The day after the regional tournament in Kwailong, Master Que gathered together the results from the sports pages of the morning papers and began his calculations of who had qualified for which provincial tournaments and where they were likely to be fighting. He already had two thirds of the qualification data but he spent most of the day in our dining room parlor with his papers, calculations and hunches. I made sure that he emerged for lunch, which we had less than a block away, and he chose to emerge during the afternoon to get further information from the radio and television round ups of the results before returning to his task. He broke again to bathe and have dinner, and then he watched the evening news before going back to his notes.
It sounds like a lot of work, and I know that it was, but I swear that he was enjoying himself. At least, he was if the whistling was any indication.
I spent the morning doing a little light sightseeing and the afternoon in my yellow festival robes having my portrait painted in the Inn’s garden by the painter currently in residence, Ji Long. He was a landscape artist and I gathered that my role in his sketches was in the nature of a garden ornament. At his request, I resumed posing after dinner in the Inn’s moon garden, wearing my new casual robe and with bare feet. Apparently pictures of gardens at night or dusk containing a lady with bare feet were a Thing back when my robe was made. I had my suspicions about exactly what sort of Thing, but I saw no harm in it.
I was posing on a cushion set on a stone bench framed by jasmine and white convolvulus while Ji Long painted frantically to capture the scene as it was illuminated by the newly risen moon when Master Que came to find me. He waited for a few minutes, looking over Ji Long’s shoulder while the artist finished with one sheet of paper, then came to sit near me.
“I’ve decided which provincial tournament you should take part in,” he announced. “Considering everything, I think we should go to the tournament that the regional you won yesterday feeds into. Aside from everything else, Bao Shung is a fairly short train trip away and, assuming you’re successful there, the capital is less than a day further away by train.”
“When do we need to leave?” I asked the question while maintaining my pose and trying to keep my expression from changing.
“There’s an express midmorning tomorrow,” he told me. “You’ll have plenty of time to get ready after breakfast. While I have you here though, I want to talk about some changes we need to make to your training from now on in.”
“Oh?” Talking without changing your expression isn’t that easy.
“You know that after the first round the national tournament includes extraneous hazards?”
Because I couldn’t nod, I answered, “Yes.”
“Well, from your next training session on, we’ll start concentrating on how to handle them and work around them. I think I’ve encountered most of what you might face,” he added modestly, “in the course of my career. Mainly when I was doing back alley cage fights between professional seasons so I could get the money together to cover some debts.”
“Back alley cage fights and debts? That doesn’t sound like you, Master Que.” I was surprised and I let it show in my voice.
“I like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes but I’d also like to help you avoid them.” He patted my knee in a fatherly fashion. “Don’t let Ji Long keep you out here too late, no matter how good the moonlight is.”
With that he went to leave but Ji Long called out, “Not until I’ve finished this sketch please!” Master Que stayed, grumpily, until the sketch was declared complete and then he fled with alarming alacrity.
This is followed by A First Class Train Trip From Kwailong To Bao Shung.