An Old Busker from Hengshan, part 2

   The graybeard snorted and fell silent. After a long while, he spoke again, “Probably because people curry favor with the powerful. Just looking at them makes me angry.” 

Lin Pingzhi wished the three would keep talking, so perhaps they might say something about the Qingcheng Sword School. But since they did not agree with each other, each just drank his tea and said nothing. Then, he heard someone behind him speak with a low voice.

They were talking about retirement of Master Liu
They were talking about retirement of Master Liu

“Uncle Wang, I heard that Master Liu is only about fifty years old, just about the prime age for his Kung Fu skills. Why did he suddenly decide to quit the Martial World? Isn’t that a waste?” 

An old voice answered, “People in the Martial World have all kinds of reasons to wash their hands. For example, someone can be a big gangster of the heterodox persuasion, who had committed many crimes, but after washing his hands, he won’t be killing people or burning houses any longer. So, by doing this, he can firstly leave a better reputation for his descendants; and secondly, if serious crimes were committed in his neighborhood, he would not be a suspect. But Master Liu is very wealthy and his family has been rich for many generations, so of course what I just said would not apply to him.”

   “Of course! It has nothing to do with him,” another man agreed. 

   Uncle Wang continued, “One that studies martial arts deals with combat all his life. It is very possible that at some point, he will hurt or kill somebody and make enemies. As he gets old, knowing that all these enemies are still out there in the Martial World could really weigh him down with worry. Now when Master Liu invited so many guests and informed the entire world that he won’t be using Kung Fu anymore, what he is really saying is that his enemies won’t have to worry about his taking revenge, and that he, himself, hopes that his enemies won’t come and give him trouble, either.” 

   “Uncle Wang, don’t you think he is really putting himself at a disadvantage?” the young man asked.

  “Why a disadvantage?” Uncle Wang didn’t understand the question. 

   “Master Liu won’t be going around giving trouble to other people,” the young man explained, “but other people can come and give trouble to him at anytime. If someone wants to kill him, and Master Liu can’t use his Kung Fu skills, then is he just going to let them kill him without even defending himself?” 

 “You young lads really don’t know much!” Uncle Wang grinned. “If somebody wants to kill you, of course you are going to defend yourself. With the kind of fame the Hengshan Sword School has and the great skills Master Liu possesses, one should pray to Buddha that Master Liu doesn’t give him any trouble. Who would be so stupid as to give trouble to him? Do they have the heart of a lion or the guts of a panther? Even if Master Liu decides to not fight them himself, he has many apprentices; which of them would be easy to overcome? You are really worrying for nothing!” 

   “There is always someone stronger than the strong. Who dares to claim that he can defeat all comers?” the graybeard that sat opposite to Lin Pingzhi murmured to himself. But he spoke with a very low voice and neither of the two behind him heard his words. 

“Like those escorts,” Uncle Wang went on, “if they had made a fortune, and then decided to retire at the height of their career, close their business early, wash their hands and stop earning risky money, that would have been a smart thing to do.” 

These words struck Lin Pingzhi like a thunder. “If Father had retired a couple of years ago and washed his hands, what would life be like today?” he couldn’t help asking himself. 

   “Clay jars always break by the well; generals always die in battles. Onlookers always see better than the players; to really quit at the height of one’s career is far easier said than done,” the graybeard murmured again. 

   “Absolutely!” the one-eyed man couldn’t agree more. “For the last couple of days, I’ve heard many people say: ‘Master Liu’s fame is like the sun at high noon, and he resolutely retired at the height of his career. How admirable!’” 

A middle-aged man, dressed in silk robes, sitting by the table on the left, broke into their conversation. “I was in the town of Wuhan a couple of days ago. I heard from some friends in the Martial World that Master Liu had to wash his hands and renounce the Martial World because of troubles that would be better left unmentioned.” 

   “What did they say? Why don’t you tell us about it?” the one-eyed man turned around and asked.

   “The story would be fine in Wuhan. But here in Hengshan, I’d better not speak so freely,” the man smiled. 

   “Many people have already heard the rumor, so why do you bother pretending it’s such a secret?” a short fat man said in a deep grumpy voice. “Everybody is saying that Master Liu has to wash his hands, because he is too skilled in Kung Fu and that he is too popular among friends.” 

He spoke with a loud voice, and instantly, all interested eyes turned to him. 

   “Why does someone have to quit the Martial World because of his skills and popularity? Why is that?” several people asked at the same time. 

   “People who don’t know the inside story will be confused, of course, but once you learn the secrets, you won’t think it strange at all,” the short fat man said contentedly. 

   “What inside story?” somebody asked. 

The short fat man just smiled, but did not answer. 

   “Why bother asking him? He doesn’t know the story, either. He’s just blowing a lot of hot air,” a thin man several tables away retorted haughtily. 

   “Of course I know it,” the short fat man declared loudly, unable to ignore the barb. “Master Liu is washing his hands, because he takes the situation as a whole into consideration – so there won’t be internal conflict within the Hengshan Sword School.”   (To be continued)

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