The Legend of the Condor Heroes – Chapter 33

“Shifu, what is it?” Huang Rong asked, “Do you also know Ying Gu?” While in her heart she mused, “All his life Shifu has never had a wife. Could it be that he was also mesmerized by Ying Gu? Hmm, what’s so good about this Ying Gu anyway? Mystifying, acting like a mad woman, but can captivate the attention of so many experts of the Wulin world?” Luckily Hong Qigong’s answer was pleasing to her ears.

“Nothing,” Hong Qigong said, “I don’t know Ying Gu, but when Emperor Duan left home [meaning: become a monk], I was there by his side. That day he sent a letter to the north, inviting me to go to the south. I knew he wouldn’t send for the Old Beggar if he did not have a very important matter. I also remembered Yunnan’s ham, the ‘over the bridge’ rice-flour noodle, and the chunk of cakes and delicacies; so I left at once. When I saw him, his face was haggard, like he was suffering from a serious illness; it was completely different from when I saw him during the Sword Meet of Mount Hua, where he looked alive with a dragon or a tiger’s appearance. I felt very strange. After I have been there for a few days with the pretense of discussing martial art he wanted to teach me the ‘xian tian gong’ [inborn/innate strength/energy] and ‘yi yang zhi’ [solitary yang finger]. The Old Beggar thought: in the past his Solitary Yang Finger was in a level ground with my Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms, the Old Poison’s Toad Stance, the Old Heretic Huang’s ‘pi kong zhang’ [splitting the air palm] and Divine Flicking Finger; nowadays he had mastered Wang Chongyang’s ‘xian tian gong’. In the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua the title of Number One Martial Artist in the World would certainly belong to him; why would he want to pass on these two special skills to the Old Beggar, without any reason whatsoever? If he wanted to exchange knowledge, why wasn’t he willing to learn my Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms? There must be something behind this.

Later on the Old Beggar mulled over this matter, I talked to him and his four main disciples; finally I found a clue. It turned out that after he passed on these two skills to me he was going to commit suicide. Only why he was grieving so much, even his own disciples were unclear.”

Huang Rong said, “Shifu, Emperor Duan was afraid that after he died nobody will be able to control Ouyang Feng anymore.”

“That’s right,” Hong Qigong said, “When I found out, I was adamant of not willing to learn anything from him. At last he told me the truth; he said that although his four disciples were loyal and diligent, their minds have been occupied by the kingdom’s affairs for a long time, that they could not concentrate on training martial art, hence it would be difficult for them to achieve success. It seemed like the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ martial art also could not reach the pinnacle of perfection. He said it was fine for me not willing to learn the Solitary Yang Finger, but if the ‘xian tian gong’ is lost, he would not have any face to meet Wang Chongyang Zhenren [lit. true/real person, a respectful term to address a Taoist priest] in the underworld. I asked him to reconsider his decision, but my persuasion was useless. Only, I was unyielding in my stand not to learn from him, with the hope of saving his life. Emperor Duan could not change my mind; finally he relented by abdicating his throne and becoming a monk. I was by his side the day they shaved his head. It has been more than ten years ago. Ay, finally this enmity can be resolved, this is very good.”

“Shifu,” Huang Rong said, “We have finished telling our story, what about you?”

“About me?” Hong Qigong asked, “Hmm, at the imperial kitchen I ate four dishes of ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ [minced five-treasure mandarin duck]; it was enough to satiate my craving; and then I ate litchi fruit and kidney, quail soup, sheep tongue in thick sauce, snail in ginger and vinegar sauce, oyster fermented in sheep’s tripe …” on and on he listed the name of the dishes he ate at the imperial kitchen, while constantly swallowing his own saliva and licking his own lips.

“Why is it that later on the Old Urchin could not find you?” Huang Rong interrupted.

Hong Qigong smiled, “The imperial kitchen chefs repeatedly found their prepared dishes vanished into thin air; they thought there was a fox fairy making disturbance in that place, so they burned incense and lighted candles to worship me. Later on they told the chief of the imperial palace guards, who then dispatched eight palace guards to the imperial kitchen to catch the fox. The Old Beggar thought it was a serious situation; and neither the Old Urchin nor his shadow could be seen. I had no choice but slipped away to a remote part to hide for a while. That place was called ‘e lu hua tang’ [green calyx flower hall] or something, it was full of plum flower trees. From the look of it, it was the winter quarter where that fellow, the Emperor, spends his days enjoying the plum blossoms. Only it was the middle of summer; except several old eunuchs sweeping the ground everyday early in the morning, not even a ghost’s shadow came to that place. The Old Beggar was free to roam around. Everywhere in the imperial palace there were things to eat; even a hundred beggars won’t die of starvation in that place, thereupon I was able to heal my injury in peace and quiet.

I stayed there for more than ten days. One day in the middle of the night I suddenly heard the Old Urchin’s voice pretending to be a ghost; and then the voice turned into dog’s howling and cat’s meowing. He was turning the palace upside down with the noise. And then I heard some people call out, ‘Hong Qigong, Hong laoyezi [old master Hong], Hong Qigong, Hong laoyezi!’ I took a peek. Turned out they were Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian, Liang Ziweng and the other crafty fellows.”

“Ah!” Huang Rong exclaimed in surprise, “Why did they look for you?”

“I thought it was very strange too,” Hong Qigong said, “As soon as I saw them I went back into hiding. Who would have thought that the Old Urchin had already spotted me. He was ecstatic; he dashed forward and hugged me, saying, ‘Thank the heaven and thank the earth for letting me find you at last.’ Immediately he ordered Liang Ziweng and the others to follow behind us …”

“How could Liang Ziweng and the others listen to the Old Urchin’s order?” Huang Rong wondered.

Hong Qigong laughed and said, “At that time I was also racking my brain but could not figure out the reason. All I can say was that they were very afraid of the Old Urchin. Whatever he said, they did not dare to disobey. He ordered Liang Ziweng and the others to follow behind us, while he carried me to the Ox Village to find you two people. Along the way he told me that he had looked for me everywhere but could not find me, he was very worried. And then quite by accident he bumped into Liang Ziweng and the others by the city wall. In his frustration he beat each and every one of them really bad, and then ordered them to comb all streets and alleys the whole day and the whole night to look for me. He said they had been searching around the imperial palace for a while, but the palace was huge while I was hiding in a remote place. All throughout, they did not see me.”

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