An Old Busker from Hengshan, part 1

   “It’s going to be Master Liu’s Gold Basin Hand Washing ceremony three days from now; that’s why our inn is already full of guests. Try your luck at another inn,” a porter suggested. 

With no other choice, Lin Pingzhi tried his luck in some remote streets, and after asking at three different inns, he finally found a small room. He figured, “Although I have covered my face with ashes, Fang Renzhi is pretty sharp, and he might still be able to see through my disguise.” So he bought three pieces of sticking plaster at the local pharmacy and stuck the plaster to his face. He stretched his eyebrow downward and pulled the left corner of his mouth up until it was turned over and revealed half of his teeth. When he looked at himself in the mirror, Lin Pingzhi saw an ugly man of miserable appearance; even he himself could not stand it. He then strapped the big bag containing all the treasure against his back and then dressed over it. Bowing down a little, he was transformed into a hunchback with a big hump. 

   “I look so dreadful, even Mom and Dad wouldn’t recognize me now. No more worries,” he thought. 

After eating a big bowl of noodles with pork chops, he decided to just wander around, hoping to accidentally bump into his parents, or simply hear something about the Qingcheng Sword School. Any information at all would be useful. He wandered for about half a day, until small raindrops suddenly began to fall from the sky. He bought a big bamboo fiber hat on the street and hurriedly put it on. Dark, heavy clouds were gathering close to the horizon, and it seemed that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. He turned into a street and saw a teashop full of people, so he went in and sat down. The waiter brought out a teapot, a small plate of pumpkin seeds, and a small plate of broad beans.

Lin Pingzhi drank a cup of tea and started chewing the seeds to kill time, when he heard somebody say, “Hey hunchback! Mind if we share your table?” The man did not wait for Lin Pingzhi to answer and just sat down. Two others sat down, as well. 

At first, Lin Pingzhi didn’t realize that the man was talking to him. After a slight hesitation he finally remembered that he was the “hunchback” they had referred to, so he replied with a smile, “Sure, sure, be my guest!” All three were dressed in black and all had weapons by their waists. 

The three men were intent upon their drinking and conversation, and didn’t even give Lin Pingzhi a second glance. 

   “Master Liu’s Gold Basin Hand Washing ceremony is really going to be a big party. It’s still three days until the ceremony, and guests have already filled the whole town,” a young one said. 

   “Of course!” a one-eyed man concurred. “The Hengshan Sword School has already got a great reputation by itself, not to mention that it is a member of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, which is even more famous. Who wouldn’t want to be on their good side? Besides, Liu Zhengfeng, Master Liu, is excellent in Kung Fu. His expertise is in the thirty-six moves of Wind-twirling Geese-falling Sword, and he is considered the second best in the Hengshan Sword School, only slightly lower in skill than the Head Master of the Hengshan Sword School – Great Mr. Mo. Lots of people have wanted to make his acquaintance, but he never had birthday parties, or weddings for his children, or any kind of events, so there were no good excuses to meet him. No wonder all kinds of people from the Martial World are gathering here once they heard about the happy Gold Basin Hand Washing event. I’d say tomorrow and the day after, it’s going to be even more crowed in the town of Hengshan.” 

   “Not everyone is coming here just to make friends with Liu Zhengfeng,” another man with a graybeard said sardonically. “The three of us are not coming for that, are we? Liu Zhengfeng is doing his Gold Basin Hand Washing; that means after the ceremony, he will never use his Kung Fu again, and will no longer care about justices and injustices in the Martial World. There won’t be a Master Liu in the Martial World, anymore. Since he will vow to never use his sword again, what’s the use of the thirty-six moves of the Wind-twirling Geese-falling Sword? After the Hand Washing, a Kung Fu master would be just like any average person, and all his skills will be wasted. What’s the point of making friends with him, then?” 

   “Well,” the young one argued, “although Master Liu won’t be using his Kung Fu skills anymore, he is still the second most powerful person in the Hengshan Sword School. By making friends with Master Liu, one can also make friends with the Hengshan Sword School, which in turn means you can make friends with the Five Mountains Sword Alliance!”

  “To make friends with the Five Mountains Sword Alliance? Are you worthy of that?” The graybeard sneered.

   “Brother Peng, don’t talk like that,” the one-eyed man said. “We live in the Martial World, the more friends the better, the less enemies the luckier. The Five Mountains Sword Alliance does have great skills, yet they still show respect to all the friends in the Martial World. If they had acted arrogantly, and looked down upon everyone else, then why are there so many guests in Hengshan Town?”  (To be continued)

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