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Kung Fu by Giddens Ko


Kung Fu by Giddens Ko, the story of a Taiwanese middle school student who is obsessed with wuxia novels and ends up learning martial arts from a mysterious old man.

Giddens Ko is a popular Taiwanese author and director. The Chinese pseudonym under which he writes literally means “nine knives.” To date he has written about 60 books. His directorial debut “You Are the Apple of My Eye” was based on his own novel of the same name.

Kung Fu

Part 1

I squatted next to the old man, blocking the vision of my surrounding classmates. From within my bag I pulled out a few hundred-yuan bills and stuffed them into his hand. “Sir,” I said softly, “I’m not looking down on you. I just want to help you buy a few meals. But please don’t bother me any more, okay? I’m a 20th century middle-school student, and in this age, students have to study their books, not go into the mountains to practice martial arts. I’m really sorry.”



That year, I was 13 years old, an inauspicious age.

That year, Chang Yu-sheng was still alive, Dave Wong was popular, and Fang Jiwei was still the Sweetheart of the Military.

Their songs filled my room every day.

That year, I met him.

That year, kung fu.

Old man (1)

I was a really dull person, at least in the eyes of my friends. There was nothing special about me. I was just a regular first-year middle-school student who conformed to the norms of society.

The first year of middle school didn’t have a lot of homework pressure, and nothing ever happened to get anxious about. Because of the limitations of the time period and my own reclusive personality, I had nothing to do with the outrageous things that some other kids enjoyed, like doing drugs, going on joyrides or getting in knife fight contests.

It’s not that I tried to be dull on purpose, it’s just that different types of personalities gravitate toward different methods of diversion. As for me, the entertainment bore that I was, I spent most of my leisure time at the book store reading.

It’s not that I read the books at the store because I lacked money to buy them. In fact, my family owned a textile manufacturing company, which was a very profitable industry in the 80’s. But I never had any desire to go back to my lackluster house.

When my dad’s disreputable comrades turned our living room into a tavern, carousing and being loud, I would duck my head down and dash past them, then head to the book store to read novels.

I would usually stay for about two hours each time.

My taste in novels was quite predictable. If it wasn’t Jin Yong it was Gu Long. I found the wuxia worlds they created with their pens to be incredibly fascinating. It was a simple world where you could wield a sword and kill scoundrels mercilessly. Much more interesting than my house.

I still remember the evening I was standing like usual next to one of the tall bookshelves, perusing Jin Yong’s The Deer and the Cauldron. It was the part where Wei Xiaobao signs the Treaty of Nerchinsk with the idiot Russians, running circles around the three parties involved: the Qing, the Russians, and the Heaven and Earth Society.

After finishing The Deer and the Cauldron I would have completed all of Jin Yong’s works for the first time.

“Why don’t you read this book?” said a hoarse voice.

I lifted my head and saw an old man standing next to me, looking at me, a book in his hand.

It was Jin Yong’s The Smiling Proud Wanderer, which I had finished a long time ago.

“Thanks, I’ve read that one already,” I said with a smile, then returned to the world of the book in my hand.

But after a while, I noticed the old man’s silhouette, still there next to me. I grew a bit numb as I felt him staring at me.

“What about this book? It’s great!” It was the old man’s voice yet again.

I had no choice but to look up and glance at the book in his hand. Yep, it was Jin Yong’s Ode to Gallantry.

“I’ve read that one, too. Thank you,” I said courteously. An ordinary person like me will always use the appropriate amount of courtesy.

And courteous old me took a moment to appraise the old man’s appearance.

I couldn’t quite tell his age, because I’ve never been very good at doing that. But he was definitely old. He wore a dilapidated green Tang suit, and the wrinkles on his face that might have indicated his age were covered by filth and secretions. But his decrepitude was apparent from the acrid stench that drifted off of him.

I was a bit suspicious. Had the old man been sent here by the shopkeeper, a hint to not poke around the store all day reading? As soon as I thought of this, I felt a little bit bad.

I started to waver back and forth about whether or not to leave, but I also worried … what if the old man really was just sincerely recommending books to me? If I just walked off, wouldn’t it be a bit embarrassing?

I’d always been kind and timid, and would never do anything to embarrass anyone. Everyone said I was afraid of getting into trouble. Some people said I was easy to bully, and even more people said I was too nitpicky. So I gripped the book and starting trying to decide when to leave. Should I leave? What would be the least embarrassing way to leave? For the moment, I was undecided.

“What about this one? It’s brilliant!” The old man flashed another wuxia book in front of me. I looked at it sheepishly. It was Gu Long’s Meteor, Butterfly, Sword. Frankly, I’d found it a bit boring.

“I’ve read that one too, I’m really sorry.” I looked at the man, feeling a little sorry.

Maybe I should pretend that I hadn’t read it, go along with his suggestion and glance through it.

But the old man didn’t seem to want to give up. In fact, his expression looked somewhat approving.

“You’re so young, yet you’ve read so much! Excellent, excellent. What about this one?” From the bookshelf, he pulled out a dust-covered copy of a book from the series Legend of the Swordsman from Mount Zu, then waited expectantly for my response.

Ah! Well, this series I had not read. Because Legend of the Swordsman from Mount Zu was way too long! It was so long, I had no idea how many books were in it. Seventy? Eighty? Haizhu Louzhu’s maudlin and verbose writing style was just too much for me.

“Oh, I haven’t read that series. When I’ve finished with The Deer and the Cauldron,” I said sincerely, “I’ll definitely read it.”

Unexpectedly, the old man’s eyes filled with a strange light. He suddenly raised his voice and laughed, “Excellent, excellent! The little kid knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff, to discern the good from the bad. This Legend of the Dog Crap from Zu Mountain is a bunch of nonsense! Sword Saints and Blood Demons? Essence of the Mountain and Lake Monsters? Read it and you’ll lose a chunk of your soul. It’s not even worth glancing at.” And then, he gripped the copy of Legend of the Swordsman from Mount Zu in his hands and ripped it in half. He threw his hands into the air, and the ripped pages fluttered about the bookstore like paper butterflies.

I will never forget how shocked felt.

It was the first time in my life I had encountered an actual lunatic, and that type of memory is difficult to wipe out.

But at least I could be certain that the old man was not the shopkeeper’s assistant, because I could see the flabbergasted shopkeeper himself hurrying over, wielding a broom.

“Out, out! Otherwise pay me for the book!” he ordered, suppressing his fury and speaking in a low voice. A few curious customers had gathered round.

The shopkeeper was a reasonable man. He could see in a single glance that the old man would not be able to pay for it. It would be too much of a pity to report him to the police, considering he seemed to be a little crazy.

The old man bowed deeply, and in a very regretful tone said, “Excuse me for my lack of manners. I got too excited and ripped your book into pieces. I don’t have much money on me now, but if possible, I would like to return tomorrow to pay it. I promise to provide both compensation and appreciation.”

The old man spoke with the accent of some other province, perhaps that of Shandong or Shaanxi or Shanxi. I couldn’t really tell.

“Just get out, don’t interfere with my business! Out, out!” The shopkeeper’s face had sunk.

The old man scratched his head guiltily, then squatted and began to collect the scattered book pages. Naturally, I squatted too and started to help him.

“There’s no need, there’s no need!” said the shopkeeper impatiently, urging the malodorous old man to leave. “The best way to help me is to just get out of here!”


Old man (2)

The old man stood up remorsefully, gave a deep bow and left the bookstore. I remained behind, ears burning, still collecting the ripped up paper.

The boss swept the remaining paper into a wicker dustpan, after which I stood there angrily reading for a few minutes. Then I bought a highlighter and escaped, my face filled with embarrassment.

Actually, from nose to tail, I remained blame-free for the whole situation. I didn’t do anything at all. But I was the kind of person who hated awkwardness, and for something so embarrassing to occur made me want to die.

As I walked home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the strange incident.

Actually, the old man was exceedingly polite, just a bit strange. It didn’t seem like he had any ill intentions.

But to recommend novels to me so enthusiastically, it seemed really weird.


It was like a random question mark or exclamation point in life, not even enough to make a complete sentence.

I was walking through an alley about 300 meters from home. The defective streetlights flickered, causing my shadow to flash back and forth between dark and light. However, I had long since grown accustomed to walking through this alley at night, and had never believed in ghosts or monsters.

And then, my heart suddenly started beating faster. I couldn’t control it.

A constrictive feeling roiled in the pit of my stomach, as if my whole body was being squeezed by the palm of a giant.

I forced myself to take a few deep breaths, and walked forward even faster. Inexplicably I, who usually hated going home, suddenly rushed back as quickly as possible.

This really was a strange alley.

There was something inexplicably queasy about it.

Everything had started.

The whole way home, I felt encompassed by a strange pressure, as if someone was watching me. It vanished the moment I walked through the front gate. I let out a sigh. I felt like I had just surfaced from deep in the ocean and could finally breathe. It was as if I had only imagined that feeling of moments ago.

“I’m back.” I lowered my head and tossed off my shoes. I wanted nothing more than to dash from the front porch into my bedroom.

But I knew it wouldn’t happen, not any more than a soldier sloshing up onto the beaches of Normandy could avoid bullets. It was a simple truth.

“Yuan Zai! Come and drink some tea! It’s top quality stuff from the mainland!” The roaring voice belonged to a fat, bald loser.

He always claimed to bring top quality products from the mainland, and talked everything up as if it were the rarest treasure in the world. But I knew that he was conning my father. He looked like a treacherous court official, and yet I was forced to call him Uncle Wang.

My dad’s loser drinking buddies shouted greetings, calling me over to the sofa to check out the rare, ancient teapot they were using and try some of the gourmet tea cakes. And then they proceeded to passionately instruct me how to distinguish the difference between good products and poor products. I think it would be better if they could teach my dad how to pick friends.

Amidst all the raucousness, my heart felt like a lump of excrement, but my face was filled with an expression that said, “Thank you for educating me so well, dear uncles!” It’s not that I wanted to be a two-faced wolf like them, but rather, a problem with my personality. I never wanted to make anyone uncomfortable, that’s all.

I stayed in the smoke-filled living room for an hour and half, before finally extricating myself and returning to my room. I felt like I hadn’t seen it in ages. I was really tired.

A few days ago, dad had mentioned that in a few months he would go to the mainland to open a factory, because the textiles industry in Taiwan was a quickly becoming a “Twilight Industry,” as he called it, with no real future. I really wished he would get to the mainland as soon as possible. As far as starting some factories and making some money, I didn’t really care. I just didn’t want him and his deadbeat friends messing up my life.

I took a shower and read a bit, then went to sleep. Same as usual.

The past few days, as I lay going to sleep, I kept thinking that maybe I should take some after-school cram courses. Not because of pressure regarding schoolwork, but because if I did that, it would give me a good excuse to come home late.

Ah forget it, I grumbled.

I’d keep going to the book store to read novels. At worst, I could read the monolithic Legend of the Swordsman from Mount Zu, and that would leave me with a true sense of accomplishment.

At that time, I assumed 1986 would pass by in a completely meaningless fashion. I wouldn’t leave anything behind, and wouldn’t take anything with me. It would be a completely blank piece of paper.


Just before I actually fell asleep, I suddenly thought of something very strange.

I crawled out of bed and grabbed a novel, about one-hundred pages long. I tried as hard as I could to rip it down the middle.

Just as I’d predicted, it was pretty much impossible.

If you tried really hard to rip it down the spine, to tear it into a front half and a back half, well maybe that was possible.

But to grab both ends and tear it into a cloud of paper, well that was simply impossible. Even if it was only a hundred pages like this book, it just was not as simple as it sounded.

I tugged back and forth until my wrists began to ache, but nothing happened to the little hundred-page book.

That old man at the bookstore had incredible wrist strength! With a laugh, he’d casually torn to pieces a novel of nearly three hundred pages. He was old but frighteningly powerful.

“Freak,” I grumbled to myself, and then finally went to sleep.

When it comes to unbelievable things, it’s best just to sigh and move on. It’s stupid to spend time trying to get to the bottom of them.

The characteristic of curiosity barely existed in me at all.

The next day I rode my bicycle to school, the same as usual. But the usual part only lasted until I pushed my bike out the door.

That day, it felt like the pedals of the bike had been weighted down with bricks. Every pedal stroke took effort, and after riding for only five minutes, I stopped at a traffic light panting like a cow.

It felt like I was going to die at any moment.

My family’s unhealthy lifestyle clearly had an enormously injurious effect on me and was causing my heart to age prematurely and perhaps fatally. But after my parents learned of the situation, would it be possible that they might let me rent a house and live on my own to recover my health?

My thoughts went wild, and in an instant, my heart started pounding again. It felt as if the blood vessels in my chest had started to expand.

It was just like the previous night in the alley!

Old Man (3)

Sweat poured down through my eyebrows, stabbing into my eyes, so I closed them.

Cold sweat.

My god, could it be that I really did have heart disease?

“Is it cold sweat?”

The voice was very familiar, as if I’d heard it before.

I opened my eyes. Standing there in front of me was the freakish old man from the book store, leaning forward, sincerely waiting for an answer.

I was a little bit perplexed and a little bit startled.

“I don’t know. I’m sorry, I need to go to school.” I quickly pushed down on the pedal, not wanting to be troubled by the old man any more.

One turn of the pedal and I slid past the crosswalk, but then suddenly it felt as if my bicycle was heavier than before.

I looked back and was nearly frightened to death.

The strange old man sat there on the back of my bike, staring at me, his eyes flashing.

If it had been you, what would you have done?

Stop the bike and give the old man a good thrashing?

Not me. Because my bike crashed. After all, I had just received an incredible, incredible fright.

I shrieked, but too late, as the bike toppled over to the left. My left knee banged onto the ground, tearing a hole into my blue pants. My left wrist also got scratched up.

And the old man?

He stood next to me without a mark on him. He peered down at me and asked, “Was it a cold sweat just now?”

This time I didn’t care about the embarrassment. To sneak onto my bike in that way was unimaginably freakish. Perverted! Murderous!

“What’s wrong with you?!” I rebuked the weird old man, struggling to pull my bicycle up. This time I wasn’t polite at all, and gave full vent to my grievance.

The old man didn’t seem to care about my wound and didn’t seem to think he had done anything wrong. He only seemed to care about his question.

“The sweat on your forehead, was it cold sweat?” The old man’s question seemed so silly and meaningless. It led me to believe that he really was an out-and-out lunatic.

Once, a wise man, I’m not sure who, said: good answers come from good questions. Meaningless questions cannot give birth to insightful responses.

A wise man, and a good saying.

“It was cold sweat. Now don’t bother me again!” I was pissed off, but I tried to keep my voice steady.

As soon as the old man heard what I said, his eyes lit up. He nodded quickly. “Excellent. Quite young, with ordinary capabilities but some good fundamentals. Well qualified!”

You, really, piss, me, off!

“Do not follow me!” I jumped back onto my bike, and without glancing at the old man, pushed down on the pedal.

If I received any more frights, my heart would most likely split open and ooze forth with pus.

I looked back at the old man. He paced back and forth on the street corner, seemingly lost in thought. I hurried to school.

What an unlucky morning.

A terrifying annoyance (1)

In morning study hall, I sat in my seat stealthily eating my breakfast. The teacher, a crazy middle-aged woman, forbade eating, because a beautiful morning should be used to write papers, memorize characters, and ruin one’s mood for the whole day.

“Thump thump thump.” I felt my back being stabbed with a ballpoint pen.

“Are you hurt?” asked the girl sitting behind me.

It was Yi Jing. She loved to stab my back with things during morning study hall and then secretly chat with me.

You guessed it. Every story must have a cute girl in it, and in this story, in my life, she was obviously the girl I liked. Although, how deeply can a middle school student comprehend love?

Perhaps it was because our class only had eleven girls in it that I liked the one who was generally acknowledged to be the second cutest.

The girl everyone thought was the prettiest, Xiao Mi, was the girl my friend Ah Lun had sworn to woo over, so I wasn’t interested in her at all.

“Listen, I ran into a crazy person this morning. He secretly jumped onto the back of my bicycle. God, it scared me half to death.” I munched on a water fried dumpling and stared out the window at the class adviser kissing up to one of the teachers.

“So unlucky. Why did he jump on?” Yi Jing eyed one of the dumplings in my drawer. “Are they spicy?”

As usual, I had prepared a cup of cold rice milk and a water fried dumpling to give her. “Yeah, a little.”

Last week, Yi Jing and I had made a bet about the results of the monthly English test, and at stake had been two weeks of breakfasts.

It was a game we two played. Our bets were usually over test results or papers. Up to now, the ratio of victories to defeats was a bit one-sided. I had three victories and seventeen unlucky defeats.

Yi Jing took the breakfast and asked, “So tell me, what type of crazy was he?”

I told her in great detail the whole story about what happened in the book store, as well as the crazy incident from this morning.

“Are you messing with me?” she said, surprised. “How could he jump onto your bicycle without you realizing it? Wouldn’t he shake the whole thing?”

“Exactly!” I replied forcefully. “What was really strange was that it suddenly felt like the bike was extra heavy, and that’s why I looked back… It must be because my health hasn’t been very good lately, so I didn’t notice when it happened.”

“The old guy is strange, for sure,” said Yi Jing, “but the strength of his hands must be amazing.”

I nodded. “Last night I tried for a few minutes, and there’s no way to rip a book in two.”

Yi Jing giggled. “You’re really a lucky dog; the old man was merciful.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“When he was hiding on the back of your bike, he could have crack, twisted your neck in two…”

“Can you not be so disgusting?” I said. “I didn’t insult him. Why would he break my neck for no reason?”

At that moment a paper airplane hit me in the chest. I looked at the paper airplane crafter—Ah Lun. He winked, indicating for me to open the airplane.

I unfolded the paper, and inside was written, “No dating during morning study hall. P.S. Xiao Mi forgot to bring me breakfast, so I decided to tax you your sandwich.”

I looked at Ah Lun. He really did have sharp eyes. In a glance he’d noticed that I’d bought an extra sandwich.

And here is where I must mentioned Ah Lun and Ah Yi .

Ah Lun and Ah Yi were my best pals in the class. Ah Lun was very mature, probably because his parents had died early. He’d told me that he’d decided in the third grade to get married to Xiao Mi. He really was a little adult, and in his pursuit of Xiao Mi, he seemed to be just as persistent as the old man.

Ah Yi was the kind of person who after the prompt “My Aspiration,” had written voluminously about his desire to become a gangster. And since his aspiration was to be a gangster, of course he could fight very well. He also had a special power: he could smoke ten cigarettes at one time. I had a bet going with Ah Yi, that if he hadn’t died from lung cancer by the age of 40, he could demand one million yuan from me. If he did get lung cancer, he didn’t have to give me anything, because that would already be tragic enough.

On the way back to the classroom after flag-raising ceremony, I told Ah Lun and Ah Yi about the old man.

“That old man’s hands are strong. Great,” said Ah Yi unconcernedly. “Call him over to fight me.” Whenever Ah Yi spoke, the smell of cigarettes emanated from his mouth.

“For better or worse, he is an old person,” said Ah Lun disapprovingly. “Have a little respect, okay?”

“How can I be so weak?” I said. “My knees are already hurting and we still have to climb a mountain.”

The school I studied at was Changhua Middle School, which was horribly located half way up Bagua Mountain. It was a really torturous trek.

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, my footsteps grew heavy.

Was it starting again?

My breathing became unstable and my chest tightened.

“The feeling I had last night and this morning, it’s happening again.” I ground my teeth and said, “You guys go back to the classroom, I’ll catch up in a bit.”

“Take care of yourself,” said Ah Yi, walking on.

Ah Lun laughed. “Nice move. I should pretend to be sick too and see if it will make Xiao Mi worry about me.”

My face twisted bitterly and I said, “I’m really not feeling good. I’m actually thinking maybe I should ask for leave and go home.”

Ah Lun disapproved. “If you go back there to recover you’ll die an early death.”

I nodded in complete agreement. “Then I’ll go to the hospital, get an X-ray and see if my heart really does have some sort of hole in it.”

Suddenly, a pair of withered hands grasped my shoulders and turned me around, startling me half to death.

It was the same crazy old man who had knocked me down and hurt me this morning.

I was so startled that I didn’t know whether to be angry or frightened. I just stood there stupidly, not even aware of whether or not my mouth was open.


A terrifying annoyance (2)

Ah Lun was also frozen for a moment. But then, almost immediately, he shouted, “What are you doing?” He pulled me back. “This is that weird old guy?” he asked. “The one who messed with you this morning?”

I nodded, thinking that I should be getting angry. I looked at the old man. He still wore the same old green Tang suit, but the filth smeared on his face couldn’t cover the exuberance in his eyes.

“What do you want?” I asked weakly.

“Do you feel bad?” The old man looked me up and down.

I nodded my head vigorously. “Every time I see you I feel bad, so please don’t bother me any more. I’ll read the book you recommended, I promise.” At this point, a handful of students had gathered around, watching curiously.

The old man shook his head. Laughing, he said, “Do you feel better now?”

Another stupid question!

Just as I was about to flip out, my whole body suddenly felt very relaxed, as comfortable as if I had been submerged in a warm, bubbling hotspring. The mysterious pressure had been washed away.

I was reduced to silence, not sure of what to say. Then I heard Ah Lun say, “Grandpa, please don’t bother him any more. We have to go to class soon.”

It seemed as if the old man didn’t hear Ah Lun at all. He looked at me eagerly.

I forced myself to nod and say, “I suddenly feel much better.”

The old man seemed to go wild with joy. He grasped my arms and exclaimed, “Then it is decided! Kneel to me and accept me as your master! Get on your knees!”

This time I did not hesitate at all, was not the least bit doubtful. “Master my ***!”

The old man looked dumbfounded, then responded loudly: “Quickly! Beg me to teach you martial arts [27]! Then I will pretend I need to consider.” This was exactly the same as what happened in Demi-gods and Semi-Devils [28], in the part of the story were the Crocodile Deity of the Southern Sea tries to force Duan Yu to be his disciple.

The old man gripped my arm so hard it hurt, and I couldn’t get free. But my mouth wasn’t covered. “What kind of martial arts are you going to teach me, you lunatic!? Teach me how to go crazy?”

“You’ve got guts to stick around, you old fogie!” cursed Ah Lun. “I have a friend who’s a professional fighter!” He turned and ran off to find Ah Yi.

The old man ignored the surrounding students. He looked at me cautiously. “You have a high level of aptitude! But I am not sure if I have time to teach you martial arts. It depends on your level of sincerity.”

At that point I flipped out, crazily roaring, “What are you ranting about? I didn’t ask you to teach me!”

The old man tilted his head, and in a somewhat foolish sounding tone said, “Given that you have this level of sincerity and good faith, you should kneel next to me for three days and three nights. Then I will consider the situation carefully.”

My arms were pinned, so I tried to kick the old man in the stomach, shouting, “Someone go and get the Dean!”

My kick hit his stomach, but he reacted as if he hadn’t felt a thing. “It is hard to tell whether your kick is hard or soft, it is quite messy all over. I can tell that you have been practicing blindly and achieving little progress. Your feet are bound and you cannot move forward. You seek accomplishment but can never achieve it. It is definitely because you lack the direction of a good teacher.”

I was beyond furious, and aimed a kick at his shin bone. But this time his foot flew up, he drew back his knee, and then kicked out lightly. His tattered shoe adhered like glue to my kicking foot.

The old man shook his head and said, “With this kick you attacked the prepared. It was a big mistake followed by a bigger mistake. After you make such a mistake, you cannot take it back. It is adding mistake upon mistake. If you want to avoid mistakes like this, you need to study at least one year of Heaven Reaching Painted Footsteps [29] with me.”

“I’ll paint your mother!” It was Ah Yi. He walked over, a cigarette hanging from his mouth, his head low, a ruthless expression in his eyes.

“Grandpa,” said Ah Lun kindly, “You still haven’t left? My friend here is very impudent. He’ll beat up anyone; kids, pregnant women, old people, cripples.”

The old man looked at Ah Yi noncommittally. “Youthful arrogance is taboo in the School of Military thought [30]. It is a portent of fire deviation [31]. Sadly, even though you are on the wrong path, I don’t have time to teach you any good martial arts.”

Ah Yi pushed Ah Lun aside. “Let go of Shao Yuan[32]!” he said fiercely. “Otherwise, I’ll bury you under that tree over there.” Ah Yi pointed at the Royal Poinciana tree [33] next to the corridor entrance. Everyone standing around watching laughed quietly, and a few took positions to keep watch in case anyone approached.

The old man sighed and released me. “It seems that I cannot become your master today. Come find me another day and do your best to complete the ceremony. I live at…”

Ah Yi threw his cigarette butt toward the old man’s face, and then, fast as lightning, threw a punch toward his lower abdomen. The old man accepted the blow and dropped to his knees. Ah Yi kicked him hard in the face, “You still don’t scram?” He had no respect whatsoever for the aged, and he held back no power.

At this point I actually felt sorry for the old man. He was so old, and yet was receiving a beating from Ah Yi.

“Stop it!” Ah Lun and I held back Ah Yi. I looked at the old man lying there on the ground and sighed. “Don’t bother me again, really.”

I squatted next to the old man, blocking the vision of my surrounding classmates. From within my bag I pulled out a few hundred-yuan bills and stuffed them into his hand. “Sir,” I said softly, “I’m not looking down on you. I just want to help you buy a few meals. But please don’t bother me any more, okay? I’m a 20th century middle-school student, and in this age, students have to study their books, not go into the mountains to practice martial arts. I’m really sorry.”

This was my lack of personality. Some people said I was too sentimental, like a distracted woman.

I looked at the old man, and tears glistened within his eyes [34]. I was deeply concerned that I had damaged his dignity.

And then, unexpectedly, the old man grabbed my hand. Appreciatively, he said, “Payment for lessons first, education later. Your sincerity has sincerely moved me. I’ll accept the tuition. Later, I will teach you every stance of kung fu that you need. It really is fate.”

I simply wanted to faint.

Then the bell sounded. Ah Lun pulled me solemnly toward the classroom, on the one hand admonishing Ah Yi for being so excessive as to hit and kick the old man, on the other hand reminding us of how incredibly crazy the man was.

What if he had been abandoned by his children and left to live on the street?!

Perhaps because they had deserted him, he spent the days acting crazy to try to gain sympathy.

I sat in geography class, unable to wipe from my mind the image of the old man being knocked to the ground. I couldn’t help but look at Ah Yi, who was sleeping on his desk, and flip him the bird. He really had gone too far.

That day when classes let out, I walked with Yi Jing, slowly following Ah Lun and Xiao Mi down the mountain.

“That old man really is weird,” said Yi Jing. “Who knows, you might even see him again soon…”


A Terrifying Annoyance (3)

“To be frank,” I said, “when Ah Yi beat him up this morning, it really made me feel depressed. All day. Shit.”

“You’re really too nice. That’s why you always get bullied.” As she walked the stairs down the mountain, Yi Jing looked at her English notebook, which was filled with words.

“No matter what anybody says, seeing an old person get hit will ruin anyone’s mood. Originally I could complain about that old guy nonstop,” I grumbled, “but now I feel a little sorry for him.”

Yi Jing nodded. She could always understand me.

Maybe it was just youthful sentiment, but I’d always had a really pure affection for Yi Jing. The best part of every day was when class let out and we walked down Bagua Mountain together. In fact, being able to go to class with her might be the main reason I came to school at all.

But they say that the pure affections of one middle school student for another can only be limited to—yes, pure affection.

I had to agree.

The tree-lined path down Bagua Mountain was beautiful. The golden rays of the setting sun flickered amongst the tree leaves. Occasionally, a crisp leaf would rustle past our shadows, carried along by a light breeze. It was a decent spring.

Yi Jing was a simple girl. Perhaps she wasn’t ready to date yet. No problem, I wasn’t ready yet either. It was fine to spend our humdrum youth just like this.

Just as I was indulging in my daydreams, sighing dramatically, I suddenly felt wobbly and almost fell down the stone steps. Luckily Yi Jing was there to prop me up.

I grabbed my chest. Cold sweat broke out on my forehead.

That’s right, it was the nasty, palpitating sensation again!

Yi Jing helped me to sit down on the stone steps. Frowning, she asked me, “Why are you like this? Is it the same as it was this morning?”

I nodded, panting. “Last night, this morning on the way to school, this morning after flag-raising, and right now…”

I suddenly realized something so strange that it made my hair stand on end.

I looked around nervously, and without even thinking about it I gripped Yi Jing’s hand tightly.

“What’s wrong? Don’t scare me!” said Yi Jing anxiously. “I’m going to run ahead and get Ah Lun and Xiao Mi!”

She shook my hand off, placed her backpack on the stairs, and left me alone.

Left behind an increasingly frightened me!

My thinking, which previously was muddled by the same pressure that kept affecting my heart, was now clear and sharp.

Every time the strange feeling came over me, it seemed to have a strange connection to the appearance of the old man…

A very unsettling connection.

I looked around carefully in all directions to see if he was anywhere nearby.

In the golden beauty of dusk, my consternation had condensed into a blueish anxiety in my heart. I panted because of the desolate pressure. I searched between the trees for the silhouette of the old man, not sure which would be more frightening, seeing him, or not.

Not there.

Not there.

Not there, either.

Over there? … Not over there either.

Behind me … also … okay, not there either.

I let out a soft breath. Maybe I really did need to go see a doctor.

And then, just as I lowered my head, all the hairs on my body stood on end.

A numbing electricity vibrated through every pore in my body. A strong sense of uneasiness shot from the top of my skull down through my entire body. I lifted my head, and saw …

On the tree directly above my head, wearing a green Tang suit, was the strange old man!

I let out a blood-curdling shriek: “Ahhhh!”

When I shouted, the old man’s eyes transformed from sharp points to happy slivers.

“What are you doing! Don’t come near me!” I shrieked, nearly tumbling down the stairs.

“The benevolent is invincible, his heart fears not,” he said. The long tree branch upon which he stood swayed gently in the wind.

“Go away!” I called out hysterically. “Go!”

The old man called out loudly as well, “The benevolent is invincible, his heart fears not!”

The old man’s shout resonated like a bell, vibrating in my ears until they began to burn.

“What’s wrong?” Ah Lun dashed up the stairs carrying his backpack, followed by Xiao Mi and Yi Jing. I pointed at the old…

The old man?

I pointed at a bare tree branch.

It swayed gently.

“Are you dying?” Ah Lun felt my forehead.

I stared stupidly at the lifeless tree branch and then looked around frustratedly. There was no sign of the old man.

“I must be hallucinating,” I muttered to myself.

Yi Jing gasped for breath, looking at me suspiciously.

“I … I think I’m fine,” running my hand through my hair.

The old man standing on the tree branch …

Was it a hallucination?

“You’re body is fine, you just haven’t been getting enough sleep,” said the doctor, looking at the X-ray.

“Thank you.” I picked up my backpack.

“Go home and go to sleep for me.” Yi Jing smacked my head lightly.

I stood in front of the book store, not sure if I should go in.

Go home, be greeted by disgusting cigarette smoke and then submerged in ice-cold warmth.

Not go home, and run the risk of being frightened to death by the old man.

I kicked a pebble, thinking about Yi Jing’s warning.

“Starting at six, I’m going to call your house every other hour to see if you’re there,” she had said solemnly. “Don’t forget our bet over next month’s test. You stay at home for me and study. I don’t want to have an unfair advantage.”

I had no choice but to hoist up my backpack and ride my bicycle home.

As I thought more and more about Yi Jing’s repeated warnings, I couldn’t help but smile.

“Auntie Wang left already. There’s food on the table, heat it up yourself and eat. Peng! ”

Mom slapped down a Mahjong tile, and continued to bury her face in the game.

“Ok.” I quickly ate my cheerless dinner, and before my dad’s loser friends had all arrived, snuck off to my room.

When you talk about children without warm families, you’re talking about me.

I stared at the phone. It was 5:58.

I stared at the phone, waiting for a minute to go by.

And then I waited for another minute.


A terrifying annoyance (4)

I stared for another minute.

Finally, the phone rang.

“Hello, is Shao Yuan there?” It was Yi Jing’s voice.

“You’re one minute late.” I collapsed onto the bed.

“That’s because our clocks are different,” she said. Good point.

“I’m going to start studying.” I crossed one leg over the other.

“Okay. Bye, then” said Yi Jing quickly.

We hung up at the same time, no procrastination.

I couldn’t help but smile. I looked at the spinning blades of the electric fan, and I felt a strange feeling in my heart… How do the authors of love stories come up with those fascinating and emotionally philosophical conversations?

I don’t think Yi Jing and I would ever have the kind of conversations they have in love stories.

I couldn’t figure it out. Did those ultra sappy conversations actually occur in real life? Wouldn’t it be really weird and awkward?

Maybe in this story, I just didn’t play a romantic role. Or, even more likely, this story just wasn’t a love story. And even more probable, Yi Jing and I had nothing romantic at all between us, so we would never have those kinds of dreamy conversations.

I laid down on the bed and yawned.

At the moment, I just wanted to sleep. But suddenly, my entire body felt as if it had been dropped into a giant freezer and was being stabbed all over by coldness.

The familiar pressure had reappeared, and had redoubled!

I leapt up like lightning and sat on my pillow, panic-stricken. I stared wide-eyed at the window.

I understood.

In the twinkling of an eye, I understood.

This was an absolute, out-and-out horror story.

Sadly, in this story I played a supporting role, someone who gets killed.

And the villain, the lead character of the horror story, was currently stuck to my window, his body adhering to the glass, staring at me. I was so frightened, it seemed my internal organs had burst.

Written by Giddens Ko
Translated by Deathblade
Edited and proofread by audiowuxia.

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Fortunately I Met You

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