The Legend of the Condor Heroes – Chapter 34

Late on the third day the boat reached the shore. Out of hatred of everything from the Peach Blossom Island he took the anchor and smashed the bottom of the boat before leaping onto the beach. He watched while the sailboat slowly leaned sideways and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. He could not help but feel a loss in his heart. Leaving the shore he walked to the west; he found a peasant home and bought some rice to eat. After finding the right direction he went straight to Jiaxing.

That evening he spent the night by the bank of Qiantang River; he saw the reflection of the bright moon on the river, like a big golden wheel floating on the water. Suddenly he jumped up with a start; he was afraid he missed the martial art contest appointment at the Misty Rain Tavern. Immediately he asked the host where he lodged, and found out that today was the thirteenth of the eighth month. Hastily he crossed the river that very same night; he bought a healthy horse and whipped the horse to gallop quickly, and arrived at Jiaxing by early afternoon of the next day.

Since his childhood he had heard his six shifus recounted their battle with Qiu Chuji; how they had a wine drinking contest out of the huge copper vat at the Drunken Immortal Tavern [zui xian lou], the exquisiteness of their martial art skills and the heroism surrounding that battle. Six people loved to tell the story good-naturedly. So as soon as he entered the southern gate he asked the location of the Drunken Immortal Tavern.

The Drunken Immortal Tavern was located by the bank of Nan Hu [South Lake]. Guo Jing arrived at the front of the tavern. He looked up and saw this tavern’s appearance was exactly like what Han Xiaoying had told him. The tavern had been imprinted in his mind for a dozen of years, today he had seen it for the first time with his own eyes; he noticed the exquisiteness of the carving of the eaves, it was truly a beautiful building. At the front of the tavern stood a big wooden sign with ‘tai bai yi feng’ [the great (Li) Bai (a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty)’s left behind manner/custom/air] four letters engraved on it; while above the main entrance there was a sign with ‘zui xian lou’ [Drunken Immortal Tavern], inscribed by Su Dongpo [a famous calligrapher of the Song Dynasty], in golden letters, gleaming under the bright sunlight.

Guo Jing’s heart was thumping madly; walking and leaping, he went upstairs. A wine shop attendant welcomed him and said, “Honorable Guest, please use the downstairs room, since the upstairs is already reserved for some other guests.”

Guo Jing was about to reply when suddenly someone was calling, “Jing’er, you are here!” Guo Jing looked up and saw a Taoist priest sitting and drinking wine, his long beard reached his chest, his face was ruddy; it was none other than Changchun Zi [Eternal Spring] Qiu Chuji.

Guo Jing rushed forward and bowed to the ground, “Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest Qiu]!” he called out. His voice was somewhat choked.

Qiu Chuji held out his hand to raise him up; he said, “You are a day early, that is very good. I am also a day early. I thought tomorrow we are going to fight Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others, so I want to be here early to drink wine and reminisce about the past with your Six Shifus. Have your Six Shifus arrived? I have prepared some tables for them.”

Guo Jing saw there were nine tables on this upstairs floor; except for Qiu Chuji’s table, which was full with dishes and wine, the other eight tables only had a pair of chopsticks and a wine cup. Qiu Chuji said, “Eighteen years ago I met your Seven Shifus for the very first time in this place; they arranged the tables just like this. This one table of vegetarian dishes was for Jiaomu Da Shi [Reverend Burnt Wood], it’s a pity that I can no longer meet him and your Wu Shifu [Fifth Shifu].” He sounded very grieved. Guo Jing turned his head around, did not dare to look at him straight ahead.

Qiu Chuji did not notice anything, he kept talking, “That day we had a contest on drinking from the copper vat, so today I went to ‘fa hua si’ [magnificent (Buddhist) way temple] and fetched the vat. As soon as your Six Shifus are here we can drink again just like in the old days.”

Guo Jing turned his head to look at the big copper vat by the screen. The outside of the vat was blackish green from the copper rust, but the inside had been washed and scrubbed clean, and filled to the brim with high quality wine, the fragrance attacked his nostrils. Guo Jing stared blankly at the copper vat for half a day then he turned his attention to the eight empty tables. He thought, “Other than Da Shifu, nobody would be able to enjoy the banquet again. If only I can see my seven benevolent masters sit together, drinking wine, talking and laughing, getting drunk for the whole day, I would be very happy even if I have to die immediately.”

He heard Qiu Chuji continue, “At that time we agreed that on the twenty-fourth day of the third month this year, you and Yang Kang will have a martial art contest in here. I respect your Seven Shifus as noble hearted chivalrous warriors; I was hoping you would win and lift up the name of the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan in the world. Besides, I was always wandering everywhere, weeding out the criminals from this world; I did not have enough time to spend on nurturing Yang Kang. It was all right not to teach him a good martial art, but I should have taught him to have loyalty and chivalry. For this I am so ashamed toward your Uncle Yang. Although he now thoroughly repented of his former misdeeds, the evil influence in his life will be difficult to eradicate completely; when I think about this, my heart is filled with utmost regret.”

Guo Jing wanted to recount Yang Kang’s dishonorable behavior, but it was a long story so he did not know where to start. Meanwhile Qiu Chuji continued, “In a person’s life, literary or martial art skill is not everything, the most important things are two characters, loyalty and patriotism. Even if Yang Kang’s martial art skill is better than yours a hundred folds, speaking of character, the martial art contest of the Drunken Immortal Tavern is still won by your shifus. Hey, hey, Qiu Chuji lost with a satisfied heart.” He laughed a big laugh. Suddenly he saw Guo Jing’s tears flow down like rain, he was surprised, “Ah, why are you so sad?”

Guo Jing scrambled over one step, he bowed to the ground and wept, “My … my … my five benevolent masters have passed away.”

Qiu Chuji was shocked. “What?!?” he almost shouted.

Still crying Guo Jing said, “Except for my Da Shifu, the other five are … are dead.”

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