Heart Crushing Palm, part 5

   “Where is Pingzhi? Pingzhi? Pingzhi?” Madam Wang suddenly shrieked frantically, her voice filled with fear. 

   “Young Master! Young Master!” everyone started calling together with Madam Wang. 

   “I am here!” Lin Pingzhi’s voice floated in from outside the gate. 

With a surge of relieved happiness, everyone rushed to the gate, and rounding the street corner was Lin Pingzhi, with a body draped over each shoulder – he was carrying back the two dead escorts. With weapons in their hands, Lin Zhennan and Madam Wang both rushed over the bloodline to guard Lin Pingzhi’s back.

   “What a brave young man the Young Master is! He has great courage!” all the escorts and henchmen cheered, while Lin Zhennan and Madam Wang were both filled with pride for their son.

   “Child, that was too reckless. These two escorts were good friends, but they were already dead. It wasn’t worth the risk,” Madam Wang said reprovingly.

Lin Pingzhi managed a smile, but deep inside, he was miserable. “The whole affair is my fault,” he thought to himself. “It is all because I couldn’t contain myself and killed that guy; so many people have died because of me. If I only worry about my own life like a coward, how can I bear to ever look at myself again?”

  “Unbelievable, Mr. Hua is dead too!” Suddenly shouts came from the back room. “What happened?” Lin Zhennan shouted as the steward of the Escort House walked out in quick steps.

Mr Hua was killed after shop for some vegetables
Mr Hua was killed after shop for some vegetables


  “Chief Master,” the steward said fearfully, “Mr. Hua went out the back door to shop for some vegetables, and he just dropped dead about ten paces out the back door. There are the same…the same words in blood.”

   Mr. Hua was a cook in the Escort House. His cooking skills were top notch; he was quite famous for his “White-Gourd Pot,” “Buddha Over the Wall,”“Pickled Fish,” and “Fish-wrap Wonton.” He was Lin Zhennan’s secret weapon when he wanted to socialize with local officials and rich business owners.

But Hua was just a cook, neither an escort, nor a henchman. It was an unwritten rule that wagon-pullers, sedan-carriers, grooms, and porters were to be left alone when bandits raided escort convoys. With enemies so ruthless, it would probably result in a massacre of the entire Escort House. Lin Zhennan shivered at the thought.

   “Don’t be afraid.” He tried to calm everyone. “Humph, these damn bandits only have the guts to attack when one is off guard. You’ve all seen the Young Master, Madam Wang, and I step across the line. What did those damn thugs do? Nothing? They dared do nothing.”

Everybody agreed obsequiously, yet no one dared to step out of the gate. Lin Zhennan and Madam Wang frowned at each other and neither had any idea what to do.

That night Lin Zhennan scheduled the escorts to guard the Escort House, but when he checked upon them, he found no one on duty. All the escorts just huddled within the hall. When they saw the Chief Master, all stood up looking embarrassed, yet no one wanted to move. Lin Zhennan knew that the enemy was just too vicious, and after the deaths of so many people, he still had not come up with a solution. No wonder everyone was so scared. So he uttered a few words of comfort, ordered servants to bring wine and dishes to the hall, and then drank together with the escorts. Greatly worried, each one just drank the wine silently, and no one talked much. Not long after, many became drunk and fell asleep.

The following noon, several horses suddenly thundered out of the Escort House. After a short investigation, Lin Zhennan found that five escorts simply could not bear the stress and had fled without notice. He shook his head and sighed.

   “When trouble comes, each bird will fly in its own direction. I can no longer take care of each of you, brothers. If you feel like leaving, please go ahead,” he declared.

Some escorts started berating the five for lack of loyalty, while some others kept their silence and only sighed. They were probably wishing that they had fled as well.

Near dusk, five horses came back with five bodies. The five escorts, who wanted to escape, only ended up losing their lives before everyone else.

Lin Pingzhi was enraged. Sword in hands, he dashed out of the gate and stood three paces beyond the line of blood, yelling, “A true man should take full responsibility for his own actions. I, Lin Pingzhi, killed Yu Renyan from Sichuan. It has nothing to do with anyone else. If you want your revenge, come to me. Stab me through the heart and slice me up! I won’t complain. But you keep killing innocent people; what kind of monster does something like that? Lin Pingzhi stands before you. Come and kill me if you dare! If you are too scared to come out, then you are just a pack of craven weaklings; you son of a dog.” The sound of his voice escalated, becoming louder and louder. Tearing open his shirt and exposing his body, he pounded his own chest, shouting, “Come out and put your knife right through here! I am a real man and I am not afraid of death! Why are you so scared to stand in front of me face to face? You damn cowards! You filthy monsters!” His eyes turned red from anger as he struck his own chest heavily.

Many bystanders watched him from far away, but no one wanted to come near the Escort House. Hearing their son shouting, Lin Zhennan and his wife both rushed out of the gate. Their anger and frustration had been steadily building over the last couple of days. The anger finally exploded, and they too began to pour streams of abuse at their unknown enemies.

The escorts looked at each other with admiration for the courage of the three. They felt no surprise that their Chief Master and his wife would shout defiance at their enemies, since the Chief Master was an outstanding man and Madame was a brave woman, but the Young Master looked as fragile as a girl, making him seem that much more heroic for his fearlessness.

The three shouted for a good long while, but were only rewarded with silence.   (To be continued)

   

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