Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Vast Desert 大沙漠 Part 2


CLH et al went inside the house and found only one stone statue of Kuan Yin. They went out again when Little Phoa said that Stone Camel was so scared. CLH deduced that the blind Stone Camel realised who killed thos burglars. When Chor tai-gor returned to the crime scene, he realised that the Kuan Yin stone statue was gone. In its place was a pan full of braised beef that was so inviting to the hungry men. Always wary, CLH, Wu and Ki Ping-yan did not eat the beef dish. A dog barked inside and ate the dish without any sign of food poisoning. Still, our friends knew that whoever killed the burglars had not only left the food, he/she had annoyed these wanderers by releasing a dog who immediately ate the food. Disgusted, Wu threw away the beef dish outside. After a while, they heard a scream outside and realised that Little Phoa died eating the poisonous braised beef that Wu threw out of the window.

CLH now realised his enemy was the Stone Kuan Yin, a very skilful swordswoman who was also very good at the art of disguise. She killed the burglars and disguised herself as a stone statue. In the previous story, the Stone Kuan Yin also ordered Chiu Ling-siok to ruin her own face so that the Stone Kuan Yin remained the prettiest woman on earth (or at least in the Central Plains).

Finding no water or food, CLH, Wu, Ki and Stone Camel walked 2-3 days in the desert without water. On the 4th day, they arrived at an oasis where CLH had the time to be a peeping Tom, peeping a desert princess taking a shower. The princess had a funny name to me: Princess Pipop (sounds like lollypop…). So, Princess Lollypop asked a bearded man in flamboyant clothing (apparently her Daddy) to test CLH, thus Daddy told his men to ambush the tired taihap, who still defeated his opponents despite him having no water and drink for days. Later, Lollypop played CLH some music from her zither, thus CLH recognised who her dad was: the famous Kui-ji-ong, the Soh-ci-po (I have no idea what it means). I suspect this guy was a very famous musician, for CLH was very respectful of him. Kui-ji-ong invited CLH, Wu Tit-fa, Ki and Stone Camel for drinks and meals.  After regaining his energy, CLH started observing his surroundings as well. Surrounding Kui-ji-ong were two brothers of the Go Yu Hong-kiam. Suicu Lin-che, a bandit from the two large rivers region, was also there. A man dressed in green was the famous killer Sat-jiu-bu-ceng Toh Hoan; but CLH wasn’t impressed by him. Another person was an anaemic Ong Tiong, sickly-looking and seemed to have no desire to live on. CLH found this last person interesting, though. CLH et al also learned that Kui-ji-ong and his daughter came from a land called “Gunial”. The Gunial King threw a friendly challenge on Wu Tit-fa, who won against a big fighter of Gunial. Wu also had a butt-head session with the killer Toh Hoan (I think the latter was jealous because Princess Lollypop kept praising Wu); Wu won.

Here the narrative explained that Wu Tit-fa was actually a very skilful fighter. The 1984 CLH series did not give him enough room to display his excellence; it seemed CLH had to rescue him every now and then. Yet, when Wu was fighting against Toh Hoan, despite the latter wearing some poisonous rings (which made CLH worried), Wu was able to evade Toh Hoan’s attacks and broke TH’s wrists instead.

Wu’s fighting excellence made the anaemic Ong Tiong realised that Wu Tit-fa was the Flower Butterfly. Thus, the handsome tai-hap who accompanied him must be Chor Lau-heung the King of Thieves. Pale-faced, Ong Tiong admitted he was blind not to be able to recognise a legend in front of him. While CLH was busy trying to obscure his identity from a fan admiration, a soldier came into the camp and reported an emergency to the King. The King of Gulian looked worried, but when Ki asked for private quarters to take a rest, the King didn’t miss a beat to send his guests to a private room.

In the room, Ki Ping-yan voiced his suspicion, that although Gunial was a small country, a king was still a king. What did the King of Gunial do here outside his own country, looking like running away from something? Why did he enlist wuxia fighters on his side? Ki suggested they rested for an hour before taking their leave. However, from the conversation snippets, Chor Lau-heung deduced that the bad news delivered to the King was related to the Stone Kuan Yin, hence they should stay in the camp to join forces. CLH deduced that the “Star in Heaven”, the large jewel the burglars found was supposed to be delivered to the Gunial King. CLH also deduced that the Lollypop Princess had a high-level of martial art (based on her comments on Wu’s skills), but she was skilful enough to hide it.

Soon after, one of the Go Yu brothers visited the three friends. Unexpectedly, he said that he visited them because the Princess had asked one of the three wanderers of his hands in marriage.

Chapter 17

The person the Princess wanted to marry was apparently Wu Tit-fa. CLH merrily congratulated his friend, although he was rather disappointed as well, for he liked her too. Well, I think it’s more because CLH was so used to girls running after him, whereas here, the Princess actually liked Wu instead!

Interestingly, after the Go taihap left, Wu decided to reject the Princess’ proposal. He just didn’t want to, period. CLH got over his disappointment quite quickly, thus he suggested that the Drunkard should accept the proposal. After considering that being a Fuma (Prince Consort) wasn’t a bad idea at all, at least he didn’t have to wander around aimlessly in the desert, Wu agreed that he would accept the proposal later.

That night, CLH saw that Ong Tiong was actually paying attention to Stone Camel. CLH had always been suspicious of Ong Tiong, for the latter never disclosed his own identity. CLH was about to interrogate Ong Tiong when Princess Pipop came and talked to our tai-gor. She asked why he was avoiding her; CLH tried to drop hints that she should just talk to Wu instead. Since CLH was still attracted to the Princess (but he wouldn’t steal his friend’s fiancé), CLH was glad when Go Ceng-thian (the matchmaker) came in to deliver his successful mission to the Princess.

Later, Wu Tit-fa (shoved forward by CLH and Ki) accepted the gift from his future father in law. The gift was a very large red emerald jewel, definitely on par with the jewel that the burglars found in the desert. CLH smiled to share the happiness with his friend, yet he wondered why the King was so nonchalant about distributing such a wealth. Obviously, the loss of the jewel a few days prior was not about the jewel itself, but something else.

Wu Tit-fa also met the Queen, a very charming middle-aged lady. It seemed the Queen actually liked CLH (palm/face), and CLH also found her interesting, such that Ki had to remind CLH that the lady was the Queen.

After the Queen had retired to her room, the King confessed that he had been kicked out from his own country and now he had to always be vigilant of killers sent by his opponents. One of his opponents was “The Mighty Invincible Sabre”. The King also said that he had asked for the Peng Family delivery bureau to safeguard his treasure “the Star in Heaven”, yet he just found out that the Pengs were already dead. Moreover, the Star was already in the hand of a person who just delivered a ransom note, asking the King for 500 gold taels, 500 pearls and 50 pairs of jade bracelets in exchange of the Star. The King would like the Star in Heaven back, hence he asked the swordsmen to deliver the treasure to the exchange point. CLH gave his word to safeguard the treasure.

Later, a commotion was heard outside; the camels and the horses sounded sad. Ki checked and found out that Stone Camel was gone, as well as Ong Tiong. Soon after, the camp was on fire. CLH realised he had to protect the King, but Ki Ping-yan dragged him out of the main camp. Annoyed, CLH asked why Ki did that; Ki said:

“You and Wu Tit-fa were only looking at the Queen and the Princess, but I have been studying the other swordsmen. They are suspicious. Go return back to the camp and protect the King, I’ll get Wu Tit-fa back.” By the way, Wu was already addressed as the Little Prince here.

CLH returned and perched on top of the camp, observing what happened inside the camp. The Go swordsmen were about to kill the King, but the Princess interfered with her iron zither. Once the Go brothers died, Toh Hoan and another fighter entered the camp and was getting an upper hand when CLH decided to interfere. CLH recognised Toh Hoan’s partner in crime:  Sun Khong the Black Monkey.

“Sun the Black Monkey, do you remember me?” Chor tai-gor flashed his subtle smile.

Sun Khong was flabbergasted to see CLH. Inexplicably, he turned and left, making Toh Hoan baffled.

“So you’re just going to leave me here?!” Toh Hoan screamed in disbelief.

“Why?” Sun Khong replied. “I have the right to come and go as I please.”

“Who the hell is this kid? Why are you so scared of him?!”

Sun Khong flashed a warning glare. “You dare to call him a kid?! On what basis do you have the nerve to ask about him?!”

And just like that, Sun Khong killed Toh Hoan. Turning to CLH, the Black Monkey said, “I know you won’t kill him, but he’s a mess to let go. That’s why I killed him for you.”

And then he left, but not before adding, “Oh, by the way, since I do owe you, a person is coming here, 10 times my level. Be careful.”

“I always am,” chuckled Chor tai-gor. “But who is he?”

“Even a mere mention of the name gives me a headache. I’d love to stay to see you fight this person, but I’d rather not. Ciao!”

Baffled, the Princess demanded CLH told her his true identity. CLH ignored the request. Wu and Ki came, stating all was under control. Wu also explained to the benefit of Lollypop that the Black Monkey had clashed with CLH three times, but CLH always let him go. Thus, Sun Khong was always respectful of CLH. After Wu and Ki left, the Princess demanded that the wedding should be done immediately, preferably tomorrow. CLH agreed on behalf of Wu Tit-fa.

Me, I start to find the Princess supremely annoying. At least Song Siu-ching was always honest with her feelings. Here, I think Lollypop liked CLH, but she somehow wanted to marry Wu for something. Fishy.

As CLH returned to his room he shared with Wu and Ki, he found a note from the Stone Kuan Yin, basically saying that they should just mind their own business. Of course the three friends ignored the note. However, the note’s presence also indicated a mole in the camp.

The three friends slept, but they woke up in a few hours when a person entered their camp. This person was the Gentle Thief Liu-che. Who was he, again??

Liu-che’s story was apparently related to the first arc (Fluttering Fragrance on the Bloody Sea). Liu-che's brother was murdered by Lamkiong Ling. I don’t know how Liu-che ended up in the desert. But he apparently saw Toh Hoan and the Black Monkey in a camp in the vicinity. Toh Hoan was talking to someone from Kui Je (that’s the Gunial King’s country of origin). Liu-che was able to listen to the conversation. He found out that the enemy’s camp also received a letter, exactly the same as the one the Gunial King received. That is, if the enemy’s camp would like to receive the Star in Heaven, then they had to provide a ransom of 500 gold taels, 500 pearls and 50 pairs of jade bracelets.

Then, suddenly, a person tapped Liu-che’s shoulder. The fact that this person was able to tap Liu-che’s shoulder without LC knowing he/she was there implied that this person was definitely more skilful than Liu-che. This person warned LC not to interfere in this business. Liu-che was indebted to this mysterious person, he wanted to adhere to the warning. However, Chor Lau-heung was implicated in this business. Since Chor tai-gor had solved the Lam Kiongling case (apparently, the entire Jianghu knew it), Liu-che could not but warn CLH of this complicated business. Hence The Gentle Thief’s visit to CLH’s camp. Afterwards, Gentle Thief left. CLH et al realised that whoever warned Gentle Thief must be a very skilful person, but they had no time to investigate it further, because it was Wu Tit-fa’s wedding day.

During the wedding, Wu was very happy. He drank a lot, but the Drunkard was of course still sombre enough when he was escorted to his camp. During the dinner, the Gunial King gave CLH an honorary cooked egg. The egg was installed inside a cooked chicken, which was inside a cooked lamb, which was inside a cooked camel. CLH was about to eat the egg when he realised that the tip of the King’s knife was black. Someone had poisoned the egg. CLH pretended to eat the egg, but later, inside his camp, he examined the egg with Ki Ping-yan. The egg was indeed poisoned, but only the yellow bit in the middle.

That night, CLH and Ki Ping-yan decided to take turn in guarding the camp. Someone had dared to poison CLH, it means that the taihaps were getting close to something. After Ki’s turn, Ki left CLH to do his roster. A while later, someone approached CLH.

CLH was frozen to see that it was the Lollypop Princess, wearing a thick coat with layers of swan fur, who approached him. The same princess who was supposed to be enjoying her wedding night with Wu Tit-fa. He was even more surprised when the Princess took off her coat and revealed that she (palm/face) wore nothing underneath. Like, nothing.

What followed was CLH losing control and enjoying a night under the stars with the Princess. Specifically, under the Princess’ swan coat with her.

So apparently, the Princess was immoral enough to trick Wu into thinking that she wanted to marry him. Apparently, Wu married the Princess’ older sister instead, because Pipop wanted Chor Lau-heung instead. Palm face.

Finally, the first rays of sunrise adorned the eastern sky. After the love making session, Pipop said that she might not be able to see CLH again. CLH said that he wasn’t sure if he’d marry Pipop anyway (palm/face). He earned a slap on the face. Steams coming out of her ears, Pipop left the scene wearing CLH’s clothes. CLH struggled to enter his own camp and found another set of clothes. He saw Ki Ping-yan, and he thought Ki was pretending to sleep. While CLH struggled to explain his behaviour to the sleeping Ki, Wu Tit-fa unexpectedly came into the camp.

CLH’s heart shrunk to see Wu. He expected Wu to be very angry with him. However, Wu was all stars and sun… he was very happy instead! Wu said that, after he opened his wife’s veil, he realised that she was not Pipop. But since the older princess was very beautiful and kind, Wu thought it was a better deal anyway. They had a great night, then Wu sneaked out of the camp just before sunrise to tell CLH how lucky he was. Baffled, CLH followed Wu who wanted to introduce his wife to his brother.

Yet, when they entered Wu’s camp, they found a dead woman on the bed. The woman’s body was bloated, and her face looked ugly. Wu was very surprised, for the woman didn’t look like his wife who made love to him that night. He screamed, waking up the entire camp.

Upon entering the camp, the King was shocked to find his eldest daughter dead. Apparently, the dead woman was INDEED the eldest princess, Pipop’s sister. So… who made love with Wu Tit-fa then…?

The King demanded that Wu surrendered. Wu refused, for he didn’t kill the Princess, and the King and family tricked him anyway into marrying her. Wu wanted to escape, but CLH persuaded him to stay. CLH requested three days to investigate this murder case. CLH also warned everyone to leave Wu Tit-fa alone, for the King of Thieves was the grantor, and Wu would not leave the camp anyway until the mystery was solved.


Author’s note:

Geez… that was surprising, the business with Pipop Princess pretending to marry Wu. I’m glad Siu Ching isn’t like that! Song Siu-ching, despite being a non-canon character, had an integrity that I admired. Pipop, on the other hand, had no scruples in tricking a man for her own benefit. Which I don’t get anyway. Pipop could just say that she wanted CLH, and Wu would have no say in it. 

I'm also a bit disappointed that Chor tai-gor just accepted Lollypop's offer. What about brotherhood?! Can't he wait until everything is cleared up with Wu?... Apparently he can't...

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