I Was Born with These Skills for a Reason
“Y-you, just how, how, what the bloody, motherflipping, son of a motherflipping ^%$%#*”
And his ability to speak cohesively regressed to incomprehensible levels once I overcame the last weapon he had up his sleeve. Being the kind gentleman I was, I firmly slapped some sense back into his head.
“Enough with the hala bala, and take off your mask.”
It wouldn’t be quite correct to describe the mask he unmasked to be large as he looked gaunt if compared to usual, though that didn’t mean he looked hideous. He usually appeared as a short and stubby man, so nobody would’ve expected the tall and toned masked man to be him. More than likely, his public appearance was achieved through some body manipulation method, and the keg of a belly was used as a storage unit.
A disguise that polarised your actual appearance was the hardest sort of disguise to see through, reason being that it was tough to bear with compressed bones for an entire day no matter how good you were at it.
Guanhu Island was a big fat question mark in the minds of the major populace, and Yuan Kou’s appearance was rarely a topic in the pugilistic world. For that reason, people would assume his first appearance to be the real him, which benefited his purpose of moonlighting as the man in black. Unless he was caught, “Zero” probably never even considered suspecting him. I suspected him only after suspecting Teng. When his strategy was so sound, he was defeated and bemused how I found out.
“How did you recognise me?”
I sneered. “You probably don’t know which industry I work in.”
Yuan Kou whacked his thigh. “You’re a diviner from Wudang?”
“Ptoo!” I pointed to myself with my thumb. “Top public servant at Liu Shan Men.”
Yuan Kou: “They would employ even you?”
“The world is at peace now; it’s not like back in the day. As long as one is competent enough, His Majesty is willing to give you a chance to protect his vast land. Someone of your calibre has no fear of absence of opportunities to realise your ambitions. Why not use your knowledge and skills for the imperial court and imperial family?”
Who did I get that script from? Why am I trying to recruit for the imperial family? These thugs would only cause chaos if they worked for the imperial court.
I shook my head. “Besides, your back story is utter nonsense. Jiang Chen would arrange for your son to take the imperial exams in exchange for your service? Do you even know how the exams are conducted? Prime Minister Li is in charge of this year’s imperial examinations. Name one man who could possibly fool him.”
“Not even Jiang Chen? My son is in the capital.”
Wait. Are you telling me that wasn’t horse feathers?! This story is precisely what made me suspect you! You can’t be serious now. Isn’t your perverted organisation’s ambition to ruin the nation? What do you want your son to be a civil servant for? At least think through your logic!
“What’s that look for? We people across the sea wish for nothing more than a stable life. The six thousand residents of Guanhu Island struggle to get by. What else could I ask for if my son could live a comfortable life in the Central Plain? You make it sound nice and all, but would the imperial court truly employ me?”
I scratched my head. “Sure.”
“I knew you moralistic-spouting civil servants ar-, what?”
“I said, ‘Sure.’”
“You said… You said, ‘Sure?’”
I thought he was going to jump at me. “Yes, I said, ‘Sure.’ You’re skilled, can disguise yourself, can assassinate and more. You possess rare skills that cost a lot to learn. If you offered your services, the departments would be fighting for you. Why would you put yourself down like that?”
Yuan Kou’s teeth chattered. “But I’m a foreigner. I… I’m also from an unorthodox faction.”
More unorthodox than me, buddy?
“It’s never too late to turn over a new leaf. Write me your resume, oh, but don’t list your criminal history.”
“I never ever committed any crimes! We men from Guanhu Island are upstanding men! Can you really… really…”
“Do you know whose presence you are in? I am the glorious man His Majesty personally conferred the title of Dal-, duke! My words hold the weight of official paperwork.”
Yuan Kou dropped to his knees and kowtowed. “Big Brother, henceforward, I am at your command!”
Man, you unorthodox guys. Big Brother? What? Am I the leader of some gang?
“Hahaha, don’t stand on ceremony. Don’t let unnecessary, frivolous formalities spoil our friendship.” I patted Yuan Kou on the shoulder as I spoke. “By the way, why are you here?”
“The organisation doesn’t trust Jiang Chen, so they had the great m-”
“… my humble self to monitor him. However, Jiang Chen is shrewd and frequently off the base, so I have not been able to do much.”
“Where did you learn Pure Yang One Qi? Why is it incomplete?”
“Over twenty years ago, when I was still a young man, I was the strongest on the island, but I was just a frog in a well, in reality. One day, while training at the bottom of the sea, I discovered dozens of skeletons, so I asked people to pull the skeletons out of the water. We rarely had visitors on the island. Given they all wore military uniforms, I assumed they soldiers. We later found their sunken ship that resembled the aftermath of a large beast’s assault. Whatever the case, the soldiers met their end in the water. I told people to search their bodies for something to identify them by so that we could at least erect tombstones for them. On one of them I found an iron letter which contained Pure Yang One Qi.”
Hmm, sounds like it wasn’t the brothel version but one that one of Shifu’s friends wrote. Why would one of Shifu’s friends perish in the sea, though, if he had mastered Pure Yang One Qi? Something reeks of foul play. I best have a word with Shifu.
I finally understood why I couldn’t hear the cadence of Yuan Kou’s qi flow. Since Pure Yang One Qi’s method of moulding qi was uniform from beginning to end and unconnected to Guanhu Island’s disciplines, when he moulded qi using the two different methods, I’d easily mistake it for there being two different people.
“Well, that’s that, then. Next, why are you in such a hurry to escape?”
While we were both stuck, I had to worry about my life. On the contrary, Yuan Kou didn’t have to be worried for his life. As such, I found his sense of urgency to be odd.
“You are a clever man, Big Bro. I am desperately trying to get out as soon as possible because I’ve unearthed a secret: Jiang Chen plans to kill all of us.”
Iron letter – Like bamboo accordions, they’re just another ancient writing medium.