Chapter 7 - Mai LaoGuang and his Barbecue Duck
There were only approximately 300 households in the mountain city, but at the moment, each one had lit its lamps and thrown its doors wide open as if to welcome the God of Wealth. In reality, though, it was not the God of Wealth they were welcoming but actually a god of pestilence [*a way to call someone an annoyance or pest]. Dozens of men, wearing red-tassel hats and uniforms and carrying sabres at their waist and torches in their hands, were searching through each house.
Yan Qi and Guo DaLu had just reached the foot of the mountain when they came across Golden Lion standing at the end of a street with his hands behind his back, barking in a loud voice, like a general on a battleground who was accustomed to issuing orders. Guo DaLu greeted him saying, “General Jin, are you planning on turning this place into a battlefield?”
Golden Lion’s face, which had previously had an icy expression on it, broke into a smile when he saw Guo DaLu. “We had no other choice; otherwise, we would have preferred not to disturb these honest citizens.”
Yan Qi: “Since you knew they are honest citizens, why would you disturb them in the first place?”
Golden Lion sighed. “All we know is that the stolen goods are still somewhere in the city and have not been transported away yet, but we do not know which house they are hidden in. The officers of the surrounding eighteen districts have all been brought in for the case, and one by one, all households will be investigated.” He gave another little smile. “As long as we find where the loot is hidden, Feng QiWu has no hope of trying to escape.”
Guo DaLu: “If that’s the case, I won’t be able to go into town tonight?”
An expression flickered across Golden Lion’s gaze. “What matters do you have in town at such hours of the night?”
Guo DaLu: “Drinking.”
Golden Lion: “At Mai LaoGuang’s?”
Guo DaLu: “Uh huh. Our wine on top of the mountain is done, but our alcohol craving still hasn’t been satisfied.”
Golden Lion: “We already searched that place during the first half of the night and seized only one ingot of gold. Feel free to go; you need not worry.” He made a hand signal to the officer patrolling the road, then moved out the way for the two of them.
They had walked a fair distance before Yan Qi said with a smile, “He seems to respect you.”
Guo DaLu laughed. “That is only because he hasn’t been able to figure out my background. He doesn’t even have a clue.”
Yan Qi laughed also. “Those names that you listed, are they truly all names of your shifus?”
Guo DaLu: “There was not a single lie.”
Yan Qi: “Even though much cannot be said about your martial arts, I can guarantee you that those shifus’ teachings would not have produced a student of your calibre.”
Guo DaLu: “What I learned from them was not the strengths of their martial arts but rather, the shortcomings.”
Yan Qi furrowed his brow. “Shortcomings?”
Guo DaLu: “If I observed any flaws or weaknesses in their martial arts, I would think of methods to avoid them in my own. This is called, ‘As I walk in a group of three, I will always find a teacher. ’ No matter who the person is, you can always learn something from him.”
Yan Qi: “I couldn’t tell before, but it seems you do possess knowledge of some sorts.”
Guo DaLu replied in a serious tone, “I don’t have to be modest in front of you. To be frank, my knowledge of things is quite expansive.”
Yan Qi could not help laughing. He asked, “So then, where did you learn all your strengths from?”
Guo DaLu: “Have I ever asked you about the secret in the soles of your boots? Or how you have already died seven times?”
Yan Qi: “No.”
Guo DaLu: “Well then, why are you asking about me?”
Mai LaoGuang was an old bachelor. His shop only had a total of four rooms. One room was at the front and was his place of business for customers. Another room was used as his kitchen. The third room was where he slept. But the most important room was at the back of the shop: his roasting room.
The door to this room was always closed because Mai LaoGuang’s barbecue meats were made using a secret recipe. If someone were to steal and learn that recipe, he would be put out of business.
When Yan Qi and Guo DaLu arrived, Mai LaoGuang was in that roasting room. The door was closed, but waves of mouth-watering scents were already wafting through the seam of the door. Guo DaLu swallowed his saliva hungrily before calling, “LaoGuang, business has arrived. Hurry and come out!” However, quite a few moments passed before Mai LaoGuang finally emerged. When he stepped out, they saw that his entire body was covered in grease, as if he had just rolled around in a mound of lard.
He broke into a smile when he saw Guo DaLu. “I reckon that nobody in these hills will have a good sleep tonight, so tomorrow morning’s business is going to be particularly good. Tonight was an especially busy night since I deliberately roasted several dozen additional ducks.”
Guo DaLu smiled. “LaoGuang, you don’t have children or a wife, and on top of that, you live and eat frugally. You are even reluctant to buy yourself a new item of clothing. Why do you want to earn so much money?”
With his Cantonese-accent, Mai LaoGuang replied, “People in my line of work are always rolling around in grease. What would I do with new clothes anyways? Now, as for money, it has always been the more the better.”
Yan Qi also smiled. “His words are straightforward and honest.”
Mai LaoGuang: “Straightforward people always speak straightforward words.”
Guo DaLu: “Mai LaoGuang truly is a straightforward person. Rumour has it that, even though he has been here for more than ten years, he has not stepped into Stone Alley, which is just beyond the stone stele that commemorates the chastity of the widow, Mrs. Zhao.”
Yan Qi: “What type of place is Stone Alley?”
Guo DaLu: “Stone Alley is a great place. Not only are there many beautiful women there, they are all sweet, gentle, and considerate.”
Yan Qi glared at him. “And you have been there?”
Guo DaLu: “No, but not because I don’t want to go. Every time I am drunk and I am not able to walk there.”
Yan Qi: “Well, why didn’t you go when you sobered up?”
Guo DaLu: “I don’t dare go when I am sober.”
Yan Qi: “You? You would actually not dare to do something?”
Guo DaLu: “I am scared that when those beautiful women see such a handsome man, they will not let me go.”
Yan Qi could not help but laugh. “And such a place coincidentally has to set-up behind someone’s chastity stele. Don’t you think that would infuriate Mrs. Zhao?”
Mai LaoGuang: “Will the two of you be drinking wine so late in the night?”
Guo DaLu: “He wanted to come here to eat your fresh-out-of-the-furnace barbecue duck.”
Mai LaoGuang: “Sure. I will go bring out a plump one for you.” He turned around and started walking.
Guo DaLu followed him. “I’m going to go with you to the back to take a look around.”
Mai LaoGuang stopped. “It is very dirty in the back, and there is nothing interesting to see.”
Guo DaLu: “I’m not afraid of getting dirty. I am dirty enough as it is.”
Yan Qi sighed. “If he really wants to go, it would be best for you to just let him go. Otherwise, he will just continue to insist on going, even if it means waiting here and bothering you until next day’s morning.”
Mai LaoGuang smiled. “It is very dim in the back. Be careful where you step.”
The rear courtyard was truly very dark. In the furthest corner was the roasting room, and it was also a dim room. Mai LaoGuang shuffled forward slowly. With a smile on his face, Guo DaLu said, “Watching how you walk, it looks as if you’ve had a bit to drink too.”
Mai LaoGuang: “The night has been quite chilly. But I only drank a couple cups of wine to warm up before I started feeling a little tipsy.” His foot suddenly slipped out from beneath him, and it seemed as if he would fall.
Guo DaLu was reaching out his hand to support him, when without warning, Mai LaoGuang spun around. His motion was like a dragon soaring out of the sea, like a sparrow hawk spiralling through the sky; the strength and nimbleness simply could not be described with words. Guo DaLu had just stretched his arm forward before Mai LaoGuang had already grasped the vein on his wrist.
Yan Qi had never dreamed that this clumsy old man who could barely walk without falling could suddenly become so terrifying. Still in shock, he tried to rush over, but Mai LaoGuang was already speaking in a raspy voice, “Stand still or I will kill him.” The sentence was spoken in perfect Mandarin, without a hint of a Cantonese accent.
Yan Qi paused in disbelief. Stuttering, he said, “You… you are…”
Guo DaLu laughed. “He is Feng QiWu, and the one who took the boxes from beneath our bed. Have you still not figured it out yet?”
 From the Analects of Confucius. The full translated text of this particular one is “As I walk in a group of three, I will always find a teacher. Choose to follow what is good in them and correct what is not good.”