The Gourmet: A Tale of Adventure and Intrigue

Follow the thrilling journey of Xing De, who encounters the enigmatic 'Old Glutton' and embarks on a captivating adventure.

Xing De, a native of Zezhou, was a skilled outlaw in the green woods. He possessed great strength, could wield a powerful bow, and was adept at shooting a series of arrows in quick succession. His martial arts were renowned as unparalleled at the time. However, he led a destitute and wandering life, lacking the skill for profitable ventures. Whenever he ventured into trade, he often ended up losing his capital. During that time, prominent merchants from Nanjing and Beijing were willing to travel with Xing De, seeking safety on their journeys. On one occasion, during early winter, a few merchants were willing to lend Xing De some capital and invited him to engage in business together. Xing De also contributed all his savings, preparing to purchase a substantial amount of goods with the borrowed money.

Xing De had a friend skilled in fortune-telling, so before departing, he sought him out for a prediction. After consulting the divination, his friend said, “This hexagram is ‘Regret,’ indicating that you will encounter difficulties. Your business venture will not only fail to make a profit but also result in losses of your capital.” Upon hearing this, Xing De became despondent and contemplated giving up the business. However, his merchant friends insisted and even coerced him into starting the journey. Upon reaching the capital city, the prediction by his friend indeed came true, and Xing De lost his capital. One mid-December day, Xing De rode his horse out of the city gates, knowing that he would have no capital for business the following year, making his mood even heavier.

At that time, with a misty morning fog, he decided to take a break at a roadside tavern and have some wine. Inside the tavern, there was an old man with graying hair and two young men drinking by the northern window. A disheveled, blonde-haired servant boy stood nearby attending to them. Xing De sat in a seat to the south, facing the old man. While the servant was pouring wine for the old man and the young men, he accidentally spilled the drinks, staining the old man’s clothes. One of the young men became furious upon seeing this and immediately grabbed the servant boy’s ear, making him use a handkerchief to wipe the stains off the old man’s clothing. Xing De also noticed that the trouble-making servant boy had iron arrowheads on his fingers, each about half an inch thick and weighing about two taels.

After they finished their meal, the old man instructed one of the young men to take out some silver coins from a leather pouch and pile them on the table. He then weighed the coins while counting on his fingers. It took him the time of a few cups of wine to wrap all the silver coins securely. Afterward, the young man led a limping black mule out from the stable and helped the old man mount it. The servant boy also rode a skinny horse and followed the old man out of the tavern. The two young men fastened their arrows to their waists, led the horses, and rode off together.

Xing De couldn’t help but covet the large sum of silver coins he saw. His greedy desire burned within him, so he put down his wine glass and hastily followed them. Seeing that the old man and the servant were slowly moving ahead, Xing De left the main road, took a shortcut, and approached the old man, drawing his bowstring and glaring at the old man in anger. The old man bent down and took off his left boot, smiling, and said, “Don’t you recognize the Old Glutton?” Ignoring the Old Glutton, Xing De pulled his bowstring taut and aimed at him. The Old Glutton reclined on the saddle, extended his left foot, and spread his two toes like a pair of pliers, catching the arrow shot by Xing De. He chuckled and said, “Is this all the skill you’ve got? Do you really need your father to intervene?”

Upon hearing this, Xing De became furious. He unleashed his signature skill – a rapid succession of arrows. The first arrow was just released when the second arrow followed suit. The Old Glutton caught the first arrow as if he hadn’t anticipated the rapid-fire technique. However, the second arrow pierced directly into his mouth. He suddenly fell from the saddle, with the arrowhead lodged in his mouth, lying motionless on the ground. The servant boy dismounted as well. Xing De was secretly delighted, thinking that the Old Glutton had been fatally hit by the arrow. He approached cautiously. Suddenly, the Old Glutton, who was lying motionless, leaped up, spat out the arrow, and clapped his hands, saying, “First time we meet, why play such a big joke?” Xing De was greatly startled, and his horse bolted in fear. It was at that moment that Xing De realized the Old Glutton was no ordinary person, and he dared not return to plunder.

Xing De rode his horse for another thirty or forty miles and happened upon the steward of a local official, who was escorting a large quantity of goods to the capital. Xing De intercepted him and seized the goods, estimating they were worth around one thousand two hundred taels of silver. Only then did he start to feel relieved. While he was hurrying along the road, he suddenly heard the sound of approaching hoofbeats in the distance. Turning around, he saw the servant who had followed the Old Glutton, riding the limping mule, racing towards him. The servant scolded him, saying, “Stop, fellow! When it comes to the spoils of hunting, you should share some with us.” Xing De replied, “Do you know who I am, Xing De, the master of the ‘Rapid Fire Arrows’?” The servant said, “I’ve already witnessed it earlier.”

Xing De thought this unimpressive-looking servant, who was unarmed, would be easy to deal with. So, he raised his bow and fired three arrows in quick succession, the three arrows coming one after the other, like a flock of eagles in flight. The servant remained calm, catching one arrow in each hand and holding another in his mouth, all the while smiling and saying, “Such meager skills! Your father was in a hurry today and didn’t have time to fetch a bow. These arrows of yours are useless. Here, take them back!” With that, he removed the iron arrowheads from his fingers, threaded the arrows through them, and hurled them with force. Xing De heard a whistling sound near his ear. He hurriedly tried to deflect the arrows with his bow, but the bowstring collided with the iron arrowheads, resulting in a loud “snap.” The bowstring broke, and the bow itself shattered. Stunned by the servant’s extraordinary skills, Xing De didn’t have time to evade, and the arrows pierced through his ears, causing him to fall from his horse.

The servant dismounted as well, intending to search for Xing De’s belongings. Xing De lay on the ground and tried to strike the servant with his bow. The servant snatched the bow away, snapped it in two, then broke it into four pieces and threw it on the ground. Afterward, the servant grasped both of Xing De’s arms with one hand and pinned his legs down with one foot. Xing De felt as if his arms were bound by ropes and his legs were pinned down by a heavy weight, rendering him completely immobile. Xing De had a thick, double-layered belt around his waist, about three fingers wide. With a gentle squeeze, the servant effortlessly snapped the belt into pieces like ashes. The servant then took Xing De’s belongings, hopped onto his horse, nodded in acknowledgment, and said, “My apologies,” before gracefully departing.

After returning to his hometown, Xing De finally became a person of upright conduct, abiding by the law and traditions. He often openly shared this past experience with people. His journey was similar to the story of Liu Dongshan.






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