The Outlaws of the Marsh Chapter 9 Chai Jin Keeps Open House for All Bold Men
- Posted on: 2023-11-17
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The Outlaws of the Marsh Chapter
Chai Jin Keeps Open House for All Bold Men
Lin Chong Defeats Instructor Hong in a Bout with Staves
Xue Ba raised his staff with both hands to bring it down on Lin Chong's head. But quicker man words can tell, from behind the pine tree came a thunderous roar as a solid iron rod shot forward, intercepted the staff and sent it flying into the sky. Then out leaped a big fat monk.
"I've been listening quite a while," he yelled. Dressed in a black cassock, he was wearing a knife and carried a Buddhist staff which he brandished at the two guards.
Lin Chong, who had just opened his eyes, recognized Sagacious Lu, and he hastily cried: "Brother! Stay your hand. I have something to say!"
Sagacious lowered his iron staff. The guards gaped at him, too frightened to move.
"It's not their doing," said Lin Chong. "Marshal Gao, through Captain Lu Qian, gave them orders to destroy me. How could they refuse? It would be wrong to kill them!"
Unsheathing his knife, Sagacious cut the arms instructor's bonds and helped him to his feet.
"Brother," he said, "I've been worried about you ever since that day we parted, when you bought the sword. After you were convicted, I had no way to rescue you. I heard that you were being exiled to Cangzhou, and I sought you outside Kaifeng Prefecture, but in vain. Someone said that you had been locked in a guard house. Then I learned that a waiter had gone to the two guards, saying: 'A gentleman wishes to speak to you in the tavern;' and I became suspicious. I was afraid these oafs would try to harm you along the road, so I followed.
"When these knaves brought you to the inn, I put up there too. I heard them plotting in whispers. When they tricked you and scalded your feet in the boiling water, I wanted to kill them on the spot. But there were too many guests at the inn and I was afraid I couldn't carry it off. I knew the rogues were up to something dirty. I was very worried."
"You set out before dawn at the fifth watch. I hurried ahead to the forest and waited to kill the two wretches here. They intended to harm you, so I ought to destroy them."
"Since you've saved me, brother, there's no need to kill them," urged Lin Chong.
"Scurvy knaves," bellowed Sagacious. "If it weren't for my brother here, I'd pound you both into mincemeat! Only because he asks it, I'll spare your lives." He put his knife away and shouted: "Support my brother, and be quick about it! Come with me!" Taking his staff he set off.
How dared they refuse? "Save us, Instructor Lin," the guards pleaded. They again shouldered their packs and took up their staves. Supporting Lin Chong and carrying his bundle, they followed the monk out of the forest.
After walking three or four li, they saw a little tavern at the entrance to a village. All four went in and sat down. They ordered five or six catties of meat, two jugs of wine and some griddle cakes. The waiter laid the table and served the wine.
"My we presume to inquire," the guards said to Sagacious, "in what monastery you reside, Reverend?"
Sagacious chuckled. "Why do you ask, scoundrels? So that you can tell Marshal Gao how to harm me? Others may fear him, I don't! If I meet that wretch I'll give him three hundred licks of my iron staff!"
The guards dared say no more.
The four finished the meat and wine, got their luggage in order, paid the bill and left the village.
"Where are you planning to go, brother?" asked Lin Chong.
"'To kill a man you must draw blood, to rescue a man you must see him to safety.' I still don't feel at ease about you, brother. I'm going to escort you all me way to Cangzhou."
The two guards secretly groaned: "Woe! That ruins our scheme! What will we say when we get back?" But they could only continue the journey, docilely obeying the monk's orders.
From then on, they marched when Sagacious wanted to march, and rested when he wanted to rest. How dared they oppose him? In a good mood, he merely cursed them, in a bad, he beat them. Neither of the guards dared say a word for fear of arousing the monk's ire.
After marching two more stages, they hired a cart. Lin Chong rested on it, while the other three walked behind. The guards had guilty consciences and were anxious to preserve their lives, so they tagged along cautiously.
On the road, Sagacious frequently bought wine and meat for Lin Chong, and the guards were permitted to join him. When the party came to an inn, they would retire early and rise late. Of course, the guards lit the fires and did the cooking. Who dared to disobey the monk?
They conferred worriedly in private. "We've become the prisoners and the monk the escort. When we get back, Marshal Gao will surely punish us."
"I've heard that a newly arrived monk has been put in charge of the Great Xiangguo Monastery's vegetable fields," said Xue Ba. "He's called Sagacious Lu. This must be the man. Let's tell the truth when we get back. We'll say that we wanted to finish Lin Chong off in Wild Boar Forest, but that the monk rescued him and went with us all the way to Cangzhou. That was why we couldn't do the job. We'll return the ten ounces of gold to Captain Lu Qian. Let him settle accounts with the monk himself! All you and I want is to be clear of the whole thing."
"My feelings exactly," said Dong Chao.
Of their discussion we shall say no more.
To make a long story short, they marched for seventeen or eighteen days, with the monk never relaxing his watch over the two guards. Soon they were only about seventy li from Cangzhou. It was a well-travelled road the rest of the way, with no desolate stretches. After inquiring to make sure of this, Sagacious led the party into a pine grove to rest.
"Brother," he said to Lin Chong, "From here to Cangzhou is not far. There are plenty of people on the road and no deserted places. I've already checked on it. I'll part with you here. Some day we'll meet again."
"Go back, brother. Let my father-in-law know I'm all right," said Lin Chong. "If I live, I'll repay you for your gracious protection in full."
Sagacious took out a score or more ounces of silver and gave them to Lin Chong, then handed two or three ounces to the guards.
"Scurvy knaves! Originally I was going to cut your heads off along the road. Out of courtesy to my brother I've spared your paltry lives. The journey is nearly over. Don't get any evil ideas!"
"Would we dare? It was all Marshal Gao's doing," they replied, and accepted the silver.
As they turned to leave, Sagacious glared and shouted: "Wretches! Are your heads harder than this pine tree?"
"We humble servants have heads only of the flesh and skin our parents gave us, wrapped around a few bones."
Sagacious raised his iron staff and struck the tree a mighty blow, cutting a gash two inches deep. The pine folded over neatly and fell.
"Scurvy knaves," roared the monk. "If you get any wrong ideas, I'll clout your heads like I did this pine!"
Dragging his iron staff and swinging his other arm, Sagacious walked off, calling: "Take care of yourself, brother."
The two guards stuck out their tongues in astonishment. It was some time before they remembered to retract them.
"Let's go, good officers," said Lin Chong.
"Terrific," exclaimed the guards. "With one blow he snaps a tree in half!"
"That's nothing," said Lin Chong. "Back in the monastery, he pulled a willow tree up by the roots!"
The two guards wagged their heads. This confirmed their guess about the monk's identity.
Leaving the grove, the three continued walking until noon. Down the highway they observed a tavern. They entered, and Lin Chong invited the guards to sit at the head of the table. Dong and Xue relaxed for the first time that day.
The tavern contained several tables, and the four or five waiters were busy rushing from one to another serving food and drink. Lin Chong and the guards sat for nearly an hour, but no one came to take their order.
Finally, Lin Chong pounded on the table and shouted impatiently: "Ho, tavern keeper, how dare you abuse a customer? You see that I'm a prisoner, so you ignore me! I can pay for what we eat. What's the meaning of this?"
"You don't understand," said the tavern keeper. "My intentions were good."
"You don't sell me wine or meat. What's good-intentioned about that?"
"You don't understand. In our village there's a wealthy man called Chai Jin, known in these parts as Lord Chai. In the fraternity of bold men, all address him as Small Whirlwind. He's descendant of the Later Zhou Dynasty royal family. When the last Later Zhou emperor surrendered his throne, the first Song emperor bestowed on Chai's ancestors a 'Wrought Iron Pledge'. Since then, no one has dared to molest his family.
"Chai Jin makes a practice of welcoming all bold men. He's always supporting forty or fifty of them in his home. He's left instructions with us at the tavern: 'Tell any prisoner on route to exile to come to my manor. I will help him with money.' If I sold you meat and drink today and you ate until you were red in the face, he would say that you have money and don't need his help. My intentions were good."
Lin Chong turned to the guards. "When I was giving arms instruction to the soldiers in the Eastern Capital, I often heard military men speak of Lord Chai. So this is where he comes from! Why don't we pay him a call?"
Xue Ba and Dong Chao thought it over, then said: "Since we're already here, what have we got to lose?"
They collected their luggage and asked the tavern keeper: "Where is Lord Chai's manor? We want to visit him."
"Go straight ahead for about three li until you cross a big stone bridge. One or two turns, and you'll see a large estate. That's it."
Lin Chong and the guards thanked the tavern keeper and set out. After marching about three li, sure enough, they came to a big stone bridge. They crossed to the other side where they found a smooth broad road. In the distance, amid many green willows, they could see the outlines of a manor. A wide moat, flowing around the four sides, was fringed on both banks by large weeping willows. Through the trees, the white outer wall of the manor was faintly visible.
After a few more turns down the road, they neared the entrance. Four or five vassals were sitting on a plank bridge, enjoying the cool breeze. Lin Chong and the guards approached and bowed to the vassals. The arms instructor asked: "Could I trouble you to report to Lord Chai that a prisoner named Lin, on his way to exile from the capital, requests to see him?"
"You're out of luck," said the vassals. "If His Lordship were at home, you'd receive wine and food and money.
But he left this morning to go hunting."
"When will he return?"
"Hard to say. Probably he's resting at the eastern manor, but maybe not. We can't tell you for sure."
"That's my misfortune. I won't be able to meet him. Let's go back," said Lin Chong to the guards.
The three men took leave of the vassals and returned along the same road on which they had come. Lin Chong felt very depressed.
They walked more than half a li. Far off they saw a column of horsemen dash out of a grove and come galloping in the direction of the estate. On a snow-white steed with a curly mane rode a noble-looking gentleman. He had the brows of a dragon and the eyes of a phoenix, gleaming white teeth and ruble red lips. Drooping mustaches framed his mouth, below which was a slim goatee. About thirty-five years of age, he wore a black flowered silk hat with curled-up corners, and was dressed in a figured purple gown with designs embroidered on the chest. Around his waist was a handsome girdle inlaid with precious jade. On his feet were black boots with green stripes and filigreed gold thread. He carried a bow and a quiver of arrows.
The long line of riders raced towards the manor.
"Can that be Lord Chai?" Lin Chong wondered. But he didn't dare to ask.
The young nobleman turned his white horse out of the column and trotted up to Lin Chong.
"Who is this gentleman wearing the rack?" the nobleman asked.
Lin quickly bowed and replied: "Your humble servant is called Lin Chong, formerly an arms instructor in the Eastern Capital's Imperial Guards. Because I offended Marshal Gao, he invented an excuse to send me to Kaifeng Prefecture and have me sentenced to exile in Cangzhou. We were told at the village tavern that the gallant hero who lives here, Lord Chai, keeps open house for men of talent. But my luck was poor and I was unable to find him."
Leaping from his saddle, the gentleman rushed forward, crying: "I am Chai Jin. A thousand apologies for not being at home to welcome you!" He fell to his knees on the grass and clasped his hands in salute.
Lin Chong hastily returned the courtesy. The gentleman took him by the hand and led him towards the manor. The vassals saw them coming and pushed wide the gates. Chai Jin led Lin Chong directly to the ceremonial hall, where the two men again exchanged obeisances.
"I have long known of your fame," said Chai Jin, "Who would have thought that today you would come to our humble place! To be able to gaze on your respected countenance is one of the happiest events of my life!"
"Your Lordship's name is honored everywhere. It is revered by all. I never thought that because I was convicted and was passing here on my way to exile I would have the joy of meeting you!"
At Chai Jin's insistence, Lin Chong took the chair of honor at the table. Xue Ba and Dong Chao also were seated. The men who had accompanied Chai Jin on the hunt led their horses into the rear compound and retired. Of them we shall say no more.
Chai Jin ordered his vassals to bring wine. Before long they served a platter of meat and one of griddle cakes and a pot of warmed wine. Then came another platter heaped with rice. On top of the rice were ten strings of cash.
"These rustics don't recognize a man of quality," said Chai Jin. "How can they value the arms instructor so lightly? Ho! Take these things back. Bring fine fruit and wine. Slaughter a sheep. Be quick."
"Please, no more, Your Lordship," protested Lin Chong, rising politely. "This is quite enough."
"You mustn't say that. It's a rare privilege to have you here. We can't be remiss in courtesy."
The vassals soon came rushing in with fruit and wine. Chai Jin stood up and handed out three full goblets. Lin Chong thanked him and drained his cup. The two guards also drank.
"Excuse me a moment, Arms Instructor," said Chai Jin.
He took off his bow bag and quiver of arrows, went over to the guards and asked them to down a drink with him. Then he seated himself in the host's chair. Lin Chong occupied the chair of the guest of honor. The two guards sat beside him. All chatted idly for a time of bold adventures and feats of arms.
Before they knew it, the sun had sunk in the west. Wine, food, fruit and delicacies from the sea were set upon the table. Toasting each guest personally, Chai Jin drank three rounds. Then he resumed his seat and called: "Bring the soup."
After the soup was consumed, and six or seven more goblets of wine, a vassal entered and announced: "The teacher has come."
"Good. Invite him to sit with us and meet our guests," said Chai Jin. "Bring another setting."
The new arrival entered and Lin Chong rose to greet him. Cap tilted to one side, chest protruding, the man swaggered into the hall. "That vassal referred to him as teacher," thought Lin Chong. "He must be His Lordship's arms teacher." Hastily bowing, the arms instructor intoned: "Lin Chong tenders his respects."
Completely ignoring him, the man did not return his salutation. Lin Chong dared not raise his head.
Chai Jin said to the man, whom he called Arms instructor Hong: "This is Arms Instructor Lin who teaches the art of spears and staves in the Eastern Capital's Imperial Guards. You two should know each other."
Lin Chong immediately dropped to his knees and kowtowed.
Arms Instructor Hong said brusquely: "Don't kowtow. Get up." He himself didn't even bow.
Chai Jin was annoyed. Lin Chong kowtowed twice, then rose and begged Hong to be seated. Without even a pretence of courtesy, the fellow promptly took the guest of honor's chair. Chai Jin was quite displeased. Lin Chong slipped into the next seat. The two guards sat down beside him.
"Why is Your Lordship so courteous to an exiled man?" Arms Instructor Hong asked.
"This gentleman is not an ordinary person. He's an arms instructor in the Mighty Imperial Guards. How can you regard him lightly, Teacher?"
"Because Your Lordship is fond of feats of arms, these exiled men are always coming to enjoy your bounty. Anyone who says: 'I'm an arms instructor in spears and staves,' can call at the manor and get food and drink and money and rice! Your Lordship is too gullible."
Lin Chong said nothing, but Chai Jin retorted: "It's difficult to tell from appearances. You shouldn't underestimate him."
Stung by this last remark, Hong leaped to his feet. "I don't believe him. If he dares to take me on in a bout with staves, then I'll admit he's genuine arms instructor!"
Chai Jin laughed. "Not a bad idea. Arms Instructor Lin, what do you say?"
"Your humble servant couldn't presume to such a thing," said Lin Chong.
Hong thought to himself: "He doesn't know how to fight, that's sure. He's afraid." And so he insisted that Lin Chong accept his challenge.
Chai Jin not only wanted to see an exhibition of Lin's skill, he wanted him to beat Hong and shut the oaf's mouth. "Bring wine," he called. "We'll drink first. The match can wait till the moon is high."
By the time they had consumed another six or seven rounds, the moon had risen and was shining in with such brilliance that the hall was as bright as day. Chai Jin stood up and said: "Arms Instructors, please give us a bout."
Lin Chong thought to himself: "This Instructor Hong must be Chai Jin's arms teacher. If I beat him, His Lordship will lost face."
Observing Lin Chong's hesitation, Chai Jin said: "Instructor Hong has not been here long either. No one has taken him on. Please don't refuse, Master Lin. I am most eager to see the skill of you two instructors." Chai Jin said this to indicate that Lin need have no fears of offending him, and that he should not hold back.
Lin Chong at last felt reassured.
"Come on, come on," cried Hong, rising. "I'll give you a bout with staves!"
Everyone surged out of the hall into the courtyard. Vassals brought a bundle of wooden staves and laid them on the ground. Hong removed his outer robe and tied up his skirts. Selecting a staff, he struck a fighting pose.
"Come on, come on," he urged.
"Instructor Lin," said Chai Jin, "please start the bout."
"Don't laugh at my clumsiness, Your Lordship," Lin Chong begged. He chose a staff and said to Hong: "Master, please teach me."
Hong glared as if wanting to swallow him down in one gulp. Lin Chong advanced holding the staff extended in both hands. Hong rapped his staff sharply on the ground and rushed at Lin.
After the two arms instructors had fought four or five rounds in the bright moonlight, Lin Chong leaped out of the combat circle. "Halt the bout," he cried.
"Why won't you show us your skill, Instructor?" queried Chai Jin.
"I've lost," said Lin.
"But you haven't fought to a conclusion. How can you say you've lost?"
"If I have to fight with this rack around my neck, I may just as well consider myself defeated."
"How thoughtless of me," Chai Jin laughed. "That can be remedied easily enough."
He directed his vassals to fetch ten ounces of silver. When the money was brought he said to the two guards: "May I trouble you to take Lin Chong's rack off temporarily? If there's any question raised about this when you arrive at the Cangzhou Prison, I will bear all responsibility. Divide these ten ounces between you."
Chai Jin looked so lofty and dignified that the guards didn't dare refuse. They wanted to stay in Chai's good graces and wanted the silver as well. Since there was no danger of Lin Chong running away, Xue Ba removed the wooden collar from his neck.
"Now the two masters can continue their match," said Chai Jin joyfully.
Because Lin's tactics had been cautious, Hong regarded him with scorn. Raising his staff, he prepared to resume combat.
"Just a moment," Chai Jin exclaimed. He ordered his vassals to bring an ingot of silver weighing twenty-five ounces. In no time at all, the ingot was produced.
"A match between you two instructors is no ordinary contest," said Chai Jin. "Whoever wins gets this silver as a prize." He was hoping in this way to encourage Lin Chong to display his skill. Deliberately, he tossed the ingot on the ground.
Hong was very annoyed that Lin Chong had come, and he coveted the big piece of silver. What's more, he was worried that a defeat would lower his prestige. Vigorously, he struck a fighting pose, then executed an opening flourish called "lifting the torch to sear the heavens."
"His Lordship wants me to defeat him," thought Lin Chong. First holding his staff level, he performed a move called "separating the grass to find the snake."
"Come on, come on," yelled Hong.
He swung his staff downwards. Lin dodged back. Hong pressed forward another pace. Raising his staff, he again chopped down. Lin Chong saw that he was off balance and brought his staff sweeping upwards from the ground. Hong had no time to recover. He tried to twist out of the way, but Lin's staff cracked him hard on the shin bones. Hong dropped his staff and fell heavily.
Delighted, Chai Jin called for wine and presented Lin Chong with a congratulatory goblet. The watchers all laughed. Hong struggled but was unable to rise to his feet. Grinning vassals helped him up. Hong, shamefaced, limped away and left the manor.
Chai took Lin Chong by the hand and led him into the rear hall and feasted him with wine. He directed vassals to present Lin with the prize. Lin tried to refuse, but his host insisted, and finally he was compelled to accept.
Chai Jin kept Lin Chong at the manor for several days, entertaining him daily with excellent wines and delicious food. After another six or seven days, since the guards were pressing Lin to leave, Chai gave him a farewell banquet. He also wrote two letters which he handed to the arms instructor.
"The prefect of Cangzhou is a good friend of mine," he said, "I'm also on intimate terms with both the warden and head keeper of the garrison prison. Give these letters to them and they'll be sure to treat you well."
He presented Lin Chong with another ingot of twenty-five ounces of silver, and bestowed five ounces on the two guards. They feasted all night.
Early the next morning, after breakfast, Chai Jin directed a few vassals to go with them and carry their luggage. The rack was again fastened around Lin Chong's neck. Chai Jin accompanied the party to the manor gate.
"I will send someone with winter clothing for you in a few days," he said to Lin Chong in parting.
"I don't know how to express my gratitude to Your Lordship,"' said Lin Chong. The guards also thanked Chai Jin, then the three departed for Cangzhou. They arrived about noon and sent the luggage bearers back. The guards went directly to the prefecture and presented their order of exile to an official, who immediately brought Lin Chong before the prefect. Accepting custody of the arms instructor, the prefect issued a receipt and wrote out an order committing Lin Chong to prison. The guards bade Lin farewell and departed for the Eastern Capital. Of them we shall say no more.
We'll tell of Lin Chong after he was escorted to the prison. He was placed in a room by himself and directed to await registration. The other prisoners came to see him.
"The warden and the head keeper here are very bad," they said. "They only want to extort money. If you can bribe them, they treat you well. If you have no money, they throw you in the dungeon where you pray for life and long for death, both in vain! If their palms are greased, you can avoid the hundred blows they give all new prisoners to beat discipline into them. You need only say you're ill and the matter will be postponed indefinitely. Otherwise, it's a hundred strokes that will leave you more dead than alive."
"It's good of you brothers to advise me. If I were to give money, how much would be enough?"
"To do it properly, five ounces of silver for the warden and five for the head keeper would be just about right."
As they were talking, the head keeper came over and asked: "Which one of you is the new arrival?"
Lin Chong stepped forward. "I am that humble person." When the head keeper saw that the arms instructor failed to produce any money, his face darkened.
Shaking his finger at Lin, he shouted: "You wretched exile! How dare you not bow and hail me respectfully when I enter? I've heard all about your carryings-on in Kaifeng! Where do you get the gall to behave so insolently in my presence? I can read from the lines on your face that you're destined for nothing but hunger! You'll never rise in the world! What you need is plenty of beatings, you stubborn jail-bird! For better or worse, you're in my hands now, you felonious wretch! I'll pulverize your bones and pound your flesh to jelly soon enough!"
The keeper cursed vigorously while Lin Chong stood with bowed head. At this storm of invective, the other prisoners fled.
Lin Chong waited until the head keeper had blown off most of his steam, then took out five ounces of silver and handed them to him with a smile. "A trifling gift, brother. Please don't despise it."
"Is this for me and the warden both?"
"Just for you, brother. In addition, here's another ten ounces for the warden. I must trouble you to deliver them to him."
The head keeper grinned broadly. "Arms Instructor Lin, I've heard of your good name before. You're truly a splendid fellow. Marshal Gao has framed you, no doubt about it. Although, for the time being, you have to suffer this inconvenience, I'm sure you'll eventually make your mark. A man with your reputation and talents never waits around idly for long! One of these days you'll be a big official."
Lin Chong laughed. "I'm entirely dependent on your kindness."
"You can rest assured," said the head keeper.
Giving him Chai Jin's letters, Lin Chong said: "May I trouble you to deliver these?"
"Letters from Lord Chai? Then you've nothing to worry about. They're worth an ingot of gold each! I'll deliver them now. In a little while, the warden will send for you to be registered. When he orders the hundred blows, say that you were ill during your journey and that you still haven't recovered. I'll speak up for you. We must make it look genuine."
The head keeper took the silver and the letters and departed, leaving Lin Chong alone in the room. The arms instructor sighed. "'With money you can reach even the gods.' A bitter truth indeed."
To the warden, the head keeper gave only the five ounces which Lin Chong had originally presented to him. "Lin Chong is an excellent man," he confided. "Here is a letter of introduction from Lord Chai. It seems that Marshal Gao had him exiled on a trumped-up charge. There's nothing much to the whole thing "
"Since Lord Chai has sent us this letter," said the warden, "we must look after him." He directed that Lin Chong be summoned.
To get back to Lin Chong. He was brooding alone in his room when a turnkey shouted: "The warden orders that new prisoner Lin Chong report to the warden's hall to be registered."
Lin Chong went directly to the hall.
"You are a new prisoner," said the warden. "The first emperor of Song has bequeathed to us the ancient regulation: 'One hundred blows must be administered to every prisoner newly sent into exile.' Guards! Get him ready!"
"Your humble servant caught a bad cold during his journey here, and still hasn't recovered," said Lin Chong. "I request that the beating be postponed."
"He's not at all well," said the head keeper. "Please have pity on him."
"Since the symptoms of his illness are still evident, perhaps we can put this off for the time being," said the warden. "We can beat him when he regains his health."
"Today, the time is up of that prisoner who has been taking care of the garrison prison temple. Why not let Lin Chong replace him," suggested the head keeper.
The warden promptly wrote out an order and the head keeper accompanied Lin Chong back to his room, where he collected his belongings, then led him to the temple.
"I'm being very considerate to you, Arms Instructor Lin, getting you this job," said the head keeper. "It's the easiest work in the garrison prison. All you have to do is burn incense and sweep the floor once in the morning and once again in the evening. You'll soon see that we don't let up on other prisoners from morning till night. As for those without money, we throw them into the dungeon where they pray for life and long for death, both in vain."
"Thanks for your protection," said Lin Chong. He gave the head keeper another few ounces of silver. "There's one more matter I must trouble you about, brother. Could you have this rack taken from my neck?"
"Just leave it to me," said the head keeper as he tucked the money away. He hurried to the warden and relayed the plea. The rack was removed.
From then on, Lin Chong slept and ate in the temple. Every day, he did nothing except burn incense and sweep the floor. Before he knew it, forty or fifty days had gone by. The warden and the head keeper, having been bribed, were always very cordial. He was left free to come and go as he pleased, with no restrictions. Lord Chai sent a man with winter clothing and other gifts. All the prisoners became recipients of Lin Chong's charity.
To make a long story short, one day around noon as winter was drawing near, Lin Chong was strolling outside the garrison gates.
Suddenly, he heard someone behind him call: "Arms Instructor Lin, what are you doing here?"
Lin Chong turned around and looked.
And as a result of seeing the man who hailed him: Fire and flames nearly put an end to his life. In the wind and snow he narrowly escaped suffering mortal wounds.
Who was the man whom Lin Chong saw? Read our next chapter if you would know.
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