Chapter 10 - The Sabre Technique of the Golden Crow

A'Xiu picked up the battered woodsman's cleaver and slowly executed a pose. Then, she brought the cleaver into a horizontal position before pushing it outwards. Finally, she sent the blade sweeping towards the left, drew it back and sent it stabbing diagonally into the right.

When the trio woke up the next morning, they ate several persimmons. Then, Shi Potian helped both Grandmother Shi and her grand-daughter to unblock yet another channel each on their bodies. Consequently, the women regained the use of their arms.

"Big Rice Dumpling," said Grandmother Shi, "there is a small lake here where crabs can be found. Go and catch some of these crabs. Although the crabs have not grown fat(1), eating them is still better than having persimmons day in and day out."

However, Shi Potian was hesitant. "It is not difficult to catch the crabs," he said, "but we do not have a way to cook them. Neither can we eat them raw."

"How unbecoming!" said Grandmother Shi. "How can a young and energetic man like you be so fearful of that ghastly old Ding Busan?"

"Even if we do not talk about Grandfather Ding Busan," answered Shi Potian with a shake of his head, "Ding Ding Dang Dang alone is already so much better than I. If they catch me, tie me up like a big rice dumpling again and throw be back into the river, it will be horrible."

At this point, A'Xiu spoke up: "Grandmother, this Elder Brother here is right. We should just endure our situation for the time being, and wait until all the channels in your body have been unblocked. Once your strength returns, we will no longer have to be afraid of Ding Busan and Ding Busi."

"Hmmph, you make it sound as if this is a trivial matter," replied Grandmother Shi with a snort. "Can a person recover her strength as easily as she speaks? It will take at least ten days before all the channels on our bodies are unblocked. Then, we will need another eight months to a year before our strength returns in full. Are we really going to eat persimmons every day for the next twelve months? Besides, all the persimmons will be rotten in less than ten days."

"Well, we do not have to worry about that," said Shi Potian. "I will go and pick some persimmons, and dry them in the sun. Then, with dried fruit to eat for a year or so, we will not starve to death." After experiencing so many frustrating and incomprehensible difficulties and dangers in recent days, he felt that things might be better if he were to pass his days in peaceful seclusion at the cave. After all, this seemed to be a far safer and happier option.

"So you are willing to act like a tortoise that draws its head into its shell," snapped Grandmother Shi angrily. "But I will not do it. Besides, that scoundrel Ding Busi will extend his search to this island within a day or two. Then, you will not be able to act like a tortoise even if you wanted to. Big Rice Dumpling, what exactly is going on with you? Why do you possess such a rich reservoir of internal strength in vain, when you have not taken up any training in martial arts?"

"But I have really not taken any proper lessons from anyone," answered Shi Potian, feeling somewhat embarrassed. "Ding Ding Dang Dang taught me her Seizing Technique with eighteen moves, so it is only natural that I am unable to defeat her or her grandfather. As for the moves that Old Grandfather Ding Busi taught me, there is nothing among them that he does not already know."

Suddenly, A'Xiu interrupted the exchange: "Grandmother, why do you not give this Elder Brother here some pointers on a few moves? If he learns your pugilistic techniques and defeats Ding Busi after that, would that not be more glorious than seizing victory in your own hands?"

Grandmother Shi did not reply. Instead, she fixed her eyes on Shi Potian and stared hard at him. Suddenly, her eyes were filled with terrible viciousness and hate. Her hands began to quiver, as if they were about to grab Shi Potian and have him bitten to death.

Frightened, the young man stood up and backed away. "Old Madame," he said, "you ... you ..."

Ignoring him, Grandmother Shi spoke to her grand-daughter in a stern voice: "A'Xiu, take another look at him. Is the resemblance not there?"

A'Xiu's large eyes turned themselves on to Shi Potian's face, but the expression in them was a lot more gentle and amiable. "Grandmother," said the young woman, "the resemblance exists, but ... but he is definitely not the one. If he ... he had a tenth of this Elder Brother's honesty and kindness, he would not have ... would not have ..."

The resentful glint in Grandmother Shi's eyes subsided. With a snort of disgust, she said, "Althought he is not the one, there is still too much resemblance between them. I will certainly not teach him anything."

Almost at once, Shi Potian understood: Yes, she thought that I am the other Shi Potian. That Clan-Leader Shi has certainly offended a lot of people, for there are actually so many people under the sun who hate him. If I see him in the future, I should really give him some advice.

Just then, he heard Grandmother Shi ask: "Is your surname Shi?"

"No!" answered Shi Potian, shaking his head. "Everyone says that I am Clan-Leader Shi from the Clan of Eternal Happiness, but I am actually not. Not even by the slightest bit. Sigh, I have repeated this many times, but no one believes me." He heaved a long sigh in deep frustration.

"I believe that you are not," said A'Xiu in a quiet voice.

"You really do?" asked Shi Potian, raising his voice in delight. "That ... that is excellent! You are the only one who believes me!"

"You are a good man," said A'Xiu. "He ... he is a bad one. Both of you are totally different."

Grabbing the young woman's hands in a moment of impulse, Shi Potian said, "Thank you very much! Thank you very much! Thank you very much!" In recent days, everyone he met had assumed that he was Clan-Leader Shi, so much so that he had no way to start explaining otherwise. Now, he felt just like a wrongly-accused prisoner who had been given a sudden exoneration by the Great Master Qingtian and his Mirror of Understanding(2), for as he thanked A'Xiu profusely, tears of gratitude fell from his eyes and on to the young woman's slim and fair hands.

A'Xiu turned red with embarrassment, yet she could not bear to pull her hands away from Shi Potian's grasp.

"If you are, you are," said Grandmother Shi in a cold voice. "If you are not, you are not. How unbecoming for a man to weep and wail!"

"Yes!" said Shi Potian. As he raised a hand to wipe his tears, he suddenly realised that he was still holding on to A'Xiu's hands. Shocked, he quickly said, "I amd sorry, I am sorry!" As he released her hands, he added, "I ... I ... I am going to pick more persimmons." He ran straight off, not daring to cast another look at the young woman.

When Grandmother Shi saw how awkward Shi Potian felt, as well as how genuine the awkwardness was, she could not help but be amused. "So he is not," she said with a sigh. "If that little beast who is surnamed Shi had but a tenth of Big Rice Dumpling's honesty and kindness, he would not have ... sigh!"

Before long, rustling sounds could be heard among the trees outside the cave. Shi Potian rushed up, looking pale and panicky. "Oh no ...," he said in a trembling voice, "we are in a terrible mess!"

"Why?" asked Grandmother Shi. "What is wrong? Has Ding Busan seen you?"

To be continued...

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Cast your vote: Why was Shi Potian pale and panicky? ... and post your comments/feedback.

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Notes:

  1. Towards the end Chapter 9, the crabs were said to be fat, but here, at the beginning of Chapter 10, the crabs were not. This inconsistency, found in the 2nd edition, was not rectified in the 3rd edition.
  2. Great Master Qingtian and his Mirror of Understanding = refers to the well-known Song Dynasty judge, Bao Qingtian 包青天 and the plaque that he hung in the hall where cases were heard. The plaque bore the words 'The Mirror of Understanding Hangs High' (明镜高悬).