White Horse Neighing in the West Wind Chapter 4

White Horse Neighing in the West Wind Chapter 4

After Li Wenxiu dropped the bowl she was holding, the old man Ji walked up to her. Li Wenxiu rushed into his bosom, crying, “Grandfather, he…. he’s the bad man who was chasing me.” The old man smoothed her hair, and said gently, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. He is not a bad man.” Li Wenxiu replied, “Yes, yes. He and his men chased us, and hit my father and mother.” The old man thought, “White Horse Li San and I are neither kith nor kin. Therefore, even if he has made some enemies, it is best that I do not get mixed up in his affairs.” Ding Tong gave a sidelong glance at the old man, and saw that he had a full head of white hair, and not a strand was black; he was also tall and big, but was hunchbacked, and was obviously aged. So he thought, “This old man must be at least ninety years of age, if not a hundred. If there is no one else in the hut, then I can easily knock him unconscious, and take the girl and the white horse away before new problems start cropping up.” He suddenly cupped his right ear, as if listening intently, and said, “Someone’s here.” Then he strode towards the window.

The old man did not hear anything, but after hearing Ding Tong speak so vividly, he walked to the window. The only thing he saw were the cattle and goats bending their heads and munching on the grass. It was quiet everywhere, and there was no sign of any stranger. He asked, “There’s nobody outside!” Suddenly, Ding Tong gave a hideous laugh and struck out at the old man’s head.

Even though the man was aged, his movements remained agile. When Ding Tong’s palm was inches away from his head, he slid to the side. With a backhand movement, he managed to grasp Ding Tong’s right wrist. Ding Tong’s movements were just as quick. Although he was unable to free his right hand, he used his left hand to grab a dagger hidden in his clothes. There was a flash of white light, and the dagger’s sharp blade penetrated the old man’s left back.

Li Wenxiu yelled, “Oh no!” She had spent two years learning martial arts from her parents. When she saw the old man get stabbed, she leapt forward, and punched the small of Dong Tong’s back with her little fists. At this moment, the old man used this left hand to strike his belly with great force. Ding Tong gave a grunt, and crumpled to the ground. He spat out some blood, then died.

Li Wenxiu said in a trembling voice, “Grandfather, the knife is still in your… your back.” The old man Ji saw tears glistening in her eyes, and thought, “This girl certainly has a kind heart.” Li Wenxiu continued, “Grandfather, your wound… shall I pull the knife out for you?” She stretched her hand out to grasp the hilt. The old man’s face blackened, and said furiously, “Don’t bother about me.” His body swayed, and he held onto the table for support. He tottered towards his room, and shut the door with a slam. After seeing his sudden change in temper, Li Wenxiu became terrified. When she saw Ding Tong lying on the ground in a heap, she was afraid that he would revive and attack her, and wanted to run out of the hut. But she remembered that the old man was seriously injured, and since there was no one to care for him, she could not leave in him in the lurch.

She thought for a while, then went to his door, and knocked softly on it. When she heard no reply, she called, “Grandfather, Grandfather, are you in pain?” The old man replied roughly, “Get lost, get lost! Don’t disturb me!” The tone of his voice was so different from his usual amiable one. Li Wenxiu was too frightened to speak, and sat on the floor, petrified. Cradling her head in her hands, she began to cry. Suddenly, the door swung open. A hand stroked her hair gently, and said, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, Grandfather’s wound is nothing serious.” Li Wenxiu lifted her head, and saw that he was smiling, and was gladdened. Her tears became a smile. The old man laughed and said, “You were crying and now laughing, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” She hid her head in his bosom. She found parental love from this old man.

The old man knitted his brows, and scrutinised Ding Tong’s body, and thought, “There is no enmity between us, why did he try to harm me?” Li Wenxiu said, “Grandfather, how is the wound on your back?” The old man Ji had put on a long robe, and it was impossible to see how his wound was.

When he heard Li Wenxiu mention this incident, his face showed rage, as if his being stabbed had been a great insult. Roughly, he said, “Why are you so longwinded?” The white horse outside the hut gave a long neigh, and then a short moan. The old man took a bucket of yellow dye from the firewood shed. The yellow dye was used by shepherds to mark their animals, so that their animals would not be mixed up with others’. The dye was resistant to the elements and could not be removed easily. Using a brush, he painted the horse’s entire body with the yellow dye. Then he went to the Kazak tents to beg for an old set of clothes belonging to a Kazak boy, and told Li Wenxiu to change into them. Li Wenxiu was intelligent, and said, “Grandfather, you want to prevent the bad men from recognizing me, right?” The old man Ji nodded, and sighed, “Grandfather is old. Ai, I was stabbed by him just now.” This time, he brought up the incident by himself, but Li Wenxiu did not dare to reply.

The old man Ji buried Ding Tong’s body, and slaughtered his horse, destroying all the incriminating evidence. Then he sat at the front door, sharpening a long blade on a whetstone.

His efforts were not in vain. That night, Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai’s men charged into this oasis, pillaging and plundering without restraint. Normally, there were no bandits in this area. Thus, even though the Kazaks were brave, they were caught unprepared. The strong men had all gone to the north to hunt down the wolves which harmed their cattle and goats, leaving only the old, the weak, the women and the children to look after their tents. Seven Kazak men were killed, while five women were kidnapped. The men also barged into the old man’s hut, but they were not suspicious of the old man and the little Kazak boy. Li Wenxiu’s face was smeared with dirt and mud, and she cowered in a corner. Nobody noticed that her eyes shone with hatred. But she saw clearly that her father’s sword was hanging at Huo Yuanlong’s waist, while her mother’s daggers were stuck in Chen Dahai’s waistband.

Her parents always carried these weapons about their persons. She was young, but could guess that her parents had met with a terrible fate.

On the fourth day, the Kazak men returned from the north, carrying with them a pile of dead wolves. They immediately organised themselves into several contingents and went after Huo Yuanlong’s men for revenge. But the Kazaks lost trace of them in the huge desert. They only found the five women who had been kidnapped. They were reduced to five corpses, all stripped bare, and all of them had died miserably. They also found the bodies of White Horse Li San and Shangguan Hong, and brought all the corpses back. Li Wenxiu threw herself onto her parents’ bodies, and sobbed uncontrollably. A Kazak lifted his boot and gave her a hard kick, and scolded roughly, “These Han bandits who have been punished by Allah!” The old man carried Li Wenxiu home, refusing to dispute with the Kazak. In her little heart, Li Wenxiu thought, “Why are there so many bad men around? Why are they all bullying me?”In the middle of the night, Li Wenxiu awoke from her sleep crying. When she opened her eyes, she saw someone sitting at the side of her bed. She cried out in alarm, and sat up. But it was only the old man Ji, gazing at her with eyes filled with affection. He stretched out his hand to stroke her hair, saying, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, it’s only Grandfather.” Li Wenxiu’s tears rolled down her face like a broken thread of pearls. She lay in his arms, and her tears wet his clothes. The old man said, “Little girl, since your parents are dead, you may acknowledge me as your real grandfather, and live with me. Grandfather will take good care of you.” Sobbing, Li Wenxiu nodded. Then she remembered the bad men who had killed her parents, and the ferocious Kazak who had kicked her.