Chapter 08

After Vesperus cultivates himself for three months, a friend eyes him anew;
When he flaunts his looks just once, a beauty loses her heart.

Lyric:
Song Yu’s brilliance, Pan An’s beauty,
The grace of the willow tree,
Youth like the flowery season’s start,
A temper mild, a patient heart –
With these five things a seducer you can be.

Two other things there are, both hard to counterfeit:
Be born with a lover’s grace
And by love’s lucky star be blessed.
With these seven things, if you start your quest,
Expense of spirit is all you’ll have to face.
(To the tune “Butterflies adoring the flowers”)

Taking leave of the adept, Vesperus returned to his lodgings, where he lay in bed contemplating the sexual adventures he would enjoy after reconstruction. He felt the excitement building up in him.

I’ve been living the single life for ages, he reflected, and my heart is choked with long-repressed desire. I’ll never be able to bear the period of enforced impotence after tomorrow’s operation. Before I go under the knife, I ought to take this chance to find a woman and have a bout or two with her. It would act like a dose of rhubarb and purge all the emotional congestion from my system.

Preoccupied by these concerns, Vesperus had trouble sleeping. He was about to get up and go in search of a prostitute when it occurred to him that by this hour prostitutes would be busy with their clients and reluctant to open their doors to him. For a while he endured the frustration, then realized, I have emergency relief here at hand! Why not get it out and put it to use? I’ve been ignoring the unbolted south gate while trying the blocked-off north road. He then called one of his pages into bed, to serve as a woman and allow him to work off his desire.

He possessed two pages, one named Satchel, the other Sheath. Because Satchel, who was only fifteen, could read a little, Vesperus had entrusted his books to the boy’s care as if he were a satchel, hence the name. To Sheath, who was a few years older, Vespreus had entrusted his antique sword, an heirloom, as if he were a sheath, hence his name. Both boys were attractive; indeed, apart from their big feet, they were on a par with the most beautiful women. But Sheath was somewhat artless and lacking in coquetry, and although Vesperus had frequently dallied with him, he had never been completely satisfied. Satchel, on the other hand, although younger, was extremely artful and an expert sexual partner. While joining Vesperus in his pleasures, he was able, like a woman, both to raise his buttocks to meet Vesperus’s thrusts and also to utter cries of passion. Vesperus favored him, and so on this occasion it was Satchel, not Sheath, whom he called into bed to help him vent his now violent desires.

Satchel waited until he had finished, then asked in a coquettish tone, “Master, you’ve been so preoccupied with women that you’ve completely neglected the two of us. Why this sudden interest in reopening the old accounts?”

“This is not sex we’re having tonight,” said Vesperus. “This is a farewell.”

“A farewell? Surely you couldn’t bear to part with us?”

“Who said anything about selling you? Perhaps the word farewell needs some clarification: I’m not the one saying farewell, it’s my penis that’s saying farewell to your buttocks.”

“But why?”

“Well, as you know, I’m due to have my penis restructured in a day or two. After the operation, it will be dozens of times bigger than it is now. Even a woman whose vagina is a little on the tight side will no longer be able to receive me. So after tonight you and I won’t be able to have sex again. If that’s not a farewell, I don’t know what is!”

“Perhaps yours is rather small, but why would you want to restructure it?”

Vesperus explained that women differed from boys in preferring the large to the small.

“So after surgery you intend to seduce girls? You’ll have no use for us?”

“That’s right.”

“When you go off on your seductions, you’ll need to have an escort. Take me along, and if there are any girls left over whom you don’t have time for, give one to me so that I can see what sex with a woman is like. That way I’ll not have wasted my time in the service of a great lover.”

“That’s easily arranged. A well-fed general doesn’t starve his troops, you know. While their mistresses are sleeping with me, you shall have any maid you want. And not just one, but dozens, hundreds …”

Satchel was so delighted that he climbed on top of Vesperus and doused the flesh-colored candle.

Vesperus slept the rest of that night. The next morning he assembled the things he would need. He bought an extremely plump, sturdy dog; he found a bitch to match with it; and he kept them in separate quarters in his lodgings until the next day, when he told Satchel to fetch the dogs and accompany him. Sheath was to prepare the wine and bring it along later.

Since he dealt in such secret techniques, the adept had found himself a large, very private place surrounded by open land where there were no casual visitors. Once the gate was shut, it offered the ideal setting for the operation. To prepare for the surgery, he applied analgesic to Vesperus’s penis. At the first application of the ointment, Vesperus felt as if his organ had been plunged into cold water and then as if he had no organ at all, for he felt no sensation when it was pinched and scratched. Some of his tension left him at that point, as it dawned on him that he would feel no pain during surgery.

Before long the wone arrived, and Vesperus and the adept drank as they waited for the dog and bitch to couple.

These two hot-blooded creatures were apparently under the impression that their new master wanted to do them a special favor and had purposely brought them to some out-of-the-way place where they could couple freely, without interruption from other males dashing up to pick fights or other females acting jealous. And so, not daring to betray their master’s generosity, they spliced themselves together as soon as they were in each other’s company. Little did they realize, however, that theirs was an impecunious master who meant to appropriate their very endowment.

The dogs had been brought to the operating room with ropes around their necks, and the ropes had not been removed. Now that the dogs were enthusiastically coupling, all that Satchel and Sheath had to do was give a strong tug on the ropes for them to be pulled half apart like a severed lotus root with its fibers still entwined. The male could not bear to be parted and began to bark furiously, while his hind legs tried to grip the female’s vulva and prevent it from slipping away. To his surprise, he could not hold on, and both vulva and penis were removed together. The female could not bear the thought of separation any more than the male, and she barked furiously, too, her hind blegs holding his penis to prevent it from slipping out. To her surprise, the penis could not be held either, but was removed along with her vulva.

After cutting out the dog’s penis, the adept quickly made the incisions in Vesperus’s penis and, having sliced the logs’ into strips, packed one strip, still hot, into each incision. He then applied a miracle drug and bandaged it up. Once the operation was over, he and Vesperus resumed their drinking.

Vesperus asked the adept if he might stay the night. The two men shared the same bed, and in the course of the night the adept passed along much tactical information. Next day Vesperus returned home to begin his convalescence.

During the next three months, thanks to his self-control, he never once looked at a woman or entertained a lascivious thought. He neither peeked at his restructured penis nor felt it with his hand, but acted as if it was still the same. Only when the critical period was over did he take off the bandages, clean it out, and examine it closely, at which point he let out a whoop of laughter. “It’s simply magnificent! It really is different! With an amazing thing like this, I’ll be able to run wild!”

After another day or two, just as he was thinking of going to look for the Knave and urging him to make good on his promise, the latter happened to come by.

“Worthy brother,” said the Knave, “you haven’t been out in ages, just stayed quietly at home. You must have made a lot of progress in your examination studies.”

“None at all, although I have made a little progress in my study of bedroom techniques.”

The Knave smiled. “If you’re not born with the right capacity, the progress will always be limited, I’m afraid. I would urge you not to spend your time on that subject.”

“Just what are you suggesting, brother? When you meet a gentleman again after three days, you should look at him with a fresh eye, you know. An even fresher eye in my case, for you’ve not seen me in three months! Do I still have to put up with your insults, even if I’ve made some progress?”

“If you’ve made any progress, it will be merely cosmetic and won’t affect the real issue. You’re like a man in combat training; if he has an exceptional physique and strength, he’ll less than three feet tall and can’t lift ten pounds, even if he practices constantly and masters all eighteen techniques, he’ll have to confine his fighting to the puppet theatre. He can hardly take part in real combat!”

“Brother, you’re going farther and farther astray! Have you never seen a boy three feet tall develop into a husky man? Have you never heard that before an army races with the speed of a hare, it’s as demure as a maiden? Only dead men’s penises can shrink but not grow. What living man’s thing never grows, but stays predictably the same?”

“I simply don’t believe it. The pecker on a twelve-or thirteen-year-old boy who has never produced a drop may grow by the day, but in the case of a man in his twenties, if his penis is going to develop at all, it will do so very little, but millimeters rather than centimeters.”

“If it were just a matter of centimeters, you wouldn’t notice the difference. It would only be noteworthy if it grew several times bigger.”

“Impossible! We may have get-rich-quick millionaires, but there are no get-big-quick penises! Anyway take it out and let me see it.”

“The last time I did that I had to put up with a stream of ridicule from you. That same day I made a solemn vow never to show my penis to anyone ever again. Then I stuck the vow on my wall. I’m not going to make a spectacle of myself a second time.”

“Stop making fun of me, brother, and hurry up and show me. I hope it has grown a bit. If so, I shall offer it my humblest apologies.”

“A verbal apology won’t suffice. Only if you find it a real opportunity for action, to try it out and give it encouragement, will you be showing a desire to foster talent.”

“You’re right. If it really has developed, I’ll foster it with that affair we spoke of.”

“Very well, then, I suppose I shall have to make a spectacle of myself all over again.”

It was the beginning of winter, and Vesperus was wearing a padded jacket and lined trousers. Thinking his clothes would be too bulky to allow a close inspection, he tied his sash around his waist, tucked up his shirt, and let down his trousers. Then he presented his penis with both hands, like the Persian offering up his jewel.

“Well, has it made any progress? Take a look.”

The Knave, who was standing some way off, thought he must have obtained a donkey’s member from somewhere and attached it to his waist. Not until he came close and scrutinized it did he realize that it was the genuine article. He gaped in astonishment.

“What method did you use to turn that puny object into something so impressive?”

“I don’t know exactly, but after you provoked it, it suddenly pulled itself together in an effort to do me credit. There was no holding it back.”

“Don’t you try to fool me! I can see the surgical scars, as well as four strips of a different color. Come on now, tell me the truth, what ingenious technique is behind all this?”

Vesperus could hold out no longer against his friend’s questions. He proceeded to relate how he had met the adept and undergone transplant surgery with the aid of a dog’s penis.

“The lengths you go to for the sake of sex! You’ll obviously succeed, because you’ll let nothing stand in your way. I can see I have no choice but to help you out in this affair.

Luckily I still have a few pieces of gold on me. Let’s go over to her place now and see if there’s any opening.”

Overjoyed, Vesperus hastily changed his clothes, put on a new cap, and went out with the Knave. When they came near her shop, the Knave asked him to wait while he went ahead and spied out the land.

Before long he was back, a broad grin on his face. “Congratulations! You’re in luck! Provided you have the right destiny, you can pull it off tonight.”

“But we’ve never even met,” said Vesperus. “How can you be so sure about tonight?”

“I’ve just heard from the neighbors that her husband is off on a buying trip and won’t be back for over ten days. You’ll burst in with me and start making advances to her. If she shows any liking for you, I’ll find a way to get you in there tonight. You’ll be able to count on ten days of pleasure with her.”

“I shall owe everything to you.”

When they reached the shop, the woman was sitting inside, spinning silk. The Knave pushed the bamboo curtain aside and he and Vesperus burst in.

“Is Master Quan at home?”

“No, he’s away buying silk,” she replied.

“I was thinking of buying a few pounds. Since he isn’t here, what shall I do?”

“You could always go somewhere else for it.”

Vesperus intervened. “We could get it anywhere, of course, but we’ve been customers of yours for a long time and would prefer not to patronize someone else. Moreover, other people’s silk may not be of the highest quality. We feel more confident buying from you.”

“If you’re customers of ours, how is it I don’t know you?”

“Where’s your memory, ma’am?” put in the Knave. “I was in here last summer buying silk. Your husband was away then, too, and you served me yourself. You got a roll down from on top and sold it to me. Surely you haven’t forgotten?”

“No, I do remember that.”

“Since you remember, ” said Vesperus, “you must know we haven’t come her to haggle. If you have some silk, bring it out and sell it to us. Why drive business away to your competitors?”

“I do have a few pounds,” she said, “but I don’t know if they’ll meet your requirements?”

“How could your silk not meet our requirements? It is more likely too good. I’m afraid a poor student like me may not be able to afford it.”

“You’re too kind. Well, won’t you take a seat while I get it out?”

The Knave made Vesperus take the upper seat, which was closer, so that he could flirt with her more easily.

The woman brought out a roll of silk and handed it to Vesperus. As she did so, she remained impassive and did not look closely at him.

Before he even took the silk, Vesperus said, “This is too yellow. I’m afraid it won’t do.” Then, after taking it and inspecting it, he said to the Knave, “That’s funny! In madam’s hands’ hands it looked a yellowy brown, but in mine it’s white again. How do you account for that?” He pretended to ponder the answer, then went on: “I know! Madam’s hands are too white, and so they make the silk look yellow by comparison. My hands are dark, and so they make it look white.”

When she heard this remark, her eyes fastened on Vesperus’s hands and examined them. “Your honorable hands can hardly be called dark,” she said at last. Despite this, she retained her serious expression, with no trace of a smile.

“His hands may not be dark as compared with mine,” said the Knave, “but compared with madam’s they’re certainly not white.”

“If you think the silk is white, why don’t you buy it?” she asked.

“But it’s white only in comparison with my unworthy hands,” said Vesperus. “Obviously it’s not really white. Only silk the color of madam’s honorable hands will do. Please bring some out and show it to us.”

“Where in the world are you going to find silk as white as that?” asked the Knave. “If we could only get some the color of your complexion, it would be all right.”

At this remark the woman’s eyes fastened on Vesperus’s face and examined it. This time her face lit up with pleasure. “I’m afraid there’s no silk in the world as white as that,” she said with a smile.

Gentle reader, why do you suppose she smiled now but not before? Why do you think she looked closely at him now but not before? The truth is she was nearsighted and could see nobody more than a few feet away. When Vesperus entered the shop, she thought he was just another customer. Then, when she heard him describe himself as a poor student, she realized he was licentiate, but still thought him ordinary and did not scrutinize him. Because she had to strain her eyes in order to see people, she never looked closely at a man on meeting him.

In general, among nearsighted women the pretty ones outnumber the ugly and the intelligent the stupid. But there is one thing to remember about them all: Their desire for sex is fully equal to that of those men with lustful eyes. Both types throw themselves wholeheartedly into sex without any respite. There is an old saying that goes: A nearsighted wife won’t be idle in bed.

Suppose an oversexed woman were able to see people at a distance. If she saw a handsome man, her desires might well be aroused and her lifelong chastity lost. That’s why the Creator, in endowing her with human form, had the brilliant idea of giving her these eyes, to prevent her from seeing anyone – not even a Pan An or A Song Yu – except her husband, thus avoiding a great deal of retribution. Historically the vast majority of nearsighted women have preserved their chastity while only a small minority have gone astray.

Because her eyes kept her out of trouble, she’d never have known if a man was standing before her all day making eyes at her. He might just as well have been wrapped in a blanket of fog. But now that she had seen Vesperus’s hands and face, she was dazzled, captivated.

She turned to him. “Well, sir, do you really want to buy some? If you do, I have a roll of excellent quality that  I’ll be glad to bring out and show you.”

“That’s what we came for,” said Vesperus. “Of course we want to buy some. Please show me what you’ve got.”

She went into the shop and returned with a roll of silk, at the same time telling her maid, a scabby-headed young girl, to serve tea to the Knave and Vesperus.

Vesperus did not finish his tea, but left half a cup in tribute to his hostess, a gesture that she acknowledged with a smile before handing him the silk. As he received it, he took the chance to squeeze her hand, and she, although affecting not to notice, responded by scratching his hand with a fingernail.

“This is an excellent roll,” said the Knave. “Let’s take it and be on our way.”

He gave the purse to Vesperus, who weighed out the amount she asked for and handed it over.

“Please note that it’s in full ingots,” he said.

“If it’s in full ingots,” she replied, “I’m afraid it may look good on the outside but be worthless inside.”

“If you’re worried about it, ma’am, why not keep both the silk and the silver here and this evening I’ll come back and break open one of the ingots and try it out for you? I’m not exaggerating when I say that our silver is as good as we are, the same on the inside as on the outside.”

“That won’t be necessary,” she said. “If it’s all right, we can do business again. Otherwise you’ll be a one-time customer.”

Picking up the silk, the Kave urged Vesperus out of the shop. As he left, Vesperus cast several lingering glances behind. Although she couldn’t see, she understood and narrowed her eyes to two slits in an expression that was neither happy nor sad.

Back at his lodgings, Vesperus conferred with the Knave. “I feel I have an excellent chance there. But what means of entry shall we use? We can’t afford to take any risks.”

“I’ve made careful inquiries, ” said the Knave, “and there’s no one else in the house except that maid we saw just now. She’s only ten or eleven. She’ll be asleep as soon as she falls into bed and won’t hear a sound the rest of the night. The house is obvious enough – no upstairs, no cellar. It won’t hold me up in the least. If we go through the wall, someone will spot us and you won’t be able to pay her a second visit. I’ll just have to carry you up to the roof on my back, remove a few tiles, pull out a rafter, and let you descend from on high.”

“What if the neighbors hear and cry thief?”

“With me beside you, that’s not likely to happen, so don’t worry. The one thing that concerns me is her remark – did you hear? – that she was afraid you might look good on the outside but be worthless inside, and that if you didn’t please her you’d be a one-time customer. Doesn’t it bear out what I told you? You’ll have to do your damnedest not to let her flunk you. Otherwise, you’ll be admitted to a first examination but not to a second or a third.”

“It will never come to that,” said Vesperus. “If you doubt me, why not keep watch from some vantage point?”

They joked together while waiting impatiently for “the golden crow to descend in the west and the jade hare to rise in the east,” when the time would come for Vesperus’s examination. But we do not yet know what method the examiner will adopt and will have to wait until the questions are handed out.

Critique

Fiction is parable and, as such, its content is obviously not factual. I hope that readers will not distort the author’s intention by focusing on his literal meaning. The surgical implant of a dog’s member into a human being, as related in this chapter, is a palpable absurdity, which implies that Vesperus’s actions are going to be bestial in nature. Similarly, in Chapter Three, when he swore friendship with the Knave and even acknowledged him as an elder brother, the implication was that his character and aspirations were lower than those of a burglar. Both incidents are scathing expressions of deep loathing, tantamount to reviling him as a cur or a crook. People must not mistake condemnation for praise and fantasy for reality and think it right to mutilate gods and fraternize with burglars. But if the bearer of the warning is slandered as the promoter of the very vice he is warning against, he will merely be sharing the same fate that writers have always suffered.

In Chapter six, the Knave described this woman as prudish, as unversed in passion, whereas in the silk-shop incident in this chapter she matches Vesperus blow for blow in repartee. Not only is she not prudish, she is extremely seductive, a fact that flatly contradicts what the Knave has said. No doubt ignorant readers had concluded that the novel’s stitching was not fine enough and had criticized the author for it, never dreaming that he would have nearsightedness in mind as a pivot, and that that was the reason for the apparent inconsistency. The author deliberately set an ingenious ambush so as to lure people into attacking him – a clear case of literary deception. The reason the woman was described as prudish is that she was nearsighted; she didn’t see the handsome man in front of her and had no occasion to behave seductively. Similarly, the reason she is now shown as seductive is also that she is nearsighted; suddenly she sees a handsome young man in front of her and cannot maintain her prudishness any longer. Obviously nearsighted women should never be allowed to set eyes on handsome young men. Readers should understand that the author is using her as an example in his moral instruction of women, not just as a means of livening up his plot.

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