An Old Busker from Hengshan, part 4

   “You are talking nonsense!” the old man shook his head again, then slowly walked out of the teashop. Everyone watched him disappear into the rain, and all there was left was the sad music from the huqin, drifting aimlessly in the distance. 

   “Look, look at the table!” someone uttered in a cry of surprise. Everyone looked in the direction his finger was pointing. There were seven teacups on the table where the short fat man had sat; a ring, about half an inch wide, had been neatly sliced from each cup. The seven china rings had fallen by the cups, yet none of the cups even moved an inch. 

People in the teashop gathered around and everyone started talking about the cups. 

   “Who is he? What incredible sword skills!” one person exclaimed. 

   “One slice gets all seven cups and none of the cups moved at all, it’s almost like magic!” another one praised. 

   “Luckily the old gentleman showed mercy upon you,” someone said to the short fat man, “otherwise your head and neck would have been just like these cups.” 

  “Nah! That old gentleman must be a famous master; he would never have lowered himself to behave so commonly!” another one commented. 

The short fat man just stared at the seven half-cups blankly. His face was completely white and he did not hear a word said by the crowd. 

   “See, I told you not to talk so much,” the middle-aged man in the silk robe said. “Trouble comes from unnecessary words; worry comes from acting without thinking. Right now there are all kinds of hidden dragons and crouching tigers in Hengshan, and many of them are elite fighters! That old gentleman must be a good friend of Great Mr. Mo. He heard your disrespectful words about Great Mr. Mo, so of course, he decided to teach you a lesson.” 

   “He wasn’t a good friend of Great Mr. Mo,” The graybeard said coldly. “That was the Head Master of Hengshan Sword School, ‘Night Rain of Xiaoxiang,’ Great Mr. Mo, himself.” 

   “What? He…he was Great Mr. Mo? How do you know?” Everyone was shocked and asked the question simultaneously. 

   “It’s quite elementary,” the graybeard said. “Great Mr. Mo loves to play the huqin and especially the song ‘Night Rain of Xiaoxiang.’ It could move the listeners to tears. The words ‘sword hidden in the huqin, sword plays the music’ are an apt description of his Kung Fu skills. Since all of you are in Hengshan town, how could you not have heard of that? That brother said earlier that Master Liu could pierce five wild geese with one thrust, but that Great Mr. Mo could only get three, so he sliced seven cups to demonstrate his abilities. If even cups can be sliced into pieces, how hard do you think it would be to get wild geese? No wonder he said that you were talking nonsense.” 

The short fat man was still in shock. He lowered his head, speechless. The man in the silk robe paid the bill and dragged him out of the teashop. 

The people in the teashop had watched the magic thrust from “Night Rain of Xiaoxiang” Great Mr. Mo, and suddenly they all felt a chill settle in their hearts. Since none had dissented while the short fat man was defaming Great Mr. Mo, they were worried that they might have planted seeds of trouble, so they all paid their bills and left hurriedly. In a short while, the once crowded teashop became almost empty. Other than Lin Pingzhi, there were only two other guests, bent over a table, dozing off. 

Lin Pingzhi gazed at the seven half-cups and the seven china rings on the table and sank deep in thought. The old man had been so wretched looking, that it seemed someone could have pushed him over with a single finger, yet with a mere wave of his sword, all seven cups had been sliced in half. If Lin hadn’t left Fuzhou, he would have never known that there could be people with such outstanding skills in the world. He was like a frog, watching the sky from inside a well back at the Fortune Prestige Escort House. At that time, he thought that the highest level of Kung Fu people could achieve would be, at most, on par with that of his father. If he were to become a student of this old man and work hard on his Kung Fu training, he might actually have a chance to avenge the Escort House; otherwise, there was really no hope.

 Lin Pingzhi mulled over the idea a bit longer. Why couldn’t he go and find this Great Mr. Mo and implore him to rescue his parents and take him as an apprentice? He stood up in excitement, but a seed of doubt sprouted within his thoughts. After all, Mo was the Head Master of the Hengshan Sword School, and the Five Mountain Sword Alliance had a good relationship with the Qingcheng Sword School; why would he offend his allies for a total stranger? At this discouraging thought, he sat back down feeling utterly depressed. 

Just then, a melodious and tender voice rose, “Second apprentice brother, it looks like the rain just won’t stop. I’m almost soaked through. Why don’t we stop here for some hot tea?” 

Lin Pingzhi was stunned. He recognized the voice the instant he heard it. It was none other than the voice of the ugly wine-selling girl who had saved his life. He lowered his head in a hurry. 

   “Alright, let’s drink some hot tea to warm up a little,” a much older sounding voice answered. 

The two walked into the teashop and sat at a table, diagonally across from Lin Pingzhi. Lin Pingzhi glanced out of the corner of his eyes and saw the wine-selling girl in a green dress seated with her back to him. The person sitting besides her was the old man who claimed to be her grandfather.  (To be continued)

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