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A voice came from outside the iron-door, “Mr. Ren, it has been very hot in the last couple of days. May I ask if the revered mister still enjoys his good health?”
As soon as Linghu Chong heard the voice, he recognized it instantly. It was the voice of Mr. Black-White. If he had come to his cell one month before, Linghu Chong would have shouted all kinds of invective at him with no scruples. However, after many days of imprisonment, his anger had mollified a great deal and he was able to think calmly.
“Why did he call me Mr. Ren? Has he come to the wrong cell?” he thought to himself and decided to remain silent and listen on.
“Every two months, I come and ask the revered mister the same question. Today is the first day of July, so please allow me to ask once again: Will the revered mister grant my request?” Mr. Black-White continued, his tone respectful and cautious.
Linghu Chong laughed inwardly. “He got the prison cells all mixed up and must have thought I am the Revered Mr. Ren. How careless of him!” But immediately after, he felt a chill in his heart. “Mr. Black-White obviously is the most meticulous one among the four Masters of the Plum Manor. It might be possible for Mr. Bald-Brush or Mr. Paint to mix up the prison cells, but how could Mr. Black-White actually make such a mistake? There must be a reason behind this.” With that in mind, he kept his silence.
Mr. Black-White continued, “Revered Mr. Ren, valiant and capable all your life, why let yourself languish with the decaying dust in the underground dungeon? My words are as firm as the mountain. If the revered mister grants me my request, I promise I will help the revered mister get out of this prison.”
Linghu Chong’s heart thumped wildly. Many thoughts raced through his mind, but he failed to put them in order. What was Mr. Black-White really after and why did he speak this way? He simply couldn’t figure it out. Then he heard Mr. Black-White asking a second time.
“Will the revered mister grant my request?”
Linghu Chong knew that this could be the very opportunity for him to escape. Despite any possible ill intentions, it would still have been a much better alternative than getting stranded forever in the underground prison for some unknown reasons. But having no way of identifying Mr. Black-White’s true intention, he bit his lip and remained silent, afraid that he might say something wrong to ruin this precious opportunity.
“Revered Mr. Ren, why aren’t you speaking up?” Mr. Black-White heaved a sigh. “Last time, when that boy Feng challenged you in the art of sword, you didn’t mention a single word about my request in front of my three sworn-brothers. I am truly grateful for the kindness. I thought to myself, the sword fight must have brought back the many fond memories and the lofty sentiments in Revered Mr. Ren’s heart, and reminded him of the vast world outside. If your Excellency could break out of the dark dungeon, the entire world would be yours for the taking, and you can snuff out any mundane life at will, whether male or female, old or young; and no one would ever dare defy your wish. Wouldn’t that be exhilarating? Granting the request would not have brought any nuisance to your own. Why wouldn’t you ever consent in the past twelve years?”
Linghu Chong could sense the sincerity in his voice. Apparently he really thought he was addressing senior master Ren, which puzzled Linghu Chong even more. He listened on as Mr. Black-White begged again and again for him to agree to the request. Linghu Chong really wanted to know more details about the request, but he reckoned that the situation would take an immediate bad turn if he opened his mouth. Holding his tongue forcibly with great effort, he dared not make the slightest sound.
“If the revered mister is still so stubborn, I guess I’ll visit him again in two months,” Mr. Black-White concluded. He suddenly let out a few chuckles. “The revered mister didn’t scold me this time. Maybe there’s a favorable turn in the situation. I hope the revered mister will give my request some good consideration in the next two months.” After those words, he turned around to exit.
Linghu Chong became quite worried. It would be another two months before Mr. Black-White would return, and how could he stand another two months of the miserable life in the pitch-black prison? He waited until Mr. Black-White had taken several steps and then spoke up in an intentionally lowered and coarse voice.
“What request shall I grant?”
Mr. Black-White turned around at once, and with a swift leap, he had returned back to the square-shaped opening.
“You will…you will grant me my request?” His voice trembled.
Linghu Chong turned to face the wall and covered his mouth with his hand.
“What request?” he said in a muffled voice.
“In the past twelve years, I would take on great risks to come here six times each year, just so that I could implore for the revered mister to consent. Why is the revered mister asking when the answer is so obvious?”
“I forgot!” Linghu Chong snorted.
“I would like the revered mister to teach me the secret of the magical art. Once I master the skills, I promise to let the revered mister out of this place.”
“Has he really mistaken me for that senior master Ren, or is this some kind of intrigue?” Linghu Chong pondered. Still having no clue about Mr. Black-White’s true intentions, he mumbled something indistinct, not even knowing what he said himself.
Naturally, Mr. Black-White didn’t understand a word of his, and had to ask again and again, “Will the revered mister grant it? Will the revered mister grant it?”
“You don’t live up to your promise. You won’t fool me,” Linghu Chong replied.
“What kind of guarantee would I have to provide so the revered mister will believe my words?”
“What do you have in mind?”
“I understand the revered mister’s worries. What if I break my promise after the revered mister teaches me the secret of the magical art and still not let him out? There is no need to worry! I have it all arranged, and the revered mister can put his trust in my arrangement,” Mr. Black-White answered.
“Does this mean the revered mister will grant me my request?” Mr. Black-White asked quickly, his voice filled with excitement.
Linghu Chong thought very quickly, “He wants me to teach him the secret of the magical art. Where the heck would I find this secret of the magical art? But I might as well check out his arrangement. If he really will let me out of this place, I could just give him those meditation techniques carved on the steel plate. Who cares if it works or not, it doesn’t hurt to give him some false hope.”
When Mr. Black-White didn’t hear an answer, he added, “After the revered mister teaches me the magical art, I would have automatically become an apprentice of the revered mister. In our cult, an apprentice who deceives his master is to be skinned and dismembered alive. In the past several hundred years, not a single one had managed to get away from the harsh punishment. How would I ever dare to not let the revered mister out?”
“I see,” Linghu Chong let out another snort. “Come back in three days to get your answer.”
“Why won’t the revered mister grant my request today? Why wait another three days in this dark dungeon?” Mr. Black-White pleaded.
Linghu Chong thought to himself, “He is even more impatient than I am. It might be a good idea to wait three days and see if he’s going to pull some clever tricks.” At that thought, he produced a loud, disgruntled humph as if he was very annoyed.
“Sure! Sure! I shall return in three days so I could ask advice from the revered mister again!” Mr. Black-White hurriedly agreed.
Linghu Chong listened as Mr. Black-White walked out of the underground tunnel and closed the iron gate while many unsettling thoughts swirled inside his head.
“Could he really have mistaken me as the Ren-named senior master? He is a very meticulous man. How could he make such a silly mistake?”
Suddenly, an idea struck him. “Could it be possible that Mr. Huang-Zhong found out about Mr. Black-White’s visits and secretly moved senior master Ren to another cell, then put me in this cell instead? That’s got to be it! In the past twelve years, Mr. Black-White had been paying a visit every other month. It’s very likely that someone found out about it. It must have been Mr. Huang-Zhong who set up this scheme clandestinely.”
Then, he remembered what Mr. Black-White had said earlier. “In our cult, an apprentice who deceives his master is to be skinned and dismembered alive. In the past several hundred years, not a single one had managed to get away from the harsh punishment.”
“Our cult? Which cult?” he thought it over. “Could it be the Demon’s Cult? Is it possible that the senior master Ren and the Four Skunks of Jiangnan are all members of the Demon’s Cult? What kind of game are they playing? Why are they dragging me into this mess?”
As soon as the name “Demon’s Cult” came to his mind, he found the entire matter surreptitious and beyond his comprehension, and decided to not ponder upon it. Instead, he concentrated only on two things: “Was Mr. Black-White sincere or was he just acting it up? How shall I answer him when he comes back in three days?”
All kinds of strange idea went through his mind, but no matter how hard he tried, he still couldn’t figure out Mr. Black-White’s true intentions. After some time, he became extremely weary and fell asleep. By the time he woke up, his first thought was, “If brother Xiang were here, with his experience and knowledge, he would have guessed Mr. Black-White’s intention in no time. That Ren-named senior master was also very bright, likely even smarter than brother Xiang…oops!”
He suddenly cried out and jumped to his feet. After the nap, his brain functioned much better and he realized something.
“For the last twelve years, senior master Ren never granted him the request. Why? Because he knew very well what would happen if he did. As sharp and experienced as he is, he clearly knew the pros and cons of the matter.” Then he thought to himself, “Although senior master Ren should not grant the request, I am not senior master Ren. Why can’t I?”
He knew he shouldn’t do it. He could even smell the great danger involved, yet the hope of escape weighed heavily on his mind, and he would risk the greatest calamity just for an opportunity to break out from the dark underground dungeon. He soon made up his mind.
“When Mr. Black-White comes back in three days, I will consent to his request and teach him the inner energy cultivation and meditation techniques carved on the steel plate. Then I’ll just act according to his reactions.”
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Video of the Day:
One of the best fighting scenes in Kung Fu movies --- Jet Li's Fist of Legend