Step Ten – Through the Mountain – The Absurd Adventures Of Li Bai And His Magic Bottle

Walking through piles of leaves from the broad leaf red pine that covered the path Li Bai came to the base of Tingfeng mountain, he could go around or he could go over. So sitting on a rock he took out his magic bottle and took a drink, as he pondered on which way to go.

Then suddenly from out of nowhere a strange looking fellow appeared. He was a short fellow that just came up to the waist of Li Bai, but he was as round as he was tall, with two very large eyes set in his forehead, one would be open and the other shut as if he was winking his eyes alternatively, they were a bright green colour, he also had very large ears. His hands and feet were also very large and the nails on both were akin to talons. His nose was like that of an elephant and hung down to his chest. His hair and beard were long, unkempt and the same colour as his eyes. His skin was a very pale blue, and he was naked. ‘Hello’ said the small fellow, in a high-pitched voice ‘My name is Ben Dan, what brings you here?’

‘My name is Li Bai, and I am a traveller, on my way to Tibet.’

‘Are you going to go over, or around.’ asked Ben Dan

‘I haven’t made up my mind.’ answered Li Bai

‘There is an easier way, you know.’ chirped Ben Dan pointing a finger over his shoulder. ‘You can go through.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Li Bai

‘I am the guardian of the gate, which leads through the mountain and all you have to do is beat me at shoushilling, and I will let you enter. Save you going around, or over.’

‘What happens if I lose?’queried Li Bai

‘Nothing, I will still let you through, but I just want to play.’ replied Ben Dan grinning.

‘If I win I go through and if I don’t, I still go through’ said Li Bai ‘so what have I got to lose?’

‘There is one small catch.’ said Ben Dan

‘I knew it sounded too good to be true, what is the catch?’ sighed Li Bai.

‘You have to play me ten times. Oh! And another thing. No one has ever won before.’ smiled Ben Dan.

‘Then I might as well just go around.’ said Li Bai ‘For what do I know what awaits me inside the mountain.’

The Fenghaung whispered in Li Bai’s ear ‘You are destined to go through the mountain, if you try to go around a rockslide will make you backtrack and if you go over an avalanche will cause the same to happen. You will be safe enough.’

‘But then again it might be fun. Let the game begin.’ Said Li Bai.

The bat appeared on Li Bai’s shoulder, but was invisible to the small round fellow ‘He is going to go, rock nine times and paper on the tenth.’ Whispered the bat in Li Bai’s ear. ‘That’s as much of his mind as I can read, for the rest of his thoughts are dark and murky, so beware.’

Li Bai just nodded his head to let the bat know he understood.

‘Are you ready, are you steady. Go!’ said Ben Dan and they each held out their hand, Li Bai’s was flat and Ben Dan.’ was a fist. ‘Beginners luck, just wait and see.’ said the small fellow, but he seemed to go a little deeper blue and get a little fatter. Nine times this happened and each time Ben Dan would say ‘Beginners luck, just wait and see.’ and each time he would get a little fatter and a deeper blue until now he was almost purple.

‘Last time, are you ready, are you steady. Go!’ said Ben Dan and Li Bai held out his hand. Ben Dan’s hand was flat and Li Bai held out two fingers.

‘That’s not fair, This has never happened before, you must have cheated.’ Shouted Ben Dan and his face went a deeper purple. He grew fatter and then went “pop” and flitted away like a burst balloon.

‘Just like a bag of hot air.’ said Li Bai smiling. ‘It seems that there was a price to pay for losing after all.’

Just then Li Bai heard a grinding sound and an entrance appeared in the mountain. Picking up his belongings, cautiously Li Bai walked over and peeped in. It was pitch black. He took one pace inside, the grinding sound repeated its self and the mountain closed around him. To quick for him to jump back out. Groping in the dark he took out his magic bottle, took a drink and then the stars glimmered, floated around his head and grew brighter, until he could see as clear as daylight.

‘I seem to be in some sort of tunnel.’ Li Bai said aloud, and his voice echoed eerily, as it bounced down the walls of the tunnel.

‘Wait where you are,’ said the bat ‘While I have a look at what lies ahead.’ with that the bat flew off into the darkness. Upon returning the bat said ‘You are in a very large labyrinth, which has seen the demise of many travellers before you. Poor souls have wandered aimlessly and succumbed to hunger and thirst. At the end of the labyrinth is a cave, in which sits a little fellow, he is the double of Ben Dan so must be his twin, it is he who holds the key to your way out of this predicament.’

Li Bai slowly navigated the maze, with the bat telling him which turns to take and now and then manoeuvring around the skeletal remains of earlier travellers. When he espied a piece of white cloth lying on the ground, he was about to pick it up saying. ‘Just the thing to polish the magic mirror with.’

When the bat shouted ‘Do not touch it, it is the white cloth demon. Put your hand on that, and it will drag you down to hell.’

Quickly Li Bai straightened up and hurried on. Turning his head to look back, he was in time to see the white cloth scurry off into the darkness.

Li Bai came to a cavern which was lit by the luminescent properties in the rock, a soft yellowish light glowed, giving off an unnatural light. The stars that had guided Li Bai immediately returned to the bottle, before Li Bai entered the cavern.

Upon entering Li Bai was greeted by a high-pitched voice ‘Hello, my name is Hutu Dan. I see you have made it through the labyrinth. In the thousand years that I have been waiting, that has never happened before. What is your name and what can I do for you?’

‘My name is Li Bai, and you can let me out of here. So I can continue on my journey.’ Answered Li Bai.

‘Oh, yes! Now I remember, You have to play a game of shoushilling with me and beat me ten time in a row.’

‘What if I don’t beat you?.’

‘Then you have to go back the way you came and play the game with my brother, to see if he will let you pass, backwards and forwards, it is until you beat one of us.’

Li Bai did not want to tell him that his brother was no more, having exploded with frustration at getting beaten. Instead, he said ‘Alright let us get on with it.’

‘Then the bat whispered ‘He is the opposite to his brother, he will go rock once and paper nine times.’

‘Are you ready, are you steady. Go!’ said Hutu Dan and they each held out their hand, Li Bai’s was flat and Hutu Dan’s.’ was a fist. ‘You are good at this, I can see.’ said the small fellow, but he seemed to go a lighter shade of blue and get a little thinner.

‘Are you ready, are you steady. Go!.’ The little fellows hand was flat, while Li Bai held out two fingers. Again Hutu Dan said ‘You are good at this, I can see.’ This happened another seven times and each time Hutu Dan would say ‘You are good at this, I can see.’ and each time he would get a little thinner and a little lighter until now he was almost translucent.

‘Last time, are you ready, are you steady. Go!’ said Hutu Dan and Li Bai held out his hand. Hutu Dan’s hand was flat and Li Bai held out two fingers.

‘Well you won fair and square. This has never happened before.’ Whispered Hutu Dan and his face was glass like. He grew so thin, he vanished down a crack in the cavern floor. There was a grinding noise and the cavern was flooded with sunlight. Quickly Li Bai darted out into the open air and just as quickly the hole closed.

Sitting down on a rock, Li Bai took out his magic bottle of V.I.P Jiu 8 and took a drink. ‘Well’ he said ‘At least no more travellers will be trapped by the Dan brothers.’ and after taking another drink he said. ‘What have I learned today.’ “Sometimes a shortcut, is not always the quickest route.” Taking out pen and paper, he began to write.

As you pass through the labyrinth of life

Where frustration and chagrin do lie rife

Keep in your mind, your journey’s hope

And with each impediment you will cope