to help them fight the Western Poison. Zhou Botong readily agreed. “Don’t worry,” he said, “My two hands can use two different fist techniques to fight him.”

Huang Rong remembered the other day on the Peach Blossom Island Zhou Botong was afraid he might involuntarily use the martial art from the Nine Yin Manual; he tied his own hands and as a result was injured by her father. “The Western Poison is very bad,” she said, “You can’t be considered disobeying your martial brother’s death wish if you injure him with the martial art from the Manual.”

Zhou Botong stared hard at her. “No, I can’t do it” he said, “I have trained hard, I don’t need to use the technique from the Manual.”

By that time Hong Qigong’s heart was already inside the imperial palace’s kitchen. With a great difficulty he waited until the second hour that night; Guo Jing carried Hong Qigong on his back, four people walked on roofs toward the imperial palace. The palace was taller than everybody else’s houses, the roof glittered with gold inlaid, very easy to identify; so before long quietly, without making any noise four people had leaped over the palace’s wall.

The security inside the palace was tight, with guards patrolling everywhere; but with the kind of lightness kungfu Zhou, Guo and Huang possess, how could they let themselves to be caught by the guards? Hong Qigong knew where the kitchen was; with a low voice he showed the way. In a short moment they had arrived at the imperial kitchen, located behind the ‘liu bu shan’ [six ministry hill]. The kitchen was to the east of ‘jia ming dian’ [fine bright hall], where the imperial meals were being prepared. These places were adjacent to the imperial sleeping chamber and the imperial personal office; all around were tightly guarded with alarms everywhere. But by then the emperor had already gone to bed, the imperial kitchen staff had been adjourned. Four people arrived at the well-lit kitchen, with several young court eunuchs slumbered inside.

Guo Jing helped Hong Qigong sitting on the beam while Huang Rong and Zhou Botong looked for cooked meals in the kitchen cabinets; very soon four people started chewing.

Zhou Botong shook his head, “Old Beggar, how can the food here be compared to Rong’er’s culinary skill? I don’t understand why you earnestly desired to come here.”

Hong Qigong replied, “I wanted to eat the ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ [mandarin duck five treasured mince meat]. I don’t know where the chef is. Tomorrow we shall catch him and tell him to prepare something to your taste.”

“I don’t believe his culinary skill is superior to Rong’er,” Zhou Botong said.

Huang Rong smiled, she knew he wanted to thank her for the masks, that was why he praised her repeatedly.

“I want to stay here and wait for the chef,” Hong Qigong said, “Since you are bored, why don’t you and Jing’er go out the palace and let Rong’er stay here to accompany me. Tomorrow night you can come back here again.”

Zhou Botong put on the city god mask and laughed, “No,” he said, “I want to accompany you in here. Tomorrow I am going to wear this mask to scare the old emperor. Brother Guo, Rong’er, you keep your eyes on the Old Poison, don’t let him steal the Yue Fei’s legacy.”

“What the Old Urchin said was very reasonable,” Hong Qigong said, “Go quickly, just be careful.” Two people gave their promise.

“Don’t fight the Old Poison tonight, look for me tomorrow,” Zhou Botong said.

“We can’t beat him, naturally we won’t fight,” Huang Rong said. Along with Guo Jing she slipped away from the imperial kitchen, with the intention of going back to Hotel Guan Gai to watch Wanyan Honglie and the others’ activity.

They tiptoed in the dark through two halls. Suddenly they felt a cool breeze and faintly heard the sound of water. In the stillness of the night they could also smell a faint delicate fragrance, deep from the palace courtyard. Unexpectedly they saw a wooded hill place inside the palace.

Huang Rong sniffed at this fragrance; she knew there must be a flower garden nearby. She thought in the imperial palace garden there must be many wonderful flowers and excellent plants. While she was there, certainly she could not pass this rare opportunity to take a look. Therefore, she pulled Guo Jing’s hand; following the flower fragrance they looked for the garden.

Gradually the sound of water intensified. Two people walked around flower-strewn path and saw pine and bamboo trees covering the deep blue sky above; with beautiful hills quietly stood on the background. Huang Rong was secretly impressed of this place. Even though the arrangement was inferior to the Peach Blossom Island, the flowers and trees were exquisitely beautiful.

They walked several ‘zhang’s further and saw a sheet of water like a silver waterfall coming out from the side of a hill; the water came down to a pond, and in turn, a stream of water coming out of the pond so that it would not overflow. There were countless red lotuses strewn across the surface of the pond. Right in front of the pond there was a hall dense with flowers; just above the entrance was written ‘cui han tang’ [jade-green cold hall] three characters.

Huang Rong walked to the front of the hall. She saw under the porch were some the steps going up surrounded with all kinds of flowers: ‘mo li’ [jasmine], ‘su xin’ [fragrant vegetable], ‘she xiang teng’ [musk deer fragrant rattan], ‘shu jin’ [vermillion hibiscus], ‘yu gui’ [jade cassia], ‘hong jiao’ [red banana]; all kinds of fragrant plants that bloom in summer. Towards the back of the hall orchids and other scented plants were hung. The sweet smelling incense was burning, filling the hall and attacking their nostrils.

On the table inside the hall there were several bowls of lotus root, sweet melon, loquat, and all kinds of wild fruits from the forest. Several round fans were strewn on the chairs. Looked like this hall was where the emperor enjoyed the cool evening breeze before going to bed.

Guo Jing sighed, “This emperor really knows how to enjoy life,” he said.

Huang Rong laughed, “You can be one now,” she said, pulling Guo Jing to sit on a couch. She offered the bowl of fruits and knelt down. “Long live master, please enjoy some fresh fruits,” she said.

Guo Jing smiled and picked up a loquat, “Please rise,” he said.

Huang Rong laughed, “Emperor never says ‘please’, that is too polite,” she said.

While two people were talking and laughing in low voice suddenly they heard someone shout out from a distant, “Who’s there?” They were startled and leaped out, hiding behind a fake hill. They heard some heavy footsteps; two men came loudly shouting to see. Guo Jing and Huang Rong listened to these people and knew their martial art skills were low and there was nothing to worry about. The guards brandished their sabers, rushing toward the front of the hall. They looked around but did not see anything out of ordinary.

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