DKWSS – Chapter 8

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Chapter 8 – A Sword Which You Cannot Drop [1]

April 17th. Before dusk.

Jinan City’s supposedly impregnable “Number One” cell block suddenly turned into dust. It had been constructed from specially imported stone blocks, each one weighing hundreds of kilograms. And yet, some mysterious, inexplicable force shattered it into rubble. Some of the pieces flew as far as twenty meters away. A few even damaged the wood shed in the back of the yamen as well as an ancient, three-hundred year old scholar tree. [2]

Over two hundred death-row inmates in the prison all suddenly died. Upon investigation, the local chief coroner, Ye Laoyan, determined that two of them had actually died the day before, prior to the destruction of the cell block.

No one could determine their cause of death, nor how the cell block had been destroyed.

The local authorities wanted to cover up the matter, but in less than an hour, everyone in Jinan was talking about it.

***

The girl with the braids might not have been the first person to hear about the prison, but she heard about it sooner than most.

The news was passed on to Old Master Tian as he took his afternoon nap. He immediately called Beggar Clan Torture Chamber Lord Xiao Jun, and his eldest son Frogboy, into a sitting room. They knew the reason for his call.

They hadn’t slept the previous night, and had been drinking during lunch. But Old Master Tian was completely sober.

“You heard the news already?”

“Yes.”

Old Master Tian beckoned to a Sect disciple, who carried over a large chunk of stone and placed it into the table.

“The cell block was constructed from this type of stone. Originally, each piece weighed four or five hundred kilograms.”

The rough stone slab’s original size would have been roughly half a meter by half a meter.

Old Master Tian picked up a fragment of stone and crushed it between his fingers.

“This is not a common type of stone,” he said. “The quality is slightly lower than granite, but it is just as hard. If a blacksmith beat it with an iron hammer, it would probably take half a day to break.”

Frogboy started up with his questions. “Was this stone broken with a hammer?”

“No.”

“Old Zhao from the prison said that today, a prison block suddenly collapsed, and the stone slabs flew apart in every direction.” He looked at Frogboy. “Is there any hammer under heaven that can do that?”

“Nope.”

“There may not be one under heaven, but maybe in heaven there is.” Old Master Tian continued, “If I were a bastard, maybe I would think that the cell block was destroyed by a spirit.” He sighed. “But I’m not a bastard. Other than spirits, there is another power which could accomplish this.”

Of course, Frogboy had to ask: “What other power is that?”

“Manpower,” he said. “Manpower can exceed your imagination.”

“What person could have such power?” Frogboy always asked questions that aligned with his father’s topic of conversation.

“Not many people do. In fact, currently, there is only one.”

“Who is it?”

Old Master Tian flipped out again. Glaring at his son, he said, “Do you really not know who I’m talking about? Are you really such an idiot?”

***

Frogboy was no idiot. He knew exactly who Old Master Tian was talking about.

“People want to catch him and imprison him, so he goes to a prison.” Frogboy laughed wryly. “This guy really has a knack for things.”

“He’s not just a guy, he’s a general. The Laughing General,” said Old Master Tian, his face looking very serious. “And he doesn’t have a knack for things. At the very least he has seven or eight hundred knacks.” He pointed his finger at his son’s nose and angrily said, “You had best remember this, or else you’ll find yourself dead!”

“Ok.”

“Remember it. Anyone who underestimates the Laughing General won’t live very long.”

“Ok,” said Frogboy. “I never forget anything father says to me.”

Xiao Jun finally spoke up. “Can Old Master be certain this was the Laughing General?”

“I’m certain,” he said with complete confidence. “No one else could have done it.” His certainty was supported by evidence. “Currently, only he can mix together and use powerful Yang energy and gentle Yin energy. And only a kung fu which fuses the elements of Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, Yin and Yang, could produce such an incredible power.”

“He was so scared that he faked his own death and fled for his life, then ended up hiding in that prison’s forsaken death row cell block. Why would he suddenly use such a unique kung fu to reveal his position?”

Frogboy’s question was certainly apropos.

Old Master Tian thought for a while before responding: “Because his position had already been revealed, and he knows that others are aware he isn’t dead. Most likely he hid in the prison because he needed to rest and restore his energy and power.”

Upon hearing this, Frogboy and Xiao Jun’s faces both changed, and a strange light shone in their eyes.

They understood what Old Master Tian meant.

—The reason Laughing General needed to build up his energy was no doubt because he intended to face off with his enemies in battle.

One could only imagine what that desperate battle would be like.

Old Master Tian sighed, pulled a bottle of alcohol out from underneath the table, and took a drink. “Fortunately,” he said calmly, “I am not his enemy.”

“If it’s not father, then it’s not me either,” said Frogboy with what seemed to be a sigh of relief.

“Of course it’s not you,” laughed Old Master Tian. “You’re not worthy.”

“Who is worthy? The person who killed Zheng Nanyuan’s twenty-six subordinates?”

“It wasn’t a person who killed them. It was a group of people, an organization. Qiu Budao’s squads were infiltrated by this organization, and that is why the same technique was used in all the killings.”

“That technique is especially fearsome, right?”

“Do you want to find them and test it out?” Old Master Tian let out another cold laugh. “I’m afraid if you do you’ll be sitting in that precious wheelchair of yours for the rest of your life.”

Xiao Jun gazed off into the distance, as if he were thinking about something that no one else could even imagine. “Perhaps I am not worthy, either.”

“Worthy of what?”

“Worthy to be the enemy of the Laughing General,” he said coldly. “But regardless, I must be.”

—Did some unresolvable enmity exist between Xiao Jun and General Li? Some secret matter?

This time, inexplicably, Frogboy didn’t ask any questions. He hated prying into people’s personal affairs.

“Why don’t you ask me about it?” said Xiao Jun.

“Ask about what?”

“Why I must fight Laughing General.”

“I know the Laughing General is the reason you are here to begin with.”

“But why haven’t you asked me why?”

Frogboy laughed. He didn’t really want to laugh, but he did. “You’re saying I should ask you about it?”

Xiao Jun once again looked off into the distance. After some time passed, he spoke again. “I have my arm, and my life. If I can fight him, it will be worth it, regardless if I live or die. What does ‘should’ mean, and what does ‘shouldn’t’ mean?” He slowly stood up. “I just hope I can find him before anyone else does.”

“You can find him?”

“Perhaps,” he said. “Because I now understand a bit about Qiu Budao.”

“Oh?”

“His greatest weakness was his gambling. Everything started there. The people who infiltrated his squads met him at the gambling hall.”

Actually, his statement did not make clear his true intentions. But Old Man Tian sighed and looked at his son. “If you were half as smart as Chamber Lord Xiao, I would be really happy.”

***

Xiao Jun didn’t hear the comment.

In that exact moment, he was already atop the wall surrounding the courtyard outside.

“You really think he can find them?” asked Frogboy. “How will he do it?”

“The thirteen men who inflitrated Qiu Budao’s squads made contact with him through gambling,” said Old Master Tian. “Sun Jicheng is the Laughing General, their enemy. If the Laughing General wants to track them down, how will he do it?”

“By going to the gambling hall.”

“The Laughing General has decided to go to battle, so of course he’s looking for them. Therefore, if Xiao Jun wants to find the Laughing General, how will he do it?”

“By going to the gambling hall.”

Old Master Tian sighed. “Finally you display a bit of intelligence. You’re not that stupid after all.”

Frogboy sighed. “If I were half as smart as Chamber Lord Xiao, I don’t think father would be very happy.”

“Why?”

Frogboy took the small half-empty bottle of alcohol and drained it in one drink. “Because I remember something father once told me. Smart people don’t live for very long.”

***

“Big Zhao’s” was just a small restaurant, but it was very famous. More famous than even the big restaurants.

The boss of “Big Zhao’s” was neither big nor fat, nor was surnamed Zhao.

Actually, the big, fat, tall man surnamed Zhao was an assistant. But the name “Big Zhao’s” actually came from him, and a lot of people assumed he was the owner and the owner was the assistant.

—Not all big restaurants are better than small restaurants, and not all owners have bigger reputations than assistants. If you think about it, a lot of things in the world are like this.

April 17th, before dusk.

“Big Zhao’s” wasn’t open today, because Big Zhao had been up all night having fun and needed to rest.

If the assistant rested, the owner also rested. Because if the assistant quit, the restaurant would go out of business.

So when the assistant needed to sleep, even if the kitchen caught on fire, he would sleep. Nobody could wake him up.

But today, they woke him up, and he didn’t dare complain.

Because the people who woke him up were the two drunks from the night before, the two people being chased by the Flowered Flag Sect and the local government.

These type of people were not the type to offend. Otherwise one might end up like the Flower Flag Sect’s old Mr. Wang, dead in your own urine-soaked pants.

So, whatever they wanted, one dared not hold back.

Big Zhao might have a big gut, but he didn’t have real guts.

The two people ordered eight dishes, eight appetizers, twenty steamed buns, as well as a vat of Lianhua baijiu. And they scarfed it down in the blink of an eye.

***

Wu Tao ate ravenously, as did Ingot.

But Ingot was already getting full. He’d never seen someone who could eat even half as much as Wu Tao.

“If you sleep well you can have plenty of energy,” said Wu Tao. “And if you eat well, you can have plenty of strength. Even if you’re just a night soil collector [3], you still need to build up your energy and strength before you work. Regardless of what you do in life, it’s the same.”

“Are you full yet?” asked Ingot.

“It seems about seventy to eighty percent.”

“When you’re finished, are you going to go collect night soil?”

“No. There are only three things I never learned to do.”

“What three things?”

“Play chess, do embroidery, collect night soil.”

Ingot didn’t laugh. He just stared at him with his big eyes, then asked, “Other than eating and drinking, what can you do?”

“What does it look like to you?”

“It looks like you can kill people!” said Ingot. “I bet you’re building up your energy to do some killing.”

Wu Tao suddenly laughed heartily.

He didn’t laugh often, but when he did he laughed hard. He seemed extremely happy.

Tones of irony and sadness often floated within his laughter, and usually it would stop suddenly.

“Do you believe dead people can come back to life sometimes?” he asked Ingot

“Nope.”

“You’ll believe it in just a moment.”

“Why’s that?”

Wu Tao downed a bowl of Lianhua baijiu. “Because right now there’s a dead person about to be resurrected.”

Ingot stared at him for a while, then downed his own bowl of Lianhua and asked, “I suppose the dead person is you?”

“Correct,” admitted Wu Tao. “I’m the dead person.”

“But you’re not dead.”

“Wrong. What you should say is, Wu Tao is not dead.”

“You’re not Wu Tao?” blurted Ingot.

“Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not.”

“When you’re not Wu Tao, who are you?”

“A dead man.” Wu Tao’s eyes suddenly twinkled. “A dead man who will be resurrected any moment.”

Ingot laughed. “I don’t understand,” he said. “You already died your horrible death in this life. Why come back to life?”

“Because there are people who won’t let me die.”

“What people?”

“Enemies.” Wu Tao drank another bowl of alcohol. “So many enemies that I can’t kill them all.”

“If they are your enemies, then why won’t they let you die?”

“Because I’m more useful alive than dead,” he said. “Also, they think my last death was too swift and easy. They want me to die again, slowly.” He continued on coolly: “Unfortunately, this time, I don’t care who wants me dead, they won’t find it very easy to pull off.”

Ingot slapped the table forcefully. “Great! I approve!”

“Approve what?”

“I approve of you not wanting to die so easily. If you’re gonna die, at least you can take out some of those endless enemies first.”

Wu Tao laughed heartily and slapped Ingot’s shoulder. “Great! I like it.”

“Like what?”

“You.” Wu Tao tipped a bowl of wine to Ingot, then drank it down. “In a few years, you’ll be a great man. I drink to you!”

Ingot didn’t drink. Instead, he asked, “You mean I’m not a great man right now?”

“You are.” Wu Tao downed another bowl. “You already are.”

He put the bowl down, then picked up a pair of chopsticks and started tapping out a tune onto the bowl. He sang, “A cup of alcohol you can’t finish drinking, a sad song you can’t finish singing. A treasured sword you can’t drop, a tall building you can’t climb. A hero’s blood which can never stop flowing, your enemy’s heads which can never all be lopped off.”

***

The bleak, solemn song suddenly stopped, and Wu Tao shouted: “Go!”

As he shouted, the chopsticks in his hands suddenly flew forward, and with a “ding” sound, shot into the door.

The restaurant hadn’t opened for the day, so the door wasn’t open. The chopsticks penetrated the door, then shot out the other side.

Two miserable cries rang out from outside, and then people started shouting: “It’s him, it’s him!”

“If you know it’s me, then why don’t you come in?”

Nobody came in. No one dared to.

Wu Tao stood, grabbing Ingot’s arm. “Since they won’t come in, why don’t we go out.”

The door was closed.

However, it seemed Wu Tao didn’t seem to notice that. He strode forward, and then a “crash” sound rang out. Pieces of the door flew out in every direction.

The street outside was quiet; passersby had already fled, seeing as the little restaurant was completely surrounded.

Two moaning men, each with a chopstick embedded in his shoulder, were being dragged away by their compatriots.

In Wu Tao’s hand, two ordinary chopsticks could shoot through a wooden door and stab all the way to the bone. Each chopstick had stabbed into exactly the same position on each man, and both were the same distance away from the heart.

They weren’t dead, but that had nothing to do with them.

They lived because Wu Tao had no interest in taking their lives.

Ingot could see that clearly.

What he didn’t understand was how a person could shoot two chopsticks from behind a three inch thick door, and hit exactly the same spot on both people.

—There was no way he could see through the door. That was completely impossible.

—Could it be that he could sense their position by listening to the sound of their breathing?

That wasn’t possible, and yet, it wasn’t impossible.

There are some things that are slightly possible, and if possible, perhaps only possible for one person.

***

As for that point, it might not be possible for most people to understand. And yet other than Ingot, there were others who could see it.

Amidst the crowd of people surrounding the restaurant, someone suddenly started clapping.

“Listening to the breathing to determine the position when you can’t see. Piercing a floating leaf with the power to penetrate walls. I never imagined such kung fu actually existed in the world. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would call myself a rotten son of a b*tch before believing.”

The man spoke with a very conclusive tone.

The first half of his speech was quite elegant, extremely elegant. Only wizened sect leaders of the previous generation would speak like that.

But the last half was not elegant at all, especially the last line. That part sounded like something a ruffian would say.

This person was very unique.

He wore a voluminous cotton robe. Of the thirteen buttons on the front, only about five were clasped. Sticking out of the bottom were a pair of dilapidated flax shoes.

But clasped around his waist was a belt that only a young prince or a nouveau riche poppy would wear, a gold belt inlayed with a dozen or so pearls and gems.

He didn’t look handsome at all, but the more you looked at them, the less horrible he looked.

Tall and strong, he wasn’t young, but when he smiled, he looked like a child.

***

Ingot thought this person looked very interesting. It seemed Wu Tao did, too.

—Annoying people always make people feel annoyed, and interesting people always make people feel interested.

This truth is as simple as the the saying “chicken eggs are not duck eggs.” Some people enjoy doing things which annoy others.

As he strode out from the crowd, he laughed. With a smile, he looked at Wu Tao and said, “I’ve seen a lot of famous experts of the martial world. But to be able to see your excellency’s kung fu today, my eyes have truly been opened.” He deliberately let out a sigh. “But I feel a bit of regret.”

“Oh?”

“I regret that I still don’t know how to address your excellency,” he said. “Should I call you Mr. Wu? Or Big Boss Sun?” He laughed again. “Or perhaps the most correct is to call you General Li.”

“What should I call you?” retorted Wu Tao.

“I’m not important,” said the man with a laugh. “Even if you call me a rotten son of a b*tch, it wouldn’t matter.”

Ingot laughed, showing his two dimples. “If you’re a son of a b*tch, what does that make your father? A b*tch?”

People in the crowd began to cry out in anger, but the man held them back. Smiling, he said, “You calling me a son of a b*tch, doesn’t mean I actually am a son of a b*tch. And sometimes a person you don’t call a son of b*tch, is actually a super b*tch. These are two completely different situations.”

“That makes sense,” said Ingot. “So are you, or are you not a son of a b*tch?”

“Do I look like one?”

“Not really.” Ingot squinted. “At the most, you look like a scoundrel.”

The man laughed heartily. He seemed quite happy, not the least bit angry.

“You don’t look very much like an ingot,” he said. “Well, maybe a little. Sort of like the ones I used to make out of flour when I was a kid. Except they always ended up getting moldy.”

Ingot laughed. He didn’t seem to be the least bit angry either.

“A moldy flour ingot and a medium-sized, mid-level scoundrel. It seems we’re both the same: good-for-nothing.”

“You’re good for something, but I’m not a thing at all.” He winked. “Because I’m a person.”

Wu Tao, who had been staring at them this whole time, suddenly asked. “Are you surnamed Tian?”

“Yes,” admitted the man. He truly was surnamed Tian.

“Then that makes you Tian Yonghua’s son, Frogboy.”

“That’s me.”

“Why wouldn’t you just say so?”

“I still don’t know who you are,” said Wu Tao. “So why should I let you know who I am?”

“You know enough already. As do I.”

“What is it that I know?”

“That I am the person you’re looking for.”

“And what is it that you know?”

“That I am the person you’re looking for!” His eyes flashed. “I know that hidden in your belt is a flexible Burmese sword, capable of splitting hairs [4]. And hidden in your garment are thirteen deadly flying flags, the same concealed weapon used by Tian Yonghua in the past.”

Frogboy sighed. With a bitter laugh, he said, “Is there anything in the world you don’t know?”

“There’s one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m the person you were looking for, and you found me. You have blade in your belt and hidden weapons in your garment. You can attack at any time. Why don’t you?”

“Because I’m not worthy.”

Some people would die before speaking such words, but Frogboy said them with a chuckle. He continued, “Even my father said I’m not worthy to be your opponent. How could I dare to make a move?”

“Then why are you here?”

“I just wanted to see what kind of person you are,” he said. “Your true opponent went somewhere else. Otherwise he would be here.”

“Who is that?”

“Xiao Jun,” said Frogboy. “He has a heart of stone, and attacks like lightning. He’s the Chamber Lord of the Beggar Sect’s newly founded Torture Chamber.”

Wu Tao laughed coldly. “You think he’s worthy to be my opponent?”

“He himself said he’s not.” Frogboy sighed. “But he still wants to give it a try.”

“And why isn’t he here now?”

“He went looking for you, and has been at it for some time.”

“Where did he go to look for me?”

“He calculated that you would eventually go to the gambling hall to track down the people who paid off Qiu Budao. He’s most likely there right now, waiting for you.”

“And why didn’t you go there, too?”

Frogboy sighed again. “Because I’m kind of stupid. I can’t figure out things the way he does. So I just sat foolishly waiting, blissfully ignorant. In the end, he didn’t find you, but I did, by just waiting.”

Wu Tao laughed, and it sounded heartbreaking. Who could not feel dread upon hearing it?

“So are we going or not?” asked Ingot.

“Going where?”

“To the gambling hall. I’ve never seen what a real gambling hall looks like.”

Wu Tao’s eyes gleamed. “You will soon,” he said coolly.

Ingot looked really excited, as if he had no idea how many countless enemies with the intent to kill lie in wait there. It seemed he had already forgotten how frightening Xiao Jun was.

He just wanted to get there as quickly as possible, and do some f*cking gambling!

Frogboy seemed excited as well.

“Okay, I’ll take you there,” he said. “And if you don’t have anything to gamble with, I can lend you something.”

“You have money?”

“Of course,” he responded. “Tons.”

He pulled out a big bag, but unfortunately it only contained an assortment of copper coins and a few silvers.

“That’s your tons of money? It doesn’t seem like much.” Ingot seemed a bit disappointed.

“This is all the money I have in the world! And you’re saying it’s not much?”

Ingot shook his head with a bitter laugh. “It seems you, a rich person, and me, a beggar, aren’t too different in the end.”

Frogboy, his face solemn, his tone respectful, said, “A person should not have too much wealth. If you get money with your left hand, you should spend it with your right hand. Then you can be carefree, and extremely happy.”

“That makes sense,” said Ingot.

“If you have too much wealth, and don’t spend it all, then if you lose it, you will be upset. You will constantly be worried about it being robbed or stolen. You’ll fear being swindled or cheated. You’ll worry about people coming to borrow money from you all the time. Plus, you can’t take it with you when you die. That is true unhappiness.”

“Makes sense.”

“Being able to spend money happily, that is true wealth. And so, I am rich.”

“You definitely are.”

“Therefore, my riches are relatively few. I don’t worry about people robbing or cheating me, and I don’t worry about people coming to borrow from me. But, all you have to do is ask, and I’ll lend it to you.”

It is usually a joyful matter to have someone offer to lend you money. Who would have imagined that Ingot would suddenly become cautious. “Do you need collateral?” he asked.

“Nope.”

“What about interest?”

“No.”

Magnanimous offers like this are not common. Ingot asked another question: “Can I not return it?”

Frogboy laughed. His followup question was even more astounding than Ingot’s original question. “Can I ask you to not return it?”

“You can!” responded Ingot, ecstatic. He grabbed Frogboy’s bag.

People willing to borrow in this fashion are not common in the world, and people willing to lend money in this way are even rarer.

But both of them seemed quite happy.

“If I were Big Boss Sun, I definitely wouldn’t be as happy as this,” said Frogboy. “He definitely wouldn’t be willing to hand over all of his wealth to you, nor would you be willing to ask him to.”

Ingot let out a loud laugh. “Fortunately, you aren’t Big Boss Sun. You’re just a medium-sized, mid-level scoundrel.”

“Absolutely correct.”

***

But Ingot had made a mistake.

There was no need for him to borrow money for gambling, because after arriving at the gambling hall, they found that money was not being gambled.

The people there wanted to gamble with lives!

**

[1] I’m changing the name of the chapter from Undroppable Sword to this new translation.
[2] The scholar tree … is a type of tree … -___- http://tinyurl.com/nzrpekn
[3] Night soil is human excrement, which they would collect to use for fertilizer http://tinyurl.com/opf6bbq
[4] This is a type of sword that has no hilt, which would make it easy to conceal in a belt. http://tinyurl.com/o8x65a4


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