Wine Shop Incident, part 1

Spring was always a relaxing time of the year. As the breeze gently brushed the willow trees and wild flowers, it filled the air of the southland with a pleasant scent of the season. 

The West Gate Boulevard of Fuzhou was a stone slab road that extended all the way to the west gate of the town. A huge mansion stood south of the street, in front of which a tall flagpole stood on either side of the entrance. The flagpoles were about twenty feet tall, each with a huge green banner streaming in the wind. The banner on the left was embroidered in yellow silk, bearing the image of a majestic lion. As the banner fluttered back and forth in the wind, the lion seemed as though it had come alive and was about to jump down at any moment. Just above the lion’s head was a pair of bats, embroidered in black silk; they appeared to be flapping their wings in the air. The banner on the right bore four huge characters in black that read “Fortune Prestige Escort House,” all written in a bold, vigorous hand. 

The mansion itself had a large vermilion gate with teacup-sized copper studs which sparkled in the bright sunlight. Above the gate, the same “Fortune Prestige Escort House” characters were inscribed in gold lacquer on a huge sign with the word “Headquarters” engraved in smaller print just below. Beyond the gate were two rows of benches bordering a path, and sitting upon those benches were eight guards in house uniforms, their faces animated with excitement. 

Sounds of hoof beats came from the backyard of the court. All eight guards sprang up and rushed out the gate. Five horses galloped out from the side-door on the west of the mansion and stopped directly in front of the gate. Leading the pack was a beautiful horse, white as snow, with a silver bridle and stirrups. A young man wearing silk clothing, roughly eighteen years of age, sat on the horse with a sword hanging from his belt and a bow strapped onto his back. A hunting falcon perched on his left shoulder as the horse strode along the street. The four horsemen following him were all dressed in tight, black outfits.

     “The Young Master is going hunting!” three guards shouted in unison. 

The young man smiled and cracked his whip in the air cockily. Answering the command, the white horse neighed happily and dashed along the stone slab road. 

     “Escort Shi,” one of the guards yelled out, “how about bringing back a wild boar, so we can all have a feast!” 

      A forty-year-old horseman, trailing behind, grinned back. “Don’t worry! I will be sure to save the boar’s tail for you. Just don’t get drunk before we get back.” 

Amid the loud laughter, the five horsemen vanished like the wind. 

Just after they exited the town gate, Lin Pingzhi, the Young Master of the Escort House, spurred his horse lightly; the steed picked up speed and soon left the rest of the pack far behind. 

After riding up a small slope, he set the falcon to work. Minutes later, a pair of yellow rabbits was flushed out from the bushes. Lin Pingzhi quickly grabbed the bow from his back. Pulling out an arrow from his saddlebag, he took aim and shot in one smooth action. One rabbit down, one more to go. But by the time he pulled out another arrow and was ready to shoot again, the other rabbit had disappeared behind the bushes.

Lin Pingzhi and his escorts cheered
Lin Pingzhi and his escorts cheered

     Escort Zheng rode by with a smile. “Nice shot, Young Master!” he praised.

    “Young Master, hurry, we’ve found pheasants here!” Henchman Bai shouted in the woods to the left. 

Lin Pingzhi rushed over and saw a pheasant flying out from the bushes, heading directly toward his head. He pulled out an arrow rapidly and fired at the pheasant but missed. Reflexively, he lashed his whip at the pheasant. With a cracking sound, the pheasant fell to the ground, its bright and colorful feathers scattering in all directions. 

     All five men cheered. 

    “What a swift lash! Even a large griffon wouldn’t escape that,” Escort Shi exclaimed. 

The party hunted in the woods for over four hours. Intending to let the Young Master have a good time, the two escorts, Shi and Zheng, and the two henchmen, Bai and Chen, always drove the prey toward the young man, even when they themselves had the better shot. By the end of the hunt, Lin Pingzhi had shot two more rabbits and two more pheasants. But Young Master Lin wanted to hunt more.  (To be continued)

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, although hunting is a cruel topic to me.