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Another scorching day in Wuhan had clients rushing into the Lotus Inn and demanding tea or wine to satisfy their thirst. All of the waiters busily attended to the demanding guests with no time in between to rest their tired legs and cramped backs. Their early morning cheerfulness disappeared with the burning heat of the afternoon and the impatient guests.
Tin Lok rushed between tables, set down cups, filled teacups, and delivered calabashes of wine. He managed to wipe off his perspiration in between serving tables and drank some tea throughout the day to settle his thirst. As he routinely seated the customers and took their orders, he overheard a conversation from two customers in a table nearby.
What they revealed attracted his interest and he quickly went to that table and asked the men, “Is it really true that your sect is recruiting twenty disciples in three months?”
The Wai School of Martial Discipline was famous throughout the southeastern region of China, and they only recruited twenty disciples every three years.
The two men in green uniforms glanced at each other and smiled sinisterly. One of them stood up and patted Tin Lok on the shoulder, causing Tin Lok much pain.
The man sneered, “You have no strength in you. I doubt that Teacher will pick you over the numerous candidates this year.”
Tin Lok unhappily took their order and absentmindedly continued on with his routine in disappointment. He had tried out for many sects and none wanted him because he had no training or skills, but he thought the point of sects recruiting students was to train and give them skills. However, when he tried out for the sects, there were always handfuls of students who had years of training and these were always the ones to get recruited.
He sighed and continued on with his job. The two men in green observed him.
When he came back to their table to refill their teapot, the man who did not speak the first time asked, “How desperate are you to join our sect?”
Tin Lok stared blankly at him, not understanding what he really meant. The man rephrased his question, “How much are you willing to give us to join our sect?”
Tin Lok thought about how much he had saved and gave them an answer, which did not impress them. He tried to urge them into taking that sum, “Brothers, that is all I have and all that I can afford if you help me get into your sect.”
The other man said, “Do not make it sound like bribery. We can get into trouble if Teacher feels that we are trying to sell the available spots to interested candidates.”
Tin Lok scratched his head. He hated to use dirty tactics to achieve his goals and had never resorted to doing so. But he only wanted a chance at getting accepted into a school, and then he would work his way up. This was the first time he had ever compromised his value, but he felt that Bing Nhi was worth it.
Thus, he replied, “I understand, and it was wrong of me for even suggesting the impossible. Please accept my money as a token of our friendship.”
The two men finally gave in and nodded. One said, “We hope to see you at the recruiting try outs and the recruiting ceremony.”
The other finished with, “The School of Martial Discipline of the Wai Manor is located south of Wuhan in the city of Fuzhou. You need to be there on time or else we cannot guarantee you anything.”
The two left without bothering to pay for their meal and drink expenses at the restaurant, knowing full well that Tin Lok would take care of it.
Later on that evening, Tin Lok shared the good news with his mom. Mrs. Koo knew that the day would come when her son would have to leave her, but she never fully prepared for this inevitable moment. She sobbed and her state of sadness almost made Tin Lok reconsider his decision, but Siu Bing’s image and sweet memories of his time with her flooded his mind. He had to go and learn martial arts so that he could soon reunite with his lovely and lively Siu Bing.
He knelt down and kow-towed to his mother three times, “Mother, please forgive me for being an inconsiderate and un-filial son.”
Mrs. Koo had met Siu Bing, and she immediately felt drawn to this spirited girl. She quickly approved of Siu Bing and sincerely wanted Tin Lok and Siu Bing a happy future. But she saw a world of difference between the two and doubted that destiny and fate would be kind enough to bring the two together for a lifetime of happiness.
Mrs. Koo gently raised her son up, “Tin Lok, don’t be foolish. You’ve always been a responsible and filial son. Even if you reconsider your decision, I will not allow you to. You must go to the Wai Manor. You must bring my future daughter in law back to me.”
Tin Lok became flustered at her final comment, but his heart was overjoyed because his mother openly approved of his relationship with Siu Bing.
That night, Mrs. Koo and Tin Lok carefully planned for Tin Lok’s journey to the south. Mrs. Koo handed him some money, which he refused to take, but after her endless, aggressive effort, Tin Lok consented to bring the money for unexpected situations. Later on in the evening, the other waiters had a little celebration to wish him luck on his training and hoped that he would return and become an undefeatable pugilist. Tin Lok merely laughed at such an outrageous comment.
Mrs. Koo tried to suppress the urge to lecture him, but her conscience weighed too heavily on her. Early in the morning, Tin Lok prepared to depart from Wuhan.
Before he made more than twenty steps out of the Lotus Inn, Mrs. Koo rushed to him, “Tin Lok!” He turned around and saw a strange expression on her face.
She walked towards him and whispered gravely, “You have as much of your father’s blood in you as you have my blood. Remember that when times are hard, you must persevere. Do not give up and do not look for the easy way out. If others taunt you, just ignore them. Do not disappoint me and turn out like your father, huh?”
Tin Lok immediately pictured his past when his father was still alive. He remembered swearing that he would not become the despicable man his father was. He witnessed the difficulties his mother overcame for him and he had always tried his best to be as good of a man as he could be. “Do not worry mom. I will not change for the worse because I will always remember your guidance.” With that, he turned around and journeyed to Fuzhou.