Secret Deal. Gui Wa.
“Hah, hah, hah…”
The man fleeing on foot felt as though the wind blew with passion, taking away his energy with each breath, yet he put one leg in front of the other over and over, seemingly afraid the darkness would swallow him. He had no idea how long he had been running for; he had gone from paved streets to the mountains, but he was convinced he shouldn’t stop.
He was tough enough to be revered among friends and enemies for being as tough as his armour, yet he showed a clean pair of heals as soon as he came face to face with a certain individual, not even daring to look back until his lungs forced him to stop. He thanked the heavens there was only one trail behind him until he turned around.
“Did you have to run?”
“Ah! Ah!” Frightened, the man threw a punch with reckless abandon, landing it on the individual’s chest.
The individual didn’t bother to shield himself with the technique he was proud of in his arsenal, putting the man’s reputation as a strong man to shame.
“If Evil Spirit’s general’s punch is this weak, why run? What difference will running make?”
The man rolled on the ground, beseeching, “I apologise! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have done that! Please forgive me! Forg-”
The individual killed the man with his unshakable, yet forlorn, eyes.
“What compelled you… to do that?” asked the individual, despite knowing the man couldn’t answer and knowing what the answer was. He didn’t need an answer; he already witnessed more greed and cruelty than he wanted to see. “Hahahaha.” The man’s maniacal laughter was his only relief from the sorrow that plagued him. “Let’s go drink! I’ll kill whoever stops me!”
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew as a man and woman dashed through the woods.
“What are you going to do if we want to stop you?” shouted the tall man hiding his appearance in a black robe.
“Brother, I have something to tell you!” responded the maiden, who was the same age as Ming Suwen, chasing after him.
Why have you still not dropped your fixation habit?
“Can you stop chasing me?!”
“Let me see how you look!”
Including the night I met Yu Feiyuan in the lake, we had been running for two days and nights straight.
“Didn’t I tell you I’m an old lecher? Get back.”
“I refuse.” Yu Feiyuan burst forward and asserted, “You resemble someone important to me. Actually, I believe it’s you. Brother Feizhen, wait for me.”
“You have the wrong person!”
Among the marriages dumped in my lap, my engagement to Yu Feyuan was the only official one. Custom dictates that engagements and marriages are only official if both parties’ parents arrange it, and the rites are followed.
The year I was grounded on Mount Emei was the year my shifu met with orthodox sect members from Nanjiang, which was a rarer than rare occurrence. Few people wanted to receive him as a guest due to the chaos he caused; curses he spouted; and sisters, wives, aunts, neighbours and friends he had affairs with.
See why I don’t want to succeed the patriarch role of Mount Daluo? I’d drown in spit if all of the enemies my shifu made spat on me once.
I was eight years old the year I met five year old Yu Feiyuan. Back then, she was petite, sported pink all the time, had soft, full cheeks and was adorable. Until I met her, she was reticent. After we met, she was always following behind me, calling “Brother Feizhen. Brother Feizhen.” I brought her along with me wherever I went just as Shifu did with me, considering it to be the natural thing to do. Others, however, didn’t interpret it that way…
Shifu told me to bug off every night when he caroused with the people he convened with at Emei’s Golden Summit, telling me kids should do things kids do. Of course, I didn’t buy his story. Accordingly, I led Lass Yu (the nickname I gave Yu Feiyuan) to the conference room because she was a living key to all areas of Mount Emei. I opened the door and heard, “Tianhu!”
Tianhu? The adept? Could Shifu be discussing how to rebel against the imperial court?
I poked my head inside to see my shifu, Daoist Jinguan, (Emei Sect’s patriarch at the time) Greater Empyrean Sect’s patriarch and Nanjiang’s best pugilist (forgot their name) sitting at a square table usually for eight people to dine at. As a pupil, I decided to sneak in for a closer look and to offer help if it was necessary since the four were partaking in a silent competition between each other. To my dismay, the four damn old farts were playing mah-jong!
The Tianhu I heard wasn’t “Flying Fox” but Tianhu as in “natural” in mah-jong! Inflamed, I turned to walk off, only to hear Daoist Jinguan flip the pieces over and chortle, saying, “With this loss, you’ve lost everything you came here with, Brother Ming.”
My shifu responded, “So what? Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.”
“No, no, you’ve lost what you started with.”
“Hmm… We can’t just call it quits, though, right? We still have twenty rounds to go.”
“Okay, but this old one has a condition.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“Your disciple is bright. This old one happens to have a five year old granddaughter who is very pretty. This old one thinks they’re perfect for each other. How about being in-laws? They would surely appreciate it.”
I spun around to look at the loli I was with, only to receive a sweet smile and hear, “Brother Feizhen.”
“That’s true. I mean, he’s my disciple. He goes well with anything. In saying that, you’re ripping me off here. I only lost nine taels, six mace, yet you want my disciple? Do you realise how far away Beiping is? You want my disciple? Pfft.”
As much as I’m touched, I have an equal urge to punch your face in. What the heck am I to you?
“In that case, how about betting him back for what you owe this old one? That’s fair, isn’t it? Win and we’ll pretend this old one ever mentioned it.”
“Deal! Let’s roll. I’ll deal!”
And so… my shifu lost even his underpants that night. And that was how I ended up as Yu Feiyuan’s fiancé. To pay off his debts, my shifu signed the betrothal papers, ran down Mount Emei and sold a couple of loaves of oven clay bread in exchange for some gifts to send up the mountain.
I never comprehended why Young Shiyi never let the affair go, mistaking that she merely didn’t like the way it happened. I made the terrible mistake of assuring her Yu Feiyuan was nice, pretty, tall, strong, you get my drift. As a result of my mistake, Young Shiyi heckled Yu Feiyuan every couple of days. You know what was crazier, though? Lass Yu didn’t even know she was being heckled because she couldn’t tell when people were bullying her or when they were being playful.
Young Shiyi doesn’t insult you outright. Instead, she prefers a way of going around, pressing your buttons until you flip out on your own. Unfortunately for her, Lass Yu couldn’t follow those kinds of insults, so Young Shiyi ended up irritating herself.
When Young Shiyi fed her poisoned snacks, Lass Yu thought she ate something that had gone bad. What annoyed Young Shiyi even more was Lass Yu built up immunity to the poison after a few days of pain.
Young Shiyi offered sparring lessons to pick apart Lass Yu as an alternative. After sparring each other over and over, Lass Yu picked up qinna techniques and could execute them with her eyes closed. Before she knew it, Young Shiyi could no longer win in fair matches. Consequently, Young Shiyi blamed me for training Lass Yu… That is why “Yu Feiyuan” is taboo in Young Shiyi’s presence.
I had several opportunities to hurtle with my qingong, except Yu Feiyuan was too close and possessed a good pair of eyes. Accounting for her knack to distinguish styles, I didn’t use Night Steps, or I wouldn’t be able to deny it was me later on. Thankfully, I eventually heard a disturbance in the woods and decided to find cover.
I couldn’t tell how the dead man with messy hair on the ground died. The other man was as large as A-Hu, making him taller than me. The big broadsword on his back was still sheathed and his clothing was frayed, giving him the vibes of a wanderer.
“I’ll kill whoever stops me!”
Deeming it to be an opportunity, I confronted the man and asked, “Wh-what are you going to do if we want to stop you?”
The big man cast his copper eyes my way through his peripherals: “Kill you!”
Responding to his punch, I smacked his fist with my palm, billowing the trees. Identifying his style, I blurted, “Evil Eminence Scripture? Who are you?”
“You know it? Who are you?”
Interjecting on the intermission, Yu Feiyuan stated, “He has precise control over his internal energy and a domineering presence. He could kill a man with sound alone. If you aren’t Brother Feizhen, you can marginalise him. Otherwise, don’t be a hero.”
You chased me for two days and nights when you’re not even certain I’m Ming Feizhen?
As inquisitive as I was, I preferred to shake off Yu Feiyuan. Planting a foot behind me, I uncorked a palm strike just enough to generate a gust capable of delaying Yu Feiyuan’s acceleration. That small window was all the man needed to bridge the gap between him and her.
“Since you wish to stop me, you must pay!”
Thus, Yu Feiyuan had no alternative but to engage the man, affording me time to escape. I still wasn’t out of the red zone even if I ran, in saying that. For all I knew, the man might’ve been someone you could reason with. If Yu Feiyuan could clear the air quick enough, she could catch up just as she did the two days before. Moreover, we might bump into each other since we both lodged at Canhu Town. The only way for me to be in the green zone was to erase her suspicions. To that end, I sped off using Night Steps once I was confident she couldn’t see me. In mere seconds, for crying out loud, I heard the wind howling behind me, meaning Yu Feiyuan had caught up again. I went back to using qinggong to shake off Yu Feiyuan, a tactic that was only feasible because I had created a gap big enough, and my destination wasn’t too far off.
I pulled over in front of a cavern that was originally the asset of some beast, minus during the winter season, after running for another hour, and pulled off the hay I covered the entrance up with: “Demon Lass, come save me.”
“There’s no cure for you!” Mountain Monster stopped tending to her cooking and attempted to tag my face with a flying side kick as soon as I set foot inside.
I caught Mount Monster’s thin ankle with both hands, stuffing her forward force and then suspended her upside down with one hand.
“Ming Feizhen, you would dare show your face back here again?!”
My official fiancée is out there. Why are you acting like you’re my wife?
Rubbing my face on instinct, I queried, “What’s wrong with me coming back?”
“You have the gall to ask me that?! You’ve confined me to this hell hole for days! If I didn’t know how to catch snakes to eat, I’d have already died from starvation!”
I admit to forgetting about leaving Mountain Monster with a broadsword to take care of herself due to the plethora of things on my plate recently. I brought her food and water daily until the debacles at Canhu Town occupied my memory capacity. While it was winter, the cavern wasn’t safe from all snakes, bugs and wild beasts. If nothing else, I passed by two wolves on the way over. To be frank, I didn’t care too much if she ended up dying.
I didn’t actually confine Mountain Monster to the natural cavern; I just set up a subconscious trap that would trigger, numbing her body if she thought about leaving the cavern. If she did leave, the technique would knock her out. If she woke up outside, it’d thump her head until she passed out again.
I usually avoid using Spring Wind Rainy Night Art’s subconscious restriction because, even though it is unorthodox, it isn’t hard to recognize it is Divine Moon Cult’s style. I merely didn’t bother hiding it from Mountain Monster for she already knew I wasn’t a world messiah or anything of the sort.
“I… Come on, I’m back now, aren’t I?”
Mountain Monster squinted then twisted her hip, using her free leg to kick me in the face: “You think I’m your woman?! What good does you coming here have, huh?! I’m still stick in this crap hole!”
I gave Mountain Monster the free kick so that she wouldn’t complain then released her ankle, allowing her to make a deft landing: “You’ve had your kick and rebuke. Can we have a mature discussion now?”
“I’ll talk however I damn please.” Mountain Monster propped herself down on a stack of hay and grass, continuing, “Spare me the drivel. You’re in trouble again, aren’t you? You’re here to beg me for help again, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I need to use you.”
“Go home and use your two remaining brain cells to sob, sob, pindick! Y-you’re using conscious techniques again?! You jerk! I’ll bite your neck off!” Mountain Monster stomped off to her pot of soup and guzzled it when nobody else would unless they were trying to burn their mouth. She spat out her third gulp loudly and cursed, “It’s not salty, and it’s not plain. The hell?”
“If you want some delicacies, how about listening to my proposal?”
Mountain Monster spun around to me and slowly hiked up the corner of her lips: “I don’t want the useless back story. What’s the reward? Tickle my fancy first, or I’m not interested.”
“Make me a human-skin mask so that I can avoid someone.”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, Master Ming, you of all people need me to make a human-skin mask?”
“My disguise skills are comparable to yours. Actually, I might be better. The issue is that it would take me a month or longer to make a convincing mask unlike your Blood Fiend Silkworm Transformation Art. You can make your mask on the spot using materials you find. Your handiwork is somewhat lousy, but you can easily complete a satisfactory one within two hours if I help out.”
“Done with the useless explanation? You’ve listed your gains. What about mine?”
“I’ll allow you to come with me to Canhu Town.”
Mountain Monster flashed a corner of her pearls: “I want to stay at the best inn.”
“Best inn, best room. One hundred taels a night is the standard.”
“Foot massages and a personal steward.”
“Twenty-four hours a day service.”
“A band to keep me entertained.”
“Muscular blokes, detached and handsome men, flower boys and pretty girls, you will have the whole package.”
“The most unique food.”
“Foods that you’ve never tried before.”
“Deal.” Mountain Master brightly patted her chest: “You can count on me. Hand over the flesh.”
“I don’t have any on me at the moment. What happened to the snake?”
“I already cooked it. How do you expect me to get blood out of it? Wait, what’s that behind you? Two wolves? You son of a… You didn’t even offer me a wolf, and let me drink snake soup, instead? Anyway, we can use one for a mask and roast the other.”
“This is my dinner, though! I’ll eat one, and you enjoy your snake soup!”
After a big back and forth, we conceded on using half of a wolf to make a mask and roasting the remaining half. I got one complete wolf, and Mountain Master got half. She actually wanted more. Nonetheless, she decided against eating too much before she had the luxury of enjoying the food at the inn.
While we ate dinner, Yu Feiyuan patrolled the surroundings.
“If I can’t make a satisfactory mask, I’ll change my ‘Gui’ surname.”
“Your surname is ‘ghost’?”
“You don’t mean to tell me you think my real name is Wangliang, Mountain Monster, do you? That’s my sobriquet in Evil Spirits.”
“What’s your first name?”
“Why do you care? You will never capture my heart. My first name is Laimeng. My full name is Gui Laimeng!”
“Ruthless Ghost? What sort of name is that?”
Noticing the wrinkles on my nose, River Monster cackled: “What’s the problem with it?” River Monster even faked a husky voice of men and women interchangeably, trying to sound extra evil.
While I watched Mountain Monster drain out the essence and blood of the wolf, something about her waist was amiss to me. I, therefore, reached out and found a small black string at her waist. I gingerly snatched it so that she wouldn’t notice.
I recognised the black piece of jade exclusive to members of Sky Palace that many wouldn’t have recognised due to their secrecy. “5143 – Gui Wa” was etched onto the black piece of jade, putting a grin on my face: “So your name is Gui Wa.”
Mountain Monster’s lips curved down, and she swivelled around: “How do you know?”
“Oh, serious? I’m right? It’s carved on right here.”
Mountain Monster leapt at me to snatch back her jade token: “Wh-why do you care?! I like being called Gui Laimeng! Don’t… Don’t you dare use that name!”
I folded my arms in triumph: “Oh, your nickname? Wawa?”
Mountain Monster’s face looked ready to explode.
“Your nickname really is Wawa as in Doll? Wawa. Wawa. That’s adorable.”
“Adorable my foot! I swear I’ll kill you one day!”