Sky, you must have a prophetic ability ... OwlHoot and Tweety, you are welcome, glad you like the story. Here is the last part of Chapter 6.
What happened was: realizing the strangeness of the opponent's palm strength, the Empress Dowager's left hand quietly fished a white moth-antennae steel spike and slowly pulled it out, the spike's point gradually moved toward Hai Laogong's lower abdomen. However, when the spike was about a chi away from the opponent's lower abdomen, she was unable to push it farther. In the meantime, the 'Yin Yang Grindstone' force from Hai Laogong's palms was getting stronger and faster, the Empress Dowager's single palm had already unable to resist the enemy, she felt her right palm was gradually losing its strength and became limp and painful, so very soon she would have to use her left palm to help her right.
Originally she wanted to thrust the moth-antennae spike slowly so that it would not generate any wind and thus the enemy would not be able to detect it; however, this moment her right palm was almost devoid of any strength. No longer caring whether Hai Laogong would hear it or not, she sent all her strength to her left hand and thrust hard, with the hope that the moth-antennae spike would pierce its target. Who would have thought that she was unable to move her left hand even for half a cun. In the quiet night, there was a soft 'drip, drip' noise; it was the blood from the severed four fingers on Hai Laogong's left hand, which flowed out continuously and dripped down to the ground. The more Hai Laogong sent the internal energy to his hand, the faster the blood gushed out from his wound.
Under the moonlight, Wei Xiaobao saw the moth-antennae spike was flickering continually, sometimes it flashed on his face, an indication that the Empress Dowager's left hand was trembling incessantly. The white light flickered faster and faster, yet all along the moth-antennae spike was unable to reach Hai Laogong's lower abdomen.
A moment later, Wei Xiaobao noticed that the moth-antennae spike was being slowly pulled back. Wei Xiaobao was shocked. "Aiyo, not good!" he mused, "The Empress Dowager is going to lose to the old turtle. If I don't leave now, what am I waiting for?" He slowly turned around and step by step walked toward the exit. With each step he took, he knew that he was one step farther from the danger, so he felt relieved, and thus his steps was getting faster. Finally he reached the gate and was about to reach out the door knocker when suddenly he heard 'Aah!' from behind him, the Empress Dowager let out a long scream. "It's bad!" Wei Xiaobao mused, "The Empress Dowager has been killed by the old turtle."
"Empress Dowager," he heard Hai Laogong coldly say, "The oil of your lamp is about to dry out. In the time needed to burn an incense stick, your strength will be depleted and you are going to die. Unless right now someone suddenly appear and attack my back so that I cannot resist, only then would he be able to kill me."
Wei Xiaobao was about to open the door and dash out, suddenly hearing Hai Laogong's voice, he thought, "Turns out the Empress Dowager is not dead yet! The old turtle is right, both of his hands are locked with the Empress Dowager's hand, if I stab his back, how can the old turtle take his hand and block? He was the one who said it, don't blame other people."
Before his eyes was precisely a golden opportunity like beating a dog drowning in the water; if he did not seize this readily available convenience, he would be a human being in vain. Wei Xiaobao was very fond of gambling; even if the chance was fifty-fifty, he would still gamble. If a gambling opportunity arose, where he could cheat by playing tricks so that his chance of winning was 90% or a 100%, even if his life was at stake, definitely he would not let this opportunity pass. If someone wanted him to take chances to save the Empress Dowager, he would not dare to do that no matter what. But as he heard Hai Laogong announcing his own weak point, which was the same as holding out his own hands to be tied, or stretching his own neck to be chopped, it was as if a fat meat was placed in front of his mouth; how could he not swallow?
He reached down and pulled the dagger from his boot; with quick steps he rushed toward Hai Laogong's back, while shouting, "Old Turtle, stop harming the Empress Dowager!" Raising his dagger, he fiercely stabbed it down on his back.
Hai Laogong let out a long laugh and called out, "Little demon, you have fallen into my trick!" His left foot kicked backward, 'Bang!' The pit of Wei Xiaobao's stomach was hit and he was sent flying several zhang back.
Turned out when he was having an internal energy battle with the Empress Dowager, Hai Laogong was confident that victory was at hand. Suddenly he heard someone was walking away from behind the rockery, the footsteps sounded very familiar; immediately he recognized it to be Wei Xiaobao. Unexpectedly this little demon did not die after being hit by his palm. Hai Laogong was rather astonished; he was afraid that if Wei Xiaobao summoned the imperial bodyguards to help the Empress Dowager, it would really 'spoil the ship for half a penny worth of tar'. Hit upon an inspiration, he cried out, luring Wei Xiaobao to come and attack his back.
Wei Xiaobao's experience in facing the enemy and adapt himself to changes was really too little, as expected, he fell into his trick. Hai Laogong's kick had hit the pit of Wei Xiaobao's stomach. He flew through the air as if soaring through the clouds or mounting the fog, vomited a mouthful of blood.
When Hai Laogong kicked with his left foot, he had already anticipated that as his strength was reduced, the Empress Dowager would exploit the instant the pressing force went void by sending her left palm to strike his lower abdomen. Therefore, after kicking Wei Xiaobao, without thinking he sent out his right palm forward to protect his lower abdomen. Suddenly there was a cold sensation on the center of his palm, followed by a burst of severe pain on his lower abdomen. The Empress Dowager's platinum-plated moth-antennae steel spike pierced through his palm and entered his lower abdomen. After all, he was greatly disadvantaged by not able to see anything; although he had foreseen that the Empress Dowager would exploit the loophole by launching a counterattack, he could not see that the attack came not in the form of palm strike, but an extremely sharp weapon instead. As his lower abdomen was punctured by the moth-antennae spike, he gathered his strength on his left palm and shook the Empress Dowager several steps back.
The Empress Dowager landed on her left foot, but immediately leaped several more zhang backward. She felt her chi and blood were bubbling up inside her chest that she almost fainted. Afraid that Hai Laogong would seize this chance to attack, she slowly withdrew several more steps and stood against the wall.
Hai Laogong roared in laughter and called out, "Your luck is good! Your luck is good!" 'Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!' he sent three palm strikes while throwing himself forward at the same time. The Empress Dowager wanted to leap to the right to evade, but her legs were limp and painful, she tumbled down to the ground. She heard a 'splotch!', half of the row of flower rack were pushed down by Hai Laogong's palm strength. The Empress Dowager's muscles were weary and her strength depleted, she was unable to move a single step. In her fright, she saw Hai Laogong's body was sprawled face down on the flower rack, unmoving.
Propping herself up, the Empress Dowager wanted to stand up, but her limbs felt like cotton, her entire body was weak. While she was thinking of calling one of the palace maids, she heard faint noise of people coming near. She thought, "My dialogue and fight with this wicked thief were not loud, but before his death he was shouting and yelling, and overthrowing the flower rack; it must have alerted the imperial bodyguards on duty. Those guards will be here in no time, seeing me lying in here with two dead eunuchs, one old and one young, what a scandal will it be?" Mustering all her strength, she wanted to circulate her chi thru her body, but all along she failed to do so.
She heard the noise of the guards was getting near; while feeling very anxious, suddenly someone came over and said, "Empress Dowager, are you, Senior, well? Let me help you up." It was precisely that little eunuch Xiao Guizi.
The Empress Dowager was pleasantly surprised, she said, "You ... you ... are not killed ... by that evil man's kick?"
"His kick did not kill me," Wei Xiaobao replied. When he was kicked by Hai Laogong just now, he landed on a flowering shrub and spurted quite a bit of blood. After calming himself, he made an effort to stand up. Seeing Hai Laogong was lying face down motionless on the flower rack, he hastily hid himself behind a tree. He picked up a rock and threw it toward Hai Laogong, 'smack!' it hit the back of Hai Laogong's head, but Hai Laogong did not stir at all. Wei Xiaobao was ecstatic, "The old turtle is dead!" he thought. But he was still scared, and thus did not dare to come near. For a moment he was unsure of what to do: shall he run away and escape, or come back and help the Empress Dowager? Suddenly he heard the hubbub as a lot of people rushing near. If he ran out, he would definitely bump into them, therefore, he went toward the Empress Dowager and stretched out his hand to help her up.
"Good child," the Empress Dowager happily said, "Quickly help me in to rest."
"Yes," Wei Xiaobao replied. Half dragging and half carrying, he stumbled to help her enter her room and helped her lying on the bed. His own legs felt limp and painful, so he dropped himself on the thick carpet, while gasping for breath.
“You may lie down here,” the Empress Dowager said, “When someone is coming, you must not make any sound.”
“Yes!” Wei Xiaobao said.
A moment later, he heard clatters of footsteps, a lot of people were rushing in from the outside. The flame from lanterns and torches illuminated the room from the window lattice. Someone said, “Aiyo, there is a dead eunuch in here!” Another man said, “It’s Hai Laogong from the Catering Department.” One of them raised his voice and said, “Reporting to the Empress Dowager: other than the situation in the garden, wishing the Empress Dowager ten thousand good fortune and peace like gold.” By saying that, he was actually inquiring the safety of the Empress Dowager.”
“Other than what situation?” the Empress Dowager asked.
As soon as she said that, the imperial bodyguards and court eunuchs outside let out a deep breath. As long as the Empress Dowager was safe, although the Palace of Compassion and Peace was in a mess, it would not be too great of an offense for them. The leading imperial bodyguard said, “It seems like there was a fight between the court eunuchs, not a big deal. Empress Dowager please retire for the night, tomorrow your servants will investigate and submit a detailed report.”
“Very well,” the Empress Dowager replied.
They heard the imperial bodyguard chief lowered his voice and quietly ordered his men to take Hai Laogong’s body out. Another man also said in a low voice, “There is a little palace maid’s body in here. Ah! This little palace maid is not dead, she is only fainted.”
The imperial bodyguard chief said, “Take both of them away, we will question her when she regains her consciousness.”
The Empress Dowager said, “Is there any little palace maid? Take her into my room.” She was afraid when she regained her consciousness, Rui Chu would reveal what had happened that night.
Someone outside complied, a court eunuch carried the little palace maid Rui Chu into the room and gently lay her down on the floor. He kowtowed to the Empress Dowager and then withdrew.
By this time, all palace maids serving the Empress Dowager were already awakened, they all stood waiting outside the room, without the Empress Dowager's summon, nobody dared to enter on their own initiative. The Empress Dowager heard the imperial bodyguards and the court eunuchs gradually left; she said, "You all may go back to sleep, I don't need your service tonight." The palace maids complied and immediately left.
The fact that the Empress Dowager knew martial art was kept secret, even the palace maid attending her personally did not know. When she trained every morning and evening, without her orders, no court eunuch or palace maid was allowed to enter her room even for one step. Even touching the door curtain was strictly prohibited.
The Empress Dowager regulated her chi for a while. In the meantime, Wei Xiaobao's strength had gradually returned that he was able to sit up. A moment later, he was able to stand up. The Empress Dowager knew that Hai Laogong's kick on the pit of his stomach was very heavy, but this little eunuch unexpectedly was able to move freely, he was even able to help her back to her room. She wondered what kind of martial art he practiced? Thereupon she asked, "Other than with Hai Tianfu, who else did you learn martial art from?"
Wei Xiaobao replied, "Your servant only learned martial art from that evil old man for several months. Most of the martial art he taught was probably bogus. This man was very wicked, he often bragged of killing me."
"Hmm," the Empress Dowager said, "His eyes, did you poison him blind?"
"That old fellow day in and day out always cursed the Empress Dowager behind your back," Wei Xiaobao said, "He also cursed His Majesty. Your servant was unbearably angry, but has no ability to kill him, so I had to ... I had to ..."
"How did he curse me and His Majesty?" the Empress Dowager asked.
"His words were very undisciplined and out of control," Wei Xiaobao replied, "Your servant did not dare to remember it in my heart, as soon as I hear it, I forget. I have already forgotten everything early on, and did not think about it anymore."
The Empress Dowager nodded, "You are a very smart child," she said, "Tonight, what brought you here?"
Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant was sleeping on my bed, I heard the evil old fellow opened the door and went out. I was afraid he was going to do something to harm me, so I quietly followed behind him, all the way to this place.”
The Empress Dowager slowly said, “All the nonsense he told me, you have heard everything.”
Wei Xiaobao said, “Everything that the evil old fellow said, your servant always regard as a fart. Em … Empress Dowager, please don’t blame me, your servant was using a bad language, I hate him very much. Every day he cursed me ‘little turtle’, he cursed my ancestors; I know he had never said anything true.”
The Empress Dowager coldly said, “I asked you: the things that Hai Tianfu said to me, did you hear it? Don’t babble, give me a straight answer.”
“Your servant was hiding far away outside the gate,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I did not dare to come near. That evil old fellow’s ears were often very acute, if I came too near, he would hear me. I only saw he talked to the Empress Dowager; I wanted to eavesdrop, but the distance was too far, I couldn’t hear anything. Later, I saw he dared to offend Empress Dowager, he dared to commit treason and heresy, so by risking my life your servant came to help. In the end, whatever he said to Empress Dowager, your servant did not know. He … he must be complaining about your servant, telling the Empress Dowager that I poisoned his eyes blind; although it was the truth, whatever else he said, the Empress Dowager must never believe. I suppose it was because the Empress Dowager did not believe him that that servant dared to offend the Empress Dowager.”
“Humph!” the Empress Dowager said, “You are very smart, very perceptive. It’s good if you really did not hear whatever Hai Tianfu was saying. It’s also good if you pretend you did not hear it. If in the future even half a word of baseless rumor ever reaches my ear, you know what will happen to you.”
“Empress Dowager’s kindness to your servant is as heavy as the mountain,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “If any brazen scoundrel ever dares to say any unpleasant talk behind the Empress Dowager and His Majesty’s back, your servant will stake my life to fight him.”
“I like it if you can be like this,” the Empress Dowager said, “Previously I haven’t treated you that good.”
“Previously His Majesty and your servant wrestled and practiced martial art together,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant did not know it was the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, my talk and actions were random and wild, but Empress Dowager and His Majesty did not hold it against me the least bit, it was truly a kindness as heavy as the mountain. Otherwise, even if your servant had a hundred heads, all of them deserved to be chopped. Every day that evil old fellow wanted to kill your servant, fortunately Empress Dowager has saved my life. Your servant is truly extremely grateful.”
The Empress Dowager slowly said, “You know gratitude, that’s very good. Light that candle on the table.”
“Yes!” Wei Xiaobao replied. He struck the flint and lighted the candle. The candle in the Empress Dowager’s room was very thick and unusually bright.
“Come here,” the Empress Dowager said, “Let me look at you.”
“Yes!” Wei Xiaobao replied. Slowly he walked toward the Empress Dowager’s bed. He saw her countenance was snowy white, without the least bit trace of blood. Her eyebrows slightly slanted upward, her eyes were gleaming, Wei Xiaobao’s heartbeat quickened; he thought, “She … is she going to kill me to close my mouth? If I move my legs and dash out, I am sure she won’t be able to catch up, but if she managed to catch me, that would be the end of me!”
His heart was telling him to immediately rush outside, but his mind was momentarily undecided. In this slight hesitation, the Empress Dowager had already stretched out her left had to grab Wei Xiaobao’s right hand. Wei Xiaobao was shocked, his body shook. “Ah!” he gasped.
“What are you afraid of?” the Empress Dowager asked.
“I … I am not afraid, it’s just that … it’s just that …” Wei Xiaobao stammered.
“It’s just that what?” the Empress Dowager asked.
Wei Xiaobao said, “Empress Dowager’s kindness to your servant is as heavy as the mountain, your servant have received something and afraid of something?” He had heard people mentioned the expression 'overwhelmed by favor (usually from superior)’, but somehow he could only remember two out of four characters.
The Empress Dowager did not understand what he was saying, she asked, "Why are you trembling all over?"
"I ... I am not ... am not ..." Wei Xiaobao replied.
If the Empress Dowager strike him dead with her palm right now, she would not have to worry he would reveal her secret in the future, but however hard she tried, her chi simply refused to rise; in reality, her muscles were weary and her strength depleted, although she succeeded in grabbing Wei Xiaobao's hand, she did not have the least bit of strength in her fingers. If Wei Xiaobao were to struggle a little bit, he would have been able to free himself. Thereupon she smiled and said, "You have rendered a great service tonight, I will reward you handsomely."
"It was that evil old fellow who wanted to kill your servant," Wei Xiaobao said, "Luckily Empress Dowager came to rescue me, your servant did not have the least bit of merit."
"You know good from bad," the Empress Dowager said, "In the future I won't treat you unfairly. You may go!" She gently let his hand go.
Wei Xiaobao was ecstatic; immediately he dropped on his knees and kowtowed several times before retreating. The Empress Dowager saw the front piece of his jacket was drenched with blood, obviously he had vomited a lot of blood, but when he kowtowed, his movement was still quite agile; she could not help but feeling bewildered.
When he was leaving the room, Wei Xiaobao took a glance toward Rui Chu who was lying on the floor. He noticed that her chest was fluctuating slowly, her breathing was even, as if she was in a very deep sleep. Her countenance was rosy, it did not show anything unusual. He said in his heart, "In a few days I will bring some cake, pastry and fruit for you to eat."
In quick steps he returned to his own room, bolted the door, and let out a long breath, as if a heavy load had just been released. Recently, staying with Hai Laogong in the same room, he had been very scared and was on the edge all the time. "Now the old turtle is dead," he thought, "I don't have to worry somebody would come to harm me." Suddenly he recalled the Empress Dowager's countenance under the candle light; his body shivered violently. "Living in this Imperial Palace, there is no peace and security, but laozi still ... still .. ha ha, still have to get that four hundred fifty thousand taels of silver and then return to Yangzhou to see Mama. It will be wonderful." Thinking that he was still alive and had four hundred fifty thousand taels of silver lost and won back, he could not help but dancing and gesticulating for joy.
He was having a cheerful mood for a while, gradually he felt weary; he lay down on the bed and fell into a very deep slumber.
Orig. 受宠若惊 (shou chong ruo jing), literal translation: receiving favor as if frightened; he only remembered the words 'receive' and 'frightened'.