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Chapter 12 – Ling Zhi or Poison Ivy?

How long did it take two guys to make their way down a thousand plus high mountain? Half an hour for Ting Wei and fifteen minutes for CJ. Why? Roger kept fidgeting with his rope, causing Ting Wei to halt in mid-climb to make sure everything was still safe. CJ and I definitely made a better team and would have won if we were actually going for some type of prize. Actually, the guys did not need to go all the way down, it was only halfway. They would see a cave somewhere during the climb and then they should see some type of plant that looked like a mushroom. That was supposed to be the “ling zhi” or so Xiao Bai said.
None of us cared to wonder why he would know it was there when it was so far down. Not to mention, if he would be able to see it, wouldn’t he be able to get it already? That didn’t make sense. I turned to look at Xiao Bai briefly – like I casually would in the last half an hour. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so rash and listened to CJ ages ago. Maybe Xiao Bai was putting us on after all. Too late now. We just have to go through with it.
About ten more minutes went by before anyone of us spoke up. Actually, it was Ting Wei who spoke up from below. Correction, more like yelling up to us.
“Did you find it?!” Xiao Bai asked, edging closer to the cliff.
“Not yet!” Ting Wei yelled back. “I just want to ask if we’re actually going in the right direction.”
I rolled my eyes, noticing how lame his question was.
“Of course!” Xiao Bai answered.
“Hey!” CJ’s voice echoed up to us.
“What?!?” I asked in alarmed.
“I think I can feel it! The cave’s just below me now!”
“Careful! Don’t lose your footing!”
“I know!”
Just as expected, about two minutes later, CJ yelled up to us again, saying that he had found the cave. He stopped and rested for a bit while directing Ting Wei toward the cave at the same time. I could feel the rope losing pressure as he settled down somewhere to rest. Maybe he managed to sit on the edge of the cave? I wonder how wide the cave was. Then I remembered something.
“Watch out for unwanted visitors!” I yelled down to him.
“What?!” CJ hollered back.
“Snakes!”
“Don’t worry! I have a 20/20 vision!”
Xiao Bai turned to look at me, not knowing what the pun meant. Although CJ was speaking in Chinese, but he forgot about the modern slang.
“Inside joke,” I said real fast.
“Oh,” Xiao Bai said, still confused but didn’t want to ask further.
At that same moment, I heard Roger breathing out in relief. I turned to look at him. He was loosening his grip on the rope. Ting Wei must be sitting at the cave’s mouth and catching his breath right now – like CJ. If not, I would personally lunged at Roger and strangled him to death for letting go.
One more minute went by before we heard the guys yelling from below again.
“Do we have to go inside the cave?!” CJ’s voice hollered.
“No!” Xiao Bai yelled, cupping his mouth to transmit the sound better. “It should be to the sides. Check carefully around you.”
“Great,” CJ muttered.
Although he was muttering, but somehow the word traveled up to us anyway. How come? Coincidentally, the wind blew by at that time. So I guessed it carried the sounds upward too.
“You found it?!” I yelled after a full minute of not hearing or feeling anything.
“Stop nagging,” CJ muttered, sounding somewhat irritated.
“I’m just concerned, okay?” I snapped back.
“Just don’t let go,” He said, half-teasing and half-serious.
Like I would, I thought.
We waited patiently for ten minutes before anyone of the guys from below would spoke up again.
“I found it!” CJ yelled out excitedly.
Great, I thought. It took you awhile. But we won! No…wait, what was I talking about? We were just trying to accomplish this task, not engage in some sort of competition.
“Really?” I heard Xiao Bai asked behind me.
“No, it’s a joke,” CJ replied sarcastically.
“Huh?” Xiao Bai said. “I thought you said…”
“He’s putting you on,” I said finally. “He got it.”
“I’m going to hand it to Ting Wei though!” CJ yelled up, breaking through the silence again.
Why him? Finders keepers, right? What was I up to again? We were not in a competition. I needed to focus on getting CJ up safe and sound again so we could go home.
“Ready?!” Ting Wei yelled up to Roger.
“Yeah,” Roger said.
He sounded not-so-ready to me, but I wouldn’t want to argue with him right now.
“Shao Han!” CJ called up to me.
“I’m ready,” I replied.
“Okay.”
The climb up was a bit faster than I thought possible. Somehow, Roger’s energy seemed to step up a few notches as he pulled Ting Wei back up. I concentrated on pulling the rope back up since CJ was making his way up faster by the second. He was probably relief and eager at the same time. Eager to try out the medallion when we got out of here.
We worked in silence for the next several minutes, concentrating hard to finish this task. When we could see the guys again – just a few more feet from us, Ting Wei suddenly swayed sideways. Roger yanked on the rope really hard in alarm. I watched carefully, trying to steady the rope in my hands also.
“CJ, what’s wrong?” I managed, panicking.
“Don’t pull!” Ting Wei yelled out to Roger. “Steady it!”
Ting Wei and yelling didn’t go together. What was going on here?
“CJ!” I yelled out again.
“Snake!” CJ finally yelled out.
I would have said “I told you so” to CJ if I wasn’t so scared.
“Roger, keep it steady,” I said turning to Roger, not caring that I had called him and CJ by their English names seconds ago.
“Watch out!” CJ screeched seconds later.
I almost dropped the rope but I managed to regain myself in time to keep a strong grip on it.
“What’s going on down there?” Xiao Bai finally asked.
I wondered the same thing. But what I was wondering was why hadn’t Xiao Bai spoke up before? Jing Jing had advanced to Roger’s side and was helping him with Ting Wei’s rope right now. The rope seemed to be coming down toward Ting Wei more than up toward us.
“We’re trying to dodge from the snake here,” CJ answered finally after a few more nerve-wrecking seconds went by.
“Are you guys succeeding at all?” Roger asked, his energy somewhat drained.
He had Jing Jing to help him, what was he whining about anyway?
About two more minutes went by before the guys were being pulled up again. It seemed like the snake fell over already or it decided to leave them alone. Either way, I was glad they were not hurt – yet. When they were even closer to us, Jing Jing finally let Roger took over at the rope on his own while she took a step back, but still crouching on her knees to watch us.
“Finally,” CJ uttered out with relief as he was steadying himself and was ready to jump up to where we were at.
Just as I was about to reach my hand out to grab hold of his hand, I could see that Ting Wei was losing footing again on one of the rocks. He dangled loosely and tried to steady himself again. Just as he was turning in mid-air, trying to grab a hold of a piece of rock again, I could see a shining object glistening in the sun. It just glided out of his shirt. I couldn’t think. I jumped out after thrusting CJ’s rope into Jing Jing’s hands. I caught it in time before it joined the rest of the dust and whatever else that had a less fortunate fate. Two things happened about the same time after I jumped out to catch it. Both of them have to do with yelling – CJ and Ting Wei yelling at me and CJ yelling at Jing Jing. How come?
Actually, what happened was when I realized or had a gut feeling it was the medallion falling out of Ting Wei’s pocket, I could not just let it be. We’d been through so much. I had to risk it. After giving Jing Jing the rope, I lunged out with all my energy to grab it. At that same time, CJ and Ting Wei yelled out my name in alarm. CJ also managed to catch me in time as I dived toward him. Why was CJ yelling at Jing Jing? He was afraid that she would let go.
I finally regained myself again and looked at the cliff below. It looked quite scary. I gripped the medallion tightly in my hand and closed my eyes at that moment, leaning into CJ’s shoulder for support. I knew I didn’t want to have my fear be the reason that I would let go of the medallion. It would be too ironic that I was the one who let go when I tried to dive out and save it in the first place.
“Shi Jing Jing,” CJ repeated again. “Don’t you let go.”
“What are you talking about?!” Jing Jing managed to yell out.
From her voice, I also knew that she was getting tired too.
“Shao Han, you all right?” Ting Wei asked to my left.
I nodded, but only briefly, not wanting to talk or I would lose it and cause more burden for Jing Jing.
“Pull me up first!” Ting Wei yelled.
Then I heard some rope moving against rock or whatever else that was rustling around me.
“Angela,” CJ whispered next to me. “It’s all right.”
I managed to nod into him as we waited patiently for Ting Wei to arrive at the top.
“Okay, give me the rope,” Ting Wei said several minutes later. “Let go, Jing Jing. Xiao Bai and I got it.”
Seconds later, I felt some moments on the rope. CJ managed to remove one hand he had around me and moved with his feet. I gripped tighter onto the medallion and turned my face upward before using my feet to climb up also, trying to lessen the burden I entrusted on CJ. We made it up without any other mishaps. It was when I finally touched solid ground that my heartbeat seemed to steady again. I let out a deep breath before loosening my grip on the rope. CJ had let go of me since we were safe again. The others were gathering around me right now since I could see their shadows.
“You all right?” Xiao Bai finally asked after a full minute of silence.
I looked up at the faces around me again. I could see the worried expression on all their faces, including Roger’s. I finally nodded. The others exhaled a sigh of relief. I tried to get up from my kneeling position, but my feet seemed to fail me. Both CJ and Ting Wei advanced forward to grab hold of my shoulders and steady me. CJ let go first, seeing Ting Wei got it. I half-expected him to say something like “I’m her brother, let me”, but he didn’t. He just took a step back and waited patiently to see how I reacted. Before I could react though, Ting Wei pulled me into his arms and hugged me tightly.
“It’s all right,” He said soothingly.
For some reason, I couldn’t resist. Or maybe I didn’t want to resist. Or because I was too traumatized. Whatever it was, I let him hold me and sooth me like a frightened little kid at that moment. Or was it because it felt so good to have him hold me in his arms? Feeling so safe and worriless.

*****

“This is unbelievable,” Roger whined.
“What’s so unbelievable about it?” CJ asked, looking half-amused.
“We have to go back at where we started out?” Roger repeated the same phrase he said in the last hour.
“Get over it, man,” CJ said. “Either way, it’s a good chance and good exercise still.”
“Great,” Roger mumbled. “All I need is exercise.”
The rest of us laughed. Then we went back to work again.
So what happened after the whole incident? Ting Wei finally handed the “ling zhi” over to Xiao Bai after we pulled apart. Xiao Bai took us back to town again. Somehow in the mist of confusion, Ting Wei and I got back together without knowing or saying anything.
I must admit my cowardly, indecisive nature, but for some reason, I felt like I had been so rash and so stubborn. Maybe I was too harsh on Ting Wei. I was in the wrong too for making him give in to me. Maybe after that near to death incident, I realized I shouldn’t cling too much to my principles anymore, especially when it only benefited me. The others, especially CJ and Roger were somewhat both happy and relief that we were no longer at odds. Jing Jing seemed a bit sad but I didn’t want to let my paranoid nature get to me again. I needed to mend things with Ting Wei again. Maybe I should see it his way and try to understand him rather than blame him. I should try to mend the relationship between us – the three of us. Jing Jing was our friend after all. No matter what she’d done in the past, I shouldn’t hold it against her or avoid her so much. I should talk it out with her one day, making her understand that in the end, she would always be our friend no matter what. The result? We did not have a talk of any sort yet. At least not until we get back to civilization, our civilization. So those talks would have to wait.
After saying goodbye to Xiao Bai, we managed to find a deserted enough place to test the medallion out. Did it work? Of course not. The reason? We figured it had something to do with the spot. Maybe we should go back to the original spot – Huang Tu City to try it out again. Why were we so sure the medallion was the key? It sort of wavered a bit when Ting Wei made a wish to go home, but that was it.
We returned to the inn again after the test to rest and map our journey back again. Luckily, we’d been paying attention to our route the whole time we were traveling or we would have been clueless all over again. Why did we have to map our way back if we knew our way? We were running out of money. We were trying to figure out how much we need and should earn before we arrive at Huang Tu City.
For the next few days after that, we wandered around town to look for work or possible work to earn money for our trip back. We ran into Xiao Bai after an exhausting day of searching and told him about our situation. He offered to help us look for work. We didn’t want to bug him anymore, but he insisted since he felt bad for causing a scare among us. It was a bit easier afterward since Xiao Bai lived there after all. He knew a lot of people and more people came to us for odd jobs. Xiao Bai also offered that we move to his house so it would be easier on us with rents and whatnot. He only blurted out a decent amount for the rent fees after we insisted.
So finally here we were working away at different tasks – the guys working on some carpentry again while we girls were knitting away. While we were taking a break, Roger had mumbled out for the umpteenth time why the medallion didn’t work and why we had to go back to Huang Tu City. The others were used to his rant by now and were just laughing at him for it.
It was not a bad thing to go back to Huang Tu City either. Since we could fulfill Ah Xiang’s wish of seeing Granny Yang again. Ting Wei had already replied to Ah Xiang like two days ago regarding our trip back. Hopefully, by the time we arrived, Granny Yang would be all better again. She better be since it would be a month or more before we would be back.
As I was thinking about all of these, I heard Ting Wei coughing nearby. I dropped what I was doing and poured a cup of tea for him before heading outside front to where the guys were. I handed him the cup of tea as the other guys were stopping what they were doing also to stare at us.
“Where’s mine?” CJ teased, looking somewhat bewildered that he should be left out.
“Sorry, Little Bro,” I said. “I forgot.”
He smiled back since he knew I was just teasing him.
“Can’t compete with that then,” He said before going back to his tasks again.
I turned around to see Ting Wei smiling at me. “What are you smiling at? Get back to work.” With that, I yanked the cup out of his hand and walked back inside the house.
“Your girl is definitely back,” I heard Roger commented before I disappear from their view.
“Shut up or you’ll be in trouble with her when we get back,” CJ warned him.
Then the guys laughed among themselves. Yes, they were back as a threesome all right. I guessed it was because of what happened so they decided not to argue anymore over small matters.
© Saturday, August 16, 2008
Posted: Saturday, March 13th, 2010

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