"Is Uncle Ju in?" Shi Mu asked, sneaking a peek into an interior room where he usually saw the mountain of a man.
"You are looking in the wrong direction! Haha! Master is practicing in another room, wait here if you want to see him. " Vibrant answered impatiently, and got back to pruning and trimming its opulent plumage with its beak.
Shi Mu nodded and seated himself in a nearby chair. During the last few months, he had frequented the General Sutra House, and, as a result, had grown quite close to Uncle Ju. Especially after Shi Mu got the hang of making magic charms, the latter began to think of Shi Mu as a promising charm Adept, so, without either of them noticing it, the attitude adopted by uncle Ju towards Shi Mu became much more amiable than that was to other disciples. Shi Mu reciprocated this kindness with every effort by trying to pick up as much knowledge and experience as he could from Uncle Ju, including magician arts, charms, formulas, etc. Both felt this instructor-student relationship was exceedingly fulfilling.
"Hump, you old chap, what are you asking master for this time?" Vibrant felt quite bored after waiting for a moment in vain for Shi Mu to speak up. It decided to speak first.
Hearing the bird’s question, Shi Mu ignored it, choosing to ask another question in reply. He cast Vibrant a curious look, "Vib, you've been with Uncle Ju for a long a time, I bet you won't be unaware of a lizard your master has beckoned from another space?"
"Of course I know that fucking lizard! It is a rude, ugly worm that actually dared to bite me! Sooner or later I'll definitely swallow it alive!" Vibrant was infuriated even by relating its harrowing memory, and could not help but vent its anger to Shi Mu.
However, it had made an insensible decision in choosing a listener, who, instead of offering his most heartfelt condolences, opened his eyes wide and took on an air of excitement.
"Well, why did you mention that lizard?" After recovering from its sad reminiscence, Vibrant thought of something which it asked Shi Mu bluntly, throwing him suspicious looks from the corner of its eye.
After a short hesitation, Shi Mu resolved that it was safe to reveal his plan to the bird. So he told Vibrant all about the venom and meteoric iron stuff.
To his surprise, this time it was the parrot who decided not to answer Shi Mu. It only flapped its wings several times, its eyes glassy, its beak tightly shut.
"Vib, do you know something? Tell me, please." Shi Mu's heart was beating fast.
The parrot shot him a glance, but its beak would not budge. In an exaggerated manner, it stretched its wings and pat its feeding plate ostentatiously. Shi Mu quickly got the hint and cracked a hearty smile. He rummaged in his shirt and took out several black nuts, each the size of a fist, then threw them into the plate. Vibrant let out a thrilled cry, picked up one nut with it beak, then gulped it down, holus-bolus. Gratified, its beady eyes glittered contentedly, which was too hilarious that even Shi Mu was tickled. Though always wagging its tongue, Vibrant was actually a precious source of information, so every time Shi Mu came here, he made sure that he take some nuts and kernels with him.
“Vib, can you tell me now?” Shi Mu asked, unable to suppress a smile.
“Hmm, just ask for what you want when you see master later....hmm...it’s delicious...master is doing an experiment, so he’s running out of money...if you can support him financially, I guess it’s no problem...hmm...delicious...”Vibrant muttered while enjoying itself with the rest of the nuts.
Shi Mu slowly nodded, absorbed in thought. Anyway, it’s a good sign if Uncle Ju wants something. Otherwise even bribery would not work.
“By the way...hmm...ask for as much as possible...don’t let off that stupid greasy worm lightly...hmm...” Vibrant let out a fit of sinister laughter, before it became conscious of its inappropriate manners. Instantly it changed to a solemn face and resumed devouring the nuts. The ludicrous sight amused Shi Mu, and he looked at Vibrant’s expression with great interest, thinking that it must have suffered a lot from that lizard, hence its ambitious claim to avenge itself.
“Asking for what as much as possible? Vibrant, it seems you’ve got too many feathers, let me help you get rid of those colorful ones on your splendid tail!” Just then the flesh mountain showed itself in front of the cage suddenly. This was none other than uncle Ju, who was scowling at the parrot, his tone tinged with irritation.
“Please don’t master! Not the tail feathers! The two you plucked last time have just begun to grow!” The parrot was frightened out of its wits; the half nut dangling in its beak also dropped in the great haste of pleading for forgiveness. Feathers covering its head, Vibrant tried to hide its tail with every effort, its voice quivering in panic.
“Humph! I’ll deal with you later.” Uncle Ju snorted and ignored the garrulous parrot while directing his eyes to Shi Mu who had already risen from his chair, greeting uncle Ju with clasped hands. The fat man did not speak a word, looking Shi Mu up and down with troubled expression.