‘Up to now, I have beheld forests filled with eerie shaped trees and tangled undergrowth. Places where wild animals did abide. I have seen rock columns which appeared as mesmerizing pinnacles that seemed to hold the sky aloft, and others that gave the impression of being green islands suspended in an ocean of clouds. I have noted snow capped mountains where glacial lakes and hot springs were abundant. I have bypassed majestic canyons wherein flowed tributary rivers. I have crossed streams whilst listening to the thunder of waterfalls. I have traversed deserts amid searing heat and known the pangs of hunger and thirst. I have also known the comfort of villages, city’s, and towns. I have sojourned in lone huts, visited monasteries and enjoyed the natural beauty of exotic flora whilst camping under the stars. I have embraced angry winds, torrential rain and icy sleet as I watched the changing seasons.
Now I stand looking at the thirteen snow capped peaks of the Jade Dragon mountain range, which lie in the upper reaches of the great river. Thus marking the halfway point of the first leg of my journey.’ Li Bai thought, rather pleased with himself. So, taking out his magic bottle, he opened it and took a drink.
A short distance off, he espied a group of people. There seemed to be five of them, of which four looked like shadow puppets by the gestures they were making. Tethered nearby were four horses. Upon drawing a little closer, he could see one person was tied up, and the other four were arguing amongst themselves and did not see him approaching.
‘I wonder what they are up to.’ muttered Li Bai.
The dragon appeared to Li Bai, but stayed invisible to anyone else who might be looking. ‘This looks like trouble.’ said the dragon.’ Do you want me to sort it out.’
‘Not yet, let us first see what transpires when they set eyes on me.’ answered Li Bai smiling.
One of the group noticed Li Bai and muttered something to his companions, and they all looked to where his finger was pointing. A tall, broad shouldered fellow detached himself from the group and walked forwards. He was dressed in loose fitting trousers, shirt and straw hat.
Li Bai watched as the stranger closed in, he held a raised sword above his head. Li Bai circled away from him, twirling his staff as he did so and changing it from hand to hand. The stranger roared angrily and brought his sword slashing down towards Li Bai’s head, Li Bai simply sidestepped and struck the fellow in the middle of the back with his staff. The stranger cried out in pain. Quickly he turned and faced Li Bai swinging his sword. Li Bai stepped back from the flailing whirling of his blade, waited his chance, then struck him a heavy blow to the top of his head. Oomph! Air came out of the stranger’s lungs like a burst balloon, his knees buckled as he blindly put his arms out as he went sprawling on the ground. Li Bai pressed his staff to the stricken man’s throat and said, ‘Do not move, or I will crush your windpipe.’ Li Bai noticed one of the fallen man’s cohorts raise his arm to throw a spear, so turning to the dragon. He said, ‘You can teach him a lesson.’
The dragon blew in the air and a vortex of wind came down and whisked the would be spear thrower away. His companion raised his bow as he reached for an arrow and was about to take aim when the dragon again blew into the air. The last of the group saw his two companions vanish and a look of fear spread across his face. He threw down his battleaxe, turned on to his heels and ran off.
The one on the ground witnessed all this and cried out.’ What are you? A god or a demon? I heard you talking to the air, and then two of my men disappeared. I swear if you do not harm me, I will change my ways, I will become a monk, honest I will.’
Smiling Li Bai said ‘Alright, be on your way, but first why have you got a prisoner?’
The stranger said.’ We came across her tied up, we were only going to have a bit of fun and let her go, that’s the truth. Can I just get my sword and horse?’
To which Li Bai replied.’ Monks have no need for swords or horses. Now be off.’ Then he turned to the dragon and asked, ‘What did you do with those two.’
The dragon replied. ‘They are on a mountain top, not at all dressed for the occasion. They will be cold and bewildered, but unharmed.’
Li Bai gave a soft chuckle, then walked over to where the prisoner was sitting.
She had long black hair, which was in need of grooming, her pretty face was smudged with dirt, and she wore poor clothing, even for a peasant Li Bai noted. He told her not to be afraid and introduced himself as he began to untie her. Saying, ‘I will get you back to your people.’
‘Thank you for rescuing me, but I cannot go back to my village, It will bring bad luck. I was a sacrifice for the mountain demon. I will have to go back and wait for it to come from its cave. There is still time for it does not come out till after dark.’ said the young woman sobbing.
‘ It is nearly dark now. I shall accompany you.’ comforted Li Bai. Gathering up the discarded weapons and collecting the horses, Li Bai helped the young woman onto a horse and as he walked beside her, leading the other horses, he said, ‘Now you can tell me your story.’
She told him once every five years, a sacrifice of a goat was made to the one eyed demon, to ward off bad luck and famine.
‘One eye.’ queried Li Bai
‘Yes.’ answered Biyu for that was the young woman’s name, ‘It is frightened of light, and lives in secret tunnels, deep within the mountain.’
‘Why were you picked as an offering instead of a goat?’ Li Bai asked a little baffled
‘All the goats in the village mysteriously died earlier in the year. Everyone in the village scraped together and were able to buy eight she-goats, who were heavy with kid. They were far too precious to offer as a sacrifice, so instead they picked me, for I have no family and no one to mourn me. They gave me a goat skin to wear and tied me to a tree near the entrance to the demon’s cave. Then those bandits came, took me away, and they were arguing amongst themselves when you came along. I saw you best their leader, then two men vanished into thin air and one ran away in fright.’ answered Biyu. ‘Ah! Here is the cave.’ Biyu got off the horse, walked towards a sapling, picked up the goatskin that was lying on the ground and draped it across her shoulders.
Li Bai walked to a boulder nearby sat down, taking out his magic bottle he took a drink, then summonsed the five stars he talked to them. After telling the dragon, bat and fenghuang his plan. He took another drink and waited.
It was a short wait, when a deep rumbling was heard and out from the cave emerged the demon.
‘I smell humans nearby.’ It roared.
Li Bai looked and saw a creature standing a little taller than an average man, but its body was that of a fat ape without hair, it had long powerful arms, thick muscular legs, short powerful neck on top of which sat the head of a wild boar with gaping jaws and huge tusks dripping with saliva and set in its skull was one large unblinking eye. Which stared straight at him.
‘Now!’ cried out Li Bai and the stars left the bottle and hovered in the air as they became one and shone as bright as the sun. Taking out the magic mirror, Li Bai angled it, so the light from the stars reflected from its surface into the demon’s eye, seared the retina of the demon, blinding him. In his rage, he stumbled back into the cave, fists pounding the walls of the cavern until they crumbled, and the demon entombed himself deep inside the mountain.
With that done, Li Bai walked over to the young woman. ‘Well now, that wasn’t so bad, We will camp here for tonight and tomorrow I shall take you to your village.’
Biyu was reluctant to return to the village after what they had done to her, but she had no money, and nowhere else to go. ‘I suppose I must.’ she said more to herself than to Li Bai.
Li Bai could sense her resentment about returning to the village, but thought, ‘I will say no more tonight, let her sleep on it.’
As Biyu gathered wood to make a fire, Li Bai got out his magic bottle of V.I.P Jiu 8. After taking a drink he said ‘What have I learned today.’ “Discipline can win quarrels, but it takes teamwork to win battles.’ So, taking out pen and paper, he began to write.
When your mind is in turmoil
And inner demons you fight
Call out to your friends
With their help put it right