My original plan was to incorporate part of this chapter in last week’s post but alas, things are pretty hectic recently so I’ll just stick to the book’s pacing. As it is, the next and last post for “Man from Wild South” will likely take 2 weeks instead of 1, as it requires substantial editing.
We meet 2 other ladies today and though their appearances are short, Shang Guan Jin’s Fourth Shi Mei and Xiao Shi Mei are very likable characters. That said, I miss Feng Jin, who is out of the picture for once, and this gives Shang Guan Jin some space to digest what the man means to her and vice versa. Hopefully and unlikely, it will not be a divorce but we’ll see about that in the next and last chapter. Until then, have a smooth-sailing week ahead.
Chapter 10 (Part 1)
It has been a week since Du Qing Qing was rescued from the cave but Shang Guan Jing and Su Xue Ying have yet to find a way to seal the cave. Today, Su Xue Ying was wondering out loud if they should approach Feng Jin for help when Qing Qing pips in helpfully. “We do not need Feng Jin, I can roll back the rock entrance and seal the cave.”
Qing Qing was very frail when she was found and has been bedridden until 3 days ago. Even then, she could only walk around her room until today when she is finally much better. When both her shi jie look at her in surprise, Qing Qing continues. “I do not know how I became this way but I have always feel this special … something, inside me. It can get pretty uncomfortable, even painful, at times and it has gotten pretty bad in the last 2 years.”
“When I told Shi Fu about this, she taught me to meditate and also set of breathing tactic which is different from the breathing tactic we used for fighting. Her method works and the qi in my body no longer makes me uncomfortable. Shi Fu said that my make-up is slightly different from normal people and although it is unusual for the qi to surface only when I turn fourteen, it is not totally unheard of and told me that I can slowly learn to control that part of me.”
Su Xue Ying is amazed but Shang Guan Jing merely nods, as if this something she comes across everyday. “So you mean to say that Teacher has discovered your special ability around 2 years ago and has taught you the way to control it?”
“Yes.” Qing Qing nods solemnly. “Shi Fu said that since this qi only surfaced when I’m such a big girl, she cannot predict how much how much I can do with it nor how far I can go. At that time, San Shi Jie was roaming around the pugilist world while Si Shi Jie has gotten married and moved to Western Desert, so there isn’t much to do here expect to meditate and practice my swordplay. All was normal until one day, Er Shi Ge and Da Shi Jie seems to have gotten very close all of a sudden and… ouch”
Qing Qing looks woefully at Su Xue Ying who has pinched her waist. Hard. Qing Qing’s woe-puppy look and Xue Ying’s consternation makes Shang Guan Jing smile and she tells them fondly. “I am alright, it doesn’t matter and I have put the past behind. Do continue with your story.”
Yes she has been miserable over her failed relation with Er Shi Ge once upon a time but it is now another man who weighs on her mind. More so than “Bo Lan Zhou”, it is the mention of ‘Feng Jin’ that will make her heart ache. Sometimes when Xue Ying mentions his name, her heart would ache so much that even her body would shake with the intensity of it.
Qing Qing rubs her abused waist meekly and continues. “One day, everything just fell apart. At first, I did not know what was happening and was meditating in my room when suddenly, I thought I heard Shi Fu telling me to go to the sacred cave and to do it quickly. When I got there, the rock entrance was already opened, revealing the cave behind. So I walk in.” She pauses as her eyes dim with the memory. “I thought Shi Fu was inside, but in actual fact, she was ….. she was already gone at that time. I heard her voice again, saying that her body has perished and she is unsure how long her spirit can linger…”
The 3 disciples start crying at this and it takes a while until any of them can speak again. Shang Guan Jing is the first to recover and tries to ask more. “Did you manage to speak with Teacher after that?”
Qing Qing rubs her tears away and sniffles. “The cave entrance has sealed by itself not long after I stepped in but I can still hear Shi Fu’s voice. She told me that I need to calm myself and meditate. At first, I wasn’t able to do that but slowly, my mind settled down and it is as if my spirit has travelled to another plane. In that place I saw Shi Fu…”
Both Shang Guan Jing and Su Xue Ying reach out to hold her hands tightly and she squeezes their hands back. “Shi Fu said that I need to stay there temporarily and regulate my breathing like a good girl.” She crinkles her nose as she recalls the torturous process. “I told her that it is too difficult. I’m sure Shi Jie has heard about the story of Venerable Da Mo and how Venerable Da Mo is able to live and meditate in a small cave for 9 years. 9 years! But that is because he is the great Venerable Da Mo! I am only Du Qing Qing and I have no aspiration to be like old master Da Mo. Besides, I doubt I can be like him even if I wanted to.”
Su Xue Ying smiles through her tears. “I bet Teacher probably boxed your ears when you said that.”
Qing Qing tugs at her pigtails and nods. “Si Shi Jie, it wasn’t just a ‘box’; Shi Fu gave me ‘cartons’!”
“There is no food or water inside the purple jadeite cave.” Shang Guan Jing pats her hand gently. “Shi Fu needs your mind to remain where you were so that your physical body can sustain the absence of food and water while it stay out of harm way inside the cave. Teacher probably planned for you to wait for me while I seek out the person who can help us in Nan Man.”
Qing Qing nods in understanding. “Shi Fu said that I need to make full use of my time and taught me more breathing tactics. Shi Fu also mentioned that if Yu Ling peak is no more, it is its fate and we should not cling on to it. After a long time, Shi Fu got a little fuzzy around the edges and her voice got softer and softer, until one day…. one day…. she just disappeared and never appeared again.” She looks sorrowfully at Shang Guan Jing. “So I followed her instructions and stayed in that place while I meditate and meditate. I can sense it when the door of the purple jadeite cave opened, but I do not quite know how to leave the place until I saw a man with a golden glow. He told me to follow him and then I was back.”
Shang Guan Jing smiles fondly at her Xiao Shi Mei and soothes the hair back from her face while Su Xue Ying concludes after listening to the whole story. “Shi Jie, I think Shi Fu and the man you brought back are probably relatives. What do you think?”
The saga of the purple jadeite cave has made it beyond doubt for Shang Guan Jing that their sect’s ancestors descended from the Diao family. There may not be any no gold or treasure in the cave, but there are several paintings in a corner of the cave depicting the early lives of their ancestors:- how they have travelled from a tropical forest to settle down in the mountains and how they overcame the challenges of settling in a new place,.
When she was looking at the drawings, Shang Guan Jing has paid close attention to a man who seems to be the leader of the early settlers. Feng Jin suspected that her ancestor probably left Nan Man to have a clean break with his cousin. No one will ever know the truth for something that has happened so long ago, but somehow, Shang Guan Jing buys the story.
This may be a controversial romance but it totally fits the character of Diao decedents, Shang Guan Jing privately thinks, gauging with her past interactions with other members from the Diao family. If the same thing happens to the current Feng Zhu for instance, she has full faith that he would toss other people’s opinion out of the window and would pester his love interest until the latter caves in. He will probably be like the twines of the southern forest that spiral around the trunks of ancient trees, seemingly soft but yet tenacious and unyielding. Both twine and tree can live together or die together, but not matter what happens, they will be together.
“San Shi Jie, you seem to matter a lot to that man that day. Who is he?”
Shang Guan Jing does not want to answer Su Xue Ying and Du Qing Qing turns her puppy eyes to her and begs her to reveal more about the mysterious man.
Su Xue Ying crosses her arms under her chest and says thoughtfully. “He was obviously angry at you but he did not try to harm you although he is more than able to do so. Having seen what he can do, I dare not think too much on what he does to people who cross him but he seems to have deflected his anger on himself. It is amazing that he let his body suffer in the end. He is truly a strange man.”
Du Qing Qing agrees. “San Shi Jie, perhaps what Shi Fu truly hoped for when she sent you to Nan Man is to find a good husband. Of course, it will be the great if you can seduce the person who can save us, who will then marry you… aiya San Shi Jie, your face is all red. Look Si Shi Jie, her face is red. I bet they must have some secret which San Shi Jie is not telling us! Please tell us more San Shi Jie.”
After a good deal of wheeling and arm shaking, Shang Guan Jing finally laughs and gives in. “Actually, I married him in Nan Man.”
The 2 younger ladies are stunned and Shang Guan Jing starts to get uncomfortable. “Why are both of you staring at me?”
Su Xue Ying is the first to recover her voice. “Why have you not chased after him?”
“Me? Should I? We, we actually… actually…”
Su Xue Ying counts her fingers. “He obviously cares about you and you obviously care about him or else you would never have married him. If so, what is holding you back?”
Shang Guan Jing does not want to admit that the starting point of their relationship was pity:- pity for his loneliness, for his suffering. But as she thinks back on the happenings of the last few months, she knows that pity is only the beginning and that she has developed other feelings over time. Feelings that are strong enough to agree to marry him. If her shi meis were to ask her when or how it became that way, she has no answer. Perhaps like Shi Fu said, this is fate.
Fate has brought them together and during their time together, he has moved into her heart and just perhaps, could it be the same case for him?
Her mind goes to the little wooden box which she found in her baggage. She recognizes the box as it is the same wooden box that he keeps in their bedroom which contains about 20 “Dragon’s Blood” pill.
In her mind, she sees once more that way he cast his magic in front of their sacred cave in blatant disregard for the full moon. He has looked so confidant and in control, as if all was just a stroll in the woods to him. But he has bleed and just as she was consoling herself that he can take Dragon’s Blood to relief his pain, there it was in her baggage, the whole box of pills! She has no idea when or how he has put it there without her knowing, but she knows that he has left it for her to help heal her internal injury.
Just what is he up too? Yes, Dragon’s Blood is an excellent medicine, but her slow recovery is mainly due to her emotional upheaval. And now that the willy man has been carried off into the sunset, bleeding and unconscious, without his behind, is he trying to make her sick while worrying over him?
“Since you still like him now and he likes you back, why should you be bothered about what has past? You should just hound him and stick to his side like glue.” Su Xue Ying speaks from experience. “You can train a man to chase after you but that is on the pretext that you left some the crumbs on your trail! Without some clues or indicators, how can you be sure that he can find you! The way I see it, he has followed you all the way from Nan Man to here and it must mean something. Furthermore, no matter how mad he is at you, he has no qualms putting himself at risk to save us and the more I think about it, the more he resemble an attention-seeking child. You should not take his actions at face value and just leave him alone.”
Shang Guan Jing knows that these are true but she feels oblige to point out. “He has deceived me and kept a lot of things from me. He played me like a fool before we got married.”
“Doesn’t he love you?” asks Qing Qing.
“I do not know.”
“Then all the more you should find out and decide from there.” Su Xue Ying holds Shang Guan Jing gently by the shoulders and declares firmly. “If he is only fooling around with you, I will grab my hubby and seek justice for you. Why, we can march from the Western Desert to Nan Man and make sure that we raise enough ruckus for him to be sleeping fretfully for at least a month!”
“You have nothing to lose and it beats seeing you so listless and unhappy day after day.”
Shang Guan Jing knows that Xue Ying is right. She needs an answer, or if not, a letter of divorce.