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The old folks sat back falteringly on their chair. Li Qingshan buried his head in the dishes, eating and drinking in great mouthfuls. These days he only ate deer meat and it became annoying. It just happened that he wanted a change of taste, and he swept clean the table brimming with dishes by himself, rubbing his swelling belly.
"Normally the people in this yard are all my elder generations, it’s not an exaggeration to say you saw me grow up. But there are some people who don’t care about this affection and pushed me around for a little land. If today you don’t give me an explanation, then I’ll give you an explanation. Even if I lose my life today I won’t have any regret."
Li Qingshan pulled his knife out as he said: "Steward Liu, Village Chief Li, don’t you agree?"
Steward Liu was determined not to eat this bitterness in front of his eyes, and said in defeat: "Second son, this land, if you want to grow it you can just take it back!"
Li Qingshan said: "I don’t need this little piece of land. You spent money to buy it, I’m not going to take unfair advantage. I just want to obtain justice. You people do whatever you please in the village, but don’t forget there are gods above. Justice is in the heart of men." His voice became more stern as he spoke on.
Steward Liu was embarrassed and couldn’t say anything, while Village Chief Li answered: "We were wrong in this matter, we believed your brother…"
"That’s not my brother." Li Qingshan coldly interrupted.
"Li the Eldest babbled nonsense, they were blinded by lard and money, that’s why they could do such a silly thing. These day I couldn’t sleep, I was afraid I’d die someday and wouldn’t have any face in front of your father and mother." Village Chief Li spoke through moist eyes as he went on, his old tears flowing unrestrained. He was really remembering the suffering he’d gone through these past days.
Li Qingshan said to the other elder people: "Then according to you, should that piece of land be given to me?"
"It should, it should!" At this moment, who dared to say the word no?
Li Qingshan obtained what he desired, and raised his head, laughing loudly: "Justice actually still exists in this world!" He suddenly took back his laughter and lowered his head back. The expression on his face shifted, sometimes heavy and sometimes relieved, with an unspeakable sorrow mixed inside. He looked at the short knife in his hand: "Justice was actually here."
He frowned and muttered: "There are no gods above, justice is merely inside the blade. There are no gods above, justice is merely inside the blade…" Unconsciously his voice became louder and louder, shocking the residence.
He was originally indignant and set on releasing this foul resentment. He wouldn’t have been concerned even if he had to kill people. But at this moment he only felt it was flavorless. He took his knife back and turned around, leaving without acknowledging the various people in the yard. In a blink he disappeared without a trace.
The workers ate a free banquet and watched a good show, so they dispersed contentedly. Li Qingshan was on every tongue, and their faces were filled with admiration.
Steward Liu wiped the cold sweat from his forehead. He already knew that it would be harder than hard if he wanted to organize a party against Li Qingshan now. Admittedly he controlled the land, but the workers weren’t his slaves, and they wouldn’t follow his orders. Even slaves could rise up in riot. It would be an extreme disaster if he roused every worker into rebelling against him.
But fortunately Li the Second clearly distinguished gratitude and grudges. Since he’d already said so much this day, he wouldn’t be scheming revenge anymore. Now he could sleep easy. Although this banquet wasn’t a success, it could still barely count as achieving his purposes. He saw Village Chief Li helped by his two sons, and although there was still some shame left on his face, his expression was also relieved, seemingly thinking the same thing as himself.
The two of them looked at each other, both feeling awkward.
Tiger Li wasn’t convinced and said: "Dad, we could wait until my big brother comes back. With his martial arts, I don’t believe he can’t punish this Li the Second."
Panther Li also said: "Uncle Liu, isn’t elder brother Liu also in Suncheer City?"
It just happened that Village Chief Li had a bellyful of anger he needed to release, and he said ferociously: "You all shut the hell up, how did I give birth to useless things like you!"
Steward Liu didn’t reply either. They were both people who had experienced winds and snow, and very clearly understood that the wise man looked after his own hide. They were absolutely not willing to provoke danger for the sake of a little anger.
"You bunch of useless people. The gods are already angry, he won’t be able to live long." The witch who had been entirely silent so far suddenly spoke mystically, her voice full of poison.
Under the great sun, many people couldn’t help shivering. People of this era all venerated ghosts and gods, while the witch was precisely someone who could communicate with the gods. They thought back to earlier when Li Qingshan said "there are no gods above," maybe he really stirred the gods’ anger.
Some people even remembered that there was once in the village a family who had invited the witch to cure their sick child. The witch also said that the child was possessed by ghosts. She used fire to burn and water to drown, then finally smothered him in a quilt, saying that they had to force the ghost out. In the end that child was smothered to death.
The witch only said that it was as the King of Hell decided, then no one said anything, but the adults in that family didn’t yield. Especially the child’s mother who went everyday in front of the witch’s door and threw curses and insults. This thing caused an extremely great harm to the witch’s prestige in the village, but a few days later the child’s mother suddenly died of sickness, her death inexplicable.
The witch only said that the child missed his mother in the underworld. No one dared to disrespect her since then. But Li Qingshan had kicked her in front of the crowd and cursed her, he’d already thoroughly offended her.
"Steward Liu, this child is your fate’s disaster, now the gods will help you avoid calamities and solve your troubles…"
Steward Liu hurriedly ordered someone to wrap some incense, wine, and meat for the witch. The witch looked again at Village Chief Li. Village Chief Li also clenched his teeth and groped out a piece of broken silver, sending the witch away.
A worker hugged those things and followed after the witch, not daring to say much. They came in front of a house made of green bricks. Apart from Steward Liu and Village Chief Li, she was the only one in the village who could afford to live in a house of tiles and bricks.
Incense tables and incense burners were set in the hall, the smoke drifting inside all day long. It was a residence, and also a temple.
"Little An, Little An, grandmother is back." The witch suddenly spoke hoarsely, a secretive smile emerging on her face filled with wrinkles. There was no way one could call it benevolent.
The worker knew that the witch had no grandchildren whatsoever, and trembled in fear. He hastily put the things down, but suddenly he felt someone pull on his trouser leg. When he turned his head back he didn’t see anyone. He shouted loudly: "Mum!" and frantically stumbled out. A burst of shrill laughter came behind him.
"Little An, let grandmother tell you, someone bullied grandmother."
In the empty hall, no one answered.
"What, you actually dare to disobey grandmother…" The witch’s expression abruptly became malevolent. She let out a burst of insults and shook a bronze bell in her hand.
An evil wind suddenly rose inside the house.
After a long while, the witch restored her mildness: "Right, now that’s right. Grandmother doesn’t want to hit you either, my obedient grandchild."
From beginning to end, there was only her talking to herself.
The green bull had ran off to who knew where by the time Li Qingshan returned to his house. It was probably off to hunt beasts for his sake again.
He took advantage of his drunkenness and practiced the [Bull Demon Strong Fist]. He couldn’t have been any more familiar with the three basic styles already, and his body started to move on its own. His mind was still reminiscing all that had happened today. The thing that had looked so fearsome to him actually couldn’t even withstand a single blow. If he had turned tail in front of Steward Liu’s house and made his escape, how would he have been able to see through this secret?
In this matter, his genuine enemy wasn’t Steward Liu or Village Chief Li, but the fear deep inside himself. What was a genuinely mighty man? The Tao Te Ching1had given the answer long ago already, "one who overcomes others is strong, one who overcomes himself is mighty."
"The brave is fearless!" Li Qingshan roared those four words as if he’d broken through an invisible barrier, and there suddenly was a kind of momentum pressing fearlessly forward in his fist technique. Whatever the difficulties and dangers lying in front of him, he had to straighten his back and strike through, never bowing his head and never retreating.
There are no gods above, I am a god. Justice isn’t in the heart of men, it is in my hands.
In his four limbs and torso, every muscles seemed to connect under this determination, and his punch could link together strength from the whole body. He had the feeling that if he had to contend face to face with the two brothers Tiger Li and Panther Li together right now, he was fully confident he could defeat them even without a weapon.The Tao Te Ching is a classic Chinese daoist text.