Woohoo! More Lu Xiao Feng action!
Now we're getting to the real story!
Thanks for the translation!
Thanks for the awesome translation, junny.
Looking forward to the next installment.
Thanks to Han Solo, SkyWalker, UltraRob and Cesare for reading.
Han Solo: I didn't incorporate that ten-thousand mile bit because I wasn't going for a literal translation and it doesn't really add anything to it. The whole hoo-ha about Pink Swallow was that he's bisexual. And that's the end of him anyway.
And thank you, Moiny!
Chapter Two, part iii
Blood was still dripping from the tip of the sword.
Ye Guhong gazed at the blood droplets on the edge of the sword, then gently blew off the final droplet.
This was a habit unique to Ximen Chuixue, and he had imitated it to perfection.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t Ximen Chuixue, never would be!
Every time after he’d killed someone, there would instantly be that sense of isolation and loneliness about Ximen Chuixue, that incredible feeling of emptiness and disinterest.
Blowing the last droplet of blood off his sword was merely like someone returning home in a snowstorm brushing the last snowflake from his cloak.
He was blowing off snow, not blood.
But now, Ye Guhong’s eyes were filled with indescribable excitement, as though he was ready to rush into the snowstorm and conquer.
He was blowing off blood, not snow.
The last droplet, coincidentally, fell on Pink Swallow’s face, which seemed to still be twitching; however, his eyes had popped out like those of dead fish, and the lust in his eyes was no longer evident.
Lu Xiaofeng suddenly felt this person was very pitiful.
He’d always felt sorry for those who died without knowing why, and he knew this one wouldn’t have died in peace.
The blood had dried, and the sword was back in its sheath.
Ye Guhong suddenly turned around and stared at Dugu Mei.
Dugu Mei was also staring back at him, his eyes filled with suspicion and surprise.
“You didn’t expect me to kill him, did you?” Ye Guhong asked coldly.
Indeed, Dugu Mei had not expected it, nobody had.
“You’re not here to kill me?”
Dugu Mei was even more surprised. “But you were…”
“I was indeed determined to have you die by my sword,” Ye Guhong interrupted him.
“So why did you change your mind?” Dugu Mei asked.
“Because now I know you’re no longer alive.”
This was a very odd sentence and difficult to understand, but Dugu Mei seemed to get it and expelled a long breath. “So you’re from the Mansion as well?” he asked.
“You didn’t expect that, did you?” Ye Guhong said.
“Not even in my dreams,” Dugu Mei admitted.
Ye Guhong’s eyes were mocking, and after a long while, said slowly: “Of course you wouldn’t have thought of it. Some people do things they wouldn’t have expected to.”
Dugu Mei was sighing as he said: “The people in the Mansion all seem to be those you’d never expect to be.”
“Precisely, that’s why it is able to exist.”
Dugu Mei nodded his head slowly, and suddenly changed the topic. “Have you seen Lu Xiaofeng fight?” he asked.
“No,” Ye Guhong said.
“You don’t know the level of his skills?”
“What do you know of him?”
“I know he once managed to take a blow from the Master of White Cloud Castle’s ‘Flying Immortal’ swordplay,” Ye Guhong said.
“But he’s now wounded by Ximen Chuixue,” Dugu Mei said.
“I can tell.”
“So let me ask you something that you must consider very carefully before you reply,” Dugu Mei said. His expression turned serious as he enunciated each word: “Are you confident of killing him now?”
Ye Guhong was silent. There was that mocking look in his eyes again, and the veins on his forehead seemed more pronounced. After a long while, he replied slowly: “I am not Ximen Chuixue.”
Dugu Mei gazed at him for a long time before he turned to Lu Xiaofeng.
Lu Xiaofeng was expressionless; it was as if he’d not understood what they were saying.
Dugu Mei suddenly laughed, saying: “Just now you didn’t save me.”
Lu Xiaofeng was silent.
“So I don’t wish to kill you, since we aren’t confident we can do it,” Dugu Mei said.
Lu Xiaofeng remained silent.
“We didn’t know each other and never crossed the other’s path; it remains thus.”
“But we were just on the same road,” Lu Xiaofeng had finally opened his mouth.
“Such are the vicissitudes of life,” Dugu Mei said lightly. “Change abounds, you and I are no exceptions.”
“That’s reasonable,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
Dugu Mei said: “So you are still you, I am still me, and you’d best be on your way.”
“Not good,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.
“Because the road I’ll take is still the one I’ve been on.”
Dugu Mei smiled. “Well, that’s your problem.”
“Of course I have my own path to take.”
“Which one? The one to the Mansion?”
Dugu Mei’s expression hardened, said coldly: “Since you’ve heard, why bother to ask?”
Lu Xiaofeng persisted. “What sort of Mansion is this that you’re going to?”
“It’s one that you can’t go.”
“Because you’re not dead.”
“So it’s a mansion for the dead people!”
Lu Xiaofeng laughed. “You guys should go.” He waved his hand, smiling: “I don’t want to go to a mansion of dead people, neither do I want to be dead. So long as I can stay alive, even one hour is good enough.”
He walked off without a care in the world, and vanished quickly in the grey of the forest.
It wasn’t until he’d disappeared that Dugu Mei snapped to alertness and yelled: “You really let him go?”
“He’s gone,” Ye Guhong replied coldly.
“You’re not afraid that he’ll leak the secret of the Mansion?”
“He doesn’t know much, and in these circumstances, he might not even live beyond an hour.”
“Well, he’s still alive now,” Dugu Mei said. “And he could follow us secretly.”
“Where are we going?” Ye Guhong asked.
“To the Mansion, of course,” Dugu Mei said.
Ye Guhong laughed coldly. “You’re wrong. We are not going to the Mansion; rather, if you want to go, you go alone!”
“You’re not going?” Dugu Mei asked.
“Why should I?” Ye Guhong returned blandly.
Dugu Mei’s expression changed.
“I know you have a contract with the Mansion, so I can’t kill you,” Ye Guhong said. “But I never said I was going to lead you there.”
Dugu Mei’s face was mottled with rage and he shrieked: “But you should know I can’t even move an inch right now.”
“That’s your problem,” Ye Guhong replied frostily. “What’s that got to do with me?”
He drew his sword again and sliced off a large piece of tree bark, then laid it on a relatively dry area of the mud and sat down cross-legged.
Dugu Mei glared at him, and finally couldn’t resist asking: “Why aren’t you leaving?”
“Why should I?” Ye Guhong asked leisurely.
“Are you waiting for me to die?” Dugu Mei asked.
Ye Guhong replied: “You can take your time to die, I’m in no hurry.” He was looking mighty comfortable, and had even brought out a piece of beef that was wrapped in oilpaper, and a flask of wine.
To an old man ravaged by hunger and thirst for seventy-two hours, the aroma of beef and wine was no longer mere temptation, it was a kind of torture.
He could only watch, as aromatic waves of the beef and wine pricked him like needles and every part of his body trembled.
Ye Guhong sipped some wine and let out a satisfied sigh. Suddenly he said: “I know you must be regretting in your heart about letting Lu Xiaofeng go just now, but there’s something you don’t know.”
Dugu Mei was just about to start a conversation to distract himself, so immediately he asked: “What’s that?”
“I didn’t kill Lu Xiaofeng not because I wasn’t confident of killing him,” Ye Guhong said, “but because I’d rather let him die at Ximen Chuixue’s hands.”
“So if he dares return, once my sword is out of its sheath, I’d make his blood splatter all over.”
“So you mean there’s no one in the world who can save me, and nobody can save Lu Xiaofeng,” Dugu Mei said.
“Definitely not,” Ye Guhong said.
In the moment that these words were said, a hand snaked over from behind the tree and stole away his flask of wine.
His reaction wasn’t slow either. By the time the hand was withdrawn, he’d gone behind the tree.
There was no one behind the tree.
When he came back again, the flask of wine was in Dugu Mei’s hand, and he was pouring the last of it into his own mouth.
The piece of beef in the oilpaper that had been on the tree bark was also gone.
Ye Guhong did not move again and his breathing seemed to have stopped; the murky forest was grey and silent as a graveyard.
There was no wind, but something floated down from the top of the tree.
Ye Guhong drew his sword and pierced through it. Stuck on the tip of his sword was actually that piece of oilpaper.
Dugu Mei burst into uproarious laughter and tears came out of his eyes.
Ye Guhong didn’t seem to have heard any of it, but his face had turned green as he slowly plucked the oilpaper off the tip of his sword.
Dugu Mei laughed: “There’s no blood on that oilpaper, so what are you blowing?”
Ye Guhong still didn’t hear that; in a flash, the sword was back in its sheath.
He settled down on the tree bark again and breathed in deeply twice. From his sleeve he took out a few pieces of paper and used needles to pin them one by one on the tree trunk behind. Then he coldly said: “This is the map to getting out of the forest and into the mountains. Whoever has the guts can come and take it.”
Once again, he sat motionless, with his back facing the tree, eyes closed, as though an old monk gone into deep meditation.
Dugu Mei had stopped laughing; his eyes were wide open, fixed on the pieces of paper pinned to the tree trunk.
He knew this was Ye Guhong’s way of luring the fish to bait.
Wudang was a sect known for its internal skills; Ye Guhong had been at Wudang since he was four years old, and his internal energy must have reached peak levels.
Now his mind and heart were one, and although his eyes were closed, anything within a fifty-feet radius would not escape his attention.
His bait was ready, but where was the fish? Would the fish bite?
Dugu Mei’s breathing suddenly stopped; he’d seen a hand stretch out stealthily from behind the tree. Agile and brisk, it reached immediately for the pieces of paper on the tree trunk.
“Dong!” Just at this point, there was a flash of brilliance from the sword as the blade pierced through the wood and pinned the hand firmly to the tree trunk.
Dugu Mei’s face blanched, so did Ye Guhong’s.
He did not see blood.
The hand was no oilpaper, why wouldn’t there be blood?
Dugu Mei expelled a long sigh; he had already realised that the blade had not pinned the hand to the tree. Rather, the blade was caught by the hand.
More precisely, wedged between two fingers.
Ye Guhong’s pallor turned red again and sweat dripped down his face. He’d exerted all his might trying to wrench the sword away, but it was as though it’d been flattened beneath Mount Tai, it just refused to budge.
Whose fingers were these? Whose fingers had such extraordinary strength and power?
It could only be Lu Xiaofeng!
The smile was back on Dugu Mei’s face, as he said: “Now your sword is out of its sheath, but his blood hasn’t splattered all over.”
Ye Guhong gnashed his teeth, then suddenly released his hold on the sword and dashed behind the tree.
Lu Xiaofeng was indeed behind the tree grinning at him. In his hand was Ye Guhong’s sword, its blade caught between two fingers.
Ye Guhong laughed coldly: “I don’t need a sword to kill you.”
Lu Xiaofeng smiled. “But the sword is yours, so I shall return it to you.”
Ye Guhong had already struck, using Wudang’s Golden Silk Palm, mixed with the Hand into Blade and Seventy-Two Grappling Techniques, his five fingers like hooks and with all the strength concentrated at the tips.
But Lu Xiaofeng actually returned the sword back to him, with the blade captured between two fingers and the hilt back into his hands.
Without conscious volition, he stretched out for it and his face immediately changed; blood trickled from between his fingers.
Lu Xiaofeng had sent over the hilt of the sword, but what he held in his hands was the tip.
He hadn’t even seen how Lu Xiaofeng had done it.
Lu Xiaofeng was still smiling, saying: “This is your sword, nobody is going to steal it from you, so why did you exert so much effort?
Ye Guhong’s face had drained of blood, but suddenly said: “How many strokes did Ximen Chuixue need to wound you?”
“One,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
“You couldn’t counter even one blow?” Ye Guhong asked.
Lu Xiaofeng gave a forced smile.
“You weren’t dead drunk then?” Ye Guhong asked.
Lu Xiaofeng shook his head.
Ye Guhong asked again: “With skills like these, you couldn’t even take one blow from him?”
Lu Xiaofeng sighed and replied: “I know you’ve seen him fight, but to those on the sidelines, they can never understand the speed with which he strikes.”
Ye Guhong’s head bowed as he looked at his own hands.
Blood was still dripping from them, and he had not released his hold on the blade. Blood was also dripping from the tip of the blade, droplet by droplet…
This was his own blood.
When the last droplet fell, he let out a long sigh and pierced the sword right into his chest.
His breathing abruptly stopped and his eyes popped out.
Startled, Lu Xiaofeng said: “I don’t want to kill you, why are you doing this?”
Perspiration dotted Ye Guhong’s face and his breathing quickened and he struggled to get his words out: “I studied the sword for twenty years, believing myself to be unbeatable. I’d arranged to duel with Ximen Chuixue during the Dragon Boat Festival at high noon at the peak of the Forbidden City.”
“This year’s Dragon Boat Festival?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.
Ye Guhong nodded. “I had no hope of winning, but I was confident of giving him a good fight. However, having seen you today, I realised that even if I train for another twenty years, I would not be his match…”
At this point, he began coughing nonstop, but Lu Xiaofeng understood his meaning.
If he didn’t turn up for the duel, he would not be able to face the martial arts fraternity; even if he did show up, it was just asking to be humiliated.
It was because he had suddenly realised there was such a huge gap between his skills and Ximen Chuixue’s.
Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t even take one stroke from Ximen Chuixue, and he hadn’t even been able to figure out Lu Xiaofeng’s moves. The disparity between them was a kind of shame and dishonour.
To him, such humiliation was worse than having his wife raped.
Lu Xiaofeng was already feeling sorry for him and said: “You’re dying because of this?”
Ye Guhong nodded.
Lu Xiaofeng let out a gentle sigh, then crossed over and whispered something into his ear.
Ye Guhong’s face suddenly twisted and there was an indescribable expression in his eyes as he stared at Lu Xiaofeng.
Then he collapsed.
The strange thing was that after he collapsed, there seemed to be the faintest of smiles on his face.
There was no more blood on the tip of the sword.
The last droplet had been blown dry by the wind.
The man was dead, but the sword was still there, its brilliance clear as autumn waters.
Regardless of whether the blood on the sword was blown dry by man or wind, it didn’t matter to this sword.
The sword is emotionless, but humans have emotions.
So the sword remains while people die.
Lu Xiaofeng gazed at this emotionless sword, couldn’t help a long sigh.
– Why are there so many sentimental people in this world who want to devote their lives to an emotionless sword?
– Is this because there is some irresistible power of the sword that draws one to it?
Looking at the shining brilliance of the sword, Lu Xiaofeng felt as though he was beginning to be lost again…
Thanks Junny for the hard work!
There is only one LXF!! hahaha..
This is really playing up the strength of XMCS isn't it. Making him seems like he was the best in the LXF series, when in reality he might just sneak into the top 3?
Lu Xiao Feng is indeed (again) Lu Xiao Feng.
Many thanks, junny...
I wonder what LXF said to Ye Guhong before he died. Probably told him he lied about not being able to counter one move from XMCS.
Thanks to overjoy71, Han Solo, Cesare, yeongwee and SkyWalker for reading!
Chapter Three – In the same boat
Being on the run hadn’t ended, but darkness had already arrived.
In the dark there were only sounds of panting, two people panting. The sounds had stopped and they had collapsed.
It didn’t matter whether it was dry earth or wet mud, they were in no position to choose.
– They had to lie down; even if Ximen Chuixue’s sword was at their throats, they had to lie down.
Even if they channelled all the strength there was in the world, they couldn’t have taken another step forward.
In the darkness, there seemed to be shards of phosphorescence peeking out from between trees. The phosphorescence was very weak, and one had to concentrate real hard in the darkness to be able to make it out.
So long as there was a bit of light, the phosphorescence would disappear.
“If we follow this phosphorescence, we can get out of here?”
“Mm.” Dugu Mei was so exhausted that he couldn’t even speak, but he had to reply, because he knew Lu Xiaofeng would persist in his questions. “I am very confident.” He continued, panting: “So long as you have a contract with them, they won’t sell you out.”
“Who are they?” Lu Xiaofeng asked again. “Are they from the Mansion?”
“What Mansion is this? Where is it?” Lu Xiaofeng persisted. “What sort of contract do you have with them?”
Dugu Mei didn’t answer; from his breathing, he seemed to have fallen asleep.
Regardless of whether he was asleep, he seemed determined not to answer anymore such questions.
Lu Xiaofeng too felt that he’d asked one too many questions, so he closed his mouth and wanted to get some shuteye.
But he just couldn’t fall asleep.
In the distance, the phosphorescence flickered, so near yet so far.
His pupils were so tired that they couldn’t even differentiate far and near, so why couldn’t he sleep?
– Only in absolute darkness could one differentiate these guiding signals; had firelight been used, it would not have been seen, much less in daytime.
– Perhaps even Ximen Chuixue would not be able to figure this out, so he would not be travelling in this sort of absolute darkness.
– It looked as if the Mansion people were very clever, they had planned everything to the last detail.
– Will Dugu Mei really lead me to the Mansion?
– He has a contract, but I don’t. Would the Mansion accept me if I went there?
– Is that place really safe and isolated? So secluded that even Ximen Chuixue wouldn’t be able to find me?
– Why can only dead people go there?
Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t sleep, he had so many unanswered questions in his mind.
Absolute darkness meant absolute peace.
Dugu Mei’s breathing had evened out gradually, and it even sounded a little like music in the darkness.
“Little girl carrying a clay doll,
Came to the garden to admire the flowers,
The doll cried for mama,
And the birds in the trees burst out laughing…”*
Lu Xiaofeng didn’t know why, but the old man’s breathing had stirred his memory of a childhood song.
He found it pretty funny too, but he didn’t laugh out loud, because suddenly a ghastly shriek pierced the darkness.
Then he heard a body bounce up and flop down heavily on the muddy ground.
“Is that you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked hoarsely.
After a long while, there came the sounds of Dugu Mei’s moaning, as though he was hurt.
Who had attacked him in the night?
Lu Xiaofeng could feel his heartbeat quicken, his throat dry, and his palms perspire; in this darkness where he couldn’t even see his fingers if he stretched them out, he could make out nothing.
Again after a long while, he heard Dugu Mei’s faint voice: “Snake… poisonous snake.”
Lu Xiaofeng let out a relieved sigh, asked: “How did you know it was a poisonous snake?”
Dugu Mei replied: “The area where it bit me doesn’t hurt, only numb.”
“Where’s the wound?”
“On my left shoulder.”
Lu Xiaofeng fumbled about and found his left shoulder, then ripped apart his clothes. His fingers found a swollen lump of flesh, and he bent his head, opened his mouth and began to suck until Dugu Mei yelped.
“You’re feeling the pain?”
Since he could feel pain, that meant the poison in the wound was all sucked out.
Lu Xiaofeng spat out a breath and said: “If you can sleep, rest for a while. If not, just endure for a little more, it will be daylight soon.”
Dugu Mei lay there whimpering. After another long while, he suddenly said: “You didn’t have to do this.”
“You know the way out, why didn’t you abandon me and go off?”
Lu Xiaofeng was quiet for a long moment before he replied: “That’s because you can still laugh.”
Dugu Mei didn’t understand.
“I feel,” Lu Xiaofeng continued slowly, “that if a person can still laugh, he cannot be considered to have no regard for others.”
* This is a very common children's song, here are the Chinese lyrics (complete with pinyin):
“妹妹背着泥娃娃，(mei1 mei1 bei4 zhe ni2 wa2 wa)
走到花园来看花，(zou3 dao4 hua1 yuan2 lai2 kan4 hua1)
娃娃哭了叫妈妈，(wa2 wa ku1 le jiao4 ma1 ma1)
树上的小鸟笑哈哈……” (shu4 shang4 de xiao3 niao3 xiao4 ha1 ha1)
Thanks for the translation.
I don't trust Dugu Mei at all.
I disagree with LXF. A selfish person can also laugh. Many do
LXF probably need Dugu Mei to enter the Mansion. Plus, he isn't the type of person who'll just let someone die if he can help it.
Thanks Han Solo, Justin13 and SkyWalker for reading!
Chapter Three, part ii
Once daylight came, the guiding phosphorescence would disappear.
Now it was almost light, and Lu Xiaofeng had finally gotten some rest.
Certain people possessed strength that was like the wildfire of the grasslands, it could be reignited at any time.
Lu Xiaofeng was such a person.
He had not yet exhausted the strength he had built up again when they found that they were finally out of that man-eating forest!
In front of them was a lovely spring day, the sun had just risen from the verdant mountains and a light breeze blew along the fragrance of new blooms and shoots. Dew drops sparkled like a lover’s eyes under the sun’s rays.
Lu Xiaofeng rubbed his eyes, unable to believe all this was real. This was a miracle, a dream.
Had he just woken up from a nightmare and gone into another dreamscape?
Dugu Mei, whom he was carrying on his back, suddenly asked, his breathing quickening: “Is there a large pine tree in front?”
An old pine tree, standing proudly erect and all alone in front of the rocks, far away from this dense forest, as though it did not care to be associated with other ordinary trees.
“Is there a big piece of stone underneath the tree?”
It was a slab of green stone as large as a table, the quality of it pure and beautiful, tender and smooth as jade.
Lu Xiaofeng crossed over and sat down on the stone, then sat down the man on his back and expelled a long breath. “We’ve finally made it out.”
“This place isn’t really considered safe yet,” Dugu Mei replied, panting.
“At least I wasn’t eaten alive in that man-eating forest,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
“But you could still die by Ximen Chuixue’s sword anytime!”
Lu Xiaofeng sighed. “Can’t you say something nicer for once?”
Dugu Mei smiled, said: “I only want to tell you one thing.”
Lu Xiaofeng was listening.
“There was no one in the world who could have saved you, but you saved yourself instead.”
“When you saved me just now,” Dugu Mei said, “you saved yourself at the same time.”
“You didn’t really want to take me to that Mansion, did you?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.
Dugu Mei nodded. “But I’ve changed my mind,” he said, “because even though I don’t care a hoot for anyone, I’m still human.”
He gazed at Lu Xiaofeng, and the cunning look in his eyes suddenly turned tender. “You didn’t desert me even in those circumstances, so now I won’t abandon you either.”
Lu Xiaofeng smiled.
There is always a kind side to human nature, of that he was always confident.
There was a smaller slab of green stone beneath the branches, and Dugu Mei said: “Go move that stone and see if there’s a chest under that.”
Made of rattan, the chest contained a piece of cured meat, chicken, a flask of wine, a packet of medicine for knife wounds, a whistle and a letter.
The whistle was oddly-shaped, the colour of the letter and its envelope were also strange, like a dead man’s skin.
There were only ten words on the letter: “Blow the whistle, listen for the echoes, follow the sounds.”
Lu Xiaofeng took a swallow of wine. “Good wine.”
He gave a satisfied sigh and said: “These people are really thoughtful.”
Dugu Mei said: “They do things down to the finest detail and their reputation is stellar. Once you have a contract with them, they will ensure you get to the Mansion.”
“What contract?” Lu Xiaofeng couldn’t resist asking.
“Contract to save your life,” Dugu Mei replied.
He didn’t evade Lu Xiaofeng’s question this time, so Lu Xiaofeng immediately asked: “What Mansion?”
“Mansion of Spirits.”
Mansion of Spirits!
– Only dead people could go there!
Lu Xiaofeng could feel his palms turning cold, but couldn’t resist asking: “Don’t tell me that place is full of dead people’s spirits?”
Dugu Mei smiled mysteriously and replied slowly: “Precisely because all the dead people’s spirits are there, no living person can find it, and no living person dares to go in!”
“What about you?” Lu Xiaofeng queried.
Dugu Mei’s smile grew even more mysterious. “I am at a dead end, of course I’m bound to die.”
“Since you had to die, of course you’re already a dead person!”
“Now you finally understand,” Dugu Mei said.
“I don’t,” Lu Xiaofeng gave a forced smile. “I don’t understand at all.”
The whistle was in his hand. He couldn’t resist blowing it gently, and a strange, keen sound pierced the air, startling even him.
Just at this moment, the same whistling sound floated over the distance, as though from the west!
It was not difficult to distinguish whistle sounds in the vast loneliness of the mountains. They followed the sounds, forwards and upwards; all around them mist swirled and eventually they found themselves amongst clouds.
After a good amount of wine and half a chicken, Lu Xiaofeng was full of energy and felt he could go on and on.
Dugu Mei’s condition, however, worsened and Lu Xiaofeng could smell the stench emitting from his wound. But Lu Xiaofeng didn’t mind at all.
“Ximen Chuixue isn’t deaf.”
“Of course not.”
“He would have heard the whistle sounds.”
“So he could be upon us anytime.”
“Since you know the way into the mountain, you’d best put me down.” Dugu Mei’s face was twisted with pain. “You’d make better progress alone. I can’t make it; even if I reach there, I probably wouldn’t live much longer.”
His were sincere words, but Lu Xiaofeng didn’t seem to have heard a single word.
He moved even faster; the clouds were suddenly at his feet, and the clouds in his mind dissipated.
Ahead, the sky was clear and the mountains stretched on as though in a beautiful painting.
But Lu Xiaofeng’s heart plummeted.
In front of him was a bottomless abyss; he was looking at those picturesque mountains, but there was no way to bridge the gap between them.
He picked up a stone and tossed it into the abyss, but couldn’t hear the slightest hint of an echo.
Below, clouds swirled around and nothing could be seen, not even souls of dead people.
Could it be that the Mansion of Spirits was located down in that deep gully?
Lu Xiaofeng gave a forced smile and said: “It doesn’t seem that difficult to get to the Mansion of Spirits. You only have to jump off from here and you’d instantly be a dead person.”
Dugu Mei panted and said: “Try blowing the whistle again?”
The keen sound of the whistle sliced through the loneliness and the clouds.
Suddenly, someone appeared among the clouds.
There were white clouds both in the sky and in the abyss, and this person was just there among the clouds, as though suspended in mid-air.
Who had the ability to stand on the clouds like that?
A dead person? The soul of a dead person?
Lu Xiaofeng expelled a breath, then realised this person was moving very quickly, as though riding with the wind. In the blink of an eye, one could tell the colour of his clothes and should be able to discern his features.
But he had no features or facial outline, it was as though someone had pared off his face with a knife.
If one had not seen him in person, one could not have imagined what kind of face that was.
Lu Xiaofeng was no coward, but when he saw that face, he could feel his legs turning into jelly and nearly fell into the bottomless abyss below.
He could feel Dugu Mei, who was on his back, trembling as well; at this moment, the person had arrived in front of them all too quickly.
Although this person had leapt up the mountain, when he moved his body still seemed to be floating and his feet were at least half a foot off the ground.
Lu Xiaofeng had always thought that the three most skilled martial artists in qinggong were Sikong Zhaixing, Ximen Chuixue and himself.
Now he knew he was wrong.
This person’s qinggong skills were strange, just like his face; unless you saw it for yourself, you could not have imagined it.
Now he was gazing at Lu Xiaofeng, his eyes resembling volcanic vents that had just recently spouted lava, scorching hot and dangerous.
Lu Xiaofeng had no idea what he was going to say to such a person.
Dugu Mei suddenly asked: “Are you the Soul Collector of the Mansion?” He saw this man nod and immediately continued: “I’m Dugu Mei, my soul is already here.”
This person finally opened his mouth: “I know, I knew you would come.”
His voice was slow, strange and constricted, because he had no lips.
People who had not seen him could not have imagined what it was like to speak for someone with no lips.
Dugu Mei didn’t even dare to look at him, for fear that he would vomit.
The Soul Collector suddenly laughed coldly: “You don’t dare to look at me? Is it because I’m too ugly?”
“Of course not…” Dugu Mei immediately denied with a forced smile.
“If that’s not the case, then look at my face when you talk to me,” the Soul Collector said.
Dugu Mei had no choice but to look at his face, but he didn’t open his mouth because his throat and stomach had constricted out of fear, and no sound came out.
The Soul Collector was laughing instead, it seemed he enjoyed seeing people frightened and in pain, enjoyed having people be afraid of him.
But his laughter ended soon enough as he said coldly: “You should have come alone, why are there two of you now?”
Dugu Mei still couldn’t open his mouth, so he was unable to answer the question.
“You stay, he goes!” said the Soul Collector.
Dugu Mei suddenly gathered up his courage and replied: “He can’t go either.”
“If he doesn’t go, you go.”
“I have a contract,” Dugu Mei protested loudly. “It’s a contract that you guys made.”
“You have a contract, he doesn’t,” the Soul Collector said.
Dugu Mei said: “He’s my friend, I can pay the contract price for him.”
“I can pay it anytime,” Dugu Mei said. “I have…”
The Soul Collector interrupted him coldly: “Even if you pay now, it’s too late.”
“Why?” Dugu Mei asked.
“Because I say so.”
“But since he’s here, he surely can’t go back alive,” Dugu Mei argued.
“If you want to save him, you go and leave him here,” the Soul Collector replied coldly.
He had no lips and his voice sounded as though it’d come from hell, where it’d been refined by demonic fire.
Lu Xiaofeng suddenly spoke up loudly: “I go.”
He set Dugu Mei down gently, patted his clothes and, true to his word, walked off.
Dugu Mei was still panting, and suddenly grabbed the edge of his clothes, said: “You stay, I go.”
Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “You don’t have to worry. I made it here in one piece, so I can get back out alive too.”
Dugu Mei laughed too and said loudly: “I know you aren’t concerned about life and death, but I’m really afraid of dying…”
“But you aren’t any longer,” Lu Xiaofeng finished for him.
Dug Mei nodded. “Because I…”
“Because you won’t live long anyway, so you want to let me have the opportunity instead,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
“This is the only chance,” Dugu Mei said.
“I’ve heard all these already, and I understand your intention, but…”
“You still won’t?”
Lu Xiaofeng smiled and said: “I’m very satisfied to have made friends with someone who doesn’t give a damn about kinship. Unfortunately, I don’t have a habit of wanting my friends to die on my behalf.”
“You are bent on leaving?” Dugu Mei asked.
“I definitely can leave quicker than you,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
The Soul Collector gazed coldly at them, his eyes filled with indescribable hatred.
He abhored friendship, hated all things good and beautiful, just like the bats that detested sunlight.
Suddenly, a voice called out in the distance: “Bring them in, both of them.”
The clear, crisp sound came from somewhere in the white clouds, and there suddenly appeared among the clouds a pale red shadow, also seemingly suspended in mid-air and waving them over.
“Who said to bring them inside?”
“Old Sabre Honcho*.”
These words were like an incantation, and Lu Xiaofeng was suddenly transported into another world.
* Old Sabre Honcho was named in the spirit of "Ancient Pine Hermit" Obviously it's a pseudonym. The Chinese title is 老刀把子 (lao3 dao1 ba3 zi).
More freaks join the party! Gu Long so rocks at writing freaks...
Thanks for the latest installment, junny. A very pleasant read so far.
Thanks for the update Junny.
Wonder what kind of contract LXF will make the the Mansion master.
Thanks Cesare, disrupt and SkyWalker for reading!
disrupt: Neither hint nor spoiler.
Chapter Three, part iii
No one could hang suspended in mid-air, and no one could really travel with the wind.
The Soul Collector was also human, not a ghost or spirit, so how had he come?
After Lu Xiaofeng crossed over, he realised that hidden among the clouds was a very thick steel cable that served as a link between the cliffs.
This was their bridge.
The bridge from the mundane world to the ‘Spiritual’ entrance.
On this side of the cliff was a big bamboo basket, attached to a pulley that was hooked on the steel cable.
The cliff on this side was higher, and once one of the ropes was released, the bamboo basket would slide over to the other side of the mountain.
Dugu Mei was already in the bamboo basket.
The Soul Collector gazed coldly at Lu Xiaofeng and said: “Are you thinking of getting in there too?”
“I have legs,” Lu Xiaofeng replied.
“If you slip and fall down there, you won’t have any more legs,” the Soul Collector said.
“I can see that.”
“You won’t have either soul or corpse; once you fall in there, you’ll be turned into minced meat.”
“I can imagine,” Lu Xiaofeng said.
“This cable is very slippery,” the Soul Collector said. “The wind up here is very strong, and no matter how good one’s qinggong skills are, there’s always the possibility of falling down.”
Lu Xiaofeng chuckled. “You’ve fallen down there before?”
“You like me?”
The Soul Collector laughed coldly.
Lu Xiaofeng said lightly: “Since you haven’t fallen in, how would you know that I would? Since you don’t like me, why would you care whether I lived or died?”
“Fine,” the Soul Collector said frostily, “you go first.”
“You want to walk behind me and watch me fall?” Lu Xiaofeng asked.
“There are plenty of chances like that, and I don’t like to miss them,” the Soul Collector said.
Lu Xiaofeng chuckled again. “But this time, I promise you will be disappointed.”
The steel cable was indeed very slippery and the mountain wind was very strong. One was like a hapless candle flame walking on the cable in such circumstances.
There were misty clouds drifting around them, and the world seemed to be floating, so it was difficult to get a firm footing on the cable.
But the more difficult the task, the more enjoyable it was to Lu Xiaofeng.
He wasn’t walking very quickly, because it was easier to be fast rather than slow; he walked slowly, as though treading on a flat, broad road.
The Soul Collector could only follow behind.
So Lu Xiaofeng was in great spirits.
Wind breezed past beneath his trousers, clouds flew by in front of his eyes, and he suddenly felt that there was nothing in the world worth troubling over. Even if he slipped and fell, he didn’t care.
His voice was normally very rough and he couldn’t carry a tune, so he’d stopped singing after he turned nine.
However, he suddenly felt like bursting into song and actually began singing a children’s song, because he only knew children’s songs:
“Little girl carrying a clay doll,
Came to the garden to admire the flowers…”
A sudden whoosh of wind over his head, and a man was standing in front of him.
A man without a face.
Lu Xiaofeng grinned. “Is my singing nice?”
The Soul Collector said coldly: “That’s not singing. That’s a donkey braying.”
Lu Xiaofeng roared with laughter. “So there are times when you get fed up too. Great. Fantastic.”
He began singing again, his voice even louder.
“The doll cried for mama,
And the birds in the trees burst out laughing…”
The Soul Collector stared at him frostily. When the singing was over, he asked: “Are you Lu Xiaofeng?”
“You mean you can recognise me from my singing?” Lu Xiaofeng asked. “Don’t tell me my voice is more famous than my own self?”
“You’re really Lu Xiaofeng?” the Soul Collector persisted.
“Other than Lu Xiaofeng, who else could sing like that?”
“Know who I am?”
“No.” He smiled again. “There are many people in this world who don’t want face, but none who have done it as completely as you.”
The Soul Collector’s eyes seemed to blaze up again; suddenly he removed a black wooden hairpin from his hair and threw it at Lu Xiaofeng.
There was nothing extraordinary about his strike, but it was too fast, so fast that it was beyond imagination.
Lu Xiaofeng had no time to retreat or dodge; he could only stretch out his hand and catch it with two fingers!
This was originally an infallible strike, but this time it had failed.
An ordinary black wooden hairpin seemed to have split into two, quick as lightning they were about to pierce his eyes.
Had he been on flat ground, he could of course have dodged, but he was standing on a slippery cable right now and not on stable ground.
His body tilted and he lost his footing. He dropped down, right into that bottomless pit below.
– One fall and he’d become minced meat.
He did not become minced meat.
The Soul Collector inclined his head downwards and saw a foot hanging on the steel cable. Lu Xiaofeng was just like a fish being strung up on the fishing rod, swaying with the wind.
He seemed as don’t-carish as ever, even amused, and started singing again:
Rocking to grandma’s bridge,
Grandma called me a good baby…”
He didn’t carry on, because he’d forgotten the rest of the lyrics.
“Looks like you’re really Lu Xiaofeng,” the Soul Collector said.
“I still am now,” Lu Xiaofeng replied. “But maybe I’d become a pile of minced meat later on.”
“You’re really not afraid of death?” the Soul Collector asked.
A “whooshing” sound and like the turning of a pinwheel, he was suddenly upright again on the steel cable, smiling as he said: “Looks like you don’t really want me to die either.”
The Soul Collector said coldly: “I just want you to know one thing.”
The fire was back in the Soul Collector’s eyes as he bit out: “I want you to know, Ximen Chuixue is not the fastest sword in the world. I am quicker than he.”
This time, Lu Xiaofeng did not laugh and an odd expression entered his eyes as he gazed at the other and asked: “Who exactly are you?”
“Someone who doesn’t want face,” the Soul Collector said.
He didn’t want face and had no face either. He was devoid of expression, but there seemed to be indescribable grief in his voice.
Lu Xiaofeng was about to press further, but he’d already darted off like a bird and in a flash, disappeared among the white clouds.
The misty clouds swirled about and Lu Xiaofeng stood stupidly among them, his thoughts uncertain.
After a long while, he began walking forward again and finally reached the other side. He saw in front of him two bamboo poles and a red string tied between them. In the distance, a cold voice said: “Once you cross this life-death line, you are a dead man.” The voice was as chilly as the tip of a knife: “So you’d better think again: should you cross over or go back?”
Lu Xiaofeng was also asking himself that: “Should I cross over or go back?”
Once he was over the line he’d be a dead man, but if he turned back it’d be a dead end too.
This line would probably break when touched, but how many could actually cross over?
Lu Xiaofeng suddenly laughed. “There were times when I felt like dying every day but I couldn’t; I didn’t expect that today it’d be so easy to die.”
He smiled and easily crossed over, walked into a world he’d never expected.
Into a dead person’s world.
It was hazy all around and nothing could be seen, not even the Soul Collector, who’d disappeared to god knows where.
Dugu Mei was gone too.
– What sort of a place was this?
– Am I really a dead person now?
Lu Xiaofeng heaved his chest and strode ahead, bursting into song again:
“Little girl carrying a clay doll,
Came to the garden to admire the flowers…”
He hadn’t yet finished the line when he heard a voice moaning: “Please, spare me.”
Thanks for the update Junny.
Who's the soul collector? He claims his sword is faster than XMCX. Was he testing LXF?
Thanks for the translation.
LXF is pretty cool