Chapter 39: Unsolvable
When Xu Zhu woke up on the next day, he discovered that he had slept on a soft bed in a big empty room similar to a Shaolin meditation hall, filled with antiques and copper vase. He felt disorientated and lost.
At this time, a young girl brought a cup of water to his bed. “Oh, it’s Orchid [Lan Qian],” Xu Zhu muttered. “Master, have you woken up? Please freshen up and goggle.” suggested Orchid.
Xu Zhu was still dazed and suffering from his hangover. His tongue has a bitter sensation and his throat was dry. Seeing a cup of tea, he took a sip from the cup, tasting a bitter sensation within its sweetness, and sweetness within the bitterness; the taste of tea was not apparent. Xu Zhu promptly finished the cup. Having never drank ginseng tea before; he did not know what he tasted. He then smiled and said “Thank you, sister.” Before Orchid answered, Chrystanthemum [Ju Qian] entered the room. “Both of us are helping master to dress up,” as Chrystanthemum was saying that, she went to the bed head and took out a pair of clean green undergarments and placed it under the blanket that Xu Zhu was using.
Xu Zhu was surprised and blushed immediately. “I do not need to be served, sister.” He added “I do not have any illness or injury, and am only a bit drunk.” He sighed “I broke the No Drink Commandment. According to Buddhist Sutra, being in a drunken state may cause a variety of trouble. I better not drink again in the future.” All of a sudden, he asked “Where is my 3rd brother?”
Orchid smiled and tried to cover her mouth, she answered “Master Duan had already descended from the mountain. He asked us the servants to pass the message to master that when everything at Lin Jiao Palace has settled, he will meet master in the central plains.”
“Aayah, I still got something to ask him. Why did he go so early?” Xu Zhu muttered. He felt flustered and jumped out of the bed, intending to chase after Duan Yu in order to ask for the name of the Dream Maiden and where Xu Zhu could find her. All of the sudden, he found out that he was wearing a clean undergarment. He screamed and covered himself with a blanket. Panicky Xu Zhu asked “How come my clothes have been changed?” Since Xu Zhu came down from Shaolin, he had always worn a rough undergarment, which has been dirtied in this past half a year. What he was wearing right now can only be described as soft and light. Xu Zhu did not know whether it is cotton or silk. Whatever it is, it must be very expensive.
Chrystanthemum smilingly replied, “Master was so drunk yesterday that master was unaware of anything when we four sisters helped master to bath and change.”
Xu Zhu was even more surprised. When he raised his head, he saw that both Orchid and Chrystanthemum were smiling beautifully; he couldn’t control himself and his heart start pounding. Xu Zhu then raised his had, the sleeves of his robes fall down revealing a pair of very clean arms. Still bearing a slight hope, he laughingly said, “I must be so drunk yesterday. Luckily I can still bath myself.” “Master was so drunk that master could not even move by yourself. It was we four sisters who helped to scrub master.” Orchid coquettishly said. Xu Zhu winced and shouted, feeling unwell; he muttered “Alas, alas ….”
Chrystanthemum and Orchid were startled and asked in unison, “Master, what’s the matter?” Xu Zhu ruefully smiled and said “I’m a guy, in front of you 4 sisters…. to be naked, this is …. very unbecoming. Moreover, my body is dirty and filled with smelly, dirty mud. How could I trouble al 4 sisters to do such disgusting task of bathing me?” Orchid answered, “We, 4 sisters are the personal maids of master, even if we sacrifice our lives for master, it would still be a most appropriate thing. We, the servants, must have committed a serious gaffe. Please forgive us, master.” After finishing that sentence, she and Chrystanthemum immediately kneeled down on the floor.
Xu Zhu saw both of them was very scared, immediately thinking of Grandma Yu and Aunt Shau, he would have otherwise treated them the same. He noticed that both Chrystanthemum and Orchid was so frightened that their whole body was trembling. He knew that when they served Tong Lao in the past, whenever their mistress was unusually courteous and polite towards the maids, there’s a big chance that Tong Lao would turn murderous. Xu Zhu immediately asked “Sisters, please stand up. Please go out of the room, I will dress myself now. I do not need to be served again.” Chrystanthemum and Orchid both stand up, beads of tears start to form in their eyes, and slowly retreated from the room. Feeling puzzled, Xu Zhu asked “Did I offended you all? Why are you so unhappy and filled with tears? I must have said something wrong….”
Chrystanthemum responded “Master asked both of us sisters to leave the room, without needing to further serve master. Master must really hate us….” Before finishing that sentence, tears start streaming down onto her cheeks. Xu Zhu shakes his hand and said “No, No… That’s not true. I just don’t know how to articulate my thoughts properly. I’m a man and you all are females. This is rather inconvenience. There’s really no other meaning. Really. I’m a monk, and I will never tell one ounce of untruth. I’m not lying to you people.”
Seeing that Xu Zhu was very animated and very sincere, both girls stopped crying and broke out laughing. Together they said “Please forgive us, master. There have never been a male in the Lin Chao Palace. Moreover, master, we had never served a man before. Master is like a being up in the sky, while we the maids are humble folks down on the ground. Gender should not be an issue.” The two walked towards Xu Zhu and helped him to dress up and wear shoes. After that, Plum [Mei Qian] and Bamboo [Zhu Qian] entered the room. One of them brushed Xu Zhu’s hair while the other to wash his face. Xu Zhu was so startled that he was struck mute, his face turned pale, his heart started pounding again. He couldn’t dare to tell them not to serve him anymore.
Xu Zhu thought that Duan Yu must have gone a fair distance from Lin Chao Palace, there’s no way for him now to catch up to Duan Yu anymore. He also thought about the islands and other sects’ master’s Life and Death Talisman. There’s no way that he could leave them alone without first healing them. Therefore after breakfast, he went to the main hall and helped cured the two who were suffering the most from the Life and Death Talisman.
To cure the Life and Death Talisman needed to mobilize one’s inner energy in order to use the Tian Shan 6 Yang Palm. Xu Zhu was feeling full of inner power and at one go healed ten persons of the Life and Death Talisman. However, Tong Lao had put the talisman in different positions in the island and cave masters. Xu Zhu exhausted himself in thinking of a way to solve this problem. Because Xu Zhu’s knowledge of the major acupoints, meridians and blood vessels was limited, he dared not experiment in haste. Should a mistake occurred, he might further deepen the suffering of those people. By lunchtime, he only managed to further cure 4 people. After lunch, Xu Zhu rested and meditated for a while.
Plum saw that Xu Zhu was worried about finding a way to cure the Life and Death Talisman. Therefore she suggested, “In the back foyer of Lin Chao Palace, there’s a wall mural left behind by the old master. I once heard Lao Lao mentioned that these murals may be connected with the Life and Death Talisman. Why doesn’t master go and have a look?” Xu Zhu was so happy and immediately agreed.
The four sisters led Xu Zhu to the garden; they moved aside a fake rock mountain, leading towards an underground path. Plum lighted up a torch and led all of them while inactivating traps along the way. The path kept on spiraling further and further down the grounds. At times, the path was quite tight, while sometimes it leads into big spaces, showing that the path must have been created from the natural cracks in the mountain.
“When the island and cave sects’ masters attacked us, some of our sisters from the other groups were captured. We, four sisters, seeing that the enemy was too overwhelming, came here to hide. We hoped to help and save our people when it was dark,” Bamboo said. Orchid added, “Actually that was just our small way to repay Lao Lao’s acts of kindness. If master did not arrive in time, we would be eventually murdered by those filthy slaves.”
Having walked 2 li (?1 li = 1/3 kilometers), Plum pushed aside a huge stone to reveal an opening into a chamber. She said, “Master, please enter. Inside lie the murals. We, the servants dare not enter.” Xu Zhu asked, “Why not? Is there any danger inside?” Plum replied, “There’s no danger. Inside is our sect‘s sacred ground. We, the servants were not allowed to enter.” Xu Zhu then said, “Let’s us go in together. It doesn’t matter. Further, it is too uncomfortable for you all to stand outside here in such a narrow space.” The four sisters looked at each other with excitement.
“Master, Lao Lao once told us four sisters that if we are hard-working in practicing our martial arts and if we are obedient, by the time we are 40 years old, we will be allowed to spend one day a year to learn the martial arts depicted on the wall murals. Even if master is so kind to keep Lao Lao’s words, this is still 20 years too early” uttered Plum. Xu Zhu replied “To wait 20 years is too long, too boring. Besides, by that time, you all will be too old to learn any martial arts. Let us go in together.” The four sisters was so happy that they immediately kneel down. Xu Zhu said “Please, please get up. If I also kneel down, it would get too crowded here.”
When the four sisters entered the rock chamber, they saw that the rock walls of the chamber was shiningly polished and filled with carvings of numerous, uncountable circles. Within each circle was drawings and engravings of different shapes. Some were human shapes, while others were filled with animal shapes. Some were unfinished calligraphy strokes, whereas there were even some filled with simple lines, slashes or indescribable codes. Besides each circle were signs that said “Stance No. 1”, “Stance No. 2”, others were “Technique No.1”, “Technique No. 2” and etc. The total circles in the whole chamber must have totaled at least eight to nine hundred, if not one thousand. How could they get a full glimpse of everything in an instant.
“Let us have a look at Stance No. 1, master. Shall we?” asked Bamboo. Xu Zhu nodded and said yes. When all five of them lifted up their torches and studied the first circle Xu Zhu, at a glance, immediately recognized that the figure in that circle represent the first stance of the Tian Shan Plum Breaking Hand. The second circle showed the second technique of the same set of the technique. Following the sequence of numbers, he finished looking at the whole set. The next set was the Tian Shan 6 Yang Palm. Whatever that Tong Lao taught Xu Zhu in Xi Xia’s palace was explained explicitly in those circles on the wall.
The techniques after the Tian Shan 6 Yang Palm were a complete mystery to Xu Zhu who had never learned those before. He followed the instructions on the wall, and initiated his inner power. After learning only a few stances, his whole body felt very light, feeling as if he is almost floated on the air. However, Xu Zhu must have missed something as he was unable to lift himself up from the ground.
Xu Zhu were focusing all his attention into learning those stances, his mind blanked out, when he suddenly heard two screams. Shocked, he turned is head and saw Orchid and Bamboo were getting unsteady and then immediately fell down onto the ground. Plum and Chrystanthemum were also leaning against the wall, their face ashen; almost also falling unto the ground. Xu Zhu immediately helped Bamboo and Orchid from the ground and then asked “What happened?” Plum replied,” Master, our martial arts foundation is not up to par. We dare not look at these walls again. We will wait for master.” The four sisters leaned against the wall, and slowly exited the chamber.
Xu Zhu was puzzled for a while and then followed them out. The four sisters were sitting meditating on the pathway. Their whole body were shaking while their face were contorted as if they were in extreme pain. Xu Zhu knew that they had suffered considerable damage to the inner power. He immediately used the Tian Shan 6 Yang Palm and pat on their backs a few times. A stream of Yang-type energy entered their bodies. The face of the four maids immediately returned to normal, before long, beads of sweats start to form on their foreheads. Upon opening their eyes, they kneel down and thanked Xu Zhu for saving their lives. Xu Zhu immediately lifted them up and asked “ What happened? How could you all suddenly got injured and fainted?”
Plum sighed “Master, Lao Lao got her reasons when she told us to wait until we are 40 years old before entering this chamber. The martial arts on the wall are too advanced for us. Our inner power is not sufficient to even learn the technique from the first figure, therefore we injured ourselves. If not for master’s help, us four sisters would be paralyzed and fire-deviated.” Orchid added, “Lao Lao have really high expectations for us. By the age of 40, to be able to learn these advanced kung fu. However, our talents are lacking. Even if we practiced hard for another 22 years, even then we might not dare to step into the chamber again.”
“No wonder. This must be my fault. I should not have insisted on you all to accompany me in”, Xu Zhu uttered. The four maids immediately kneel down and apologized, “There’s no need for master to say that. It was merely an act of kindness of master. It is entirely our fault.”
“Master’s inner energy is very deep, totally suitable to learn these advance techniques. Lao Lao used to spend months in the chamber, further practicing the techniques on the wall”, informed Chrystanthemum. Plum added, “When the 36 caves and 72 island masters tried to force our sisters to divulge the location of where Lao Lao kept her treasures, our sisters did not yield even in the face of death. We four sisters initially planned to lure them into this secret pathway and then activate all the traps. However, we were afraid that there may be experts among them who can overcome these traps; should they enter this chamber and learned its techniques on the wall mural, it would be a major catastrophe. If we had known of the effects of learning the martial arts in the chamber, letting them in would have been excellent.”
Xu Zhu nodded and said “Yes, it’s quite true. The techniques shown by the figures, if learned by those who were not powerful enough would cause more harm to them than any poisons or weapons. Fortunately, they did not enter.” Orchid retorted, “Master is too kind-hearted. If it is up to me, it would be a very pretty sight should they learned those techniques and died.”
“I’d learned a few stances and felt re-energized. It would be great for me to go now and cure their Life and Death Talisman. Why don’t you girls go and take a rest?” suggested Xu Zhu. The five of them came out of the secret passage. Xu Zhu returned to the main hall and cured three persons of the talisman.
Thereafter Xu Zhu helped to heal the rest every single day. Whenever he felt tired, he would enter the rock chamber to learn some more advance techniques. The four sisters would guard the chamber’s entrance, not daring to take one step in it again. Whenever Xu Zhu I free, he would spend some time giving pointers and imparting some teachings in martial arts to all the girls of the 9 groups that served Lin Chao Palace.
Only after a further 20 days, Xu Zhu was able to cure all the island and cave masters from their Life and Death Talisman. In this period of time, Xu Zhu’s kung fu showed remarkable improvement as he would dedicatedly learn martial arts from the wall murals every day.
The whole entourage of island and cave sect masters, who were forced to serve Tong Lao due to the Life and Death Talisman, was touched by Xu Zhu’s kindness. After vowing to willing serve Xu Zhu, they left Lin Chao Palace.