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Li Wenxiu declared, “My father and mother must’ve known your name. I was only eight years old when I came to the Muslim Region, and was ignorant about everything.” Hua Hui’s expression turned cheerful, and said, “That’s for sure. You…” He hadn’t finished his sentence when they heard someone in the cave passageway say, “She must be hiding here! Be careful of her poisoned needles!” Then footsteps rang out. The three bandits walked inwards, halting after taking each step.
Hurriedly, Hua Hui took out a poisoned needle, and stuck its end into the head of his staff. He handed it to her. Pointing to the entrance, he said in a low voice, “When one of them enters, prick his back. You must not be impatient and prick his chest.” Li Wenxiu mused, “This entrance is so narrow. Wouldn’t it be easier to prick his chest while he is entering?” When Hua Hui saw her hesitant expression, he said, “This is a matter of life and death, there cannot be any delay. Do you dare to disobey my instructions?” Although he spoke in a soft voice, his tone was harsh. At that moment, a gleaming blade was extended into the cave via the entrance. It was brandished swiftly, protecting the owner’s face and chest, preventing the enemies from launching a sneak attack. Then a black figure crawled in slowly. It was the bandit surnamed Yun.
Li Wenxiu remembered what Hua Hui had instructed. Hidden in a corner, she did not dare to move one inch. Coldly, Hua Hui said, “Look at what I have in my hand!” Then he swept his arm as a false move. The bandit surnamed Yun darted to one side, his blade protecting the front of his body. He gazed intently at him, to guard against him from hurling projectiles. Hua Hui yelled, “Prick him!” Li Wenxiu lifted her hand up and brought the staff down. Its head made contact with his back, and the poisoned needle entered his skin. The bandit felt a slight pain in his back, as if he had just been stung by a bee. He gave a shout, then died. The bandit surnamed Quan, who was following swiftly behind him, saw that he had been killed by the poisoned needles. He thought that Hua Hui was firing needles, and frightened out of his wits. Without even turning around, he retreated by crawling out on all four limbs.
Hua Hui sighed, “If I hadn’t lost my martial arts skills, these five trifling bandits would be nothing to me!” Li Wenxiu recalled that his nickname was ‘One Finger Shakes Jiangnan’, and his martial arts skills were obviously superior. But why did he seem so helpless when facing five insignificant bandits? She asked, “Uncle Hua, are you unable to use your martial arts skills because of your illness?” Hua Hui replied, “No, no. I… I once vowed that I would not use my martial arts skills easily unless it was a matter of life and death.” Li Wenxiu felt that he spoke insincerely. He just said that he had ‘lost his martial arts skills’, but was now making evasive statements. Since he did not wish to talk about it, she did not pursue the matter.
Hua Hui had also realised that there had been inconsistencies in his speech. Changing the topic, he said, “Do you understand why I asked you to prick his back? When he enters the cave, he would be preoccupied with guarding against enemies in front of him. Since you don’t know any martial arts skills, you will not be able to attack him successfully from the front. I then attract his attention, so he is wary of me. Then you prick his back, and we have a successful attack.” Li Wenxiu nodded and said, “Uncle, your plan is excellent.” Hua Hui had had a rich experience of the pugilistic world, and manipulating such a little crook was as easy as flipping his palm. Hua Hui took out a large piece of dried honey melon and handed it to Li Wenxiu, saying, “Eat some first. Those two crooks won’t dare to enter anymore, but we won’t be able to escape either. Let me think of a plan first, so we can kill two birds with one stone. If we only kill one of them, the surviving one is sure to escape and report to his masters. It would be extremely troublesome to have a whole contingent of men and horses after us.” Li Wenxiu saw that he, with his resourcefulness, was contemplating the situation carefully. She thought that since she would not possibly be able to think of a plan more brilliant than his, she decided not to rack her brain for ideas. Instead, she ate her fill of dried melon, then leant on the stone wall and rested.
Around one hour later, she suddenly sensed an acrid smell, and began to cough. Hua Hui cried, “Oh no! The crooks are trying to smoke us out! Quick, seal the entrance!” Li Wenxiu swiftly gathered up sand and rocks from the ground to seal the entrance. Luckily, the entrance was extremely small. Upon its sealing, the amount of smoke entering the cave was significantly lessened. And since the cave was large, smoke blown into it would diffuse out from the hole in the back.
This stalemate went on for quite a good while. The sunlight shining through the hole in the back became brighter and brighter, as if it was already high noon. Suddenly, Hua Hui gave a loud cry, then crashed to the ground, and his entire body went into spasms. But this time he seemed to be in more pain than previously. He was actually unable to control his limbs which were flailing madly. Li Wenxiu was alarmed, and went over to massage him. The pain he suffered was reduced slightly, and he panted, “Mi… Miss, I’m afraid it isn’t good this time.”
Li Wenxiu comforted him: “Don’t think that way. You’ve met several formidable opponents today, and it was unavoidable that your energy was sapped. You’ll be fine after a short rest.” Hua Hui shook his head, and said, “No, no! Since I am going to die anyway, I’ll tell you the truth. A acupoint of my back was hit… hit by a poisoned needle.” Li Wenxiu said, “Ah, you were hit by a poisoned needle? When were you hit? Today?” Hua Hui answered, “No, I’ve been hit for twelve years!” Li Wenxiu was stunned: “Is it such a formidable poisoned needle?” Hua Hui answered, “It is not much different from the rest. But I slowed down its spread by channeling my energy to resist it. Later I ingested the antidote, and managed to survive for twelve years. But today, I don’t think I can live any longer. Ai, for these twelve years that the needle has been lodged in my body, I have had to suffer two or three bouts of great pain daily. If only I had not ingested the antidote that day. It has not done me any good; I have suffered for these twelve years.” Her heart gave a shudder, for his words evoked her memories. If she had died with her parents ten years ago, perhaps she would have had suffered less misery.
But had she always suffered misery for all these ten years? No, there had been happy times. Although this young girl, aged about seventeen or eighteen, was sad and lonely, she had enjoyed much laughter and sweetness in her current youth.
When she saw Hua Hui gritting his teeth, trying to bear with the pain, she said, “Uncle, try removing the needle, you might fell better then.” Hua Hui retorted, “Rubbish! Isn’t that obvious? I’ve been alone in these desolate hills, who would help me remove the needle? None of those who enter the hills had kind intentions, hmm, hmm…” Li Wenxiu was puzzled, “Why didn’t he go elsewhere to look for someone who could cure him? For what reason did he live in these desolate hills for twelve years?” It was apparent that he still harboured deep suspicions against her. But she observed that he was truly in pain, deserving to be pitied, so she said, “Uncle, let me try. Don’t worry, I won’t try to harm you.”
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