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Posts Tagged ‘Fox- spirits’

( Wang and Lung, the identical twins have made two predestined enemies on the New Year’s eve and their mother is aghast. She is too wrapped up in her mourning so she persuades her only surviving brother to take them off her hands. He agrees. He is a sea-captain who is aggressively trying to get into the good books of his Admiral. In order to please him he has even taken charge of his pet, a dog  that is very very temperamental. He takes his nephews along and is also smug in having quietly passed off the biggest headache in to their care.)

Chapter-4
The Night Runners

That evening Wang and Lung had to agree: their uncle was not to be sneezed at. There were three carriages awaiting his pleasure and they were part of the glory, which Captain Lee of the Imperial Navy commanded. They saw a clutch of neighbors walking tiptoe around the horses as though they were connoisseurs of horseflesh. A few were admiring the panopoly of outriders and the glory the sea captain could command. As soon the captain came out of the gate the crowd in a trice melted into ring. The neighbors who always kept an eye on the house stood there in awe at the commotion the Admiral’s glory had caused.
As soon as the sea captain and the party had settled in their carriage the chief of the guards signaled and the carriages rumbled into the twilight that softened the landscape.
One carriage was for the exclusive use of the sea- captain; the other for his nephews and in the last traveled their baggage and attendants. The packhorses, which were maintained by the Navy, were sleek and very hardy with their broad hooves. They were comparatively smaller in build than those the Admiralty maintained for ceremonial purposes. They rode as a team and at brisk pace.
Late in the first night the horses stopped and the drowsy children peered into the darkness outside. It was a barren landscape.  With a few torchlights here and there the rump of their horses glistened with sweat. Their coal black hide and mane only added to give them a spectral aspect as if were steeds hauled from infernal regions to accomplish a very dangerous mission. ‘Curious’ Lee brought in a man of uncertain age. He did not condescend to acknowledge their presence; neither did he explain what he was there for. He let that to their uncle.
“Here boys I brought your personal attendant. He is a jewel.”
“How do you know that uncle?” Wang whispered into his ear, ”See that scar on his face? He looks more a cut throat.”
“Shh!” ‘Curious’ Lee said,” He is a jewel,”
“Once I gave him Mimi to look after”, the captain continued,” the dog just took to him, like duck to water.”
“So he will let us off in peace?” Wang asked.
“Not exactly,” the captain winked and said,” You will take over Mimi. She will make men out of you. Of course if any trouble comes up, your attendant will give you a hand.”
While their uncle appraised them of slight change in the seating arrangements the man with the scar brought a Pekinese on a cushion with some ceremony and deposited himself into their carriage. For hours they suffered the dog and the presence of the handler who kept a morose face. He sat immobile and did not show any response to the twins who wanted the dog from ‘yelping their dreams away’. Wang always had some nice dreams as much as Lung had. Now the Admiral’s pet was shredding them for very whimsical reasons they complained.
Next day at one point when the convoy stopped, they wanted to know why. “There is a meeting with the Admiral’s man,” the attendant said.
Wang decided to talk it out with his uncle.
‘Curious’ Lee said that he had no time at that precise moment for him. “It is about Mimi,” he complained. “She doesn’t let us sleep let alone dream,” he added, ”If she makes a swipe at Jen once more I shall not spare her. She may be the apple of your Admiral’s eye. In my eyes my cricket comes first.” Wang was adamant. Silently his uncle passed two pieces of silver and said,” Put it down for extra allowance, boy.” “I can’t be disturbed. State secret and all that“. Wang persisted that he had a headache with all that barking going on in his carriage.  Another piece of silver passed hands. Before the visitor could find what was going on the captain said in a low voice, ”That is for a night’s silence. Understood?”
Wang nodded and ran back to the carriage while the attendant was pacing in that strange landscape with a Pekinese who was having a fit of sorts.
“Why don’t you try harder to stop it from barking?” Wang asked irritated. “If I tried any harder I am likely to get a fit! My nerves are all frayed at the ends.” The man had a point. Wang could understand that.
“The Admiral must be a clever fellow,” mused Wang,” and my uncle is also clever to pass his headache to us!”
The man with the morose face grimaced as the dog began squirming. His order was never to let the dog from that silk cushion which bore the Admirals insignia.
After a lengthy silence Wang asked the attendant if he had some opium pills.
“Master, have you toothache?”
“No!”
“Perhaps difficulty in falling to sleep?”
“Yes and No!” Wang said controlling himself, ”Can you get me some?”
“Of course I always carry some with me.”
He took over from the man the cushion and the whelping dog while he fished out pills from his cloak.  “What are you the captain’s right hand man or a dealer in opium?” Lung asked on seeing a generous supply at a short notice.
“I am trained as an apothecary but at the moment a seaman.”  “Why then a Pekinese?”  “My future! My promotion, so the captain assures me, is tied to the happiness of this little..”
He looked around to see no one else was around,   ” …rascal!” he said with a grim face.
Wang promptly passed a piece of silver and got enough opium pills. Wang felt for the first time a compassionate feeling for the man who he could see worked hard to keep his job. Wang wholeheartedly believed in ‘live and let live’ policy. He exacted from his uncle for his peace as much as he in turn paid for some peace and quietness around him. Mimi didn’t come cheap. In her welfare hung the captain’s whole career. Not to mention the poor fellow dancing in attendance to a highly temperamental pet. So Wang and Lung were particular that they went on with their treatment.
“It is my duty to advise extreme caution before you begin a habit.” The scar face admonished.
“Tell that to Mimi. She is about to get used to a habit like a monkey on a hawker’s back.”  “Like a parrot on a pirate’s shoulder.” Lung took up.
“And it will leave us all in peace.”  The twins concluded. The older man looked on wide-eyed as the twins administered a pill to Mimi. She tried to throw a tantrum but the combined strength of the three made her realize she had better obey them. She swallowed it and was soon as if she had, she left her earthly cares for a world so wonderfully quiet. Wang thought it made even his cricket do a few turns in appreciation. With Mimi being knocked out and Jen pleased with himself the rest of the journey was easy for all.
All through the night and a convoy of attendants who rode along saw to every convenience of the captain and his charges. Wang and Lung woke up only when they halted in front of an inn at Sungkiang.    They saw the captain pacing in his room very distracted. He was anxiously waiting for his contact.
Wang and Lung as with their solemn promise kept out of their uncle’s way. They saw the mysterious emissary who brought a number of crates and saw that they were properly counted in the presence of the captain. After exchanging some papers they went in. While they were palavering the children were discovering a new side to their attendant. He was no longer morose. He looked human almost. Wang wanted to know whether he had been a sea pirate. The man shook his head. “Were you ever in a ship wreck?” “No, never” he asserted, ”Master, your uncle is a good captain.”
The boys lost interest in one who had nothing by way of adventure to amuse them. That scar which gave his cheeks the look of someone worth talking to, was on account of a very commonplace accident. He said he got it while he once tried to take his unruly steer to its stall.
“I thought you were an apothecary?” “ I was a dirt farmer but couldn’t scratch a living. So I ended up with Mimi for company.” The boys knew their trip wasn’t going to be anymore exciting than the seaman’s scar. They only brightened when he answered to their question that he was a magician as well.
“What is your trick? Does it sell?” “Yes if it comes in forms like this?” Next moment he had a bottle in his hands. It was filled with some liquid, tawny in color.  “What’s it?” “Love potion naturally? I could sell you some of this if you think it would help your case?”
“Why didn’t then use it to further your career?”
“ If it falls in wrong hands I may end up at the bottom of the sea! Very potent stuff this!”
He was not much to look at but when he moved about and in his self confidence there was much more than met the eye and he moved with a certain suppleness that resembled a panther in its natural habitat.   The man in a matter of few days had begun to interest them immensely. In return he viewed them as special. It was as if they touched some tender chord in his heart.  His name he said was Ta Yi. “ I have been called a rat catcher, a weasel. It was by those who do not know me well enough.” “I have been a village school master, apothecary, a magician, a farmer and many things of which I shall not bore you.” Ta Yi said one afternoon seriously…

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