“Alright, come here!” Hai Laogong said.
“Yes!” Wei Xiaobao replied, as he walked several steps closer.
Hai Laogong said, “Let me tell you again, if you don’t remember it this time, I am going to kill you.”
“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, thinking, “If you tell me all the way through, I won’t forget it for a hundred years.”
Hai Laogong said, “Win the Wen brothers’ money, when they are out of money, you give them loan, the more the better. After a few days, you then want them to take you to the Upper Study Room. They owe you money, they won’t dare not to comply. If they give you all sorts of excuses, tell them that I will settle the account with the Upper Study Room manager, Wu Laogong. If the Wen brothers still do not want to pay, we may have to bring this to the Emperor’s attention …”
“The Emperor?” Wei Xiaobao said.
“What is it?” Hai Laogong asked.
“No … nothing,” Wei Xiaobao said.
Hai Laogong continued, “They may ask you what do you want in the Upper Study Room. You tell them that people are bound to go to higher place, you wish to see the Emperor by doing some errand at the Upper Study Room. Of course the Wen brothers won’t let you see the Emperor, when they take you there, certainly the Emperor won’t be at the Upper Study Room. That’s when you will try to steal a book.”
Hearing him kept mentioning of the Emperor, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was stirred, “Could it be that this is the Imperial Palace? And not Beijing’s biggest brothel? Aiyo hey, that’s right, that’s right, if this is not the Imperial Palace, how could there be such splendor and majesty? These people must be court eunuchs attending the Emperor.”
Although Wei Xiaobao had heard people mentioning the Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince, Princess, as well as palace maids and court eunuch, he only knew that the Emperor are supposed to wear dragon robe, but how the Emperor actually look like, he had no idea. In Yangzhou he had watched a lot of plays, but the court eunuchs in those plays did not dress like Hai Laogong, Lao Wu or the others at all, the actors’ hands always held a whisk, which they waved here and there. The songs in the play were not pleasant to hear. He had contact with Hai Laogong only for a day, he had gambled with Lao Wu, the Wen brothers and the others for half a day, but he did not know they were eunuchs. This time hearing Hai Laogong’s words, he gradually understood; he thought, “Aiyo, in this case, haven’t I turned into a court eunuch?”
In stern voice Hai Laogong said, “Have you understood clearly what you heard?”
“Yes, yes, very clear,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I have to go to the Em … Emperor’s Upper Study Room.”
“To the Emperor’s Upper Study Room for what?” Hai Laogong said, “To play?”
“To steal a book,” Wei Xiaobao replied.
“Steal what book?” Hai Laogong asked.
“This … this … some book … I … I can’t remember,” Wei Xiaobao stammered.
Hai Laogong said, “I’ll tell you one more time, remember it well. It is a Buddhist scripture, called ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’. This book will look very old, there are several copies, I want you to bring them all to me. Do you remember? What’s the book called?”
“It is called the ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’,” Wei Xiaobao happily replied.
Hai Laogong detected the happiness in his voice, he asked, “Why are you happy?”
Wei Xiaobao said, “As soon as you mentioned it, I then recalled it to mind, therefore I am happy.”
Actually, when he heard that Hai Laogong wanted him to steal a book in the Upper Study Room, the ‘stealing’ part was absolutely not difficult, but the ‘book’ part was actually the real problem for him. He did not know anything about characters as big as a watermelon; wanting him to recognize a book, even if he was beheaded he would be unable to accomplish. As soon as he heard the title of the book to be ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’, he could not restrain his heart from swelling in full bloom. ‘Chapter’ and ‘scripture’ he did not know, but ‘forty-two’ three characters [si shi er], he could recognize. Out of five characters [si shi er zhang jing], unexpectedly he knew three, no wonder he was very pleased with himself.
Hai Laogong added, “If you want to steal book at the Upper Study Room, your movements must be clean and in order; if anybody catch you, even if you have a hundred lives, you won’t be able to keep them.”
“I understand this part well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If you steal something and are caught, how could you sing and play trick?” A sudden inspiration struck; he said, “In no way would I mention Gong-gong’s name.”
Hai Laogong said, “Mention my name or not, it has nothing to do with this matter.” He coughed several times, and then continued, “You have done well today, unexpectedly you win some money. Did they get suspicious?”
“Hey hey,” Wei Xiaobao laughed, “No, no, how could they get suspicious?” He wanted to toot his horn a little bit, but in the end he restrained himself.
“Don’t be lazy, idling left and right without doing anything,” Hai Laogong said, "You must practice a lot.”
Wei Xiaobao complied and walked into the room, he saw bowls and chopsticks on the table, plus four dishes of meat and vegetables, and one soup, but nobody had touched anything. "Gong-gong," he hastily said, "You haven't eaten? Let me get some food for you."
"I am not hungry," Hai Laogong said, "I don't want to eat. You go ahead and eat."
Wei Xiaobao was delighted. Without taking any rice, he picked a red-cooked pork with his fingers and ate. Although the dishes were already cold, as it entered his stomach, he found it was indescribably delicious. "I wonder who sent this meal over," he mused, "I'd better not ask this kind of trivial matter, I just have to open my eyes and slowly I will find out." He also thought, "If this is really the Imperial Palace, then Lao Wu, the Wen brothers, and that Xiao Xuanzi that I'll have to deal with, are all eunuchs. I wonder what do the old Emperor and Empress really look like? I guess I will have to see to know that. When I return to Yangzhou, hey hey, laozi can tell it with some air. I wonder if Mao Dage can escape from the Imperial Palace? During the gambling nobody mentioned anything about catching anybody, most likely he can get out."
After eating, because he was afraid he might raise Hai Laogong suspicion, he took the six dice and 'ding ling ling', he threw them into the bowl continuously. After throwing dice for a moment, his eyelids grew heavier and heavier. He did not sleep at all the previous night, and only now did he finally feel very weary, so in a short while he was already asleep.
He slept until the evening, when a worker eunuch came to deliver their dinner. Wei Xiaobao waited on Hai Laogong as he ate, he also helped him to bed, and then he lay down on the small bed. He thought, "The most important thing tomorrow is the martial art contest with Xiao Xuanzi. It would be best if I can beat him." Closing his eyes, he recalled the technique Mao Shiba used to fight the Manchu wrestlers at the wine shop, but the picture in his mind was fuzzy; he could not help but feel a tinge of regret, "Mao Dage wanted to teach me martial art, I was not willing to learn. If I had learned it along the way, although Xiao Xuanzi is stronger than me, how can he be my match? If tomorrow he manage to sit on me and I am not able to flip over, losing money is nothing, but losing face is a big thing. I, the Little White Dragon Wei Xiaobao, cannot mingle around in Jianghu anymore." Suddenly another thought popped up, "The Manchu warriors are not Mao Dage's match, but Mao Dage is not the old turtle's match, why not swindle the old turtle to teach me some skill?" Thereupon he said, "Gong-gong, you want me to go to the Upper Study Room to get the book, but there is a small problem."
"What problem?" Hai Laogong asked.
Wei Xiaobao said, "On my way back from gambling today, I met a little ... little eunuch. He stopped me and told me to give him the money. I refused, so we had a duel. He said that if I can beat him, then he would let me go. I fought with him for half a day, that's why ... that's why I was late for lunch."
"And you lost, didn't you?" Hai Laogong said.
Wei Xiaobao said, "He is taller and stronger, a lot stronger than I am. He said he wants to have a duel with me every day. The day I can beat him, that will be the day he won't bother me anymore."
"What's this baby's name?" Hai Laogong asked, "Which building does he belong to?"
"He is called Xiao Xuanzi," Wei Xiaobao replied, "But I don't know which building he belongs to."
Hai Laogong said, "Must be because you won some money, your manner appeared disgusting in the eyes of others; otherwise, why would he look for you?"
Wei Xiaobao said, "I refuse to submit to him, I'll look for him again tomorrow. I just don't know if I can beat him."
"Humph," Hai Laogong said, "You want to ask me to teach you martial art. I told you I won't teach you, so I won't teach you. It's useless for you to ask in a roundabout way."
Wei Xiaobao cursed silently, "This old turtle is smart, he won't fall into my trick." He said, "This Xiao Xuanzi also does not know martial art. If I want to beat him, I don't need to learn any martial art; who ask you to teach me? Today I was plainly able to sit on his body, it's just that he is strong, he managed to turn me over. Tomorrow I am going to grab him with all my strength, this fellow may not necessarily able to turn over like a turtle." For the whole day he had been careful, restraining himself not to speak any vulgar word, but now finally he could not bear not to say one.
Hai Laogong said, "You want to hold him down that he won't turn over, that is easy."
"I also think it won't be difficult," Wei Xiaobao said, "Tomorrow I will grab his shoulder really hard."
"Humph," Hai Laogong snorted, "What good is it to grab his shoulder? He can turn over or not depends on the strength of his back. You must use your knee to press against the acupoint on his lower back. Come here, I'll show you."
Wei Xiaobao rolled down from his bed and leaped toward Hai Laogong's bed. Hai Laogong ran his finger on Wei Xiaobao's lower back, and lightly pressed. Immediately Wei Xiaobao felt his entire body limp and painful, his strength was gone.
"Can you remember it?" Hai Laogong asked.
"Yes," Wei Xiaobao replied, "Tomorrow I'll give it a try, I just don't know if it will work."
Hai Laogong angrily said, "What do you mean it won't work? That is 'one hundred shots, one hundred hits, ten thousand times tests, ten thousand times effective'." He then put out his hand on either side of Wei Xiaobao's neck, and pressed lightly.
"Ah!" Wei Xiaobao screamed, he felt the pit of his stomach was choked, his breathing could not flow.
Hai Laogong said, "If you pressed hard these two acupoints, he won't have any strength to fight you."
Wei Xiaobao was overjoyed, "That will do," he said, "Tomorrow I might be allowed to defeat him." He had just learned the word 'allow' during the gambling that day. Returning to his own bed, he fantasized that the following day the 'Little White Dragon' Wei Xiaobao would beat Xiao Xuanzi so that he would call 'surrender'; and he felt very proud of himself.
The next day Lao Wu called him up again to gamble. The Wen brothers' names were Wen Youdao and Wen Youfang, and today it was these two brothers' turn to be the banker. Wei Xiaobao used his trick and won more than twenty taels from them. The two brothers' luck was quite bad that day, in less than an hour, their fifty taels capital was wiped clean. Wei Xiaobao lent them twenty taels, but by quitting time, the Wen brothers also lost these twenty taels.
Wei Xiaobao's mind was occupied with his martial art competition against Xiao Xuanzi. As soon as the gambling adjourned, he rushed to that room. He saw the table was still loaded with dishes of light refreshments. He picked several pieces and started munching. Soon he heard the sound of boots. Afraid that the incoming person was not Xiao Xuanzi, he thought it would be better for him to hide underneath the table first. But he heard from outside the door Xiao Xuanzi had already called, "Xiao Guizi, Xiao Guizi!"