Tea with Jade and Tiger – tiger, burning… (2)

part 1 (the cold mountain) 
Part 3 - Monkey on the Road 

“Cold Mountain holds a naked bug. Its body’s white, its head is black. In its hands a pair of scrolls – Forgive me, dear son. The autumn wind brings not only the snow clouds  from the  Cold Mountain, it also brings thoughts of frailty and decay…” Zhang Dee Yang looks into the  bright orange of the fire his foster-son just made. With a burning splint Bolin lights all lanterns  and lamps in the room. The old man  looks at him moving gracefully from corner to corner. The covert smile he flashes is only for Bolin, but only  when the boy isn’t looking. It’s the notion of a proud father towards his worthy offspring, even if the offspring isn’t of his own blood.

Thick grey clouds rush down the western slope of the mountain. They soften the lights and the sounds. The wind turns the air in the tea house cold and damp. Bolin worries about the pain the coming season will bring for his father, and closes the screen door. The crickets chirp into the clacking of the whispering bamboos, but they grow tired rapidly and stop. The governor sits by the fire, lighting his pipe, listening to the hints coming from the garden. Bolin prepares the cups and the tea, pours the hot water. He hands one cup to his father, but doesn’t seem to notice the growing silence.

“One the Way and one its Power. It needs no pots or stove.” Bolin makes sure his father is comfortable, before settling down unto his cushion. The two men sip from the steaming  fragrant tea. The pleasant warmths of the golden liquid mixes with the warmths of the  woolen covers. It promises a wonderful evening.

Before continuing on the subject of Black Viper and San Chou, Zhang Dee Yang thinks about the guests waiting in the garden, and decides to watch Bolin closely. Usually they spend hours in the teahouse discussing philosophy, art, poetry and astronomy, but this time, swiftness is most important. The governor clears his throat. He speaks the rest of his poem loud enough to be heard without any effort: “Without clothes it wanders on. But it carries Wisdom’s blade.

Scratches at the screen door answer his last verse. Bolin’s head flies towards the noise, nearly  spilling his tea. The alarmed expression on his  foster-son’s face brighten’s him up. The old man chuckles softly. “Please do come in, most honored guests. Bolin, be kind and  prepare two more cups and seats.”

The screen door slides open and a slender silhouette appears in the doorway. Right behind it, a bulky man bows slightly.  Bolin scrambles to prepare cushions and  to tea. The newly arrived guests are clad in silk with the color of shadows and wet soil. No adornment or jewels reveal their origin or social status.

A lady moves delicately towards the fireplace. The man closes the door behind them. “This is the most beautiful Fang Hua Xing, lady of thousand virtues. Her white hands have tamed the wind. This is the famous Jinhai Wei Fu, master of the green mountains. And this is my oldest son, Bolin.” The governor introduces everyone.

The guests look at Bolin carefully, long enough to make him blush. He hurries to fill the empty cups with tea. After Fang Hua Xing and Jinhai Wei Fu sit comfortably, his father waves a hand at the  free cushion. He sits down and  doesn’t dare to look at the guests. He knows, they must be fighters of some kind, maybe the best… The lady is most likely a sword fighter, and the man could be a master with stick or lance. Their elegant names hide their pasts, but names are like poems -one has to know, what their creator has in mind. But those hands do not lie about endless training hours, they have been through.

“To restore order in San Chou, it was necessary to free the village from the criminals.” The governor’s low voice slithers between the fragrant tea vapor clouds. “The most effective way was to do it from the inside. One capable man can do it.” Zhang Dee Yang looks at his son, and laughs.“Bolin! Don’t pull such a serious face, my dear son. There is nothing to be worried about. These two are good old friends of mine. They trust me, and I trust them.” 

The young man gasps and instantly bows before his foster-father. “Excuse my foolish reaction, dear father. Honored guests, please accept my humble apologies, for my rude behavior.” His forehead nearly touches the wooden floor.

“Young master, speak openly. We are all servants for the honored governor Zhang Dee Yang.” Fang Hua Xing’s words calm Bolin, and he dares to raise his blushed face. His gaze meets the lady’s. Bolin’s heart skips a beat, as he notices, that her eyes have the color of sunshine caught in pine resin.

“Let’s drink tea and play Pinyin, my friends.” Jinhai Wei Fu flashes his pearly teeth. His eyes glow with mischievous fire.

“That’s the spirit!” The governor nods happily. “Bolin. Dear son, you have returned a month ago from your completed training on Mount Songshan. You have become a capable young man, and I’d be happy to offer you to the Eternal Phoenix Throne. I believe in you.” The governor sets down his cup. “Find a way into the rows of the Black Viper, and cut it’s head off!” Fang Hua Xing’s sad eyes pierce the young man for a moment.

“Your trust honors me, governor Zhang Dee Yang! I will not disappoint you!” Bolin’s forehead touches the floor. He inhales deeply and holds his breath to calm his racing heart.

The governor smiles mildly. “I know you will succeed, my son. My dear friends will accompany you, and ease your way. San Chou will need your whole attention.  It is the best, to suspect that there is a traitor among the officers.” He sighs. “It will not be enough to destroy the Black Viper. You have to find the traitor…” The governor looks sad at his foster-son. “I fear, this will be the most dangerous part.”

“Noblest governor Zhang Dee Yang,” Fang Hua Xing interrupts carefully, “your honored name mustn’t be spoken in this matter. We do not know, who is corrupted by the venom of the Black Viper.” The governor drags at his pipe and nods slowly.

“Of course, my dear Fang Hua Xing. You are, as always, right.” He exhales smoke. “All our names must remain secret. We have to protect our families. Please accept the names, I’m going to give you for this task. Fang Hua Xing, your wisdom and beauty are for legends and poems. I offer you the name: Jade.” Fang Hua Xing bows as answer. “Jinhai Wei Fu, please accept the name Tiger. Your strength and bravery match the fierce fury of this great hunter.” Jinhai Wei Fu bows. “Bolin, my son, please accept the name Monkey.” Bolin bows.

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