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Thread: Lu Xiaofeng - Unabridged

  1. #1
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Lu Xiaofeng - Unabridged

    Hi folks,

    I thought I'd put the entire Lu Xiaofeng library here. As usual, please do not post here.

    Moin, Junny, Ren, if you do not wish for me to post your work here, please kindly let me know, I'll remove it. Thanks.

    Index:

    Book 1 - The Legend of Lu Xiaofeng (or Golden Roc Empire)
    Prologue
    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Epilogue

    Book 2 - Embroidery Bandit
    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Epilogue

    Book 3 - Before and After the Duel
    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Chapter 12
    Epilogue

    Book 4 - Silver Hook Casino
    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11

    Book 5 - Mansion of Spirits (work-in-progress, please check back later, the following links are for space holder only)
    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Chapter 12
    Chapter 13
    Chapter 14
    Chapter 15
    Chapter 16
    Chapter 17
    Epilogue

    Book 6 - Phoenix Dances in the Nine Heavens
    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Chapter 12
    Chapter 13
    Chapter 14
    Chapter 15
    Chapter 16
    Chapter 17
    Chapter 18
    Chapter 19
    Chapter 20
    Chapter 21
    Chapter 22

    Book 7 - Laughter of the Sword God
    Preface
    Part I - Lu Xiaofeng
    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5

    I'll add later ...

    March 25, 2014: Book 1 complete.
    March 28, 2014: Book 2 complete.
    April 3, 2014: Book 3 complete.
    April 8, 2014: Book 4 complete.
    April 19, 2014: Book 6 complete.
    Last edited by foxs; 04-21-14 at 08:48 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Prologue

    Lu Xiao Feng Book 1:
    The Golden Roc Empire - 金鹏王朝
    (or 陸小鳳傳奇 The Legend of Lu Xiaofeng)

    Written by: Gu Long
    Translated by : Moinllieon

    Prologue

    Grandma Xung's Sugar-Roasted-Chestnuts

    The moon was round; the fog was thick. Covered by the thick fog, the full moon looked dim and desolate, enough to break a man's heart.

    But Zhang Fang and his pals weren't in the mood to appreciate the view, they only want to walk around without any worries for once.

    They have just finished an escort job from very far away; they also just finished drinking some wine. All the tensions and hard work were finally over. They were just as relaxed, carefree, and happy as can be. It was at this time when they saw Grandma Xung.

    Grandma Xung had suddenly appeared out of the fog like a ghost. It was as if she had a huge invisible rock on her back, weighing her down so that her entire body was bent. It looked like her waist was about to snap.

    In her hand was a very old bamboo basket; it was neatly covered by a very thick piece of cotton cloth.

    What's in the basket?, someone asked.

    In as good of a mood as they were in, they would have taken an interest in anything.

    Sugar-Roasted-Chestnuts. The wrinkle-covered face of Grandma Xung broke out into a smile, Sweet and hot Sugar-Roasted-Chestnuts, only 10 farthings a catty. {A catty is half a kilo}

    We'll take five catties, one catty each.

    The chestnuts really were hot, and they really were sweet. But Zhang Fang only ate one.

    He never liked chestnuts; besides, he had drank too much. He had only one chestnut when his stomach began feeling very sick, as if he was going to throw up.

    He hadn't thrown up yet when he noticed that his pals suddenly all fell over. Once they fell over, their bodies immediately began to twitch as white foams start to form at the corner of their mouths.

    The white foams suddenly turned red, turned into blood!

    Grandma Xung was still standing there, looking at them, the smile on her face suddenly looked unspeakably terrifying.
    There's poison in the Sugar-Roasted-Chestnuts! Zhang Fang gritted his teeth and wanted throw himself at her. But at this moment he felt as if he had no strength left in him.

    He wanted to snap this grandma's neck, but he ended up landing at her feet. He suddenly noticed that hidden under the long gray dress of this grandma, she was wearing a pair of bright and colorfully embroidered red shoes. Red like those worn by the bride on her wedding day.

    But the shoes were not embroidered with a pair of loons, but an owl. The owl's eyes were green, as if it was staring at Zhang Fang, mocking at his stupidity and ignorance. Zhang Fang stared back at it in shock.

    Grandma Xung laughed and said: Turns out you are quite a naughty boy that likes to look at women's feet.

    Zhang Fang struggled to lift his head up and asked: What do you really have against us?

    Grandma Xung laughed and answered: Stupid boy, I have never seen you guys before, what can I have against you guys?

    Zhang Fang gritted his teeth and asked: Then why do you want to kill us?

    Grandma Xung casually replied: No reason really, I just wanted to kill."

    She looked up through the fog at the dim and desolate moon and slowly continued: Whenever the moon is full, I want to kill!

    Zhang Fang stared at her, his eyes were filled with terror and rage. He liked nothing better than to bite down hard on her throat.

    But suddenly, like a ghost, this grandma disappeared into the thick fog. The fog was thick and hazy, and the moon became even rounder.

    Honest Monk


    The sun is setting in the west as the Autumn winds blew through the marsh reeds. There was not a trace of humans on the shores. Only a crow flying closer and closer, finally landing on a wooden post on the shore that's used for tying up boats.

    This was a desolate dock to begin with, and now the boat had left for its last crossing.

    The man manning the boat was a man so old that even his beard was white. Every day for the last 20 years, he had been shuttling back and forth between the two shores of the river on this old boat of his. There is not much left in life to makes him happy anymore, only drinking and gambling.

    But tonight he swore he would not gamble. For there was a monk on his boat. This monk looked very proper, very honest, but a monk is still a monk.

    Every time he's seen a monk, he would lose all the money on him.

    This Honest Monk sat there very properly at a corner of the boat, looking down at his own feet, very dirty feet. On his very dirty feet, he was wearing a pair of very worn straw sandals.

    Others sat as far away from him as they could, as if they were afraid of the fleas on his body would get on themselves.

    The Honest Monk didn't dare to look back others as well, not only was he honest, he was also very shy.

    So even when the bandits jumped on the boat, he did not look up either, only hearing the passengers' surprised screams followed by the sound of four men jumping onto the head of the boat. Then he heard the bandits viciously threatened, We are all the heroes of the Water Snake Clan, we have always only wanted money and not lives, so you guys need not be scared, just hand over all the money and valuables on you and everything will be fine.

    The setting sun shined on the sabres in their hands, the reflection from the sabres lit up the inside of the boat. Inside the boat, men were shaking and women were crying, the more money they had on them, the harder they shook, the more they cried.

    That Honest Monk still sat there with his head bowed, looking at his feet.

    Suddenly, he saw another pair of feet, a pair of feet wearing a clean and thick pair of boots, standing right in front of him: Your turn, hand it over!

    This Honest Monk did not seem to know what he was saying as he muttered: What do you want me to hand over?

    As long as it's worth money, hand it all over!

    But I don't have anything on me. Honest Monk's head bowed even lower.

    He noticed that this man seemed like he was going to kick him but was pulled back by another man: Forget it, this nasty looking monk doesn't seem like the kind that would have money, let's get out of here.

    They came quickly, and left quickly, for all criminals were all at least a little bit lacking in confidence.

    All at once the inside of the boat became chaotic, some were jumping up and down, others were cursing, cursing not only at the bandits, but at the monk as well: Seeing a monk really does bring bad luck!

    They did not seem to care that the monk could hear them curse, the Honest Monk didn't seem to hear them either.
    He still sat there with his head bowed, his expression seemed very troubled, suddenly he jumped up and ran to the head of the boat. At the head of the boat there was a plank of wood, it was used as a bridge once the boat had docked.

    The Honest Monk grabbed the plank of wood and gently hit it, the three inch thick plank of wood split into five or six pieces.

    Everyone on the boat was shocked.

    The Honest Monk tossed the first piece of wood out, the piece had just landed in water when he took off, the tip of his foot had just gently landed on top of piece of wood when the second piece was tossed out.

    He looked just like a dragonfly on the surface of a water, after four or five jumps on top of the water, he had chased down that get-away boat of the Water Snake Clan. The heroes of the Water Snake Clan were just counting up their earnings today when they noticed a man gently floating down onto the head of their boat like an angel, it was that nasty looking monk.

    Not only had they never seen this kind of kungfu before, none of them had even heard of it before.

    So this monk was hiding himself, waiting until we had already gotten our hands on the money before he makes any trouble.

    Every one of their hands was covered in cold sweat as they hoped that this monk only wanted their money and not their lives.

    None of them could have imagined that the monk would suddenly kneel down in front of them and politely say: I have four taels of silver on me, I originally intend to buy a new set of clothing and a new pair of straw sandals, that was already being greedy.

    He took out the silver and laid it at their feet, and then he continued: Besides, a monk should not lie, yet I just lied to you heroes, now I only beg for your forgiveness. When I go back I would definitely face the wall and think all this over in front of Buddha for at least three months to punish myself.

    Every single one of them were shocked, none of them dared to say anything.

    The Honest Monk's head was bowed as he said: If heroes can't forgive me, then I have no choice but to kneel here.
    Who would want a person like this on the boat?

    Finally someone summed up his courage and said: Alright, we... we... we forgive you.

    That phrase was supposed to be said with assuring confidence, but when this person said it, his voice even changed pitch.

    Happiness immediately appeared on the Honest Monk's face, (Dong! Dong! Dong!) he loudly kowtowed three times on the deck of the boat, slowly stood up, suddenly jumped 20 meters onto the shore, and just as suddenly he disappeared.

    Everyone stood there shocked at the head of the boat, they could only look at each other, then look down at the silver.
    After who knows how long, someone finally let out a deep sigh and declared his take: You guys really think he is a monk?

    What is he if he isn't a monk?

    A saint, a real and genuine saint.

    The next morning, someone discovered that Water Snake Clan suddenly had 18 distinguished members die in their beds.

    Every one of them seemed to die very peacefully, no wounds nor poison was found, nobody could figure out how they died.

    Xi Men Chui Xue


    Xi Men Chui Xue doesn't blow snow, he blows blood. Blood that's on his sword.

    The water in the tub was still warm and still had a faint smell of Cape Jasmines. Xi Men Chui Xue had just taken a bath and washed his head, he had washed every part of his body clean.

    Right now Xiao-Hong was brushing his hair, while Xiao-Cui and Xiao-Yu were cutting and polishing his nails.

    Xiao-Yun had prepared a completely new set of clothes for him wear, they were all white from underclothes to socks, white like the snow.

    They were all famous prostitutes in the city, all very pretty, very young, they all know how to please men-to please men in all kinds of ways.

    But Xi Men Chui Xue only chose one kind. He never even touched them. He had fasted for three days.

    Because he was about to set upon doing a thing that he believes is the most saintly thing in the world. He was going to kill a person! His name was Hong Tao.

    Xi Men Chui Xue didn't know the man, nor had he seen him before. Xi Men Chui Xue was going to kill him only because he killed Zhao Gang.

    {Chui means blow, Xue means snow, but is the same sound as blood. This was a very clever play on words that does not translate over. }

    Everyone knew that Zhao Gang was a very upright and very loyal man, a real man among men.

    Xi Men Chui Xue knew that too, but he does not know Zhao Gang either, nor had he seen Zhao Gang before.

    He had traveled thousands of kilometers, rode for three days straight under a blazing sun, arrived at this unfamiliar city, bathed, fasted for three days, only to avenge for a stranger he had never even met before by killing another stranger he had never met before.

    Hong Tao stared at Xi Men Chui Xue, he couldn't believe there was a man like this in the world that will do this kind of thing.

    Xi Men Chui Xue's clothes were white like the snow as he calmly stood there under the West Gate, calmly waiting for Hong Tao to pull out his sabre.

    {XiMen means West Gate, so that whole phrase was a take off on Xi Men Chui Xue's name, yet another thing that does not translate over. }

    Most of the people in the pugilistic world knew about Hong Tao's Lighting Sabre. If his sabre wasn't really fast like lightning, One Sabre Shaking the nine Prefectures Zhao Gang would not have died by his sabre.

    Hong Tao killed Zhao Gang for those six words: One Sabre Shaking the nine Prefectures, six words, one life!

    Xi Men Chui Xue only spoke five words in total!

    Hong Tao asked why he had come, he only replied: To kill you!

    Hong Tao then asked him Why, he answered: Zhao Gang!

    Hong Tao asked him: Are a friend of Zhao Gang? He only shook his head.

    Hong Tao asked: So you came all this way to kill me for a person that you have never met? He only nodded.

    He came to kill, not to talk.

    The color on Hong Tao's face changed, he had figured out who this man was, he had heard of his sword skill and weird behavior.

    Xi Men Chui Xue's behavior was indeed strange, his sword technique was just as strange.

    When he decide to kill a person, he had already prepared himself for two possible outcome and only two! Either you die, or I die!

    Now Hong Tao discovered that he was only left with these two outcomes, he already have no other choice.

    The west winds blew through the street as the leaves slowly float down. In the yard inside the tall walls, a flock of crows suddenly took off and flew into the setting sun to the west. Hong Tao suddenly pulled out his sabre and with lightning speed attacked eight times.

    Zhao Gang died under this Jade Linked Lightning eight Strikes.

    Shame that his Jade Linked was like any other sabre skill in the world, it has openings. Only a little opening.

    So Xi Men Chui Xue only made one thrust, one thrust was enough to stab through Hong Tao's throat.

    When he pulled the sword out, there was blood on the sword.

    Xi Men Chui Xue gently blew on the sword, and then blood dripped off the point drop by drop, neatly dripping onto a yellow leaf on the ground.

    When the leaf was picked up by the west winds, Xi Men Chui Xue had already disappeared into the dusk, disappeared with the west winds....

    Hua Man Lou


    Fresh flowers filled the building. Hua Man Lou always loved fresh flowers very much, just like how he loved life.

    At dusk, he always liked to set by the window with the setting sun shining through, gently stroking flower petals that were soft like the lips of a lover and enjoying the flower fragrance that were sweet like a lover's breath. It's dusk right now, the setting sun was warm, the gentle breeze was tender.

    The building was peaceful and quiet, he sat there by the window all by himself, his heart was filled with gratitude, gratitude towards the heavens for giving him life, letting him enjoy such a beautiful human life.

    Just then, he heard a series of hurried steps on the stairs.

    A 17 or 18 year old girl hurried ran up to stairs, her expression was one of panic, her breath was hurried as well.
    Although she wasn't very beautiful, but she had a clever and lively pair of big and bright eyes, shame that right now her eyes were filled with unspeakable terror and panic. Hua Man Lou turned around and faced her.

    He didn't recognize the girl, but he was very polite and seemed very caring: Is something the matter, Miss?

    The girl caught her breath and answered: Someone's chasing me, can I hide here for a bit?

    Yes! Hua Man Lou did not seem to think about his answer at all.

    There was nobody downstairs, the front door's always open, obviously this girl came running in out of panic. But even if it was a wounded wolf running away from a hunter, he would have let it in just the same.

    His door was always open, that's because no matter what kind of people came to him, he would welcome them just the same.

    The eyes of the girl was looking around the room, seemingly looking for a safe place to hide.

    Hua Man Lou tenderly assured her: You don't need to hide anymore, as long as you are here, you are safe.

    Really The girl blinked, as if she doesn't quite believe him. Not only is the man chasing me mean and vicious, he has a sabre with him, he may kill people at anytime!

    Hua Man Lou smiled and replied: I guarantee you he would not kill here.

    Still not feeling assured, the girl was just about to ask him: Why?

    But she did not have a chance to ask, the man chasing her had arrived inside the building and had ran up the stairs. He was exceptionally tall and big, yet he was very swift and nimble moving up the stairs.

    He really did have a sabre in his hand, his eyes also had a knife-like ferocity to them, when he saw the girl he immediately shouted: Now let's see where you can run off to.

    The girl was just running to behind Hua Man Lou, Hua Man Lou was smiling: Now that she's here, she doesn't need to run anymore.

    The man shot a glance at him, seeing that he was nothing more than a handsome and refined-looking young man, he laughed at said: Do you know who your old man is here? How dare you meddle in your old man's business!

    Hua Man Lou was still just as calm and polite: Who are you?

    The man squared his shoulders and answered: Your old man here is 'Flower Sabre King' Cui Yi Dong, I give you one chop, your body will gain one more hole.

    {Yet another play on words, Yi Dong means one hole.}

    Hua Man Lou replied: So very sorry, I have never heard of your honorable name before, my body doesn't need any extra holes either, I don't want any more holes, big or small.

    The girl could not help but let out a peal of laughter.

    Cui Yi Dong's face has changed colors, suddenly he screamed: You are going to get some even if you don't want any!

    He shook his sabre, while the sword flashes were still shaking, his sabre was already on its way towards Hua Man Lou's chest.

    Hua Man Lou did not move his body at all, only two fingers.

    He suddenly moved his hand, and the two finger came together on the sabre. That sabre seemed like it immediately grew root there between his fingers.

    Cui Yi Dong pulled with all his might, but he still cannot pull the sabre out.

    Hua Man Lou was still smiling: If you are willing to leave your sabre here, I'll be sure to take very good care of it, my door is always open, you can come back any time to take it back.

    Cui Yi Dong was covered in cold sweat, suddenly he stumped his foot on the floor, released the sabre, and ran down the stairs without even glancing back. He ran down much faster than he ran up.

    Like a bell, the girl started laughing, she looked at Hua Man Lou with both admiration and surprise: I never suspected that you have that great of an ability.

    Hua Man Lou smiled and replied: It's not that I have a great ability, it's that he doesn't have any!

    The girl replied: Who says he doesn't have any? A lot of people in the martial world can 't beat him, even me.

    Huan Man Lou asked: You?

    The girl answered: Although I can't beat him, but there's also a lot of men that can't beat me, I am Shang Guan Fei Yan from south of the river.

    She immediately shook her head at herself and sighed: Of course you have never heard of that name before!

    Hua Man Lou walked over and gently placed the sabre in his hand onto a table by the wall, he suddenly turned around and asked: Why was he chasing you?

    Shang Guan Fei Yan bit her lips and hesitated, finally she broke out into a smile and said: Because I stole something of his.

    Hua Man Lou was not surprised nor shocked, he actually laughed.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan immediately followed it up: Even though I'm a thief, but he's a bandit, I never steal from nice people, only from bandits.

    She bowed her head down and peeked at Hua Man Lou out of the corner of her eye, then she spoke up: I only hope that you don't look down at me, that you don't dislike me.

    Hua Man Lou smiled: I like you, I like people who tell the truth.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan blinked: Can people who tell the truth stay here a little longer?

    Hua Man Lou answered: Of course.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan seemed to have relaxed a bit sweetly replied: Then I feel much better, I was really afraid that you might chase me out just then.

    She walked over to the window and took a deep breath, the air was filled with the sweet smell of flowers. It was getting darker outside, but inside it had already gotten dark.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan gently sighed: Today past so quickly, it is already dark again.

    Hua Man Lou replied with a simple H'm

    Shang Guan Fei Yan asked: Why haven't you lit the lamps?

    Hua Man Lou smiled and replied: So sorry, I forgot I have a guest here.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan asked: You only light the lamps when you have guests?

    Hua Man Lou merely answered with another H'm.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan asked: You don't light the lamps when you are by yourself?

    Hua Man Lou replied: I don't need any lamp.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan asked yet again: Why?

    She had turned around, looking at Hua Man Lou with disbelief in her eyes.

    But Hua Man Lou's expression was still very happy and calm as he slowly answered: Because I am blind.

    The twilight got even darker, the air was still filled with the sweet smell of flower fragrances.

    But Shang Guan Fei Yan didn't notice any of it, she was completely shocked.

    Because I am blind.

    Although there were only four very normal words, Shang Guan Fei Yan had never heard any phrase that shocked her more than these four words. She stared at Hua Man Lou, this man, who's filled with love for the life, who's filled with hope for the future, who could just casually press his fingers together onto a sabre that others were chopping down with all their might, who's living by himself in this little building, not only does he not need anyone's help, but he's always prepared to gladly offer help to others.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan could not believe that this man was blind. She could not help but ask again: Are you really blind?

    Hua Man Lou nodded: I have been blind since I was 7.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan observed: But you don't act like it.

    Hua Man Lou smiled again: How should a blind man act?

    Shang Guan Fei Yan didn't know how to reply. She had seen many blind people before, she had always thought that blind people were sad and dejected, because this beautiful and colorful world had turned to nothing but darkness to them.

    Although she didn't say this, Hua Man Lou obviously understood what she meant. Still smiling, he said: I know that you figured that blind people should not be as happy as I am.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan could only admit it.

    Hua Man Lou said: Actually being blind is really not bad at all, although I can't see anymore, I can still hear and feel, sometimes I enjoy a lot more pleasure than others.

    His face was filled with a glow of satisfaction that comes from happiness as he slowly continued: Have you ever heard the sound of snow falling on the roof? Can you feel that strange but wonderful power of life when the flower buds slowly blooming in the spring? Do you know that the Autumn winds often brings with it the sweet smells from trees and forests from hillsides far far away?....

    Shang Guan Fei Yan quietly listened to him talk, as if she was listening to a soft and beautiful song.

    Hua Man Lou said: If you are willing to look for them, you'll discovered how lovely and wonderful life is, every season has lots of unique pleasures and delights that can make you forget all your troubles and worries.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan closed her eyes, suddenly she felt the wind become gentler and the flowers become sweeter.

    Hua Man Lou continued: Whether or not you are happy, has nothing to do with whether or not you are blind, but has everything to do with whether or not you really love your life and whether or not you really want to live on happily.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan looked up at his peaceful but happy face that was glowing in the twilight. This time her eyes were not filled with shock and surprise, but with respect and gratitude.

    She was grateful to him, not because he saved her life, but because he made her realize what it means to live.
    She respect him, not because of his kungfu, but because of his incredible outlook and heart.

    But she couldn't help but ask some more: You don't have anyone else in your family?

    Hua Man Lou smiled: I have a very large family, there are a lot of people in my family, everyone of them are very healthy and very happy.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan asked: Then why are you living her all by herself?

    Hua Man Lou replied: Because I want to try and find out if I can live by myself. Because I don't want others to help me every step of the way, I don't want others to treat me as if I'm blind.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan asked some more: You... Are you really having a good time living here all by yourself?

    Hua Man Lou answered: I have lived here for eight months now, and I have never been happier in my life.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan gently sighed and asked: But other than the snow in the winter and the flowers in the spring, what else do you have?

    Hua Man Lou replied: I have great nights of sleep, a very good appetite, a very comfortable house, and a very good sounding old seven stringed-zither, all these are enough really. Besides, I also have a very good friend.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan asked: Who's your friend?

    Hua Man Lou's face was beaming again: His surname is Lu, call him Lu Xiao Feng.

    He smiled and continued: But please don't assume he is a girl, although his name is Xiao Feng, little phoenix, he is a man in every way.

    Shang Guan Fei Yan replied: Lu Xiao Feng?... I think I have heard of that name before, but don't know what kind of person he is.

    Hua Man Lou's smiled even wider: He is a really strange fellow, all you have to do is take one look at him, then you'll never ever forget him, not only does he have two pairs of eyes and ears, three hands, he also grew four eyebrows.

    Two pairs of eyes and ears, of course meant that he can see and hear a lot more and better than others.

    Three hands probably meant that his hands were faster than anyone, very nimble and dexterous.

    But what does 4 eyebrows mean? Shang Guan Fei Yan couldn't figure that out.

    She decided that no matter what she must think of a way to see this four eyebrowed Lu Xiao Feng.
    Last edited by foxs; 03-25-14 at 11:05 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 1

    Chapter 1 - The prettiest Boss' wife

    The Boss's Wife sat on the opposite side, staring at his mustache. She really was a very beautiful woman, with her curved eye brows, her large eyes, and her delicate yet full lips, she looked just like a ripened honey, nobody could resist not taking a bite once catching a glimpse of her. But the most attractive and enticing thing about her was not her face, nor was it her body, but the style in which she carries herself.

    Yellow Stoned Town is a big town. This street should be a very lavish and bustling street.

    But now it was deep into the night, the new moon looked like a hook as it shined down onto the green slab stone street. Two horses carrying two men wearing green came galloping along, but there was no body on the street.

    The man missing half his left ear and has a knife scar from the base of his left ear to the right corner of his mouth pulled his horse to a stop and asked in a heavy voice: Do you think he would spend the night here?

    The purple faced man with a beard replied: Yes!

    He is still a person, and he still had to sleep at night, it's just everybody knows that he has a problem with his sleeping habits.

    The man with the scar asked: If he was going to stay, where would he stay?

    The purple faced man didn't even have to think about it: Vernal Greetings.

    Vernal Greetings has the most pretty girls. He always has to sleep with a woman present somewhere, that was his problem. Everyone has some kind of a problem or another.

    The big lantern by the front door of Vernal Greetins was still lit, red-colored glow enticing everyone to come and enjoy a red-colored night. The door was half open. The purple faced man gave his horse one jerk on the reins and the two of them smashed through the door.

    A skinny, yellow-looking man was sleeping on the bamboo chair in the yard. The whip in the purple faced man's hand suddenly wrapped around that man's neck as he ferociously shouted: Did a man wearing red cape come in tonight?

    This man was nearly choked out of breath, all he could do was nodded feverishly. The purple faced man finally let him down and asked: Is he still here?

    Trying to catch his breath, that man nodded again.

    The purple faced man asked: Where is he?

    That man answered: He was just drinking it up with four people in Peach Flower Hall, the four of them were toasting him in turns, finally getting him drunk.

    The man with the scar's expression changed: Which four people?

    That man answered: Four very mean looking ones, but they seem to be very polite to him.

    The man with the scar asked: Where are they now?

    That man answered: I saw them help him into his room, I think they are still in his room!

    The purple faced man had already turned his horse and charged toward the peach garden to the left. The lights in the Peach Flower Hall were still lit. The cups and dishes on the tables in Peach Flower Hall were a mess, there were three or four empty wine jugs lying about as well.

    The man with the scar jumped and somersaulted in the air, he ran right up and kicked open the door at the back of the hall. He stood there in shock.

    There were only four men in the room, kneeling down in a row. At first their faces were all white and pale, but seeing the man with the scar, suddenly their faced turned bright red.

    The four of them had on lavish clothing, normally they would look very stylish. But someone had doodled on their faces. The first one had a tortoise drawn on his forehead, there were four words to go along with it on his face as well: I am a tortoise.

    The second one had a turtle: I am a turtle.
    Third one: I am a pig.
    Fourth one: I am a dog.

    The man with the scar just stood there, looking at them, looking at the drawings and words on their faces. Suddenly he bursted out laughing, laughing so hard that he doubled-over, as if he had never seen anything so funny in his whole life.

    The four men gritted their teeth and stared at him, their eyes were filled with hatred and anger, as if they would jump up and tear him to pieces at any moment. But they were still properly kneeling there, not only couldn't they jump up, they couldn't even move an inch.

    Still laughing hard, the man with the scar shouted: When did the famed Four Heroes of Jiang Dong' turn into tortoise, turtle, pig, and dog?

    The purple faced man had already ran outside in laughter. He clapped his hands and shouted at the top of his lungs: Everyone is welcomed to witness the might of the world famous four Heroes of Jiang Dong! Ten taels of silver to anyone that comes in, no matter who he is!

    The faces of the four men kneeling on the floor suddenly turned white, so much so that they almost looked clear. Sweat dropped down from the forehead like rain.

    Still laughing, the man with the scar commented: Even though that guy is still a bastard, at least he's a good bastard.

    The purple faced man agreed: At least this trip wasn't in vain.

    Suddenly the two of them stopped laughing, for they saw another person walking in with her head lowered.

    She was at most 14 or 15. Even though she was covered in makeup and jewelry, her face was still the cute and lovable like a little kid. With her head lowered, she lightly asked: Are you two gentlemen looking for Mr. Lu ?

    The face of the man with the scar darkened as he asked: How did you know?

    The little girl weaking spoke: Mr. Lu seemed just a little bit ago like he was drunk out of his mind, I happened to be sitting beside him, so I secretly drank two cups for him.

    The man with the scar sneered: This guy really does have some pretty good luck with women!

    The little girl blushed and rebuked: Well I wouldn't know anything about that! Then he suddenly sobered up, he told me that I had a good heart and that's why he's going to give me one thing to sell to you two.

    The purple faced man immediately probed: What did he give you?

    The girl replied: A... A sentence.

    The purple faced man frowned: A sentence? What kind of sentence?

    The girl replied: He said this sentence is worth at least 300 taels of silver, he also said that you two gentlemen have to pay before I can tell you this sentence.

    She also seemed to feel that this matter was preposterous. Before she finished talking, her faced got even redder.

    But the purple faced man did not even hesitate, immediately grabbing out three banknotes worth 100 taels of silver each and tossing them on the table in front of the girl. He said: Alright, I'll buy that sentence of yours.

    The girl's eyes were wide open, staring at the three banknotes, not believing that there was such a man in this world, actually willing to pay 300 taels of silver for one sentence.

    The purple faced man instructed: Come over here and whisper it to me, don't let those four animals in there overhear it.

    The girl hesitated a bit before finally walking up the man and whispering in his ear: He said: 'If you want to find me, first find the boss's wife.'

    The purple faced man frowned, he couldn't understand what the sentence meant. There were countless number of boss's wife in the world, every shop or store has a boss's wife. How was he going to find a particular one?

    The girl suddenly added: He said that if you don't understand this sentence, he could offer up another sentence as a hint. He said that this particular boss's wife is the prettiest in the world.

    The purple faced man stood there for a moment. Then, not saying another word, he simply gestured to his companion and started to walk out. The man with the scar followed him. He suddenly turned around, grabbed an empty wine jug, and tossed it. The empty jug neatly landed on the head of the second man, the jug was green in color.

    The man with the scar bursted out laughing: Now that looks like a real turtle!

    There was still quite a few pretty boss's wife in the world, which one's the prettiest?

    The man with the scar frowned: Does this guy want us to go into every shop and store and compare every single one of the boss's wives?

    The purple faced man simply replied: No.

    The man with the scar asked: Do you have some other plan?

    The purple faced man thought for a bit and said: I think I might have figured out what he meant.

    The man with the scar asked: What did he mean?

    The purple faced man suddenly laughed: Did you forget what Zhu Ting's nickname is?

    The man with the scar bursted out laughing again: Look like I have to get an empty wine jug for him as well.

    ***

    Zhu Ting never ran any kind of business before, nor has he owned any stores. Because he believes that no matter what kind of business or store you open, it will be hard not to have at least some time where you lose money. He could never take that kind of a risk.

    Actually there's another very important reason why he never opened any business, because he never had enough money to open a business. But his nickname just happened to be The Boss.

    Zhu Ting was a man that understood enjoyment very well, and he's also open minded about anything. When these two reasons come together, it just makes him fatter and fatter.

    Fat people always looked like they have good luck, and only those with good luck can be bosses, so a lot of people call him Boss. In reality, he really does have a lot of luck. Although he was not very handsome, he has a very beautiful wife; he never did one serious thing in his life, yet he's always managed to live in a most comfortable kind of homes, wear the best kind of clothes, and drink the best kind of wine.

    There's another thing about himself that he's very proud of-he had always believed that he was even lazier than Lu Xiao Feng. Once you take one look at him sitting in that big and comfortable chair, you would know that there aren't many things that can make him get up out of it. Because no matter what kind of thing he's about to do, he would always stop and think about it for a bit.

    To an open minded man, there is nothing in the world that has to be done once he thinks about it for a bit.

    He's able to live such comfortably because, and only because, of his very skilled pair of hands that can make all kinds of weird stuff. If you can imagine it, he can build it. Once he bet with somebody that he can build a wooden man that could walk. He won 50 swallow-feathered mats and 50 jugs of aged wine, causing him to gain another five catties worth of flesh.

    Right now he's trying to figure out how to build a kite big enough to carry a man. In the past he had wanted to look and see what was below the ground, now he wants to go up into the sky.

    It was just then that he heard hoofbeats outside, then he saw the two men dressed in green. This time the man with the scar didn't kick the door open, it was open to begin with.

    As soon as he rushed in he glared at Zhu Ting and shouted: Where's the Boss's wife?

    Zhu Ting casually replied: If you want to find the boss's wife, then you should go to that convenient store across the way, she's in there.

    That man with the scar replied: There's one here too, you are called the Boss, so your wife is the Boss's wife.

    Zu Ting laughed: If the Boss's wife here knew that there were men from the Green Shirt Pavilion searching just for her, she would undoubtedly feel very fortunate. He recognized these two men.

    Green Shirt Pavilion was not a pavilion, it was 108 pavilions, each with 108 men, a huge and powerful organization. Not only were they powerful, they were also very secretive. So if they wanted to do something, only very rarely do they fail to do it.

    These two men were men with portraits in the first pavilion of the Green Shirt Pavilion. Nobody knows where the first pavilion is located, nobody had ever seen the 108 portraits. But everybody knows that if someone can have a portrait in it, then he can pretty much do as he please around the martial world.

    That man with a scar was called Iron Faced Judge. It's rumored that when someone chopped down on his face with a sabre, the blade was destroyed, that's how the name Iron Faced came to be. The other man was known as Soul Hooker, for he had hooked a lot of souls with that pair of silver hooks of his.

    Zhu Ting casually continued: It's a pity that she is attending to some very important matter right now, probably don't have any time to meet you guys.

    Iron Faced Judge asked: What kind of important matter?

    Zhu Ting answered: She's drinking wine with a friend. Isn't drinking it up with your friend the most important thing in the world?

    Iron Faced Judge asked: Does that frien d of yours have Lu for his surname?

    Zhu Ting's face suddenly darkened: You'd better get this straight, that man named Lu is her friend, not mine.

    Iron Faced Judge asked: Where are they drinking?

    Zhu Ting answered: Probably at that Clear Cloud Inn that the guy's staying at.

    Iron Faced Judge looked him over a couple of times, suddenly a poisonous smile appeared on his face: Your wife is in a hotel, drinking it up with a famed womanizer, and yet you can still sit here?

    Zhu Ting casually answered: Kids have to pee, wives have to cheat, these kinds of things nobody can control. What can I do if I can't just sit here? Climb onto the roof and do somersaults? Roll onto the floor and crawl?

    Iron Faced Judge bursted out laughing again: I admire you, you are one open-minded fellow.

    He laughs heartily as often as possible, because he knows that when he laughs he look even more terrifying. When he laughs that scar on his face would suddenly quiver and he would look even more hideous than ghosts in an abandoned temple.

    Zhu Ting stared at him: Do you have a wife?

    Iron Faced Judge answered: No.

    Zhu Ting laughed and lazily said: If you have a wife as beautiful as mine, you would be open-minded too.

    ***

    Lu Xiao Feng was lying on the bed, a big cup filled to the brim with wine sat neatly on his chest.

    The only reason that no wine spilled out was because he was just lying there, without the slightest of movements, almost like a dead person. He did not even open his eyes once all this while. His eyebrows were think, his eye lashes were long, and just above his lips he kept a mustache, a very well trimmed mustache.

    The Boss's Wife sat on the opposite side, staring at his mustache. She really was a very beautiful woman, with her curved eye brows, her large eyes, and her delicate yet full lips, she looked just like a ripened honey, nobody could resist not taking a bite once catching a glimpse of her. But the most attractive and enticing thing about her was not her face, nor was it her body, but the style in which she carries herself.

    If you were a man, you would be interested in this kind of woman.

    But at this moment she seemed to be quite interested in that mustache of Lu Xiao Feng's, after staring at it for a long time, she suddenly let out a peal of laughter: That mustache of yours really does look just like that pair of eye brows of yours, no wonder everyone keeps on saying that you have four eyebrows.

    It was like a flower blooming when she laughed: Those who have never met you before could never guess that you have a pair of eyebrows on your lips.

    Lu Xiao Feng still did not move, suddenly he sucked, the cup that was on his chest was sucked toward his lips, the wine that filled the cup was sucked into his mouth, and Gulp! They were gone. He then blew, the cup returned to its original position.

    The Boss's Wife laughed again: Are you drinking or doing magic tricks?

    Lu Xiao Feng, with his eyes still shut, did not reply, merely pointing at the empty cup sitting on his chest.

    The Boss's Wife had no choice but to fill the cup for him again, but she couldn't help but comment: You wanted me to come here and drink with you, then why are you just lying there like a dead man and not even looking at me?

    Lu Xiao Feng finally spoke: I'm scared to look at you.

    The Boss's Wife probed further: Why?

    Lu Xiao Feng answered: I'm scared that you'll seduce me.

    The Boss's Wife bit her lips: You purposely gave others the impression that there's something going on between you and me, and yet you are afraid that I might seduce you, what are you really doing all this for?

    Lu Xiao Feng replied: For your husband!

    The Boss's Wife was surprised: For him? You really think he likes being a live turtle?

    Lu Xiao Feng responded: Being a live turtle is still better than being a dead one!

    He did not gave the Boss's Wife a chance to cut in before continuing: In the profession he is in, someone might try and kill you at anytime and anywhere. He really has met too many people and know too many secrets!

    The Boss's Wife couldn't argue with this point, Zhu Ting really had done a lot of secret and strange things for a lot of people. Although they knew that his lips are tight, but who's lips could be tighter than those of a dead man? To kill in order to keep their secrets, that is the kind of thing that these kind of people could do at any given moment.

    Lu Xiao Feng continued: After he's killed, I doubt very much that you would stay a widow for a year!

    The Boss's Wife raised her eyebrows and sneered: What kind of person do you take me for? Fan Jin Lian?

    Lu Xiao Feng casually replied: Even if you are Fan Jin Lian, I'm not Xi Men Qing!

    {This little exchange involve portion of the story from the Heroes of the Water Margins, one of the four Classics of Chinese Literature about a married woman and another man.}

    The Boss's Wife stared at him; suddenly, she got up, turned around, and stared to walk out. Lu Xiao Feng still lied there, not moving at all, not even having the slightest inclination to pull her back.

    But just as the Boss's Wife walked out of the door, she immediate stormed back in and stood there at the head of the bed, hands on her hips. You really think that I don't know what you are trying to do? You think I'm a retard?

    Lu Xiao Feng replied: You're not?

    The Boss's Wife replied, louder than she needed to: You got in a fight with him, yet you are still afraid that his life may be in danger, that's why you want others to think that there's something going on between you and me; for if I wanted 'prove' my 'innocence' I cannot let myself become a widow, of course I have to beg you to protect him. With you protecting him, then others would have to think things over if they really wanted to kill him.

    Her anger was rising, as was the volume of her voice: But did you ever think about me? Why do I have to carry this stinking dark cloud around with me for?

    Lu Xiao Feng replied: For your husband!

    The Boss's Wife suddenly couldn't come up with a reply. Sacrificing a little bit for her husband is something that a wife should do.

    Lu Xiao Feng casually added: That's why as long as your husband trusts you, you do not have to think or even care about what others think!

    The Boss's Wife bit her lips and stood there blankly for a while before finally, unable to stop herself from asking, she asked: Do you really think he trusts me?

    Lu Xiao Feng responded: He's not stupid!

    The Boss's Wife stared at him: But does he trust you in the same way?

    Lu Xiao Feng lazily sighed: Why don't you ask him that question instead of me?

    He sucked in again and drank down the wine in the cup that was resting on his chest, he muttered to himself: If those guys from the Green Shirt Pavilion aren't that stupid, they should be here soon, so you really should leave soon!

    The Boss's Wife suddenly looked worried: They really are searching for you, but what for?

    Lu Xiao Feng casually replied: I wanted to ask them that too, or else I would not have let them find me!

    ***

    Zhu Ting sat in that lazy chair of his, lost in his thoughts, whatever weird or strange thoughts or ideas they may be. All those weird and strange contraptions and gadgets came about this way.

    The Boss's Wife gracefully walked in, holding a handkerchief with two fingers, and, twisting seductively, walked by him twice. Zhu Ting didn't seemed to have noticed.

    The Boss's Wife couldn't not control herself anymore: I'm back!

    Zhu Ting replied: So I see!

    The Boss's Wife purposely put on a very mysterious expression: I just drank down a lot of wine with Xiao Feng, so much that I'm still a little tipsy right now!

    Zhu Ting replied: I know!

    The Boss's Wife blinked a couple of times: But other than drinking, we didn't do anything else!

    Zhu Ting replied: I know!

    The Boss's Wife suddenly began to shout: You know sh1t!

    Zhu Ting replied: Actually, I don't know anything about sh1t!

    The Boss's Wife's temper picked up again as she loudly inquired: I have just spend a huge chunk of time drinking with another man in his room, not only are you not jealous or angry, you can still stay here wondering about God knows what?

    Zhu Ting replied: I don't wonder about things, that's why I'm not jealous or angry.

    The Boss's Wife put her hands on her hips again: A man like him, a woman like me, together in a small room, is it possible that we were completely respectable the entire time?

    She sneered and continued: Who do you think he is? A saint? Liu Xia Hui?

    Zhu Ting smiled: I know he is a big a$$h01e, but I trust him!

    The Boss's Wife got even angrier: You are not angry or jealous because you trust him, and not because you trust me?

    Zhu Ting responded: Of course I trust you!

    The Boss's Wife rebuked: But you trust him more!

    Zhu Ting replied: Don't forget that we knew each other all the way back when we were both still wearing diapers!

    The Boss's Wife sneered: So you guys have been friends for 20 or 30 years, then how come you guys suddenly seemed to have turned to life long enemies, not even saying one word to each other!

    Zhu Ting casually replied: Because he's a big a$$h01e, and I'm a big a$$h01e too!

    The Boss's Wife stared at him before finally letting out a burst of laughter, shaking her her head and laughing, she said: The things that the two of you big a$$h01es do, not only can't I figure them out, I get more confused the more I try.

    Zhu Ting responded: Of course you can't figure out the things that big a$$holes do, you are not a big a$$h01e!

    The Boss's Wife sweetly smiled and said: At last, something that makes sense from you!

    Zhu Ting smiled a bit and casually added: The most that you are is a small a$$h01e, a very, very small a$$h01e!

    ***

    Lu Xiao Feng's eyes were still shut as he was still lying there on the bed, with a cup full of wine sitting on his chest. This cup was poured by the Boss's Wife just before she left. He would never have gotten up out of bed just for a cup of wine.

    This bed was soft and comfortable, there's not that many people left in the world that could get him out of this bed right now. His red cape was hanging off the hanger by the head of the bed. For some unknown reason, no matter when and where, he always carry a cape like this around with him. All you would had to see was this red cape and you would know that he was close by.

    Iron Faced Judge and Soul Hooker had spotted the red cape at this moment, they saw it through the window. Then the two of them jumped in through the window, all the way to the head of the bed, staring down at Lu Xiao Feng.

    Lu Xiao Feng was still lying there like a dead man, not a bit of reaction or movement, not even, it seemed, to be breathing.

    Iron Faced Judge asked viciously: Are you Lu Xiao Feng? No response.

    Soul Hooker frowned, and coldly observed: I suppose this man's dead!

    Iron Faced Judge sneered: Very likely, this kind of man can't live long to begin with!

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly opened his eyes, shot a look at them, immediate closed his eyes again, and then started mumbling: Strange, I could have sworn I just saw two men in the room!

    Iron Faced Judge loudly replied: That's because there are two men in the room!

    Lu Xiao Feng asked: If there really are two men in the room, then how come I didn't hear knocking a little bit earlier?

    Soul Hooker replied: That's because we didn't knock.

    Lu Xiao Feng opened his eyes again and looked at them, he suddenly asked: Are you two really human?

    Iron Faced Judge angrily replied: What are we if we are not human? Live ghosts?

    Lu Xiao Feng casually declared: Humans knock before they enter a room, only wild dogs jump in through the window!

    Soul Hooker's face changed color as he suddenly cracked his whip. Not only was he one of the four top double-hooked martial artist this side of the Great Wall, his kungfu and skills with this snake skin whip of his wasn't all that bad either. It's been rumored that he could smash a walnut that's resting on top of three pieces of tofu.

    Obviously, Lu Xiao Feng is a whole lot bigger than a walnut, not to mention the fact that he's lying there on the bed like a dead man in front of him, so there was no way that this move was going to fail. But who knew that Lu Xiao Feng would suddenly raise his hand and skillfully snatch his whip between two of his fingers like an old beggar snatching fleas.

    He didn't learn this move from Hua Man Lou, he taught it to Hua Man Lou.

    The expression on Soul Hooker's face was just like that of Cui Yi Dong's when his sabre was caught, a flash of green, then white, and finally turning to red. He summoned up all the strength in his body, but he still could not rip the whip out between Lu Xiao Feng's fingers.

    Lu Xiao Feng was still comfortably lying there, not a drop of wine in the cup that was sitting on his chest had been spilled.

    Iron Faced Judge saw all this on the side with a astonished expression on his face, suddenly he burst out laughing and said: Excellent, excellent kungfu indeed! Lu Xiao Feng really is as good as the rumors say.

    Soul Hooker suddenly burst out laughing as well as he let go of the whip: This time I made sure that this Lu Xiao Feng is the real deal!

    Iron Faced Judge added: In this day and age, the number of fakers in the martial world increases every day, so our friend Lu here really shouldn't blame us for making sure.

    In a couple of exchanges, the two of them helped themselves out of an awkward position, but Lu Xiao Feng seemed like he had just fallen asleep again.

    Soul Hooker gradually found it difficult to keep laughing as he lightly coughed twice and said: I take it that our friend Lu already knows who we are!

    He seemed to be reminding Lu Xiao Feng not to forget that anyone in the Green Shirt Pavilion wasn't someone to be messed with.

    Iron Faced Judge spoke up: We only came because we were ordered to invite our friend Lu take a trip back with us, not only are we responsible for inviting and sending you off, but we are to make sure that not a single sweat hair of yours is to be harmed.

    Lu Xiao Feng finally lazily let out a sigh: Why should I go back with you? Not like your boss's wife would keep me company in bed!

    Iron Faced Judge's face darkened as he replied coldly: We don't have a boss's wife there, but there's one here!

    Lu Xiao Feng's face darkened as well: Since you guys already knew about this, then you should go back and tell that guy named Wei in your mansion that it's best if he does not bother Zhu Ting, or else I'll burn down all 108 of you guys's masions!

    Iron Faced Judge sneered: If we killed Zhu Ting, we probably would be helping you wouldn't we?

    Lu Xiao Feng casually replied: Haven't you guys ever heard before? I have never liked widows.

    Iron Faced Judge replied: Just as long as you agree to go with us, I promise you that the Boss's Wife would not be a widow any time soon.

    Just as he finished saying this, there came a knock on the door. Nobody outside was knocking on the door, the person that knocked was somehow already in the room.

    He didn't use his hands to knock either, because he didn't have a hand.

    ***

    Dusk again.

    The setting sun shone through the window and neatly onto this man's face. It couldn't really be considered a face.

    Half of the left side of his face had been sliced away, the wound had shriveled up when it healed itself, pulling his nose and eyes over to that side - not one single nose, but half of one, and not a pair of eyes, but just one.

    A dark and deep hole was all that's left of his right eye, there was a huge cross-like scar on his cheek, both of his hands had been cut off at the wrist, on his right wrist was a cold and menacing hook, and on his left wrist there was a huge iron ball which was larger than a human head. When compared to this guy, Iron Faced Judge suddenly seemed like a handsome, suave playboy.

    Right now he was standing inside the door and gently knocking the door with the iron hook on his right wrist as he said coldly: I'm not a wild dog, I'm human, so when I enter other people's rooms, I always knock!

    Once he started talking, the half of his face that was sliced off would start twitching, as if he was crying, but also as if he was laughing. Upon seeing his man, even Iron Faced Judge couldn't help but shudder a little. He actually had not noticed how this man had entered.

    Soul Hook had already taken two steps back as he blurted out: Liu Yu Hen?

    A laugh that sounded like rusted blades grinding up against each other came from this man's throat: There's actually someone in this world that actually still recognize me, so hard to come by these a days.

    Iron Faced Judge looked shocked: You are that 'Handsome Gentleman' Liu Yu Hen?

    This kind of man was actually known as Handsome Gentleman?

    But this man actually nodded as he quietly and sadly replied: 'Feelings are always like leftover hatred, no point in bring up past matters.' 'Handsome Gentleman' is dead, pity that Liu Yu Hen is still alive.

    {Yu Hen means leftover hatred, a play on words.}

    Iron Faced Judge's expression changed: Why... why did you come here?

    He seemed to have an unspeakable fear towards this man, so much so that even his voice changed.

    Liu Yu Hen coldly replied: Liu Yu Hen wanted to die 10 years ago, but somehow he is still alive today, I only came here asking for death.

    Iron Faced Judge asked: Why would I kill you?

    Liu Yu Hen replied: Because if you don't kill me, I'll kill you...

    Iron Faced Judge was shocked. Soul Hooker's face was turning green.

    It was at this time that there came another knock on the door.

    This time the person that knocked was outside, but suddenly he walked in, he walked in without opening the door.

    That thick wooden door was like a thin piece of paper in front of him!

    He did not smash the door using an object nor did he kick the door using his foot, he just casually walked forward and the door just suddenly shattered to pieces. But he did not have a single bit of roughness in his appearance, he actually looked like a refined and gentle scholar, that white and clean face of his always had a smile on it.

    Right now, he was smiling as he spoke: I'm human too, I also knocked.

    Iron Faced Judge suddenly noticed that even when he smiled, there was a sharp and knife-like murderous look in his eyes.

    Soul Hooker took two more steps back and blurted out again: Xiao Qiu Yu!7

    {Qiu Yu means autumn rains, yet another play on words.}

    This man smiled: Excellent, friend, your knowledge is impressive!

    Iron Faced Judge was shocked again: 'Intestine Breaking Swordsman' Xiao Qiu Yu?

    This man nodded and sighed: 'The autumn rains and autumn winds brings worries', so whenever someone is killed, I worry.

    Iron Faced Judge couldn't help but ask: What kind of worries?

    Xiao Qiu Yu casually replied: Right now I'm worried because I can't decide whether I should kill you or I should let Brother Liu kill you.

    Iron Faced Judge suddenly burst out laughing, but his laughter seemed to be stuck in his throat, even he thought it sounded a bit like crying.

    Soul Hooker was in even worse shape as he kept on look around the room, as if he was searching for a way out.

    Suddenly, a man spoke up while laughing: What are you looking for? That pair of silver hook of yours?

    This guy was standing outside the window, his face was thin and black and his stature was short, but he kept a fire-like beard that covered most of his face, there was a pair of hooks in his hands, Soul Hooker's hooks. He smiled and said: I have brought your silver hooks here for you; here, take it!

    When he said it, he gently pushed his hand forward and the pair of hooks slowly began to fly towards Soul Hooker, ridiculously slow, as if there was a pair of invisible hands underneath them.

    Even Iron Faced Judge recognized this man as he blurted out: 'Forever Loner' Du Gu Fang?

    Du Gu Fang also nodded: I rarely ever enter someone else's room, but this time I'll make an exception! When he finished, he had disappeared. He suddenly appeared at the door and knocked on the broken door; just as the sound of knocking could be heard, he suddenly reappeared outside of the window and suddenly jumped in through the window; smiling, he said: I'm human too, I also knock.

    The door was obviously in pieces, yet he still went and knocked; after knocking, he still went and jumped in through the window.

    Soul Hooker had already caught his hooks as he suddenly viciously shouted: Are you here to trouble us too?

    Du Gu Fang casually replied: I don't kill wild dogs, I only watch others kill.

    He actually grabbed a chair and sat down, sat down right by the window. The sky got even redder outside of the window. Lu Xiao Feng was still lying comfortably in his bed, as if no matter what happens here had nothing whatsoever to do with him.

    He knew about Liu Yu Hen, Xiao Qiu Yu, and Du Gu Fang. There's probably not that many people in the martial world that didn't know about them, but there are even less people that could make Lu Xiao Feng get out of bed right now. He seemed to be determined to stay and slack off in this bed.

    Liu Yu Hen, Xiao Qiu Yu, and Du Gu Fang might not be the weirdest characters in the martial world, but they weren't that far away. But now they actually came together and shown up here, what's all this for?

    Although his face was looking very green, Soul Hooker still sneered and said: Green Shirt Pavilion has not had any troubles nor grudges with you three gentleman, so why are you guys coming to trouble us today?

    Xiao Qiu Yu replied: Because I felt like it!

    He smiled and continued: I have always killed whoever I wanted whenever I felt like it, I felt like killing you two today, so I came to kill you!

    Soul Hooker shot a look at Iron Faced Judge and slowly asked: What if you don't felt like it?

    Xiao Qiu Yu replied: When I don't feel like it, even if you got on your knees and begged I wouldn't lift a finger!

    Soul Hooker sighed; just as he did, Iron Faced Judge jumped forth and somersaulted, with his pair iron judge pens in hand aimed right at Liu Yu Hen's Sudden Sky and Greeting Fragrance pressure points. His moves weren't fancy, but they were accurate, fast, and effective!

    But Liu Yu Hen did not even seem to notice that pair of judge pens! He instead took a step forward. Ba! The pair of iron judge pens had simultaneously stabbed into Liu Yu Hen's shoulder and chest. But the iron ball attached to his left wrist also landed on Iron Faced Judge's face.

    Iron Faced Judge's face suddenly split open. He didn't even mutter a single sound before crumpling down, but the hook on Liu Yu Hen's right wrist hooked onto him and prevented him from dropping onto the floor.

    The pair of judge pens were still imbedded in Liu Yu Hen, although they didn't hit the pressure points yet, they were still in very deep. Liu Yu Hen did not even seemed to feel them as he only coldly stared at where Iron Faced Judge's face used to be on his head; he suddenly said coldly: Turns out that this face wasn't made of iron.

    A flick of the hook and Iron Faced Judge went flying out of the window, out to meet the real Judge.

    It was at this time that pair of silver hooks that belonged to Soul Hooker flew out of the window as well. But he was still inside the room, his face was gray, his arms were drooping down, the joints on both arms were bleeding profusely. Blood was also dripping off of the little sword in Xiao Qiu Yu's hand.

    He smiled, looked at Soul Hooker, and said: Looks like you won't ever be able to hook anymore souls with that pair of arm of yours!

    Soul Hooker gritted his teeth, so much so that there was a audible grinding sound in the room, suddenly he screamed: Why aren't you killing me!

    Xiao Qiu Yu casually replied: Because now I don't feel like killing you, now I want you to go back and tell the people in your mansion that they better stay in that mansion of theirs and not come out for the next two months, or else they will find it very difficult to return to the mansion alive.

    The expression on Soul Hooker's face changed a couple of times as he did not say another word and started heading out the door.

    Unexpectedly, Du Gu Fang suddenly appeared in front of him and said coldly: You came in through the window, it's best if you left through the window as well!

    Soul Hooker stared at him viciously before finally stumping his foot. The two men that entered through the window both exited through the window as well.

    Liu Yu Hen was staring at the darkening sky outside the window, lost in his thoughts, that pair of judge pens were still imbedded in him.

    Xiao Qiu Yu walked over and gently pulled them out, seeing the blood pouring out from his chest, a bit of sympathy came from that pair of stone cold eyes of his.

    Liu Yu Hen suddenly deeply sighed: Pity... such a pity...

    Xiao Qiu Yu asked: Pity that you didn't die this time?

    Liu Yu Hen did not respond!

    Xiao Qiu Yu deeply sighed too: Why are you doing this to yourself?...

    Du Gu Fang suddenly sighed too: You break other people's intestined, but he breaks his own!

    ***

    Someone had died in the room and the room itself was a mess, Lu Xiao Feng was still motionless, as if he didn't see any of this. What's even weirder is that the three men didn't seem to have seen him either, as if there wasn't a man lying on the bed.

    The room had become dark. They were just quietly and peacefully standing there in the dark, nobody spoke up, but nobody left either. It was at this moment that sounds of music came drifting in with the night wind, beautiful sounds as if made in heaven.

    Du Gu Fang's spirit seemed to have suddenly picked up as he said in a serious voice: They're here!

    Who's here? Who could make such beautiful music?

    Lu Xiao Feng was listening too, nobody can resist not listening to this kind of music. He suddenly noticed that the room that was filled with the smell of spilled blood suddenly was filled with a sweet fragrance. A fragrance sweeter than the smell of flowers came drifting in with the wind along with the music, in a blink of an eye the world seemed to be filled with this amazing fragrance.

    Then this dark room suddenly lit up as well.

    Lu Xiao Feng finally could not resist opening his eyes, he suddenly noticed that flower petals filled the air. Fresh flower of all kinds were drifting in with the wind through the window and the door before gently landing onto the floor. A carpet made of fresh flowers seemed to have suddenly appeared on the floor, stretching all the way out of the door.

    A person came walking in through the door.

    Lu Xiao Feng had seen a lot of women, some very ugly, some very pretty. But he had never seen a woman this beautiful.

    She was wearing a soft, pure black robe that draped all the way down onto the floor, onto the fresh flowers. Her ebony black hair fell onto her shoulders, yet her face was white, her dark pupils were so dark that they shone. No other accessories, no other colors. She was just standing like that on the flowers, but the bright and color flowers on the floor seemed to have suddenly lost all their colors.

    This kind of beauty was not of this world, it was something much higher, something that boggles the mind.

    Liu Yu Hen, Xiao Qiu Yu, and Du Gu Fang had all quietly moved over to the corner of the room, their face filled with respect.

    Lu Xiao Feng felt as if he was about to stop breathing. But he still had not gotten up.

    The girl in black quietly stared at him, her pupils were clear and pure like the spring dew drops on the rose petals at dawn. Her voice was also soft as the wind, lik e the spring wind that blew across the lakes in the faraway mountains at dusk. But her smile was mysterious, mysterious like the sound of the flute that drift in from faraway in the middle of a quiet and peaceful night, drifting and distant, making it impossible for anyone to nail down. She stared at Lu Xiao Feng, smiling, suddenly she kneeled, as if a cloud in the sky suddenly came drifting down into the mortal world.

    Lu Xiao Feng could not stay in bed any longer. He suddenly jumped up. It was as if he suddenly became an arrow that was on a fully pulled bow, he broke through the top of the bed curtains; followed by a Bang! as he broke through the roof.

    Moon light came shining in through the hole in the roof he had just made, but he was nowhere to be seen.

    A very cute and honest looking young girl with big, round eyes was standing at the side of the girl in black, standing on the flowers.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly running for his life as if he saw a ghost gave this girl quite a scare as she couldn't help but quietly ask: Her highness was so polite and proper towards him, why in the world is he running? What is he afraid of?

    The girl in black did not answer this question. She slowly stood up, gently stroking those soft, cloud like hair of hers and a strange expression appeared out of that pair of bright and shining eyes of hers; only after a long while did she finally whisper: He really is a smart man, one of the smartest men in the world!
    Last edited by foxs; 03-25-14 at 11:10 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 2

    Chapter 2 - The Richest Man

    The wine cup was still in Lu XiaoFeng's hand, but most of the wine that was in the cup had, by now, spilled onto his clothing.

    When he entered Old Man Huo's little house, Old Man Huo was drinking wine as well.

    This was a very simple little wooden cabin, standing all by itself in the middle of a little wood comprised of jujube date trees on the side of a mountain.

    Old Man Huo was just like this little wooden cabin, small, alone, clean, and steadfast, looking just like a hard shelled nut that had weathered many a storms. He just happened to be drinking at a small yet delicate table.

    The wine smelled delicious, the room was filled with wine jugs of all types and all sizes, and by the looks of it they're all high quality wine.

    When he saw the wine cup in Lu XiaoFeng's hand, he couldn't help but laugh as he shook his head and said: "Are you afraid that I might not be able to figure out that you were coming here to drink? Is that why you have brought a wine cup along to remind me?"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed too: "When I left I barely had enough time to put my pants on, how could I possibly have enough time to put down this cup? There was wine in the cup, pity it was spilled."

    Old Man Huo seemed to think that all this was very peculiar as he frowned and asked: "What kind of thing would have put you into such a hurry?" He couldn't figure that out for the life of him.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed and laughed wrily: "Nothing really, just that a girl walked into my room."

    Old Man Huo laughed again: "I seem to remember that women enter your room everyday, you were never scared away before!"

    "This girl is different!"

    "What's so different about her?"

    "Everything!"

    Old Man Huo blinked: "Was this girl very ugly?"

    Lu XiaoFeng immediately shook his head feverishly: "Not only is she not ugly, she is almost pretty enough to be a goddess, and she had an air about her like a princess!"

    "Then what are you afraid of? That she might rape you?" Old Man Huo joked.

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled: "If she really wanted to rape me, then you couldn't chase me away with a broom!"

    "Then what the hell did she do to scare you enough to run off?" Old Man Huo asked.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed again: "She kneeled down in front of me!"

    Old Man Huo open his eyes as wide as they can possibly be and stared at Lu XiaoFeng, as if a flower suddenly grew out from his nostril.

    Lu XiaoFeng seemed to be worried that he might not have understood him and explained further: "Right after she entered my room, she suddenly kneeled down toward me, both knees kind of kneeling!"

    Old Man Huo finally let out a huge sigh and said: "I always thought that you were quite a normal fellow, no problems at all, but now I'm getting a little suspicious!"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled wrily again: "Now you are getting a little suspicious that I might have a problem?"

    Old Man Huo replied: "A goddess like woman, entered your room, and kneeled down towards you, yet you were scared so much that you ran away in a panic?"

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded: "Not just in a panic, I broke through the roof as well!"

    Old Man Huo sighed: "Seems like not only do you have a problem, it is a huge problem!"

    "I ran away because my mind is working just fine!"

    "Oh?"

    "I told you, not only is she pretty, she had quite an air about her!"

    "What kind of air?"

    "The kind that princesses have!"

    "Have you ever seen a princess before?"

    "No, but I do know that even a real princess couldn't land the 3 bodyguards she has!"

    "Who are her bodyguards?"

    "Liu YuHen, Xiao QiuYu, and DuGu Fang!"

    Old Man Huo frowned: "The Liu YuHen that fights as if he wants to die?"

    "Yes!" Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    "The Xiao QiuYu that looked refined and educated but in reality is as strong as a wild bull?"

    "Yes!"

    "The DuGu Fang that comes and goes without a trace and is alway alone?"

    "Yes!"

    "All 3 of them are her bodyguards?"

    "Yes!"

    "She has 3 bodyguards like that, and yet she kneeled down towards you?"

    "Yes!"

    Old Man Huo did not say another word as he poured another cup of wine and downed it.

    Lu XiaoFeng also finished what was left of the wine in his cup and said: "Do you get it now?"

    "Yes!" Old Man Huo replied.

    "Why do you suppose she kneeled down towards me?"

    "Because she wanted you to do something for her!"

    "A girl like that, willing to kneel down toward me, what for?"

    "For something very troublesome!"

    "I have never met her before in my life, why would I want to go through all that trouble for her?"

    "Only idiots would go for that kind of trouble!"

    "Am I an idiot?"

    "No, you are not!"

    "If you were me, would you have ran too?"

    "I would be running like hell just like you, maybe even a little faster!"

    Lu XiaoFeng let out a long sigh before breaking out into a smile: "Looks like that even though you are getting old, you haven't gone dumb yet."

    Old Man Huo replied: "But you are dumb as a young man already."

    "Oh?"

    "A girl like her, willing to kneel toward you and beg you, then this matter just can't be resolved by anyone else."

    Lu XiaoFeng agreed with that assumption.

    Old Man Huo continued: "Now that she's found you, do you think you can get away?"

    "You think that she's going to come back?"

    "Maybe she already has!"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled: "I don't have many skills, but I am pretty fast when I run away!"

    "To the point that nobody can chase you down?"

    "To the point that there aren't that many that could chase me down!"

    Old Man Huo snickered.

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "What does that snicker for?"

    "My snicker always means I'm snickering!"

    "I don't know what you mean."

    "There are plenty that you don't know."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed again: "At least I still know how to tell which jug of wine out of this pile is the best."

    He casually grabbed a jug, which really was the best, just as he was about to break open the seal, there came three loud "Dong"! Someone had banged 3 holes the walls to his right, left, and in front of him.

    Three men casually strolled in through the holes in the walls. Turned out they were Liu YuHen, Xiao QiuYu, and DuGu Fang.

    From their confident and peaceful expression, it was almost as if they didn't knock those holes in the wall. It was as if the 3 of them just opened the door and returned to their own homes after a night out.

    Xiao QiuYu was actually smiling as he casually observed: "We didn't come in by jumping through the window!"

    "So we are not dogs!" DuGu Fang concluded.

    As the 2 of them were talking, each one of them picked up a chair. Before you know it, those 2 delicately carved chairs were in pieces.

    Liu YuHen slowly sat down on the bed, but he had barely just sat down when the entire bed came crashing down with a loud bang.

    Xiao QiuYu frowned: "The furniture here certainly aren't very strong."

    "Next time we better remember not to buy furniture from here." DuGu Fang concluded.

    In the time that it took the 2 of them to make those comments, 5 or 6 more objects were smashed.

    Lu XiaoFeng and Old Man Huo seemed as if they didn't even see all of this.

    Old Man Huo was still slowly drinking, not a bit of pain on his face, as if these objects that they were smashing weren't his.

    Soon, everything inside the house was smashed, even the 20 or so jugs of wine.

    Xiao QiuYu looked around: "This house looks like it's about to collapse too, better rebuild it!"

    DuGu Fang commented: "Now that's a good idea!"

    The 3 of them actually started to take the house apart. Lu XiaoFeng and Old Man Huo still just sat there, slowly drinking their wine.

    "Bang", "Boom", "Dong"! The walls on all 4 sides were knocked out. "Kaboom"! The roof came crashing down, right on top of Lu XiaoFeng and Old Man Huo.

    Suddenly, the 2 of them disappeared.

    DuGu Fang and Xiao QiuYu shot a look at each other and looked behind them, the 2 of them were sitting on the grassing opening just in front of the house, stilling sitting on those 2 chairs, and the jug of wine was stilling sitting on the table in front of them.

    Xiao QiuYu observed again: "Lust is the knife that break your bones, wine is the poison that rots your belly, we can't let it harm others!"

    DuGu Fang concluded again: "Right, we can't leave even one jug!"

    So he self-righteously walked over, grabbed the jug on the table, and threw it onto the ground hard.

    This time the jug wasn't smashed. It suddenly returned back onto the table.

    DuGu Fang frowned, grabbed it again, and threw it down as hard as he can.

    This time he saw what happened, before the jug hit the ground, Lu XiaoFeng suddenly snatched it out of the air.

    DuGu Fang threw it again, Lu XiaoFeng caught it again. In a blink of an eye DuGu Fang had already threw this jug of wine at the ground at least 8 times, but this jug was still just sitting there on the table. DuGu Fang stared at this jug, as if he was shocked out of his wits.

    Only after staring for a long time did he finally turn around and say to Xiao QiuYu with a forced smile on his face: "This jug is possessed by a demon, it can't be smashed!"

    Xiao QiuYu asked: "What kind of demon?"

    "An alcoholic one, of course!"

    "Let me give it a try."

    He walked over as well, as if there wasn't 2 men there sitting at the table at all, suddenly grabbed the jug and gave it a push.

    The jug flew out 20 or 30 meters. But it still wasn't smashed.

    When the jug went flying, so did Lu XiaoFeng.

    When Lu XiaoFeng sat back down on the chair, the jug also returned to the table.

    Xiao QiuYu grabbed it again and pushed, this time the jug went even faster and farther.

    He was born astoundingly strong, a push like this from him was enough to send an iron block that weighed several hundred kilograms.

    But the jug returned again this time, followed closely by Lu XiaoFeng.

    Xiao QiuYu was also shocked as he muttered: "Seems like there really is a demon possessing this jug, an alcoholic demon that's got wings."

    Liu YuHen suddenly snickered. After a single laugh, he was already at the table. He grabbed the jug with both hands, grabbed it really tight, and suddenly tried to smash it with his forehead.

    The others were trying to smash the jug, but he seemed to be trying to smash his head.

    Xiao QiuYu sighed, this time the jug was undoubtly going to be smashed, but his head won't be much better off either.

    But his head didn't split open and the jug wasn't smashed.

    Lu XiaoFeng's hand suddenly reached out and caught the jug by placing his hand between it and Liu YuHen's head.

    Liu YuHen let out another snicker as he suddenly jumped up and kicked at Lu XiaoFeng's stomach. This kick didn't land either.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly jumped up and somersaulted over his head, landing behind him, still blocking that jug of wine with hand.

    Liu YuHen kicked back, Lu XiaoFeng somersaulted over him again to in front of him. He suddenly sighed and said: "This jug of wine is our last jug, that head is your last head as well, why are you so determined to smash them?"

    Liu YuHen stared at him, that good eye of his seemed to have turned just like his other eye, turning into a dark, deep hole.

    Xiao QiuYu suddenly busted out laughing: "Looks like this guy must be the real Lu XiaoFeng!"

    DuGu Fang replied: "Oh?"

    "Other than Lu XiaoFeng, who else would waste so much effort on a jug of wine?"

    DuGu Fang busted out laughing as well: "That's right, there aren't that many dummies like this in the world!"

    Smiling, Xiao QiuYu gently took the jug away from Liu YuHen and placed it back onto the table.

    "Beng"! Suddenly this jug went into pieces and the wine that was in the jug was spilled all over the table--Liu YuHen's hands and Lu XiaoFeng's hand were both exerting force onto the jug, even if this jug was made of iron it would have been smashed.

    Xiao QiuYu was taken a back for a moment, then let out a rather forced smile: "Wouldn't you know it? When you want to smash it, you can't; when you don't want to smash it anymore, it does!"

    Lu XiaoFeng casually replied: "There's a lot of things in the world that just are the way they are and can't be forced, so why take it all so seriously?"

    Liu YuHen's eyes suddenly looked indescribly sad and pitiful as he turned around and walked off.

    Seemed like what Lu XiaoFeng just said reminded him of some secret that's buried deep inside of him.

    It was at this time that a cute and refreshing voice said: "Her Majesty Princess DanFeng of the Golden Roc dynasty, the Red Pheonix Princess herself, would like an audience with a Mr. Lu, Lu XiaoFeng."

    The voice belonged to a very cute and honest looking girl with large eyes and colorful clothing.

    She had just walked out of the thick jubube bush, but already seemed like all the stars in the sky had emptied into her eyes.

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "The Red Pheonix Princess? Princess DanFeng?"

    The girl looked at him with that pair of bright, shining eyes of hers and smiled: "Princess DanFeng, Red Pheonix, not Princess XiaoFeng, little pheonix."

    Lu XiaoFeng looked over at Old Man Huo, sighed and muttered: "So she really is a princess!"

    The girl replied: "Absolutely 100% authentic!"

    The girl smiled again, such a sweet smile: "She afraid that Mr. Lu would be scared off again, so she's waiting outside!"

    Although her smile was sweet, she was talking a bit slow. All Lu XiaoFeng could do was to smile back.

    The girl stared at him and smiled again: "She's waiting for you outside, now the question is whether or not Mr. Lu dares to see her."

    Old Man Huo suddenly interrupted: "Of course he dares!"

    The quiet and mysterious old man smiled and continued: "If he doesn't go see this princess, everyone of his friend's houses might be torn down pretty soon!"

    The stars were twinkling in the sky, the new moon nestled itself comfortably inside of this sparkling quilt, there was suddenly a fragrance permeating through the jujube woods--it didn't came from the jujubes, it was flower fragrance.

    It came from a dog, a very strong looking hunting dog with long ears and long legs.

    There were rings upon rings of flowers on him, and he carried a flower basket in his mouth as well.

    Inside of this basket full of flower was a faint glint of gold, coming from 4 gold ingots that weighed at least 50 taels each.

    The girl took the basket in her hand and sweetly said: "This is compensation from our princess for the damage to the old gentleman, would Mr. Lu accept it on his behalf?"

    Lu XiaoFeng blinked: "What's that for? Because you guys tore down his house?"

    The girl nodded.

    Lu XiaoFeng observed: "These 4 ingots are more than 100 taels in total, quite a bit of money!"

    Little wooden houses like that, 50 taels of gold would gets you several of them, so of course this was quite a bit of money.

    The girl said: "Only hope that this old gentleman would kindly accept this small token of our appreciation and regret."

    Lu XiaoFeng replied: "He won't!"

    "Why?"

    "Because he doesn't need this 100 or so taels of gold at all, and if it is compensation for the house, it seems to be a little short."

    "These ingots are 50 taels each!"

    "I can tell."

    "This is still not enough to pay for the house?"

    "Just a bit short!"

    "Short by how much?"

    "Exactly how much, I'm not too sure. But I would estimate about 30 or 40 thousand more taels would be about right!"

    "30 or 40 thousand taels of what?"

    "30 or 40 thousand taels of gold, of course!"

    The girl laughed.

    "You don't believe me?"

    The girl couldn't stop laughing, running into such a rip off, what could she do other than laugh? Pay him tens of thousands of taels of gold?

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly picked up the decorated wooden chair that he was just sitting on: "Do you know what kind of chair this is?"

    The girl said in between her laughs: "Looks like one for people to sit in!"

    "But this chair was made 400 years ago by that famous carpenter Lu Zhi, he carved the decorations on himself. There are only 11 of these in the world, 5 of them are inside the imperial palace, there was 6 of them here, but they just smashed 4 of them."

    The girl's eyes were opened as wide as they possibly be as she stared at that chair in his hand, she was finding it harder and harder to laugh!

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "Do you know who lived in this house before?"

    The girl shook her head.

    "This was the summer retreat for the famous poet Lu FangWeng, he had scribbled on the walls some of his poems, now they are all smashed to bits."

    The girl's eyes got even bigger as she looked shocked.

    Lu XiaoFeng casually observed: "Every single piece of wood in this house is just about priceless, even if you came with 40 or 50 thousand taels of gold, you would be short."

    He let out a little laugh and continued: "Fortunately this old gentleman doesn't want you to pay for the damages at all, because 40 or 50 thousand taels of gold is about the same as a farthing to him!"

    The girl quietly licked her lips as she stared at the old man in disbelief.

    Old Man Huo was still comfortably sitting there, slowly sampling the half a cup of wine left in his cup, as if there is nothing in the world more important than this half cup of wine.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly turned to DuGu Fang, smiled, and asked: "I know for a fact that you are always very knowledgeable about the events in this world, so I take it that you must have heard that who was the richest man in the world!"

    DuGu Fang replied in a heavy tone: "If you want to talk about the most land, then it's the Hua family just south of the Yantze; if you count priceless objects, then it's Yan family just inside of the of the Great Wall in central ShanXi plains. But as for who really is the richest, then it's probably Huo Xiu."

    "Do you know what kind of a man this Huo Xiu is?"

    "Although he is the richest man in the world, he likes to live like a hermit, so not that many people have ever seen him; I heard that he is a very unsociable and eccentric old man, and that...." He suddenly stopped and stared at Old Man Huo.

    Now everyone finally realized that this quiet and mysterious old man was Huo Xiu, the richest man in the world.

    Old Man Huo suddenly sighed and slowly got up: "Since somebody knows that I live here, I can't stay here anymore, why don't you have it."

    Lu XiaoFeng looked at the pieces of wood on the ground and said: "I remember you would not even let me borrow it for a couple of days before."

    Old Man Huo casually replied: "You just said it yourself, everything in there is priceless, how can I let people borrow them?"

    "But now that it is just wood, you can!"

    "That's right!"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed and smiled: "I finally figured out how you got to be so rich!"

    Old Man Huo's face did not change at all as he casually replied: "There's something else you should know."

    "What?"

    "When you run away, there really isn't that many people in the world that can chase you down; but other than people, there are a lot of other things in the world, say for example...."

    "For example, a hunting dog with a very sensitive nose!"

    Old Man Huo sighed: "So you are not so stupid after all, maybe one of these days you'll be rich too!"

    ***

    Ebony black carriage pulled by an ebony black horse, bright, shiny black. That bright and black carriage was covered with flowers of all colors as well.

    The little girl spoke up: "Her Majesty is waiting for you inside the carriage, why don't you go in."

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "Go in?"

    "Mmhmm!"

    "Then?"

    "Then this carriage will take you somewhere you never been before. I guarantee you won't regret it once we get there!"

    "Of course I won't regret it, because I'm not going."

    The girl stared at him, she seemed to be surprised: "Why not?"

    "Why should I allow myself to be taken to a place I never been before by a person I have never met before?"

    The girl blinked: "Because... because we'll give you lots and lots of gold!"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    The girl asked: "You don't like gold?"

    "I do, but I don't like to risk my life for gold."

    The girls rolled her eyes around for a bit and then whispered: "It's really quiet inside the carriage, Her Majesty is very pretty, and this trip is rather long, who knows what might happen during it!"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled: "Now that's a lot more effective on me!"

    The girl's eyes sparkled: "You have decided to go in it?"

    "No!"

    The girl pouted: "Why not?"

    Casually, Lu XiaoFeng replied: "I have always like pretty women, but I don't like to risk my life for pretty women either!"

    "What would you risk you life for?"

    "Myself."

    "Other than yourself, there isn't anyone else in the world that you would risk you life for?"

    "No!"

    The girl's eyes rolled about for a bit more: "Not even for Hua ManLou?"

    "Hua ManLou?"

    The little girl said casually: "I figure you should know who Hua ManLou is, he's waiting for you at that place. If you don't go, then he would be very disappointed!"

    "If he wanted me to go, he would have came and found me himself."

    "Pity that he can't come right now!"

    "Why?"

    "Because he can't go anywhere right now!"

    "You are saying that he has fallen into your hands?"

    "That's about right!"

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly busted out laughing, as if he just heard the funniest joke in the world, he was laughing so hard that he doubled over.

    The little girl couldn't help but ask: "What are you laughing at?"

    Still laughing, Lu XiaoFeng replied: "At you. You are still a kid after all, don't even know how to tell a lie!"

    "Oh?"

    "If you guys can get to Hua ManLou, then there's nothing in the world that you guys can't do, what's the point in coming and getting me?"

    The girl smiled a little: "You know, you are not that stupid, but you are not that smart either!"

    "Oh?"

    "If you were smart, you would have realized 2 things by now!"

    "Oh?"

    "First of all, I'm not a kid anymore, I'm the older cousin of Princess DanFeng, she's only 19, I'm already 20."

    This stopped Lu XiaoFeng dead in his tracks as he sized up the girl again, no matter how many times he looks at her, he still couldn't see her as anything but a 12 year old girl, much less 20 years old.

    The girl casually continued: "You should know that there are some people that just can't grow tall, there are some 60 or 70 years old grandmas much shorter than me, you have seen them before haven't you?"

    Although he still didn't quite believe her, Lu XiaoFeng had to admit there are people like that in the world.

    The girl continued: "Second of all, you should know that Hua ManLou is not like you!"

    "No, he isn't. He's smarter than me!"

    "But he's also a good guy!"

    "And I'm not?"

    "Specifically because you are not a good guy, that's why you don't easily believe other people's lies. But he trusts everyone, to trick him is much easier!"

    Lu XiaoFeng sized her up several more times and suddenly asked: "Are you really 20 years old?"

    "Just turned 20 last month."

    Smiling, Lu XiaoFeng casually told her: "Well, any 20 year old should know that a bad guy like me will never risk his life for a friend, any friend!"

    The girl stared at him: "Really?"

    "Really!"

    ***

    Lu XiaoFeng was already in the carriage when the carriage started moving.

    The inside of the carriage was filled with all kinds of flowers as well, Princess DanFeng was sitting among the flowers, like the world's most precious and beautiful black rose. Her pupils were ebony black as well, black and shiny, she was still staring at Lu XiaoFeng.

    Lu XiaoFeng wasn't looking at her, he had already closed his eyes, as if he was about to take a nap.

    Princess DanFeng suddenly smiled and said to him in tender voice: "For a moment there I thought you weren't going to come."

    Lu XiaoFeng replied: "Oh?"

    "I thought I heard you say that you would never risk your life for a friend!"

    Nonchalantly, Lu XiaoFeng replied: "I'm not going to risk my life for a friend any time soon either, but I don't mind getting on a carriage for a friend at all."

    Princess DanFeng laughed. When she laughs, it's as if an entire garden of flowers suddenly blossomed right in front of you.

    Lu XiaoFeng had barely opened his eyes when he closed them again.

    Sweetly, Princess DanFeng asked: "You won't even look at me, why?"

    "Because this carriage is very small, and I'm a man that can't resist being seduced!"

    "You are afraid that I might seduce you?"

    "I don't want to risk my life for you!"

    "How do you know that I'm going to ask you to risk your life?"

    "Because I'm not stupid!"

    Princess DanFeng picked up a flower and stared at it; after a long paused, she finally gently sighed and said: "You are right, the reason we came to you today was to ask you to do something for us. But I don't want to seduce you, and don't need to."

    "Oh?"

    "Because I know there's a type of person that would do anything for a friend!"

    "Which type is that?"

    "Your type!"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled: "I don't even know what type of person I am, how come you know?"

    "I have never met you before, but I have heard a lot of rumors about you."

    Lu XiaoFeng was listening, the only person in the world that haven't heard of those rumors was probably himself.

    Princess DanFeng said: "I heard a lot of people say you are an a$$h01e, but at the same time they couldn't help but admit that you are the most lovable a$$h01e in the world."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed, he couldn't decide if that was a put down or a compliment. But he had finally opened his eyes.

    Princess DanFeng continued: "They all say that on the outside, you are like a rock that's fell into the latrine, hard and stinky; but inside your heart is softer than tofu." Lu XiaoFeng smiled, all he could do was smile.

    Princess DanFeng suddenly let out a little laugh and said: "Of course, rumors aren't very reliable, but at least there is one point that they were right about."

    "And what's that?"

    "I have never understood why they say you got 4 eyebrows, now I finally understand."

    Lu XiaoFeng frowned, when he frowns, it seemed like his mustache was frowning too.

    Princess DanFeng continued: "Did you just realize who was the person that told me about that?"

    Still frowning, Lu XiaoFeng asked: "Hua ManLou is really at that place?"

    "Why should I lie to you? Besides, you'll meet him soon."

    "Although he can't see, but he can feel danger coming 5 kilometers away. I really can't figure out how he had fallen into your hands."

    "Because he's a good guy, and he is also a man. When a good man run into a bad girl, very rarely does he not get tricked."

    Coldly, Lu XiaoFeng asked: "He ran into you?"

    Princess DanFeng sighed: "Although sometimes I felt inclined to trick some peole, but even if I was 10 times better I still couldn't compare with ShangGuan FeiYan."

    "ShangGuan FeiYan?"

    "XueEr's older sister, ShangGuan FeiYan."

    "Then who's XueEr?"

    "XueEr is my younger cousin, she's that girl that just invited you here."

    "She's not your older cousin?"

    Princess DanFeng laughed: "She's only 12 years old, how could be older than me?"

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't know what he should do, should he bust out laughing? Or bust out crying?

    He just couldn't believe that he would actually be tricked to that level by a 12 year old girl.

    With a younger sister like that, imagine what the older sister would be like?

    Seeing the half-laughing half-crying expression on his face, Princess DanFeng let out a sweet peal of laughter and said: "That little devil doesn't even blink when she lies, did you get tricked by her as well?"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed wrily: "At least I figured out how come Hua ManLou was tricked."

    "Although he's in our hands, we have been treating him very respectfully. Not only because he is your friend, but because he is quite a character himself."

    "That he is."

    "You and him, and Zhu Ting as well, seemed have been friends ever since you guys were little right?"

    "You seem to know all there is to know about me."

    Princess DanFeng smiled: "To be honest, in order to find you, we prepared for this for 7 whole months."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "If someone spends 7 whole months in preparation to find a guy, that guy is about to be very unlucky."

    Princess DanFeng gently replied: "But we don't want to do any harm to you!" Lu XiaoFeng smiled rather bitterly.

    Princess DanFeng continued: "Although the thing we are asking you to do is dangerous, but I believe you will get it done without any problems."

    She stared at him, her expression was filled with admiration and confidence.

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "What is the thing that you guys want me to do?"

    Hesitating, Princess DanFeng lowered her head and replied: "I don't have to tell you right now, you'll find out soon enough."

    "Liu YuHen, Xiao QiuYu, and DuGu Fang are all here for this matter?"

    Princess DanFeng nodded and laughed: "Getting them wasn't easy, but at least it was a lot easier than getting you."

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "How did you get the 3 of them anyways?"

    Princess DanFeng smiled: "Everyone has a weakness, they wouldn't be able to guess how I was manage to be able to get you."

    She put the flower in her hand in front of Lu XiaoFeng's face and continued: "Liu YuHen, Xiao QiuYu, DuGu Fang, Hua ManLou, and then there's you. If there is something in the world that the 5 of you can't do then it just can't be done."

    Skin white fog had gathered outside of the carriage, the lighting inside the carriage was even more gentle.

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at the flower in her hand, the flower was pretty, but her hand was even prettier.

    Princess DanFeng used that soft and refined hand of hers to stick the flower onto Lu XiaoFeng's shirt and then softly said: "You best take a nice little nap."

    "Why?"

    Princess DanFeng lowered her head and said in an even softer and gentler tone: "Because I'm about to lose control of myself and seduce you."

    ***

    The carriage went forth through the thick fog. Although the fog was dense, it was morning fog, ever so slowly the night has ended.

    Lu XiaoFeng was leaning sideways against the carriage, seemingly asleep.

    Princess DanFeng said gently: "Go to sleep, that way you might be able to see him by the time you wake up."

    Lu XiaoFeng couldn't help but open his eyes again: "Who is he?"

    "The Golden Roc Emperor."
    Last edited by foxs; 03-25-14 at 11:14 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 - Bringing some justice

    The walkway was dark and damp, as if it had never seen the light of day. At the end of the walkway was a huge door, the door rings on it were glistening. They pushed open the door and saw the Golden Roc Emperor.

    The Golden Roc Emperor was not a tall and commanding figure.

    {Note: A roc is a large, legendary, eagle-like bird popular in Eastern legends that was so huge that it carried off humans with its talons.}

    He seemed to have been worn out by the passing of time, like a rooster that was just beginning to wilt in the morbid cold winds.

    He was sitting in a recliner, the mattresses and blankets that was piled onto the chair and him made him looked like an old but stately pine tree that was so high on the side of the mountain that it was in the clouds.

    But Lu XiaoFeng wasn't disappointed by his appearance, because in his eyes there was still flashed an indescribable air of class and honor.

    That long eared and long legged hunting dog had already returned and was resting by his foot.

    Princess DanFeng had also quietly walked to his side and kneeled down at his side, as if she was telling him about the trip.

    Those pair of bright and diginified eyes of the Golden Roc Emperor did not leave Lu XiaoFeng the entire time. He suddenly spoke up: "Come here, young man."

    His voice was low but powerful, as if whatever comes out of his mouth must be obeyed. But Lu XiaoFeng did not walk over to him.

    Lu XiaoFeng wasn't someone who's used to receiving orders, so he actually sat down as far as he could in a chair opposite of the old man.

    The room was dark, but the Golden Roc Emperor's eyes lit up as he demanded: "Are you Lu XiaoFeng?"

    Casually, Lu XiaoFeng replied: "Yes, Lu XiaoFeng, not ShangGuan DanFeng."

    He figured out that her surname was ShangGuan as well, in the old days everyone in their imperial court was surnamed ShangGuan, everyone in their imperial court was proud of their surname.

    The Golden Roc Emperor suddenly burst out laughing: "Lu XiaoFeng really is Lu XiaoFeng, looks like we found the right guy!"

    He continued: "You are looking for Hua ManLou?"

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "He's doing great, you can see him as soon as you promise to do something for me."

    "What thing?"

    The Golden Roc Emperor did not answer.

    Instead, he stared at a very peculiar looking ring on his hand and his ashened face suddenly lit up in a peculiar way. After a long time, he finally, slowly, began to speak again: "Our dynasty is a very old and ancient dynasty. Much older than your present dynasty."

    His voice became even more forceful, obviously boosted by the pride he had for his name and family.

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't want to destroy an elderly man's pride, so he didn't say anything.

    The Golden Roc Emperor continued: "Although our country has fallen, the blood that we bleed are still royal blood. As long as one of us is still alive, our dynasty will live on!"

    Not only was his voice filled with pride, it was also filled with confidence.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly felt that this old man really did have some very admirable traits on him.

    At least he wasn't someone that's easily knocked down. Lu XiaoFeng had always admired this kind of people, he admired their courage and self-belief.

    The Golden Roc Emperor went further: "Although our country was situated at a remote area, but we were always rich. Not only was the harvest constantly great, there were countless amount of gold and gems buried in the mountains."

    Finally, Lu XiaoFeng could not help but ask: "Then why did you move to the central plains?"

    Golden Roc Emperor's face lost some of its shine and there was a hint of pain and hatred in his eyes as he said: "Precisely because we were rich! Our neighbors coveted our land as they allied with Kazaken raiders and invaded our country!"

    {Note:Kazakes are from modern day Kazakhstan.}

    "That was more than 50 years ago. I was just a little kid then, my father had concentrated on laws and orders during his reign, so there was no way he could fight off the barbaric raiders among them. But he was still determined to fight until his death, to live and die with his country!"

    Lu XiaoFeng concluded: "He was the one who made you move here."

    The Golden Roc Emperor nodded: "To keep our strength so that we could still make a comeback some time later, not only did he make leave, he also divided the national treasury into 4 parts, gave each of his most trusted advisors one portion, and made them move into the central plains with me."

    His face was filled with gratitude as he continued: "One of them is my uncle ShangGuan Sheng, he brought me here, used the portion of the money he was given to buy up the land and house, and made it possible for my family to live here without any worries. I will never be able to forget all he has done for us."

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "What about the other 3?"

    The gratitude that was on his face turned to anger: "I have never seen any of them ever again after the day I left my father. But I will never, ever, forget their names!"

    Lu XiaoFeng had just picked up some interested in this matter, so he immediately asked: "What is their names?"

    With his hands in fists in hate, the Golden Roc Emperor said: "ShangGuan Mu, Hu DuHe, and Yan LiBen!"

    Lu XiaoFeng answered back in a heavy voice: "I have never heard of any of them before!"

    "But you must have seen them before!"

    "Oh?"

    "As soon as they arrived in China, they changed their names. It wasn't until a year ago did I finally found out who they are!"

    He suddenly made a gesture towards his daughter. Princess DanFeng got up from where she sat and took out 3 rolled up painting scrolls from an old chest behind him.

    In anger, the Golden Roc Emperor said: "These are their portraits, I would venture to say that you know of at least 2 of them!"

    There were 2 portraits on every scroll, one was young and the other one old, the 2 portraits are of the same person.

    Princess DanFeng unrolled the first scroll: "The portrait on top was what he looked like when he left our country. The portrait on the bottom was what we found out he looks like now."

    This person had a round face full of smiles. He looked very warm and friendly, but had a very big and hooked nose.

    Lu XiaoFeng frowned: "This person looks like Yan TieShan of the Yan family just inside of the Great Wall."

    Gritting his teeth, the Golden Roc Emperor replied: "That's right. The Yan TieShan of today is the Yan LiBen of yester-years. I am so grateful to the heavens that he haven't died yet."

    The 2nd man had very high cheek bones and his triangle shaped eyes were filled with pride, obviously someone with a lot of power.

    When Lu XiaoFeng saw him, his expression actually changed.

    The Golden Roc Emperor spoke up: "This is Hu DuHe, his name now is GuDu YiHe, he is the head of the Green Shirt Pavilion!"

    Lu XiaoFeng looked shocked for a long time before finally replying: "I know this guy too, but I didn't know he was the master of the First Pavilion of the Green Shirt Pavilion."

    He sighed deeply and continued: "I only knew that he is the head of E'Mei Sect!"

    The Golden Roc Emperor observed: "He did the best job in hiding his origin, there is probably not a single person in the world that could have guessed the the honorable head of E'Mei Sect would be a shameless traitor!"

    The third person was a thin, old man; small, lonely, clean, and steadfast.

    Lu XiaoFeng was nearly shrieking: "Huo Xiu!"

    "That's right, Huo Xiu. ShangGuan Mu's name nowadays is Huo Xiu!"

    He continued: "Everyone says Huo Xiu is the weirdest, richest man in the world. 50 years ago, he was making his way through the martial world with his bare fists, then suddenly, as if through a miracle, he became the richest man in the world. Until now, other than you, there probably isn't anyone in the martial world that knows just how he came into possesion of all that wealth!"

    Lu XiaoFeng's face suddenly turned white as he backed up several steps and sat down.

    The Golden Roc Emperor stared at him: "I think you have figured out why I have invited you here."

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at him for a long time before letting out a long sigh: "But I still don't know what you want."

    The Golden Roc Emperor tightened his fists and slammed it down onto the arm of the chair: "I don't want much of anything, I just want justice!"

    "Justice? As in revenge?"

    The Golden Roc Emperor stared back at him in silence.

    "You want me to go get revenge for you?"

    The Golden Roc Emperor was quiet for a very long time before he suddenly let out a sigh and replied with a hint of sadness: "They are all old now, I'm old now. What's the point in killing them now?"

    He immediately shook his head and refuted what he just said: "But I just can't let them get away with it like this!"

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't say anything, he had no right to say anything

    The Golden Roc Emperor continued: "First, I want them to give all the money that they took from the Golden Roc Empire back, so that it could be revived one day."

    That does seem very fair and justified.

    He continued: "Second, I want them to repent for their wrongs themselves in front of the altar to my father, so that my father would be able to rest in peace."

    Lu XiaoFeng thought for a while and sighed: "Those 2 requests really are quite fair."

    The frown on the face of the Golden Roc Emperor disappeared: "I knew you are a righteous young man and would never refuse this kind of request."

    After thinking for another long while, Lu XiaoFeng said with a rather forced smile: "It's just that it is very hard to get those 2 things done."

    "If you couldn't do it, then who could?"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "Maybe nobody."

    He immediated added: "Nowadays these 3 men are all among the most famous and admired men in the world, if they really do what you want them to do, then it's the same as admitting their crimes back then. Their fame, their power, their riches would all be destroyed!"

    The Golden Roc Emperor's expressioned turned even more serious: "I already figured that they would never admit what they did."

    Lu XiaoFeng observed: "It's not that they are scarily wealthy and powerful, they are all indescribly and incredibly amazing at kungfu." The Golden Roc Emperor nodded: "Father gave such a great responsibility to them precisely because they are the best fighters in the Golden Roc Empire."

    Lu XiaoFeng added: "Not to mention that in the last 50 years, they were all undoubtly fearing that you would come to them seeking revenge, so who knows how much their kungfu had advanced."

    He sighed and continued: "I have always said that there are really only 5 or 6 real kungfu masters in the world today. Huo Xiu and DuGu YiHe are in that group."

    Women are always curious, so Princess DanFeng couldn't help but ask: "Who are the other 3 or 4?"

    "The Abbot of ShaoLin, Father Despair, and the Elder of WuDang, Taoist Mu, both are to the point of beyong comprehension in terms of inner and outter kungfu. But if you are considering fast and amazing sword techniques, then you have to include "Master of the White Cloud Castle" Ye GuCheng of the Flying Goddess Island in the South Sea and XiMen ChuiXue of the Thousand Plum Mansion."

    Princess DanFeng stared at him and asked: "How about yourself?"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled, only smiled and did not answer, he didn't need to answer.

    The Golden Roc Emperor suddenly sighed and, with great sadness, said: "I know that this matter is very troublesome, that's why I won't force you to help us, why not consider it for a bit?"

    Suddenly his demeanor turned to anger as he tightened his fist again in anger: "But no matter what we have to fight it out with them, as long as there is one of us left we will keep on fighting!"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "I know...."

    After a long silence, the Golden Roc Emperor suddenly broke out into a forced smile: "No matter what happens, Mr. Lu is still our honored guest! Where's the wine?"

    Princess DanFeng lowered her head and replied: "I'll go tell the servants to bring some right now."

    The Golden Roc Emperor instructed: "Get our best Persian wine, and invite Mr. Hua here as well."

    "Yes, father."

    The Golden Roc Emperor looked at Lu XiaoFeng, suddenly his expression turned to one of pride again as he slowly said: "No matter what happens, you are already our friend. The descendents of the Golden Roc Empire would never ever use anything to force our friend to do things."

    ***

    The cup was ancient and delicate, the wine was slightly purple in color.

    Lu XiaoFeng silently watched Princess DanFeng pour the wine into the ancient and delicate cup, Hua ManLou was sitting at his side.

    They didn't say anything to each other when they met, they only had a firm handshake.

    That was enough to explain everything. Princess DanFeng finished pouring the wine, she had only poured 3 cups.

    The Golden Roc Emperor looked up and smiled: "I haven't drank in years, but I'll make an exception tonight for our guests."

    But Princess DanFeng was shaking her head: "I'll drink for you, remember your leg?"

    The Golden Roc Emperor gave her a quite ferocious stare before finally breaking out into a smile: "Alright, I won't drink. Luckily watching other people drink is quite exhilarating as well, good wine always bring great spirits and energy."

    Princess DanFeng explained to Lu XiaoFeng with a smile: "If father drinks any kind of alcohol, both of his legs would immediately swell up, to the point that it's impossible for him to walk. Please forgive him for not being able to drink with you."

    Lu XiaoFeng picked up his cup with a smile.

    Princess DanFeng turned her body so that her back was facing her father and suddenly gave Lu XiaoFeng a very strange look. So strange that Lu XiaoFeng did not understand what it was for.

    Princess DanFeng picked up her cup with a smile and said: "Father has kept this wine around for years, hopefully it is up to our guest's standards."

    She lifted her cup and drank the wine first herself, then lightly sighed and said: "Such good wine."

    It's very rare that a host would repeatly praise his or her own wine and Princess DanFeng was absolutely not a person who likes to brag about herself.

    Lu XiaoFeng was completely puzzled when he suddenly realized that he wasn't drinking wine, he was drinking dyed water.

    He suddenly understood what Princess DanFeng was doing, and feared that Hua ManLou would not be able to figure it out because he didn't see her expression.

    But Hua ManLou was smiling, smiling as he drank all of the "wine" in his cup, afterwards he also lightly sighed and said: "Such good wine."

    Smiling, Lu XiaoFeng added: "This is just about the best wine I have ever had!" The Golden Roc Emperor busted out laughing, his first real laugh, and said: "Such a good wine is really hard to come by, but only you 2 are really fit to drink such good wine."

    Lu XiaoFeng downed 3 more cups in quick succession before suddenly saying, with a smile, "Such good wine can't possibly be drank without compensation."

    The Golden Roc Emperor's eyes lit up: "Are you saying...."

    Lu XiaoFeng let out a long and deep sigh: "The justice that you are looking for, I will give my best to give it to you."

    The Golden Roc Emperor quickly stood up, walked up to him, and put his hands on his shoulders. Tears of gratitude flooded into the old and sad eyes of his. He tried to talk, but only choked out: "Thank you, thank you so much, thank you...."

    He kept on repeating and repeating that until everyone had lost count exactly how many times he said it.

    Princess DanFeng, standing at his side, had to quietly turn around and quickly wipe off the tears gathering in her eyes.

    Only after a long time did the Golden Roc Emperor calm down a little as he said: "Although DuGu Fang has the same surname as DuGu YiHe, the 2 of them have a lot of hatred and enmities between them; that half of Liu YuHen's face was sliced off by Yan TieShan and Xiao QiuYu just happens to be a friend of his that would gladly die for him. As long as you are willing to help us do this, the 3 of them would follow your lead to the depth of hell if that's where you have to go."

    But Lu XiaoFeng shook his head: "I think it's best if they stay here."

    The Golden Roc Emperor frowned: "Why?"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "I know that they are first rate masters in the martial world, but asking them to go up against DuGu YiHe and Huo Xiu is like asking them to commit suicide."

    "You... you don't need any help?"

    "Of course I do."

    With a smile, he gently patted Hua ManLou's shoulder: "We've been partners for the longest time anyways."

    The Golden Roc Emperor stared at Hua ManLou, he didn't seem to be too sure about this suggestion.

    He really found it hard to believe that this blind man could be better than the likes of Liu YuHen and Xiao QiuYu. Nobody would believe it.

    But Lu XiaoFeng had already moved on: "Other than him, I need to get 2 or 3 more men."

    "Who?"

    "Got to get Zhu Ting first."

    He smiled: "Although Zhu Ting is no fighter, but he is very useful."

    The Golden Roc Emperor waited for his explanation.

    "Since you have found them, it is very likely that they have found you as well. You want to get justice from them, it is also very likely they will try to move before us and kill you."

    The Golden Roc Emperor sneered: "I'm not afraid of that."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "You're not afraid, I am. That's why I have to get Zhu Ting here, only he can turn this place into an impenetrable fortress."

    "He understands gadgets and such things?"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled: "If he wanted to, he could probably make a chair that bites."

    The Golden Roc Emperor smiled as well: "Seems like you really do have some very interesting friends."

    "But now I only hope that I could motivate one of them to help me on this matter."

    The Golden Roc Emperor's eyes lit up: "How helpful would he be?"

    "If he's willing to help, then this matter would actually have a chance of being accomplished."

    "Who is he?"

    "XiMen ChuiXue!"

    ***

    The hall way had become even more dark and mysterious, for it was now afternoon.

    Princess DanFeng had her head bowed and her ebony colored hair fell onto her shoulders like a gentle stream. Lightly, she said: "I don't know how to thank you for what just happened."

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "Are you talking about that cup of wine?"

    Princess DanFeng's face turned red for a moment as she bowed her head even more: "I'm sure you have noticed by now that father is a very proud man, and he really can't take anymore shocks or setbacks. So I really do not want to let him find out the truth."

    "I understand."

    Princess DanFeng sighed: "Other than the rooms that my father stays in, his bedroom and the guest room, all the other rooms are empty. Even those precious aged wine were slowly sold off one by one."

    Her head got even lower as she was practically looking at her feet: "We really don't have anybody productive in our house. Trying to maintain it the way it is was hard, besides, we had a lot to do. To find you, I even had to pawn away that string of pearls that my mother left me."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "I didn't know much about your situation, but that cup of wine told me a lot."

    Princess DanFeng suddenly lifted her head up and stared at him: "Did you finally agree because you found out what our situation was really like?"

    "That and the fact that he already considered me as a friend and did not use anything to threaten or blackmail me."

    Princess DanFeng stared at him, those beautiful eyes of hers were filled once again with tears of gratitude.

    So she quickly bowed her head again and said in a tender voice: "I was wrong the entire time. I thought that you are a person that would never be moved by feelings and sympathy."

    The entire time, Hua ManLou had been smiling. He listens a lot and says very little, only now did he finally speak up: "I told you, this guy may be tough and stinky on the outside, but inside his heart is actually softer than tofu!"

    Princess DanFeng suppressed a little laugh and replied: "I say you are also wrong."

    "Oh?"

    "He does look very tough and hard, but not stinky at all."

    Her face had turned red even before she had finished what she said. So she immediately changed the subject: "Our guest bedroom is really very simple and homely, hope that you won't mind that too much."

    Lu XiaoFeng cleared his throat: "Maybe we shouldn't have agreed to stay for dinner."

    Princess DanFeng suppressed another little laugh: "Don't for get those 4 gold ingots that you left for us." Lu XiaoFeng's eyes lit up: "Did you know that Old Man Huo was one of the guys that you are after?"

    "We only found out when you told us."

    Lu XiaoFeng's expression suddenly turned very serious: "But how did you know that DuGu YiHe is the head of the Green Shirt Pavilion? This is just about the greatest secret and mysterious in all of the martial world."

    Princess DanFeng hesitated before finally answering: "Because Liu YuHen was his most trusted friend once. He's also the reason why the charming and suave 'Handsome Gentleman' Liu YuHen of the past looks like what he looks like now."

    Lu XiaoFeng's eyes lit up again, as if he had finally figured out a lot of stuff that's been troubling him.

    ***

    The guest bedroom was big, but other than a bed, a table, and several old looking chairs, there was almost nothing else in the room.

    Hua ManLou sat down, although he couldn't see, it was almost as if he could feel where the chair was.

    Lu XiaoFeng looked at him, suddenly popping the question: "You ever sat down on nothing?"

    Hua ManLou smiled: "Do you want me to sat down on nothing?"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled too: "I only hope that the next time you sit down, you would suddenly find yourself sitting on a girl."

    "You would know more about that than me."

    Lu XiaoFeng said drily: "If you knew about that as much as I did, then maybe you wouldn't fallen for their trick."

    "Who's trick?"

    "Already forgot about ShangGuan FeiYan?"

    Hua ManLou smiled: "I didn't fall for anyone's trick, I came here on my own accord."

    Lu XiaoFeng was very surprised by this: "You willingly came here? Why?"

    "Maybe it's because recently my days have been too peaceful since I moved out on my own, I really wanted to do a couple of dangerous things."

    Lu XiaoFeng sneered: "Maybe you were just deceived by a really good looking liar!"

    Hua ManLou smiled: "Maybe she really is a good liar, but she told me the truth."

    "Maybe because she found out that the best way to trick men like you is to tell the truth."

    "Maybe."

    "Her goal was to get you here, now that you are here, her goal has been accomplished."

    Hua ManLou smiled: "You seemed to be trying to get my mad."

    "You are not getting mad?"

    Still smiling, Hua ManLou smiled: "Why should I be mad? They came and got me here with their carriage, treated me like an honored guest. The weather here is just wonderful and, in the yard, the flowers are just in bloom. Besides, now that you are here, even if I really was tricked by her I really don't have anything to complain about."

    Lu XiaoFeng couldn't help but laugh: "Seems like it's just impossible to get you mad."

    Hua ManLou suddenly asked: "Are you really thinking about asking XiMen ChuiXue?"

    "Mmhmm."

    "Can you really motivate him to mess with other people's business?"

    With a dry smile on his face, Lu XiaoFeng replied: "I know that there really doesn't seem to be anything in the world that could move him, but I still got to go try."

    "Then what?"

    "I haven't thought that far yet, right now I'm just thinking about going outside and take a look around."

    "Looking around for what?"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed: "Maybe I want to get a good look at ShangGuan FeiYan."

    Hua ManLou was still smiling, but there was a bit of uneasiness in his smile as he casually replied: "You won't find her!"

    "Oh?"

    "I haven't heard her voice since I got here, seems like she had left this place."

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at him, a worried look suddenly seemed to appear on his face.

    But Hua ManLou just laughed some more: "She seemed to be one of those girls that never settles down or rests, always up to something."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly laughed as well: "Actually, aren't all women like that?"

    ***

    The room had just turned a bit darker. Hua ManLou quietly sat there by himself, looking as happy and peaceful as he always do. He will always be happy and satisfied, because where ever he may be, he always could feel a bit of joy and love that nobody else could.

    Right now he's enjoying the beautiful spring sunset.

    Suddenly he heard the sound of door knocks.

    By the time he heard the knocking, the person had already entered. Actually it was 2 people, DuGu Fang and Xiao QiuYu.

    But there was only the sound of one person's footsteps, the sound of DuGu Fang's footsteps was literally lighter and quieter than the gentle spring breeze.

    Hua ManLou smiled: "Please sit down, there are more than 2 empty chairs here."

    He did not ask who they were, nor why they had come. No matter who entered his room, he would always be this warm and friend, would always give all that he have for this person to enjoy.

    DuGu Fang's face darkened as he answered coldly: "How do you know that there are 2 of us? Are you really blind?"

    He had always thought that nobody would be able to hear his footsteps, he had always been very confident in his lightness kungfu. That's why he's not very happy at the moment.

    But Hua ManLou was still as happy and peaceful as ever as he smiled and answered: "Sometimes I wonder if I'm really blind myself. I always thought that only those with eyes but refused to see are really blind."

    Xiao QiuYu was smiling as well: "You forgot about another kind of men that are also blind."

    "Which kind?"

    "The dead kind!"

    Hua ManLou smiled: "How do you know that dead people are blind? Maybe dead people see a lot of things like we do. None of us have died yet, so how could we really know what dead people knows or sees?"

    Coldly, DuGu Fang answered: "Maybe you'll soon find out!"

    Casually, Xiao QiuYu added: "We really don't know you, and we don't have any grudges against you either, but we are still here to kill you!"

    Not only was Hua ManLou not surprised, he did not even seem to be the least bit unhappy about this. He was still smiling: "Actually, I have been waiting for you 2 for a while!"

    DuGu Fang asked: "You knew that we would come to kill you?"

    "Lu XiaoFeng is not stupid, but he has offended a lot more people than he realizes. This is because when he talks, he sometimes is like a cannon!"

    DuGu Fang snickered.

    Hua ManLou added: "Nobody likes to be told that he's no match for a blind man. Especially not 2 masters like you, this is really an intolerable thing. So of course you are going to come to this blind man to see how I stack up."

    His expression was still peaceful as he continued: "This is the kind of thing that the heroes and men in the martial world can stand the least!"

    DuGu Fang jabbed: "How about you?"

    "I'm not a hero, I'm just a blind man."

    Although DuGu Fang was still snickering, a look of shock had appeared on his face.

    How could this blind man know so much?

    Xiao QiuYu cut in: "You knew we were coming, and yet you still waited here?"

    "Where can a blind man run off to?"

    DuGu Fang suddenly shouted: "To hell!"

    As he shouted, he made his move. A one-handed lance headed for Hua ManLou's throat like a poisonous snake while the sword Stomach Breaker was thrusted as well.

    His moves were slow, so slow that they didn't create any wind or sound. A blind man can't see the sword, the only thing he could do was to listen for the sound the sword creates.

    But this move did not make any sound, so this move is truly a move that can break open a blind man's stomach.

    Not to mention that one-handed lance was in front of the sword, if the lance missed, the sword would surely hit. But Xiao QiuYu figured wrong.

    Other than hearing, this blind man seemed to have another amazing and mysterious sense.

    He already seemed to sense, somehow, that the real danger wasn't coming from the lance, but from the sword. But he couldn't see nor hear the sword.

    Before the sword arrived, he suddenly somersaulted. When the lance glanced by his shoulder, his hands had come together on the sword.

    "Deng! Deng!" This hundred year old sword suddenly broke into 3 sections. The enemy's stomach hadn't been broken yet and his sword already was.

    The longest section was still in Hua ManLou's hand. He flipped his hand and the tussel of the lance was tangled with the blade.

    DuGu Fang was taken aback. Even under the light of the sunset, Xiao QiuYu's face still looked deathly white.

    Still smiling, Hua ManLou said: "I didn't really want to offend Mr. Xiao QiuYu, but this move by Mr. Xiao was really bordering on cruelty to a blind man. I only hope that after Mr. Xiao find a replacement for this sword, he would leave a bit of room for himself so that he would at least have a chance to live."

    ***

    The garden really was filled with a lot of flowers, but now much of them have been picked.

    Only now did Lu XiaoFeng figure out where all the flowers Princess DanFeng had with her came from.

    It was at this moment that he saw that little girl again.

    ShangGuan Xue-Er was just standing there amist the flower bushes, under the light of the setting sun. The faint light of the setting sun shone done onto her soft and smooth hair.

    She still looked so obedient and honest, as if she had never ever said half a lie.

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled, he couldn't help but walk over and say: "Hey, older cousin."

    ShangGuan Xue-Er looked over at him and smiled as well: "Hey, younger cousin."

    "How are you?"

    "Not good."

    "Why not?"

    "Because I have worries, a lot of worries."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly noticed that there was an indescribible look of worry in those bright and shining eyes of hers, even her sweet smile seemed to have a faint hint of being forced.

    He had to ask: "What kind of worries?"

    She answered: "I'm worried about my sister."

    "Your sister? ShangGuan FeiYan?" ShangGuan Xue-Er nodded.

    Lu XiaoFeng asked: "Why are you worried about her?"

    "She suddenly disappeared!"

    "When did she disappear?"

    "The day that Hua ManLou arrived, which is also the day we left to go look for you."

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at her: "If you are so worried about her, why aren't you searching for her?"

    "Because she told me that she was going to stay here to wait for us to come back."

    "You believe everything she says?"

    "Of course!"

    Lu XiaoFeng couldn't help laughing a little: "If she didn't leave, how did she suddenly disappear then?"

    "I can't figure it out either, that's why I'm looking for her."

    "In the flower garden?"

    "Mmhmm."

    "Could she be hiding in the garden, hiding for days in fact?"

    "I'm not searching for her, I'm searching for her body."

    Lu XiaoFeng frowned: "Her body?"

    "I figured that she has been killed and buried here, in the garden."

    "This is your own home, how could there be someone who wants to kill her?"

    "Although this is my home, but there are others here."

    "Others?"

    "Like your friend Hua ManLou for example."

    "You think Hua ManLou would kill?"

    "Why not? Everyone can kill, even the old king himself!"

    "The old king could have killed her too? Why?"

    "That's why I'm looking for her, because I don't know!"

    Lu XiaoFeng lightly sighed: "You worry too much, a 12 year old girl shouldn't worry so much."

    ShangGuan Xue-Er looked at him, looked at him for a long time before finally, and slowly, ask: "Who said I'm only 12?"

    "Your older cousin."

    You believe what she says but not what I say?"

    ***

    Hua ManLou asked: "Not going to look for her?"

    Lu XiaoFeng replied: "Even her younger sister can't find her, what hope have I got?"

    The peaceful expression on Hua ManLou's face showed a little bit of worry once again. Obviously, he has more than just normal feelings towards this suddenly disappeared girl, he couldn't hide that even if he tried.

    When this feeling gets into a person's heart, it's like a diamond in the middle of a sand pile, everyone can see it at one glance.

    Of course, Lu XiaoFeng saw this as well, so he immediately asked: "Have you met her younger sister?"

    Hua ManLou replied: "No."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "Seems like your luck isn't that bad, at least it's better than mine."

    "Her younger sister is a little brat?"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled out of exasperation: "Not just a little brat, she's a little devil! Not only could she trick dead people into coming back to life again when she lies, she also has a case of paranoia."

    "A little kid could have paranoia?"

    "Her paranoia is almost worse than an old grandma's. She's actually thinking that her sister might have been killed, she' even suspecting you or the Golden Roc Emperor as the killer."

    He wanted to make Hua ManLou a bit happier, so he started to laugh.

    But Hua ManLou did not look the least bit amused.

    So Lu XiaoFeng had to add: "Don't you think that this paranoia of hers is funny?"

    "Not at all."

    "ShangGuan FeiYan is only a little girl as well, the most she could do is lie a little. Try and find a 18 or 19 year old kid that doesn't lie. Why would anyone want to kill her?"

    Hua ManLou was quiet for a long time before slowly replying: "Right now, I'm only hoping for one thing."

    "Hoping for what?"

    Hua ManLou smiled and replied: "I only hope that they wouldn't serve fake wine tonight."

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't ask anything more about this, because Hua ManLou never did care much for wine.

    Lu XiaoFeng lookd at him, suddenly feeling that his smile turned a bit mysterious. Anyone, no matter who, would turn a bit weird and mysterious at this point.

    Lu XiaoFeng blinked a couple of times and made his tone of voice as mysterious as possible: "I'm hoping for one thing as well."

    "And what's that?"

    "I only hoping that the meat they serve us tonight isn't human meat, and the wine they serve doesn't have any knockout drugs!"
    Last edited by foxs; 03-25-14 at 11:15 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 4

    Chapter 4 - Fake feelings

    It was a feast. The feast was held in that room that they just met the Golden Roc Emperor in. The wine and food were both available in abundance.

    The wine was real wine, a particularly fine and delicious sample of Aged Carvings.

    Lu XiaoFeng downed the wine in his cup in one gulp. "This wine is great," he suddenly sighed. "But compared to the Persian Wine earlier? Not even close!"

    The Golden Roc Emperor burst out laughing: "This wine was collected from dew drops from certain flowers. This type of drinking seems to be a bit wasteful doesn't it?"

    "He's not drinking," Hua ManLou commented with a smile. "He's pouring. He can't even taste the wine at all, giving him this kind of wine is really quite a waste of a good thing."

    The Golden Roc Emperor burst out laughing yet again: "Looks like you really know everything there is to know about him."

    Not only did he act happier tonight, he actually had changed into a silk robe that had a golden dragon embroidered on it. It looked as if he was a king who's sending off a general who's about to embark on a great campaign with a feast.

    Princess DanFeng also looked more dazzling and beautiful as well.

    She filled the empty cup in front of Lu XiaoFeng herself. "We feel that only this kind of drinking has that manly bravado," she said coquettishly. "No girl likes those men that drink wine as if they were drinking poison."

    The Golden Roc Emperor straighten up his face: "Are you saying girls like alcoholics?"

    Princess DanFeng's eyes twinkled: "There are certainly a little bit of bad points about drinking."

    "Only a little bit?" The Golden Roc Emperor asked.

    "Like when a person drinks too much," Princess DanFeng replied. "Then when he gets old, his legs will develop problems and he won't be able to drink anymore. So then whenever he sees other people drinking he would get angry. Getting angry often ins't a good thing you know."

    The Golden Roc Emperor tried to keep a straight face before finally giving up: "Tell you the truth, when I was young I used to drink like I was pouring as well. And I guarantee you that it was not a bit slower than your pouring."

    All smart hosts know that the best way to treat a guest is not with great food or great wine, but with laughter.

    So all guests should know exactly how to make their hosts feel that their laughter was worth while.

    Lu XiaoFeng poured another cup of wine into his stomach. "I'm going to go look for XiMen ChuiXue first thing tomorrow morning," he suddenly said.

    "Great!" the Golden Roc Emperor replied.

    "This guys is weird," Lu XiaoFeng continued. "I have to go myself to try and convince him in order for him to get involved. Zhu Ting, on the other hand, is another matter."

    He reached into his shirt and took out a piece of crumpled and dirty paper. He laid it out on the table and, with a chopstick and some soy-sauce, drew a picture of a flying phoenix. "Send anyone you got to him with this piece of paper," he said as he handed the paper over to Princess DanFeng. "He would then come with that person."

    "I heard the 2 of you haven't talked to each other for a long time." Princess DanFeng doesn't quite believe him.

    "I'm not going to talk to him," Lu XiaoFeng replied. "I'm just telling him to come here. Two completely different things."

    "So, he won't talk to you," Princess DanFeng stared at him in disbelief. "But, upon seeing your 'signature', he would follow a complete stranger to a completely unfamiliar place?"

    "Without any hesitation."

    "I guess you can count this Mr. Zhu as another weirdo." Princess DanFeng cracked up and observed.

    "He's not just a weirdo, he's an a$$h01es!"

    Princess DanFeng smoothed out that crumpled up paper. Only then did she realize that this worn out and dirty sheet of paper was a bank note for 5000 taels.

    "Is this bank note legitimate?" She couldn't help but ask.

    "You think I stole it?"

    Princess DanFeng blushed.

    "I was only afraid that since you 2 were such great friends that maybe this method of inviting him would anger him."

    "No, it won't!" Lu XiaoFeng replied before letting out a little laugh. "The only good thing about him is that no matter how much money you give him, he'll never get mad at you."

    "That's because he's not a hypocrite," Princess DanFeng replied with a smile, "and neither are you."

    If you knew that a friend of yours was starving because he was poor but still complimented him for being a man of iron will and great pride that would rather die before resorting to beg.

    If you knew that a friend of yours need a little money from you but instead only sent him a letter telling him everything is alright and how great of a thing for him to struggle through all of this is.

    If you are really this kind of person, then I can guarantee that your only friend is yourself.

    ShangGuan DanFeng wasn't such a person, so she obviously have already understood what Lu XiaoFeng meant.

    Other than a pretty face, she actually has a very understanding and sympathic heart. It's truly rare to find a girl possessing both qualities.

    Only the smartest girls know that understanding and sympathy will forever be more attractive than even the most beautiful of faces.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly realized that he seemed to be liking this girl more and more. So much so that even now, he's thinking about her.

    It's close to midnight and no lamp was lit in the room. The spring winds gently breezed in through the windows, carrying in and filling the room with the slight fragrance of the flowers outside.

    Lu XiaoFeng was laying on the bed all by himself, but his eyes were still wide open.

    What's he doing up so late? Is he waiting for someone?

    He wasn't waiting for Hua ManLou, obviously, since the 2 of them had just parted ways.

    The night was quiet. So quiet that you could almost hear the dew drops dripping off the flower petals. So quiet that he heard the footsteps in the hall way.

    The steps were very light, and very slow. But his heart suddenly started to beat like crazy instead. By now the steps had stopped outside of his door.

    The door wasn't locked as a person gently pushed it open and gently closed it.

    The room was dark, so dark that there was no way to make out what the person looked like.

    But Lu XiaoFeng did not ask who the person was. It was as if he already knew who she was.

    This time, the footsteps were even lighter and slower than before; slowly approaching his bed, slowly stroking his face gently.

    Her hand was cold but soft, and carried with it a slight fragrance of freshly cut flowers.

    She felt his mustaches and proved to herself that the person lying in bed was really Lu XiaoFeng.

    Lu XiaoFeng had just heard the sound of cloth hitting the floor when he felt a naked body crawl under his bed covers.

    Her body had been cold and soft, but suddenly it had turned red-hot. And on top of that she was shaking, as if she was a flickering flame, exciting Lu XiaoFeng the point that his throat clugged up. Only after a long while did he finally manage a light sigh.

    "I warned you before," He muttered, "I can't resist temptation. Why did you still come?"

    She didn't reply. Her body began shaking even more.

    He couldn't resist rolling over and grabbed her tight within his arms. Her silk like skin was immediately covered with goosebumps, like the little whirls in water when the Spring wind breezes over it.

    Her chest was pressed tightly up against his chest. Her chest was like a dove, tender and delicate.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly pushed her off.

    "You are not... who are you?" He uttered out of shock.

    She still wasn't willing to speak, but her body had curled up.

    Lu XiaoFeng reached out again. As soon as he touched her chest, he snapped back again like he was electricuted.

    "You are the little older cousin!"

    "And I know you are my little younger cousin." She finally had to give in and admitted it with a little laugh.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly jumped up like an arrow.

    "What are you doing here?" He demanded.

    "Why can't I come here?" ShangGuan Xue-Er shot back. "Who did you think I was just then?"

    From her tone, it seemed like she was mad.

    Perhaps nothing makes a girl madder than being mistaken for someone else while getting friendly with a man.

    Lu XiaoFeng is usually pretty good in talking himself out of situations like this. But he really can't think of anything to say.

    "So she can come," ShangGuan Xue-Er continued after a snicker, "Why can't I? Tell me!"

    "Because," Lu XiaoFeng finally replied with a sigh of resignation, "next to you, I look like an old man."

    "I came here entirely because I wanted to prove to you once and for all that I'm not a kid anymore so you you would believe me and not think of me as a liar! You really think that I like you? Don't flatter yourself!"

    Her voice was getting gradually louder as she got angrier and angrier, as if she was almost about to cry.

    Lu XiaoFeng reached over and gently stroked her hair, trying to think of something comforting to say....

    Suddenly, the door was pushed open and the dark room suddenly lit up.

    A person was standing in the doorway with a lantern in hand, wearing a snow white robe, but her face was even more pale than her robe.

    ShangGuan DanFeng.

    Lu XiaoFeng felt like just crawling underneath the bed and stay there. He just couldn't take the look that she has when she looked at him.

    ShangGuan Xue-Er looked a kid that was caught stealing cookies out of the jar in the middle of the act.

    But she immediately held her chest high, stood up naked, looked over at Lu XiaoFeng with her lips curled, and smiled.

    "Why didn't you tell me earlier that she was coming?" She said. "I could have left sooner you know."

    ShangGuan DanFeng stared at her, so mad that even her lips began to quiver. She wanted to say something, but just couldn't.

    Xue-Er had already put on her robe. With her head held high, she walked by right in front of her. Suddenly, he curled her lips and smiled some more.

    "You really don't need to be mad at all." She said. "All men are like this."

    ShangGuan DanFeng did not move, nor did she reply. It was almost as if her entire body was petrified. Slowly and gradually, Xue-Er's footsteps disappeared into the distance.

    ShangGuan DanFeng still stood there, motionless, starring at Lu XiaoFeng. Her beautiful eyes seemed to contain a slight hint of tears.

    "This is good," she muttered, "I finally get to see what kind of person you really are." She stumped her foot on the floor, and turned around.

    But Lu XiaoFeng was already by her side and pulled her to a stop.

    "What... What more do you have to say for yourself?" She bit her lips and demanded.

    "I don't really shouldn't need to say anything," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "Because you should know that I was waiting for you."

    ShangGuan DanFeng looked down at the floor. Only after a long wait did she finally let out a sigh.

    "I had came here for you."

    "And now?"

    "And now.... now I'm going to leave."

    She suddenly looked up and stared at him. Her eyes were filled with a kind of complicated and conflicting expression, somewhere between reprove and sympathy.

    "Do you really belive that I would...." Lu XiaoFeng said before she stopped him by gently putting her finger on his lips.

    "I know you wouldn't," she said. "But tonight... I can't stay here tonight."

    Nobody would be interested in doing other things after witnessing a scene like that.

    Lu XiaoFeng understood, so he loosened his grip and let her go.

    ShangGuan DanFeng looked at him. Suddenly, she got on her tip toes and gently kissed him on the cheek.

    "And you should know that I really don't want to go."

    "But now you better leave as fast as you can," Lu XiaoFeng suddenly smiled. "Or else I might...."

    She didn't wait for him to finish before pushing herself out of his arms. But she still had to turn around.

    "I'm warning you," she said with a laugh, "That little girl is a devil. The next time you see her you better leave as fast as you can as well. I'll bite when I'm jealous."

    The night was even more still and quiet. The world seemed to be completely peaceful and calm.

    But is the human heart?

    ***

    Morning. The cobblestoned road had just been heated up by the sun, some of the little shops on the side of the road hadn't even opened yet.

    There's always a couple of people that hadn't got used to that working at sunrise lifestyle in the cities.

    Princess DanFeng only turned back after she had drove them all the way out here in her flower-filled carriage.

    "As soon as we find any news, we'll inform you."

    "I know, I'll wait for you."

    "I'll wait for you," with a girl like this waiting for you, what else could a man possibly want in life?

    "You know, I think one of these days she's going to end up biting you at least once no matter what." Hua ManLou commented.

    Lu XiaoFeng shot him a look before finally succumbing to a laugh: "Your ear must be way better than a rabbit's, next time I better keep that in mind."

    Hua ManLou smiled back: "That little devil that she talked about, is she ShangGuan FeiYan's little sister?"

    "I challenge you to find another little devil her in this world," Lu XiaoFeng responded with forced smile. Hua ManLou remained quiet.

    "Has she found her older sister?" He finally had to ask.

    "Doesn't seem like she has, I probably should have asked ShangGuan DanFeng about it jst then. Maybe she knows where that swallow of yours flew off to."

    {FeiYan means flying swallow in Chinese.}

    Hua ManLou laughed a little at that remark before replying: "I think it's best that you don't ask, or else she might give you a nice little bite for asking."

    "Although I didn't ask her, Xue-Er should have already asked her."

    "Seems like she didn't get anything out of it." Hua ManLou observed. Even though he's still smiling, his face couldn't cover up the fact that he was worried.

    Lu XiaoFeng thought for a while before suddenly asking: "Do you know how old ShangGuan FeiYan is?"

    "She told me that she was born in the Year of the Goat, making her 18 years old."

    Lu XiaoFeng stroked his mustache with his fingers and muttered to himself: "Can an 18 years old girl have a 12 years old older sister?"

    "Depends on the situation," Hua ManLou answered with a smile.

    Lu XiaoFeng was quite taken aback by that remark. "What situation?" he asked.

    "If a person as smart as you can start asking questions as dumb as that, then why couldn't an 18 years old girl have a 20 years old younger sister? That 20 years old younger sister of hers will probably have an 80 years old son too."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed at that as well, then he suddenly patted Hua ManLou's shoulder rather forcibly and said: "There's no way an 18 years older sister could have a 20 years old younger sister and there's no way that ShangGuan FeiYan is in danger."

    "Oh?"

    "There's a chance that Xue-Er knows exactly where her older sister is and is just saying all those things to mess with me. But now I know that you can't trust a single word she says."

    Hua ManLou let out another little laugh and then, as if he doesn't want to talk about this matter anymore, he suddenly changed the subject: "You said you came here to look for a person?"

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "XiMen ChuiXue doesn't seem to be here though."

    "He's not here, I'm looking for someone else."

    "Who?"

    "You don't wonder the outside world very often, so you might not know about these 2 really weird old men. One of them knows a little bit everything that's ever happened. The other one is a little better, no matter how hard of a proble you have, he could help you solve it."

    "You are talking about Know-It-All and Smart Guy?"

    "Oh you know about them?"

    "I might be blind, but I'm not deaf."

    Lu XiaoFeng had a rather wrily smile on his face and commented: "Sometimes I wish you were a bit more deaf."

    ***

    By now they have walked underneath the shades of an overhang from one of the buildings. A proper looking monk with his head held low and looking down was walking head on into them.

    This monk's face was rather square and his ears were big, the signs of someone with a lot of good fortune. But his clothes were dirty and torn, and that pair of straw sandals on his feet were just about all worn down.

    Lu XiaoFeng ran up to the monk as soon as he saw him. With a smile, he said: "Hello Honest Monk!"

    Honest Monk lifted his head up and smiled when he saw Lu XiaoFeng: "Have you been a bit more honest lately?"

    "The day you stop being honest is the day that I'll start being honest."

    It seemed that all Honest Monk could do when they meet is to force a smile on his face.

    "You seem especially happy today, do you have some happy news?" Lu XiaoFeng continued.

    "How could Honest Monk have any happy news? Only dishonest guys like you do." Honest Monk answered with a forced smile.

    "But today seems to be an exception."

    Honest Monk frowned before finally letting out a sigh: "Today really is an exception."

    From the look on his face, anyone could tell that he does not want Lu XiaoFeng to ask him anymore questions.

    "Why?" Pity Lu XiaoFeng didn't seem to have caught on.

    "Because... because I just did something that wasn't very honest and proper," Honest Monk mutter with a sorry look on his face.

    He didn't want to say it, but he had to say it, because he's an honest monk.

    Which was why Lu XiaoFeng got even more curious and had to ask even further: "You could actually do something that's not honest and proper?"

    "This is the first time in my life," Honest Monk replied.

    Lu XiaoFeng got even more curious as he lowered his voice: "What did you do?"

    "I just went to find OuYang." Honest Monk's face seemed to be a little red as he muttered his reply.

    "Who's OuYang?"

    Honest Monk stared at him, his expression suddenly turned really strange, as if he was a bit proud of himself for knowing something as well as feeling sorry for Lu XiaoFeng's naivette. He shook his head and asked: "How could you not know who OuYang is?"

    "Why should I know?"

    "Because OuYang is OuYang Qing," Honest Monk whispered.

    "And who might OuYang Qing be?"

    Honest Monk's face turned even redder as he stuttered out: "She's a... a... very famous... prostitute."

    He seemed to have had to summon up every last bit of his strength to make that last word come out.

    Lu XiaoFeng almost stumbled and fell from the shock. In his wildest dreams he could not imagine Honest Monk actually going to find a prostitute.

    But even though he was shocked and laughing on the inside, his face was calm as can be. He actually was able to casually comment: "Actually that's not really a big deal, this kind of stuff happens all the time."

    This time it's Honest Monk's turn to be shocked: "This kind of stuff happens all the time?"

    With a straight face, Lu XiaoFeng replied: "Monks don't got wives, not to mention no consorts, everyone of them are strong and healthy, what would they do if they can't go to prostitutes? Go for some nuns?"

    Honest Monk was speechless.

    "Besides, "High Monk" and "Famed Prostitutes" are very closely related," Lu XiaoFeng continued.

    "How?" Honest Monk had to ask.

    "High Monk spend an entire day as a monk banging a bell, Famed Prostitutes spend an entire bell cycle banging a monk. How much closer related can you be?" He was already doubled over with laughter even before he finished the joke.

    But Honest Monk was so furious that he did not know what to do next as all he could do was stare at him blankly. After a long while, he finally let out a sigh and muttered: "Merciful Buddha, why did you have me meet Big Shot Sun last night and Lu XiaoFeng today?"

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly stopped laughing: "You saw Big Shot Sun? Where is he? I'm looking for him."

    But Honest Monk did not seem to hear him at all. He just kept on reciting sutras to himself: "Amida Buddha, I'll never ever do any bad things ever again. I deserve to die for my sins, Bodhisattva should punish me to crawling back to the temple."

    He just kept reciting as he suddenly got down on all fours and actually started to crawl away.

    All Lu XiaoFeng was look at him crawl away with a frozen smile on his face.

    Hua ManLou couldn't help but walk over and ask: "Is he really crawling?"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "If he said he was going to crawl 10 miles, then there's no way that he would crawl only 9 and 1/2, because he is an honest monk."

    "Looks like he's not only an honest monk, he's a crazy one too." Hua ManLou observed with a laugh.

    "But he's only pretending to be crazy, because he knows better than anyone what's going on."

    "So who might Big Shot Sun be?"

    As soon as the subject of Big Shot Sun came up, Lu XiaoFeng's spirit picked up again: "Actually, Big Shot Sun's real name should be 'Mr. Big Shot Grandson of a Turtle'."

    {Sun is part of Sun-Zi, which is Chinese for grandson.}

    Hua ManLou let out another laugh and asked: "How did he get that name?"

    "Because he always say that when he's broke he's a Grandson of a Turtle and when he's rich he's a Mr. Big Shot. Coincidentally his surname just happened to be Sun, so people just decided to call him Big Shot Sun."

    "You seem to know quite a lot of this weirdoes," joked Hua ManLou.

    "Know-It-All and Smart Guy are 2 weirdoes too, nobody has ever seen them, nor does anyone know where they are. Other than Big Shot Sun, nobody could find them."

    "Who knew that this Big Shot Sun can actually do a couple of things?"

    "He's been drinking and gambling ever since he was a little kid. Spending his life wondering and playing, he's never done a single serious thing in his entire life and couldn't really do anything really well either. But because of this one thing he could do, he's able to waste half of his life just play around completely free of care."

    "How come?"

    "Because if one wants to find Know-It-All and Smart Guy, then one has to go and buy him out from where ever he is."

    "Buy him out? Why do you have to do that?"

    "This guy is better at spending money than anyone else in the world. Hence he's never Mr. Big Shot for more than 3 days at a time before he becomes Grandson of a Turtle again. When he couldn't pay the bills anymore, he would just put himself down and wait for someone to come around and pay off his debts. He has actually spent 10 years living like that! Admiration is not a strong enough word for how I feel towards him."

    "Seems like his person not only can do a couple of things, he's very lucky as well."

    "Exactly. An unlucky person would go crazy in no time living like he does."

    "So are you going to go and buy him out now?"

    "Of course I have to go find OuYang first."

    "OuYang?"

    With a smile, Lu XiaoFeng casually replied: "How could you not even know OuYang? OuYang is...."

    ***

    OuYang Qing. The first name listed on sign out in front of Pavillion of Fortunate Love.

    It's been said that the best thing about her is that no matter who you are, be it a monk or a cripple, she would treat you as if you were the most dashing man in the world, as long as you got money. In her profession, that's all one really needs.

    Besides, she wasn't ugly either, white and clean face, ebony colored hair, and when she smiles dimples appears on both of her cheeks. And that pair of eyes always staring at you with that look that make you feel justified to spend all your money on her.

    At this moment she's staring at Lu XiaoFeng with that look, staring at his mustache, as if she had never seen such a handsome man, such a beautiful mustache.

    Lu XiaoFeng was feeling a little lightheaded from that stare and the banknotes in his pocket seemed like they were about to bust out of his pocket.

    OuYang Qing's smile got even sweeter: "You have never been here before have you?"

    "Never," Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    "And you asked for me as soon as you got here?"

    "The first one I asked for was you!"

    OuYang Qing looked down at the ground and said softly: "If that's the case, then maybe this was meant to happen."

    "Without a doubt!"

    OuYang Qing's eyes flashed: "But how did you know that I was here?"

    "A god told me in a dream this morning that we were destined to be together all the way back 800 years ago."

    OuYang Qing let out a little laugh at that: "Really?"

    "Absolutely true! That god was a monk, looked pretty honest and proper, and said that he himseld had asked for you too."

    OuYang Qing's expression didn't even change as she coyly replied: "There really was a monk here last night, he just sat there and looked at me for an entire night after I got in bed. I had no idea he was a god and thought there was something wrong with him."

    She suddenly walked over and sat down in Lu XiaoFeng's lap. Stroking Lu XiaoFeng's mustache, she bit her lip and smiled: "But you better not try and copy him regarding that point."

    "I'm no god."

    OuYang Qing put her head beside his and gently bit his ear. With a small laughter, she replied: "Actually, being a god isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just tell your friend to leave and I can make you feel so much better than a god."

    Hua ManLou had been smiling all this time, sitting quietly at a rather remote corner of the room. He seemed to had enough of this chirade and suddenly cut in: "We are here to look for Big Shot Sun, do you know where he is?"

    "Big Shot Sun? Heard that he's over at the Xiao Xiang Pavillion next door waiting for someone to buy him out. It'll be right in front of you just as you get out," OuYang Qing replied. She seemed to be hoping that Hua MuLan would leave as soon as possible.

    But the first one to stand up was Lu XiaoFeng.

    "You are going too?" OuYang Qing frowned.

    "I don't really want to go," Lu XiaoFeng sighed, "but I have to go."

    "Going to buy him out?"

    "No, to wait for someone to buy us out together."

    He patted his pocket and said with a forced smile on his face: "To tell you the truth, the money we got left isn't even enough to buy a cookie."

    Although OuYang Qing was still smiling, it had turned into a different kind of smile. The kind that makes you want to leave as soon as you laid your eyes upon it.

    But Lu XiaoFeng didn't seem to notice, he suddenly smiled: "But since we were meant to be, how could I leave? I think it's best if we let him...."

    OuYang Qing immediately cut him off: "Since we are meant to be, then we will surely meet again. I think it's best if you go and find him right now. I... I suddenly don't feel so good, my stomach is hurting."

    Lu XiaoFeng walked over, took a deep breath in the Spring breeze coming from the East, and smiled: "If you want to get rid of a girl, the best way to do it is to make her tummy ache. Any man that goes out often should know at least 3 different ways of making a girl's tummy hurt."

    "I always knew you were quite smart," Hua ManLou casually replied, "but only today did I realize that you are not a good man at all."

    "Why?"

    "You knew what kind of woman she is, why did you still have to expose her for what she is back there?"

    "Because I never liked people who fake their feelings."

    "But she can't not fake her feelings, she has to survive. How could she continue to live in this kind of place if she gets real feelings for everyone?"

    With a smile on his face, Hua ManLou continued: "You are a great friend, very loyal, maybe almost good enough to be called a knight-errant, but you have a huge flaw."

    All Lu XiaoFeng could do was listen.

    Hua ManLou contined: "In this world, there are a lot of people that are very evil and despicable. But sometimes they couldn't help but do what they did, sometimes they are forced to do it. You biggest flaw is that you have never thought things out from their perspective."

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at him. Stared at him for a long time. Only then did he gently sighed and said: "Sometimes, I really don't like being with you."

    "Oh?"

    "Because I always figured that I'm not that bad of a guy, but when compared to you, I'm almost an a$$h01e."

    Hua ManLou smiled: "As long as a person knows that he's an a$$h01e, there's still hope for him."

    "I'm an a$$h01e! A 'Grade A' a$$h01e! You won't find another a$$h01e like me in a crowd of a million!" As soon as they walked into XiaoXiang Pavillion, they could here a person screaming upstairs.

    "Big Shot Sun?" Hua ManLou inquired.

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed: "Correct! Not many people know how much of an a$$h01e they themselves are."

    "That's why there's still hope from him," Hua ManLou laughed as well.

    Luckily, although he could not stand up, Big Shot Sun could still sit up.

    So here he is, sitting straight up inside the horse carriage that Lu XiaoFeng had just rented, staring straight at Lu XiaoFeng: "I know you must be in a great hurry to go find those 2 weirdoes, but you still should at least drink a couple of cups with me."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed and replied: "I still can't understand it, those people knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you got no money whatsoever, yet they still served you drinks!"

    A devilish smile appeared on Big Shot Sun's face: "Because they know that sooner or later a big head with a lot of problems like you would come and bail me out."

    Actually his head wasn't really any smaller than anyone else's. If you hadn't seen him, there was no way that you could have imagined a man with such a small and frail built could have such a big head.

    "Can you still find them any time soon in this condition?" Lu XiaoFeng inquired.

    "Of course!" Big Shot Sun proudly announced. "No matter how weird those 2 weirdoes get, they just can't seem to do anything to me. But we need to set up some ground rules first, 3 ground rules, to be exact."

    "Alright."

    "50 taels of silver for every question, and I'm talking about 100%, no impurities type whatsoever, type of silver ingots. When I go in, you 2 have to stay outside. And when the time comes for questions, you have to ask outside."

    "I don't get it," Lu XiaoFeng said with a wry smile. "Why don't they ever want to meet anyone?"

    Big Shot Sun smiled again: "Because they feel that, other than me, everyone in the world is a bastard. The irony is that I'm the biggest bastard in the world!"

    ***

    The cave was dark and damp. The entrance was very small, the only way can get in is to crawl. And that's exactly what Big Shot Sun did.

    Lu XiaoFeng and Hua ManLou had been waiting outside for a long time now, Lu XiaoFeng was getting very impatient.

    But Hua ManLou smiled and commented: "I know you are getting impatient, but why don't you look around for a bit? It's so beautiful around here, even the wind makes you feel great when it breezes by you. To be able to stop here for a while is really a very fortunate thing."

    "And how do you know that it's beautiful around here?" Lu XiaoFeng wondered.

    "Although I can't see, I can still feel and understand it. That's why I always feel that only those with eyes but refuses to see are truely blind."

    Lu XiaoFeng couldn't find anything to say in response.

    It was at this moment when Big Shot Sun's voice came from inside the cave: "Alright, you can start asking questions now."

    The first 50 tael-silver ingot was tossed in and the first question was: "Was there really a Golden Roc Dynasty about 50 years ago?"

    After a pause, an old and raspy voice inside the cave answered: "Golden Roc Dynasty is originally in a very small country in the far South. Their customs were very different, marriages were between people of the same surnames. So most of the people in its Imperial Court had the surname of ShangGuan. Even though the dynasty was old and prosperous, it collapsed about 50 years ago. It has been rumored that its descendents has wondered into the Central Plains."

    Lu XiaoFeng exhaled, seemingly satisfied with he answer he got. So he tossed another silver ingot in and asked the 2nd question: "Other than the royal descendents, were there any other survivors of note from its Imperial Court?"

    "It's been said that there were 4 of them that was ordered to protect their heir on his way over here. One of them was another royal relative, his name was ShangGuan Jin. The other 3 were General Ping DuHe, Commander ShangGuan Mu, and Warden of the Treasury Yan LiBen."

    There is still a little bit more to add to the answer: "The different positions in their country were very similiar to the same positions in our country."

    The third question was: "So what happened to them?"

    "They probably had all changed their names and went into hiding after they arrived here. When the new dynasty was established, they no doubt sent out assasins in hopes of killing off all the left overs of the last dynasty. But they were unable to find anyone. If the heir to the throne back then is still alive, he's probably an old man now."

    After thinking deeply for a long time, Lu XiaoFeng finally asked the 4th question: "If there's a really difficult matter that has to require the help of XiMen ChuiXue, is there any way to get him to help?"

    The question was followed by an even longer silence. Finally, the 4 word answer came: "None what so ever."

    ***

    "Spring Woods" in the city was world famous for their excellent Bamboo Green, Garlic Beef, 5-Plumed Pigeon, and Sauteed Goat with Fish. That's why they were at Spring Woods.

    Lu XiaoFeng was a very picky and very knowledgeable eater.

    "'None what so ever'! What kind of an answer is that?" Lu XiaoFeng said with a forced smile and downed a cup of Bamboo Green. "This entire table of food cost about 5 taels at the most, and that little son of a devil's answer was 50!"

    "Does that really mean that there's no way?" Hua ManLou asked with a casual smile on his face.

    "XiMen ChuiXue has money, got fame, and is about as much of a loner as you can get: he's never ever gotten into other people's business." Lu XiaoFeng replied. "Add that to the fact that he treats his relatives the same way he treats strangers and the fact that he is about as arrogant as you can get, can you think of a way to deal with this guy?"

    "But sometimes he would travel 3000 kilometers to avenge someone he has never met before."

    "That's because he wanted to. If he doesn't want to, even the Jade Emperor himself can't move him!"

    {Jade Emperor is the supreme diety in the traditional Chinese mythology, a character not unlike Zeus in Greek mythology.}

    Hua ManLou smiled: "No matter what, at least this trip wasn't completely in vain. We did manage to find out that what the Golden Roc Emperor told us wasn't a lie."

    "Precisely because what he said wasn't a lie, that's why we have to get involve in this matter. And precisely because we have to get involved, that's why we must need XiMen ChuiXue."

    "Is his sword skill really as frightening as the rumors say?"

    "Maybe more. Since the first time he fought at the age of 15 until now, nobody has made it out alive from an fight with him."

    "Why must we need him?"

    "Because we are not up against just anybody, and there's more than one of them."

    Lu XiaoFeng downed another cup and continued: "If DuGu YiHe really is the Boss of Green Shirt Pavilion, then there's at least 5 or 6 very troublesome people under him. Besides, E'Mei Sect is filled with great kungfu masters to begin with."

    "I have also heard about the 7 Swords of E'Mei, 3 Valiants and 4 Beauties, being among the best of the best of the next generation of swordsmen."

    {The 7 Swords of E'Mei is known as the "3 Ying 4 Xiu" this phrase is developed some more as the story progresses.}

    "Yan TieShan's Pearl and Diamond Pavilion's warden Huo TianQing is even more troublesome than all 7 of them added together. He's not that old, but somehow he's got a lot of seniority, it's rumored that even the great Hero Shan XiYan has to call him 'Master-Uncle'!"

    "Why would he be working under Yan LiBen?"

    "Because a couple of years ago he was ambushed and almost killed by somebody on top of Mount QiLian when Yan LiBen saved his life."

    "And Huo Xiu as the tendency to disappear for long periods of time, all his fortunes must have been left in the care of some very reliable people. Obviously they can't be all that easy to deal with either." Hua ManLou observed.

    "Exactly right."

    "So that's why we have to get XiMen ChuiXue."

    "Right again."

    "Can't we try and psych him into this? By saying let's find out who's the best among all these kungfu masters?"

    "No way!"

    "Why not?"

    "Because not only can't you convince him to do anything the easy way or the hard way, he's also smart as hell, just like me."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed a little at the remark and continued: "If someone wants to psych me into doing something, I can tell you right now he's going to fail."

    Hua ManLou sat there silently for a long time before he slow spoke: "I think I have an idea, maybe we can give it a try."

    "What kind of an idea?"

    Hua ManLou didn't have the chance to tell his idea when there came a disturbance and a series of screams at the front door.

    A person had stumbled in, a person covered in blood.

    The April sun was just slightly to the West for it was just passed noon. The sunlight came pouring in through sideways onto this man, onto his blood-covered body, causing it to shine red, so red that it chills a person to the bone.

    The blood was pouring out from 17 or 18 different places; his forehead, his nose, his ears, his eyes, his mouth, his throat, his chest, his wrist, his knees, both of his shoulders, were all gushing blood.

    Even Lu XiaoFeng had never seen anyone with so many wounds, this was the kind of stuff that nobody ever even dares to think about.

    This person had saw him as well, suddenly rushed to in front of him, and grabbed his shoulders using those 2 blood covered hands of his. "Ge... ge...." It seemed like he was trying to say something.

    But he couldn't utter a single word, because his throat had been pratically sliced in half. But he was still alive.

    Was this a miracle? Or was it because he wanted to say one sentence to Lu XiaoFeng before he dies?

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at that disfigured face and suddenly shouted out: "Xiao QiuYu!"

    "Ge... ge...." Xiao QiuYu's throat was still making those noises. His blood covered eyes were filled with horror, anger, and hatred.

    "Do you want to tell me something?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    Xiao QiuYu nodded. Then suddenly, he let out a huge, desperate howl; a howl of a once proud wolf, lonely and wounded, just before he gives in and falls onto the snow covered ground.

    Suddenly, his entire body twitched, as if someone just hit him from behind with an invisible whip.

    What he wanted to tell Lu XiaoFeng was obviously a terrifying secret, but he could never utter a single word ever again.

    By the time he hit the floor, his limbs had all curled back into his body because of the pain. His bright red blood was already turning into a deeper and deeper shade of purple.

    Lu XiaoFeng stomped his feet and jumped. His huge body, like a huge eagle, flew over 4 or 5 tables, over all the people's heads, and out of the front door.

    On the slab-stoned street, there was a trail of blood that went all the way from the center of the street to the door.

    "There had just been a carriage shooting down the street, that person had fell out of that carriage."

    "What kind of carriage was it?"

    "Black, and the people driving it were wearing green."

    "Which way were they headed?"

    "West."

    Lu XiaoFeng did not say another word and began running in the direction of the sun. After making it pass another big street, he heard another huge commotion and scream coming from the intersection to his left.

    An ebony black carriage had just crashed into a medicine shop, knocking down several people and a couple of tables.

    By now the horse had already fell down onto the ground, white foam was already spilling out of its mouth.

    The person driving the carriage fell down as well, at the corner of his mouth was blood. Dark purple colored blood that fell drop by drop onto his shirt.

    His green colored shirt. His face was concorted as well; suddenly, his pale yello face turned dead black as well.

    Lu XiaoFeng swung open the carriage door. Resting on the seat inside the carriage was actually a pair of silver hooks.

    The silver hooks had a yellowish cloth attached to it, much like the type used by Taoist priest to call the souls of the dead. Words had just been written on it, in fresh blood: "An Eye for an Eye!"

    "This is what happens to those who meddle with other's business!"

    ***

    The silver hooks shone brightly in the sun.

    Hua ManLou gently felt the tip of the hook. "You said these are Soul Hooker's hooks?" He asked in a slow and soft voice.

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "And Soul Hooker died by Xiao QiuYu's hands?"

    "An Eye for an Eye!" Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "But that other sentence is obviously a warning to us to stay out of this."

    "Green Shirt Pavilion's intelligence are pretty fast, but too bad they can't judge people," Lu XiaoFeng observed with a bitter and cold laugh.

    "They really did misjudge you," Hua ManLou sighed too. "Green Shirt Pavilion shouldn't have been so stupid as to do this, do they really believe they can scare you?"

    "This is good for only one person."

    "Who?"

    "Golden Roc Emperor!"

    There are people in this world that was born with this weird, unflexible chip on their shoulders; the more you try and scare him and not let him do something, the more he has to do it. Lu XiaoFeng was one of this kind of people.

    So right now even if you put 180 sharp sabres on his throat, you still couldn't stop him from meddling with this business.

    He grasped the silver hooks tightly and suddenly got up: "Come on! Let's go get XiMen ChuiXue right now. I have just thought of a way to get him too."

    "How?"

    "If he's not willing to help out, then I'm going burn down his Thousand-Plums Mansion!"
    Last edited by foxs; 03-25-14 at 11:17 AM.

  7. #7
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 - Singing voices from far away

    There wasn't any plums at the Thousand Plums Mansion.

    It was April, peach flowers and cuckoos covered the mountainside.

    Facing an entire world covered with flowers, Hua ManLou seemed as if he wanted to just stay here forever. An indescribable look suddenly appeared on that calm and peaceful face of his, the kind of look that young girls get when they see their first loves walking towards them.

    But Lu XiaoFeng couldn't wait any longer: "I don't want to kill the atmosphere, but once it turns dark, XiMen ChuiXue would not meet any guests."

    "Not even you?"

    "Not even the King of Heavens himself."

    "What if he's not there?"

    "He has to be there. He only leaves 4 times a year at the most, and that's only when he's off to kill someone."

    "So he only kills 4 people a year at the most?"

    "And they all deserve to be killed."

    "Who deserves to be killed? Who decides they deserve to be killed?"

    Hua ManLou suddenly sighed before continuing: "You go ahead, I think I'll wait here for you."

    Lu XiaoFend did not say another word, because he understood this friend of his very well.

    Nobody has ever seen Hua ManLou angry or mad, but once he made up his mind, nobody has ever been able to persuade him otherwise either.

    He turned towards the flowered-covered mountainside and slowly suggested: "When you see him, try my way first, then try yours."

    ***

    There wasn't a single flower in the room, yet it was filled with the frangrance of flowers; faint and simple, just like XiMen ChuiXue.

    Lu XiaoFeng sat sideways on a soft chair made from vines, and stared at him. The cup was filled with light green wine. The white shirt he was wearing was light and soft.

    Faintly, wave after wave, a flute, seeming close yet far away, with a sound that felt softer than the softest of Spring breezes can be heard; but the flute player was no where to be seen.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "In your entire life, have you ever been troubled?"

    "No," XiMen ChuiXue replied.

    "Is there a thing in this world that you can't have?"

    "No again."

    "Are you really completely satisfied?"

    "Because I really don't ask for that much," XiMen ChuiXue casually replied.

    "And that's why you have never asked anyone else for a favor?"

    "Never."

    "And that's why when others come to you, you are never willing to help them."

    "Never."

    "No matter who, no matter what, you are never going to help?"

    "What I'm going to do is never based upon what others ask of me, this is the same to anybody and everybody."

    "What if someone is going burn your house down?"

    "Who would come and burn my house down?"

    "Me."

    XiMen ChuiXue laughed. He rarely laughed, so whenever he did laugh his face always had an indescribable hint of ridicule.

    "I came here wanting to ask you to help me do something. I promised a person that if you don't help, then I'm going to burn your house, burn it down to ground." Lu XiaoFeng explained.

    XiMen ChuiXue stared at him. After a long time, he slowly began to speak: "I don't have that many friends, the most ever at any particular time was 2 or 3, but you have always been my friend."

    "And that's why I have come and asked for your help."

    "And that's why whenever you want to burn down my house, you can go right ahead. You can start the fire where ever you want to start it as well." XiMen ChuiXue said casually.

    Lu XiaoFeng was shocked, because he also understood this friend of his very well.

    Every word this man said is like an arrow that's just been shot out: it's never going to be taken back.

    "In the storage out back, I have some pinewood and kerosine, I suggest you start the fire there. And also do it at night, that kind of fire must be beautiful at night." XiMen ChuiXue said.

    "Do you know of Know-It-All and Smart Guy?" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly asked.

    "I have heard that there isn't a question in the world that they can't answer. Do they really know everything in the world?" XiMen ChuiXue replied coldly.

    "You don't believe it?"

    "You believe it?"

    "I asked them if there was anyway to get you to help me. They told me there was none. At first, I didn't believe them, but now... Now it looks like they really do have you all figured out."

    XiMen ChuiXue looked at Lu XiaoFeng silently. Suddenly he let out another little laugh and said: "Well this time they are wrong."

    "Oh?"

    "You do have a way of making me help you?"

    "What way is that?"

    XiMen ChuiXue smiled and said: "If you shave off that mustache of yours, I'll be willing to do anything you ask of me."

    ***

    If Lu XiaoFeng had ran into some of his friends right now, they probably wouldn't recognize him.

    Here was a person who was suppose to have 4 eyebrows, but now he only has 2; and where there used to be a mustache is now as smooth as a new born's skin. It's a shame that Hua ManLou couldn't see it.

    Obviously, he couldn't see XiMen ChuiXue following Lu XiaoFeng; but nevertheless, he smiled and inquired: "Master XiMen?"

    "Hua ManLou?" XiMen ChuiXue asked back.

    Hua ManLou nodded: "I regret being born handicapped so that I could not see the best swordsman today in all his glory."

    XiMen ChuiXue stared at him and suddenly asked: "Forgive me but... can you really not see?"

    "I'm sure Master XiMen has heard that even though Hua ManLou has eyes, he's as blind as a bat."

    "Then did you hear my footsteps?"

    Just like DuGu Fang, he had to ask that question. He was just as proud of his lightness kungfu as he was of his sword skills, and he definitely should be proud of it.

    "From what I know, there's at most 4 or 5 men in the world today that can actually walk without any sound at all. Master XiMen is one of them."

    "But you knew I was here!"

    Hua ManLou let out a little laugh: "That's because Master XiMen carries a certain aura of death!"

    "An aura of death?"

    "When one unsheath a sword, there's a certain aura that the sword gives out. How many men has Master XiMen killed? How can you not have an aura of death about you?" Hua ManLou casually replied.

    "No wonder you didn't want to enter my house, turns out that you can't stand this deadly aura I have." XiMen ChuiXue coldly replied.

    Hua ManLou smiled: "The flowers are so beautiful here, if Master XiMen could take some more of this beauty in, this deadly aura could slowly disappear."

    "Fresh flowers maybe beautiful, but how could it compare to the flower of blood when a person is killed?" XiMen ChuiXue observed coldly.

    "Oh?"

    XiMen ChuiXue's eyes suddenly looked different: "There will always be dishonest traitors in this world. When you thrust your sword through their throats, the flower of blood blossoms underneath your sword. If you can just see that fleeting moment of glory, then you would understand that there can be nothing in the world more beautiful."

    He suddenly turned around and walked away without even looking back once.

    The evening mist fell, as if the flowers suddenly covered themselves with a silk white sheet. His figure had just as suddenly disappeared into the mist.

    Hua ManLou could not help but sigh and comment: "I finally understand how he could be so good at his kind of sword technique."

    "Oh!"

    "Because he really believes that killing is a sacred and divinely beautiful thing. He has already offered his life in service of that. It's only when he kills does he truly feel alive. All other times he's just waiting for the next time."

    Lu XiaoFeng thought deeply for a bit before he too gently sighed: "Luckily, all the people he killed deserved it."

    Hua ManLou smiled and did not reply.

    ***

    The endless night sky had suddenly engulfed the world.

    The stars had just begin to appear. The beautiful yet distant waning moon hung down from a branch on some distant tree. The winds still carried a flowery fragrance, the night was beautiful and intoxicating.

    Hua ManLou was slowly walking on the side of the mountain, having seemingly fallen into a beautiful and intoxicating dream.

    But Lu XiaoFeng couldn't hold it in any longer: "Are you going to ask me whether or not my trip was successful?"

    "I already know that you have already convinced him to join us," Hua ManLou said with a smile.

    "You did? How?"

    "He didn't ask you to stay nor did he say goodbye, and you didn't seem to mind at all. Obviously that's because you 2 had already set up a meeting place."

    "And I bet you also know how I managed to do it?"

    "My way, of course."

    "Why do you say that?"

    "He might be heartless, but you are not. He knows that you won't burn his house down; besides, even if you do, he wouldn't care."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed and then sighed: "No matter how amazing you are, there is something that you'll never be able to guess."

    "And what's that?"

    Lu XiaoFeng ran his fingers over where his mustache used to be: "Just guess, I'll tell you all about it when you get it right."

    "If I got right, why would I need you to tell me about it?" Hua ManLou laughed and said.

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed as well, but before he could respond, he suddenly realized that Hua ManLou's calm and peaceful smile had suddenly and instantaneously turned unspeakably stiff and strange.

    "What's going on?" Lu XiaoFeng had to ask.

    Hua ManLou didn't answer, and didn't hear his question. He seemed to be listening for a mysterious sound from far away, a sound that only he could hear.

    He suddenly changed direction and began walking towards the back of the mountain.

    All Lu XiaoFeng could do was follow him. The night became even darker and one by one, the stars disappeared behind the peak of the mountain.

    Suddenly, he heard the far away singing too. The singing was indescribable, haunting, and heartbreakingly beautiful.

    The lyrics were the same, beautiful, moving, and heartbreaking. It was about a young and passionate girl who was just about to die telling her lover about her life, about her heartbreaks and loneliness.

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't really pay much attention to the lyrics, because at this moment he was puzzled by Hua ManLou's expression. So much so that he had to ask: "Have you heard of this song before?"

    "Yes," Hua ManLou finally nodded after a long silence. "I've heard of it before?"

    "From who?"

    "ShangGuan FeiYan."

    Lu XiaoFeng had often said that in this world, there were only about a dozen or so things that he had complete faith and trust in. Hua ManLou's ears just happen to be one of them.

    When other people saw something with their very own eyes, sometimes they didn't really see it. But Hua ManLou's ears have never ever made a mistake.

    So the singer had to be ShangGuan FeiYan.

    How could this girl who had mysteriously disappeared suddenly appear here? And why would she be singing such a hauntingly beautiful song here, at night on an desolate mountainside?

    Who was she singing the song for?

    Could it be that she was just like the girl in the song? Telling her sad life's misfortunes and bitterness to her lover just before her impending death?

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't ask any further, because a light had suddenly appeared in the darkness.

    The singing was also coming from the direction of the flickering light.

    Hua ManLou had already began to move, flying his way over the mountainside. Even though he couldn't see that lonely light, he was moving exactly at the direction of the light.

    The light was getting closer and closer and Lu XiaoFeng was finally able to make out a little monastery. Was it built in honor of some mountain demon or an earth god?

    The singing suddenly seized, the world suddenly turned unspeakably empty and silent.

    Lu XiaoFeng shot a look at Hua ManLou. "If she was really singing to you," he had to say to convince himself, "she wouldn't leave just now."

    But she did leave. The oil lamp was still lit inside the dark and damp monastery, but there was nobody in sight.

    A black faced mountain demon was sitting on a vicious tiger with a iron staff in hand. In the faint and flickering light, it looked as if he was in the middle of beating down a bunch of evil-doers with his staff and carrying out justice for the good people of the land.

    Laying on top of the offering table was an old and rusty bronze wash bowl. The bowl was filled with clean water, several strands of black hair was floating on the water.

    "What are you looking at?" Hua ManLou asked.

    "There's a wash bowl on the table, it's filled with water and there's some hair as well." Lu XiaoFeng answered.

    "Hair?"

    The hair was soft and still had a faint trace of that sweet smell that only young girls have.

    "It's a girl's hair." Lu XiaoFeng concluded. "Seemed that a girl was just here singing and using this bowl of water as a mirror to comb her hair. But now she's gone."

    Hua ManLou nodded slowly, as if he had figured out a long time ago that she wouldn't have waited here for him.

    "In this place, at a time like this, she still had the urge to comb her hair? She's obviously a girl who likes to look as pretty as she can." Lu XiaoFeng continued.

    "17, 18 year old girls, which one of them doesn't like to look pretty?"

    "And is ShangGuan FeiYan just an 17, 18 year old girl?"

    "She liked to look pretty to begin with anyways."

    Lu XiaoFeng looked at Hua ManLou, and probed: "You have felt her hair before haven't you?"

    Hua ManLou gave a laugh. There are many different kinds of laughter, this particular kind of laugh means admittance.

    "Is this her hair?"

    He believed that Hua ManLou's fingers were just as sensitive as his ears. He has seen, with his very own eyes, Hua ManLou be able to tell the validity of an artifact by simply touching it ever so slightly.

    Hua ManLou was already holding that strand of hair in his hand and was gently running his fingers along its length. A very peculiar expression appeared on his face, it was neither joy nor sadness.

    "Is this really her hair?"

    Hua ManLou nodded.

    "She was just sitting here and was even combing her hair and singing. Clearly, she's living quite well."

    Hua ManLou gave another laugh. There are many different kinds of laughter, but this particular laugh was impossible to tell whether it was out of joy or sadness,

    She was just here, so why didn't she wait for him? If she did not know he was here, then who else could she have been singing to.

    Lu XiaoFeng secretly sighed to himself, he couldn't decide whether or not to console him or to pretend he didn't understand.

    A gust of wind blew by and entered the room through the door. That staff touting, tiger riding, black faced mountain demon statue suddenly began to crack. That 10 meter long staff of his suddenly fell apart.

    Immediately, the huge statue began to fall apart as well, as it fell onto the floor, piece by piece.

    With in the cloud of dust, Lu XiaoFeng suddenly realized that, on the wall behind the statue, there actually hung a man.

    A dead man. The blood on his body wasn't even dry yet. An iron judge pen was stuck through his chest and nailed him onto the wall. Two pieces of paper like those used by Taoist priest to call the souls of the dead hung from the pen.

    "An eye for an eye!"

    "This is what happened to those who meddle with other's business!"

    The same two sentences, written in blood, just like the other one. The blood seemed to have soaked through the papers.

    DuGu Fang, not Liu YuHen. Those who wanted to die was still alive while those who wanted to live were dead.

    "The statue had been smashed long before," Lu XiaoFeng observed with anger. "This dead man had been placed here just for us to see."

    Hua ManLou's face was pale as death. He finally had to ask: "Is it ShangGuan FeiYan?"

    "It's DuGu Fang." Lu XiaoFeng replied. "I really didn't expect him to be the second one to be dead."

    "What's he doing here? Why would ShangGuan FeiYan be here?" Hua ManLou was in deep thought. "Could she be kidnapped as well? Could she have fallen into the hands of the Green Shirt Pavilion?"

    Lu XiaoFeng frowned: "Usually, you are a very open minded guy, but how come whenever it comes to her, you always think towards the worst of all possibilities?"

    Hua ManLou was quiet for a long time before finally sighing: "Maybe it's because I care too muc about her."

    When one cares too much about someone, it's hard to not think about the worst possibility, it's hard not to make it worse.

    That's why the more one care about another, the easier misunderstandings arise, and the worse the time apart becomes.

    Lu XiaoFeng forced a small laughter out and said: "No matter what, at least she's alive. How could anyone sing so beautifully if there was a sabre up against her neck?"

    ***

    The song wasn't beautiful, because it was sang by Lu XiaoFeng.

    "Life should be tasted to the end, and not spent facing the moon alone."

    He banged his chopsticks against wine cup to keep the beat. Over and over again, he just kept on singing tose 2 lines over and over again.

    Lu XiaoFeng sings one line, Hua ManLou would drink one cup. Finally, he couldn't help it anymore and had to speak up: "It's not that I don't like your singing, but could you possibily sing something different?"

    "No." Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    "Why not?"

    "Because those are the only lines I know."

    Hua ManLou laughed. "You know, everyone else keep on saying that Lu XiaoFeng is a genius, one of the smartest and most intelligent men in the world; and that no matter what kind of kungfu, he would learn and master it in an instant." He observed. "But when it comes to singing, you are truly worse than a donkey."

    "If you don't like my singing, then how come you don't just start singing, huh?" Lu XiaoFeng rebutted.

    His whole point was to get Hua ManLou to laugh, to get Hua ManLou to sing. Because he had never seen Hua ManLou acting like this, and drinking like that.

    It wasn't good wine. Where do you go find good wine in a poor village on the mountainside at a time like this?

    But no matter what kind of wine it was, it had to be better than having no wine at all. Hua ManLou suddenly lifted his cup up in the air, downed its entire contents in one dramatic flair, and began to sing.

    What he sang was "Long Reminiscent," originally written by, Li Yu, the only emperor of the Southern Tang Dynasty as he was longing for his deceased wife Da ZhouHuo. So it had a sad, soft, romantic, and lonely feel to it.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly realized that Hua ManLou had really fallen in love with that mysterious and beautiful girl. He never said anything about it, but that was only because he was deeply in love. He was deeply in love, but that was only because he had never loved before.

    But what about ShangGuan FeiYan?

    Her movements were too mysterious, and her actions too inexplicable, that even Lu XiaoFeng couldn't figure out what was going on inside her heart; not to mention the entangled Hua ManLou.

    Suddenly, Lu XiaoFeng bursted out laughing. "My singing may be bad, but yours is even worse!" He said. "When I sing, I at least got you to laugh. But when you sing, I couldn't crack a smile even if I wanted to."

    "That's why I think it's best if we just stick to drinking. 'Today has wine, already drunk of today'."

    The 2 of them held up their cups. Just as the cups were about to touch, a voice said: "Is anyone here young master Lu XiaoFeng?"

    The night had grown old and everyone else had already gone. There shouldn't be anyone coming to this mountainside village, and definitely not anyone coming looking for Lu XiaoFeng.

    But a person did come, and he did come looking for Lu XiaoFeng.

    From his looks, he was probably a hunter. He had a bamboo basket in his hand. Inside the basket was a couple of roasted chickens.

    "Why are you looking for Lu XiaoFeng?" Lu XiaoFeng had to ask before answering his question.

    The hunter placed the bamboo basket on the table. "This is bought for young master Lu XiaoFeng by his dear aunt who instructed me to come here and deliever it to him to go with his wine." He explained.

    "My aunt?" Lu XiaoFeng uttered after being taken aback for a moment.

    "You are young master Lu XiaoFeng?" The hunter seemed rather taken aback as well.

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded. "But I'm not a young master, and I don't have an aunt."

    "Yes you do, without a doubt you do."

    "Why?"

    "If that person wasn't your aunt, then why would she spent 5 taels of silver to by these chickens and 5 more taels to make me deliever it here?" The hunter argued. "But it's just that... that...."

    "It's just what?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    "She told me that young master Lu XiaoFeng would have 4 eyebrows and that I would recognize him as soon as I saw him." The hunter answered while trying hard to fight off the urge to laugh. "But you seem to only have 2."

    Lu XiaoFeng tried to keep a straight face, but failed miserably and laughed. "Have you ever seen anyone with 4 eyebrows?"

    At this point the hunter began to laugh as well. "Precisely because I have never seen it before, that was the reason why I came." He replied. "I didn't come here just for those 5 taels of silver you know."

    "What kind of person is my aunt?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    "She's a little girl."

    "A little girl?!" Lu XiaoFeng almost shouted. "Can a person as old as me have a little girl for an aunt?"

    A forced smile appeared on the hunter's face. "At first, I didn't believe her either. But then she said that even though she wasn't very old, she has alot of seniority. She even said that she has a grand-nephew called Hua ManLou who is more than 50 years old."

    Lu XiaoFeng looked over at Hua ManLou. He wanted to laugh, but was too embarrased to laugh.

    But instead, Hua ManLou laughed: "That's right, I do have a great-aunt like that."

    Once again, the hunter was taken aback by the response: "You are Hua ManLou? You are 50 years old?"

    "I took good care of myself, that's why I look so young."

    "How did you do it?" The hunter couldn't help but ask. "Can I do it?"

    "Of course, it's quite easy really." Hua ManLou casually replied. "What I did was everyday, I would eat 50 earthworms, 20 geckos, and 2 kilograms of human."

    The hunter stared at him so hard that it looked like his eyeballs were about to pop out of their sockets. Suddenly, and without saying a word, he turned around and began to run, running like there was no tomorrow.

    Lu XiaoFeng couldn't hold it any longer and began to laugh very loudly.

    Hua ManLou laughed as well. "You are right," he said, "looks like when that little devil lies, she could even trick a dead person to come alive again."

    As he spoke, he half-heartedly pointed at the window to the left with his chopstick.

    Lu XiaoFeng took off, somersaulted in mid-air, and pushed open that window.

    A girl with 2 pigtails was hiding outside of the window silently laughing to herself.

    ShangGuan Xue-Er's eyes were still that big and she still seemed so good and honest. But she couldn't laugh anymore.

    Grabbing her by her pigtails, Lu XiaoFeng dragged her into the room. "This little devil here, just being my aunt isn't good enough, she had to go and become your great-aunt." He observed.

    Xue-Er pouted her lips a little and rebuked: "I was only playing around you know. Just because you can't stand being made fun of doesn't mean you should take it out on other people's pigtails."

    "Not to mention she did spend 10 taels of silver on you." Hua ManLou smiled. "Besides, these chickens aren't bad. Even if you aren't grateful, you should at least be somewhat polite."

    "Seems like only my grand-nephew still got a heart." Xue-Er casually added. "At least he is being fair and honest."

    Lu XiaoFeng burst out laughing: "So according to you the person with a heart is even lower than the person without a heart?"

    While he was laughing, he let Xue-Er's pigtails go. Just like a little fox, Xue-Er immediately scrambled through between his legs and ran.

    Unfortunately, she wasn't fast enough as Lu XiaoFeng grabbed her by her pigtails again and dragged her back like a little chicken. Forcing her to sit down on a chair, his face turned serious as he began: "I have to ask you a question, and it's best for you if you just answer me honestly, don't even think about lying."

    "I have never told a single lie before." Xue-Er blinked, looking as if she had just been greviously wronged.

    "That sentence right there is a lie."

    "If everything I say is an lie, then why do bother talking to me at all?" Getting mad, ShangGuan Xue-Er shouted back at him.

    Knowing that it would be very stupid to get into an argument with her, Lu XiaoFeng straightened up and asked: "Why are you following us all this time?"

    "I'm not following you guys to begin with. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't keep up."

    That sentence was actually true.

    "Then how did you find us?"

    "I knew you were going to come here for XiMen ChuiXue, so I just came straight here before you guys!"

    "You have been waiting here all this time?"

    "I have waited for an entire day now. Didn't even get to change my cloth or take a bath to clean myself. I stink. Don't believe me? Then come over here."

    Hua ManLou was laughing again. All Lu XiaoFeng could do was clear his throat a couple of times. "Why are you waiting for us?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    "Because I have a secret that I have to tell you."

    "What secret?"

    Xue-Er pouted her lips again, looking like she was about to cry again. She suddenly produced a very delicately made golden swallow from inside her shirt. "I found this in the garden that night?"

    Lu XiaoFeng took a good look at it but couldn't make anything out of it.

    "Before I was born, my dad gave it to my older sister." Xue-Er continued. "My sister treasured it, she had it placed on a gold chain necklace and wore it all the time. I tried to get her to let me wear it for a day or 2, but she would never even let me touch it. But now I find it just laying there on the ground."

    "Maybe she accidentally dropped it." Lu XiaoFeng suggested.

    Xue-Er shook her head feverishly: "Never, not possible. This had to have been dropped by someone while they were trying to hide her body."

    There were tears in her eyes, she looked very distressed, even her voice began to crack.

    "Do you really think that your sister is dead?"

    Xue-Er bite her lip and nodded with conviction. "Not only do I know that she's dead," she said in a raspy voice. "I know who killed her."

    "Who?"

    "That b1tch cousin of mine." Xue-Er bitterly replied.

    "ShangGuan DanFeng?"

    "Yes, her! Not only did she kill my sister, she also killed Xiao QiuYu, DuGu Fang, and Liu YuHen!"

    "All 3 of them were killed by her?"

    Xue-Er nodded. "I saw it with my own eyes. She was in this hotel room with Liu YuHen just talking. Then suddenly she let loose her Flying Pheonix Needles and killed Liu YuHen. She even hid him under the bed."

    "To think, he wanted to die so bad, and yet he died just like that." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Flying Pheonix Needles are her best weapon. They clog up as soon as it meets blood and the poison is fatal. My sister was probably killed by them as well. But where did she hid my sister's body?" Tears rolled down her cheeks as she continued.

    "What you said is completely logical and very sensible, as if it was all true." Lu XiaoFeng sighed again. "Too bad I still don't believe it one bit."

    This time Xue-Er didn't even get mad, she just kept on crying. "I knew you wouldn't believe me, you... you... you are completely messed up over her."

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at her, his conviction were beginning to shake a little. So he couldn't help but ask: "She's also your older sister's cousin, why would she kill your sister?"

    "Who knows why?" Grinding her teeth, Xue-Er replied. "Maybe because she had always hated my sister for being smarter and prettier."

    "Then what about Liu YuHen? Hasn't he been completely loyal towards her? Why would she kill Liu YuHen?"

    "She is more vile than the vilest of snakes, if she could find it in herself to kill a person like my older sister." Xue-Er bitterly replied. "Then is there a person that she can't kill?"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed: "I know you hate her, but...."

    "You think I hate her because I'm jealous of you and her?" ShangGuan Xue-Er suddenly interrupted him with a cold snicker. "She might seem very nice to me, but she's been bullying me around from behind ever since we were little.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly interrupted her: "She's only 19, but you are 20. How could she have bully you around?"

    Xue-Er couldn't answer.

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't have the heart, so he added in a gentle voice: "If you are really worried about your older sister, you can rest easy at least for now. Because I know for a fact that she hasn't died."

    Xue-Er bit her lips and replied: "But I really did saw it with my own eyes from outside when she killed Liu YuHen. I...."

    She suddenly stopped, her entire body froze.

    The Liu YuHen that had been killed and shoved under the bed by ShangGuan DanFeng had suddenly appeared.

    The night fog was bleak and desolate, the moon was hazy and dim. Liu YuHen was just walking out from underneath this hazy and dim moonlight and into this little wine shop.

    His ghastly face was even more indescribably horrific when seen under this moonlight.

    But his expression was very peaceful and his voice very soft. "You have had enough fun out here? Go back with me." He said, looking at Xue-Er. "His Majesty is waiting for me to take you back."

    Xue-Er's eyes were almost popping out. "You... you are not dead?" She stuttered.

    A look of sadness shot through Liu YuHen's eyes as he answered heavily: "Sometimes, dying isn't an easy thing."

    "And my older cousin?"

    "She's hoping that you would go back as soon as possible as well. You are young, wait until you get a little older, then it's still not too late to come out and have some fun. Take your older sister for example, she goes where she wants to when she wants to, and nobody has a problem with that."

    Xue-Er looked at him, as if she was frightened. Suddenly, she grabbed Lu XiaoFeng. "Please don't let him take me back!" She screamed. "Please let me follow you around, I'll be good!"

    "That will have to wait until you grow up a bit too." Liu YuHen said. "You are still a kid. There are some serious things that adults have to do, how can you just tag along?"

    Outside, a horse neighed. A horse carriage was outside, the very same one that Lu XiaoFeng and rode on.

    "Just take a nap in the carriage." Liu YuHen continued. "Then you'll be home before you know it."

    ShangGuan Xue-Er finally left, left without even turning around to look back.

    Looking at her getting on her carriage, seeing how pitiful she looked, Lu XiaoFeng couldn't help but sigh again. "You are such a cute and lovable girl, why do you lie so much?"

    Hua ManLou had been quietly sitting there all this time, but now he suddenly spoke up: "Everyone who lies have a reason for it. Some people lie to trick others, some people lie to tirck themselves."

    He sighed and continued: "And the most vulnerable ones are those would lie only to get affections from others, to get others to notice her."

    "Is it because she's never had much affection and love from others?"

    "Yes."

    "You are right." With a forced smile on his face, Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "Some people should people should be forgiven even though they have done bad things. Maybe I should have started to think for them much earlier th...."

    He wasn't quite finished when he noticed that Liu YuHen had suddenly reappeared at the door. "Xue-Er has a message she would like for me to give you." He said slowly.

    Lu XiaoFeng waited for the message. He suddenly noticed that in this man's horrifying eyes there appeared what seemed to be a hint of a warm smile. "She said that she forgot to tell you, that when you shave your mustache, you look much younger and much more handsome than when you had your mustache."

    ***

    Lu XiaoFeng felt the stubbles just below his nose with the tip of his fingers. He had been feeling them with his finger the entire trip from YanBei to ShanXi. It was as if the mustache just couldn't grow fast enough for him.

    "You know that I have never been saddened by the fact that I can't see." Hua ManLou was smiling from ear to ear. "But at this moment I really wish I could see how you look without that mustache."

    "Very young and very handsome."

    "Then how come you kept the mustache all this time?"

    "Because I'm afrad that every girl would die from being too enthralled by me."

    "You seemed to have quite a temper these last couple of days." Hua ManLou was still smiling. "Are you mad at yourself?"

    "Why would I be mad at myself?" Lu XiaoFeng coldly replied.

    "Because you feel that you have wronged that vulnerable, lovable, and lying little girl. And you are worried that she might be bullied and mistreated once she gets back."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly stood up. But before he could leave, someone came with an invitation.

    "Respectfully prepared food and spirits, for guest to wash off the dust of travel, would be honored with presence."

    The invitation was signed: "Huo TianQing."

    Simple sentences, written very neatly and straight. And the ink was very thick, so that every letter jutted out ever so slightly. Even those who couldn't see could use his fingers to read the invitation.

    "Looks like this Warden Huo is a very thorough and attentive person." Hua ManLou observed with a smile.

    "Not just attentive." Lu XiaoFeng casually.

    The person who delievered the invitation was a very clever looking kid. He stood outside of the door and bowed respectfully. "Warden Huo instructed that if the honored guests would be willing to attend the little banquet. Then I, humbly, would have to get a carriage ready and wait here, so as to take the guests to Diamond Pavillion. Warden Huo is already waiting there for sirs to grace us with their presence."

    "How did he know that I'm here?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    The kid laughed a little and replied: "No matter big or small, there's not much that goes on within 400 kilometer of here that Warden Huo doesn't know about."
    Last edited by foxs; 03-25-14 at 09:07 AM.

  8. #8
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6 - Swords Unsheathed and People Dead

    The feast was placed inside a pavilion in the middle of the water. The surroundings seemed to have been dyed a deep shade of green because of the lotus that grew in the pond, but the railings of the pavilion were painted bright red.

    The pearl-guazed curtains were raised. The wind carried with it the faint and pure fragrance of newly bloomed lotus.

    It was already April.

    Hua ManLou was slowly and quietly taking this kind of special pointless extravagance that only the richest of the rich had. Of course, he didn't see what Huo TianQing looked like, but he had already found out what kind of person he was by listening to his voice.

    Huo TianQing's voice was low but forceful with a gentle slowness and warmth. When he talked, not only did he wanted everyone to listen to him, but he wanted them to hear him clearly.

    That meant that he was a very confident and decisive man, whatever he did he would always have his own reasons. Even though he's a very arrogant, he worried about other people thinking he was arrogant.

    Hua ManLou didn't dislike this person, just like how Huo TianQing didn't dislike him as well.

    There were 2 other guests as well. One was Yan family's live in guest Su ShaoYing, the other was the Head Escort of the Allied Escort, "Dragon Among the Clouds" Ma XingKong.

    Ma XingKong had been famous in the martial world quite some time ago. Not only was his kungfu very good, he wasn't the type of person who would seek fame and acclaim either. So Hua ManLou couldn't help but be puzzled when he felt an indescribable hint of brown nosing in his voice whenever he talked to Huo TianQing.

    Someone like him, a person who made a name for himself through his own accomplishment, should not be acting like this.

    On the other hand, Su ShaoYing was very relaxed and smooth, there was no fakeness in his voice. Huo TianQing took special care to introduce him as a person of great knowledge, but from his voice, he sounded very young.

    Between host and guests, there were only 5 of them. This was Hua ManLou's favorite style of hosting guests, it shows that not only is the host meticulous but also very understanding of his guests.

    However, neither wine nor food had been served up yet. Even though Hua ManLou wasn't getting impatient, he had to feel a bit awkward.

    There weren't many laterns in the pavilion, but it was bright as day. That was because in the middle of the walls were hang 4 bright pearls, which reflected the light of the few laterns that shone onto it with a very soft glow, making the lighting in the room unspeakably pleasing to the eye.

    Su ShaoYing was making small talk about the raunchy actions of the Later Emperor of Southern Tang: "When he was with Consort Little Zhuo, he would never light laterns. For it was written in books that when Queen Jiang JuoLi would see light in the night, she would close her eyes and say: 'Smoke, means candles are burning, when one's eyes are closed, the smell of smoke is even more evident.' She knew what he was doing whenever she smelled smoke. Someone asked her once how she was so sure that it wasn't the smoke from one the candles of her own place in the palace. She replied: 'This pavilion hangs a huge pearl up onto the ceiling at night, which would light the room as bright as midday.'"

    "The Emperor's lust was a little too overboard," Huo TianQing commented with a smile. "That's why it was a mere matter of time before the Southern Tang collapsed."

    "But he was merely a affectionate man, his utter compassion was absolutely unmatched," Su ShaoYing replied.

    "Compassionate and affectionate men just aren't fit to be Emperors," Huo TianQing casually replied.

    "But if he had a person like Master Huo as Chancelor, maybe Southern Tang wouldn't have been destroyed," Ma XingKong added with a smile.

    "If only Li Ying was born a couple hundred years later," Lu XiaoFeng suddenly sighed, "or else if he was here he would undoubtly be even more anxious than I am for the wine to get here."

    Hua ManLou laughed.

    Huo TianQing couldn't help but laugh as well: "The wine and food had all been ready, it's just that when the Big Boss heard that Lu XiaoFeng and Hua ManLou were the guests today, he had to come and join in on the fun."

    "We are waiting for him?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    "If you are feeling a bit impatient, we could order some small eats to get ready for the wine?" Huo TiaQing offered.

    "Waiting a little longer won't be a big deal. It's so rare for Big Boss to be in such a merry mood, we shouldn't do anything to bring him down," Ma XingKong immediately replied.

    "Ay don't want to brin' ya guys down either! Quick, brin' some wine!" A voice suddenly came from outside the pavilion.

    A person walked in laughing, his laugh was sharp and delicate.... His face was white and chubby with skin soft like a young maiden's. Only the huge, beak-like nose on his face looked masculine.

    Hua ManLou pondered: "This man was the Warden of the Treasury for the Golden Roc Empire, could he be a eunuch?"

    "How do you do boss?" Ma XingKong had already stood up and greeted him.

    But Yan TieShan didn't even look at him as he grabbed a hold of Lu XiaoFeng's hand and sized him up over and over again. He suddenly burst out in laughter: "Haha! Ya still look the same. Ya haven't changed a bit from the last time Ay met ya at on top of the Sun-Watch Peak at TaiShan. But how come ya only got 2 eye brows now?"

    He spoke with a slight ShanXi accent, as if he was afraid that others might not think that he was from ShanXi.

    Lu XiaoFeng's eyes flashed as he smiled: "Ay couldn't pay for the wine Ay drank, so the wife of the owner of the wine shop shaved my mustache off to make a face powderer for herself."

    That sent Yan TieShan into another fit of laughter. "His Grandma's! That there woman must've loved the way yar mustache brushed against her face!" He turned around and patted Hua ManLou on his shoulder. "And you must be Hua's 7th boy! A couple of yar brothers have been here before. The 3rd and 5th boys could hold their wine quite well."

    "The 7th boy could drink a bit as well," Hua ManLou said with a smile.

    "Alright!" Yan TieShan clapped his hands together in anticipation. "Great! Go and get those jugs of wine underneath my bed. The one that don't get drunk tonight is his grandma's little niece!"

    ShanXi eats were especially spicy, and into the dishes that were served up were added some extra pepper powders.

    Using the chopsticks in his white and tender hand, Yan TieShan kept on putting food into Lu XiaoFeng's bowl nonstop. "This here is us ShanXi's famed dish. Although it's nothin' to shout about, ya just can't his grandma's get this anywhere else."

    "So is Big Boss from ShanXi?" Lu XiaoFeng inquired.

    "Ay was born and raised a commoner. All these years, Ay've been to TaiShan jus that one time, to watch his grandma's sunrise. But no matter how Ay look at it, it looks just like a huge egg yolk to me. Borin' as hell that was." Yan TieShan laughed and said.

    He kept on saying "his grandma's" here and there, as if he was trying to make sure that everyone knew that he was a real man's man, a real coarse and crude man.

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed as well. Smiling, he brought the cup up to his lip and suddenly asked: "I wonder where Warden Yan was from?"

    "Warden Huo," Ma XingKong immediately corrected him, "not Warden Yan."

    "I'm not talking about Warden Huo of Pearl and Diamond Pavilion," Lu XiaoFeng casually replied. "I'm talking about Yan LiBen, the Warden of the Treasury of the defunct Golden Roc Empire."

    Unblinking, he stared at Yan TieShan's face and, one word at a time, said: "I'm sure that Big Boss must know of this man."

    Yan TieShan's white, smooth, and soft face suddenly tensed up like a rubber band. Even that smile became awkwardly stiff.

    He was a man who looked the same no matter what his mood may be. But what Lu XiaoFeng just said seemed act like a whip, a whip the whipped open an age old scar, a fatal wound that started to bleed again.

    "If Big Boss know this man," Lu XiaoFeng's eyes shone as he slowly continued, "then could you please inform him that, regarding that several decade old debt of his, someone is here to collect it."

    "Warden Huo!" Yan TieShan suddenly shouted, his face still very tense.

    "Sir?" Huo TianQing had not moved one bit.

    "Mr. Hua and Mr. Lu do not wish to stay here any longer. Please prepare a horse carriage for them and see them off, they want to leave right now!" Yan TieShan coldly said.

    Not waiting for a response, he flicked his sleeve at their direction and began walking towards the exit.

    But before he could reach the exit, there was already someone outside blocking his way. "They don't wish to leave, and you better stay here as well," a cold voice said.

    That person was standing tall and straight, everything he was wearing was white like snow. But the sword that hung off his belt was black; ebony black, slender, and ancient.

    "How dare you disrespect me so?" Yan TieShan's eyes bugged out as he demanded. "Who the hell are you?"

    "XiMen ChuiXue."

    XiMen ChuiXue, the name itself was like a blade, cold, heartless, and sharp.

    Even Yan TieShan had to involuntarily take 2 steps back. "Guards!" He suddenly shouted.

    Other than the 2 little small kids that were pouring wine and that green clothed servant who comes in once in a while to bring up the dishes, the pavilion was completely silent, not even a hint of a person could be detected.

    But as soon as Big Boss Yan shouted his command, 5 people immediately flew in through the windows. Their movements were extremely fast and their weapons were glistening, a ringed sword, a feathered sabre, a whip spear, a pair of chicken talons, and two separate iron nunchuks.

    All 5 were very delicatedly crafted unusual weapons, whoever could wield any of these types of weapons was undoubtedly a martial arts master.

    But XiMen ChuiXue didn't even look at them. "Once my sword is unsheathed, it will kill." He coldly declared. "Are you really going to force me to pull out my sword."

    Of the 5, two of them were already looking very green. But there are people who aren't afraid to die everywhere.

    Suddenly the wind began to howl as the feathered sabre became a wall of sabres that flew towards XiMen ChuiXue.

    The nunchuks turned into a fierce tornado as they came sweeping across XiMen ChuiXue's knees.

    One weapn was hard and furious while the other was quick and light, but both were formidable and they worked in perfected unison. After all, the 2 of them do practice together all the time.

    XiMen ChuiXue's pupils suddenly constricted, at that precise moment, his sword was unsheathed.

    Huo TianQing did not move, instead he just quietly stared at Lu XiaoFeng. If Lu XiaoFeng didn't move, then he would not move either.

    But Ma XingKong had already stood up. "Warden Huo invited you people here as guests, how dare you cause trouble here?" He shouted viciously.

    As he was shouting, his hand went down to his waist and came back up with a fish scaled golden coiled dragon cane. With a flick, it was stuck straight out as it shot toward Hua ManLou's throat.

    He knew that Hua ManLou was blind and figured that it was easier to bully a blind person.

    Nevertheless, this coiled dragon cane of his was very different. After the cane was thrusted out, the coiled dragon that was carved onto the stick's mouth suddenly snapped open and, with a audible "deng", a thin but sharp blade sprung out from inside.

    Hua ManLou sat there, peacefully waiting. Suddenly, he lifted up his hand and caught the sword between his index finger and middle finger. Another "deng"! The refined iron sword that a blacksmith spent months crafting snapped in 3.

    Ma XingKong's face changed colors as he immediately flicked his wrist, making the coiled dragon cane whirling around in an attempt to attack both of Hua ManLou's ears.

    Hua ManLou sighed as he twirled his sleeves like a storm cloud as it wrapped around the cane. He then gently pulled.

    Ma XingKong fell on top of the table, smashing it, causing the plates on there to fly off wildly. Hua ManLou gave a light push and sent him flying straight through the window and into lotus pond that surrounded the pavilion.

    "Excellent display!" Su ShaoYing involuntarily uttered.

    "It's not that I'm good, it's he's not that good." Hua ManLou casually replied. "Compare to the way his martial arts was, he has at most 50 percent of his skills and strength left. Did he suffer some severe internal injury?"

    "Excellent analysis. Three years ago he was on the receiving end of one of Warden Huo's air splitting palms." Su ShaoYing replied.

    "No wonder," Hua ManLou sighed.

    He finally understood why Ma XingKong acted like such a shameless brown noser. If a person like him, who made a living from fighting, lost most of his kungfu skills, then he must find someone for protection. And it didn't get much better than having Pearl and Diamond Pavilion as protection.

    Su ShaoYing suddenly spoke up: "Excuse me, but I wish to try out Mr. Hua's amazing skills. En guarde!"

    As he finished his sentence, he suddenly slashed out with the chopstick he had in his hand.

    This cultured and refined young gentry was actually able to use the chopstick as sword and perform orthodoxed sword styles. In a blink of an eye, he had already made 7 moves at Hua ManLou.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not move, instead he just quietly stared at Huo TiaQing. If Huo TianQing didn't move, then he would not move either.

    There were already three people on the floor who would never move again. The feathered sabre were stuck on the window-sill, the nunchuks had already flown out of the window, and the whip spear had been snapped into 4 pieces.

    When the sword was first drawn, there was still blood on the tip of the sword.

    XiMen ChuiXue gently blew onto his sword, making the red blood drip off the tip one drop at a time.

    {ChuiXue sounds exactly the same as blowing blood in Chinese}

    Even though his face was still expressionless, those stone cold eyes of his were flashing as they coldy stared at Yan TieShan.

    "You should be fighting yourself," he said, coldly. "Why did you have to send others to their death?"

    "Because I have bought their lives a long time ago!" Yan TieShan replied with a condescending snicker.

    He made a gesture with his hand and 6 more people appeared inside the pavilion. His eyes were moving, as if he was searching for a escape route.

    He wasn't speaking with a ShanXi accent anymore, nor was he cursing left and right about somebody's grandmother anymore. But his voice had became sharp and piercing, every word out of his mouth were like needles, needles that stabbed at other people's ear drums.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly laughed: "So it turns out that Big Boss is a master possessing of tremendous internal strength."

    "His kungfu is probably better than everyone here." Huo TianQing casually replied.

    "It's a shame that it doesn't matter how great of a martial master he is."

    "Why not?"

    "Because he has a fatal weakness."

    "Which is?"

    "He's afraid to die!"

    Su ShaoYing had just moved on into the second set of 7 interconnected sword moves. The moves were fast, dynamic, and ingenius, never leaving the vicinity of Hua ManLou's face.

    Hua ManLou was still sitting there, with a chopstick in his hand as well. With only a simple flick or twirl, he would, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, casually counter every one of Su ShaoYing's pressing moves.

    After the second set of 7 sword moves, Su ShaoYing suddenly stopped. He suddenly discovered that it was as if this ever smiling blind man knew more about his own sword style than himself.

    Every time he made a move, it was almost as if his opponent knew that this move was coming a long time ago. "Are you, sir, a disciple of E'Mei as well?" He had to ask.

    Hua ManLou gently shook his head and smiled. "To you guys, every sword style of every sect in the world use different moves and strategies. But to a blind man, all the moves in the world are the same."

    This is the most profound principle in martial arts. Su ShaoYing sort of understood, but yet did not at the same time. He wanted to probe further, but couldn't figure out how or what to ask.

    "Are you, sir, one of the 7 Swords of E'Mei?" It was Hua ManLou who asked the next question.

    Su ShaoYin hesitated before finally answering: "I am the Second Su among the 7 Swords."

    "So he's a student of the sword as well?" XiMen ChuiXue suddenly, and coldy, interrupted. "Why aren't you challenging me?"

    Su ShaoYing's face went pale. "Crack"! The chopstick in his hand was snapped in two.

    "It's been said that E'Mei's sword skills are the best in all the land," XiMen ChuiXue snickered, "can it be that it is actually not worthy of such a lofty of a status?"

    Gritting his teeth, Su ShaoYing suddenly snapped around, just in time to see the last drop of blood drip off the tip of XiMen ChuiXue's sword.

    Lu XiaoFeng and Huo TianQing were still quietly sitting there, staring at each other, as if they were waiting for the other to make the first move.

    But there were 7 men on the ground who would never move again. Of the 7, every one of them was a first rate martial arts master. But all of them were instantly stabbed through the throat by XiMen ChuiXue's sword.

    Yan TieShan's eyes began to twitch. Only now could one tell that age had taken its toll on him.

    But he felt no sadness or sympathy for these people who died for him.

    He was still here only because the perfect opportunity has yet to present itself and he still didn't have to get out of here.

    The 4 men who could still move had lost their courage to make another move. Seeing Su ShaoYing making his way over, they immediately got out of his way.

    Su ShaoYing's steps were steady, but his face was without the slightest hint of color.

    "What sword do you use?" coldly, XiMen ChuiXue asked, coldly staring at him.

    "As long as it kills, I can use it," Su ShaoYing snickered back and replied.

    "Good, there are swords on the ground, pick on."

    There were 2 swords on the ground, lying in the puddles of blood.

    One sword was skinny and long while the other was thick and heavy. Su ShaoYing paused for a moment before flicking a sword into the air with the tip of his shoes. The sword landed perfectly into his hand.

    E'Mei Sect's sword skills are famous for their quickness and flexibility, but instead he picked the heavier sword. This young man actually was planning on using his own strength of youth along with aggressive and fierce moves to counter XiMen ChuiXue's lightning fast and equally deadly way of fighting.

    This choice should have been the correct one. DuGu YiHe's disciples all possessed superb judgement skills.

    But this time he was wrong, he should not have picked any sword at all.

    XiMen ChuiXue gazed at him. "Twenty years from now, your sword skills would amount to something," said XiMen ChuiXue.

    "Oh?" Su ShaoYing replied.

    "So I don't want to kill you right now. Twenty years from now, come and find me."

    "Twenty years is too long of a wait!" Su ShaoYing suddenly shouted. "I can't wait that long!"

    He was still a hot-blooded young man. Feeling a rush a blood to his face, he continuouly attacked with the sword in his hand. The sword moves carried with it hints of the intense big slashing movements of sabre skills.

    This was DuGu YiHe's creation, Sabre-Sword Twin Kill, consisting of 49 moves and stances. When he joined E'Mei Sect, he had already possessed astounding skills in sabres due to 30 years or so of hard work. He was able to inject the fierceness and intensity of sabre skills into the famous agile and dynamic sword skill of E'Mei Sect.

    These 49 moves that he created could be used with a sabre or a sword. There was nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

    Even Lu XiaoFeng had not seen this skill before.

    XiMen ChuiXue's eyes lit up even more. To him, seeing a new and different skill for the first time was like a kid finding a new and different toy, there was a indescribable joy and wonderment.

    He waited until Su ShaoYing had made 21 moves before he finally made a move.

    Because he had already discovered the weak point of the skill, it might have been only a little bit of a weakness, but a little bit of weakness was enough.

    His sword flashed. With just one move, his sword penetrated Su ShaoYing's throat.

    The sword tip still carried blood. XiMen ChuiXue gently blew the blood off of the tip of his sword.

    He gazed at the blade, his eyes suddenly filled with loneliness and solitude. He suddenly sighed: "Why must all of the best of the young men like you seek death like so? In twenty years, where would you have me go to find a worthy opponent?"

    If those words had come from anyone else, it would have undoubtedly seem a bit nauseating. But when the words came from him, it carried with an unspeakable sadness and loneliness.

    "If that's the case, then why did you kill him?" Hua ManLou suddenly asked.

    "Because the only type of sword moves I know is the killing kind," XiMen ChuiXue answered with a heavy face.

    Hua ManLou sighed, for he knew that this man was telling the truth. Every move this man makes was final and for the kill, no compromises, no room for retreat.

    "Either you die, or I die!" Every time his sword is thrusted out, there was never any choice left for his opponent, there wasn't even any choice left for himself.

    A breeze blew in from outside of the pavilion, carrying with it the refreshing fragrance of the lotus, but it could not cover the stinking smell of blood.

    XiMen ChuiXue suddenly turned toward Yan TieShan. "If you don't leave I won't attack, if you move, you die!" He coldly declared.

    "Why must I leave?" Yan TieShan actually smiled. "I don't know why you guys are doing this."

    "You should," sighed Lu XiaoFeng.

    "But I don't."

    "How about Yan LiBen? Does he know?"

    Yan TieShan's eyes began to twitch again. On his white and chubby face there suddenly appeared a strange look of horror. He looked as if he suddenly aged tremendously. Only after a long time did he finally let out a sigh and mumble: "Yan LiBen died a long time ago, why are you guys still looking for him?"

    "It's not us who wants to find him," Lu XiaoFeng answered.

    "Then who?"

    "The Golden Roc Emperor."

    Upon hearing the name, Yan TieShan's already strange looking face suddenly became even more horrifying. His body suddenly began to spin like a spin-top as the inside of the pavilion suddenly lit up with a flash.

    Along with the flash, scores of silk strand needles suddenly shot out like water droplets during a thunderstorm, shooting towards XiMen ChuiXue, Hua ManLou, and Lu XiaoFeng.

    At that moment, an aura of sword shot through the flash of light.

    The aura was freezing cold and sounded like wind blowing through a bamboo woods. The aura and the flash suddenly all disappeared, in their place was scores of pearls that were falling out of the sky, every pearl had been cut in half.

    Such fast of a sword. But Yan TieShan was gone.

    Lu XiaoFeng was gone as well.

    On top of the lotus pond outside, in the distance, there seemed to be the shape of a person whose toe gently landed on top of a lotus leaf before taking off again.

    There were 2 of them, but the two of them seemed to be stuck together with the trailing person practically being the leading person's shadow.

    The shape flickered and suddenly disappeared. But the sounds of clothing flopping in the wind could be heard from inside the pavilion.

    Then Yan TieShan suddenly reappeared.

    Lu XiaoFeng reappeared as well, still sitting in his old chair, as if he had never left.

    Yan TieShan was also standing where he just was, but he was leaning up against the wall, trying to catch his breath. In the last few moments, he seemed to have aged alot again.

    When he first walked into the pavilion, he was a spirited middle-aged man. His face was clean and smooth, without a hint of a beard. But now, anyone could tell that he was an 80 year old man.

    His face slooped down and his eyes were several shades darker. Catching his breath, he conceded: "I'm getting... getting old."

    Lu XiaoFeng gazed at him and couldn't help but sigh as well.

    "You really are getting old."

    "Why must you do this to an old man?"

    "Because this old man owed somebody something, no matter how old he is, he has to repay it."

    "I repay every debt I owed, but since when did I owe anybody anything?"

    "Maybe you didn't but what about Yan LiBen?"

    Yan TieShan's face twitched again as he savagely shouted: "That's right! I am Yan LiBen! That man eating Warden Yan. But ever since I got here, I...."

    He suddenly stopped, that twitching face of his suddenly and miraculously became peaceful.

    Then everyone saw a rush of blood gushing out of his chest, just like a vibrant flower suddenly blooming.

    After the initial explosion of blood, the flow was dwindled, only then did the sword stuck in his chest become visible.

    He looked down and saw the glistening tip of the sword, he looked surprised and bewildered.

    But he still hadn't die yet, his chest was still moving up and down, just like an accordion.

    Huo TianQing's face turned stone cold as he stood up and demanded: "Who did it? Who did it!"

    "I did it!" A clear and bell like voice answered as, looking like a swallow, a person flew in through the window. Her clothing clung to her body like a black shark's skin because they were soaked with water.

    Such a slender body, with water still dripping off of it. Obviously she had just came out from inside the lotus pond outside.

    Yan TieShan forced his eyes open and, shocked to see her, summoned up all the strength in his body to say 3 words.

    "Who are you?"

    She took off the towel covering head, letting a head of soft, jet black hair drape down on her shoulders.

    It made her face more pale, more beautiful.

    But her eyes, the very ones that were staring at Yan TieShan, were filled with hatred.

    "I am Princess DanFeng of the Golden Roc Empire. I am the one that want to find you to repay that old debt," she replied viciously.

    Yan TieShan looked at her in shock. Suddenly, his eyes bulged out and his body snapped straight, never to move again. In that pair of bulged out eyes, there was a strange yet indiscernable expression. Was it shock? Was it rage? Or was it terror?

    He didn't fall down, because the sword was still in his chest.

    The sword was cold, the blood was cold as well.

    Princess DanFeng finally, slowly, turned around. The rage and hatred on her face had turned to sadness.

    She was just about to address Lu XiaoFeng when XiMen ChuiXue suddenly spoke up: "You use sword too?"

    Princess DanFeng was taken aback for a moment before finally nodding.

    "From this day forth, if you ever use sword again, I will kill you!"

    Obviously shocked, Princess DanFeng instinctively asked: "Why?"

    "Swords aren't used to kill from behind. If you kill from behind, then you are not worthy or wielding a sword."

    He suddenly threw his hand up. "Bang"! The tip of his sword hit the tip of the sword in Yan TieShan's chest.

    Yan TieShan's body fell down to the floor, and the sword in his chest was knocked into the lotus pond.

    XiMen ChuiXue was already outside of the pavilion. Lifting that still blood-stained sword up to his face, he casually shook his hand. The sword suddenly broke into 6 pieces and fell onto the ground.

    Another breeze blew by, the night fog began to appear on the lotus pond, and he had suddenly disappeared within the fog.

    Huo TianQing sat back down, not moving a muscle. His face was like a stone-colored mask.

    But Lu XiaoFeng knew all too well that no expression is often saddest expression of all.

    "Yan TieShan is a traitor of the Golden Roc Empire, so this matter wasn't just a personal matter. It's not something that outsiders should meddle with," Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "I know," nodded Huo TianQing.

    "So you shouldn't blame yourself."

    Huo TianQing was quiet for a long time. Suddenly, he looked up: "But it was I who invited you here."

    "Yes."

    "If you had not come, at least Yan TieShan wouldn't be dead at this moment."

    "What are you saying?"

    "I'm not saying anything," Huo TianQing coldly replied. "Just that I want to see the lightness kungfu of the Twin Pheonix Winged Lu XiaoFeng and that legendary "Idea in Heart" skill of yours."

    "Must you fight with me?" Lu XiaoFeng forced a smile.

    "Yes."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed. Princess DanFeng suddenly charged up to him and shouted: "Why do you fight him? You should fighting me!"

    "You?"

    "I'm the one who killed Yan TieShan, killed him from behind. Why don't you try and see if killing people from behing is the only thing I know!" She sneered at him.

    She had just been scolded by XiMen ChuiXue, and all that pent up frustration had to be released somewhere, and that somewhere was Huo TianQing.

    Huo TianQing looked at her and softly replied: "Whatever Yan TieShan owes you, I'll pay for it. You can leave now."

    "Are you not brave enough to fight me?"

    "It's not that I don't dare to, it's that I don't care to."

    "Why?"

    "Because you have no chance against me," Huo TianQing casually replied.

    Princess DanFeng's face was flushed crimson with fury as she suddenly thrust out 2 of her soft and delicate fingers and actually tried to poke Huo TianQing's eyes out.

    Even though her fingers were soft like new sprouts, her move was extremely malicaious and evil, not to mention fast as well.

    Huo TianQing's shoulders didn't move, neither did his arms, but his body suddenly move back 20 meters. Picking up Yan TieShan's body, he declared: "Lu XiaoFeng, I'll be waiting for you at sunrise at Green Wind Outlook."

    Before he even finished his sentence, he was already outside of the pavilion.

    Princess DanFeng bit her lips and stumped her foot. She was so mad that she was about cry.

    But Lu XiaoFeng suddenly broke out into a smile: "If you had used your Flying Pheonix Needles, maybe he wouldn't have gotten away."

    "Flying Pheonix Needles? What are you talking about?" Princess DanFeng was confused.

    "Your own secret projectile weapon, Flying Pheonix Needles."

    Princess DanFeng stared at him for a long time before letting out a snicker: "Turns out that not only can I kill people from behind, I could kill with projectiles as well."

    "Projectiles are still weapons. There's alot of good people in the martial world who uses that kind of weapon."

    "But I have never used them before, I have never even heard those words, 'Flying Pheonix Needles,' before."

    This reply didn't seem to surprise Lu XiaoFeng, the only reason he asked this was to make sure that the little devil was lying him again.

    But Princess DanFeng was so upset that her rims of her eyes were red. "I know that you are mad at me, that's why you made up all that stuff to mess with me," she said, biting her lips.

    "Why would I be mad at you?"

    "Because you believe that I shouldn't have come, and really shouldn't have killed Yan TieShan." She looked as if she was being wronged as her eyes filled with tears, she continued forcefully. "Because you would never understand how much suffering he had cuased our family. If he hadn't betrayed us, we could have had the chance to revive our empire and avenge my grandfather. But now... now...."

    She didn't finish, she was unable to hold her tears back anymore. Her face was covered in tears.

    There was nothing that Lu XiaoFeng could have said.

    Who said that tears aren't a female's most effective weapon? Especially a beautiful woman, for her tears are truly more precious than the most precious of pearls.

  9. #9
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 7

    Chapter 7 - Master and Sect

    Waxing moonlight. Dawn's still more than 6 hours away.

    Lu XiaoFeng had already return to the inn he was staying at and ordered a table of fine wine and food.

    "No matter what," he laughed, "I can at least still eat and drink all I want one more time."

    "You should get some sleep." Hua ManLou adviced.

    "If you were going to duel with someone like Huo TianQing at sunrise, could you sleep?"

    "No, I couldn't."

    "You know what's the best thing about you?" Lu XiaoFeng laughed. "You never ever lie. Shame that sometimes you sound like such a liar when you tell the truth."

    "I wouldn't be able to sleep, but only because I wouldn't understand him at all!"

    "He really is quite an enigmatic man."

    "How long have you known him?"

    "About 4 years. Four years ago when Yan TieShan went to TaiShan to watch the sunrise, he went along as well. Athief and I just happened to set that date and place to meet up at the top of TaiShan to see who could do more somersaults."

    "How well do you know him?"

    "Not much."

    "You said that despite his young age, he has great seniority!"

    "Have you ever heard of Heaven Pine, Cloud Crane, the Two Elders of ShangShan?"

    "The Two Elders of ShangShan has long been considered the North Star of the martial world. Even if I was deaf, I would have heard of his name."

    "Well, I heard that he is their little martial brother."

    Hua ManLou's expression changed visibly.

    "If the 2 of them were alive today, they would probably be around 70 or 80 years of age. Huo TianQing is at most not yet 30. How could there be such a huge gap in the age of martial brothers?"

    "There have been husband and wives who were 40 or 50 years apart in age, much less martial brothers...."

    "So that's why even a man who has been famous for 40 years like Shan XiYan could only be his martial nephew."

    "That's right."

    "Back then Heaven Hunter Elder was famous throughout the world, but he only took the Two Elders of ShangShan as his disciples. How did a Huo TianQing suddenly come out of nowhere?"

    "The Hua family only had 6 kids," Lu XiaoFeng smiled and shot back, "so how did you suddenly come out of nowhere?"

    Parents have kids, masters take in disciples, this kind of thing just isn't anybody else's business.

    But a look of concern had shown up on Hua ManLou's face.

    "I have never met Shan XiYan before. But I know that his lightness kungfu and his palm technique are known as 2 of the wonders of the martial world. Don't know how well Huo TianQing compares to him."

    "I have never seen Huo TianQing fight either. But seeing how he was able to pull off a skill like Swallow Thrice Stir Water while holding onto a heavy guy like Yan TieShan, I would say that there's not that many people in the world that is better than him."

    "How about you?"

    Lu XiaoFeng didn't answer. He never liked to answer those kinds of questions. In truth, other than himself, there probably isn't another person in the world that knows how good his kungfu really is.

    But this time Hua ManLou seemed to be determined to find an answer and continued to ask.

    "Are you positive that you can beat him?"

    Lu XiaoFeng still did not answer. He merely poured another cup of wine and slowly drank it.

    Hua ManLuo suddenly sighed. "You aren't positive. That's why you are careful not to drink too much wine."

    Lu XiaoFeng usually didn't drink wine like this.

    Ever since arriving here, Princess DanFeng actually turned very quiet. She had been sitting there and listening the entire time. Only now did she suddenly speak up: "You just said that you and a thief were doing somersaults at the top of TaiShan, who was the thief?"

    "The King of Thieves!" Lu XiaoFeng let out a little laugh. "Stole everywhere and anywhere in the world and never found a match yet. But not only does his victims not get mad, they feel honored."

    "Why?"

    "Because there aren't that many people good enough for him to steal from. Besides, he never steals anything that's worth anything. He only steals because he bet against someone that he could."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed a bit at that comment and continued.

    "One time, he bet someone that he could somehow steal the World's Greatest Miser, Cheng FuZhou's wife's toilet!"

    Princess DanFeng couldn't help but let out a little peal of laughter at that.

    "So what happened?"

    "He won the bet."

    "So why did you compete doing somersaults with him?"

    "Because I know for a fact that I can't out steal him. And yet I really really wanted win from him those 50 jugs of wine that he had just won."

    "That's right. Use your strength to attack their weakness. Why don't you do that against Huo TianQing?" Princess DanFeng observed. "You don't have to fight to the death with him."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "There are some people in the world that, no matter what kind of trick you try and pull on them, it won't work. XiMen ChuiXue is one of them, Huo TianQing is another."

    "You think that he really wants to fight you to the death?"

    "With the way Yan TieShan treated him, he has to somehow pay him back. He had decided long ago that he would gladly give his life to pay back this debt." Lu XiaoFeng's expression was dead serious.

    "But you don't need to be just like him!"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled some, as if he didn't want to talk about this subject anymore. He stood up and slowly walked up to the window.

    The window had been propped open from the very start. He suddenly realized that sometime ago an old man wearing a long robe had brought a stool outside and was sitting in the middle of the court yard smoking a pipe.

    It was deep into the night, but the old man showed no sign of weariness. He just quietly sat there, as if he had intended to sit there until sun rise.

    "The weather is turning a bit cold," Lu XiaoFeng suddenly smiled and spoke, "if you don't mind our company, then why not come in a have a couple of drinks with us and make the long night pass faster?"

    But the old man did not respond one bit. It was as if he was deaf and did not even hear Lu XiaoFeng's words. All Lu XiaoFeng could do was keep smiling.

    "It's not polite to refuse other people's good intentions!" Princess DanFeng, however, was less than thrilled and sneered.

    She suddenly rushed to the window and, with a flick of her arm, sent the cup of wine in her hand hurling toward the old man. The flight of the cup was fast but steady, not a drop of wine inside the cup was spilled.

    The old man suddenly let out a cold snicker, reached out, and caught the cup. He then poured the entire content of the cup onto the ground and actually began to eat the cup. Piece by piece, he swallowed the cup, which made all kinds of cracking sound inside his mouth.

    Princess DanFeng was shocked by what she just saw.

    "Is there something wrong with this old man?" She had to ask. "He does not drink wine, but eats wine cups?"

    Lu XiaoFeng's eyes flickered in the moonlight.

    "That may be because the wine was something I offered," he observed with a smile. "And the wine cup was not."

    At this moment, a meat-bun vendor actually walked from outside into the court yard.

    At this time of day, so deep into the night, does he really hope to get some business here?

    "Hey, you!" Princess DanFeng blinked. "Are you selling those meat buns?"

    "As long as you got money, of course!"

    "How much?"

    "Very cheap! Ten thousand taels of silver a piece, and not a tael less."

    Princess DanFeng's face changed colors a bit. "Ok, then let me get 2 of these 10,000 taels of silver meat buns." She chortled. "Send them on over."

    "'Kay!"

    He had just took out two meat buns when a yellow dog jumped out from a corner of the wall and came charging at him, barking loudly.

    "What? Could it be possible that you want to buy some of my meat buns like that girl over there?" The vendor stared at the dog. "Don't you know that these meat buns of mine were originally made for beating dogs?"

    He really actually did start beating the dog with the meat buns. The dog immediately stopped barking and took a couple of bites out of the meat buns. Suddenly, the dog yelped and rolled on the ground, turning from a live dog to a dead dog.

    Princess DanFeng's face changed complexion yet again. "There's poison inside the meat buns?!"

    "Not only poison," the vendor casually smiled, "the meat itself is human meat."

    "How dare you try and sale this kind of meat buns?" Princess DanFeng angrily demanded.

    "I'm just doing my job," he rolled his eyes at her, "whether or not to buy it is up to you. I didn't force you to buy them."

    Princess DanFeng's face almost turned yellow in anger. She could barely stop herself from rushing forth and slapping him several times.

    But Lu XiaoFeng had quietly grabbed a hold of her hand. It was at this moment that they heard someone slowly sigh: "Such starlight such a night, for whom do the wind come through the open window?"

    A dirty and filthy looking gentry, with his hand behind his back, had slowly wandered into the court yard.

    He suddenly turned to the vendor and smiled.

    "So how many did you kill today?"

    "My meat buns can only kill dogs, not humans," the vendor rolled his eyes again. "Give them a try and you'll see."

    He tossed a meat bun to the gentry, who actually immediately caught the bun and ate it.

    "Looks like you are telling the truth," he said as he patted his stomach. "Not only that, these can cure illnesses too."

    "What kind of illness?" A voice asked from outside the walls.

    "Hunger!" The gentry replied.

    "Oh I have got that. A very bad case of it too." The person outside replied. "Quick, give me a meat bun and cure it."

    "'Kay!"

    The vendor took out another meat bun and tossed it up toward the top of the wall. A beggar, who had suddenly appeared on top of the wall, opened his mouth and caught the meat bun with his teeth and swallowed it. The vendor's tosses were quick, this beggar was downing the meat buns just as quick. In a blink of an eye 7 or 8 meat buns had disappeared into the beggar's belly.

    "Seems like that would cure that hunger of yours at last!" The gentry observed.

    The beggar frowned.

    "You guys tricked me, you can't die from poison from these meat buns, but you can die from over stuffing yourself with them!"

    "Not a big deal!" Another person had shown up outside the walls. "Dying from stuffing yourself? From starvation? From anger at your wife? Don't worry, I got just the medicine."

    A herb selling medicine man, carrying a medicine case and a small bell came slowly stumbling in. Turned out he was a cripple as well.

    A quiet little court yard, as if some people had planned to party here, suddenly turned into a crowded and noisy mess. Soon a make-up selling merchant, a lumber jack, and a grocery seller joined as well.

    Princess DanFeng's eyes were getting sore from all the staring she was doing. Even though she had never really had much real martial world experience, she had realized by now that these people were coming for them.

    The strange part was that all these people were staying outside, crammed in the court yard, and did not seem the least bit interested in coming inside and troubling them.

    "Do you think these people are here to avenge Yan TieShan?" She could not stop herself from quietly asking Lu XiaoFeng.

    "How could Big Boss Yan have friends like these?" Lu XiaoFeng smiled and shook his head.

    "They all seemed to know kungfu."

    "A city has always been a place of crouching tigers and hidden dragons." Lu XiaoFeng observed. "As long as they do not bother trouble us, why go and trouble them and meddle in their business?"

    "Since when did you become the kind of person that don't go meddle in other people's business?" Hua ManLou suddenly interrupted with a laugh.

    Lu XiaoFeng shared in the joke. "Just now."

    The night patrols's gong could be heard. Three rings, it was past midnight.

    {Note: In ancient Chinese cities, there were night patrols who walked the streets beating a small gong that signaled the time. The night was divided into 5 equal sections, with the night patrol ringing the corresponding times. Hence, 3 rings signal midnight.}

    The pipe-smoking old man suddenly stood up and yawned: "How come the person that invited us all here isn't here yet?"

    Turned out that he was neither deaf nor mute.

    Princess DanFeng was getting even more be fuddled. Who had invited these people here? And what for?

    "He should be here very soon," the gentry observed.

    "I'm going to go have a look see," the meat bun vendor offered.

    His hand went into action again, tossing out meat buns from inside his basket. The scores of meat buns that he tossed out actually, one on top of another, landed in a stack that ended up more than 10 meters high.

    With little effort, the meat bun vendor jumped on top of this stack of meat buns like a rooster at the top of a fence. He was steady as can be, not wavering the least bit in the wind.

    Not only was his skill with his hands fast and precise, his lightness kungfu was top rate as well.

    "Looks like walking the martial world really isn't easy at all," Princess DanFeng sighed and muttered under her breath. "Only now do I understand that."

    "At least you understand now, that's always a good thing," Hua ManLou replied with a smile.

    "In coming!" The vendor suddenly shouted.

    That seemed to gave everyone a boost in energy. Even Princess DanFeng's heart was about to leap out of her throat. She had been find out what kind of person this person was.

    But she could not help but be slightly disappointed when she saw him.

    In young maidens' minds and imagination, if this person was not a suave and handsome young swordsman, he no doubt be at least an awe-inspiring and incredibly powerful hero of the martial world.

    But the person that came turned out to be a bald old man with a thin and yellow complexion. He was wearing a gray and dusty rough textured piece of cloth that just barely covered his knee caps. On his feet he wore white clothed socks and gray shoes that were typical of an old farmer who had come in town to the market for the fair.

    But his eyes shone. Radiant and powerful, they flickered in the moon light.

    Weird thing was that everyone in the court yard was obviously waiting for him, but now that he had shown up, nobody went up to say anything to him, they only quietly made a little path for him.

    This bald old man's eyes looked around for a moment before he suddenly began walking towards Lu XiaoFeng.

    He didn't seem to be walking fast at all, but within 2 or 3 steps, he had stepped into the door.

    The door had been open all along. He did not knock on the door, nor did he say anything. He just merely, and very casually, sat down opposite of Lu XiaoFeng, grabbed the jug of wine that was sitting on the floor, and sniffed the wine.

    "Good wine."

    "It is indeed very good wine," Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "Split it half and half?"

    "Sure."

    The old man did not say another word. He merely lifted up the jug and began noisily chugging the wine.

    In a flash half of the jug was gone and his yellow face had turned into a flushed red color, as if his entire being had been rejuvenated.

    "Oh that was good," he said as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not reply. He just took a hold of the jug and chugged, not any slower than him, not any slower than anyone.

    After the whole jug was finished, the bald old man suddenly burst out laughing. "Good stuff! Wine is good, company isn't too shabby either!"

    "Only when the company isn't shabby is the wine good!" Lu XiaoFeng replied as he wiped his mouth.

    "Haven't seen you in 3 years," the old man looked at him, "and you still haven't drank yourself to death?"

    "Only the good die young, evil seed lives forever. I'm kind of worried about you. You are a good man."

    "Who said I was a good man?" The old man shot a look at Lu XiaoFeng.

    "Everyone in the martial world says that not only does Shan XiYan have balls, he is loyal too, that he is the best damn man in the world."

    "You are an evil seed, and I'm a good man? Pretty damn interesting stuff," the old man laughed heartily.

    Princess DanFeng stared at him, almost not believing her own very eyes.

    She could have never imagined that this bald, dirty, cursing old man would be the famous hero whose twin iron palms shook the world, Shan XiYan.

    No matter what, it's not an easy thing to be referred to as a "hero".

    But this old man really just did not look a single bit like a "hero" at all. Could that possibly the secret to his success? Princess DanFeng could not figure it out. She suddenly realized that the things she could not figure out on her own seemed to be getting more and more numerous.

    Shan XiYan's laughter had already stopped. With those shining eyes of his, he stared at Lu XiaoFeng: "You probably didn't think I was gonna come looking for you."

    "No, I didn't," Lu XiaoFeng admitted.

    "Actually, I had already known by the time you arrived in TaiYuan."

    "Nothing unusual about that," Lu XiaoFeng smiled. "If even you didn't know that I was coming, then that would be quite unusual."

    "But only now did I come to meet you!"

    "You are a busy man."

    "I'm not busy at at all. I didn't come, because you were a guest of my martial-uncle. Since there was no way I could compete in being the host with him, so I could only pretend not to know."

    "I had thought that because I shaved off my mustache, even old friends didn't recognize me anymore!" Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    Shan XiYan laughed heartily at the joke. "I had always thought that mustache of yours was annoying as hell to look at!"

    "I don't care if you found them annoying, some people didn't find them annoying." Lu XiaoFeng casually shot back.

    Shan XiYan's laughter stopped again: "Huo TianQing is my martial-uncle, there are many people out there that don't believe it. But you should know better."

    "I know."

    "That old pipe smoking weirdo is Fan Eh. Do you know him?"

    "Could he be the famous Mr. Fan Da whom, by himself, took down Flying Fish Pound, the famouse Mr. Fan whose pipe is used to strike only a person's 36 major and 72 minor pressure points?"

    "That's him."

    "The Twin Aces of the Northwest refers to Fan and Jian. Then that dirty and filthy gentry over there is probably the sole progenitor of the 'Divine Finger Snap', the famous Mr. Jian Er?"

    {Note: "Divine Finger Snap", or "Tan Zhi Sheng Tong" is one of the most famous kungfus in the works of Jin Yong, I thought it was very cool that Gu Long acknowledges his friends' works in this way.}

    Shan XiYan nodded: "That poor beggar, the lumberjack, the meat bun vendor along with the grocery seller, that make-up powder merchant, plus the keeper of this little place and the fat guy who was greeting people at the front door; the 7 of them are sworn brothers. Some people call them the '7 Heroes of the City', other call them the '7 Comrades of the Northwest'."

    "All these famous heroes and comrades must be in quite good spirit tonight to actually all gathered here in this little court yard to cool off," Lu XiaoFeng casually observed with a smile.

    "You really don't know what they are doing here?"

    "No idea."

    "They are all from my sect. In terms of seniority, some of them are actually 2 generations under Huo TianQing."

    "That man is rather lucky," Lu XiaoFeng broke out into another smile.

    "Sixty years ago, our Founding Master established in the first rule of Heaven Hunter Sect that should always respect and obey our elders above all. That rule and seniority is never challenged nor questioned."

    "Of course not."

    "Founding Master dedicated his entire life to the study of martial arts. Only until his late years did he start a family."

    "The master himself, Heaven Hunter, actually had a family?"

    "Very few people in the pugilist world knew about this event. Founding Master was 77 when he finally had a son."

    "And that son is none other than Huo TianQing?"

    "Correct."

    "I finally understand how in the world, despite his young age, he could have such seniority." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "It's also why the burden on his shoulders is so overbearing."

    "Oh."

    Shan XiYan suddenly changed his demeanor into one of extreme earnest: "Not only does he have to continue the Founding Master's lineage, he is also the only person who could make sure that the Heaven Hunter sect survive to the next generation. We all owe nothing short of our lives to our Founding Master. So we would gladly give up our lives in order to make sure that nothing would ever happen to him. I'm sure you understand our sentiments."

    "Yes, I do."

    Shan XiYan sighed deeply.

    "That's why, if he happens to die due to some unfortunately circumstances tomorrow morning. The hundreds of disciples in our Heaven Hunter sect would not be able to go on living either."

    "Why would he die?" Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

    "If he loses to you, even if you don't kill him, he would not allow himself to continue living."

    "I know what kind of person he is too. But he might not lose."

    "Of course he might not."

    "If he happens to beat me," Lu XiaoFeng casually observed, "then doesn't the hundreds of disciples of your Heaven Hunter sect gain huge face?"

    "You are my friend. I don't want you to lose to him either and damage our friendship."

    "You really are a good man."

    Shan YanXi's face seemed a little redder.

    "If you guys do fight, no matter which one of you win, the result will be too terrible to imagine," He sighed. "Martial-Uncle Huo was at least an acquaintance of yours before this, why go through with this?"

    "Now I understand," Lu XiaoFeng smiled. "You want me to, before sunrise tomorrow, leave this place so he won't be able to find me."

    Shan XiYan did not reply. Did not reply in admission.

    "Now I understand," Princess DanFeng suddenly coldly interrupted. "You invited all these people here to force him to leave, this way Huo TianQing would win without even having to fight, or else you guys would fight him. It will soon be dawn, so even if he defeat all of you, he would not be in good shape to go up against Huo TianQing once dawn comes."

    She stared at him and let out a cold laugh. "Not a bad idea really. Probably something only a hero like yourself could come up with."

    Shan XiYan's face turned green, then pale before he suddenly burst out in laugher.

    "So true! So true! But even though I, Shan XiYan, isn't much or a 'hero', I certainly won't do a thing like that!"

    "So what kind of thing will you do?" Princess DanFeng asked. "If he refuses to leave, then what will you do?"

    Shan XiYan suddenly stood up and walked out. The entire court yard, though filled with people, was completely silent. One by one, he looked everyone in the eye with his brilliant eyes.

    "If he doesn't leave, then what will you do?" He suddenly asked.

    The meat-buns vendor rolled his eyes and coldly replied: "Well isn't that obvious? If he doesn't leave, I'll leave."

    Shan XiYan smiled again. But within this smile there seemed to be an indescribable sadness. "If you leave, I leave," he slowly nodded. "Everybody leave."

    "If that's the case, then it wouldn't be a problem if I leave a bit early would it?" The vendor replied.

    The flipped his hand over and suddenly, with knife that he had somehow pulled out, stabbed toward his own throat.

    Not only was this move sure and steady, it was fast, very fast. But somebody was faster than him.

    "Dang!" Sparks filled the court yard as the knife in his hand broke into 2 pieces. Something, along with the broken tip of the knife, fell harmlessly onto the ground.

    It was one of Lu XiaoFeng's chopsticks.

    The other one of the pair was still in his hand. The knife was made of steel, but the chopstick was made of ivory!

    There probably isn't too many people that could use an ivory chopstick to break a steel knife.

    Princess DanFeng suddenly realized why Shan XiYan did all of this. Huo TianQing can't beat Lu XiaoFeng, other people might not know, but Shan XiYan would know this better than anyone.

    That meat-bun selling vendor stared at the piece of the knife that was still in his hand in shock. After a prolonged period, he suddenly stomped his foot on the ground and shouted at Lu XiaoFeng: "Why did you go and do that?"

    "No reason really," Lu XiaoFeng smiled. "I just wanted to ask you a question."

    "What question?"

    "When did I say I wasn't going to leave?"

    The vendor was speechless.

    "Fighting is such a tiring and troublesome thing to do," Lu XiaoFeng lazily sighed. "Who would want to fight anyways? I much rather go and find some place to take a nap!"

    The vendor stared at him, looking as if he was about to cry, but at the same time looking like he want to laugh.

    "Good stuff, Lu XiaoFeng really is Lu XiaoFeng!" He suddenly shouted. "From this day forth, whenever you want me to do anything for you, if I even bat an eye, then I'll become your grandson."

    "I don't want a grandson like you." Lu XiaoFeng laughed. "As long as you lower the price of your meat buns for me a little next time, I'll be satisfied."

    He casually grabbed his big red cape that was hanging on the side of the bed and finished his cup of wine.

    "So who wants to come with me to a little village outside of the city to eat Pot Face Zhao's stewed dog meat?"

    "Me." Hua ManLou said with a smile.

    Mr. Fan suddenly bang his pack of tobacco. "Me too."

    "Well, if he's in then I'm in too," Mr. Jian commented.

    "Count me in too!" The meat bun vendor shouted at the top of his lungs.

    "You only sell those dog beating meat buns, and yet you still dare to go eat dog meat?" Mr. Jian observed with a laugh. "Aren't you afraid that those dogs might go and make trouble once they get inside your stomach?"

    The vendor shot him an icy look. "Death doesn't even scare me, nevermind that!"

    "Haha, well, you got balls!" Shan XiYan burst out laughing. "Let's all go and eat that damn dog meat. Anyone who doesn't go is a damn son of a turtle!"

    Hua ManLuo smiled.

    "Seems like it's still wroth it to do good," he slowly said.

    "Once in a long while is no big deal," Lu XiaoFeng replied, "but I can't make a habit of this."

    "Why not?" Hua ManLuo could not help but ask.

    "Only the good die young, I'm sure you have heard of that saying before." Lu XiaoFeng said with a straight face.

    Even though he put forth a straight face, his eyes were filled with tears.

    Princess DanFeng looked at them for a bit before suddenly, and very gently, sighed and quietly said to herself: "Whoever says that it isn't worth it to do good is a damn son of a turtle."

    ***

    The dog meat was sold out. But they did not care.

    They did not want really want any dog meat to begin with. What they wanted was that emotion that warms one's body even more than dog meat. Nothing in the world goes down with wine better than that emotion.

    Not to mention that, upon the occasion of the rising of the sun, a person on horse back had chased them down and delievered a letter from Huo TianQing.

    "Dawn will always come, what matter may it be that today's matters be settled morrow? Tomorrow comes, what matter may it be that tomorrow's matters be settled morrow's morrow?

    "Others trouble me not, what for should I trouble others?

    "Golden Roc business, could be settled whenever. Next time Princess visits, will be the day the wandering stops. Once the magnificent treasure lose luster, it becomes the yellow flowers of tomorrow and shines through the ages. Personal loyalty is but two words. TianQing bid farewell."

    Just this one letter was like having a hundred cups of wine for 3 days straight, not to mention that heart warming emotion that even a rainstorm could not cool.

    ***

    The raging thunderstorm started around noon, by that time everyone was drunk. "Not leaving until intoxicated." It was because they were drunk that they had left.

    Lu XiaoFeng was drunk but not quite, almost intoxicated but not really, not even he himself could figure out if he was really drunk or sober. He was doing nothing but standing by the window staring out into the raging thunderstorm.

    Princess DanFeng looked at him for a while.

    "If you didn't go, would all of those men all die there?" She suddenly asked.

    Lu XiaoFeng was silent. Silent for a long time.

    "Do you understand what the saying: 'some things must, some things must not' means?" He slowly replied.

    "Of course I understand. It means that with somethings, if you believe it should not be done, then no matter what other people do to you, tease you, threaten you, even if they put a knife against you neck, you will not ever do it; but if you believe it should be done, then even if it means the loss of your life, you would do it."

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "That is exactly why someone would volunteer to swallow burning charcoal to save his comrades and why another would use an club weighing over 40 kilograms to kill a tyrant."

    {Note: Lu XiaoFeng makes 2 historical allusions here. The latter of which was a famous assasination attempt on the life of Qing Shi Huang Di, the first Emperor of China that barely missed his carriage. It was masterminded by Xiang Liang, the uncle of the more famous Xiang Yu, who eventually brought the Qing dynasty to an end. The second one is from Feng Sheng Bang.}

    "This is also why Huo TianQing would repay Yan TieShan with death," Princess DanFeng immediately followed, "and why Shan XiYan and those men would not bat an eye to use their life to protect Huo TianQing."

    "No matter how they go about it, as long as they can live up to those 2 phrases, then they won't be betraying those 2 words: loyalty and trust."

    "But in this world, how many people can really not betray those 2 words?"

    Cup in hand, Hua ManLou was quietly murmuring: "Once the magnificent treasure lose luster, it becomes the yellow flowers of tomorrow and shines through the ages. Personal loyalty is but two words.... good show, good show Huo TianQing! I almost underestimated him."

    He lifted the cup and happily downed the wine within, seems like he was a bit drunk as well.

    "Really a shame about that Su ShaoYing, he was quite a boy as well. He shouldn't have died, shouldn't have died...."

    His voice grew fainter and fainter. Putting his head down onto the table, he seemed to have fallen asleep.

    Princess DanFeng quietly walked up to the window and gingerly took Lu XiaoFeng's hand in her hand.

    "Are you still mad at me?" She asked in a tender voice.

    "When did I get mad at you?"

    Princess DanFeng gave a winsome smile and bow her head slightly coquettishly.

    "Are you afraid to find the wrong person today?" She quietly asked.

    Her breathing was gentle, her fingers felt like they were slightly quivering, and her hair carried with them a scent that was sweeter than fresh flowers.

    Lu XiaoFeng might have been a gentleman, and might not have been, but he was definitely a man.

    A man that was teetering on the brink of intoxication.

    Outside the window, the down pour kept coming down, looking like sheet after sheets of dense bead curtains, cutting off the trail walking walkers and the walkers walking trails.

    Inside the room was quiet and dark, as if it was dusk.

    If one look inside a door that was open in the back of the room, one could see a newly made single bed.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly discovered that his heart was beating furiously, suddenly discovered that ShangGuan DanFeng's heart was also beating furiously.

    "Your heart is jumping."

    "Whose heart is beating faster?"

    "How could we tell?"

    "I'll touch your heart, and you touch mine...."

    Suddenly, within the sounds of the rainstorm that sounded like tens of thousands of horses stampeding, there came the sound of horse hooves like that of a torrential downpour. About a dozen riders were approaching this place at a rapid pace despite of the raging rainstorm.

    The riders all were green, with white bamboo hats. As they rode past the window, they suddenly all lifted up their arms.

    Several "swooshes" could be heard, even more compact than the sound of rain drops and even more hurried than the sound of the horse hooves. Several streaks of black could be seen, some flying in through the window, some hitting the wall outside.

    Lu XiaoFeng tilted his body and had already pulled Princess DanFeng to the side of the window.

    But Hua ManLou, who had been laying on the table, stood up and shouted: "Sulfric Saltpetre Thunderclap!"

    He hadn't even finished those words before, with a deafening bang, where ever the black streaks hit, be it inside or outside, burst into flames towering over several scores of meters. Flames that was blood red with a shade of cruel green.

    "You two get out of here, I'll go save Pot Face Zhao!" Lu XiaoFeng shouted.

    Pot Face Zhao had already gone to sleep, just a bit earlier they had even heard his snoring.

    But the flames looked as if they were about to block off the door way, even the walls outside was on fire, despite of the pouring rain.

    Hua ManLou grabbed a hold of Princess DanFeng and charged outside. Those riders had already ran off into the distance. Their maniacal laughter could be heard through the rain as well as a message from one of them.

    "Lu XiaoFeng! That was nothing more than a little bit of a warning! If you don't face up to the facts and stop soon, then we'll make sure that nobody could bury your body!"

    By the time the final words were heard, the riders and their horses had disappeared behind the curtains of rain drops.

    Turning around, Pot Face Zhao's little place was completely engulfed in an inferno. Lu XiaoFeng was nowhere to be seen.

    ShangGuan DanFeng gritted her teeth and turned to Hua ManLou: "You wait here, I'm going to go inside for him."

    "If you go in there now, you won't be coming back out." Hua ManLou replied.

    "But he...."

    "Don't worry," Hua ManLou smiled. "He'll make it out. Even fires much bigger than this didn't kill him."

    At this moment, from afar, there suddenly came a series of savage cries and desperate screams, just like those bellowed out by a herd of locked up beasts. But the screams stopped very quickly.

    Once the cries stopped, the sound of horses neighing in fright that was covered up by the screams could be heard.

    ShangGuan DanFeng's expression changed dramatically. "Could those guys have already met their doom at someone else's hands?"

    "Boom!" Suddenly, a hole was blown open on the flame-engulfed house's roof... like a flaming cannon ball, a person came flying out through the hole and, in the middle of the air, amid the pouring rain, did a flip and landed flat onto the ground. Rolling on the ground, the person put out the fire on his body, but on his cloth and in his hair, there were several obvious spots where the fire had charred to crisp.

    But he did not seem to care at all and popped right up. It was none other than Lu XiaoFeng.

    "Looks like you really can't burn this guy to death!" ShangGuan DanFeng sighed and mumbled to herself.

    "Yeah, it really isn't an easy task to burn me to death." Lu XiaoFeng concurred, smiling.

    He might be smiling, but his face was entirely blackened by the smoke.

    Looking at his face, ShangGuan DanFeng laughed. "But you originally had 4 eye brows, now you almost don't even have one!"

    "Not a big deal if all of my eye brows are gone," Lu XiaoFeng casually replied. "The real shame was those jugs of wine...."

    "Where's Pot Face Zhao?" Hua ManLou suddenly interrupted him.

    "Don't know."

    "He wasn't inside?"

    "No."

    ShangGuan DanFeng's face changed again.

    "Could he be with the Green Shirt Pavilion as well? Could he have been with those guys from the very beginning? Otherwise how would they know that you are here?"

    She bitterly continued: "You risk your life to save him, and in the process your eye brows gets burned off. But it turned out that he was that kind of a man."

    "I only know that he makes the best tasting dog meat."

    "And you don't know anything else about him?"

    "And I don't know anything else about him."

    ShangGuan DanFeng could only stare at him and sigh.

    "Why do other people say that you have 2 brains?" She mumbled to herself. "The way I see it, he doesn't even...."

    She suddenly stopped, because she suddenly saw someone walking towards them in the rain.

    A very big and tall person, wearing a bamboo hat and carrying a bamboo stick upon his shoulder. On that stick was hung a string of objects, she could not quite make out what they were.

    But she could tell that this person was none other than Pot Face Zhao.

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    "You can't be this paranoid about everyone," he casually admonished, "there might not be as many bad people as you think in this world, there are still some...."

    His suddenly stopped as well, because he had made out that the objects hanging off of Pot Face Zhao's bamboo stick was a string of hands.

    Human hands. Even though the blood marks had been washed away by the rain, they were obviously only recently cut off. Thirteen or fourteen hands, tied together by a belt, hanging off of the bamboo stick.

    Inside Pot Face Zhao's belt was a knife, a butcher's knife, used to kill dogs.

    "Turns out not only can you kill dogs, you can kill humans too!" Lu XiaoFeng observed as he looked at him with a look of surprise.

    Pot Face Zhao cracked open a smile at that comment.

    "I don't know how to kill dogs, I have only killed humans."

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at him for another prolonged period of time.

    "You are not Pot Face Zhao." He finally sighed.

    "Who said I was Pot Face Zhao?" That person laughed.

    When he laughs, other than cracking open that big mouth of his, nothing else changes on his face.

    "Who are you?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    The person's eyes flashed at the comment.

    "Even you can't tell who I am? Well I guess my skills at disguising can't be anything but the best in the world now."

    Lu XiaoFeng shot him another look, the suddenly he burst out in laughter.

    "Too bad your somersaulting skills aren't up to par...."

    "This guy is that little thief that you were talking about earlier?" ShangGuan DanFeng did not even wait for him to finish before shouting.

    "That's right." The person sighed. "I'm guy who competed doing somersaults against him, SiKong ZhaiXing. But I'm not a little thief, I'm a big thief!"

    "I know," ShangGuan DanFeng sweetly replied. "Not only are you a big thief, you are the King of Thieves! You have no peers in thievery in the world!"

    "I'm not being cocky or arrogant about this," SiKong ZhaiXing said, sticking his chest a little further. "When you are talking about stealing things, even Lu XiaoFeng over there is afraid to go up against me. Now you tell me who can compete with me?"

    "You could have disguised as anyone, why a pot face who kills dogs for a living?" ShangGuan DanFeng asked.

    "Well, there's a reason behind this," SiKong ZhaiXing laughed and replied. "You see, if you disguise yourself as a pot face, then it'll be really hard for other people to see through your disguise."

    "Why?"

    "When was the last time you saw a couple of people inspecting the face of a person with a pot face very closely?"

    ShangGuan DanFeng laughed as well.

    "It looks like there's something to disguising yourself isn't there?"

    "Quite a bit actually."

    "Since when did you get here?" Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

    "Two days ago."

    "What for?"

    "Waiting for your!"

    "Waiting for me?"

    "Because if you want to go find Old Man Yan, this would be a place that you must pass. Besides, now that you are in the general area of TaiYuan, there was no way you wouldn't come and get a bit of Pot Face Zhao's dog meat."

    He sighed in resignation.

    "Even I have to admit that his stewed dog meat is without peer in the world," he continued.

    "That's why you said that the dog meat were all sold out, because you were afraid that would reveal your true identity."

    "Well, no matter what," SiKong ZhaiXing replied, laughing heartily, "at least I was finally able to trick you, you devil you."

    "So what were you doing waiting for me?"

    "What do I do?"

    "You are actually going to steal from me?"

    "As long as you can say it, I can steal it!" SiKong ZhaiXing boasted.

    "What do you want to steal from me?"

    "You sure you want me to tell you?"

    "If you are afraid to say it, then I won't force you," Lu XiaoFeng casually answered.

    "Why would I be afraid to say it?" SiKong ZhaiXing demanded, staring hard at him.

    "So what is it that you want to steal?" ShangGuan DanFeng finally gave into her urge and asked.

    "You."

    ShangGuan DanFeng's eyes were wide in shock.

    "Someone offered up 20,000 taels of silver for me to steal you."

    "Can't believe that I'm actually worth 20,000 taels of silver..." she did not finish, because she was blushing to the very base of her ears.

    "But the reason that person want me to steal you is not the reason that you are thinking of," SiKong ZhaiXing laughed.

    Still blushing, ShangGuan DanFeng could not help but shout back: "How do you know what kind of reason I'm thinking of?"

    SiKong ZhaiXing blinked his eyes, but did not reply.

    "What does that person want?" ShangGuan DanFeng asked. "Who is that person?"

    SiKong ZhaiXing still did not reply.

    "He won't tell you," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "In his business, if he told his employer's secrets, then who would come to him for a job next time?"

    "Thieves have employers going to them and offering jobs?" ShangGuan DanFeng asked.

    "I have already told you, he's different. He never steals anything that worth anything."

    "But I still have to eat!" SiKong ZhaiXing added. "That why I only steal when other people come to me and ask me to with a huge wad of cash."

    "Only that there isn't that many people that can offer up that much money for you to accept a job."

    "Correct, depressingly few."

    "So even if you don't tell me, I already know who hired you this time."

    "Whether or not you know is your business, whether or not I tell you is my business."

    "No matter if I know it or not, you would never tell me, right?"

    "Right."

    "Then how come you suddenly changed your mind just now and let me in on this secret?"

    "You risked your life to save me in the fire, and almost lost your eye brows in the process" SiKong ZhaiXing sighed. "How could I have the nerve to steal your friend?"

    "Looks like your are not entirely incorrigible."

    "Correct again."

    "If you have the nerve, could you really just steal me away?" ShangGuan DanFeng, not able to hold it inside anymore, interrupted in a loud voice.

    "Don't forget," SiKong ZhaiXing boasted, "that I am the King of Thieves! There's nothing in the world that I can't steal."

    "I would like to hear how exactly you plan on doing this." ShangGuan DanFeng sneered.

    "Have you ever heard of any herbalist telling other people his business secrets?"

    "No."

    "Well, this would be my little business secret," SiKong ZhaiXing righteously, "so I can't tell you."

    ShangGuan DanFeng stared at him in anger.

    "'Ten pot faces, 9 freaks', I say that you are a pot face to begin with!" She suddenly said.

    "Who said that?" SiKong ZhaiXing shot her a look and asked.

    "Me! If not then tear off that pot face mask of yours and let me see what you really look like!" ShangGuan DanFeng replied.

    "That can't be done!"

    "Why not?"

    "What if you fall for me? Then Lu XiaoFeng would make us do somersaults again! That last time I ended up sick and nauseas, no way I would go through with that again."

    ShangGuan DanFeng blushed and, despite all her efforts, laughed.

    "Whose hands are these?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    "Belong to those guys who set the house on fire."

    "You chased them down?"

    "I am pretending to be Pot Face Zhao after all. If someone burns down his house, I should at least help him get a little bit of justice."

    "So you cut off their hands so that they could not burn down houses any more." ShangGuan DanFeng observed.

    "I'm also planning to sell those horses of theirs to pay back Pot Face Zhao."

    "Where are those guys now?" Lu XiaoFeng asked.

    "Over there in the woods, I left them there especially for you."

    "What for?"

    "They tried to burn you to death," SiKong ZhaiXing replied, "don't you want to interrogate them and ask them why?"

  10. #10
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 - Vengeance and Formidable Foe

    A rainstorm is like the prodigal son that crashes into the rich woman's boudoir in the middle of the night, it comes suddenly and is even quicker going away.

    But everything it left behind was changed because of it.

    Every tree and leaf in the woods had been washed to a jade color, and the blood on the corpses were washed off too. Making it almost impossible to find the fatal wound.

    But of these dozen or so men, not one of them was still alive.

    When they found the bodies, SiKong ZhaiXing had already disappeared.

    "Leaving these bodies to us, does he want us to clean up after his mess?" ShuangGuan DanFeng bitterly commented.

    "He didn't kill these men," Lu XiaoFeng replied. "Very rarely does he ever kill."

    "If not him then whom?" Inquired ShangGuan DanFeng.

    "The very same man who ordered them to set fire to the place."

    "What you are saying, is that he was afraid that we might be able to find out who he is from them, so he killed them to protect himself?"

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded. His face was stern and tight. Of the three things he hated the most, killing was the first among them.

    "But he could have just released these men, why did he have to kill them?" ShuangGuan DanFeng wondered.

    "Because a dozen or so men whose right hand had been chopped off is very easy to track down."

    Princess DanFeng sighed. "Actually, killing all these men was quite useless, we still know where they were from."

    "Do you know?"

    "You can't tell that they are from the Green Shirt Pavilion?"

    Lu XiaoFeng did not reply. After a long silence, he slowly replied: "I can only figure out one thing."

    "And what's that?"

    "I figured out that you would undoubtly ran to Pearl and Diamond Pavilion and instruct people to come here to clean up the bodies."

    ShangGuan DanFeng shot him a look before looking down shyly.

    "What else have you figured out?" She asked, biting her lip.

    "That afterwards, you would undoubtedly tell people to prepare a bath for you, then you would pick a nice and comfortable room and get a good sleep."

    He gave a little smile and continued.

    "Don't forget, that place belongs to you now."

    ***

    Lu XiaoFeng leaned back in the tub of hot water and closed his eyes. After being drenched in rain, it really is quite a joy to be able to find a place to enjoy a hot bath.

    He felt that his luck had been pretty good. On the stove by his side rested a big bronze kettle and the water inside was almost boiling. The room was almost filled with steam, giving off an air of security and comfort.

    Hua ManLou had already taken a bath and was probably sleeping by now. ShangGuan DanFeng was probably already at Pearl and Diamond Pavilion.

    Even though she really did not want to in her heart, she still left, seemingly very obedient to Lu XiaoFeng.

    This also made him felt very satisfied, he liked the girls who listened.

    But it's just that he just did not feel very satisfied about this entire matter, as if there was something in all of this that just did not fit. But for the life of him, he could not figure out where exactly doesn't it fit.

    Before he died, Yan TieShan admitted his crimes of the past, and Huo TianQing had already agreed to let this whole matter slide.

    The favor that he promised to Golden Roc Emperor was at least, technically, one third accomplished, and very smoothly accomplished at that.

    So what could be bothering him?

    The rain had stopped a long time ago, once in a while the sounds of water droplets could be heard, the night breeze was refreshing and clean.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed and decided that he should stop thinking these crazy thoughts and learn to become a person who knows when to be satisfied.

    This was when he heard the sound of a door being opened.

    His hearing was fine, the door was pushed open by someone.

    But he was not sure whether or not his eyes were fine, what he saw walking in was four women.

    Four young and beautiful women, not only good looking, but graceful as well, wearing the type of clothing that made their thin and slender bodies that much more tempting.

    Lu XiaoFeng loves those women with narrow waists and long legs, and those four women just happened to have very narrow waists and very long legs.

    Smiling, they sauntered in, as if there wasn't a naked man sitting in a bath tub in the middle of the room at all.

    But those 4 pairs of bright and beautiful eyes were all permanently fixed upon Lu XiaoFeng's face.

    Lu XiaoFeng wasn't a shy person by any stretch of imagination, but at this moment his face felt like it was burning, he did not need a mirror to know that he was blushing.

    "I heard that Lu XiaoFeng has 4 eye brows, but how come I only see 2?" Someone suddenly laughed.

    "You can see 2? I can't even see one." Another replied in laughter.

    The one who spoke first was the tallest and had a pair of long and narrow pheonix like eyes, even when she was laughing, it carried a kind of murderous air with it.

    Anybody can tell that she was definitely not a woman who helps men take baths.

    But she walked over and picked up the kettle on the stove.

    "Water seems to have cooled a little," she smiled. "Let me add a bit of hot water for you."

    Lu XiaoFeng glanced at the steam produced by the water inside the kettle and was a bit shocked, but to ask him, naked as a new born baby, to stand up in front of four woman, was too much even for him.

    But if this big kettle of boiling water was poured onto him, that feeling couldn't be very good.

    Just as Lu XiaoFeng was having a dilemma deciding whether he was better off moving to stand up or remaining still sitting in the tub, he suddenly discovered that he couldn't move if he wanted to.

    The girl who had not spoken a word, the girl who looked the quietest and gentlest, had suddenly taken out, from her sleeve, a little less than half-meter long, glowing dagger and held it up against his neck.

    The dark and cold feel of the dagger caused the area from behind his ears to all the way down to his shoulders to be covered with goose bumps.

    That tall and phoenix-eyed girl had slow began to pour the boiling water into his tub.

    "You better behave, we sisters might be warm, gentle, polite, and quiet, but we never blink when it comes to killing." She casually said. "This kettle of water, if poured on someone's body, even if he doesn't die, he would lose a layer of skin that's for sure."

    She kept on pouring the water into the tub as she talked.

    The water in the tub was pretty hot to begin with, now it was almost how enough to make people scream.

    Sweat had began to form on Lu XiaoFeng's head but only about a fourth of the water inside the kettle had been added.

    If the whole kettle was added, then the person inside the tub would probably lose a layer of skin as well.

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed ------ he actually laughed.

    The delicate yet fierce eyes of the water-pouring girl stared at him.

    "You seem to be enjoying yourself." She coldly observed.

    Lu XiaoFeng did seem to be enjoying himself.

    "I only think it's quite funny," he replied with a smile.

    "Funny? What's so funny?" The girl seemed to be pouring a bit faster.

    But Lu XiaoFeng kept on smiling.

    "In the future when I tell people that, while I was taking a bath, I had the Four Beauties (4 Xiu) of E'Mei was by my side adding water for me; I would be shocked if anyone would believe me."

    Turned out he had already guessed who they were.

    "So it turned out your eyes aren't that bad," the tall and phoenix-eyed girl sneered. "You are right, I am Ma XiuZheng."

    "And this one who doesn't blink when killing, could you be Shi XiuYun?" Lu XiaoFeng pondered.

    Shi XiuYun's smile was even more warm and gentle.

    "But when I kill you, I would blink at least a little," she replied in a gentle voice.

    "That's why we actually don't want to kill you, but only want to ask you a couple of questions," Ma XiuZheng said. "If you answer them quickly, then this kettle of water won't be poured in, but if not, then when all the water is poured in...."

    Shi XiuYun sighed and continued. "By then you would probably be cooked."

    "A cooked pig you could at least sell the pig meat, but a cook man would probably have to be fed to the dogs," Sun XiuQing sighed.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed too.

    "I'm about cooked now, so why don't you hurry up and ask already."

    "Alright, let me ask you, did our martial brother Su ShaoYing die in the hands of XiMen ChuiXue?" Ma XiuZheng spoke for the group.

    "If you already knew, then why ask me?" Lu XiaoFeng replied with a rather pitiful smile.

    "So where is XiMen ChuiXue now?"

    "I'm looking for him too, if you gals see him, could you gals tell me?"

    "You really don't know where he is?"

    "I only lie to women when I'm drunk, but right now I am very very sober."

    Ma XiuZheng gritted her teeth a bit and suddenly poured quite a bit of the water into the tub.

    "You better be honest when talking to me," she coldly threatened.

    "How can I not be honest at this moment?" Lu XiaoFeng's pitiful smile turned even more pitiful.

    "That woman that was with you, is she really the princess of the Golden Roc Dynasty?"

    "That is correct."

    "The Golden Roc Emperor is still alive?"

    "Still alive."

    "And he was the one that wanted you to deal with Yan TieShan?"

    "Yes."

    "Who else did he want you to deal with?"

    "ShangGuan Mu and Yan DuHe."

    "Who are those two?" Ma XiuZheng frowned. "I never even heard of their names before."

    "The number of names you haven't heard before probably numbers in the then tens of millions." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    Ma XiuZheng stared at him.

    "I'm not wearing any cloths," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "If you keep on staring at me like this, I'm going to blush."

    He did not blush, but Ma XiuZheng did.

    She suddenly turned away, placed the kettle back onto the stove, adjusted her clothing, and bowed toward Lu XiaoFeng. Shi XiuYun's sword had been taken away too.

    Four well dressed, beautiful young females suddenly all bowing towards a completely naked man sitting in a bath tub; if you have seen a scene like this, there was no way you could dream what it looked like.

    Lu XiaoFeng looked like he was a bit shocked too. He could not imagine how these 4 fiesty and commanding girls had suddenly became this polite.

    "E'Mei disciples Ma XiuZheng, Yie XiuZhu, Sun XiuQing, and Shi XiuYun, carrying out our master's wishes, has come to invite Mr. Lu to lunch tomorrow. Don't know if Mr. Lu would come or not." Ma XiuZheng said, still bowing.

    Lu XiaoFeng was speechless for quite a bit before forcing up another pitiful smile.

    "I do want to come, but pity that even if I grew wings, there is no way I could make it to E'Mei Mountain by tomorrow noon."

    Ma XiuZheng cracked a smile.

    "Master is not at E'Mei, at this moment he is waiting for Mr. Lu's arrival at Pearl and Diamond Pavilion."

    Lu XiaoFeng was shocked again.

    "He's here too? When did he arrive?"

    "Just arrived today."

    "If we haven't dropped by Pearl and Diamond Pavilion, how could we have known about what happened last night?" Shi XiuYun added on sweetly.

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled again, of course, another pitiful smile.

    "If Mr. Lu want to come, then we don't dare to bother you anymore, farewell." Ma XiuZheng spoke up again.

    "You don't have any other questions to ask me?"

    Ma XiuZheng smiled and shook her head, her manner was gentle and polite, her smile was warm, seemingly completely forgotten about that whole incident about cooking him.

    Yie XiuZhu however, being a honest girl, couldn't help but laugh a little. "We had long heard of the famed name of Mr. Lu. So we dared to come to you while you are taking a bath."

    "Actually, you could have come at any time and asked me any question and I wouldn't have refused you the answers," Lu XiaoFeng said with a forced smile.

    Shi XiuYun blinked. "Are you not mad Mr. Lu?"

    "How could I be mad? In fact, I'm happy as hell."

    It is Shi XiuYun's turn to be taken aback.

    "We treated you like that, and you are still happy?"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed ------ a real laugh this time.

    "Not only am I happy," he replied with a smile. "I should thank all of you for this great opportunity."

    "What opportunity?" Shi XiuYun had to ask.

    "When I'm taking a bath, you gals can just barge in here," Lu XiaoFeng casually replied, "so you gals shoudln't be mad at all when I barge in while you are taking a bath. Not every guy in the world has an opportunity like that, how could I not be happy?"

    All four of the the Four Beauties of E'Mei blushed. Suddenly, they all turned and rushed out of the door.

    Only now did Lu XiaoFeng let out a deep sigh.

    "Looks like from now on, I'm going to have to wear pants when I take a bath," he mumbled to himself.

    ***

    Where Lu XiaoFeng was taking a bath was a kitchen, there is a little yard outside, in that yard there stood a gingko tree.

    The night was cool and clear, the waxing moon looking as if it hanged off of the branches of the tree with the dew on the leaves blocking and altering the shade of the moon. Inside the shadow casted by the tree, there was a person standing there, absolutely still, tall, straight, white clothed like snow, with an odd shaped sword carried across his back in an ebony sheath.

    As soon as the Four Beauties of E'Mei rushed out of the door, they saw him. As soon as one catches the glimpse of this man, one would involuntarily shudder at the feeling of ice that shoots from one's heart all the way to one's finger nails.

    "XiMen ChuiXue!" Ma XiuZheng let out a yell.

    XiMen ChuiXue coldly stared at them, slowly nodded.

    "You killed Su ShaoYing?" Ma XiuZheng madly demanded.

    "You want revenge?"

    "We was just going to go look for you," Ma XiuZheng sneered. "Didn't think that you would dare come here!"

    XiMen ChuiXue's eyes suddenly began to glow, glow terrifyingly bright.

    "I don't usually kill woman, but woman shouldn't practice sword," XiMen ChuiXue coldly replied. "Those who practice swords aren't women."

    "Bullsh1t!" Shi XueYun shouted back in rage.

    "Why don't you all unsheath your swords and come at me at once," XiMen ChuiXue's face darkened.

    "We don't need to all come at you, just little me is enough to kill you!" Shi XiuYun shouted.

    She looked to be the calmest and nicest, but in reality her temper is the shortest and worst of them all.

    That pair of short swords she used was the weapons passed down from the famed swordswoman from the Tang Dynasty, First Madame SunGong.

    As she was shouting, the swords was already in her hands. The glow of the blade wavered like the dragon in the sky and struck down like lightning as she and her sword charged toward XiMen ChuiXue.

    "Hold on," suddenly someone gently said.

    As soon as those words were uttered, the man appeared.

    As soon as Shi XiuYun struck out with her swords, she suddenly realized that neither of swords could be moved ------ the two blades of her swords had just been caught between the fingers of the man who just appeared.

    She never actually saw what this man's moves were, she tried to pull her swords out, but it felt as if the blades had taken root on that man's fingers.

    But this man's expression was still very peaceful, even smiling.

    But Shi XiuYun's face was red with anger. "Didn't think XiMen ChuiXue actually has helpers," she coldly laughed.

    "You think he's my helper?" XiMen ChuiXue coldly replied.

    "Isn't he?"

    XiMen ChuiXue let out a cold little laugh and suddenly moved. A flash of briliant light like a rainbow colored lightning was all that could be seen for a moment, then it disappeared.

    XiMen ChuiXue had turned around and the sword had returned to its sheath.

    "If he didn't make a move, you would be like this tree by now," he coldly observed.

    Shi XiuYun was just about to ask him what about this tree, but before she opened her mouth, she suddenly discovered that the tree was falling.

    During that brief flash of sword, this tree, so big that a person can barely put his arm around the whole trunk, was cut in half.

    The tree was falling, and XiMen ChuiXue was gone.

    Shi XiuYun's expression was frozen. In this world, how could there be such a sword style? such quickness? She almost could not believe her own eyes.

    The tree was almost about to fall on the person opposite her when he turned around, raised his arms, and gently pushed. The tree slowly and gently fell on the ground next to him. This man's expression was still very serene and still carried that same warm smile.

    "I'm not his helper," he slowly said. "I never help anyone kill."

    Shi XiuYun's pale face turned red once again. Now she understood what this man was doing, and also understood that XiMen ChuiXue's words were true. Even though her had a bad temper, she still could tell what's right and what's bad, and she bowed her head in embarrassment .

    "Thank you," she finally gathered up enough courage to say. "May I please know your surname?"

    "My surname is Hua," this man, obviously Hua ManLou, answered.

    "I... I'm Shi XiuYun, that tallest one over there is my eldest martial sister Ma XiuZheng."

    "Is she the one who spoke earlier?"

    "Yes."

    "Her voice is very easily distinguishable," Hua ManLou smiled. "Next time I'll surely be able to recognize her."

    Shi XiuYun thought that was a little odd.

    "You have to hear her talk to be able to distinguish her?" She had to ask.

    Hua ManLou nodded.

    "Why?"

    "Because I'm blind."

    Shi XiuYun was speechless.

    This man, who could catch her blade within his fingers as if it was the easiest thing in the world, was blind. She could not believe it.

    The moonlight shone on Hua ManLou's face, his smile was still that serene, that warm, anyone could tell that he was a man who was full of passion about life and not be depressed or mad because he was blind, and would never be jealous or envious of other people.

    Because he was already satisfied with everything in his life, because he had been enjoying this beautiful thing that is life.

    Shi XiuYun stared at him, her heart suddenly filled with a kind of indescribable feeling, she could not tell whether it was sympathy, pity, or admiration.

    She only knew that she had never felt this before.

    "You sisters are all waiting for you," Hua ManLou said, smiling. "Shouldn't you be going?"

    Shi XiuYun shyly bowed her head.

    "If we meet again, would you be able to recognize me?" She suddenly asked.

    "Of course, I can tell from your voice."

    "But... what if I have become a mute by then?"

    Now it was Hua ManLou's turn to be speechless.

    Nobody had ever asked him that before, and he never imagined that anyone would have.

    He was just puzzled over how he should answer that when he suddenly realized she had walked up to him and grabbed his hand.

    "Feel my face," she gently said, "then even if I couldn't speak, all you have to do is feel my face and you would know who I am, right?"

    Hua ManLou silently nodded as he felt his fingers touch her silky smooth and flawless face.

    His heart suddenly also filled with a kind of indecribable feeling.

    Ma XiuZheng was looking at them from afar and looked as if she was about to go up and get her younger martial sister but finally decided against it.

    When she turned around, she saw that Sun XiuQing and Yie XiuZhu were both looking at them too, their eyes filled with a special type of feeling, almost as if they were entranced.

    Shi XiuYun doing this did not surprise them, because all of them always knew that their little martial sister was the type of girl that dared to love and hate. Did they wish in their hearts that they could be just as courageous as her?

    To love, also takes courage.

    ***

    Shi XiuYun left, they all left ------ four young and beautiful girls together, they came like the wind and left like the wind too. Nobody could figure out when they would come and nobody could figure out when they would leave.

    But Hua ManLou was still standing there, motionless, seemingly entranced.

    The wind was lightly blowing, the moon gently shining down, his smile looked peaceful and happy.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly laughed.

    "I am willing to bet."

    "Bet on what?"

    "I bet that you won't feel like washing your hands for at least 3 days!"

    Hua ManLou sighed.

    "I don't understand why you always think that other people are like just like you."

    "What about me?"

    "You are not a gentleman," Hua ManLou put up a serious face, "not one bit!"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "The most lovable thing about me, is that I would never put up a serious face and pretend to be a gentleman."

    Hua ManLou could not hold back his laughter anymore either.

    "I say you better be careful," Lu XiaoFeng suddenly observed.

    "Careful? What for?"

    "Recently you seem to be getting pretty lucky in the women department, when a man suddenly gets lucky like this, trouble usually isn't far behind."

    "Another thing I don't understand," Hua ManLou sighed.

    "Oh?"

    "How come you could always see other people's troubles, but never your own?"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Because I'm an a$$h01e," Lu XiaoFeng offered, with a pitiful smile.

    "As long as a person knows that he's an a$$h01e, there's still hope for him," Hua ManLou laughed.

    "So who do you think hired SiKong ZhaiXing to steal ShuangGuan DanFeng?" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly asked after a prolonged period of silence.

    "Huo Xiu," Hua ManLou answered without the slightest hesitation.

    "That's right, it has to be him."

    "There aren't that many people who are able to spend 200 thousand taels of silver to get SiKong ZhaiXing."

    "So from this, it seems that the Golden Roc Emperor wasn't lying, Huo Xiu is ShangGuan Mu."

    Hua ManLou concurred.

    "And DuGu YiHe must be Yan DuHe, that's why he would go to Pearl and Diamond Pavilion, and that's why he would send his disciples to come and find me."

    "When he came here, he probably did not know that something already happened to Yan TieShan," Hua ManLou added.

    "He might have already agreed with Yan TieShan to come together and discuss something."

    "Very likely."

    "And the matter they were planning to discuss could it be how to deal with the Golden Roc Emperor?"

    "Also very likely."

    "And he sent the Four Beauties of E'Mei ask me those questions, so he pretty much admitted his relationship with the Golden Roc Emperor."

    "So you think that he shouldn't have done this."

    "We don't have any evidence that could prove he is Yan DuHe, and he didn't need to admit it either, unless...."

    "Unless he already knows of a plan to make you stop meddling with other people's affairs."

    Lu XiaoFeng slowly nodded. "Unless he already figured out an ingenious plan."

    "The best plans are always the same."

    "Of course, when a person is dead, he can't meddle with other people's affairs."

    "So you think he has set up a trap there and is waiting for you to jump in?"

    "He doesn't need to set up any kind of traps," Lu XiaoFeng forced a smile. "Those 49 moves of his 'Sabre Sword Twin Kill' wis probably enough to make me stop meddling in other people's affairs."

    "Rumor said that of the masters of the 7 main sword sects in the world today, his kungfu is the best, because on top of the fact that he has mastered the E'Mei Sect kungfu inside and out, he had originally learned many very devious and strong skills that nobody has seen him use yet."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly jumped up.

    "Let's go!"

    "Go where?"

    "Pearl and Diamond Pavilion, where else?"

    "The meeting is arranged to be tomorrow noon, why do we have to go now?"

    "It's better to be early than to be late."

    "Are you worried about ShangGuan DanFeng?"

    "A man of DuGu YiHe's stature would do anything to a girl."

    "Then who are you worried about?"

    "XiMen ChuiXue."

    Hua ManLou's expression changed.

    "That's right, if he found out that DuGu YiHe is at Pearl and Diamond Pavilion, he would probably be heading that way now."

    "I'm worried that he might be able to handle DuGu YiHe's Sabre Sword Twin Kill," Lu XiaoFeng explained. "With his skills, you really shouldn't worry about him. But he is too conceited, conceit can lead to mistakes, mistakes can lead to death."

    "I don't like him," Hua ManLou sighed. "But I have to admit that he does have much to be conceited about."

    "He only observed Su ShaoYing make 21 moves before deciding that he could beat DuGu YiHe's Sabre Sword Twin Kill, but he probably didn't think much about the fact that Su ShaoYing isn't DuGu YiHe."

    "What kind of a person is DuGu YiHe anyways?"

    Lu XiaoFeng thought for a while.

    "There is a type of person that even though I don't want to become friends with, I reall don't want to become enemies with either," he spoke slowly.

    "And DuGu YiHe is this type of a person?"

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "No matter who, if he knew that he has an enemy like him, he wouldn't be able to sleep, so we might as well start walking." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    Hua ManLou suddenly laughed.

    "I don't think he's sleeping right now either."

    "How come?"

    "No matter who, if he knew that he has an enemy like you, he wouldn't be able to sleep either."

    ***

    DuGu YiHe was not sleeping. It was deep in the night, and the April night breezes carried with it a seemingly Autumn chill as they blew past the white curtains in the hall.

    The coffin was made from Violet Nanmu, very sturdy, very expensive.

    But the person was already dead, did it really make a difference what kind of coffin he was lying in?

    The candle light flickered in the wind as the mourning hall was filled with a unspeakable chill and melancholy.

    DuGu YiHe silently stood there besides Yan TieShan's shrine, he hadn't moved for a long long time.

    He was a tall and serious man, he still stood straight the way he used to when he was young, and his needle like hair was still ebony black colored. Only the wrinkles on his face were many and deep, only when you see his face would you know that he was indeed an old man.

    At this moment, on that serious and resolute face of his, there was a look of sadness and loneliness.

    Was this because he's already a dead man and already understood how sad and horrifying death really is?

    Behind him suddenly came a series of very light foot steps, he did not turn around, but his hand had already gripped the handle of his sword.

    His sword was thicker and bigger than the average sword with the blade being extra long and wide.

    The blade was made of bronze and polished to a incredible shine, but the sheath was very old and dirty with a small Eight Diagram carved on it, to symbolize that this was the sword of the head of the E'Mei Sect.

    A person slowly walked up from behind him and stopped next to him. Even though he did not turn to look, he knew that this was Huo TianQing.

    Huo TianQing's expression was very sad too, very somber, other than the black clothes on the inside, he wore a yellow colored mourning shirt, showing that his relationship with the deceased was special.

    DuGu YiHe had never seen this proud and powerful young man before, he had never even been here before.

    Huo TianQing stood there, at his side, for a long time before suddenly speaking up.

    "Still haven't fallen asleep, Father?"

    DuGu YiHe did not answer. Because this was a question that did not need to be answered, if he was standing here, then of course he still hasn't fallen asleep.

    His position and fame had given him the right to not answer this kind of questions.

    But Huo TianQing continued.

    "You have never been here before have you Father?"

    "Never."

    "That's why even I didn't know that Father and Boss Yan were such good friends!"

    DuGu YiHe's face darkened.

    "There are plenty of things that you don't know about," he coldly replied.

    "Father is one of the leaders of the martial world," Huo TianQing casually replied. "So of course Father would know more than I."

    "Hmph!"

    Huo TianQing suddenly turned his head and stared at his face with a knife-like stare.

    "Then Father must know why he died!" Huo TianQing said slowly.

    DuGu YiHe's face seemed to have changed colors a bit as he suddenly turned around and started to walk out.

    "Stop!" Huo TianQing ordered.

    DuGu YiHe's last step hit down hard, shattering the tile on the floor to pieces. The veins on his hands were popping out as the cape he was wearing fluttered without any wind present. After a long time, he slowly turned around, rage shot out of his eyes towards Huo TianQing as he, careful to enounciate every syllable demanded.

    "Are you telling me to stop?"

    Huo TianQing's face darkened too.

    "That's right, I'm telling you to stop!" Huo TianQing coldly replied.

    "You don't have the authority!" DuGu YiHe shouted in rage.

    "I don't? Age-wise, I'm not up to par with you," Huo TianQing sneered. "But if we are going by stature and seniority, then Huo TianQing isn't any lower than DuGu YiHe!"

    "What kind of stature and seniority do you have?" DuGu YiHe angrily demanded.

    "I know you don't recognize me or know me, but surely you recognize this move."

    He was standing face to face with DuGu YiHe, then suddenly he twisted his waist to the right and slightly spread his arms, "Phoenix Spreadings Its Wings", two fingers on his left hand were bent like the beak of the phoenix as they thrust towards DuGu YiHe's head.

    DuGu YiHe's right palm shoots up sideways, towards his foe's wrist.

    Suddenly, Huo TianQing's steps slid lightly and shot out sideways about a meter, his whole person ending up behind DuGu YiHe's right shoulder. The posture was still the same "Phoenix Spreading Its Wings", but his direction of the move had been completely and instantaneously altered as he was using his right hand to simulate the beak to attack the artery at the right base of DuGu YiHe's neck.

    Even though this change looked simple, the ingenuity behind it was something that's impossible to describe using words.

    "Fly, Twin Phoenix!" DuGu YiHe let it slip out of his mouth.

    Even as he spoke, he suddenly twisted his body to the left and used his left palm to meet Huo TianQing's beak.

    Huo TianQing exhaled, using the power of "Small Star" from within his palms to flip them outward.

    "Pshhh!"

    The two pairs of hands met and instantly, both men stopped moving.

    Having already exhaled, Huo TianQing began to slowly speak.

    "That's correct, that was exactly 'Fly, Twin Phoenix'. Once upon a time when Heaven Hunter visited E'Mei by himself and dueled with your master, the honorable Father Hu, at the top of E'Mei, he used this move, you probably saw it as a spectator didn't you?"

    "That's right."

    Even though DuGu YiHe only said those 2 words, his face seemed to have turned a shade green.

    When masters exchange moves, once they begin using their inner strength to fight, they should not and could not talk.

    But Heaven Hunter was an incredible martial arts genius, he created a type of inner strength where you could speak. And not only was there no damage to your inner strength when you talk, it actually allows the energy stored in your resevoir of inner strength to shoot out.

    Huo TianQing's inner strength was learned under Heaven Hunter himself, and at this moment, he planned on using this very fact to defeat DuGu YiHe.

    "The usual kungfu masters, when met with this move, would twist to the right and use their right palm to meet this move," Huo TianQing continued. "But Father Hu was indeed a master of his generation, he actually went against convention and met it with his left palm, do you know why?"

    "If you meet with your right palm, even though it is quicker, your options would all be exhausted in what you could do; but if you meet with with your left palm, there would still be some left over energy and power that would let you change and adapt according to will...."

    DuGu YiHe did not want to answer, but he did not want to show weakness either, when he got to there, he suddenly felt as if he could not keep up his breathing and had to stop.

    "Correct, it was precisely because of that Heaven Hunter had to resort to such a confrontational move and fight in terms of inner strength, to effectively nullify his options...."

    "How did you found out about this?" DuGu YiHe suddenly shouted, as if he did not want to hear him ramble on anymore.

    "Simply because Heaven Hunter is my father."

    DuGu YiHe's facial expression noticeably changed.

    "Father Hu and my father were of the same generation, you probably know about this right?" Huo TianQing casually said.

    DuGu YiHe's face changed from green to white and back to green again, not only could he not speak, he really did not have anything to say.

    Heaven Hunter's seniority at the time was above everyone else, to say that he and Father Hu were of the same generation was giving Father Hu and enormous amount of face.

    Even though DuGu YiHe was a proud man, he could not fly in the face of martial arts tradition.

    "So you should by now, know who I am and what my stature is," Huo TianQing casually continued. "But I still got a couple of questions to ask you!"

    DuGu YiHe gritted his teeth as sweat began to appear on his forehead.

    "Why did you make Su ShaoYu change his name and pretend to be a student? You and Boss Yan had never had any contact before, how come you suddenly come barging in just after he dies?"

    "These things have nothing to do with you."

    "I can't ask these things?"

    "You can't ask these things."

    "Don't forget I am the warden of this place," Huo TianQing coldly reminded DuGu YiHe. "If I can't ask questions about matters around here, then who can?"

    The sweat on DuGu YiHe's forehead were dropping like rain as the tiles below his feet all crack into little tiny pieces. Suddenly, he kicked up his right leg and grabbed his sword with his right hand.

    But precisely at that instant, the force coming from Huo TianQing's palms disappeared as he, actually borrowing DuGu YiHe's energy, gently flew out.

    DuGu YiHe instantly lost his center of gravity and was just about to fall over. Suddenly there was a flash of sword followed by a sound of sword hitting tile with sparks flying everywhere as the sword in his hand was driven into the tiles.

    But Huo TianQing had disappeared.

    The white curtains fluttered in the wind, the candles on the shrine table suddenly extinguished.

    DuGu YiHe, leaning against the sword for support, facing the darkness, suddenly felt very tired. He was getting old after all.

    Pulling out his sword and putting it back into its sheath, he slowly walked out; in the darkness, there seemed to be a pair of shining eyes coldly staring at him.

    He looked up, and saw a person motionlessly standing beneath the white poplar tree in the yard, a person wearing all white, like the snow.

    DuGu YiHe's hand went to his sword again.

    "Who is it?" He demanded in a fierce voice.

    That man did not answer, but countered with a question of his own.

    "Yan DuHe?"

    DuGu YiHe's face suddenly tightened.

    The man in white had slowly walked out from the darkness and into the moonlight. His snow white cloths had nary a speck of dirt on them, his face was expressionless, and carried across his back was an odd shaped sword in a dark sheath.

    DuGu YiHe's expression noticeably changed.

    "XiMen ChuiXue?"

    "Yes."

    "Did you kill Su ShaoYing?" DuGu YiHe angrily demanded.

    "I did kill him, but he did not deserve to die. The one who deserved to die is Yan DuHe!"

    DuGu YiHe's pupils dilated.

    "So if you are Yan DuHe, then I will kill you!" XiMen ChuiXue coldy spoke.

    DuGu YiHe suddenly burst out in a mad laugh.

    "You can't kill Yan DuHe, you can only kill DuGu YiHe."

    "Oh?"

    "If you killed DuGu YiHe, then your name would be famous throughout the land!"

    "Good." XiMen ChuiXue sneered.

    "Good?"

    "It doesn't matter if you are a lonely crane or just a crane, I will kill you!"

    {Note: another play on words that does not translate over. DuHe literally means "lonesome crane", while YiHe literally means "one crane".}

    "Good." DuGu YiHe suddenly sneered too.

    "Good?"

    "It doesn't matter if you want to kill a lonely crane or just a crane, why don't you unsheath your sword?"

    "Good, great!"

    DuGu YiHe gripped the handle of his sword, he could only think of how it felt as if hands were colder than the sword itself. Not only was his hand cold, his heart was as well.

    Famed reputation, powerful positions, even if he could give it all up now, he still could not get back all the energy he had just used up.

    He was looking at XiMen ChuiXue, but he was think of Huo TianQing, he suddenly felt regret.

    This was the first time that he really truly felt regret in his life, and it could possibly be the last time.

    He suddenly really wanted to see Lu XiaoFeng, but he knew that Lu XiaoFeng would never show up at this moment.

    He could only unsheath his sword.

    Because he had no other choice at that moment.

    Suddenly, there were clashes sword energy.

    The wind grew even colder, so that when XiMen ChuiXue himself bleeds, the blood would be blown dry just the same....

  11. #11
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 9

    Chapter 9 - A death too strange

    The carriage was not huge, just big enough to carry four people. The horses that were pulling the carriage were very well trained, even though the carriage was traveling on a mud road, it was very stable. Ma XiuZheng and Shi XiuYun sat on one said with Sun XiuQing and Yie XiuZhu sitting opposite of them.

    The carriage had been traveling for a long time, Shi XiuYun suddenly noticed that everyone was starting at her. She pretended not to noticed, but at last could not help but pout her lips and challenge everyone.

    "Why are you guys all staring at me? Did a flower suddenly sprout on my face?"

    "Even if a flower did sprout on your face," Sun XiuQing laughed and replied, "it would have been picked just then."

    Her eyes were big and her lips were thin, it was obvious to anyone she meets that she was the kind of girl who would never hold anything back when making fun of someone.

    She did not let Shi XiuYun reply before continuing.

    "The weird thing is, girl here always claims that any kind of flower would never be as good as a vegetable, so how come suddenly she says flower this and flower that as soon as she opens her mouth?"

    Amazingly, Shi XiuYun did not blush, instead she casually replied: "Nothing weird about that at all, it's because his surname is Hua, flower, so of course I'm going to say flower this and flower that."

    "He?" Sun XiuQing laughed a little. "Who's he?"

    "His surname is Hua, Hua ManLou."

    "How do you already know his name?"

    "He just told me."

    "How come I didn't hear it?"

    "We were talking about our stuff, why must we let you hear everything? Besides, you were probably thinking of Lu XiaoFeng at that moment anyways."

    "I was thinking of Lu XiaoFeng?" Sun XiuQing almost screamed. "Who said I was thinking about him?"

    "Me," Shi XiuYun answered. "While he was sitting in the bath tub, you couldn't take your eyes off of him, I noticed it the entire time, you can't deny that now."

    Sun XiuQing was laughing and throwing a fit at the same time.

    "Can you guys believe how crazy this girl is? Everything that comes out of her mouth is a lie." She scolded, with a smile on her face.

    "That girl really is a bit crazy," Ma XiuZheng casually answered. "But your eyes was on Lu XiaoFeng the entire time."

    "Thank you, Eldest Martial Sister, for being fair," Shi XiuYun laughed, waving her hands.

    Sun XiuQing's eyes twirled around for a bit before she suddenly sighed.

    "She was being fair, but there was a tinge of sourness in what she said."

    "Sourness?" Now it's Ma XiuZheng's look up astonished. "What sourness?"

    "A kind of sourness somewhat like vinegar."

    "Are you saying that I'm eating vinegar, that I'm jealous of you?" Now Ma XiuZheng was starting to yell as well.

    {Note: in everyday Chinese, the expression "chi cu", or "eating vinegar", is often used to describe that tinge of jealousy that one feels in matters of the heart are involved.}

    "I didn't say it," Sun XiuQing replied. "You just said it yourself."

    With much effort, she suppressed her laughter and continued, not letting others responde. "All these people say that Lu XiaoFeng is so smooth and so suave and so charming and so this and so that. But when I saw him today, sitting in the bath tub like that, he was just like a retard or something, nothing compared to that XiMen ChuiXue."

    "What are you saying?" Shi XiuYun yelled in shock.

    "What I'm saying, is that if I had to pick a man, I would definitely pick XiMen ChuiXue. Now there is a real man there, better than 10 Lu XiaoFeng's."

    Shi XiuYun sighed.

    "From here, it looks like you are the one that's crazy. Even if all the men in the world died, I would never pick that arrogant and conceited living corpse."

    "You don't like it, I do. This is called 'cabbages and carrots, to each her own'."

    Ma XiuZheng could not stop herself from laughing anymore.

    "From the looks of you two, it seems like you guys have already partitioned out the cabbages and carrots."

    "And the one we partition to you is that big carrot, Lu XiaoFeng!" Sun XiuQing said, trying to hold back her laughter.

    Shi XiuYun blinked.

    "Then doesn't Third Sister Yie get nothing?"

    Yie XiuZhu's face was already blushing furiously.

    "Will you look at yourselves?" Yie XiuZhu said, still blushing. "You have only met them once and it looks like you girls are going mad thinking of them, it's not like you girls have never met other men in your lives before is it?"

    "We have never met any men like them," Sun XiuQing sighed.

    She shot a look at Yie XiuZhu out of the corner of her eye and continued.

    "To be honest, any of the three men that we met today is pretty good, even though you won't admit it, you probably like all three of them don't you?"

    "You... you must be crazy." Yie XiuZhu was so distraught that somehow her face got even redder.

    "Number Two Sun over there always have this problem, and that is that she loves to bully honest people."

    "Her? Honest?" Sun XiuQing pouted her lips. "She looks honest on the surface, but of us four, I guarantee that she'll be the first to marry."

    "What... what makes you say that?" Yie XiuZhu asked.

    "Because she knows that she won't be the first one to marry," Shi XiuYun jumped in before Sun XiuQing could answer. "Forget about men with four eyebrows, even men with four times his courage won't dare to marry her."

    "That sounds about right," Ma XiuZheng concurred. "Anyone who marries a woman like her would surely be killed by a brain tumor from listening to her talk."

    "Maybe if she finds a deaf then...." Shi XiuYun added, trying to hold back her laughter, and failing miserably.

    Sun XiuQing had already stood up by now and was yelling: "Oh I see how it is, all three of you are ganging up against me. Well ok, I'll let you three have the three men, there, satisfied?"

    "Let us have them?" Shi XiuYun replied. "Are these three men yours or something?"

    "This girls knows a heck of alot," Ma XiuZheng sighed, "but she sure doesn't know any shame."

    Sun XiuQing stared at them before suddenly shouting at the top of her lungs: "I'm starving!"

    Ma XiuZheng stared at her in shock, as if she was looking at a truly insane person.

    Sun XiuQing could not help but laugh at herself either.

    "Whenever I get mad, I get hungry. Now that I'm mad, I have got to find a place to eat."

    When four girls get together, it would almost impossible to get them not to talk about men. Just like if four men got together, to make them not talk about women would be equally impossible.

    But Lu XiaoFeng and Hua ManLou were not discussing women, they were not in the mood. They were discussing XiMen ChuiXue.

    "I only hope that he hasn't found DuGu YiHe yet." Lu XiaoFeng observed.

    "You don't think he is a match for DuGu YiHe?" Hua ManLou asked.

    "His sword techniques are quick and lethal, not one bit of compassion in them, just like the person that he is, it never leaves any choice for his foes."

    Hua ManLou slowly nodded.

    "If a man leaves no choices for his foes, it is the same as not leaving himself any choices." He observed.

    "That is why, once his sword is unsheathed, if it can't injure others, then he has consigned himself to death!"

    "But he isn't dead."

    "That's only because he hasn't met a foe like DuGu YiHe until now."

    Lu XiaoFeng paused momentarily before continuing.

    "DuGu's sword techniques carry behind them a nastiness, with great inner strength, devastating offensives and an even more devastating defense, add to that the fact that his experience in fighting is something that XiMen could not match. That's why if XiMen can't succeed by the 30th move, then he would undoubtedly die under DuGu's sword."

    "And you think that there is no chance of him succeeding within 30 moves?"

    "Nobody can take DuGu's life within 30 moves, that applies to XiMen ChuiXue as well!" Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    Hua ManLou was silent for a long time before letting out a sigh of his own.

    "You were the one who asked him to get into this."

    "And that is why I am hoping that he hasn't found DuGu yet."

    They have already passed the quiet and peaceful road and made it to a little river just outside of the Pearl and Diamond Pavilion.

    Under the bright and clear waxing moon, the water shimmered like a shattered piece of silver. A person stood by the river, clothing as white as the snow.

    When Lu XiaoFeng saw him, he saw Lu XiaoFeng as well.

    "I'm not dead yet." He suddenly said.

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "You really don't look much like a dead person."

    "The one who died is DuGu YiHe." XiMen ChuiXue replied.

    Lu XiaoFeng stopped laughing.

    "You can't figure out why?"

    Lu XiaoFeng admitted it, he did not want to.

    But now XiMen ChuiXue let out a little laugh, a very strange and peculiar laugh. "I can't figure out why either." He said.

    "Oh?"

    "When Su ShaoYing made his 21 moves, I have already seen 3 openings."

    "So you thought that you had at least 3 opportunities to kill DuGu YiHe?"

    XiMen ChuiXue nodded.

    "Usually, I only need one opportunity, but when I was fighting him, I could not grasp any one of the opportunities at all."

    "Why?"

    "Even though his techniques had openings, as soon as I start to make my move with my sword, he would immediately compensate for the openings. I have never met anyone who knows where the openings of his very own techniques are, but he knew."

    "All the sword skills in the world have openings, but there really isn't that many who knows where the openings of his own sword skills are." Lu XiaoFeng agreed.

    "I made my move 3 times, all three times they were fended off, by then I knew I couldn't kill him. If you couldn't kill with a sword technique that only kills, then it is you who are to die."

    "Although you are conceited, at least you know your own weaknesses." Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "That is why you are still alive!"

    "I am still alive only because after 30 moves, his techniques suddenly turned chaotic."

    "A master like him, if his techniques suddenly turn chaotic, there can only be two reasons."

    XiMen ChuiXue waited for further explanation.

    "If his heart and mind was in turmoil, then his sword techniques must as well."

    "His heart and mind was not in turmoil."

    "Could it be that his inner strength was running out?"

    Without strength, sword techniques would turn chaotic as well.

    "With his inner strength and skill, how could he have completely used up his inner strength after just 30 exchanges?" Lu XiaoFeng wondered.

    "I said it myself, I can't figure out why either."

    Lu XiaoFeng thought silently.

    "Could it be that before he fought with you, someone else had made him use up alot of his inner strength? Maybe someone had already fought with him before you?"

    "He didn't say, so I wouldn't know," XiMen ChuiXue coldly replied. "Had I known, then I would not have forced him to fight."

    "When you force other people to fight, when was the last time you gave your foes an opportunity to speak?" Lu XiaoFeng said with a pathetic smile.

    Although there was no expression on XiMen ChuiXue's face, shades of shadowes seemed to have crept into his eyes.

    "He said something strange just before he died." He slowly said, after a long long silence.

    "What did he say?"

    "He said he...."

    When the sword was pulled out, there was still blood on the blade.

    When DuGu YiHe saw that the other person's sword had his blood on it, saw his blood being gently blown off drop by drop, there was no pain or anger or horror on his face. On the contrary, he suddenly shouted: "I understand now, I understand now...."

    "He said he understood now!"

    "What did he understand?" Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

    The shades of shadows inside XiMen ChuiXue's eyes darkened even more as he actually let out a prolonged sigh.

    "Maybe he understood that life is short, like the morning dew. Maybe he understood that the fame and power he gave up everything for, in the end was nothing...."

    Lu XiaoFeng thought deeply.

    "Precisely because life is short, you can't live it for nothing," he slowly said. "What did he really understand? Or is it didn't understand? What did he really want to say?"

    XiMen ChuiXue stared at the horizon for a long time before suddenly uttering a very unexpected phrase of his own.

    "I'm hungry."

    "You are hungry?" Lu XiaoFeng looked at him in shock.

    "I always get hungry after I kill," XiMen ChuiXue coldly replied.

    ***

    This small little wine shop should have been closed by now, residing as it did on the outskirts of a thick and dense white mulberry grove.

    There were several households inside the woods, there were also several households outside the woods, mostly small little families making a living raising silkworms.

    This particular little house was somewhat close to the road, so they built a little small hut with windows on all four sides out in the front and bought some simple wine and food for the passerbys. When the Four Beauties of E'Mei found this place, the owner was just about to go to bed, but then again how could anyone refuse four beautiful girls like them?

    Inside the little wineshop was just three tables, but they were kept very clean and neat. The little dishes made to go down with the wine were simple yet refreshing and the light tasting wine was just the flavor that the girls liked, so they were having a great time.

    When girls are having a great time, they would always talk much more.

    They were gossiping left and right, laughing, just like a group of happy little hens.

    "That guy with the surname of Hua," Sun XiuQing suddenly observed, "he seemed to have a bit of a south-of-the-river accent, could he be from that Hua family?"

    "Which Hua family?" Shi XiuYun asked.

    "That Hua family from south-of-the-river. Rumors say that you could take a horse and gallop at full speed for an entire day and still be inside their land."

    "I know about this family as well," Ma XiuZheng cut in. "But I don't think Hua ManLou is of that family."

    "Why not?" Sun XiuQing asked.

    "I heard that this family led the most extravagant of lives, and is very particular about what they drink, eat, and wear, even their staple man looked like a millionaire walking around about town. But that Hua ManLou looked like a very simple man. Not only that, I have never heard anything about one of their disciples being blind."

    Shi XiuYun immediately snickered.

    "What's the big deal about being blind? Even though he is blind, but he could see so much more than the four of us who have eyes could see put together."

    Ma XiuZheng did not know if she should say this, so she changed gear a bit and smiled.

    "His kungfu skills are really pretty good, even I didn't think that he could just casually catch your sword in between his fingers like that."

    "That maybe because this little girl here was already smitten with him by then." Sun XiuQing joked.

    Shi XiuYun shot her an angry look.

    "If you feel up to it, you can give him a try next time if you want. I'm not bragging for him or anything, but there aren't that many in this world who could match that move of his."

    "How about XiMen ChuiXue? Was that move of his shabby?" Sun XiuQing replied.

    Shi XiuYun did not reply, because she could not but admit that move by XiMen ChuiXue was truly frightening.

    "I heard that not only is XiMen ChuiXue's sword skills without peers, his family is quite well off as well, Thousand Plums Mansion's extravagance and wealth is definitely not any levels under the Huas." Ma XiuZheng chipped in.

    Sun XiuQing's eyes shone.

    "I like him, not because of his wealth or family, even if he was a penniless pauper, I would still like him."

    "From head to toe, I really can't see a single attractive feature about him." Shi XiuYun casually observed.

    "Why must be able to see his attractive points? As long as I...."

    She suddenly stopped talking, her face suddenly flushed to a blood red, red to the very roots of her ears.

    Because at this moment a man walked in from outside, clothing as white as the snow, none other than XiMen ChuiXue.

    Shi XiuYun could not say anything more either, all four gossiping girls suddenly all stopped.

    Not only did they see XiMen ChuiXue, but also Hua ManLou and Lu XiaoFeng.

    With a pair of piercing eyes like daggers, XiMen ChuiXue stared at them. He suddenly walked up to them.

    "Not only did I kill Su ShaoYing," he coldly announced, "but I also killed DuGu YiHe."

    The colors on all four girls' faces changed, especially Sun XiuQing's face, which turned as white as a sheet, without the slightest trace of blood.

    In a young girl's heart, hate is very easily replaced with the feeling of love. Besides, Su ShaoYing always was a little too conceited, thinking that his four martial sisters should all be fighting over him, hence he was not well liked by any of them. But the killing of master was a completely different matter.

    "What... what did you say?" Sun XiuQing had to ask again.

    "I killed DuGu YiHe."

    Shi XiuYun suddenly jumped up from her seat and began to shout.

    "My Second Martial Sister likes you that much, how... how... how could you go and do something like that!"

    Nobody could have expected her to say something like that, even XiMen ChuiXue seemed somewhat taken aback.

    Sun XiuQing's face was alternately green and red. Suddenly, grinding her teeth together, the two swords inside of her sleeves shot out, the glow of the swords flashed as they fiercely flew towards XiMen ChuiXue's chest.

    But XiMen ChuiXue did not responde, instead, he gently flicked his sleeves up and his body smoothly slid back, slid back two or three meters.

    "I'm going to kill you!" Sun XiuQing shrieked, her eyes already a teary red.

    Twirling her swords around, jaws clenched, she dove towards XiMen ChuiXue. The moves of her weapons were based upon quickness and sudden changes, the flashes of swords blinds one's eyes as if they were water droplets from a huge splash as she, in a blink of an eye, attacked 7 times.

    Her sisters' swords were also out.

    "This is a matter between us and XiMen ChuiXue, other people better not interfere." Shi XiuYun loudly declared.

    She obviously meant that for Hua ManLou. In reality, Hua ManLou could not interfere even if he wanted to.

    But how could he just stand there and let these four innocent girls die under the sword of XiMen ChuiXue?

    At this precise moment, a long "bang" could be heard as XiMen ChuiXue suddenly reached out and flicked Sun XiuQing's wrist, hitting the sword in her left hand into the one in her right hand.

    When the two swords met, she felt her wrist temporarily go numb, before she knew it, the two swords were suddenly in XiMen ChuiXue's hands.

    "Stand back, or else I will unsheath my sword!" XiMen ChuiXue coldly ordered.

    His voice was cold, but his eyes were not, that was why Sun XiuQing was still alive.

    He was still human, still a man, how could he bring himself to kill a beautiful girl with feelings towards himself.

    Sun XiuQing's face was even whiter as her eyes filled with tears.

    "I already said I'm going to kill you, if I can't kill you, then... then I will die in front of you!" She said, still clenching her jaw.

    "Dying won't do a thing, if you want revenge, then go back and get everybody from all 108 buildings of Green Shirt Pavilion." XiMen ChuiXue coldly sneered.

    Sun XiuQing looked surprised and caught completely off guard.

    "What did you say?" She uttered.

    "Since DuGu YiHe is the Helmsman of the Green Shirt Pavilion, then...."

    Sun XiuQing did not let him finish.

    "You say my master is a member of the Green Shirt Pavilion? Are you crazy?" She demanded, with fury in her voice and her eyes. "This entire trip here happened because my master received some information that the First Pavilion of the Green Shirt Pavilion is at...."

    Suddenly, a "twang" came from outside the back window as a flash of black streak came shooting through the window and hit Sun XiuQing in the back.

    Sun XiuQing's body twitched quickly and fell towards XiMen ChuiXue.

    Shi XiuYun was the closest to the back window. With an angry shout, she turned around and dove towards the window. But at that precise moment, another black streak came flashing through the window at her with such ferocity and speed that she could not get out of the way.

    She screamed, the swords in her hand flew out, but her body fell.

    By now, Sun XiuQing had fallen into XiMen ChuiXue's arms. Suddenly, XiMen ChuiXue grabbed her around the waist with one hand and unsheathed his sword with the other; with a flash of the sword, his body literally became one with the sword flash and flew out of the window.

    Lu XiaoFeng, on the other hand, had long jumped out using another window. Ma XiuZheng and Yie XiuZhu shouted in anger and came chasing out as well.

    In the middle of the night, the night wind breezed through the little garden outside the windows, not a trace of human shade could be seen.

    Beyond the mulberry grove, there came the sounds of hounds howling. The flashes of XiMen ChuiXue had entered the grove.

    Without any regards toward their own safety, Ma XiuZheng and Yie XiuZhu ran in as well.

    The families that lived inside the woods had already gone to sleep, there was no light to be seen, not even the flash of XiMen ChuiXue's sword.

    "Let's go!" Ma XiuZheng said. "No matter what, we have to get her back!"

    Before she even finished, the two of them disappeared.

    A yellow dog ran howling towards a small road in the back of the grove.

    Lu XiaoFeng had stopped chasing, he suddenly stopped underneath a tree, bent over, and pick something up....

    The owner of the wine shop was curled up in the corner, not a trace of blood was left on his face.

    Hua ManLou bent over and, gently as he could, brought Shi XiuYun up in his arms. Her heart was still beating, but beating very weakly.

    A deathily gray color had frighteningly appeared on her beautiful face. Slowly, her eyes opened and stared at Hua ManLou.

    "Why... why haven't you left." She lightly said.

    "I'm not leaving," Hua ManLou gently replied. "I'm staying here with you."

    A strange expression appeared in Shi XiuYun's eyes, seemingly comfort, also seemingly sadness.

    "I didn't think you would still recognize me." She said, barely able to sum up enough strength to smile.

    "I will always recognize you."

    Shi XiuYun smiled again, a sad and lonely smile.

    "Even though I didn't become a mute, I'm about to die. Dead people can't talk either can they?"

    "You... you won't die, I'm sure of it."

    "You don't need to comfort me, I know. I'm hit by poison needles."

    "Poison?" Hua ManLou's expression changed noticeably.

    "Because I feel as if my entire body is numb, that's probably the poison acting up, why don't you... you feel my wound, it's probably very hot."

    She suddenly grabbed Hua ManLou's hand and placed it on her wound.

    Her wound was right over her heart, her chest was soft, smooth, and warm. As she pressed Hua ManLou's ice cold hands onto her soft chest, her heart suddenly started beating much faster.

    Hua ManLou's heart was beating as well. At this moment, he heard Lu XiaoFeng's voice from outside the window.

    "What was she hit with?"

    "Poison needles."

    A long silence.

    "You stay there with her, I'm going to go find a person."

    By the time Lu XiaoFeng finished his sentence, his voice seemed to be coming from very far away.

    "You really haven't gone," Shi XiuYun said, trying to breath. "You are really here with me!"

    "Close your eyes, let me... suck the poison needles out."

    Shi XiuYun's deathily white face gained a hint of red as her eyes glowed in the dark.

    "You are really willing to do that?"

    "As long as you are willing...." Hua ManLou seriously replied.

    "I'm willing to do whatever, but I don't want to close my eyes, because I want to see your face."

    Her voice got weaker and weaker, until at the end the smile on her face suddenly froze and that glow in her eyes suddenly disappeared.

    Death. Suddenly and silently it had stolen her from inside Hua ManLou's arms.

    But her eyes seemed as if they were still staring at Hua ManLou, staring at him forever....

    Darkness. But all that was in front of Hua ManLou's eyes was darkness.

    He suddenly hated himself for being blind, hated himself for even being able to look at her one final time.

    She was so young, but her vivacious and young body had suddenly turned cold and stiff.

    Gently, Hua ManLou removed his hand, tears had already started to flow down from inside his eyes.

    He did not leave, nor did he move. For the first time, he felt the harshness and cruelty of life.

    Wind blew in from the windows, wind blew in from the door, the warm April wind felt to him like the bitter cold winds of Winter.

    He suddenly discovered that the wind carried with it wave of wave of a flowery fragrance. Suddenly the back window crackled. He snapped his head around and was prepared to jump up.

    But instead a sweet and warm voice came from outside the window

    "Don't be frightened, it's me!" the voice gently said to him.

    This voice was just the one that he was familiar with, this person, also was just the one that he had been thinking about the entire time.

    "FeiYan?" He could not help but utter in a slight shout despite of himself.

    "Yes, it's me. Didn't think you could still recognize my voice."

    A person lightly floated in from the back window, her voice carried with it a tinge of jealousy and envy.

    "I thought that you had forgotten all about me." She cooly said.

    Hua ManLou stood there, as if he was dumbstruck, only after a long time did he recover from the surprise.

    "How... how did you suddenly get here?"

    "Are you saying that I shouldn't have come?"

    "No, it's just that I didn't expect it," Hua ManLou shook his head and sighed. "I thought you were already...."

    "Did you think I was already dead?"

    Hua ManLou was at a lost as to what to say.

    ShangGuan FeiYan cooly sighed again.

    "If I'm to die, then I would have to die like her, in your arms."

    She slowly walked up to just in front of Hua ManLou.

    "I was watching you two earlier, I... I felt terrible, if it wasn't for the fact that she's dead, I might have killed her."

    Hua ManLou was silent.

    "I heard you sing once." He suddenly said after a long time.

    "Was it outside of Thousand Plums Mansion, from inside an abandoned shrine?" She enquired in a heavy voice.

    "Mmm."

    This time it was ShangGuan FeiYan who was quiet.

    "But by the time you found the place, I had already left." She quietly said.

    "Why did you leave?"

    Her voice got even quieter.

    "You should know better than anyone that I didn't want to leave."

    "Someone forced you to leave?"

    "I was forced to sing that song as well, I didn't know why at the time, but then I realized that they wanted to lure you to that shrine."

    "They? Who are they?"

    ShangGuan FeiYan did not answer this question, but her voice suddenly began to shake, as if she was frightened.

    "Did you already fall into their hands?"

    "It's best if you don't know too much, or else... else...." Her voice was shaking badly.

    "Or else what?" Hua ManLou could not help but ask.

    ShangGuan FeiYan was quiet for a long time again.

    "They lured you there to warn you about interfering in this matter, they wanted you tell you that I had already fallen into their hands." She did not let Hua ManLou interupt her and continued. "The reason why they wanted me to come here today was also to talk you out of interfering with this matter again. Else... else they would make me kill you!"

    "They want you to come and kill me?" Hua ManLou was startled.

    "Yes, because they know that you would never expect me to harm you and would never guard against me. But they didn't realize that I could never bring myself to harm you in anyway."

    She suddenly lounged forward and put her arms tightly around Hua ManLou.

    "By now you probably realize who they are," she said in a shaky voice. "But you could never imagine just how frightening powerful they really are...."

    Yan TieShan and DuGu YiHe were both dead, the only person who could want to stop this was Huo Xiu.

    "No matter how frightening their power is, you don't need to be afraid...." Hua ManLou said in a heavy voice.

    "But I really am scared, not for myself, but for you. If it wasn't for me, you guys would not have been dragged into this, if something should happen to you, how could I go on living like that?"

    She was holding on to him as tight as she could, but her body was still shaking. Her breath carried with it a sweet and tender fragrance.

    Hua ManLou held his arm out and wanted to hold her tight too.

    But at his side still laid the body of Shi XiuYun, a young girl filled with such passion and love, who had just died within these two arms of his, how could he possibly use those same two arms to hold another?

    His heart was filled with pain and conflict, he wanted to control his own emotions and feelings, but just could not.

    When his thoughts returned to holding her, however, she suddenly pushed away.

    "You probably understand what I'm saying now."

    "No, I don't understand."

    "No matter if you understand or not, I... I have to leave now."

    "Leave?" Hua ManLou could not help but sound desperate. "Why must you leave?"

    "I don't want to go either, but I must!" Her voice filled with sadness and apprehension. "If you have any feelings for me in you, then please don't ask me why anymore, or drag my hands, else not only will you harm yourself, but me as well!"

    "But I... I...."

    "Let me go, as long as I know that you are alive and well, I'll be happy and satisfied. Even if you are to wrong me...."

    Her voice was more and more distance, and suddenly vanished. Darkness. Hua ManLou suddenly found himself trapped inside a boundless darkness and loneliness. I knew that there must be circumstances beyond her control that forced her to leave.

    But all he could do was stand here like an idiot, he could not help her, he could not free her from her troubles, he could not even comfort her, just like a little before when all he could do was let Shi XiuYun die in his arms.

    "What kind of a man am I? What am I?" There seemed to be a voice laughing at him by his side. "You are nothing but a blind man, a useless blind man!"

    A blind man's life, is supposed to be filled with darkness, a hopeless darkness.

    His fists were clenched as he stood in the April night breeze. He suddenly discovered that life was not as perfect as he had imagined it to be. Life was filled with many unavoidable sorrow and pain.

    He did not know of any way to escape it all.

    April was supposed to be the season when swallows returned home, but his little swallow had just flown away, flown away like the best years of our lives, never to return. He slowly walked onto the grass outside the door, they were already dripping wet from the dew.

  12. #12
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 - Broken Souls, Heaven's Wrath

    The soft grass had been soaked through by dew, the night was getting deeper.

    Huo TianQing slowly made his way through the yard. The distant light in a small building shoned onto his white and withered face. He looked very tired, lonely and tired.

    The clear water in the lotus pound was quiet like a mirror, reflecting the moon and a sky full of stars. With his hands behind him, he stood silently at the head of the small bridge. When the wind blew by, a small leaf was brought with it onto the ground.

    He bent down and picked this fallen leaf up.

    "You are here." He suddenly said.

    "I'm here."

    When Huo TianQing looked up, he saw Lu XiaoFeng.

    Just like the fallen leaf, Lu XiaoFeng floated in from outside the wall and landed on the other side of the lotus pound. He was also staring at Huo TianQing.

    Between them, there was about 20 meters of lotus pound, but at the moment they both felt as if the distance between them were too close for comfort.

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    "You seemed to be waiting for me!" He said.

    "I was waiting for you."

    "You knew I was going to come?"

    Huo TianQing nodded.

    "I knew you had to come."

    "Why?"

    "Since you left, a lot of things happened here."

    "A lot of things?"

    "You didn't know?"

    "I only know one thing."

    "You know that DuGu YiHe died here?"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "But I don't know if he really should have died."

    Huo TianQing was silent.

    "Of course, you wouldn't know that I had something to do with his death." He suddenly sighed as well.

    "Oh!"

    "If not for me, then he might have died to XiMen ChuiXue's sword."

    "Oh?"

    "I never liked arrogant people who thought so highly of themselves, but DuGu just happened to be one of those arrogant people who thought so highly of himself. So before XiMen ChuiXue arrived, I exchanged blows with him."

    "I knew."

    "You knew?" This surprised Huo TianQing. "How did you know?"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed a bit.

    "When DuGu fought XiMen, he had, at most, half of his inner strength left. Of the people who are able to make him use half of his inner strength, there aren't many of them around here."

    Huo TianQing nodded.

    "Correct. This was something that you would have been able to figure out."

    "So there is something that I wouldn't have been able to figure out?"

    Huo TianQing nodded.

    Lu XiaoFeng cracked another smile.

    "No matter, right now I just want to know where ShangGuan DanFeng is."

    "This is just the thing that I wouldn't have been able to figure out."

    "What is?"

    "She didn't come here, and perhaps won't come here ever again!"

    Lu XiaoFeng was speechless, he really did not even consider the possibility that ShangGuan DanFeng was not here.

    "Maybe you are wondering, how did I come to know she won't come."

    "I really am wondering just that." Lu XiaoFeng admitted.

    "Once you read this letter, then you probably won't be wondering."

    He suddenly took out a letter from inside his sleeve and flicked his hand. The letter, like a piece of cloud, gently floated to Lu XiaoFeng.

    "DanFeng in danger,
    "XiaoFeng please stop,
    "If not stop,
    "Life not last."

    There were only those 12 words on the letter, the words were very neatly written, and the paper was very fine as well.

    On the envelope was written: "To: Lu XiaoFeng".

    "This letter was for you, now I hand it over to you." Huo TianQing said.

    "But I don't understand what it means."

    "It means that it is very difficult for you to find ShangGuan DanFeng at this moment, so it's best if you stop right now and not meddle in this business any longer, or else someone will want you killed." Huo TianQing casually replied, of course, he realized that Lu XiaoFeng understood all of this.

    "So who wanted you to give his letter to me?"

    "I don't know."

    "You don't know?"

    "If you were to write a letter like that for me to give to another, would you give it to me in person?"

    "No."

    "That's why the person who wrote this letter did not give me the letter in person either. I only found this letter on Boss Yan's shrine, other than that, I don't know."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Of course not."

    "But you should know."

    "What I should know?"

    "You should know who wrote this letter."

    "I only know that Boss Yan did not write this inside his coffin." Lu XiaoFeng said with a pitiful smile.

    "You should also know, other than Boss Yan, who else does not want you to meddle in this business." Huo TianQing's eyes brightened.

    "Pity I don't know that either." Lu XiaoFeng sighed again.

    "You know at least of one."

    "Who?"

    "Me."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    But Huo TianQing did not.

    "If ShangGuan DanFeng don't come, and you stop what you are doing, then this Pearl and Diamond Pavilion and all its treasures would all belong to me!" Huo TianQing said with a darkened face.

    "But I know that the head of the Heaven Hunter Sect would never do something like that." Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    Huo TianQing stared at him, the corner of his mouth finally curled up in the slightest hint of a smile.

    "What something to drink?" He suddenly said.

    "Of course!"

    The wine was kept in blue and white porcelin, when poured out, it was colorless and had no smell, just as if it was water, but as soon as it was stirred with another wine, the fragrance of the wine immediately filled this small yet delicate room.

    Lu XiaoFeng slowly took a sip, then let out a long sigh.

    "Now that is the genuine Virgin's Blush."

    "You know your wine."

    "That's why, next time you have wine as good as this, you should invite me over, at least I won't let this good wine of yours go to waste."

    "I don't usually have wine this good you know." Huo TianQing laughed and replied.

    "Oh."

    "I got this wine the last time I went and visited our neighbor, he gave it to me."

    "I envy you," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "Finding a neighbor as good as that is harder than finding a good jug of wine nowadays."

    "But he is a weird fellow, you probably heard of him before."

    "I do know quite a number of weird fellows, which one could he be?"

    "His name is Huo Xiu."

    "Huo Xiu?" Lu XiaoFeng almost shouted. "How could he be your neighbor?"

    "He doesn't come here very often, but he did build this small little place on the mountain in the back and would stay here a couple of months every year."

    Lu XiaoFeng's eyes suddenly started to glow.

    "Do you know why he would come here?"

    "Other than drinking? He doesn't seem to do much of anything."

    Lu XiaoFeng did not inquire any further, he seemed to be deep in thought. He had made a rule of not thinking too much while drinking, but this time he made an exception.

    Huo TianQing did not pay much attention to Lu XiaoFeng and continued. "Any good wine that you can name, he probably has it in that place. Even I, who don't care much for drinking, don't quite want to leave that little place once I enter it."

    "You know what kind of wine taste especially good?" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly said.

    "No, what kind?"

    "Stolen wine."

    Huo TianQing laughed.

    "You want me to go and steal some wine with you?"

    "Exactly!" Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "There is only one type of person in the world that can't drink a drop of wine, do you know what kind that is?"

    "No, what kind?"

    "The ones who have lost their head, so if you want to keep that head of yours for drinking wine, then you better forget this idea."

    "Stealing wine is like stealing books," Lu XiaoFeng joked, "they are done both highly civilized and tasteful thieves. Even if you are caught by someone, you probably won't get your head chopped off."

    "Well that depends on what kind of a person catches you!"

    "Come on, if you go back 500 years, you and Huo Xiu were of the same family," Lu XiaoFeng carried on joking. "What are you afriad of?"

    "He told me himself, inside that little place of his, there are 108 different types of traps just waiting to be sprung. If you are an uninvited guest and just charge up in there, then no matter who you are, it is very difficult to come back out alive." He stopped to sigh before continuing. "Those traps don't know who you are, they don't care if your surname is Huo, or Lu, it doesn't make a difference to them."

    Lu XiaoFeng finally let out a sigh as well.

    "I had four eye brows, it's not a big deal if I lose two of them, but I only have one head, I can't even make it if only half of it is gone." He said with a hopeless smile. "For just a couple of jugs of whine, he uses 108 different traps to guard against thieves, no wonder he's rich."

    "Maybe he's not just guarding the wines."

    "So you think there are other secrets inside that little building of his?" Lu XiaoFeng's eyes were glowing again.

    Huo TianQing smiled.

    "Everyone, more or less, have some secrets...." He casually replied.

    "But there is only one kind of person who can really keep a secret."

    "What kind?"

    "The dead kind."

    "But Huo Xiu is not dead." Huo TianQing's eyes were glowing as well.

    "No, he isn't."

    ***

    The most frightening kind is dead kind too. No matter how warm, gentle, or beautiful that person was while alive, death would always make that person frightening.

    That was why Shi XiuYun's body was covered by a white sheet of cloth.

    There was a lone lamp sitting on the table, Hua ManLou sat silently by the light, unmoving. He had left, but came back.

    No matter if Shi XiuYun was dead or alive, he could not leave her here by herself.

    The owner of this little shop ran off a long time ago, leaving only a single lamp here, seemingly forgotten that a blind man had no use for light.

    The night was quiet, without the slightest bit of sound, when Lu XiaoFeng entered, there was still no sound.

    But Hua ManLou still turned his head around towards him.

    "You've been drinking?" He suddenly asked.

    "A bit," Lu XiaoFeng admitted.

    "After all that's happened, you were still in the mood to drink?" He coldly said. "That is indeed rare."

    He stiffened his face, very rarely did he ever stiffen up his face.

    Lu XiaoFeng blinked.

    "You are jealous of me aren't you?"

    He had a secret weapon against anyone mad at him --- since you are already mad, then why not make you even madder? Let's see just how mad you can get, let's see if you can die from anger.

    Hua ManLou did not reply, he knew Lu XiaoFeng through and through, he did not want to die of anger just yet.

    Now it was Lu XiaoFeng's turn to not know what to do.

    "Actually, you should be drinking too," Lu XiaoFeng awkwardly stated. "The best thing about alcohol is that it can make you stop thinking about alot of stuff that you can't do anything about."

    Hua ManLou ignored him for a long time.

    "I ran into someone earlier." He suddenly broke the silence.

    "You ran into quite a number of people earlier."

    "But this person I absolutely did not expect to see here!"

    "Who?"

    "ShangGuan FeiYan."

    Lu XiaoFeng was just as shocked as Hua ManLou was.

    "She isn't dead?"

    "Even though she's not dead, living is pretty close to death to her right about now." Hua ManLou sadly commented.

    "Why?"

    "She seemed to have fallen into other people's hands, her actions completely under their control."

    "Do you know who is controling her?" Lu XiaoFeng asked in a surprised face.

    "She didn't say, and I don't know. But my guess is that this person must be...."

    "Must be who?"

    "Huo Xiu!"

    Lu XiaoFeng had just sat down, now he shot back up.

    "Huo Xiu?"

    "ShangGuan FeiYan came here because she was forced to come here, to try and talk me out of this whole affair, right now there is only one person who wouldn't want us to continue, and that is Huo Xiu."

    Lu XiaoFeng sat back down.

    Another long silence passed.

    "I didn't ran into someone earlier." He suddenly said.

    That sentence was very intriguing and clever, almost impossible to decipher.

    "You also didn't ran into quite a number of people earlier!"

    "But this was a person that I was absolutely sure of running into, I went to Pearl and Diamond Pavilion specifically to try and find this person."

    "ShangGuan DanFeng?"

    "Correct!"

    "Where is she now?"

    "She didn't go there to begin with, but someone leave a letter to Huo TianQing, telling him to give to me!"

    "What was on the letter?"

    "Four phrases that somewhat made sense and somewhat didn't. Altogether not unlike a couple of farts."

    "What were they?"

    "DanFeng in danger, XiaoFeng please stop, if not stop, life not last!"

    "It seemed that those phrases are telling you to stop this whole affair as well." Hua ManLou commented seriously.

    "Right now, there is still only one person who could not want us to keep going."

    "So you think that the person who wrote that letter is Huo Xiu as well?"

    "I only know that whoever wrote this letter is not the kind of person who does anything half way."

    A successful person would never do anything half way.

    "SiKong ZhaiXing did not steal away ShangGuan DanFeng, maybe that didn't surprise him. Therefore he had instructed people to wait for her on the road and was finally able to get his hands on her."

    "But I just finished drinking half a jug of his wine."

    This surprised Hua ManLou quite a bit.

    "You already met him?"

    "No, the wine was his gift to Huo TianQing, he owns a small little pavilion on the mountain behind Pearl and Diamond Pavilion."

    "A small pavilion?" Hua ManLou's expression noticeably changed.

    One word at a time, Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    "Yes, a small pavilion."

    Hua ManLou stood up too, but he sat right back down.

    Another long silence.

    "Do you remember what Sun XiuQing was saying earlier?" He slowly said.

    Of course Lu XiaoFeng remembers --- DuGu YiHe came here because he had received some information that the First Mansion of the Green Cloth Mansion is at....

    Hua ManLou's face seemed to be glowing.

    "Do you think that Huo Xiu's little pavilion is the First Mansion of Green Cloth Mansion?"

    Lu XiaoFeng did not answer this question, this was a question that did not need to be answered anymore.

    "But, according to the Golden Roc Emperor, the leader of the Green Cloth Mansion is DuGu YiHe!" Hua ManLou pondered.

    "His information might not be absolutely correct."

    "Nobody can avoid being falsely accused by someone, and just the same nobody can ever avoid falsely accusing someone else." Hua ManLou concurred.

    "It's a shame that Zhu Ting isn't here." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "How come?"

    "I heard that inside that little pavilion is 108 different booby traps."

    "You want to go and check that place out?"

    "Very much so."

    "Are those traps keeping you from doing so?"

    "Nope."

    Once Lu XiaoFeng started doing something, he would never stop half way. Nothing could make him stop half way!

    ***

    The hill was not very tall, but the view was very pretty. After a bit of a walk onto the hill, one could see a small light, a small light always looks very bright in the dark.

    But in front of Hua ManLou was nothing but darkness.

    "I see the building now." Lu XiaoFeng told him.

    "Where?"

    "Up ahead just through those woods right there, there is light inside the pavilion as well."

    "Do you think Huo Xiu would be here too?"

    "Don't know."

    "I said a bit ago, nobody can ever avoid falsely accusing someone else."

    "I heard you, I'm not deaf you know."

    "I'm only reminding you, Huo Xiu is your friend, and has always been good to you."

    "You think I might be falsely suspecting him?" Lu XiaoFeng coldly replied. "Even though I'm constantly being falsely accused of things by others, I still haven't falsely accused anyone of anything yet."

    He suddenly seemed to have turned very short tempered, because there was conflict in his heart.

    To be able to finish this matter quickly and get to the bottom of all of this would be for the best, but he really did not want to find out that the evil and despicable leader of the Green Cloth Mansion was really his friend Huo Xiu.

    Inside the woods was the refreshing and clean smell of early spring, even though the coldness in the wind was even more prevalent, the world seemed to be at peace.

    No humans, no sounds, as if all the noise and troubles of life was relegated to below the hill.

    However, some of the most dangerous and frightening things are often hidden inside this kind of peacefulness.

    "I don't like this situation." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly said.

    "What situation?"

    "It's too quiet here, I get nervous when it's too quiet or too noisy."

    "Why?"

    "Because everytime I ran into something weird, it was under one of these two circumstances!"

    "If you are really nervous, then it's best that you talk a bit more, talking usually gets people to forget about nervousness."

    "What do you want me to talk about?"

    "Talk about Huo Xiu."

    "Don't you already know quite a bit about him?"

    "I only know that he's a very strange and rich loner, he hates to socialize or deal with people, so even his most trusted servants do not know where he is."

    "Not only does he hate to deal with people, he don't like women very much either, therefore he has stay a bachelor all the way to now."

    "But a man must have some kind of a hobby or weakness."

    "His only hobby is good wine, not only does he love to drink them, he also loves to collect all kinds of good wine, any kind of good wine, from everywhere."

    "I heard that his martial arts is pretty good too."

    "I have never really seen him use his kungfu, but I can guarantee that his lightness skills, his inner strength, and his pressure point hitting techniques are definitely not below that of anybody in the world."

    "Oh?"

    "And he practices a kind of virgin inner strength, to my knowledge, in this world, there are at most 10 men who are really dedicated enough to really train that."

    "To practice that kind of martial arts, you really do have to sacrifice a lot." Hua ManLou laughed. "If not for the fact that he naturally don't like woman, it is very difficult to maintain that drive."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed too.

    "I don't know about other people, but I would never practice that kind of martial arts, I'd rather have my head cut off that to practice that."

    "If something else of yours is cut off, then you would have to practice it." Hua ManLou joked with a smile.

    "So it turns out you are not a gentleman after all." Lu XiaoFeng burst out laughing.

    "With a person like you around for any amount of time, any real gentleman would turn bad as well."

    They laughed out loud, as if not caring if they were discovered or not --- since sooner or later they were bound to be found out, then what's the point of being sneaky and lose some of that smoothness?

    "According to legend, as long as you are dedicated enough to practice this kind of martial arts, your kungfu would undoubtly be among the greats." Lu XiaoFeng continued.

    "It's not legend, it's fact. If you are willing to master that, then when learning other kungfu skills you would only have to put in half the effort and get back several times the results in return."

    "But since the dawn of time until now, of all the true martial art greats, none of them practiced this kungfu, do you know why?"

    "Don't know."

    "That's because those people who practice this kungfu are all old bachelors, and all old bachelors must have small problems here and there inside of their heart, those with problems inside their heart could never be a great in martial arts."

    "And that's why you don't practice it." Hua ManLou smiled.

    "Absolutely, positively no. No matter what you cut off of me, I won't practice it."

    "The pity is that even if you do practice it, you would still not be able to be a great in martial arts."

    "How come?"

    "Because of the things that are detrimental to practicing kungfu, you seemed to love them more than life itself, things like...."

    "Things like gambling, drinking, meddling in other people's affairs."

    "And another very important one, you like women way too much."

    Lu XiaoFeng burst out into another loud laugh. Only after he recovered did he realize that they had already made it through the woods and to the pavilion.

    If it had been anyone else walking through that piece of road, they would have been scared and unsure of themselves every step, but they had leisurely made their way through it.

    The road is all the same, what really matters is how you make your way through it. The road of life is the same as well.

    The red lacquered door was closed, but on it was a huge word.

    "PUSH"!

    So Lu XiaoFeng pushed, and the door opened with just a push.

    No matter what kind of door, it could be opened by pushing, all that mattered was whether or not you were willing to push, whether or not you dared to push.

    Passed the door was a wide but crooked hall way, after going down the hall way a bit, the corners of the wall where forks appeared had several large words on them.

    "TURN".

    So Lu XiaoFeng turned, after several turns, he made it to a rather large stone platform, facing him was another large word.

    "STOP".

    So Lu XiaoFeng stopped, Hua ManLou, of course, stopped as well.

    "Why did you suddenly stop?" He could not help but ask.

    "Because there's a word here that says stop."

    "It told you to stop, so you did?"

    "So what if I didn't? There are 108 traps all around this place, do you know where any of them are?"

    "Don't know, not even a single one."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "So since we don't know, then what's the harm in being a little easy going?"

    "Since if we keep going forward we might spring a trap, what's the harm in stopping?"

    "Right, so if they tell me to stop, then I'm going to stop, they want me to walk, then I'm going to walk."

    "It's rare to find someone as obedient as you." Hua ManLou sighed.

    "Since I'm so obedient, how could they bring themselves to trouble me huh?"

    Hua ManLou could not stop himself from laughing.

    "No matter what you do, you always seem to have your own little strange and completely nonsensical way, but I could never tell if your way of doing things is right or wrong."

    Before Lu XiaoFeng could reply, he suddenly realized that the stone platform they were standing on was slowly sinking.

    Then he found that they were inside a stone room in the shape of a hexagon, a stone table was in the middle with two bowls of wine on it. There was also a word on the table.

    "DRINK".

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "See, benefits of listening to others."

    "What benefits? Invite you to a drink?"

    "Correct, this time they invite us for a drink, next time they might offer us some food."

    "That is some genuine Music of Lu Prefecture, looks like Boss Huo is bringing out the good wine."

    "But you don't use your nose to drink," Lu XiaoFeng joked. "Come on, a bowl for you, a bowl for me."

    "This wine is too strong, one bowl and I'll probably be drunk."

    "Alright, you don't drink, I will."

    He brought the bowl up to his face and drank almost all of it in one go. Suddenly he noticed that the color on Hua ManLou's face had changed. So he had to stop.

    "Are you alright?"

    "This room seem to have a special fragrance, can you smell it?" Even Hua ManLou's lips had turned white.

    "I only smell the wine."

    Hua ManLou seemed to be barely able to stand, suddenly, he reached out, grabbed the bowl of wine, and drank it all in one gulp. Colors of life immediately returned to that already deathly gray colored face of his.

    Lu XiaoFeng blinked a couple of times.

    "Turns out this wine could also cure illnesses." He laughed.

    He finished his own bowl of wine before discovering that, on the bottom of the bowl, there was another word.

    "SMASH"!

    So he threw the bowl onto the ground, smashing it to pieces on the stone wall.

    Then he suddenly noticed that the stone wall was moving, uncovering a secret door. Behind the door was several scores of steps, leading into the ground.

    Underneath was the belly of the mountain, Lu XiaoFeng did not even need to go down before seeing the glow of treasures.

    The belly of the mountain was hollow, the inside was over 100 meters long and wide, piled high with uncountable numbers of spears and sabres, as well as chests after chests of gold and precious stones.

    In his entire life, Lu XiaoFeng had never seen this much weapons or gold.

    But what shocked him the most, was not the weapons nor the riches, but four men. Four old men.

    Their faces were all wrinkled and white, obviously having not been under the sun for years, they were all wearing gold colored robes decorated with dragons and made from the finest of silks, all wearing jade covered belts, the clothing of emperors.

    There were four golden chairs decorated with dragons, thrones. One of them was sitting on one, entranced, another one was crouched on the floor with an abacus, mumbling something to himself, as if he was counting the treasure, another one was standing in front of a bronze mirror, counting the white hairs on his head.

    The last old man both hands behind his back and was pacing back and forth. When he saw Lu XiaoFeng, he immediately came walking up with a stiff face.

    "Who art thou?" He demanded in a force tone. "How dare thou enter your Emperor's bed chambers without being summoned. Doth thou not know this is an offense punishable by death by a thousand cuts?"

    His attitude and demeanor really did look like that of an emperor, not a bit like he was joking.

    Lu XiaoFeng was a bit taken aback.

    "You say that this is the Royal Palace? Then who are you?" He had to ask.

    "The Golden Roc Emperor, the 13th Emperor of the Golden Roc Empire."

    Lu XiaoFeng was taken aback again. He never could have imagined that there was another Golden Roc Emperor here. But it turned out that there was more than one here.

    This old man had just finished speaking before the other 3 old men came charging up.

    "Don't believe this crazy old fool's words, I am the real Golden Roc Emperor, he's a fake." They were all saying.

    "He's a fake... all three of them are fakes!"

    The four old men were all saying the same thing, all arguing untill their faces were red all the way to their ears. All that royal air and attitude that was there a moment ago had all but disappeared.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly felt that all four of the men were insane, at least a bit crazy at least.

    When running into this kind of people, the best thing to do is to high tail it out of there, even if you had promised to give him all of the treasures in the world, he would not have wanted to stay there one moment longer than he had to.

    But just as he decided that he wanted to back out, he discovered that the door above the stone staircase was closed. The four old men had surrounded him as well.

    "Who among us do you think is the real Golden Roc Emperor... be honest now, tell the truth." They all asked him.

    On those old and worn faces of theirs, a crazy and animalistic look suddenly appeared. Lu XiaoFeng knew no matter who he picked as the real one, the other three would undoubtedly immediately try to kill him.

    He had never encounter anything so comical, so frightening before in his life. He could not even have dreamed of this.

    At this moment, he suddenly heard three clear and crisp rings as another door suddenly appeared on the wall behind him.

    Four handsome, eunuch looking young men, each wearing yellow robes, came walking out, each with a small lacquered table with food on them in their hands.

    The four old men immediate ran back and climbed onto their individual "thrones", changing their facial expression to a very serious and proud look. The four young men each knelt in front of one of the old men, presented the table to the old men, and said: "For Your Excellency's use."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly came down with a big case of the head ache. Because he could not, for the life of him, figure out what is going on.

    Could the four old men all be the real Golden Roc Emperor? How else could they all have eunuchs serving them?

    But this was supposed to be Huo Xiu's little summer house, why would there be four men like these here?

    That door on the other side of the wall was still open, so he quietly and surreptitiously, pulling Hua ManLou with him, walked through that door.

    There was another hall way beyond the door, at the end of the hall way was another door, when they opned that door, they saw Huo Xiu.

    Huo Xiu had on him some greenish-blue colored clothing that had already been washed to white, he wore a pair of old and torn shoes, and was sitting on the ground, using a broken piece of spoon, stirring the wine that was being kept warm by a small red clay stove.

    Such delicious smelling wine.

  13. #13
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 - The smartest man

    The air was filled with the delicious and intoxicating aroma of the wine, the fire inside the little red clay stove was not big, but it was just enough to heat up the bitterly cold cave to a warm comfort.

    "Well, at least I came to the right place," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "And just at the right time."

    Huo Xiu sighed as well.

    "I don't get it, how come this person always show up just when I'm about to have some good wine."

    He smiled and turned towards them. His bright and vivacious eyes gave even those wretched cloths on him life.

    "If you aren't afraid of getting a little dirt on your cloth, then why don't you sit down and have a drink with me?" He asked with a smile.

    Lu XiaoFeng looked down at the bright red cape that he was wearing, and then looked up at his faded cloths, and laughed.

    "By the time I get as many servants as you do now, I'm going to wear those exact same cloths too."

    "Oh?"

    "Your cloths are cloths only the richest of the rich could wear, I don't deserve it yet."

    "Why?"

    "Because once a man really have got some money, it doesn't matter what he wears anymore."

    "Pity you would never be rich!" Huo Xiu smiled.

    "Why?"

    "Because you are too smart, nobody that smart ever get rich."

    "But last time we met, you said that I was going to end up rich sooner or later."

    "That was because I didn't find out how smart you really are."

    "So when did you find out?"

    "Just now."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed again.

    "Other than you, there may not be another man who could get to here as effortlessly as you have."

    "Is it because nobody else is as obedient as me?" Lu XiaoFeng joked.

    Huo Xiu nodded.

    "When they see the word "push" on the door, at least 9 out of 10 men would not have been able to bring themselves to push the door, and if you don't push open the door there is no way you can get in here. If you don't turn when you see the word "turn", then nobody could have hoped to be able to walked out of my maze. If you don't stop when you see the word "stop", then even if you avoided getting turned into a porcupine by arrows, you would have lost at least a layer of skin from boiling hot oil poured on you."

    "But the most dastardly thing is probably that poisonous gas you put into that room above us, even Hua ManLou almost fell for it. There probably aren't too many people who could have guessed that not only wasn't there any poison in the wine, but that's where the antitode was."

    "But you guessed."

    Lu XiaoFeng cracked a smile.

    "I only know that no matter if you are a good man or a bad man, you are at least not one who would lie to your friends. Because you don't have that many friends to begin with, so you can't afford to lose one."

    Huo Xiu stared at him with those bright eyes of his, stared at him for a long time.

    "What else do you know?" He suddenly asked.

    Lu XiaoFeng also stared at him, stared at him for a long time.

    "I also know that your surname isn't Huo, that your name was originally ShangGuan Mu." He slowly replied.

    "That's right." Huo Xiu's face did not even change as he casually replied.

    "You, along with Yan TieShan and DuGu YiHe were all once important officials of the Golden Roc Empire."

    "That's right."

    "When the Golden Roc Empire fell, the three of you were charged with taking all the riches of the treasury and bringing them here, to China."

    "That's right."

    His face still looked peaceful, without even the slightest hint of regret or sorrow.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "But then you three took advantage of the situation and kept the riches, as soon as you arrived in China, you went into hiding and did not go look for the 13th Emperor as you were ordered to do so...."

    "You are wrong." Huo Xiu suddenly interrupted him.

    "Wrong?" Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

    "Wrong about a small point."

    "Which is?"

    "The ones who did not keep their promise was not us, but that little Prince that escaped with ShangGuan Sheng."

    Lu XiaoFeng was speechless, he did not expect that point, he had not even consider the possibility of it.

    "Not only was he not at the agreed upon location, he has been hiding from us until now. We had been searching all these years and still could not find him."

    "So if that's the case, then it's not you guys that has been avoiding him, but he who has been avoiding you."

    "That's right."

    "You three were all important and trusted officials of the former Emperor, and had a huge amount of riches with you. Why would he be hiding from you? Is there something wrong with him?"

    "Because that huge mountain of riches does not belong to him," Huo Xiu coldly observed. "It belongs to the Golden Roc Empire."

    "There is a difference?"

    "There is a huge difference."

    "Oh."

    "If he accept all these riches, then he was committed to somehow use that money to restore the Golden Roc Empire. That's not an easy thing to do, not only will there be many hardship along the way, he could lost his life at any moment."

    Lu XiaoFeng agreed. To be born to royalty is not necessarily a fortunate thing. "Pray that I never ever ever be reborn to royalty" was a sentence whose bitterness and hardship that not many people can understand.

    Huo Xiu's eyes suddenly looked exceedingly hopeless and sad.

    "It's a shame that our little Emperor did not have the makings of a great general." He slowly said.

    "What kind of a person is he?" Lu XiaoFeng could not help but ask.

    "He was like the Late Emperor Li, a poet, and also like Song HuiZong, a painter; ever since he was little, he had been called by others as a Genius of the Three, 'poetry, writing, and painting.'" He sighed and continued. "To a person like him, who he is naturally wasn't important to him, losing his throne was probably not a big deal to him, as long as he could write poetry, sing songs, live a carefree and worry-free life, that was all he wanted, besides...."

    "Yes?"

    "Besides, the portion of money that ShangGuan Sheng took with him was more than enough to last all of them a life time of carefree living."

    Lu XiaoFeng did not speak again, but his silence did not mean that he believed.

    "You don't believe me?"

    Lu XiaoFeng still did not speak.

    "The rations and weapons that we gathered in preparations for the restoration is just outisde, you probably just saw them didn't you?"

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "We really did make quite a bit using the riches of the Empire, but it was only with the goal of using that money to organize an army to fight for the restoration of the Empire, because, as you said, we are the most important officials of the present dynasty. But if our Emperor does not show up, then what would we be fighting for?"

    His words were almost forcing Lu XiaoFeng to believe him, even if he did not want to.

    "But if he had really hid from you all these years, why is he suddenly trying to find you now?" He had to ask one final question.

    "It's not like there hasn't been people coming to us before." Huo Xiu coldly replied.

    "Oh?"

    "Those four old men out there, I trust that you have already ran into them."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly had an epiphany.

    "You mean that they are all fakes trying to get their hands on the fortune?"

    Huo Xiu nodded.

    "They want to get rich, so I let them sit facing all that money all day everyday, they want to pretend to be king, so I let them sit on that throne and wear those Dragon Robes all day everday." Huo Xiu casually said. "Even though they tried to cheat their way to the money, you can't say that I have mistreated them at all."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed and cracked a rather awkward smile.

    "Turns out you are not a good man either, a good man would never treat anyone like that."

    But in reality he had to admit that there probably was not a more appropriate way to deal with people like that.

    "This matter was supposed to be a great secret, other than the four of us and our little Prince turned Emperor, nobody else should have known about this."

    "If that's the case, then how come they know about it?"

    "They don't either."

    Lu XiaoFeng was speechless, he could not comprehend what Huo Xiu was saying.

    "The one that knows about this secret is another, they are nothing but pawns being used by that person."

    "Who is this other person?"

    "Don't know."

    "Even they don't know?"

    "If you were him, would you appear without disguise?" Huo Xiu sneered.

    "No, I wouldn't," Lu XiaoFeng answered back with a pitiful smile.

    "In total, they have seen that man three times, every time they met him, he would look completely different, if it wasn't for the fact that his voice did not change, they would not have even believed it was the same person."

    "So it seems not only is this man's planning flawless, he is also a master of disguises."

    Hua ManLou had been listening quietly at the side until now.

    "The real masters of disguises could change their voice as well." He suddenly interrupted.

    "Oh?" Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    "The art of disguising oneself is part of Ninjatsu that came from the three islands of Japan off the east coast. In the art, there is a particular skill that, once mastered, could allow the practioner to control the muscles inside his throat, making it possible for him to completely change his voice."

    {Apparently, Japan did not include Hokkaido at that time.}

    "Could you be tricked by it as well?" Lu XiaoFeng wondered.

    "If one truly masters this skill, even I can't tell the difference."

    "Then could the Golden Roc Emperor that asked us be a fake as well?" Lu XiaoFeng asked himself.

    "The reason I asked SiKong ZhaiXing to steal ShangGuan DanFeng from you was to check if she was real or not, pity he just happens to be a friend of yours as well!"

    "Good thing you did succeed in the end and ShangGuan DanFeng still ended up in your hands in the end."

    "Who said she is in my hands?"

    "She isn't?" Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

    "No."

    Lu XiaoFeng was shocked again, for he knew that Huo Xiu was not the lying type.

    But if Huo Xiu was not lying, then why did ShangGuan DanFeng suddenly disappear? He could not figure it out, nobody could have figured it out.

    "I still have not even laid my eyes on her yet!" Huo Xiu added.

    "Then have you seen ShangGuan FeiYan?" Lu XiaoFeng probed.

    "I haven't even heard of that name before!"

    Lu XiaoFeng was even more confused. None the sudden twists and turns of this whole story was what he had expected at all.

    All he could do was force a sorry smile onto his face.

    "No wonder as soon as Yan TieShan tried to chase me away as soon as he heard me bring up this matter. He probably thought I was also trying to trick away that treasure."

    "But at the time you thought that he was mad and frustrated because his old secret had been discovered." Huo Xiu commented.

    Lu XiaoFeng had to admit Huo Xiu was right. Only now did he finally understand why Yan TieShan had such a strange expression on his face when he saw ShangGuan DanFeng just before he died. But could ShangGuan DanFeng be the mastermind behind all of this?

    But he still could not believe that all of this was a lie. If this was a set up, then why were there so many people trying to prevent him from meddling in this matter? And further more, why would the Green Shirt Pavilion get involved in this matter to try and prevent him from meeting with the Golden Roc Emperor?

    "When was the last time you saw that little Emperor?" Hua ManLou suddenly asked.

    "A little more than 40 years ago."

    "And how old was he at the time?"

    "Thirteen."

    "Fourty years, even a thirteen year old boy would have turned into an old man." Hua ManLou mused.

    Huo Xiu sighed deeply.

    "Time has no mercy, everyone will turn old one day."

    "Then how could you tell whether or not a 60 year old man now was the same 13 year old Emperor back then?" Hua ManLou asked.

    "There is a secret, an even more closely guarded secret." Huo Xiu answered in a heavy and quiet voice.

    Hua ManLou did not ask any further, he believed that everyone was entitled to their own secrets.

    But Huo Xiu continued. "But I trust you two, I'm willing to tell this secret to you."

    Hua ManLou used his silence to show his gratefulness, to be able to gain the trust of a man like Huo Xiu is not an easy matter.

    "Every Golden Roc Emperor have always had a birth defect, every single one of them has had 6 toes on both of their feet."

    "So that's what you used to find out that those old men were fake!" Lu XiaoFeng realized.

    Huo Xiu nodded.

    "Even if other people found out about this secret, it would still be very difficult to fake. I still haven't seen a second person with 6 toes on both feet."

    "I haven't even seen one." Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    Huo Xiu smiled.

    "Well, there aren't that many with four eye brows either."

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled as well.

    "So all you have to do now, is to get this Golden Roc Emperor of yours to take off his boots and count his toes," Huo Xiu instructed. "Then you'd be able to tell if he's real or not."

    "That's not too difficult."

    "Getting a man to take off his boots must surely be easier than getting a girl to take off her pants." Huo Xiu smiled.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Seems like you really truly aren't a gentleman, not at all."

    Huo Xiu sighed as well.

    "To be a good man isn't hard, but to stoop as low as I have, now that's difficult."

    Lu XiaoFeng understood what he meant. When someone has to look after as big of a fortune as he, he would have to resort to stooping to the lowest of lows to guard against others.

    "If that Golden Roc Emperor of yours is the real Emperor, then I would finally be able to get this huge burden off of my shoulders," Huo Xiu continued. "If not then...."

    "If not then I'll invite him here to keep those four men outside company." Lu XiaoFeng finished Huo Xiu's thought.

    ***

    By the time they walked out of that mysterious cave, it was already dawn. The spring winds were cold yet refreshingly clean, the hillside was covered with a new born green, and the dew drops on the grass leaves looked like gems under the new light. What a wonderful and beautiful world it is.

    The first thing that Lu XiaoFeng did was take a very deep breath.

    "My premonition was correct," he said with a tired smile. "I ran into something weird again."

    How this matter had turned out was something nobody anybody could have predicted.

    "Think about it," Hua ManLou suddenly said. "Do you really think there are people in this world with 6 toes on both feet?"

    "I don't know, never seen one before though."

    "If there isn't that kind of a person like that in the world, then we can't ever find the 'real' Golden Roc Emperor can we? Then won't Huo Xiu's words become the truth even if they aren't true?"

    Lu XiaoFeng thought about it for a bit.

    He suddenly smiled.

    "I only know that this is a strange world that we live in, where there are all kind and every kind of strange people."

    Hua ManLou smiled too.

    "That's right, if there is a person that have 4 eye brows, then why can't there be a person that have 6 toes? It's a shame though, you only have 2 of those 4 eye brows left."

    Lu XiaoFeng ran his fingers along where his mustache used to be.

    "You are wrong again." He smiled.

    "What about?"

    "No matter how often a person shaves off his mustache, it would always grow back."

    As soon as he finished his words, he suddenly saw a person walking out from behind the thick morning fog like a ghost.

    Her face was white, she was obviously tired and vulnerable, but still very beautiful.

    Lu XiaoFeng recognized her.

    "Miss Yie XiuZhu?"

    Yie XiuZhu nodded.

    "Is Miss Yie waiting here for someone?"

    Yie XiuZhu shook her head.

    "I have been here since last night."

    "Why?"

    "We buried our master and little sister here," she grimly replied. "Elder Martial Sister was tired, but I... I couldn't sleep."

    She was definitely the most honest and most shy of the Four Beauties of E'Mei, she could barely bring herself to speak when talking to a man.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed. There was an enormous amount of sympathy and sorrow that was in his heart for this girl, but he did not know what to say.

    "We couldn't catch up to XiMen ChuiXue," She suddenly spoke up again. "So... we don't even know if our Third Martial Sister is dead or alive."

    "I'll find her for you." Lu XiaoFeng promised her.

    Yie XiuZhu's head bowed even lower.

    "I have something else to tell you." She said after a long time, in a voice barely above a whisper.

    Lu XiaoFeng waited for her to continue.

    "It should have been my Third Martial Sister who told you this, but before she was finished, she was... was...." She suddenly could not control her voice anymore and had to stop to gather herself. She quietly and gently wiped away the tears around her eyes with her sleeve and continued. "The reason why our master had made this trip here was because he had received information that the First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion is on the hill behind Pearl and Diamond Pavilion."

    "No information is absolutely correct, no matter who it came from." Lu XiaoFeng uttered before he could stop himself.

    Yie XiuZhu's head shot up.

    "But our Third Martial Sister was hit because of this information. Obviously someone did not want her to say it. That's why I felt that this was of great importance and that you had to be told of it." There were traces of indignation on her face, even her voice got a bit louder.

    Lu XiaoFeng could not help but feel sorry towards her again.

    "I know you meant good," He forced a smile on his face. "No matter what happens, after I get to the bottom of all of this you would be the first one that I tell."

    Yie XiuZhu's head went back to looking down again as she was silent for a long time.

    "So where are you going now?" She barely whispered.

    "We are going to see a man with 6 toes on his foot...."

    Yie XiuZhu's head shot back up again as she seemed startled by his comment. Suddenly, she turned around and left.

    Hua ManLou sighed.

    "Right now, she's probably thinking that you are insane."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed too.

    "Right now, even I am having more and more doubts about my sanity."

    ***

    The long hall way was dark and quiet, they were waiting at the very end of the hall, somebody had already gone in to inform the Golden Roc Emperor of their arrival.

    "So are you sure you can get him to take off his boots?" Hua ManLou quietly asked, he had to know.

    "No."

    "Have you thought of any way of doing it?"

    "I thought of several ways to do it, but I can't decide on which one to use."

    "Well, give me two examples."

    "I can accidentally knock over a flask of water onto his feet on purpose; or I could say that I really like his boots and ask him if he could take them off for me to get a closer look at them."

    "Do you have any idea how idiotic those ideas are?" Hua ManLou frowned.

    "Of course I know," Lu XiaoFeng put up a pitiful smile. "But this entire thing is idiotic in and of itself, so how do you expect me to think of any non-idiotic ideas?"

    He stopped, because the door had just been opened.

    The Golden Roc Emperor was still sitting on that huge but comfortable chair, his face was covered with anxious excitement.

    "So did you guys find those 3 traitors?" He did not even wait until they had walked into the room before asking.

    "Only found two." Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    "Well where are they?" Golden Roc Emperor's face seemed to glow.

    "They are dead."

    The Golden Roc Emperor's expression noticeably changed.

    "Dead? How?"

    "Everyone dies."

    Lu XiaoFeng was not really paying attention to his answers because he had not seen the Golden Roc Emperor's feet --- the Golden Roc Emperor's was covered from his thighs on down with a silk blanket decorated with golden colored dragons, as if he was afraid of cold.

    But Hua ManLou had already succinctly told him what had happened.

    "We haven't found Huo Xiu yet, because quite simply he is a very difficult person to find," he added on at the end. This was the first time he had ever lied, he suddenly discovered that lying was not a hard thing to do at all.

    Because when he said that lie, he did not feel in his heart that he had wrong anyone with the lie.

    The Golden Roc Emperor let out a long sigh.

    "I had wanted to see them to see if they still had enough face and dignity to see me." He bitterly declared.

    "But we want to see a person right now as well!" Hua ManLou suddenly said.

    "Who?"

    "Zhu Ting."

    "Actually I was just about to ask you," the Golden Roc Emperor frowned. "I have already twice dispatched men to get him, and yet he still did not come."

    Hua ManLou thought about it for a bit before cracking a smile.

    "This is probably because he's such a lazy person to begin with."

    "Those dragons on your blanket look great," Lu XiaoFeng suddenly spoke up, "they almost look real."

    This was another idiotic sentence, after that, he did another idiotic thing. He actually went up and lifted the blanket. He froze like a real idiot, completely motionless, in the middle of his motion to lift the blanket. There was nothing coming out from the ends of the Golden Roc Emperor's pants, both of his legs had been cut off from the knees on down.

    "You are probably wondering why my legs had suddenly disappeared aren't you?"

    All Lu XiaoFeng could do was nod like an idiot.

    "Remember that old problem that my legs had?" The Golden Roc Emperor sighed. "If I touch wine, they would start hurting a great deal. Once a man gets old, he finds more and more problems."

    This was true, he had told Lu XiaoFeng this the last time he was here.

    "But once you get to my age, what other joys do you have but to drink a bit of wine?" The Golden Roc Emperor smiled pathetically.

    "So... you snuck in a couple of drinks?" Lu XiaoFeng barely forced a smile back onto his face.

    "I figured that a little bit couldn't hurt, but I had just had 3 cups when my legs started to swell up, and they were filled with pus, so... so I decided to get rid of them once and for all and told Liu YuHen to amputate them."

    He suddenly stopped and bust out laughing. "I might not have my legs anymore, but at least now I can drink without any worries. Tonight I will have to challenge you two to a drinking contest, let's see if this old man here can hold his wine as good as you youngsters."

    All Lu XiaoFeng could do was look at him with a silly smile on his face.

    "Had you guys gotten back a few days earlier, I would have surely brought out those two cut off legs and let you guys have a see, to prove that even though I am an old man, I still have that warrior spirit within me."

    "Where are you legs now?" Lu XiaoFeng had to ask.

    "I had them burned."

    "Burned? Why did you have them burned?" Lu XiaoFeng was startled.

    "Those two legs had prevented me from drinking wine for 10 years, what did you expect me to do but burn them? Did you expect me to use them as snacks to go down with the wine?"

    Lu XiaoFeng had nothing more to say. Looking at the proud and self-assured expression on this old man's face, he suddenly felt like a simpleton, a really idiotic simpleton at that.

    The hallway was still dark and sinister as they slowly walk out from within it.

    "Well, at least we solved that problem." Hua ManLou suddenly smiled.

    "Oh?"

    "You don't have to think of ways to take off his boots anymore, because he doesn't have any boots to begin with!"

    "Since when did you get a sense of humor?" Lu XiaoFeng coldly replied.

    But this matter was not funny at all. Now even Huo Xiu would not be able to tell if this Golden Roc Emperor was real or not.

    If you say this was just a coincidence, he just could not believe at how perfect and convenient this coincidence was.

    If you say this was not a coincidence, then how could the Golden Roc Emperor had known about this secret? They headed straight for here as soon as they left Huo Xiu's little place. Unless the Golden Roc Emperor had eyes and ears that work from thousands of kilometers away, there was no way that he could have known that they were coming to look at his feet.

    "If my legs swelled up every time I drank, I just might have them cut off as well." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Looks like there is quite a few people in this world who would rather die before they stop drinking." Hua ManLou sighed in return.

    "That room is probably still left vacant for you, why don't you go and get some sleep, don't forget that someone wants to challenge you to a drinking contest tonight." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly said.

    "What about you?"

    "I'm going to find a person."

    "Who?"

    "A woman, of course. A woman with a foot."

    Hua ManLou's face immediately gained a glow.

    "That's right, you have to go and find a woman with 6 toes as soon as possible."

    "Oh!"

    "Don't forget that the every Golden Roc Emperor of every generation has had 6 toes, this is something that they passed down. So if ShangGuan DanFeng is the daughter of the Golden Roc Emperor, she should have 6 toes as well, you...."

    He stopped talking, because he suddenly discovered that Lu XiaoFeng had already disappeared.

    ***

    Close to dusk, but not quite dusk. The flowers in the garden was just in full bloom, the wind was filled with their fragrance, but nobody was there.

    ShangGuan Xue-Er was not in the garden. Lu XiaoFeng was not looking for ShangGuan DanFeng, because he knew for a fact that ShangGuan DanFeng could not possibly be here.

    The Golden Roc Emperor had not uttered a single word inquiring about his daughter's whereabouts. This was another strange matter.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not have time to think of such matters, right now he only want to find ShangGuan Xue-Er as quickly as possible and ask her a question, a very important question.

    When he did not want to see her, she was always going back and forth in front of him, but now that he wants to see her, there was nary a trace of her to be found anywhere. Lu XiaoFeng sighed, made his way through a little trial in the midst of the flowers, and suddenly discovered a little door.

    The door had been slightly hidden, behind it was a small little yard, in the middle of the yard was a well.

    He pushed open the door, walked in, and finally found ShangGuan Xue-Er, this little devil always seemed to be up to something weird.

    Right at this moment she was actually squating there in the middle of the yard, by herself, staring unblinkingly at a piece of empty ground with those big eyes of hers, seemingly mesmerized.

    But there was nothing on the ground, not even a single leaf of grass.

    Lu XiaoFeng could not figure it out for the life of him what could be so interesting about a piece of ground.

    "Hey older cousin," he finally had to ask. "What are you looking at?"

    Xue-Er did not reply, nor did she even turn around. Even when scholars finally take their examinations could not hope to match her concentration at this moment.

    So what in the world was this little devil looking at? Lu XiaoFeng's curiosity was piqued.

    Therefore he crouched over as well, crouched at Xue-Er's side. Where ever Xue-Er's eyes wondered, there his eyes would wonder as well. He still could not see anything.

    It obviously had not rained there in a long time, the dirt was very dry, the flowers and grass in garden just outside was flourishing, but yet in here was a layer of completely bare dirt.

    Even that well looked as if it had been out of use for a long time, even the little rack at the top of the well was covered in dirt, on the sides of the yard was a couple of old and worn down rooms, the locks on the doors of the rooms were covered with rust.

    Lu XiaoFeng looked right and looked left, and still could not see what Xue-Er was doing crouching here.

    "When my grandfather was alive," Xue-Er suddenly spoke up, "this was where he meditated."

    Lu XiaoFeng knew that her grandfather was ShangGuan Sheng, the very same man, along with Huo Xiu and company, who had received the orders to help the little Emperor, he was also the Golden Roc Emperor's royal uncle.

    "Even since my grandfather died, nobody has been here."

    "So what are you doing here?" Lu XiaoFeng finally gave up and asked again.

    Xue-Er suddenly snapped her head around and stared at him.

    "That's exactly what I wanted to ask you, what are you doing here?"

    "I... I'm here looking for you."

    "What for?"

    "To see you, and to chat with you."

    Xue-Er put up a hurt face.

    "You don't believe a single word that I say, so what's there for me to chat with you about!" She sneered.

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    "How do you know that I don't believe a single word you say?"

    "You said it yourself."

    Lu XiaoFeng blinked.

    "So you actually think that every single word that I say is the truth?"

    Xue-Er stared at him with those huge eyes of hers, stared at him for a long time. Then she suddenly burst out laughing.

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed as well. He suddenly discovered that when Xue-Er laughs, she looked every bit like a really obedient and honest girl.

    Bud suddenly Xue-Er suddenly stiffened up her face again.

    "Whatever you want to talk to me about, come on, talk."

    "I want to ask you, when was the last time you saw your sister?"

    "That day in which she brought back Hua ManLou, which is also the day we left to get you."

    "And you haven't seen her since you got back?"

    "No." The hints of sadness appeared on her face again. "She was always so nice to me, even if she was going to go out, she would leave a word for me or something. But this time... this time she must have been killed by someone."

    There was a trace inside Lu XiaoFeng's eyes that his mind was not all there.

    "Does she go out often?"

    "She didn't use to dare to go out, but after grandfather died, she got braver and braver. Not only did she leave more and more often, she would often leave and stay out an entire half a month or so. I have always suspected that she had met someone outside, but she wouldn't admit it no matter what."

    "Our parents died a long time ago, so we had always been with our grandfather. My sister isn't afraid of anything in the world, but she's afraid of grandpa."

    "And your uncle never tried to control her?"

    Xue-Er shook her head.

    "Even he wanted to he couldn't. One time he even resorted to locking my sister in her room, and my sister still found a way to escape and get out."

    "Is he usually good to your sister?"

    "No, he would always get mad at my sister and berate her, saying that she was destroying the ShangGuan family name, but my sister would never listen to him."

    She bit her lips before quietly continuing. "That's why I suspect he has killed my sister."

    "But you sister isn't dead."

    "Says who?"

    "Hua ManLou saw her not so long ago."

    "He saw my sister? He's as blind as a bat, how could he see my sister?" Xue-Er laughed coldly.

    "He could tell from your sister's voice."

    Xue-Er's facial expression suddenly changed.

    "That must be ShangGuan DanFeng pretending to be her, the two of them had always looked alike ever since they were little, back then they even often tried to imitate the other's voice. One time she covered my eyes and used my sister's voice to talk to me, even I was fooled."

    An extremely weird expression had also Lu XiaoFeng's face, even though this matter was getting more and more twisted, it was also getting more and more interesting.

    Xue-Er's fists were fiercely clenched.

    "Now that you said that, I understand it all now," she suddenly said. "The one who kill my sister must be her and no other."

    "You are talking about ShangGuan DanFeng?"

    Xue-Er nodded.

    "On the surface she might have always been nice to my sister, but my sister had always said that it was all fake, all a show. Because she had always been jealous of my sister for being prettier than her and smarter than her." She did not let Lu XiaoFeng reply and continued. "After she had killed my sister, she purposefully appeared as my sister in front of Hua ManLou to trick you guys into thinking that my sister isn't dead yet."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed. He did not know what to say. Even though Xue-Er's words were quite crazy, but was nevertheless possible.

    Xue-Er suddenly grabbed his hand.

    "That's why I need you to do me a favor."

    "What kind of favor?"

    "I need you to help me dig up my sister's body!"

    "You know where your sister's body had been buried?"

    "I know, I'm absolutely sure of it."

    Lu XiaoFeng wanted to laugh, but could not laugh.

    Xue-Er's expression, however, was still very serious.

    "I was always searching inside the garden and could never find it. But now I discovered that this must be where she had killed my sister, and this must be where she had buried the body."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "How did you find out?"

    "In my grandpa's later years, he turned into this real life monk. Not only would he refuse to kill even one solitary ant, he would often bring small pieces of rice to feed them, hence this yard used to be crawling with ants." She was so excited that her face was flushed red from it. "But I had just stayed here and looked for 4 hours straight and haven't seen a single ant."

    "And therefore you think...."

    "I think that there must be poison just under the surface," Xue-Er eagerly finished the thought. "So that even ants were scared off."

    "Poison?"

    "She must have used poison to kill my sister. Now the poison had seeped out of my sister's body and into the ground, so even the ground had been killed by the poison."

    "Dirt can be killed by poison?"

    "Of course, there is such a thing as soil that's alive or dead. Only soils that are alive can have grass and flowers growing on it, and little bugs and ants in them."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed again.

    "You think way too much you know? If a person thinks too much as a child, then when that person grows up she will age extremely fast."

    "So you don't want to help me?" Xue-Er stared at him.

    "I have already done enough idiotic things for one day." Lu XiaoFeng smiled at his own misfortunes.

    Xue-Er once again stared at him for a long time.

    "Help! Help!" She suddenly began shouting. "Help! Lu XiaoFeng is trying to rape me!"

    Lu XiaoFeng panicked.

    "I haven't even touched you yet, what the hell are you shouting for?"

    "Not only would I yell now, from now on, every time I see a person who knows you, I would tell them that you constantly raped me!"

    "I constantly raped you?!" This time it was Lu XiaoFeng who shouted.

    "Mmhmm, constantly, meaning that you have raped me lots and lots of times already."

    "And you think anyone would believe you stuff that a little girl like you spiels out?"

    "If anyone doesn't believe, then I would take off my cloths, so they can see for themselves exactly whether or not I'm still little!"

    Lu XiaoFeng looked at her in shock.

    "This little girl is crazy, absolutely insane!" He mumbled to himself, unable to stop shaking his head in disbelief.

    "Ok, good, because I'm crazy, I'm going to starting shouting again." And she really did resume shouting.

    But this time Lu XiaoFeng covered her mouth very quickly.

    "You couldn't possibly want me to start digging now do you?"

    Xue-Er nodded.

    "So you are going to help me?" She asked as soon as he took his hands away from her mouth.

    "I'm only wondering where in the world did you learn that from?" Lu XiaoFeng, once again, smiled pitifully at his own luck.

    Xue-Er smiled as well.

    "This is one of the 3 oldest tricks women can use on men, only now do I know how effective this is."

    "So what are the other 2 tricks?"

    "Why should I tell you," Xue-Er coyly replied. "I still have to save them to use against you!"

    She jumped up excitedly.

    "I'm going to go find a hoe for you. You best stay here and wait like a good boy. Tonight I'll go and steal a couple of pigeons so I can fry them for you to eat with your wine."

    "Pigeons?"

    "My sister kept a lot of pigeons, normally she would not allow anyone to go near them, but now... now I don't think she would mind anymore."

    The hints of sadness appeared on her face once again, she suddenly turned around and quickly ran away.

    Looking at her pigtails swaying back and forth behind her as she ran away, a very strange expression suddenly appeared on Lu XiaoFeng's face again. He suddenly jumped up and caught up to Xue-Er.

    "I'll go and find a hoe with you."

    "Why?"

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "I'm scared that you might be carried away by those pigeons."

    His smile looked a little strange as well.

    Xue-Er looked back at him.

    "You are afraid that I might suddenly disappear like my sister aren't you?"

    A cold breeze whisked through, several swallows took off from behind the flower bushes and flew over the wall. The color of the sky was getting darker and darker.

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at the disappearing shadows of the swallows in the dusk light, he suddenly sighed.

    "Even swallows do not want to stay in this place, not to mention people...."

    Had ShangGuan FeiYan, like those swallows, flew away over these walls? Or was she already buried under earth?

    Why did ShangGuan DanFeng suddenly disappear as well? Could it be that the Golden Roc Emperor already knew of her whereabouts and therefore did not inquire about it from them?

    On those two amputated legs of his, were there 6 toed feet? Could anyone in the world answer those questions?

    ***

    Dusk, after dusk. The wind became even colder and cleaner. The cold, clean wind came blowing in from the window and onto his skin, that was how Hua ManLou know that day had turned into night.

    His skin was just like his nose and his ears, it possessed a sensitivity that was far beyond that of the average man.

    But right now he was in no mood to enjoy this fresh, just after dusk, April breeze. His heart and mind was a mess.

    Ever since he had met ShangGuan FeiYan in that little wine shop, his heart had often been very chaotic, especially whenever he was completely alone.

    He just could not shake the feeling that something was not right, but as to exactly what that is, he could not tell.

    It was getting close to dinner time, and Lu XiaoFeng still had not returned, nor had the Golden Roc Emperor sent anyone to inform him to get prepared for dinner.

    The situation was changing again, he could almost feel it, but as to exactly what kind of change, he could not tell either.

    At this precise moment, he suddenly noticed a very special fragrance along with the wind, just the very fragrance that had caused his heart to be so chaotic and unsettled.

    Could ShangGuan FeiYan have returned? He lightly pressed his hand on the window sill and flew out of the window, he believed that his senses were not lying to him.

    But he could not see a thing, in his world, there would never be light, never be color, only darkness. Hopeless darkness!

    That earlier fragrance had seemingly mixed with the smell of the flowers, causing him to lose his awareness of its direction. But, from the direction where the fragrance was the strongest, he suddenly heard a voice.

    "I've returned." It was ShangGuan FeiYan's voice.

    Hua ManLou tried desperately to control the overflowing emotions within his heart. Only after a long time, did he finally relaxed and sighed.

    "So you really have returned." He lightly replied.

    "You knew that I would come back?"

    "I didn't know, but I hoped."

    "You were thinking of me?"

    Hua ManLou smiled. His smiled had within it an indescribable emotion, was it happiness? Or poignant bitterness?

    But ShangGuan FeiYan had already walked up to him and grabbed his hand.

    "What's the matter, are you not happy that I have returned?"

    "There... there is just one thing that I can't figure out."

    "What's that?"

    "The last 2 times that I have seen you, another person would come to my mind."

    "Who?"

    "ShangGuan DanFeng."

    As he said that name, he felt as if ShangGuan FeiYan's hand seemingly shook gently.

    But her hand immediately grasped his hand lightly.

    "You saw me, but yet thought of her?" She said, with a bit of spoiled jealousy in her voice.

    "Mm!"

    "Why?"

    "Because... because I sometimes would mistake you and her to be the same person."

    ShangGuan FeiYan laughed.

    "Now why would you think of that?"

    "I don't know either, that's why... I thought it was very strange as well."

    "Did you actually believe my little sister's ideas? That ShangGuan FeiYan had been killed? And that this ShangGuan FeiYan is nothing but ShangGuan DanFeng in disguise?"

    Hua ManLou did not reply, because there really was this suspicion in his heart, he did not want to lie to the face of the one that he loved.

    "Do you still remember Cui YiDong? Do you still remember asking me whether or not I have ever heard the sound of snow falling on the roof? Can you feel that strange but wonderful power of life when the flower buds slowly blooming in the spring? Do you know that the Autumn winds often brings with it the sweet smells from trees and forests from hillsides far far away?"

    Of course Hua ManLou remembered. Those questions were originally asked by him, but now ShangGuan FeiYan had repeated them word for word.

    "If I am ShangGuan DanFeng, then how could I know about these words that you said to me? How could I remember it so clearly?"

    Hua ManLou smiled, he suddenly realized that his suspicion was completely superfluous.

    His heart once again filled with sympathy towards this girl, he could not stop himself from gently reaching up and stroking her hair.

    ShangGuan FeiYan was already in his arms, holding him tightly. His heart was filled with an indescribable joy and satisfaction, he was in another world. At this moment, he suddenly felt ShangGuan FeiYan's hand reach the Jade-Pillow pressure point at the back of his head. He felt absolutely nothing after that.

    ***

    There was already a hole about half a meter wide and one meter deep in the ground, and Lu XiaoFeng's body was already covered with sweat.

    ShangGuan Xue-Er was squating over by the side, with both her hands supporting her cheeks. She was telling him to hurry up non-stop.

    "What are you stopping for? Keep digging, come on. You look so strong, who knew it would be so useless?"

    Lu XiaoFeng wiped the sweat away with his sleeve.

    "Because I haven't ate, right now I should be sitting in a very comfortable chair and drinking wine with your uncle," He mustered a smile. "But instead I'm here, like an idiot, digging a hole."

    Xue-Er blinked.

    "Then are you suggesting that a little girl like me should jump down there and dig while you watch on the side?"

    "No, I'm not, that's why I'm suffering now."

    "What are you talking about? Suffering? This is an honor."

    "Honor?"

    "Even if other men had got on their knees and begged me to dig a hole for me, I would not have even acknowledged them."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed, suddenly realizing that he really should not have came looking for this little devil, really should not have talked to her to begin with.

    But then he immediately discovered that he had thought wrong. At this last swing of the hoe, a bright red corner of clothing suddenly appeared in the dirt.

    Xue-Er had already jump up.

    "See? I was right wasn't I? There was someone buried under here!"

    This time even if she did not egg him on, Lu XiaoFeng would have still kept on going. He put down the hoe and switched to the shovel. A couple of shovels later, the corpse was slowly becoming revealed. Amazingly, it had not began to decompose.

    Xue-Er had already went and brought over the lantern that had been hanging above the well. The light just happened to illuminate the face of the corpse.

    She suddenly screamed in horror, she almost dropped the lantern onto Lu XiaoFeng's head.

    Lu XiaoFeng was shocked as well. He had never been this shocked before in his entire life.

    The body was not that of ShangGuan FeiYan, incredibly, it was ShangGuan DanFeng!

    The light from the lantern swayed back and forth, because Xue-Er's hands were shaking non-stop.

    Not only had the face of the corpse not started to decompose, it was still incredibly maintain its life-like colors, both eyes were pushing out of their sockets, as if they were staring at Lu XiaoFeng.

    Lu XiaoFeng had never been a coward, but when his mind wondered to those words that he and ShangGuan DanFeng had shared not so long ago, when he thought about her sweet and moving smile, even his hands went limp and he could not hold on to the shovel in his hand.

    "Bang!"

    The shovel fell from his hands and happened to land on the corpse. The sound of metal hitting on another was produced. Lu XiaoFeng had to bent over and touch the corpse, only then did he realize that the corpse was cold and hard, just as if it had been made of metal.

    His hands were cold as well. He sighed despite of himself.

    "She really was poisoned." He concluded.

    "Who... who poisoned her?"

    Lu XiaoFeng did not answer, because he did not know the answer.

    "When people who die of poison, their bodies should decompose very quickly. So it would seem she wasn't killed that long ago." Xue-Er speculated.

    "She had been dead for a long time."

    "How do you know?"

    "Because the poison in her body had seeped out into the soil."

    Those words were exactly what Xue-Er said herself, she had been right all along.

    "Besides, look at this piece of land, it hasn't been turned in at least a month or two." Lu XiaoFeng added.

    "So you mean to tell me that she has been dead for at least one or two months?"

    "Yes."

    "Then why hasn't her body began to decompose?"

    "Because the poison she died from is a very strange and peculiar poison. Some poison could even preserve a human body upwards of hundreds of years. Besides, not only is this piece of land extraordinarily dry, there isn't any traces of ants or bugs or any critters, any kind of body buried here would not decompose for quite a while."

    His voice was monotonous and slow, because while he was saying one thing with his mouth, his mind was onto something else. So many things he thought about.

    Xue-Er thought quietly as well.

    "One or two months ago? My sister haven't gone to see Hua ManLou yet." She mumbled to herself.

    Lu XiaoFeng, in deep thought, nodded.

    "Only when my sister brought Hua ManLou back did I go with her to find you."

    "That's right."

    "If she had died a month or two ago, then how could she go and find you? How could you have met her?"

    "The ShangGuan DanFeng that I met, was not the real ShangGuan DanFeng."

    "Then who is it?"

    Lu XiaoFeng did not answer her question, instead, he asked a question of his own.

    "In these last two months, have you ever seen your sister and her at the same time?"

    Xue-Er thought about it for a long time, then shook her head.

    "No, I don't think so."

    "In these last two months, have you felt that her attitude towards you were a little different?"

    Xue-Er thought about it for a long time again, then nodded.

    "Yes, when she ran into me before, she would always stay to talk and joke, but recently she seemed to be always avoiding me."

    "That's because she was afraid that you finding out that she was no longer the real ShangGuan DanFeng!"

    "Then who could she be?" Xue-Er frowned. "To be able to look so real, could it be...."

    She suddenly jumped up again.

    "Are you insinuating that the ShangGuan DanFeng that you saw was in fact my sister in disguise?" She almost shouted.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not reply. Sometimes, no reply means a silent admittance.

    Xue-Er fiercely stared at him.

    "Are you saying that not only had ShangGuan DanFeng not kill my sister, but my sister had killed her!"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "I only know that it is a fact that she is dead now."

    "But why would my sister kill her? Can you give me a motive or a reason?"

    Lu XiaoFeng did not, but was it because he could not think of one? Or because he did not want to say it? He suddenly squat down to take off the corpse's shoe.

    "What are you doing?" Xue-Er asked in surprise.

    "I want to take a look at her feet."

    "You are insane, absolutely, positively insane." Xue-Er shouted.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "I know that this is really quite insane, but I still have to take a look." He cracked a hopeless smile.

    He took off the shoe, on those smooth and beautiful foot, there really was six toes.

    Xue-Er suddenly fell silent. After a long time, she finally spoke up.

    "That is really my cousin." She said in a melancholy voice.

    "You knew that your cousin had six toes?"

    "Mmhmm!"

    "How did you know?"

    "She... she would never let anyone see her feet, sometimes, when all of us would take off our shoes to go play by the river, only she wouldn't take off her shoes."

    All girls want to be pretty, having six toes on her foot was not something to show off or brag about.

    "The more she wouldn't let other people see, the more I wanted to see, so one day, I barged in on her while she was taking a bath."

    Lu XiaoFeng cracked a miserable laugh, that was all he could manage, this little devil seemed capable of anything.

    "At first she was real mad, but then she begged me not to tell anyone." Xue-Er continued.

    "And you said yes?"

    Xue-Er nodded.

    "I have never told anyone about it before."

    "Even your sister?"

    "She doesn't know either, I never told her."

    Lu XiaoFeng thought about it for a while.

    "When did your uncle have his legs cut off?" He suddenly asked.

    There was a look of surprise on Xue-Er's face.

    "His legs were cut off? How come I did not know about this?"

    Lu XiaoFeng was surprised by her response.

    "You really didn't know?"

    "Just yesterday noon, I saw him walk towards where my sister had kept her pigeons to feed my sister's pigeons for her."

    A sudden glimmer suddenly appeared in Lu XiaoFeng's eyes.

    "Someone had been impersonating my cousin for the last two months, how could it be that even my uncle did not see through it?" Xue-Er mumbled to herself.

    She wanted to ask Lu XiaoFeng, but Lu XiaoFeng had suddenly disappeared.

    The night was bleak and miserable, the dim light from the lantern shined upon the cold and frozen face of the corpse, the eyes of the corpse stood out, as if they were staring at her.

    Xue-Er involuntarily shuddered.

    "You shouldn't have stuck your nose in this." A cold voice suddenly said from the darkness.

    She recognized this voice. Her heart sank.

    ***

    The hallway was sinister and dark, the door was closed. Lu XiaoFeng knocked on the door. No response. A louder knock. Still no response.

    The expression on his face had already changed. He suddenly rammed the door, and that door, which was around 10 centimeters thick, was incredibly smashed to pieces.

    The kerosene lamp on the table was lit, but the chair was empty. The Golden Roc Emperor had been seemingly sitting on that chair this entire time, but now it seemed that he had disappeared.

    There was no look of surprise on Lu XiaoFeng's face, as if all of this was exactly what he had expected.

    That silk blanket with dragons on them was left sitting on the ground. He bent down with intentions of picking it back up, when he suddenly saw a hand.

    A thin and whithered hand, extending out from behing the chair. The fingers were bent, as if they were trying to grab something, but could not.

    Lu XiaoFeng walked over and saw the Golden Roc Emperor.

    The body of this old man was not yet cold, but his breathing had seized a long time ago. In his eyes were a trace of unspeakable panic, shock, and rage. Obviously, even at the moment of death, he could not believe that his killer would actually kill him.

    On his other arm was a very deep knife cut, as if someone had wanted to cut off this hand, but did not.

    His hand was clenched, the veins and tendons on the back of his hand was popping out, obviously even death could not make him let whatever was in his hand go.

    Lu XiaoFeng squated down to take a closer look. Incredibly, his hand was holding a bright red shoe.

    Just like the red shoes that brides wear during their weddings, but embroidered on it was not a solitary loon, nor was it an owl, but a swallow --- a flying swallow.

    His grasp was too tight, too powerful, an originally very pretty red shoe was now squeezed and bent completely out of shape.

    But his face was utterly and completely devoid of emotion, when set against that pair of panic and rage filled eyes, it created an even more frightening sight.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not need to reach out and touch in order to see that his face had been very cleverly disguised.

    This old man was obviously not the real Golden Roc Emperor! The Golden Roc Emperor had obviously died with his daughter!

    Lu XiaoFeng looked into his eyes, then looked down at his amputated legs, and could not help but let out a long and exhausted sigh.

    "I have done quite a number of idiotic things in life," he mumbled to himself. "But isn't what you have done even more idiotic?"

    He did not finish his sentence, because he had already heard the very faint sound of a thin piece of metal piercing through the air.

    The sword had came from outside the window behind him, it came fast, and it came furious. The person that was trying to kill him was undoubtly one of the first rate swordsmen in the martial world. There was not that many first rate swordsmen in the world.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed again, he already knew who this person was.

    His body had already slid aside about more than a meter.

    "Liu YuHen," he sighed. "You shouldn't have came."

    "But I already have!" Liu YuHen's voice coldly replied from outside of the window.

    His sword was even faster than his words. The antique and beautiful window sill was instantaneously smashed into bits as he, along with his sword, came flying in.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not look at him.

    His sword was vicious and fast, and his moves were changing extraordinarily fast, every thrust was directed at a lethal spot.

    Lu XiaoFeng's eyes never left the tip of his sword, just like how a kid's eyes would never leave the butterfly prancing in the air.

    In a blink of an eye, Liu YuHen attacked him 17 times. It was then that Lu XiaoFeng finally made a move.

    He only reached out and clamped his two fingers together. Nobody could convey the speed and agility with which this move of his was done, almost nobody could imagine it.

    It was as if his fingers were directly connected to his heart, that at any moment, he could do anything he wanted with his fingers.

    When Liu YuHen thrusted his sword out for the 18th time, he suddenly discovered that his sword had been caught!

    It was as if this sword had suddenly jammed into a rock, even with all the force that he could summon in his body, he could not pull it out.

    The sword was attached to his right wrist, it was truly a part of him, yet he still could not pry his sword lose from between Lu XiaoFeng's fingers.

    A steel hook was usually attached to that wrist of his, a steel hook that was able to pick up any type of weapon. Only when killing did he ever exchange the steel hook to a sword. He had obviously came here with the intention to kill.

    Looking at his painful and distorted face, Lu XiaoFeng's heart suddenly flooded with sympathy.

    "I don't want to kill you, just leave."

    Liu YuHen did not answer with his mouth, his answer was the steel ball attached to his left wrist.

    The steel ball came crashing down with the a whirl of wind, if Lu XiaoFeng did not let go, his head would have probably be flattened.

    But he had a spare hand, when the steel ball came down, that spare hand of his swiped sidways, and Liu YuHen's left arm went limp.

    "If I let go, will you leave?"

    Liu YuHen suddenly let out a cold laugh, a cold laugh filled with disregard --- disregard towards Lu XiaoFeng, and disregard towards his own life.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Why do I keep on running into these kinds of idiotic people? why..."

    He did not finish, because he had just heard another person's voice.

    It was supposed to be ShangGuan DanFeng's voice, but he knew that ShangGuan DanFeng would never appear again.

    The final burst of colors from the setting sun had disappeared, the room became even darker. Like a phantom a person appeared at the door, a very beautiful woman, beautiful yet warm and sweet.

    She was looking at Lu XiaoFeng, smiling.

    "Because you yourself is an idiot, idiots usually flock together."

    Lu XiaoFeng did not need to look at this woman to know who she was.

    "ShangGuan FeiYan?"

    "That's right." Her smile was like that of an innocent little kid. "Do you think I'm prettier than ShangGuan DanFeng."

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded, he had to agree with her.

    ShangGuan DanFeng was undoubtly a very beautiful girl, but the girl in front of him right now was so beautiful that she was approaching that perfect girl in every man's fantasies.

    Not only was her smile beautiful, but it was pure and innocent, when she looked at you, it was as if she thought you were the only man in this entire world, and at the same time it made you feel as if she was the only girl left in the world.

    ShangGuan DanFeng's smile could conjure up innumerable dreams and fantasies. Her smile could make you forget everything.

    "You were wrong you know." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "How so?"

    "A girl as beautiful as you should never, for any reason, ever put on a disguise and pretend to be someone else."

    ShangGuan FeiYan blinked.

    "If you had seen my real face that night, would you have let me go?"

    "If I had seen your real face earlier, I probably would not have waited until that night."

    "Does that mean that even in the carriage you would have...."

    "I told you, I'm not a man who can resist temptation."

    ShangGuan FeiYan laughed: "You might not be a gentleman, but you are certainly honest about it."

    "And not only are you not a lady, you are not honest about it either."

    "If a girl is too honest, then she would be hard pressed not to fall for the tricks of a man like you." ShangGuan FeiYan sweetly replied.

    Her voice had changed too, it was as if it was a completely different person talking.

    To Lu XiaoFeng, this change in voice was almost completely unimaginable.

    He could understand masks and disguises, and he had seen, with his own eyes, those near legendary human-skin masks.

    But he could not understand how a person's voice could completely change into that of another's.

    It was easy for ShangGuan FeiYan to see his surprised expression.

    "Is my voice better than ShangGuan DanFeng's?" She smiled.

    Lu XiaoFeng gave up and smiled in return.

    "By now you could probably see that I'm better than her in every way, but ever since birth, she had been on top of me." Her warm and sweet voice had suddenly filled with hate. "Ever since I was little, I had to wear cloths that she had worn, eat food that she had left, only because she was a Princess."

    "So at the first opportunity, you had to proove that you were better than her."

    ShangGuan FeiYan replied with a cold snicker.

    "So once your grandfather died, you could not stay in this place a moment longer."

    "Nobody likes to always serve a person, always being wary of that person's moods."

    "You had planned on going around in the martial world, using your own abilities, and accomplish a couple of impressive and eye-brow raising things to show them. But you didn't plan on running into a man who could grab your heart."

    The color on ShangGuan FeiYan's face changed a little.

    "I knew that little devil would have told you everything."

    "Not only did that man admire you, he also sympathized with you, so he found an opportunity for you."

    "Keep going." ShangGuan FeiYan coldly instructed.

    "Once he found out about the Golden Roc Emperor's secret, he thought of an idea for you."

    ShangGuan FeiYan listened, that sweet smile on her face had long disappeared.

    "He convinced you to think of a way to get the riches of the Golden Roc Empire from Yan TieShan and company. Anybody, no matter who, with that much money, would immediately be able to make a name for themselves."

    "Men die for money, birds die for food." ShangGuan FeiYan coldly replied. "With that much money at stake, anybody would have been tempted."

    "But you also know for a fact that your uncle and cousin would never approve of such a thing. Besides, if he is still alive, then even if you got all that money, it would just end up being his."

    "Of course, I don't want to be doing all the work for someone else to make a fortune."

    "So you and your lover came up with a briliant plan."

    "I had only planned on killing that senile Emperor, but no matter how cleverly disguised the person that I find to replace him is, there was no way that ShangGuan DanFeng could be fooled."

    "So you decided to just kill her as well."

    "Correct."

    "Luckily, the two of you have always looked similiar, and often immitated each other's voice ever since you were little, so you were the perfect candidate to replace her and at the same time get a taste at what it's like to be a Princess."

    "It wasn't that good of a taste." ShangGuan FeiYan snickered.

    "Of course, with this kind of secret, you did not want a little girl who can't keep her mouth shut to know, so you kept Xue-Er in the dark the entire time. But ironically, she had somehow thought that it was you who had been killed by ShangGuan DanFeng."

    "Not only can't that little devil keep her mouth shut," ShangGuan FeiYan bitterly commented. "She can't keep out of other people's business either."

    "But what I'm wondering is why you didn't just go and find Huo Xiu and company yourselves."

    "Because only afterwards did we discover that the Golden Roc Emperor must have had some secret mark or sign that only those official that were exiled along with him would know. So no matter who we find to be him, it would be nearly impossible to fool Huo Xiu and the rest of those old foxes."

    "Did you know that he was had 6 toes on his foot at the time?"

    "I didn't, but I wasn't going to risk it either."

    "So you two figured that the best thing to do, was to first find a person to go and kill those old foxes for you."

    "Correct."

    "But this wasn't an easy person to find." Lu XiaoFeng gave a self-deprecating smile. "Because not only must he have the ability to kill Huo Xiu and the others, he must also be naturally have that terrible habit of meddling in other people's affairs."

    "This person was indeed very difficult to find." ShangGuan FeiYan casually concurred. "Other than you, we really could not think of another person."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Looks like there really isn't too many people in the world like me."

    "To get you to go along with this whole heartedly was another difficult problem."

    "But fortunately, not only do I like meddling in other people's business, I also possess an attitude of an *** who was more persistent to not move the more you cajole it to move."

    ShangGuan FeiYan finally laughed. "Turns out you know yourself quite well."

    "So you purposefully ordered Soul Hooker and them to come and stop me, because you know the more someone does not want me to do something, the more I want to go and do it."

    "Those donkeys of ShanXi province are like that too." ShangGuan FeiYan joked.

    "Then afterwards, when you killed Xiao QiuYu and DuGu Fang to warn me, it was for the same reason."

    "And also because they really knew too much."

    "The reason that you lured us into that old shrine with your singing and left a few strands of hair was nothing more than making Hua ManLou believe that you were still alive, right?"

    "That and to make sure that you would not ever believe a single word that little devil said from then on."

    "You knew that Xue-Er was peeking in from outside the window when you 'killed' Liu YuHen."

    "Of course, that little devil had no clue that it was nothing more than a show that Liu YuHen and I put on for her." ShangGuan FeiYan coldly added.

    "And when we saw that Liu YuHen was still alive, we would undoubtly be even more sure that she was nothing more than a habitual liar." He sighed and laughed at himself. "Poor little girl, when she saw that Liu YuHen was still alive, she looked as if she had really just saw a real life zombie, she was too frightened to say a single word and left with him!"

    "I should have locked that little devil up from the beginning, pity that...."

    "Pity that the things that you had to do in those couple of days were really too many, and you are also afraid that if we didn't see her when we got back we might get suspicious."

    "Sometimes I really wonder about you," ShangGuan FeiYan sneered, "it's as if you know everything that's going on inside of me."

    "Then you suddenly appeared to Hua ManLou, the purpose of which was to place all the blame on Huo Xiu."

    "Right."

    "But how could you have fooled him?" Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "Not only are his ears exceptionally sharp, his nose is very sensitive as well, even if he can't tell from your voice, he should be able to from your smell."

    Everyone has their own distinctive smell that nobody else has, which is probably easier to distinguish that that person's voice.

    "That's because every time I see him, I would always put on a very sweet and very thick type of flower powder, and then when I appear as ShangGuan DanFeng, I would have washed that fragrance completely off of me."

    "You seemed to have thought of everything."

    "That's because I'm a woman," ShangGuan FeiYan sweetly replied. "Woman don't like taking chances."

    "Then why did you make Liu YuHen to come and try to kill me?"

    "You should know the reason for that as well." She casually answered.

    "Is it because he is no longer useful to you now, so therefore you wanted to kill him through me?"

    "I should have known by now that you didn't like killing," ShangGuan FeiYan sighed. "Or else I wouldn't have had to kill Yan TieShan myself either."

    Ever since she had arrived, Liu YuHen seemed to have turned into a different person, turned very quiet.

    Whenever he looked at her, that singular of his would convey a very warm kind of emotion.

    But this last sentence by ShangGuan FeiYan was like a sharp dagger, suddenly piercing all the way into his heart.

    "You... you really want me to die?" He shakily asked.

    "You should have died a long time ago, what purpose does a person like you have in living?" ShangGuan FeiYan, coldly, did not even look in his direction.

    "But you... you said...."

    "Of course, everything that I said was a lie, to trick you. Do you really think that I would like you?"

    Liu YuHen's entire body seemed to have been frozen, he stood there, motionless, staring mesmerizingly at her. His eye was filled with hate, but also filled with love. After what felt like forever, he finally, gently, sighed.

    "You are right. Of course you wouldn't like me. I knew that all along. All along, I had just been lying to myself."

    "Well at least you are not too stupid."

    Liu YuHen slowly nodded. Suddenly he swung his sword around and sent it through his own chest.

    The blade had pierced entirely through his heart as blood squirted like a fountain out of his back, covering the wall one drop at a time.

    But his face had once again turned completely expressionless. Death, to him, did not seem to be a painful thing but a luxury.

    His eye suddenly began to glow as he suddenly laughed.

    "Turns out that dying isn't so hard after all," he mumbled, "but to die in front of you, at least I can...."

    He collapsed before he could finish.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not stop him, and could not stop him either. Sometimes, dying in peace is better than living.

    "He really is a passionate man, full of love, it's a shame that he used his love on the wrong person."

    Lu XiaoFeng looked over at ShangGuan FeiYan, he was suddenly overwhelmed with great disgust toward this girl who was totally void of compassion.

    Not hatred, but disgust, just like the feeling that people have towards poisonous snakes.

    "You did a stupid thing as well." He coldly observed.

    "Oh?"

    "You shouldn't have forced him to die."

    "Why?"

    "Because if he is alive, at least he won't see me kill you."

    "You want to kill me? Do you have the heart for it?"

    "I truthfully don't like killing, further more, I have never killed a woman, but you are an exception."

    ShangGuan FeiYan laughed.

    "If that's the case, then what are you waiting for?"

    "I'm in no hurry!"

    "Of course you are not in a hurry, it's not like I can run away now." ShangGuan FeiYan casually said. "Besides, you still have questions you want to ask me!"

    "Seems like you are not an idiot either."

    "Do you want to ask me why I would make Liu YuHen cut off that old man's legs before you arrived? And how I suddenly found out that he was suppose to have 6 toes?"

    "That I don't need to ask you anymore."

    "You already figured it out?"

    "Pigeons are faster than humans."

    "You really are quite smart." ShangGuan FeiYan sighed.

    "I shouldn't have leaked the secret to Yie XiuZhu."

    "She was the only one you told?"

    "That's right."

    "Did you leak the secret by accident? Or were you testing her?"

    "I didn't want to hurt her," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "She is a poor girl as well."

    ShangGuan FeiYan suddenly let out a cold snicker.

    "You are wrong about her. She might look very honest and good, but in reality she's a natural born *****."

    "Just because she fell in love with the same man as you?"

    "He's just using her that's all," ShangGuan FeiYan's face turned green. "Just like how I was using Liu YuHen."

    "Yie XiuZhu told him about the secret, and he messaged you using the pigeons."

    ShangGuan FeiYan nodded, her expression suddenly turned very warm and calm.

    "That black pigeon was originally used for carrying love letters between us, turns out it would come in handy in other ways as well."

    "If he could give commands to Soul Hooker and Iron Faced Judge, then could he possibly be the leader of the Green Shirt Pavilion?"

    "What do you think?"

    "I don't know."

    "Do you actually expect me to tell you?"

    "Of course I don't expect you to tell me now."

    "I won't tell you later either, you will never know who he is."

    "But you are a woman."

    "What of it?"

    "Even a pretty girl like you, if you had your nose cut off, you would undoubtly be very ugly." Lu XiaoFeng coldly observed.

    "You... you can bring yourself to cutting off my nose?" ShangGuan FeiYan asked in shock and panic.

    "If you really think that my heart is softer than tofu," Lu XiaoFeng casually replied, "then you would be sorely mistaken."

    "So if I don't tell you who he is, you'll cut off my nose?" ShangGuan FeiYan looked at him in shock.

    "First the nose, then the ears."

    ShangGuan FeiYan suddenly smiled sweetly.

    "Your talk a tough one, but even I know that in reality you would never go through with it."

    "You want to give that a try?" Lu XiaoFeng's face darkened.

    "I know that you won't even give it a try, because I know you would never want to have a noseless friend."

    "Good thing you are not my friend anymore."

    "I know I'm not, but Hua ManLou and Zhu Ting both are."

    Lu XiaoFeng's face turned a different color.

    "If you cut off my nose, then maybe they won't even get to keep their heads." ShuangGuan FeiYan casually commented. "Wouldn't headless be even uglier than noseless?"

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at her. He suddenly burst out in a great laugh.

    "You think this is funny?"

    "Do you really expect me to believe that you have tricked Hua ManLou again?" Lu XiaoFeng replied in between fits of laughter.

    "If I can fool him once, I can fool him again."

    "Only idiots can be fooled twice, and he is not an idiot."

    "But he is a romantic, a man of emotions, at most you can only trick an idiot twice, but a passionate man could be trick hundreds of times, because he will be falling for it whole heartedly."

    "And is Zhu Ting a romantic as well?"

    "No, he's too lazy for that."

    "There's a good thing about being lazy too."

    "Oh?"

    "Because if he's so lazy that he doesn't even move, then how in the world could he be tricked by others?"

    "It really was quite difficult to trick a person as lazy as he," ShangGuan FeiYan proudly smiled. "But luckily he also has a friend who wrote him a check to get him tricked."

    Lu XiaoFeng could not laugh anymore.

    "Of course, you don't want to see this good friend of yours lose his head do you?" ShangGuan FeiYan suddenly added. "Not to mention that he would take that pretty wife of his along with him."

    "The Boss's Wife is usually even lazier than the Boss," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "What is she doing coming as well?"

    "Because she's sure that you would save her, so she's waiting for you."

    "Where is she waiting for me at?"

    "You want to know?"

    "Very much so.""

    "Do you think I would take you there?"

    "No!"

    "You are wrong," ShangGuan FeiYan smiled. "If I don't intend to take you there, then why would I bring it up?"

    "Well at least you won't take me there right now."

    "You really are quite smart you know that?" ShangGuan FeiYan smiled sweetly again.

    "Pity that my friends aren't too lazy, but are too stupid." Lu XiaoFeng complained to nobody in particular.

    "But they are still your friends, so you have to save them."

    "I will consider it."

    "What's there to consider?"

    "I have to see what is it you want me to do in order for you to take me there."

    "What I want you to do is really a very simple and easy task."

    "And what's that?"

    "I only want you to kill someone for me. For you, killing someone should be a pretty easy task."

    "Well that depends on who the person that you want me to kill is."

    "You can surely handle this person."

    "Who?"

    "XiMen ChuiXue."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "What do you really want? Me to kill him or him to kill me?"

    "Of course I want you to kill him, he insulted me, insulted me like I have never been insulted before."

    "And for that little thing, you want to kill him?"

    "It doesn't take much for a girl."

    "And what if I can't kill him, instead he kills me?"

    "Then you don't have to feel too bad either, you'll surely run into a bunch of friends in purgatory."

    "Looks like I don't have any choice in this matter."

    "None what so ever."

    "No matter if he dies or I die, you would end up quite happy."

    "To be honest, in my heart, I wouldn't be sad if both of you died."

    "Didn't think you actually still have a heart!"

    "Of course I do. That's why I hope that you kill him to exchange his one life for the three lives of Hua ManLou and company."

    "This little exchange really isn't a bad bargain," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "But pity I don't know where he is."

    "But you could surely find him."

    "How?"

    "When he carried Sun XiuQing off that day, he was obviously trying to save her life."

    "Other than ending lives, he would occasionally save lives."

    "So right now he would surely be at a place where Sun XiuQing could heal her wounds. You should know where around there that she could do that."

    "But dead people can't heal."

    "Correct!"

    "So I have to ask you, after Sun XiuQing had been hit with the Flying Pheonix Needle, could she survive?"

    "What hit her was not Flying Pheonix Needles, it was Flying Swallow Needles." ShangGuan FeiYan bitterly replied. "It's supposed to be fatal, but XiMen ChuiXue seemed to be quite an expert."

    "Oh?"

    "Flying Swallow's poison is different from the normal poisons. Once you were hit by the needles, if you just quietly lay there, then you would surely die."

    "That's why Shi XiuYun is dead now." Lu XiaoFeng added for her.

    "But XiMen ChuiXue took Sun XiuQing flying all over the mountainside to let the poison dispell out of her body, hence she has a chance now."

    "After you injured her that night, you didn't leave did you?"

    "How could I, with all you masters there?" ShangGuan FeiYan laughed. "So I just decided to stay there, I saw everyone of you guys jump out trying to chase me."

    "Turns out that you have some big balls there!"

    "I knew that none of you would have expect that I could have dared to just stay there."

    "After we had all left, then you made your presence known."

    "By that time there was only Hua ManLou there, he would never suspect me of anything. Even if I tell him that snow is black and ink is white, he would still believe."

    "Why?"

    "Because he loves me." ShangGuan FeiYan confidently replied. "Once a man falls for a girl, then he becomes really quite hopeless."

    "Precisely because he likes you, therefore you think that all the tricks and lies that he falls for is deserved?"

    "Because he himself wanted to. I didn't make him love me."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly sighed again.

    "I only have one thing to tell you now."

    "What?"

    "If a person keeps making everyone else to be idiots, then that person is the dumbest of them all."

    "What's that suppose to mean?" ShangGuan FeiYan frowned.

    "If you turn around and take a look, then you would understand."

    ShangGuan FeiYan turned around. She felt as if she had suddenly completely fallen into a dark and deep hole.

    The room was even darker, a person quietly stood in the darkness, completely motionless.

    "Hua ManLou!" ShangGuan FeiYan could not stop herself from letting out a startled shout.

    But Hua ManLou's demeanor was still very peaceful, as if he was not feeling a bit of pain or rage.

    ShangGuan FeiYan looked at him in shock.

    "How... how did you get here?"

    "I walked." Hua ManLou casually replied.

    "But I... I sealed your pressure point."

    "When others hit your pressure point, if you can force your body's energy to the area around that point, after a while maybe you could be able to push open that sealed pressure point. Luckily, I know a small bit of that skill."

    "You already made preparations? Did you already suspect that I would do something?"

    "I didn't want my friend to kill in order to save me."

    "Did you hear all of what I just said?"

    Hua ManLou nodded.

    "You... you... you are not mad?"

    "Nobody can avoid making mistakes," Hua ManLou casually replied. "Besides, you really did not force me to fall for you."

    He still looked that serene, that warm, because in his heart there was only love, only love and no hate.

    ShangGuan FeiYan looked at him. Even a girl like him could not but feel regret and guilt.

    Lu XiaoFeng was looking at him as well.

    "This man really is a good man." He quietly sighed.

    Hua ManLou let out a little laugh.

    "Good man, stupid man, sometimes there's not much difference at all."

    "Where's the Boss?"

    "He's keeping the Boss's Wife company, of course."

    "Why didn't they come?"

    "They are busy listening to Xue-Er's story."

    "Looks like it won't be long until they fall for another lie." Lu XiaoFeng cracked an exasperrated smile.

    Of course, he knew the real reason why they did not come. They were endangered because of him, so when they meet, he would undoubtly be very embarrased, and they did not want him to feel embarrased.

    Xue-Er did not want to see her sister either. Under these circumstances, neither would feel pleasant in their hearts if they had met.

    ShangGuan FeiYan finally let out a prolonged sigh.

    "What you said earlier, I finally understand now."

    "Oh?"

    "Looks like what I did was truly stupid, stupid to the point of no return."

    "Oh!"

    "I took all of you to be idiots, but only now do I realize the real idiot is me." She sighed again. "But even if you cut off my nose now, I would never tell you who he is."

    "Turns out you are a romantic as well."

    ShangGuan FeiYan laughed, it was a very sad and lonely laugh.

    "Once a woman falls for a man, then she becomes quite hopeless as well."

    "I understand, I understand." Hua ManLou slowly nodded.

    "No matter what, I really have wronged you," ShangGuan FeiYan told him in a heavy tone of voice. "Even if you kill me, I won't blame you!"

    "But I don't want to kill you."

    "Then what do you plan to do to me?"

    "Nothing."

    "You... you are going to let me go?" ShangGuan FeiYan was startled again.

    Hua ManLou did not reply, he suddenly turned around and slowly walked out of the door. Lu XiaoFeng sighed and, incredibly, began to follow him out.

    ShangGuan FeiYan was in shock.

    "I know what you are trying to do, you know that I would surely go and find him right now, so you let me go on purpose with designs on following me to him." She suddenly shouted.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not turn around.

    "I don't have to do that." He casually declared.

    "Why not?"

    "Because I already know who he is!"

    ShangGuan FeiYan's expression changed dramatically.

    "You know who he is?" She shouted at the top of her lungs. "...... Who is he?"

    Lu XiaoFeng did not answer, nor did he say anything. He chased up to Hua ManLou, as the two of them, walking shoulder to shoulder, made their way past the dark hallway and into the pitch black night. The room was pitch black as well.

    ShangGuan FeiYan stood alone in the darkness, she suddenly began to shake, was it caused by the cold night? Or was it caused by terror?

    The garden was dark but serene, the aroma of the flowers in the wind seemed to be even thicker than it was before the sunset. Several scores of twinkling stars had just arisen, only to be covered up once again by a pale piece of cloud.

    Hua ManLou walked very slowly, only when he walked in front of a bush of flowers did he finally, gently, sigh.

    "Poor girl."

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded, seeming forgetting that Hua ManLou could not see him nod.

    "Everyone makes mistakes, even though she did the wrong thing, she...."

    Lu XiaoFeng cut him off. "Doing the wrong thing leads to punishment, no matter who, once they have done something wrong, they must suffer the consequences."

    "But you let her go."

    "Maybe only because I know there is one person who wouldn't let her go."

    "Who? Her lover?"

    "No, not lover. He is devoid of love."

    "Do you really know who he is?"

    "No."

    "Then was she right? Are you really planning to follow her?"

    "I might not be a gentleman, but at least I live up to what I say." Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    "If you don't know who he is, and you are not going to follow her, then are you prepared to let this whole thing go?"

    "Can't stop now."

    "I don't understand what you are saying."

    "I might not be able to find him, but he would certainly come looking for me."

    "Are you sure?"

    "At least 70% sure."

    "Oh?"

    "He thinks that I already know who he is, how could he let me live?"

    "So just then you said what you said trying to make him come looking for you!"

    "I said what I said, also to save ShangGuan FeiYan."

    "If you already knew who he is, then he has no need to kill her to keep his identity secret."

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled again.

    "At least the first one he'd come to look for is me, not ShangGuan FeiYan."

    "Too bad he couldn't hear what you just said."

    "Yes he could!"

    Hua ManLou frowned.

    "You think that he was there too just then?"

    "He's still there right now."

    "Therefore he could appear at any moment, and could try to kill you at any moment."

    "Correct."

    "But you don't seem too worried at all."

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    "The best thing about me, is that...."

    He did not finish, he suddenly noticed that Hua ManLou's expression changed. Hua ManLou was not an easy person get a reaction out of.

    "What's happening?" He could not help but ask.

    "Blood!" Hua ManLou replied in a deep voice.

    "What blood? Who's blood?"

    "I only hope that it's not ShangGuan FeiYan's...."

    The blood was ShangGuan FeiYan's. Her throat had been cut, the blood had not stopped flowing.

    Her expression was one of shock, rage, and terror, just like the Golden Roc Emperor's expression when he died.

    Obviously, she could not believe that her killer could actually kill her either! She could not believe it even in death.

    ---Was it her lover? Or a man devoid of love? Nobody, only darkness.

    The smell of blood in the wind was still very thick.

    "He still killed her!" Hua ManLou observed.

    "Mm!"

    "He obviously did not believe what you said."

    "Mm!"

    "Now that he's killed ShangGuan FeiYan, there isn't another person in the world who knows who he is."

    "Mm."

    "So you will never find him."

    "I only know that if anyone, no matter who, do something wrong, he has to pay the price." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly declared.

    "ShangGuan FeiYan has indeed paid the price," Hua ManLou heavily said. "But what about her killer?"

    Her killer had disappeared in the darkness, maybe disappeared forever.

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly grabbed Hua ManLou's hand.

    "Where's the Boss?"

    The Boss had disappeared. The dungeon that originally had kept them was deserted. An old padauk table had been flipped on its side, the tea pot and cups that were on it were smashed.

    "They must have just fought."

    "You think that person came and captured Zhu Ting and them?"

    "Looks like he's still quite worried about me," Lu XiaoFeng snickered. "So he came and took Zhu Ting and them away to use against me as leverage."

    "To be able to capture them this quickly, his kungfu skills is definitely not any worse than yours."

    Zhu Ting and the Boss's Wife were not slacks when it comes to martial arts by any means, not to mention that little but devious ShangGuan Xue-Er.

    "I didn't expect his kungfu to be worse than mine to begin with."

    "There's not that many so skilled in martial arts."

    "Therefore, he has made a mistake."

    "He shouldn't have gone so far."

    "In doing this, he's pretty much admitted his fault as well."

    Hua ManLou sighed. "I said it before, everyone makes mistakes."

    "If anyone does the wrong thing then he suffer the consequences, there is no exceptions."

    ***

    The room was quiet like a tomb. Ten men silently sat there, looking at Lu XiaoFeng - Fan Da, Jian Er, the 7 Heroes of the City, and Shan XiYan. Much wine had been consumed, but now all that has ceased.

    When friends get together to drink, it should be very difficult to stop before they are drunk. Yet at this moment, they were all very sober. There was not a trace of intoxication on their faces; rather, each one of them had a very peculiar look on their face.

    Shan XiYan's expression was the most grave as he stared at Lu XiaoFeng.

    "And you think that the mastermind behind this whole thing is him?" He suddenly asked.

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "Are you absolutely sure?"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "We are friends, and I know the nature of his relationship with all of you. If I wasn't absolutely sure, would I have came here to tell?"

    Shan XiYan slammed his tightened fist down onto the table.

    "If Huo TianQing really did this, then whatever we had between us are over! I don't care what kind of relationship I had with him!" He viciously declared.

    "But I still do not believe that he was capable of doing such a thing." Fan Da coldly challenged.

    "I don't want to believe it either," Lu XiaoFeng replied. "But other than him, I can't hink of anyone else."

    "Oh?"

    "Only he could subdue Zhu Ting and them in an instant."

    "If that's all you have, it's not enough." Fan Da snickered.

    "Only he could know of the Golden Roc Empire's secret, because he is the person that Yan TieShan trusted the most."

    "That's still not enough."

    "And only he could get anything good out of this whole matter, once Yan TieShan dies, then Pearl and Diamond Pavilion would be his."

    Yan TieShan was just like Huo Xiu, he was also a life-long bachelor. People's suspicion that he was once an eunuch was not without reason.

    "Besides," Lu XiaoFeng continued. "Why would a person with his skill and stature be willing to be the warden for someone like Yan TieShan?"

    Even Fan Da could not deny the validity of that point.

    "Nobody in the pugilistic world could have suspected that Green Shirt Pavilion's First Pavilion was none other than Pearl and Diamond Pavilion." Lu XiaoFeng added.

    "Wait, you think that the First Green Shirt Pavilion is Pearl and Diamond Pavilion?" Shan XiYan's expression noticeably changed at that ascertion.

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "Obviously, the reason that DuGu YiHe had came here was because he found out about this. This is also the reason that Huo TianQing purposefully forced him to expend his energy to make him die under XiMen ChuiXue's sword."

    "Sun XiuQing and Shi XiuYun was also killed by ShangGuan FeiYan precisely because they were about to reveal this secret." Hua ManLou had been sitting quietly on the side, but he could no longer stay quiet.

    "If they knew about this secret, then how come Man XiuZhen and Yie XiuZhu did not know it?" Shan XiYan inquired.

    "They knew as well!" Lu XiaoFeng replied.

    "But they are still alive."

    "Yie XiuZhu is still alive, but only because she, like ShangGuan FeiYan, had fallen in love with the young and handsome martial arts master Huo TianQing."

    "What about Ma XiuZhen?"

    "If my guess is correct, then she had probably died under Huo TianQing's hands, it could have even been Yie XiuZhu who killed her."

    "And he tried to distract you by telling you about that little pavilion at the back of the mountain to make you go find Huo Xiu." Shan XiYan hypothesised.

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded in agreement.

    "It didn't matter if I died in that building or if I killed Huo Xiu, this whole matter would have been over and he would have gotten away with it!"

    "But he could have never expected that you and that odd hermit would be old friends." Shan XiYan observed.

    "He wanted to know how this matter ended, that's why he had instructed Yie XiuZhu to wait outside."

    "And he's the only one that knew that you two would go look for Huo Xiu."

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded in agreement again.

    "But Yie XiuZhu made one slip up." Lu XiaoFeng declared

    "What was it?"

    "She said that she was there because he had just buried DuGu YiHe and Shi XiuYun."

    "DuGu YiHe is a master of a sect, how could you bury him on a random hillside?" Shan XiYan frowned.

    "Yie XiuZhu is truly a nice girl in the end." Lu XiaoFeng sighed again. "She still does not know how to lie."

    Shan XiYan sighed as well.

    "To lie to a face like yours isn't exactly easy either." He gave an exasperated smile.

    "But I did tell her about the secret about the 6 toes, so she immediately went and told Huo TianQing. Pearl and Diamond Pavilion was very close to Huo Xiu's little place to begin with."

    "And so only Huo TianQing could have found out about the secret from her so quickly."

    "Correct."

    "You purposefully leaked this secret to her, or was it an accident?" Shan XiYan wondered.

    Lu XiaoFeng did not answer his question directly. He only merely smiled and said: "At the time I didn't think that she should have showed up there. I found that to be a bit odd."

    Shan XiYan stared at him, and sighed again.

    "You know, your name shouldn't have been XiaoFeng, little phoenix," he laughed. "It should have been little fox!"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed as well.

    "But I admire Huo TianQing very much." He let out a worried smile. "He is truly an impeccable planner and very level headed man. If this whole incident was a chess match, then he certainly predicted every move that his opponent was going to take."

    "Pity that, in the end, he still made a wrong move." Shan XiYan commented.

    "Every man makes mistakes, and he is a human."

    "Actually, even if he did not make that last move, you still would have been able to nail him." Fan Da suddenly let out a cold laugh and observed.

    "At least at that time I could not have been so sure!"

    "How about now?" Fan Da asked.

    "Right now I still am not 100% sure, only about 90%."

    "Why did you come to us?" Fan Da inquired.

    "You were my friends, and I promised you that I would not fight him."

    "And now we are no longer friends?" Fan Da probed further.

    "We are still friends, that's why I came."

    "To rescind what you said?"

    "If anyone does anything wrong, then he has to suffer the consequences, even if he is Huo TianQing!"

    "Do you actually expect us to help us kill him!"

    "I only want you to inform him that, at tomorrow's sunrise, I'll be waiting for him at Green Breeze outlook!"

    "Very well." Fan Da replied. He suddenly stood up and, with razor sharp eyes, stared at Lu XiaoFeng. "If you please."

    "Please? Please what?"

    "Please, en guarde!"

    "Don't you believe what I said?"

    "I only know that Huo TianQing is the leader of Heaven Hunter Sect, and I just happen to be a disciple of Heaven Hunter Sect...."

    "So you...."

    "So as long as I, Fan TianYi, is still alive, nobody will trouble Huo TianQing."

    Shan XiYan frowned.

    "Haven't you heard of the idiom: 'Righteousness before family'?"

    "Yes, I have heard of it before," Fan Da coldy replied. "But I forgot it."

    "We are bastards who don't know the difference between right and wrong to begin with!" Jian Er slowly stood up as well.

    "This type of man deserves to die!" The meat bun vendor suddenly shouted.

    "Correct, very much so." Jian Er replied.

    "Pity that I, Bao WuYa, just happen to be this kind of a man as well." The meat bun vendor declared.

    "So you deserve to die as well." Jian Er answered.

    "Not only deserve to die, but deserve to die right now!"

    He suddenly lept up and, like an arrow, flew head first towards the wall. He did not hit the wall but Lu XiaoFeng's chest. Lu XiaoFeng had suddenly moved in front of him.

    Still in midair, he did a back flip, kicked his feet against one of the beams on the ceiling, and came crashing down head first onto the stone floor. He still did not hit the floor. Instead he felt a hand gently give a little push against his waist, and before he knew he was steadily standing on the ground, facing that man. The tall man stood straight up with a pale face. Huo TianQing....

    Everyone was startled, even Lu XiaoFeng was. Nobody could have dreamed that Huo TianQing would appear at this time and place, nobody could even have imagined that he would have dared to come here. Even though Huo TianQing's face was pale, his expression was still very calm.

    "Why... why won't you let me die?" Both of Bao WuYa's fists were clenched tight.

    "You deserve to die?" Huo TianQing asked.

    Bao WuYa gritted his teeth.

    "I deserve to die...."

    "Do all of you deserve to die? Do you really want to wipe out all of Heaven Hunter Sect?" Huo TianQing coldly interrogated.

    Bao WuYa was too surprised by his question to answer.

    "The reason that Heaven Hunter Sect taught you all the kungfu you know was not so that you can all go and kill yourself!"

    "But you...." was all Bao WuYa could say.

    "But I what? What do I have to do with you?" Huo TianQing snickered. "Even if all of you died, I would not even bat an eye in your direction."

    "But just now you...."

    "I just didn't want all of you to die because of me, that's all." Huo TianQing cut Bao WuYa off again. "If it gets out that some meat bun vendor died because of me, how would that make me look?"

    He suddenly reached into his shirt, took out a bamboo badge, and snapped it in half.

    "I, Huo TianQing, have money and fame, and had long lost interest in being this stupid, poor sect leader job." He coldly declared. "From now on Heaven Hunter Sect and I have nothing between us what so ever. If anyone dares to say that I am still in Heaven Hunter Sect, then I'll make sure to cut off his tongue and break both of his legs."

    Bao WuYa looked at him, his eyes turned red. He suddenly Shcollapsed onto the floor, crying his eyes out.

    Even Shan XiYan's eyes were getting a little red as well. However, he suddenly threw his head back and let out a hearty laughter.

    "Good show, Huo TianQing, so it turns out that your surname is still 'Huo' huh? At least you have not shamed that name."

    Huo TianQing did not even look at them as he slowly turned around, and stared directly at Lu XiaoFeng, and Lu XiaoFeng stared directly back at him.

    They were facing each other, and staring at each other. Nobody knew how long this lasted. Finally, Lu XiaoFeng let out a long sigh: "Why you? Why did it have to be you?"

    "Someone like you would never understand what we do." Huo TianQing coldly replied.

    "I understand that you really want to do something incredible, something amazing. I understand that you don't want to live your whole life underneath the shadow casted by your great father. But this...."

    "This is precisely something incredible," Huo TianQing viciously cut him off. "Other than I, Huo TianQing, who could pull off something like this?"

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled with an exasperated look: "Nobody else."

    "And other than you, there's nobody that could destroy my plan!" He suddenly threw his head back and let out a sigh. "If there is a Huo TianQing in this world, then there should not have been a Lu XiaoFeng!"

    "Therefore...."

    "Therefore between the two of us, one has to die. But will it you? Or me?"

    "We'll probably know by sunrise tomorrow." Lu XiaoFeng sighed as well.

    "Dawn will always come morrow, what matter may it be that morrow's matters be settled today?" Huo TianQing snickered. He suddenly flicked his sleeve and he was already outside the door, one could hear his cold and bland voice enminating from a far far place. "At dusk today, I'll wait you outside of Green Breeze Outlook!"

    ***

    Dusk. Green Breeze Outlook. Green Breeze Outlook was located on top of a green colored mountain, the mountain side was already on the other side of the setting sun.

    Hua ManLou's emtions were obviously very serious as well.

    "Huo TianQing has still not arrived!" He observed while letting out a sigh.

    "He will."

    "I did not think that he was that kind of a person, he shouldn't have been capable to do this kind of thing."

    "But he still did." Lu XiaoFeng grimly replied.

    "Maybe because he is just too proud, not only does he want to be better than everyone else, he wanted to be better than his own father!"

    "Pride is a very idiotic thing to begin with."

    If a man is too proud, he would be hard pressed not to do something idiotic.

    "And precisely because of that same pride, he is willing to take responsibility for his actions."

    Lu XiaoFeng was silent for a long time.

    "If you were me, would you let him go?" He suddenly asked.

    "I'm not you."

    Lu XiaoFeng let out a long and tired sigh. "Luckily you are not me, and luckily I'm not you...."

    Hua ManLou did not reply, for at this moment he heard the sound of a door opening. The heavey and ancient front door of Green Breeze Outlook openly slightly. A yellow clothed child servant walked out, carrying a lantern with him. Another man followed behind him. Not Huo TianQing, but a yellow robed Taoist monk. His robe and sleeves were huge, like all robes. His temples were caved in. On that thin but clean face of his was a very grave expression. Even though his steps were light and nimble, he did not look like he practiced martial arts.

    He glanced around the area for a moment before walking steadfastly towards Lu XiaoFeng and greeting him with a single-handed open-palmed salute.

    "Is this Alm Giver Mr. Lu XiaoFeng?"

    {Note: This reference does not mean that the monk thought Lu XiaoFeng was there to make a donation. Taoist and Buddhist monks traditionally have always address anyone who was not a monk as "alm giver."}

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded. "And Father is...."

    "This humble Taoist goes by the name of Green Maple, I'm the host of this humble outlook."

    {Note: The name of the monk and the name of the outlook actually are pronounced the same in Chinese.}

    "Could Father be a friend of Huo TianQing?"

    "Alm Giver Huo and I are chess mates, every month he would come to this humble outlook for a couple of matches."

    {Note: The game the 2 play is actually Go. However, since it just doesn't sound right in English, I changed it to chess, everything still works. Unless I get any objections, I think I'll stick with this.}

    "Where is he now?"

    A very strange expression crept onto Green Maple's face again.

    "The reason that this humble Taoist had came out was to lead Alm-Giver to see him."

    "So where is he?"

    "He is in this humble Taoist's guest room," Green Maple slowly replied. "He has been there for quite a long time now."

    The yard inside outlook was unusually quiet. The incense burning by the half opened windows diffused into the air as the wind breezed by. The door was half open as well.

    Lu XiaoFeng made his way through the yard, as soon as Green Maple to open the door he saw Huo TianQing. But Huo TianQing would never see him.

    Huo TianQing had actually died on Father Green Maple's guest bed. On the floor by the guest bed was a jade wine cup decorated with dragons, there were still wine in the cup. Poisonous wine.

    Huo TianQing's face was death gray in color. At the corner of his eyes and just below the nose was some slight traces of blood that had not been wiped away. Lu XiaoFeng looked at him, his heart sank.

    The look on Father Green Maple's face was one of utter melancholy.

    "When he showed up, I had assumed that he came to finish the match that we did not finish yesterday," He gravely explained. "I was quite interested in seeing what new idea he had came up with to save this match. But instead he said he wasn't in the mood to play today."

    "He only wanted to drink." Lu XiaoFeng guessed.

    Green Maple nodded. "That was when I noticed that his attitude seems strange, as if there was something heavy that's weighing on his heard. He was also sighing endlessly and mumbling to himself."

    "What did he say?"

    "He seemed to be saying something like the hundred year life of man went by in a blink of an eye, and also that if there was already a Huo TianQing in this world, why did it must also have a Lu XiaoFeng."

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled a sad smile through his frown.

    "Was this wine yours?" He had to ask.

    "The wine is indeed of this place, but the cup he had brought on his own. He's always been obsessed about cleanliness and would never use anything anyone else has used before."

    Lu XiaoFeng picked up the cup and sniffed its edges.

    "The poison is definitely on the cup." He frowned.

    "He picked up the cup but put it back down several times, just like when met with a difficult chess move to make, as if he could not make up his mind. I was just about to ask him when he suddenly threw his head back, let out three laughs, and drank the wine."

    The troubled Taoist put his hands together in front of him in prayer.

    "I could not imagine that one so young as he would see through the hopelessness of life, I pray that he reach the way soon." His voice was getting quieter and quieter, there seemed to be tears swelling up in his eyes.

    Lu XiaoFeng was quiet, his heart was even heavier. After a long time, he finally sighed. "Did he bring up anybody else?"

    "No."

    "And he did mention the name Zhu Ting at all?"

    "No."

    Lu XiaoFeng's heart sank even deeper under its own weight.

    On the side of the bed was an unfinished game of chess. "Life is ever changing, just like the clouds in the sky," Green Maple mumbled to himself, "but who could have expected that even though the unfinished game is here, he is no longer."

    "He played the black pieces?" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly asked.

    "I always let him go first."

    Lu XiaoFeng picked up a piece, thought deeply, and slowly played a move.

    "I'll finish this game for him."

    Green Maple smiled in sadness. "If you make that move, then won't black lose?"

    "But other than this, he had no other move to make."

    "He had lost this game already, he knew that too, but it's just he could not bring himself to admit it."

    Lu XiaoFeng stared out toward the horizon. "But he still lost," he mumbled. "This game is just like life, one wrong move and you lose."

    Father Green Maple suddenly swiped the board with his sleeve and knocked all of the pieces off.

    "Isn't life just like a game too? Why take winning and losing so seriously?" He slowly asked.

    "If you don't take it seriously, then why play this game to begin with?"

    Father Green Maple shot a look at him before slowly closing his eyes and bringing his two hands together in prayer again. He did not say anything more. A gust of wind blew open a window, the dark night was already covering the world.

    ***

    Lu XiaoFeng laid in his bed, staring at the wine cup on his chest. This cup had been laying on his chest for a very long time, even now he still hasn't drank it. It seemed as if he was not in the mood for even a drink.

    "Still thinking about Zhu Ting and them?" Hua ManLou asked. Lu XiaoFeng silently admitted it.

    "When a man is about to die, his heart would turn kind. Since Huo TianQing had already decided to die, then he probably did not want to do any more wrongs and kill people. Maybe they are already safely home by now."

    Not only did he say this to comfort Lu XiaoFeng, he said it to comfort himself. But Lu XiaoFeng looked as if he did not hear it at all.

    Hua ManLou forced a smile onto his face. "No matter what, you have won this game."

    Lu XiaoFeng replied with a long, drawn out sigh.

    "But the last move was not one made by me."

    "And it was not played the way you wanted it too either was it?"

    "No." He forced a pathetic smile on his face as well. "That's why even though I had won, it feels even worse than if I had lost."

    Hua ManLou could not help but let out a drawn out sigh as well.

    "Why wasn't he willing to finish playing this unfinished game?"

    "Because he knew that he had lost," Lu XiaoFeng answered, "just like how he was not willing to finish that game yesterday either---"

    As soon as he finished this sentence, he suddenly jumped up off the bed, the wine cup that was resting on his chest fell onto the ground and was instantly smashed to pieces.

    Hua ManLou knew that he had never allowed his wine cup to be smashed. But right now he seemed to have completely forgotten about that. He stood there in complete and utter disbelief, his whole body, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, felt ice cold

    Hua ManLou did not ask him anything, he knew knew he would say it himself soon enough.

    "He didn't finish that game yesterday either." Lu XiaoFeng suddenly repeated the same idea.

    "Yes."

    "He was still playing chess at Green Breeze Outlook yesterday." By now, even the color on Hua ManLou's face changed.

    "If ShangGuan FeiYan had died in his hands, how could he be playing chess here yesterday?"

    ShangGuan FeiYan was hundreds of miles away, even if Huo TianQing had grew wings, there was no way he could have made it back in one day. ShangGuan FeiYan had died only yesterday.

    Hua ManLou felt his hands and feet go ice cold as well.

    "Did we mistakenly accuse him?" Hua ManLou sighed.

    "At least, he didn't kill ShangGuan FeiYan." Lu XiaoFeng's fists were clenched.

    Hua ManLou nodded.

    "At least for that, we were wrong in accusing him."

    "Why didn't he argue for his innocence?"

    "The reason why he had arranged to meet me at Green Breeze Outlook was probably to ask that Taoist to prove his alibi, that he was playing chess there yesterday."

    "Because he knew that if it was just his words without any proof, you would never have believed him."

    "But he didn't even have the chance to argue for his innocence."

    "Then, there was no way that he could have killed himself."

    "Absolutely none."

    "Then who killed him."

    "The one who killed ShangGuan FeiYan as well."

    "The real master mind behind all of this?"

    "That's right."

    "Was Father Green Maple bribed by this guy to lie for him?"

    "Monks are still human."

    "If that's the case, the Father Green Maple must surely know who he is!"

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed at that remark. "So right now I only hope that Green Maple is still alive."

    He was disappointed. By the time they made it back to Green Breeze Outlook, the outlook had turned into a sea of flames. Nobody could have escaped, not a single person. The fire has no compassion, the person who set the fire had even less. Who was this person?

    ***

    Green Breeze Outlook was on one side of the mountain, Huo Xiu's little pavilion was on the other side. Even though one side of the mountain had been engulfed in a sea of fire, the other side was still peaceful and quiet.

    "PUSH". That word was still on the front door. Lu XiaoFeng pushed open the door and walked in. This was the second time he pushed open this door, and could very be his last.

    The belly of the hallow mountain was empty, there was nothing in it. All those countless treasure and weapons had miraculously disappeared.

    In the middle of the room was a small stone platform, on it was a dirty and old straw mat. Huo Xiu, barefoot, wearing that bluish-green shirt that had been washed white, sat cross-legged on that mat, warming up his wine. Such deliciously smelling wine.

    Lu XiaoFeng took a deep whiff of the smell and walked to the bottom of the stone staircase.

    "Seems like I arrived just in time again." He smiled.

    Huo Xiu smiled back. "This time I'm not surprised anymore. Everytime I have good wine you would suddenly appear!"

    "But now I'm a bit suspicious."

    "Suspicious of what?"

    "Suspicious that you might be purposefully luring me here with good wine as bait."

    Huo Xiu burst out laughing. "Well in any case, good wine is still good wine. If you are not afraid of getting your cloth dirty, then you could sit down and have a cup."

    "I am afraid."

    "You are afraid?" Huo Xiu frowned.

    "But what I'm not afraid of getting my cloth dirty."

    "Then what are you afraid of?"

    "I'm afraid that I'll end up like Huo TianQing and have to wait for someone else to come along and finish my unfinished game for me."

    Huo Xiu stared at him, his eyes suddenly seemed to have turned into a pair of just unsheathed razor sharp sabres. He did not say another word, instead he slowly poured a cup of wine and slowly drank it. Lu XiaoFeng did not say another word as well, he knew that one sentence was enough. He was talking to a smart man, with a smart man, just one sentence was enough.

    After an extended period of time, Huo Xiu suddenly burst out laughing again.

    "Looks like I still can't fool you."

    "So you might as well stop trying to altogether."

    "How did you know it was me?"

    "I couldn't," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "There was no way for me to realize that I had been mistaken from the very beginning."

    "Oh!"

    "I had always thought that you were on the same boat as Yan TieShan and DuGu, that you were also a victim, and I had always thought that only Huo TianQing could benefit from this whole matter."

    "How about now?"

    "Now I have it all figured out. There is only one person that could really benefit from this whole matter."

    "And that one person is me."

    "That's right, that one person is you!"

    Huo Xiu filled his wine cup again.

    "Once the Golden Roc Emperor dies, nobody in the world would ever bring up your duty to the Golden Roc Empire anymore." Lu XiaoFeng continued.

    "He wouldn't have brought it up anyways," Huo Xiu slowly nodded. "But recently he was really getting rather poor. He is very good at spending money, but he never knew about the hardships of actually earning money."

    "So you had to kill him?"

    "This type of person deserves to die to begin with!" Huo Xiu coldly concluded.

    "But his death wasn't enough was it? Because DuGu and Yan TieShan was going to come and split the money weren't they?"

    "This money is mine originally, and only I spent all that energy and effort protecting it, making it grow day by day, I would never let anyone else get a piece of it!"

    "So they deserved to die too?"

    "They had to die!"

    "In truth, this money was enough to last 30 men an entire lifetime," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "At your age, do you really plan on taking it all to your grave with you?"

    Huo Xiu stared at him.

    "If you had a wife, would you be willing to share her with other people? You aren't using her during the day anyways." He coldly rebuked.

    "That's completely different."

    "To me, these two matters are the same. This treasure is like my wife to me, no matter if I'm alive or dead, I would never share it with anybody else!"

    "So therefore, you first used Huo TianQing and ShangGuan FeiYan to kill the Golden Roc Emperor, and then used me to get rid of DuGu YiHe and Yan TieShan."

    "I didn't want to get you involved, but other than you, I really couldn't think of anyone else who could do this."

    "That's not the first time I heard that sentence." Lu XiaoFeng smiled embarrasingly.

    "It's the truth."

    "I took your bait because I wanted too. But what about Huo TianQing? How could you get to a person like him?"

    "It wasn't me who got to him."

    "ShangGuan FeiYan?"

    Huo Xiu smiled. "Don't you think that she's a girl that's quite capable of moving a man's heart?"

    A wry smile appeared on Hua ManLou's face.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed as well.

    "And how did you get to her?"

    "I might be an old man, but I can still tempt any girl." Huo Xiu casually replied. "Because I have something that no woman can refuse."

    "What's that?"

    "My riches." He smiled and went on matter of factly. "There isn't a woman in the world who doesn't love riches, just like there isn't a man in the world who doesn't love beautiful woman."

    "You promised to split a portion of your treasure to her to get her to seduce Huo TianQing?"

    "You all thought that her lover was Huo TianQing, bet you didn't expect that the one that she actually loved was this old man did ya?" Huo Xiu laughed out loud.

    "She wasn't in love with you, she was in love with your money." Lu XiaoFeng could not fight off the urge to correct him.

    "Doesn't make a difference to me," Huo Xiu was still laughing. "Either way, to me she was a dead person to begin with."

    "You had planned to kill her to keep her quiet from the beginning?"

    "I told you, I would never let anyone else share my riches with me."

    "So you purposefully told me the secret about the 6 toes to send me to deal her."

    "But Huo TianQing still didn't know what was going on, and actually sent her the message telling her this secret with his pigeons."

    "Even he didn't know that you were the master mind behind all of this?"

    "Of course not, why else would he be so willing to go through all of this for ShangGuan FeiYan?"

    "But not even you could have predicted that I would let ShangGuan FeiYan go."

    "Therefore I had to go and do it myself."

    "Huo TianQing was no dummy, when he heard that news that ShangGuan FeiYan had died, he must have knowns that there was someone else behind the scenes. Therefore once he arranged the meeting at Green Breeze Outlook with me, he came here to see you."

    "He really wasn't that stupid, pity that even smart people have stupid moments."

    "He really should not have came to you all by himself." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "That's why he deserved to die too."

    "You moved him to Green Breeze Outlook after you killed him?"

    "The deed of Green Breeze Outlook is mine as well, I could have taken it back anytime I felt like."

    "That's why when you asked Father Green Maple to lie for you, he could not refuse could he?"

    "A monk that was capable of lying? Obviously he deserved to die as well!" Huo Xiu casually concluded.

    "You wanted me to believe that Huo TianQing had committed suicide out of guilt and stop meddling in this whole affair didn't you?"

    "I truthfully did not want you to be involved anymore," Huo Xiu sighed. "But it's a shame that wordy Taoist did you in."

    "He did me in?"

    "When I heard him mentioning about that unfinished game yesterday, I knew that you would realize that inconsistency sooner of later."

    "So you just decided that you might as well set the entire Green Breeze Outlook on fire."

    "I just happened to have something else in mind planned for that piece of land."

    "In your eyes, are those people actually just the same as that piece of land? Nothing more than tools that you use and throw away as you please."

    "So when I wanted them to be alive, they'll live; when I wanted them to die, then they must die!"

    "How did you figure out how you were going to use me?" Lu XiaoFeng asked with a tired smile.

    "Every man has a weakness, once you figure out where their weak spot is, you can use anybody."

    "What's my weakness?"

    "Your weakness is that you loved to meddle in other people's affairs way too much!" Huo Xiu coldly answered.

    "That's how I ended up being your accomplice, getting XiMen ChuiXue involved for you, helping you get rid of Yan TieShan and DuGu YiHe...." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "And you did very well through all of it. Had you been willing to stop after Huo TianQing had died, you would have been welcomed to come and have a drink with me whenever you liked, if you run into any kind of trouble, I might actually have been willing to lend you ten thousand taels of so to get yourself out of it."

    "Pity that I didn't stop."

    Huo Xiu sighed as well.

    "Do you know why I had moved all the stuff in here away?" Lu XiaoFeng did not know.

    "Because I planned to leave this place for you to use as your tomb."

    "At least it's not a small tomb." Lu XiaoFeng tried a rather pathetic joke.

    "For Lu XiaoFeng, being buried underneath the First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion is actually pretty fitting don't you think?" Huo Xiu observed matter of factly.

    "At least ShangGuan FeiYan did say one sentence of truth," Lu XiaoFeng sighed. "The First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion really was here."

    "Pity, though. The more people tell you that the First Pavilion of Green Shirt Pavilion was here, the less you believed them."

    "And you, obviously, must be the Master Helmsman of the 108 Pavilions of Green Shirt Pavilion aren't you?"

    "Master Helmsman, those words sound so nice," Huo Xiu smiled. "I love hearing those words."

    "Do they sound better than the sound of you counting money?"

    "I don't count money," Huo Xiu casually replied. "You can't count how much money I have anyways."

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed again. "Only now do I really understand how you got to be so rich."

    "You might understand now, but pity you'll never master it."

    "Only because I really don't see the point in taking it all to the grave with me."

    Huo Xiu burst out laughing again. "Good, very good!"

    "What's so good about it?"

    "Rumors say that you would always a very thick stack of banknotes on you and that everytime you never put anything less than 5000 taels on the table each time." Huo Xiu said, smiling.

    "That particular 5000 tael banknote has probably already ended up in your hands." Lu XiaoFeng let out an exasperated smile.

    "Since you don't plan on taking money to the grave with you, I'll make sure to take all that money out for you after you died."

    "You want a dead man's money?"

    "I want any and all kinds of money, that's one of the biggest secrets in getting rich."

    "Pity I'm still alive."

    "But you are already in your grave."

    "Are you certain that you can kill me?"

    "No, but I am certain that you will die here."

    "Oh!"

    "Once someone has entered their grave, there isn't any hope for them to get out."

    Lu XiaoFeng looked at Huo Xiu, his eyes suddenly shone like a pair of razor sharp knife.

    "Your hands getting a little itchy for action?" Huo Xiu smiled.

    "Yes, they are." Lu XiaoFeng admitted.

    "Too bad I'm not interested in fighting you, I never liked to get my own hands dirty." He gently pressed down on the stone platform with his hand. "Boom!" A huge steel cage actually fell down from above, trapping the entire stone platform inside of it.

    Lu XiaoFeng frowned.

    "Since when did you decide to turn into a bird and put yourself inside a cage?"

    "You find this funny?"

    "It is funny."

    "You won't think it's so funny when I walk out of here, a man about to die from starvation will be hard pressed to find anything funny."

    "Am I about die from starvation?"

    "After I leave, the only thing you can eat here would be the flesh on you and your friend's bodies, the only thing you can drink here would be your own blood." Huo Xiu coldly replied.

    "But how can you leave?"

    "The only exit in this entire place is precisely beneath this stone platform I'm sitting on. And I can assure you, I would make sure to remember to seal this exit on my way out."

    The color on Lu XiaoFeng's face changed a bit.

    "I don't seem to remember us getting in here that way." He forced a smile on his face.

    "That door you entered from could only be opened from the outside, and nobody outside will open it for you, that I can also assure you."

    "What else can you assure me of?"

    "I can also assure you that you will die of thirst within ten days. However, I'm a very prudent man, so I would make sure to at least wait ten more days before coming back."

    "You are coming back?"

    "Of course I'm coming back," Huo Xiu laughed, "coming back to take all that money that's on you."

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly laughed, a big and hearty laugh.

    "If I was you, I would not be laughing right now." Huo Xiu told him matter of factly.

    "You are not me."

    "Fortunately I'm not."

    "And precisely because you are not me, you don't know that the only thing I have left in my pocket is one huge hole." Lu XiaoFeng said, trying to contain his laughter.

    "Seems like you are determined not to let me get anything out of you even in death." Huo Xiu sighed.

    You are finally getting it."

    "Luckily, there's still some thing I can get out of this."

    "Oh!"

    "I can still at least take off the clothes on your body and sell them somewhere for a couple of farthings at least!"

    "You are willing to go through all of that for a copule of farthings?"

    "A farthing is still money."

    "As long as it's money you want it!"

    "Money is always good, one farthing is at least better than no farthing at all."

    "Alright, let me give you some!" Lu XiaoFeng suddenly flicked out his hand and a dozen or so chains of bronze coins were sent screaming towards Huo Xiu.

    Huo Xiu did not move nor did he dodge. Only when the chains of coins penetrated the vertical bars of his cage did he wave his hand around a couple of times and all 12 of the chains of coins suddenly ended up in the palm of his hand.

    The excellence of skill of this old man's hand startled even Lu XiaoFeng.

    "Excellent move!" He exclaimed despite of himself.

    Huo Xiu had already carefully put away those 12 chains of coin.

    "When there's money to be made, my kungfu would always be exceptionally good."

    "Pity that that skill of yours is still a bit worse than mine."

    Huo Xiu let out a laugh. "Are you trying to bait me to go out there and fight you?"

    "Yes, I had that in mind."

    "Then I advice you to get that out of your mind."

    "You are never going to come out?"

    "Even if I wanted to, I can't."

    "Why not?"

    "This cage is made from steel that has been forged over 100 times. It weighs 990 kilograms. Even blades that cut through steel like butter might not even cut through it, nevermind that those kinds of swords only exists in legend."

    "And nobody could hope to lift up a 990 kilogram cage either," Lu XiaoFeng added.

    "Nobody."

    "Therefore not only can you not come out, I cannot get in either."

    "So all you can do is watch me leave, and then wait to die of starvation."

    "The reason you put yourself in a cage to start with was that you are afraid that I might try and get in a fight with you?"

    "I'm an old man, I'm not even interested in getting in bed with women anymore, much less fighting."

    Lu XiaoFeng patted Hua ManLou on the shoulder. "Looks like the only we can do is to wait here for death!" He sighed.

    "This looks to be his final move!" Hua ManLou casually replied. Unbelievably, he actually smiled.

    "You have to admit, this move is quite an effective move."

    "But we still have a move to make, there is a piece that we haven't used yet."

    "Oh!"

    "Did you forget about Zhu Ting?" Hua ManLou asked.

    Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    "Of course not."

    "And that's the reason you are still able to smile even now." Hua ManLou smiled in return.

    "And that's why you are not anxious at all either."

    "He shouldn't have brought Zhu Ting here to begin with."

    "That is so very true."

    There seemed to be some changes on Huo Xiu's face.

    "What about him?" He finally succumbed to temptation and asked. "Why shouldn't he be here?"

    "Nothing about him really." Lu XiaoFeng nonchalantly answered. "Just that there isn't a place in this world that has been able to lock him up."

    "He doesn't have any good points about him really, other than the fact that he happens to be a personal apprentice of Master Lu." Hua ManLou added.

    "Master Lu?" Huo Xiu frowned.

    "Of course, you already know that Master Lu is the direct descendent of Lu Ban, and also is the best handyman in the world." Hua ManLou explained.

    "After Master Lu died, that title obviously fell to none other than The Boss, Zhu Ting." Lu XiaoFeng added.

    "Therefore, as long as he's here, then you are sure to be able to get out." Huo Xiu concluded.

    "That's right." Lu XiaoFeng concurred.

    "He really is here."

    "I know."

    "Just a bit further, where you saw me last time."

    "I know."

    "If there isn't a place in the world that can keep him locked up, then why hasn't he come out yet?"

    "He will."

    "Well even if he comes out now, it will be too late." Huo Xiu snickered to himself.

    "Oh!"

    "The master control of all of the machines and gadgets in here is right below where I'm sitting."

    "Oh!"

    "Of course, while I'm leaving, I'll make sure to immediately destroy it."

    "And then what happens?"

    "And then every exist out of this place would immediately be sealed off by boulders, every boulder weighing more than 4 tons, so...."

    "So we are doomed to die in here."

    "Not just you, even if Lu Ban was resurrected, all he could do is wait to die." Huo Xiu casually added.

    "And therefore you are leaving right now!"

    "I had wanted to wait and chat with you guys a little while longer, because I know that waiting for death isn't all that pleasant."

    "But now you have changed your mind?"

    "Correct!"

    "Looks like not only could I not keep you, I can't send you on your way either." Lu XiaoFeng joked, in a rather pathetic attempt to be funny.

    "But you will definitely miss me very soon, that I know," Huo Xiu said with a smile as he reached out with his hand. "All I have to do is press down, and I would disappear. You'll never see me again."

    He pressed down with his hand. However, he did not disappear, but the smile on his face has.

    That square stone platform still remained a square stone platform. He had been sitting squarely on top of it, now he still remained sitting squarely on top of it. The expression on his face was as if he suddenly got hit directly on the nose by someone.

    Huge beads of sweat suddenly appeared on his forehead.

    Lu XiaoFeng seemed to find all of this quite odd as well. He knew Huo Xiu very well, this old fox would never ever do anything that he was not completely sure and confident of. If Huo Xiu said that there was an exit underneath this platform, then there must be an exit underneath the platform. But now it seemed as if the exit had suddenly disappeared.

    "Why are you still here?" Lu XiaoFeng blinked.

    Huo Xiu's fists were clenched.

    "You... you...." He did not finish his sentence before fainting.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed, then suddenly discovered that he wasn't the only one sighing. The ones who sighed was not Hua ManLou, but ShangGuan Xue-Er and the Boss's Wife. They sighed as they walked over to him, with flowery smiles on their faces.

    "Turns out you are right, this guy really did have an ace up his sleeve." ShangGuan Xue-Er was the first to speak.

    "That's why he's the one and only Lu XiaoFeng!" The Boss's Wife's smile was even sweeter.

    But Lu XiaoFeng's smile was a rather pathetic one.

    "The reason that you didn't come out was to see if I still had an ace up my sleeve?"

    "We didn't think that there was nothing that you could have done to this old fox, but who knew that you still had this one last move left?" ShangGuan Xue-Er sweetly answered.

    "This last move of yours is truly quite something else." The Boss's Wife giggled.

    "He made this cage himself, but he probably never would have dreamed that he would actually be trapped in it." ShangGuan Xue-Er observed.

    Lu XiaoFeng cracked a smile as well. "This is what's called, 'Kindly Step into the Vat'"

    {Note: "Kindly Step into the Vat" is a well known Chinese idiom. It originated from a story regarding a conversation between two officials of the only female Emperor in Chinese history, Wu ZeTian. Both officials were infamous for their cruelty towards the subjects of their interrogations. When the first official was suspected of treason, the second official was sent to interrogate. The second official, being friend with the first official, invited him to dinner that night. During the dinner, the second official claimed to have this one particularly stubborn subject who will not cooperate no matter what and sought the first official for advice. The first official suggested that the best thing to do was to use a large vat filled with oil, heat it to a boil in front of him, and then threaten to throw him in the vat if he does not confess. The second official then promptly ordered his servants to bring a large vat filled with oil into the room and heat it to a boil. Once that was done, the host stood up, charged his guest with his crimes, and asked him to "kindly step into the vat" if he does not confess. His guest, the first official, promptly confessed. Therefore this idioms applies to when people's own designs and plans comes back to work on themselves. Now that we are finished with our history listen, back to the story.}

    The Boss's Wife stared at him, her eyes twinkled. "How did you ever think of and pull off this?"

    "I have always been a genius." Lu XiaoFeng replied matter of factly.

    "Did you figure out that he was going to try and escape using that way and therefore sealed it off before he came in here?" ShangGuan Xue-Er inquired.

    Lu XiaoFeng was quiet.

    "Well? Why aren't you talking?" The Boss's Wife demanded. "How did you do it?"

    Lu XiaoFeng suddenly shook his head.

    "I can't tell you."

    "Why not?" ShangGuan Xue-Er asked.

    "Everyone needs to keep a couple of secrets to themselves just in case, especially when women like you two are involved." Lu XiaoFeng said with a smile, a smile quite a bit like a crafty old fox. "If you two learn all of my secrets, then how could I possibly survive the rest of my days?"

    ***

    "So how did you do it?" Once everybody had left, Hua ManLou could no longer resist the temptation to ask any longer. "Why won't you tell them?"

    Lu XiaoFeng's answer was especially clever.

    "Because I don't know either."

    "You don't know why that exit would suddenly be sealed either?" Hua ManLou was shocked.

    "No idea."

    Hua ManLou was speechless.

    "Maybe it was because the set up suddenly malfunctioned, or maybe it was because a rat had accidentally wandered into and popped a spring here or there...." Lu XiaoFeng suggested, there was a look of deep contemplation in his eyes. He sighed. "What was really the reason? Nobody knows, maybe only Heaven knows."

    "Only Heaven knows?"

    Lu XiaoFeng nodded.

    "Do you know why evil doers always fail at the last hurdle?" He asked.

    "No idea."

    "Because Heaven has already prepared a last master stroke waiting there for them, so no matter how clever their plan was, it would always fail."

    "So this last move was not yours but the will of Heaven?"

    "Correct."

    Hua ManLou laughed.

    "Why are you laughing? You don't believe me?"

    "Do you actually think I would believe you?" Hua ManLou asked, still laughing.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed and answered with a pathetic smile of his own.

    "Why is it when I tell the truth, nobody ever believes me?"

  14. #14
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 1 - Epilogue

    Epilogue

    The door leading to the stone steps had been opened, Zhu Ting opened it. If someone could create a door like that, then there would be someone who could open it.

    There is a lot of things like that in the world. That's why if you could really produce a shield that can't be penetrated by any spears, then someone else would have made a spear that could penetrate your shield. There is no such things as "absolute" in this world.

    Lu XiaoFeng sat on the steps, looking at Huo Xiu inside the cage. He suddenly got the feeling that the cage was quite a bit like a prison cell.

    When someone does something wrong, the he must suffer the consequences. Lu XiaoFeng sighed. He felt quite satisfied with how this matter has ended. So how did this matter end?

    The Boss was busy using a wooden triangle to measure the height of this cave. The Boss's Wife was at his side, looking at him. She knew that he has gotten another briliant idea, but she did not ask. She knew that not a man in the world who likes to be interrupted by a talkative woman while he is thinking.

    "Is that man going to leave?" But Zhu Ting suddenly asked her.

    "Mmhmm!"

    "And you are not going to see him on his way?"

    "If you are going to, then I'll be going to as well."

    "He doesn't seem to want me to send him off." Zhu Ting coldly observed.

    "And you don't want to go send him off either do you?"

    Zhu Ting admitted it.

    "But if he would ever need your help, just randomly send a person here with a message and you would immediately go to help."

    "That's only because I know if I ever needed his help, he would come too."

    "But even then there would be no greetings, no talking to each other."

    "Coming or not is one matter, speaking or not is a completely different matter altogether."

    "There probably isn't another pair of friends like you two in this entire world." She sighed.

    Zhu Ting put down the wooden triagle in his hand and stared at her.

    "I have decided to stay here."

    "I know."

    "Can you stand to stay at a place like this?"

    "As long as you can, I can."

    "I won't fault you if you don't want to stay here."

    "You want to chase me away so that little devil can keep you company?" The Boss's Wife stared at him viciously.

    "Since when did you become capable of jealousy?" Zhu Ting joked.

    "Just now."

    "Just now?"

    "Just now, what did that little devil say to you?"

    "A secret, of course." Zhu Ting smiled.

    "What secret?" The Boss's Wife was staring at him viciously again.

    "I'll tell you later, but now...." Zhu Ting casually answered. "Now you can go and say goodbye to him."

    "I'm not going to."

    "Why not?"

    The Boss's Wife bit her lip. "From this day forth, I'll never ever take my eyes off of you, no matter what. Because...."

    "Because of what?"

    The Boss's Wife looked at him, those beautiful eyes of hers were full of love.

    "Because only now do I realize how great a man you are, I'm afraid that others might steal you away." She said tenderly.

    Lu XiaoFeng was observing them from afar, and suddenly sighed.

    "Looks like their troubles are behind them."

    "What kind of trouble were they in?" Hua ManLou asked.

    "For the last couple of yaers, the Boss's Wife seemed to have been a little disappointed at the Boss, I was worried that they might become an estranged couple."

    "Did the Boss's Wife feel that the Boss was a bit too lazy?"

    "But by now she should know what an incredible genius her husband is." Lu XiaoFeng smiled.

    "If it wasn't for him, we probably would have all died in here." Hua ManLou agreed.

    Every woman wishes that she could be proud of her husband.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed again.

    "I'm not afraid of much, but it looks like starvation really is quite something else."

    He was looking inside the cage at Huo Xiu. But Huo Xiu's eyes were bulging out as he looked at ShangGuan Xue-Er just outside of the cage.

    Xue-Er had in her hand a sausage and two biscuits, talking to Huo Xiu in what sounded like gibberish from so far away to Lu XiaoFeng.

    Huo Xiu was so angry by now that his neck looked bulged out. He suddenly jumped up and charged at the cage, trying to knock it over. Of course, he failed. He had especially made the cage so that nobody could knock it over.

    Xue-Er stood outside the cage, coldly looking at him. She looked like she was about to walk away when Huo Xiu called her back. The two of them exchanged some more words. Huo Xiu let out an exhausted sigh, wrote something down on a piece of paper, and handed it to Xue-Er in change for the sausage and biscuits. Then he immediately sat down on the ground and devoured the food.

    "He still would rather die than tell us where that money went?" Hua ManLou suddenly asked.

    "He's not scared of death."

    "Because he really believes that being poor is worse than death?" Hua ManLou let out an exasperated laugh.

    "But he might have just discovered something even scarier than being poor." Lu XiaoFeng laughed in return.

    "Hunger?"

    Lu XiaoFeng had not replied yet when Xue-Er came prancing over, there was light in her eyes.

    "I just sold one sausage and two biscuits to him," she laughed. "Can you guess how much I sold them for?"

    They could not.

    "Fifty-thousand taels, a whole 50 thousand!" Xue-Er proudly waved the banknote in her hand. "I can take this note, written by him, to whichever bank I want to, whenever I want to, and cash it in."

    Lu XiaoFeng could not help but laugh.

    "You heart is pretty black, you know that?"

    "I doubt you'll find a more expensive sausage anywhere in the world." Hua ManLou jokingly observed.

    "That's why that old fox over there was almost insane with rage, but pity he had to make the deal." Xue-Er explained.

    "Starvation really is quite something else." Hua ManLou sighed.

    "Are you actually planning to get all of his money this way?" Lu XiaoFeng inquired.

    "That money was my family's to begin with, don't forget that my surname is ShangGuan too."

    "Even if you manage to steal 50 thousand taels of silver from him everday, you won't empty him out for at least another year or two." Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "Then I'll stay here and steal for 3 years, however long it takes. Besides, I got company."

    "The Boss has already decided to stay here?"

    Xue-Er nodded, a mysterious smile crept up on her face. "He told his wife that he wanted to stay here to create a couple of truly incredible things. But only I know why he really decided to stay."

    "And what's that reason."

    "That's a secret." Xue-Er blinked, the smile on her face grew even more mysterious.

    "What's the secret?"

    "If it's a secret, then why should I tell you?"

    Lu XiaoFeng stared at her face for a long time before suddenly cracking a smile. "I'm not that interested in your secret, but I am a little worried."

    "Worried about what?"

    "When you cash in this bank note, won't people be inquiring about where you got it from?"

    "Absolutely nobody would ask me."

    "Oh?"

    "Don't forget how strange and mysterious of a man this old fox was, even his most trusted underlings don't know what he's up to most of the time, he's always done things this way."

    "Looks like his own plan has come back to bite him again." Lu XiaoFeng sighed.

    "Of course," Xue-Er laughed. "If it wasn't because of him, it would nearly be this easy for me to squeeze money out of him."

    A man's fate is nothing more than his own creation, that is why the most straight forward and honest person always have the best luck.

    Still smiling, Lu XiaoFeng slowly stood up. "Then you go ahead and stay here and get all the money you can out of him, while you are at it could you get a couple of jugs of wine out of him for me?"

    "Are... are you going to leave now?" Xue-Er stared at him.

    "It I was to stay in this kind of place, I'll be shocked if I don't die of boredom before three days is up." Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "Don't you want to ask me about my secret?"

    "No."

    Xue-Er's eyes rolled around from a bit. She suddenly broke out into a smile. "Actually, telling you won't do much harm, you'll find out sooner or later anyways."

    Lu XiaoFeng did not seem to object.

    "The reason he is staying here is because he has fallen in love with me and I have also fallen in love with him."

    Lu XiaoFeng laughed.

    "I know you don't believe me," Xue-Er continued casually. "But when I marry him, then you'd have to believe it."

    "You are marrying him?" Lu XiaoFeng could not help but ask. "Then what about the Boss's Wife?"

    "Why must a boss have only one boss's wife?" Xue-Er asked matter of factly. "If you can have four eyebrows, why can't Boss have two Boss's Wives?"

    The side of the mountain was underneath the sitting sun, Lu XiaoFeng walked along the mountainside. He was not uttering a solitary sound. After walking for a long time, he suddenly broke the silence.

    "That little devil must be lying once again."

    "Mmhmm!" Hua ManLou concurred.

    "The Boss isn't crazy, why would he take a little devil like her to be the Little Boss's Wife?"

    "Of course he won't."

    Lu XiaoFeng quietly walked for another while.

    "But the Boss is an a$$h01e, sometimes he could get a little crazy." He suddenly spoke up again.

    "And the little boss's wives are often little devils as well."

    "So it's best that you hurry and go back to try and talk that a$$h01e out of this insane idea."

    "Why don't you go yourself?"

    "You know that he and I aren't on speaking terms."

    "If this whole matter was not true to begin with, then won't the Boss think that we are a couple of nut cases?"

    "What's the harm in being a nut case once in a while?"

    "Looks like anyone who is your friend can't help but catch your illness and get a little crazy in the head eventually." Hua ManLou sighed.

    And he went, he had too.

    Lu XiaoFeng, like an idiot, sat on the side of the path and waited. Luckily this path was very remote, other than a granny who was trying to pick some wild fruits, nobody else passed by. He did not have to wait for too long before Hua ManLou returned.

    "Well?" Lu XiaoFeng asked immediately.

    "You are nuts, and I am too." Hua ManLou put up a serious face.

    "This whole thing was untrue?"

    "They did have a secret, Zhu Ting has adopted Xue-Er as his daughter."

    Lu XiaoFeng was quite taken aback by the news.

    "You knew that little devil was lying, and yet you still fell for it, why?" Hua ManLou sighed and laughed miserably.

    Lu XiaoFeng sighed and let out a miserable laugh as well. "Because I'm not just an a$$h01e, I'm a dumbass as well."

    He looked up just in time to see Xue-Er come chasing up from behind.

    "Did you guys see anyone passing by just a bit ago?" She asked, still trying to catch her breath.

    "Only a fruit picking granny." Lu XiaoFeng answered.

    Xue-Er almost jumped out of her skin when she heard that.

    "That granny has to be my sister."

    "Your sister? ShangGuan FeiYan?"

    Xue-Er nodded, there was light in her eyes. "Only now did I find ou that she's not dead, she's always been very good at faking death, after you guys left, I went down to...."

    Lu XiaoFeng did not wait for her to finish before turning and leaving. Not just leaving, but grabbing Hua ManLou as well.

    "I don't care what you say this time, I'm not going to fall of it! I'm not even listening to you any more." Looks like he really made up his mind this time around, he left in a hurry.

    Xue-Er watched them leave, as if mesmerized, only then did she finally let out a gentle sigh.

    "Why is it when I tell the truth, nobody ever believes me...." She mumbled to herself.

  15. #15
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 2 - Chapter 1

    Lu Xiaofeng Book 2: The Embroidery Bandit
    [绣花大盗 Xiuhua Dadao]
    By Gu Long
    Translated by Moinllieon


    Chapter 1 - Scores of Heists


    Scolding heat. The sun rays was like heat carrying knives, beating down relentlessly upon the yellow dirt road. Even the knife scar on Chang Man Tians face was roasted to a shade of red.

    To be precise, it was three scars, that and about 7 or 8 internal injuries had earned him his fame and position that he enjoyed on this day. Whenever the weather turns moist or rainy, his internal wounds would starts throbbing again, causing his joints ache, he would be reminded of the hard fought battles of his youth and feel an incredible amount of gratitude!

    To have survived this long was not easy, to be able to be the Vice Master Escort earning 500 taels of silver every month was even harder, for that was truly earned with blood and sweat. Lately, he rarely ever escort any job himself. The Head Escort of Enforcing Peace Escort Service was a disciple of the same master as he. Between the two of them, the old men spent the last several years enjoying the tranquil and peaceful life, practicing a little martial arts in the morning, drinking some wine in the evening. Just merely the sight of their Golden Spear Iron Sword Flag was enough to keep most of the people in the Southeast away from the packages that Enforcing Peace had been entrusted with.

    But this particular package was just too important, the trustee insisted that the two martial brothers escort the entire delivery process. But since the Head Master was under the weather yet again, Chang Man Tian had little choice but to pick up that pair of huge iron sword of his that weighed more than 13 kilograms each and personally ride out once again.

    Make way... Enforcing Peace... Keep clear.... The Henchman Old Man Zhao was out in front shouting the passage of the escort. He had been at this for 20 years now, even though he was no longer a young lad, he still had a booming voice, especially since he had just drank several jugs worth of Fire Sabres during lunch break that perked him up even more than usual.

    Chang Man Tian fished out a green piece of handkerchief and wiped the sweat off of his forehead. Time has no mercy, he suddenly realized that he is really getting old, after this escort mission, it is probably time to hang up the swords and go into retirement. The sun is really scorching down at the moment, if there is a place to catch a shade ahead, then it probably would not hurt to rest a bit before continuing farther.

    Chang Man Tian gave the reins a tug and galloped to the front. He was just about to give the instructions to Old Man Zhao when he suddenly noticed that there was a person, busy sewing, sitting smack in the middle of the road. A huge, bearded man.

    Having made his way through the pugilistic world for some 30 years now, Chang Man Tian had yet see a man embroidering, much less someone doing so under such a scorching sun while sitting in the middle of the road.

    Could he be insane? For he really did look like a lunatic, the surface of the road was hot enough to fry an egg on, and yet he was wearing a reddish purple cotton overcoat.

    The strange thing was that, while all these men who were wearing a single layer of shirt was covered in sweat, there was nary a single bead of sweat to be seen on this mans face.

    Chang Man Tian frowned, brought his hand up to signal to the rest of the group to stop, and shot a look in Old Man Zhaos direction.

    Old Man Zhao had been a veteran of the martial world as well, he had been Chang Man Tians henchman ever since Chang Man Tians first escort job.

    Naturally, he understood exactly what his long time master wanted. So he lightly coughed a bit to clear his throat and walked up to the man.

    That bearded man was concentrating on sewing his flower, just like a newly in love girl sitting in her bedroom sewing up her own wedding dress, totally oblivious to the fact that a dozen or so carriages had been stopped because of him.

    The flower he was embroidering on the cloth was peony, a black peony, his embroidery was incredibly more delicate than anything that a girl would make.

    My friend, your embroidery skill are quite remarkable, but pity this isnt a place for sewing. Old Man Zhao suddenly said loudly. His voice was booming to begin with, and now he was purposefully trying to give this man a scare. But unexpectedly not only did this man not look up, he did not even blink one bit.

    Is he not only insane but deaf as well? Old Man Zhao walked up even more and patted him on the shoulder.

    Friend, could you let us go by? You see.... He suddenly stopped and his expression suddenly changed. When he had reached over to pat the man on his shoulders, the needle in the bearded mans hand just happened to lift up a bit and pricked him lightly on the back of his hand. Whats a little needle prick to a man who barely flinches when slashed by a sabre?

    Old Man Zhao did not mind at first, but when he wanted to bring his arm back to his side, he discovered that he could not! That half of his body seemed to have went numb! What kind of evilness was on the tip of that needle?

    Old Man Zhao took three steps back and carefully inspected his hand. There was no swelling of any kind, but it just did not respond to his commands anymore. He was surprised and furious at the same time.

    Gracefully, Chang Man Tian floated down off his horse and quickly made his way to the bearded man.

    Quite a beautiful peony that you has sewn there my friend. He said, cupping his fist together. The bearded man still did not look up, but suddenly laughed.

    I can sew other things as well.

    Really? What?

    Blind men.

    Blind men arent easy to sew. Chang Man Tian snickered.

    On the contrary, blind men are the easiest, two pricks and you get one.

    Oh really? How so?

    Like this. He suddenly reached out and pricked Old Man Zhaos face twice.

    Old Man Zhao let out a blood curdling scream and fell to the ground. Covering his face with his eyes, he was writhing on the ground in pain as blood squirted out from in between his fingers, blood from his eyes! Chang Man Tians face dropped as he immediately grabbed his sword.

    But the big beard was still casually sitting there, seemingly minding his own business.

    See? Two pricks, one blind man.

    That some fast moves my friend. Chang Man Tian let out a little laugh and coldly observed.

    Sewing blind men is what Im best at, 72 pricks and I can give you 36 blind men. The big beard matter of factly answered.

    For this job, Chang Man Tian had taken with him, including himself, exactly 36 men. Those who were with him were all first rate masters themselves and have all rode forth and joined alongside him.

    What are you doing here? Seeking revenge or robbing the package? Even though he was shocked, Chang Man Tian was still managed to stay calm.

    Im here to sew.

    What exactly are you planning to sew?

    First Im going to sew myself 36 blind men, then Im going to sew eight hundred thousand taels worth of caravans to go home with me.

    Chang Man Tian let out a long and drawn out laugh.

    Funny, this sword of mine can sew something as well.

    What?

    Dead men! His laughter stopped, his sword was unsheathed.

    This huge iron sword might not be some incredibly heavy weapon, but it was still the very sword that the legendary Mister Iron Sword had used in times past.

    On this sword, Chang Man Tian had put in at least forty years of hard work, how else could he have lived until now?

    The accompanying men all that revealed their weapons as well, an Eagle Wing Sabre, a Wise Son Lance, and a Gate of Hell Sword.

    When fighting bandits, these men in the escort business did not conform to any pugilistic world rules, and did not worry about fighting one on one.

    Liang Qing Zi, lets go! Go for his eyes! Chang Man Tian let out a shout.

    If you want to turn others into blind men, then others will obviously want to turn you into one as well! This is the law of their world. A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye! But the big beard was still embroidering as a sword of more than 13 kilograms howled towards him.

    The Wise Son Lance pulled a Poisonous Dragon Drinking and attacked the mans waist. Enforcing Peaces escort runners had all been trained by the master brothers in one shape or another. Therefore, when they fight, they always complement each other perfectly.

    Finished! The big beard suddenly laughed.

    He had finished his peony and the needle came flicking up sideways. In the sudden cold flash that surrounded him, Chang Man Tian suddenly realized that the flash was in front of his eyes.

    Nobody can describe this kind of speed, and almost nobody could dodge it. Chang Man Tian howled, the sword suddenly flew off of his hand, but his body had collapsed onto the ground.

    Dong! The iron sword was nailed almost half a meter into the trunk of a huge tree on the side of the road. By now the big beard had just finished sewing his fourth blind man.

    Seventy two pricks, thirty six blind men. Such speed, such savageness! A sheet of cloth fell onto Chang Man Tians face. On it was embroidered a big red peony.

    ***

    When Jiang Zhong Wei walked, it always jingled, as if he was a bell himself. Of course, he was not a bell. Jiang Zhong Wei was the Head Warden of the Southern Peace Royal Palace, a very dignified, and very powerful person.

    Inside the RoyalPalace there was, naturally, a great number of top secret places. And on the door leading to these places, there were, naturally, locks. And they were all under his supervision. Anybody with 30 or so chains of keys on him would jingle when they walk.

    He was truly a trustworthy man, not only was he calm and collected, and loyal to the bone, he also trained his body in the Thirteen Guardians Brute Training, so even though he was not quite to the point where he was impenetrable to sabres and spears, it was nevertheless very difficult to hurt him. However, it was not difficult for him to hurt others.

    His Iron Sand Palm had reached about 90% of its highest level and could readily split boulders or turn smaller rocks into sand. Whenever the Prince entrusted him with another key, there was a sense of relief about him, knowing that the key was safe. At this moment he was just on his way to retrieve a stud of diamonds and a pair of flat jade with a hole in the center, which are traditionally used for ceremonial purposes in China, from the Royal Treasury Vault.

    Today was the birthday of the Princes favorite concubine and the Prince had already promised her those things as birthday gifts.

    Like most men in the world, the Prince was always very generous towards the women he loves.

    The long hall way had a suppressed peace about it, because this was so close to the Royal Treasury Vault, trespassing, by anyone, for any reason, will result in immediate death!

    After entering the restrict area, every 7 or 8 steps or so was a man who Jiang Zhong Wei had hand picked himself, standing guard like stones statues.

    These men had all been passed a harsh and rigid training procedure, not a fly landing on their face or a person stumping on their foot would make them move one bit. Not only was Jiang Zhong Wei hold enormous and popular influence over them, his orders were also clear and absolute. If anybody slacked off in his duty and let so much as a dog into the restricted area, what awaits them was also death! Even he has to say the password of the day before entering the area.

    Todays password was: Sun and Moon both shine brightly. Because today was a very good day according to the almanacs.

    Even on that stern and serious face of Jiang Zhong Wei, a hint of happiness could be discerned. For he was an invited guest at the Princes consorts birthday bash as well. After finishing this task, he would immediately change outfits and join the celebration. Therefore his steps were a little faster than normal as well.

    Eight personal guards dressed in silk and armed with a sabre at their side followed him. Silk robed guards were the best among the guards within the guard units, and on top of that, these eight men were hand picked from among over 100 of the silk robed guards. Jiang Zhong Wei had always been a prudent man.

    The heavy doors leading to the Royal Treasury Vault were heavily locked, there were 3 separate layers of doors, each more than half a meter thick, and the locks on them were all custom made by the best locksmiths.

    Jiang Zhong Wei finally opened the last door as a gust of cold and moist air hit him in the face.

    This place was just most treasure vaults in this world, cold, moist, dark, and sinister. Just like a tomb.

    The only difference was that tombs had at least dead people in them, this place did not even have a dead ant in it.

    Everytime Jiang Zhong Wei entered here, he was always struck with a strange thought: if a man could have all of the treasures inside of this vault, but only under the condition that he lived in here, what good would it be? Even if you give him all of the riches in the world, he would not want to stay in this place for just one day.

    This thought struck him again this time as well, when he pushed the door open and walked in, his only wish was to walk out as soon as possible. He could never have imagined that once he entered this time, he would never come out again!

    Unbelievably, inside of this cold, moist, dark, and sinister vault, there was a person. A live person.

    This persons face was covered with his beard, wore a reddish purple cotton overcoat, and was, amazingly, sitting on one of the treasure chests sewing.

    Jiang Zhong Wei could not even have imagined something like this in his dreams, he could barely believe his very own eyes.

    But in front of him was really a person, sitting there sewing, a real, live, man.

    Could he be a ghost? Other than ghosts, what else could get in here?

    Jiang Zhong Wei suddenly felt his spine shiver and shuddered despite of himself. The bearded man was concentrating on embroidering, just like girls do as they sit in their bedrooms thinking about their crush. He was sewing peony, black peony on a red piece of satin.

    How did you get in here? Jiang Zhong Wei collected himself and demanded.

    I walked in here. The big beard did not even look up as he answered matter of factly.

    Do you know what kind of place this is?

    Its a place for sewing!

    So you came here just to embroider? Jiang Zhong Wei let out a cold laugh.

    Because I can only sew what I want to sew here! The big beard nodded.

    And whats that?

    A blinded Jiang Zhong Wei!

    Jiang Zhong Wei reared back and let out a maddening laugh. Only when he is furious and ready to kill does he laugh madly like this. With the laughter still echoing, his body lunged forward. His palms whistled through the air like tigers as he pulled out his boulder-smashing Iron Sand Palm. He suddenly felt the center of his palm temporarily go numb, as if he had just been stunned by a bee, but all the power behind his palm had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. At this moment, a flash of cold light arrived in front of his eyes.

    Thirteen Guardians Brute Training might be the most powerful skill in the world in hardening ones body, but it does not cover ones eyes.

    The guards outside suddenly heard a blood curdling yell and tried to scramble in, but the iron door had already been closed from the inside. By the time they pried open the door, an unconscious Jiang Zhong Wei laid on the ground, a blood red piece of satin covered his face. On the satin was embroidered a black peony!

    ***

    The incense had already been lit in meditation room. Hua Man Lou had already finished bathing and was quietly sitting there, waiting.

    If you want to get a taste of some of Father Bitter Gourds cooking, not only do you have to wash yourself, but you have to be patient. Father Bitter Gourd was not a person who cooks often, not only did the guest have to be the right kind, but he also had to be in a good mood. The guests today were exceptionally right, other than Hua Man Lou, there was Ancient Pine Hermit and that man who claimed to be the number 1 in chess, number 2 in poetry and wine, and number 3 in sword skill: Wooden Taoist.

    Obviously, these people were not just any regular guests, therefore Father Bitter Gourd was especially happy today. In the vast and boundless sunset, the crisp and clear sounds of the late bell could be heard, finally signaling the coming of the night. By the time Hua Man Lou walked outside, Ancient Pine Hermit and Wooden Taoist were already waiting for him in the yard. The night breeze blew through the bamboo forest, the scorching day was already on the other side of the sunset.

    To have two of my seniors waiting for me, I dont know how I can forgive myself. Hua Man Lou smiled and greeted them.

    The Wooden Taoist laughed. This never conforming, always different elder of the Wu Dang Sect had actually also changed his usual, patched thousand times over, Taoist robe for a clean and sparkling blue shirt.

    Precisely because he did not want to be held to other peoples standards and expectations, he willingly gave up the position of the Head Master of Wu Dang. But in order to taste some of Father Bitter Gourds personal cooking, he was willing to suffer a little.

    Everybody knew about Father Bitter Gourds strange temperament.

    Looks like this old Taoist is right after all. Ancient Pine Hermit inexplicably let out a sigh.

    What did Father say? Hua Man Lou inquired.

    I said that you would surely know that we were here, even if we hold absolutely still, you would still know! The Wooden Taoist laughed.

    But I cant figure out exactly how did you know that we were here. Ancient Pine Hermit sighed again.

    Me neither. The Wooden Taoist conceded. But I have a good point about me that you cant match.

    And whats that?

    When I run into something that I cant figure out, I stop thinking about them! The Wooden Taoist joked.

    Thats why I have always maintained that if you give up drinking, you would surely live until you are 300 years old! Ancient Pine Hermit joking observed.

    Why would I possibly want to live to 300 if I cant drink?

    The bamboo curtains of the meditation room had been drawn. But from there permeated the indescribably delicious smell of food, delicious enough to lead any human to the table in hopes of food.

    Father Bitter Gourds vegetable cooking is truly peerless in this world. Ancient Pine Hermit sighed.

    He had always maintained that his cooking was enough to even temp the Bodhisattva! Wooden Taoist laughingly claimed.

    Well, the food had already been placed on the table, what are we waiting for? Ancient Pine Hermit commented.

    Drawing aside the bamboo curtain sheet, they walked in, and were all shocked. Not only had the food been already placed on the table, there was already a man there, eating to his hearts desire.

    This uninvited guest did not wait for them, nor he did not bath either. In reality, not only was his body covered in mud and dirt, his body emanated a stinking odor of sweat. But not only had Father Bitter Gourd not chased him away, incredibly, he was sitting at his side, constantly putting food into his bowl, as if he was afraid that this guest might not eat enough.

    This monk is playing favorites. Wooden Taoist sighed.

    We are the ones he invited, yet he lets someone else eat first. Ancient Pine Hermit grimly agreed.

    And then he demanded that we wash up, but then this guy looked as if he had just came rolling out from a mud puddle. Wooden Taoist continued.

    Father Bitter Gourd laughed at their comments: True, this monk is playing favorites, but only to this one person, so theres no point for you guys to get mad.

    Why do you favor him anyways? The Wooden Taoist demanded.

    Because I have no idea what to do whenever I run into him.

    I dont blame you, the Wooden Taoist laughed as well. Last time, this guy stole two jugs of Virgins Blush that I had sat for more than 50 years. And all I could do was stare angrily at him!

    Even the Bodhisattva run out of ideas when this guy shows up. Hua Man Lou ruefully smiled.

    Who else could this man be but Lu Xiao Feng.

    A plate of ham and another plate of tofu had already been cleaned off when Lu Xiao Feng finally stopped and shot a smile towards the three guests.

    Go right ahead and curse me if you want, Ill just keep on eating. You guys have a good time cursing, I just happen to be having a great time eating.

    Others might fall for your tricks, but not I. Wooden Taoist burst out laughing and sat down. Instantly three pieces of ducks had disappeared into his belly as well.

    Hua Man Lou sat down along side Lu Xiao Feng, and immediately frowned.

    You usually dont smell bad at all, how come you smell like a dog that just crawled out of an outhouse today?

    Because I havent taken a bath in 10 days.

    How many days? Hua Man Lou was shocked at the answer.

    Ten days.

    Why havent you taken a bath in 10 days? Hua Man Lou frowned disapprovingly.

    I have been busy.

    Busy doing what?

    Busy holding up my end of a gamble.

    Who did you lose a bet with?

    Other than that devil Si Kong Zhai Xing, who else could it be? Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    How did you lose to him?

    Remember how I humiliated him last time we competed doing back flips? Lu Xiao Feng laughed. Well, this time he came up to me and wanted a rematch. How could I turn that down?

    Of course you accepted!

    But it turns out that this little bastard had been doing nothing but practicing back flips these days. In two hours he did six hundred and eighty back flips! What am I suppose to do after that?

    So what did you lose to him?

    We agreed that if I won, he would have to, from now on, get on his knees, kowtow to me, and yell at the top of his lungs: Uncle! if he ever sees me again. And that if I lose, then I would dig out one earthworm for every back flip he did in the next 10 days.

    Hua Man Lou laughed.

    No wonder you look like an earthworm yourself now.

    Did you really dig out 680 worms for him? The Wooden Taoist could not control himself anymore either and asked in between fits of laughter.

    The first several days wasnt that bad, found a lot of worms. Lu Xiao Feng sighed and put up a brave smile. But later on, finding a worm got harder than a slacker finding his wife.

    What does the King of Thieves need all those worms for? The Ancient Pine Hermit had to ask.

    He doesnt! Lu Xiao Feng bitterly replied. He just wanted to see me dig worms.

    Who could have imagined that Lu Xiao Feng would have today! Wooden Taoist was having a good laugh over this. Makes you feel good all over!

    Do you want a bet with me as well? Lu Xiao Feng proposed, after his eyes twirled about for a bit inside of their sockets.

    A bet over what?

    Drinking.

    Im not going to fall for that. The Wooden Taoist told him with a smile.

    You are admitting defeat already? Lu Xiao Feng shot him a sideways look.

    I admitted defeat a long time ago. When it comes to drinking Im no match for you, when it comes to sword skills Im no match for Xi Men Chui Xue and Yie Gu Xing. If you really want to get in a bet with me, then do it over chess!

    You think Im going to fall for that? Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    Other people know that Im Number 1 in the world in chess, but they dont know that there is something else that nobody can match me in! the Wooden Taoist proudly declared.

    Whats that?

    Eating, would you be willing to have an eating contest with me?

    I want to, but Im not a rice barrel! Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    {Note: the term rice barrel, or fan tong, is a general put down in Chinese.}

    Who would have thought that the world famous Lu Xiao Feng would admit defeat. This is truly a rare occasion. The Wooden Taoist sighed as well.

    In truth, recently he is no longer the most sensational guy in the martial world! Father Bitter Gourd suddenly proclaimed.

    Who else could it be? Lu Xiao Feng asked.

    Who do you think?

    Xi Men Chui Xue?

    Rumors say that he has been keeping that young Lady Sun of the Four Beauties of EMei recently and have not shown his face in the martial world for quite a while now! Hua Man Lou answered for Father Bitter Gourd. Lu Xiao Feng smiled at that.

    Who would have thought that he would have a day like today as well? I thought for sure he was going to turn into a monk eventually.

    We dont want monks like that in Buddhism! Father Bitter Gourd replied.

    Well if its not Xi Men Chui Xue, could it be Yie Gu Xing? Lu Xiao Feng took another crack at it.

    Not him either!

    Yie Gu Xing has been very sick recently! The Wooden Taoist revealed.

    He could get sick too? Lu Xiao Feng was quite taken aback by the news. What did he come down with?

    The same illness as me. Laziness. Wooden Taoist smiled. Once you catch it, no matter who you are, youll never cause a sensation again!

    Could it possibly be the Boss and the Bosss Wife? Lu Xiao Feng asked after thinking it over for a bit.

    The Boss is even lazier! Hua Man Lou laughed and eliminated that choice.

    The Honest Monk isnt big on causing a stiff, Abbot... no, cant be him.... Lu Xiao Feng thought out loud.

    Could it be that female tiger over there at Mount Qi Xia? He asked, after much deep thought.

    No, all no. Not only do you not know this guy, I guarantee you havent even heard of him before! Father Bitter Gourd replied.

    What kind of a person is he?

    A man that knows how to embroider! Father Bitter Gourd answered. Lu Xiao Feng was taken aback momentarily before he laughed.

    Actually there are quite a few men who knows how to embroider. Of the several tailors that I know of, a couple of them knows how to embroider!

    But not only does he know how to sew flowers, he can sew blind men! Father Bitter Gourd responded. Lu Xiao Feng was taken aback yet again.

    Sew blind men?

    Seems like he had sewed at least 70 or 80 blind men in the last several days!

    How does he sew blind men?

    With a sewing needle, two pricks and you get one!

    Lu Xiao Feng finally understood what he was saying.

    What kind of people are these blind men that he has sewn?

    Theres at least 4 or 5 men that you know of in that group!

    Who?

    Chang Man Tian, Hua Yi Fan, Jiang Zhong Wei....

    The Jiang Zhong Wei of the SoutheastRoyalPalace? He did not even finish before Lu Xiao Fengs expression changed drastically.

    Is there another Jiang Zhong Wei?

    But ever since he entered the RoyalPalace, he hasnt meddled in the affairs of the martial world, why would anybody go after him? Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    Nobody went after him, but somebody did go after those 18 bushels of diamond studs in the RoyalPalace! Father Bitter Gourd answered.

    This person didnt just blind Jiang Zhong Wei but made off with 18 bushels of diamond studs from the RoyalPalace?

    On top of that, he also took with him 70 or so priceless pieces of art work and calligraphy that Hua Yu Gan has collected, 800 thousand taels of silver entrusted to escort to Enforcing Peace Escort Service, a coveted shipmen that Enforcing East insured, and some 90,000 taels of golden leaflets from GoldenSandRiver! Father Bitter Gourd sighed to catch his breath and continued. Within a space of about a month, this man has commited 60 some huge heists, and all by himself. Causing quite a stir wouldnt you say?

    How come I didnt hear anything about any of this? Lu Xiao Feng asked, still a bit startled by the news.

    You have been busy in the Northwest lately, these crimes happened in the Southeast. The news only got here in the last couple of days, only you were busy digging for worms! Father Bitter Gourd.

    This news had just got to here, and yet you know all about it! Lu Xiao Feng observed.

    Mmm!

    Since when did you become so well connected to all thats happening in the world? Lu Xiao Feng wondered.

    Dont forget, I have always had a most well connected younger martial brother. Father Bitter Gourd sighed.

    Jin Jiu Ling?

    Luckily, I only have one martial brother like him! Father Bitter Gourd let out an exasperrated smile.

    Now I understand. Lu Xiao Feng let out a long, drawn out sigh.

    What do you understand?

    Jin Jiu Ling was good friends with Jiang Zhong Wei, and not to mention he was once the Number One Bounty Hunter in the world. Even though he had washed his hands of the business, but he has to get in on this matter.

    Father Bitter Gourd conceded Lu Xiao Fengs point. Once someone has worked one day for the government, it was hard to get out.

    To this day, I still dont understand why he decided to go into that line of work back then! Father Bitter Gourd sighed.

    What? You want him to be a monk instead? Wooden Taoist interrupted.

    A monk would at least not have as much trouble and worry! Father Bitter Gourd replied.

    But monks dont have wives either! Wooden Taoist jabbed. Father Bitter Gourd did not reply anymore. Everybody in the martial world knew that the biggest flaw that Jin Jiu Ling has was that he fancied himself to be suave and charming. It had even been rumored that the reason he entered public service was because of a woman.

    Jin Jiu Ling has been publically acknowledged as the best in the 300 year history of the Six Doors. Any and all cases, be it large or small, would be solved the moment he gets his hands on it. Lu Xiao Feng stated.

    Thats why I have always thought that his biggest problem is that he was too capable, too smart. Father Bitter Gourd sighed some more.

    But even the smartest man would eventually come across something that he cant solve. Lu Xiao Feng hypothesized, and Father Bitter Gourd agreed.

    Maybe this case is that very one that he could not solve, so he wants a helper. Again, Father Bitter Gourd agreed to that notion.

    And since you only have one martial brother like him, you would naturally help him find a helper! Lu Xiao Feng sighed and ruefully laughed. The unlucky thing is, I just happen to be the perfect helper, whenever someone run into something they cant solve, they come to me, therefore....

    Therefore....? Father Bitter Gourd asked.

    Therefore when you invited me here to eat this meal, you probably did not do it out of the kindness of your heart.

    Dont forget that it was you who barged in here, I didnt actually invite you.

    Maybe I just happen to be unlucky to begin with. Lu Xiao Feng laughed at his own misery. Why else would I just barge in here like that?

    You seem to be getting quite unlucky recently! The Wooden Taoist laughed.

    But this time Im not having it, I dont care if he sews flowers or patches up pants, none of my business. I dont care how big this thing get, I want no part of it!

    He didnt want you get in on this anyways, what are you making a big fuss about anyways? Father Bitter Gourd plainly told him.

    He didnt? Lu Xiao Feng was startled.

    I truly did not! A man replied, smiling.

    Of course, he was none other than Jin Jiu Ling.

    As quite a number of people in the martial world know, there was two things about Jin Jiu Ling that very few people could match. His cloths, and his eyes. Jin Jiu Lings eyes were not especially big, nor were they exceptionally bright, but as long as he laid an eye on something, he would never forget it.

    The cloths that Jin Jiu Ling wore were always made of the finest of fabrics, in the latest of styles, and done with the most delicate of care. Even that fold out fan that he carried in his hand was a priceless object, when push comes to shove, it could even be used as a weapon. Jin Jiu Lings skill at finding and hitting pressure points were first rate. In reality, everything about him was first rate.

    If the wine was not first class, he would never drink it, if the woman was not first rate, he would not even look at her, if the carriage was not first class, he would never get in it. But he was not a first rate rich man, luckily for him, he had many money earning abilities. He was an expert in appraising old paintings and calligraphy as well as having an uncanny ability to judge thoroughbreds. Those two abilities alone were enough to assure him a first rate life for the rest of his days.

    Besides, he was still a very handsome and attractive man, and did not look to be that old. This made it possible for him to spend very little money on what should be his biggest drain of cash. The beauties smiles that other people might have to spend one thousand taels of gold to get usually came to him without him having to spent a penny.

    That was why he had always lived quite comfortably, and also had preserved himself very well, looking not a bit like the martial arts master that had criminals shivering at the mere mention of his name but instead like a poetry writing, horse riding playboy.

    Have you found anything worthwhile lately? Ancient Pine Hermit immediately asked upon seeing him walk in.

    The Ancient Pine Hermits biggest hobby was collecting classic art work and calligraphy. His collection was definitely not any worse than that of Hua Yu Gans.

    All the good stuff that already been taken to MountHuang by my dear hermit, whats left for me to find? Jin Jiu Ling smiled.

    Not even one painting?

    Jin Jiu Ling paused for a moment before smiling again.

    I have on me a recently created flower piece!

    Well? Come on, lets see it! Ancient Pine Hermit asked. But Jin Jiu Ling was already in the middle of bringing it out. It was a blood red piece of satin, on it was sewn a black peony.

    What is this? Ancient Pine Hermit asked after being momentarily surprised by it.

    Recently, there has been quite a demand for embroidery. Jin Jiu Ling smiled.

    Could this be the personal work of Divine Needle, Madame Xue? Ancient Pine Hermit asked.

    No, a man sewed this.

    That particular sewing man? Ancient Pine Hermits expression noticeably changed at the revelation.

    Jin Jiu Ling nodded.

    This was the very one that he sewed inside the Royal Treasury Vault.

    Was he really sitting there sewing? Lu Xiao Feng asked.

    Jin Jiu Ling nodded again.

    When Jiang Zhong Wei opened the door, he was sitting there sewing this very flower!

    The Royal Treasury Vault must be guarded inside out by a forest of men, how did he get in? Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    Nobody knows how he got in, nobody even knows where to start. Jin Jiu Ling smiled rather tiredly.

    And he did not leave any clues whatsoever?

    None.

    What kind of a person was he?

    He was the kind of person that had a huge beard and still wore a huge cotton overcoat even on a scorching hot day.

    And?

    And hes a man, and he knows how to embroider, and hes very good at that!

    Thats all you know?

    Thats all I know, and thats the same thing that everybody knows, nobody knows any more than I.

    What type of kungfu did he use?

    Dont know!

    Even Jiang Zhong Wei couldnt tell?

    Even a veteran of the pugilistic world like Chang Man Tian couldnt tell, what hope does Jiang Zhong Wei have? Jin Jiu Ling sighed.

    Jiang Zhong Weis Iron Palms is probably the best in the Southeast.

    But he still did not even have a chance to make a move! Jin Jiu Ling sighed again.

    How could someone this powerful just suddenly pop out of thin air....? Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    You said that you werent going to get into this matter, why are you asking all these questions? Master Bitter Gourd coldly inquired.

    Whats the harm in asking?

    Of course there isnt any harm. Jin Jiu Ling put up another tired smile. Its just that everything I know, you know now as well.

    Lu Xiao Feng stared at him for a while.

    Why did you tell me everything? He suddenly asked.

    Because you asked.

    No other reason?

    No.

    And you were not purposefully waiting here for me?

    How could I have known that you would come here? Jin Jiu Ling could not help but put up another tired smile.

    And you did not have any intentions of finding me?

    No.

    Good, now I can relax and drink wine. Lu Xiao Feng smiled and proclaimed. Even though his mouth was saying good, his smile was very awkward, very unnatural, and it seemed like he did not want to drink anymore wine.

    But now it was Jin Jiu Lings turn to suddenly smile.

    But now that you are here, I do have something to ask you! He declared. Lu Xiao Fengs eyes immediately lit up.

    I knew it, I knew you must have something to ask of me! He laughed and said.

    To crack this case and find this Embroidery Bandit, theres probably only one person in the entire world that is capable of that. Jin Jiu Ling said. Lu Xiao Fengs eyes shone even brighter, who else but him could solve this mystery?

    Who is this person that you speak of? But he purposefully asked nevertheless, wanting to hear Jin Jiu Ling say it.

    Si Kong Zhai Xing!

    Who did you say? Lu Xiao Feng asked after being rendered momentarily speechless.

    Si Kong Zhai Xing. Jin Jiu Ling repeated. Lu Xiao Feng looked away, seemingly ignoring him totally.

    But Jin Jiu Ling somehow, did not seem to notice and continued.

    Si Kong Zhai Xing is knowns as the King of Thieves, and he is truly a genius that comes along once every century. If there was anybody in the world that could figure out how the Embroidery Bandit got into the Royal Treasury Vault, then that person is Si Kong Zhai Xing.

    Lu Xiao Feng had already began to drink, seemingly too disinterested to even listen anymore.

    But Jin Jiu Ling just kept on going.

    If we want to crack this case, then we must find Si Kong Zhai Xing. But unfortunately, hes the type of person whos whereabouts and movements are always a mystery, so....

    So you want to ask me where you can find him? Lu Xiao Feng could not contain himself anymore.

    Correct.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly, and quite forcibly, put the cup in his hand down onto the table.

    So all that time that you wasted telling me all that garbage, was just for finding him?

    Who else could I go to besides him? Jin Jiu Ling sighed.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly jumped up and pointed at his own nose.

    Me! He was practically shouting. Why cant you ask me?

    Jin Jiu Ling laughed, laughed and shook his head.

    You wont do!

    What do you mean I wont do? Lu Xiao Feng seemed to jump even higher.

    Theres absolutely no way that you could do this. Jin Jiu Ling was actually still shaking his head.

    Why cant I?

    Because this case is truly too dangerous, Jin Jiu Ling matter of factly answered. Besides, you already said that you wanted no part of this!

    Who said that I wanted no part of this? Im going to get into this just to show you that I can. By now, Lu Xiao Feng was way beyond screaming.

    Im still willing to bet that you wont solve this case!

    Alright! Lu Xiao Feng slammed his hand onto the table. Whatever you want to bet, Im in!

    He had not even finished his sentence before he noticed that other people were laughing. In fact, everyone was laughing. It was the kind of laugh that you get when you suddenly see someone step onto a pile of dog droppings. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly realized that he had just step onto a pile of dog droppings, a huge, stinking pile that he could not pull out of no matter how much he wanted to.

    Inviting him is not as good as baiting him, so true that saying is. The Wooden Taoist sighed after having a good laugh.

    The dinner was over. Ancient Pine Hermit was someone who took very good care of himself, he gets up early, and goes to sleep early as well. The Wooden Taoist had that illness, laziness; and Father Bitter Gourd had a night session to attend to. There were only 3 people left in the guest room.

    Lu Xiao Feng stared at the black peony on the red satin.

    When was the first time this man appeared? He suddenly asked.

    The third of June, the first person to run into him was Chang Man Tian. Jin Jiu Ling replied.

    And the last time?

    The last that I know of was 13 days ago, whether or not there was any new heists these last several days, I know not!

    Thirteen days ago I was busy doing back flips with Si Kong Zhai Xing, obviously it wasnt him.

    I didnt suspected him to begin with!

    And you didnt want to ask him to help either Lu Xiao Feng coldly rebuked.

    Jin Jiu Ling laughed.

    All I know is that you had just finished digging out over 600 worms for him, so you werent exactly feeling gracious towards him!

    So you purposefully baited me?

    How else could I get you involved in this? Jin Jiu Ling laughed and replied.

    Looks like I really shouldnt try and make friends with people in your line of work! Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    Well no matter what, since we are all now knee deep in this, its best to figure out a way to get out of this.

    First, we have to figure out what kind of person this is. Lu Xiao Feng said after some deep thought.

    Agreed.

    From what I can tell, not only does this person do things fast and clean, his martial arts are also first rate, theres no way hes some new guy who just came onto the world.

    Thats what I think as well, he must be a very famous person in disguise. But I cant figure out who it could be.

    He purposefully put on a big beard and a big cotton overcoat, and sat in the middle of the road sewing; all in order to distract peoples attention so that nobody would notice some other things about him!

    Looks like you should be in my line of work. Jin Jiu Ling joked. Even an old fox like me, who has spent ten years or so in Six Door could not analyze the situation any better than you.

    Lu Xiao Feng purposefully put up a stiff face.

    You already dragged me into this, you cant stop kissing my *** now!

    One kiss, two kiss, nothing beats *** kissing! Its never wrong to kiss *** a couple more times than necessary! Jin Jiu Ling loudly laughed.

    No matter how good a disguise is, there will always be some flaw somewhere, Hua Man Lou suddenly spoke up. Maybe Chang Man Tian and them didnt notice, maybe they noticed, but didnt think it was important.

    Very possible! Jin Jiu Ling agreed.

    Therefore, if we ask them again, in detail; maybe we can find some new clues! Hua Man Lou concluded.

    We? Lu Xiao Feng frowned.

    We!

    Does we include you? Lu Xiao Feng wondered.

    Dont forget, Im blind. Hua Man Lou smiled. How can I not get involved in other blind mens matters?

    Lu Xiao Feng and Jin Jiu Ling shot a look at one another, both of them feeling a bit guilty. They had been going back and forth with blind-this and blind-that just a bit earlier, totally forgetting that there was a blind man sitting right beside them. It seemed as if nobody has ever really treated Hua Man Lou like a blind man!

    Lu Xiao Feng lightly coughed a couple of times.

    Ok, lets split up so we can do this faster. The two of you go find Chang Man Tian and Jiang Zhong Wei!

    And you? Jin Jiu Ling wondered.

    Im going to take this and find someone! Lu Xiao Feng put the piece of red satin into his shirt.

    Find who?

    A female tiger!

    Which one?

    The prettiest one. Of course. Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Jin Jiu Ling smiled as well.

    Dont forget, the prettiest one is also the meaniest one. Careful not to get bit!

    Oh hell be careful, you can be sure of that! Hua Man Lou matter of factly reassured him.

    How come?

    Because hes already been bitten quite a few times! Hua Man Lou smiled.

    There were four female tigers in the martial world. Seemed like all four had taken a couple of bites out of Lu Xiao Feng one time or another.

  16. #16
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 2 - Chapter 2

    Chapter 2 - Visiting Divine Needle Xue

    Hillside. Under the light of the dusk, the green hillside seemed to change into a strange and surreal deep purple. The time now was dusk, and the mountainside was covered with all different types of roses in full bloom. Two young girls with their hairs done in pig tails were picking flowers. From their mouths emanated the soft, sweet tunes of mountain hymns.

    Their song was softer and gentler than the warm summer breeze, they themselves were prettier than the flowers. When Lu Xiao Feng walked onto the side of the hillside, their song suddenly stopped as both of them stared at Lu Xiao Feng with their big, bright eyes. Luckily, Lu Xiao Feng was used to having women stare at him, so he did not blush but instead smiled.

    Hey, what are you doing here? This young lady had big eyes and some small hints of freckles on her nose, all of which made her look even more cute and adorable.

    The flowers are so pretty here, cant I just be looking at the flowers? Lu Xiao Feng replied, still smiling.

    No! The freckled girls eyes got even bigger. This place is ours, we dont welcome men!

    Little girls shouldnt have such short tempers, Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Girls like that might not find a husband!

    Thats why Im never mean! The other girl had a round face, and when she smiles two dimples appear, making her look sweet and tender, just like she says.

    If you like flowers so much, how about I give you two? She was still sweetly smiling.

    Great!

    The girl with the dimples walked up and, still smiling sweetly, reached into her flower basket. What she took out from the flower basket was not flowers, but scissors as she suddenly attacked Lu Xiao Feng. This sweet and tender little girls moves were unbelievably quick, fierce, and vicious.

    Even Lu Xiao Feng was caught by the surprise. Lucky for him, this was not the first time that a woman tried to stab him with a pair of scissors and he even seemed to be expecting it. With a quick spin of his body, he quickly back off 5 or so meters.

    This man doesnt look like anything better than scum, dont let him get away! The freckled girl shouted. A pair of scissors appeared in her hand as well as she charged into the fray. Her moves were not slow either.

    Scissors are for cutting flowers, since when did they start being used to cut people? Lu Xiao Feng miserably joked. He had dodged the first couple of moves, but the girls attacks became more and more vicious. He fought hard to fight off the urge to yank the scissors out of their hands, to have a huge hole poked onto your body was not exactly a fun idea.

    At this moment, another person suddenly appeared on the hillside.

    If you want to cut him, only cut off those 2 little mustache of his, but make sure you dont actually cut him to death! Smiling, the she instructed. Her cloths were snow white in color, the material looked light and soft. She stood elegantly and lightly on the top of the hill, as if at any moment she could be carried away by the wind. She was staring at Lu Xiao Feng with eyes that were overflowing with an indescribable warm and tenderness.

    The two girls suddenly stopped and somersaulted back to in front of her.

    Miss know this person?

    Mmhmm!

    Who is this person?

    Cant you tell that he has four eye brows?

    Lu Xiao Feng? This person is Lu Xiao Feng? Both of the girls started to giggle uncontrollably at the realization. No wonder he looked like a criminal when he smiled!

    The Miss is a female tiger, but who would have thought that her servants are also that vicious. Lu Xiao Feng sighed and meekly smiled. If I was a bit slower, theres probably already 17 or 18 holes on my body.

    Well, whos fault is it that you took so long to come to see me? The Miss bit her lip. Im really tempted to actually poke 18 holes in you. But...

    She did not finish her sentence, but her face was already red, red like the setting sun on of the faraway mountains. Incredibly, she was very shy.

    Lu Xiao Feng stared at her, seemingly mesmerized.

    The Miss blushed even more.

    Why are you staring at me, its not like a flower on my face. She lightly said.

    Such a shy and proper little lady, who would have guessed that shes The Cold Ruskha, Xue Bing, the mere sight of whom would give everyone in the martial world a headache? Lu Xiao Feng sighed again and mumbled to himself. Its a strange world isnt it?

    Do you get a headache when you see me? Xue Bing asked.

    No, no head ache. Lu Xiao Feng sighed. But my heart is beating three times faster than it normally does!

    This guy might have a pair of criminal eyes, but that mouth of his is sweeter than honey! The dimpled girl laughed and whispered.

    If his mouth wasnt sweet, how could he get Miss to think about him every second of everday? The other girl whispered back.

    Dont you girls know when to be quiet? Who said that I think about this heartless low life at all? Xue Bing shot an angry look at the two girls and said, blushing. She was pouting but smiling, mad but embarrased, but the bright and vibrant sunset had seemed to have lost all of its color.

    I really should have came earlier, why did I wait until today? Lu Xiao Feng mumbled to himself again, and sighed.

    I know why. Xue Bing elegantly replied.

    You do?

    You see me and forget the others, but when you see others, you forget all about me. Xue Bing bit her lip again. You are a heartless man without a bit of care through and through!

    If I knew I was going to get reprimanded, I probably shouldnt have came! Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

    You think I cant see through your little ideas? If you dont have some pressing need, would you have came? Xue Bing coldly said.

    I really do have a pressing need, Lu Xiao Feng confessed. But not to for you!

    Well? Tell me! Who are you here to see? Xue Bing put up a serious face.

    For Madame!

    What are you trying to pull now? Xue Bing found this all very strange. Why do you want to see Madame?

    I have something to ask of her!

    Im not going to allow you to trouble Madame. If you have a question, just ask me, its the same.

    But theres absolutely know way you could help with this!

    And what is that?

    Embroidery.

    Embroidery? You want to learn to sew? When did you become a tailor? This was getting stranger by the minute to Xue Bing.

    Only tailors are allowed to learn to sew?

    Even if you kill me, I still wont believe that you actually want to learn to sew!

    Once again, Lu Xiao Feng had to fess up.

    But I really have something to ask Madame, could you take me to her?

    Im still Divine Needle Madame Xues descendent, remember? Why dont you ask me?

    Because I know you never wanted to touch sewing needles at all. Lu Xiao Feng sighed. You told me yourself, as soon as you pick one up, you fall asleep!

    You actually still remember that?

    I remember every word you have ever said to me. So its best if you take me to Madame as soon as possible!

    Well, Im not going to. What are you going to do about that? Xue Bing mysteriously smiled.

    Madame Xue was already 77 years old this year, but nobody could ever tell that she was 77 years old. In certain not well lit situations, quite a number of people would actually mistake her for someone who was not a day over 38. Her manners and bearing are forever appropriate and perfect, her eyes were still as bright and moving as they were in days of old. This was especially true whenever she sees a young person that she liked, then a glimmer of maiden innocence could even be spotted in her eyes.

    Lu Xiao Feng just happens to be a young man that she liked. Lu Xiao Feng liked her very much as well. He had always wished that every woman could be as beautiful as her at her age - He always wished that the world would be more beautiful that it already was.

    You should come and see me more often you know. Madame Xue smiled. A woman as old as I am are no longer a danger to the likes of you now. At least you shouldnt be afraid of me trying to force you to marry me!

    I would come more often, but Xue Bing wouldnt let me! Lu Xiao Feng purposefully exaggerated a sigh.

    Oh?

    Just today, she wouldnt lead me here to you!

    Why?

    I dont know why either. Lu Xiao Feng blinked innocently. If you ask me I think she must be jealous.

    Madame Xue laughed some more. Her eyes began to glow and the wrinkles on her face disappeared.

    And could you please take a look at this? Lu Xiao Feng took this opportunity to present the piece of red satin cloth to her.

    What about it? Madame Xue only needed to glance the satin out of the corner of her eyes for the look of disapproval appeared on her face. Shaking her head, she asked further. I sewed better when I was just 6 years old!

    Im not asking you to inspect the flower, Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Im requesting you to take a look at the satin and the thread.

    I have seen millions of these things in my life, and you want me to look at some more?

    Thats why Im asking you to take a look at this, precisely because you have seen so many of these. Could you determine where the satin and the thread are from, and which shop sells it?

    Madame Xue took the piece of satin into her hand and lightly touched it with her finger nail.

    The satin is from Lucky Omen from the capital, the thread is bought from Lucky Symbol. Both of these shops are owned by the same boss, located at Sticky Partition Wall. She immediately concluded.

    And only at their headquarters in the capital can you buy these goods right?

    Both of these shop only has one location, there arent any other branches!

    Do they ship or sell to other shops?

    Even if other shops have these goods, they got it from personally going to these stores and buying them! Madame Xue explained further. These two stores make top quality stuff that they sell themselves. They dont make alot, nor do they advertise much. Their boss, Yan Ah Fu is a very modest person thats not trying to get rich in the business!

    Where is his shop at in the capital?

    In a very remote alleyway off the street behind the ColdPalace. All these years he has never advertised a bit. Other than real experts, very few people know about it! Madame Xue suddenly smiled. Be honest, did you fall for this girl here but couldnt find her because shes hiding from you? Is that why you want to find her using this?

    {Note: The ColdPalace is the traditionally the palace where the wives and concubines of past Emperors reside until their deaths.}

    Lu Xiao Feng was already in shock, only after a long time did he snap out of it.

    Woman? Did a woman sew this? He finally uttered.

    Of course a woman sewed this.

    Are... are you sure?

    Would you make a mistake when looking at women? Would you mistake an old hag for a young girl? Madame Xue straightened her face, seemingly a bit annoyed at the question.

    No.

    I am at least 10 times more of an expert of these things as you are with women. If Im wrong, then Ill willingly lose my little baby over here to you.

    Even if you really did lose her to me, I wont dare to collect my prize. Lu Xiao Feng played along.

    Why not? Do you think shes ugly? Madame Xues eyes were wide in anger.

    Oh no, not ugly at all. Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Just a bit on the mean side. Last time she nearly bit my entire ear off.

    Xue Bing had been obediently standing there, not making the slightest sound. But now her face was flush red and her head bowed even deeper.

    All of you say shes mean, but when I look at her, not only is she not mean, but is nice and obedient like an angel! Madame Xue smiled as well. She took Xue Bings hand in hers. My child, your only problem is that you are way too shy. Whats there to blush about? Women biting men is something thats natural and right!

    Now even root of Xue Bings ears were red with embarrasement.

    Why would I want to bite him? He stinks! She lightly replied.

    If you didnt bite him, then how do you know he stinks? Madame Xue laughed out loud.

    Mmmm! Xue Bing let out a spoiled pout before running off in embarrasement. But even then she did not forget to secretly shoot a look towards Lu Xiao Feng and whisper. Careful!

    Lu Xiao Feng watched her leave, seeminly mesmerized again.

    You want to chase after her dont you? Madame Xue was smiling so wide that her eyes were little slits. Well go then! Whats stopping ya?

    Lu Xiao Feng hesitated, not taking his eyes off of that piece of red satin in her hand.

    What are you staring for? Do you actually think that I would keep it? She laughed at Lu Xiao Feng and tossed the cloth back to him. If there were two pieces, then I would be able to make a pair of shoes for that girl there, but theres only one....

    What did you say you could make? Lu Xiao Feng cut her off before she could finish.

    Shoes, what else. Thats actually the surface cloth of a shoe.

    Lu Xiao Feng seemed shocked again.

    Could you make a pair of red shoes? He mumbled.

    Of course red shoes. Madame Xue laughed and shook her head in disbelief. How could you make black shoes from red cloth? You look so smart, since when did you turn into an idiot?

    Just then, Lu Xiao Feng sighed, got scared into one.

    What are you scared of?

    Im scared that shes waiting outside the door to bite me!

    He really was bit as soon as he walked out of the door. Xue Bing was really waiting outside for him, and it was quite a bite.

    Im turning into a regular soothsayer, Im getting way too good at predicting things. Lu Xiao Feng tiredly laughed, fervently rubbing his ear.

    Well its your fault you embarrased me just then. And what were you trying to do saying that I wont take you here? She furiously stared at him and angrily reprimanded. If it wasnt for me, then how did you end up here? You are lucky I didnt really bite that ear of yours completely off.

    All Lu Xiao Feng could do was keep his mouth shut. When a girl is fully intent on looking for trouble, the smart men would all keep their mouth shut tight.

    Suddenly, Xue Bing snatched the red satin out of his hand.

    So tell me, who sewed this for you? Why are you treating it like some priceless treasure?

    Because it is a priceless treasure.

    Priceless treasure my foot, Xue Bing sneered. Looks to me like its not even worth a single tael!

    Well, this time you are wrong. Its worht at least 18 bushels of diamond studs, 800 thousand tales of silver, and 9000 pieces of gold leafs!

    You have gone crazy! Xue Bing stared at him with shock in her eyes.

    I havent.

    If not, then why are you telling such preposterous lies?

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed. He knew even if he did not tell her now, sooner or later she would find out herself. So he decided that it was probably best to tell her himself right now.

    Xue Bing silently listened to his story, her eyes began to glow as well as she listened.

    Other than this little goodie, there isnt any other clue? She asked after he had finished.

    No.

    And thats why you are planning to go to the capital and visit this Lucky Omen shop to inquire about when they sold this piece of cloth and to whom? Am I right?

    Im just hoping that there hasnt been much red satin being sold recently.

    Textile shops and maker do seem to keep track of these things for at least a year. Xue Bing blinked and offered.

    Thats why I must be on my way right now!

    Good, well leave tomorrow!

    We? Lu Xiao Feng seemed surprised.

    We.

    And this we includes you?

    Of course!

    Well, if this we includes you, then it doesnt include me! Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly told her.

    You dont want to take me there? Xue Bing incredulously stared at him.

    No.

    Xue Bing stared at him for a long time before her eyes suddenly rolled around for a bit.

    When Madame said something about red shoes just a bit earlier, you seemed to be surpirsed.

    Mm!

    Did you see someone wearing red shoes?

    Theres alot of people going around wearing red shoes!

    But in that group there are some people who are special. Like, for example, some people that shouldnt be wearing red shoes, but still do wear a pair red shoes. The expression on Lu Xiao Fengs face changed. He had still not forgotten that the fake Golden Roc Emperor, even in death, was clutching a red shoe tightly in his hand.

    Do you know why these people wore red shoes? Xue Bing casually asked, noticing the look on his face and knowing that she had him.

    No.

    Do you know who these people are who wear these red shoes? Do you know what kind of secret these red shoes have?

    No.

    Well I do.

    Lu Xiao Feng took a deep breath, his heart began to pick up speed again. This secret of the red shoes had truly moved him. But he did not ask. Because he knew that even if he asked now, Xue Bing would never answer it.

    Do you want to know these secrets? Xue Bing casually asked, looking at him out the side of her eyes now.

    Yes.

    Well then, do you want to take me to the capital?

    Yes! Lu Xiao Feng exasperratingly smiled. Very much so!

    ***

    Lu Xiao Feng really dislikes riding in carriages, he would rather ride horses, or even walk. But at this moment he was sitting inside of a carriage, because Xue Bing likes it. Xue Bing had always been a very well mannered and shy girl, to the point where she would never take big steps while walking - at least she always liked to pretend to be like that.

    Luckily, the carriage was very steady, because the road was very smooth. Highways leading to the capital were all very smooth. Sitting in the coach, Lu Xiao Feng was massaging his chin, because his chin was very sore. He suddenly realized that he seemed to be smiling and laughing meekly and tirely way too often recently, so much so to the point where his chin was getting sore. Xue Bing was sitting on the other side, facing him, watching him; her eyes once again filled with that tenderness and joy that nobody could even hope to describe.

    Well, can you tell me the secret now? Lu Xiao Feng could not restrain himself anymore.

    Secret? What secret? Xue Bing amazingly looked like she had completely forgotten about this matter!

    The secret of the red shoes of course, what else?

    Oh, that secret. Its not time to reveal that secret yet!!

    When will it get to be time to reveal it?

    When Im happy, and Im not very happy right now.

    Why arent you happy?

    Nobody would be happy if theres a huge idiot sitting across from them.

    Whos the idiot?

    You.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly realized that he was meekly laughing again.

    So what am I? A heartless low life? Or a huge idiot?

    Both. Xue Bing leisurely laughed a little. Because if you werent a heartless low life, then theres no way you would treat me so terribly. And if you werent a huge idiot, then you wouldnt waste a trip all the way to the capital!

    Why am I an idiot for going to the capital? Lu Xiao Feng was confused.

    Tell me, what do you plan on doing there?

    You know exactly what Im planning on doing!

    To ask the vendors at Lucky Omen who bought this piece of satin right?

    Correct!

    Do you know how much pieces of cloth like this they sell every day? Even if somehow, they remember all of the sells, are you really planning on following up on every buyer?

    But there cant that many that buy only red satin and black threads.

    And besides, this person had been doing all of these heists by himself. So he would naturally buy these commodities himself. Xue Bing added.

    Yes, this matter is very secretive to begin with, so its most wise not to let a second person in on this!

    But why do you think that she only bought black threads and red satin? Xue Bing suddenly snickered.

    Because she only used these!

    And thats why she could only purchase these 2 things and nothing else? Is there some law thats preventing her from buying more?

    But she only used these 2 things!

    And because she didnt use it, she couldnt buy it? Does she have to go and purchase huge amounts of black threads and red satin so as to attract other peoples attention and make it easy for you? Xue Bing coldly sneered. Do you actually think that shes a huge idiot like you?

    Even Lu Xiao Feng could not responde to that.

    Because of how secretive and risky this matter is, then why would she leave such a huge and easy to follow clue for you to find? Even if she had left a miniscule clue there, by the time you make it to Lucky Omen you would probably find it burned to the ground.

    Only after a long pause did Lu Xiao Feng finally gather himself and sighed.

    Well, it looks like I really am an idiot.

    And a heatless jerk!

    And therefore its pointless to go to the capital!

    It would be a wasted trip anyways.

    If we are not going to the capital, then why did you want to get on this road earlier?

    Because I know that theres a place with some great wine up ahead. And I know that you have always been a very generous guy and would surely invite me to a drink or two. Xue Bing cutely answered.

    Turns out not only am I an idiot and heartless, I have a good trait as well. Lu Xiao Feng laughed meekly. At least Im not miserly.

    As long as a man have that going for him, there would always be alot of girls liking him.

    Pushing the curtains aside, a small river bank could be seen in the distance. In the willow forest, a green flag with the word WINE stuck out.

    This is the wine place. Xue Bings eyes lit up.

    Pretty refined and elegant place!

    And the wine is really good too; great, in fact!

    Looking at how her eyes lit up, Lu Xiao Feng could not help but smile.

    Since when did you become an alcoholic?

    Recently.

    Havent been feeling well recently?

    Recently Madame would not allow me to drink, the more she forbids me, the more I want to, and besides.... She glanced toward Lu Xiao Feng and bitterly continued. When we parted last time, I told you to come and visit, but you never did, so how could I be feeling well?

    Lu Xiao Feng did not dare to reply, because he knew if he did, his ear would probably get bit again.

    He did not want to become a person who has only one ear. One ear really do not go well with four eye brows.

    The place turned out to be really quite elegant. The little river snaked through the landscape, the willow caged them in green. Espcially now, during dusk, when the green water of the river reflected the red glow of the sun onto peoples faces, making them red like peach flowers. Beyond the willow trees were a couple of out houses. The wine tables were all placed outside on the sandy river bank with several bushes of cape jasmine planted nearby to further enhance the mood. Xue Bing suddenly discovered that this was not Lu Xiao Fengs first time here, he even knew where to go to relieve himself. Yet just a little while ago he pretended to have never even heard of this place.

    This jerk seemed to have actually learned how to act stupid now. Now what Im suppose to do? This could be trouble. Xue Bing sighed. She decided that he was just like a fish, almost impossible to catch. It was probably best to try and figure out a couple of new and better ideas to use against him.

    The waiter had walked up. He was a normal rural guy with vertical eye brows, horizontal eyes, and thick limbs.

    First give us 500 grams of Bamboo Green with 4 dishes of cold dishes, 4 more dishes of hot stir-fry. Then go to the back and kill an old hen for a soup. Actually she did not eat that much at all, but she liked to watch - quite a number of people liked to look at all the food laid out in front of them when they drink, Miss Xue was one of them.

    That much food for two people? Are you trying to stuff yourself to death? The waiter shot a look at her and coldly said. Xue Bing was shocked, she certainly had never met a waiter like this before. The waiter snickered and continued on his rant. A woman who eats too much would never get married, if you want to marry that little mustache over there, then its best to not eat much. Or else he wouldnt be able to afford to feed you.

    Who are you? Xue Bing was even more shocked. Do you recognize that little mustache over there?

    That waiters eyes rolled about for a while before he suddenly went down and whispered something in her ear. Xue Bings eyes got bigger and bigger the more she listened to him until, finally, she could not control herself and let out a little laugh. Grabbing the waiters arm, she whispered something back to him. The two of them looked quite friendly from the look of it. There were other costumers here besides her, and by now all of them were staring at her so much that their eyes were about to pop out of their sockets.

    A shy, well mannered, elegant, and refined beauty like her would actually act so intimate with this farmer looking waiter? Xue Bing did not seem to care how weird everyone else found this to be, the waiter seemed to care even less. Finally, after having cleared out the commodities in his belly, Lu Xiao Feng returned, seemingly very unhappy.

    We are about to drink, why arent you happy? Xue Bings eyes were vibrant with activity. Lu Xiao Feng responded with a cold snicker and a straight face.

    When did you learn to get so friendly with men in public? He had to ask.

    Men? Xue Bing blinked. What men?

    That waiter just then was a man was he not? Lu Xiao Feng kept a straight face. No man would be happy to see the girl that he was accompanying getting friendly with another man.

    You really are an idiot arent you? Xue Bing laughed and whispered to him. I act a little friendlier toward him now, and later on when he gives us the bill, itll be a little bit cheaper. You understand that logic dont you?

    But Lu Xiao Feng did not understand, Xue Bing was not this type of a girl.

    By now that waiter had returned with cups and chop sticks.

    Bang! He roughly placed the cups onto the table and shot a bitter look at Lu Xiao Feng.

    Such a pretty flower, why is it wasted on this pile of bullshit? He mumbled to himself. This time even Lu Xiao Feng was rendered speechless. Just what was this waiter on? Xue Bing was covering her mouth so as to not laugh out loud.

    Lu Xiao Feng watched that waiter walk off and suddenly laughed as well. He was just about to say something when he suddenly noticed a man walking drunkenly over, barely able to keep from falling over. He had a wine cup in one hand and patted Lu Xiao Feng on his shoulder with the other.

    I recognize you, we have met before. He said with a silly smile on his face.

    All Lu Xiao Feng could do was smile along. He did actually meet this man, met him at somebodys banquet on some particular occasion. He still remembered that his name was Sun Zhong, heard he was pretty famous in the pugilistic world too. That time, like this time, he was intoxicated to the point that his tongue was swollen.

    Lu Xiao Feng had two principles. He does not go and bother sober people when he is drunk, and when he is sober he does not go and bother drunk people.

    But Sun Zhong wanted to bother him, so much so that he actually sat down.

    I still even remember this mustache of yours, but I dont remember your name.

    It was probably for the best that he did not remember. But Lu Xiao Feng did not tell him that, of course.

    Sun Zhong suddenly turned his head and stared at Xue Bing.

    This little lady that you have with you is quite something else you know, just like a narcissus flower, if you squeeze it water would come out. So it turned out that he came for Xue Bing. When he saw how friendly Xue Bing was with that waiter, he could not help but be tempted as well. Xue Bing blushed and bowed her head, seemingly too shy to even lift her eye lids.

    My friend, you seem to drunk, why dont you get some rest? Lu Xiao Feng sighed. He really did not want any trouble, for himself or Sun Zhong. Nobody has ever troubled Cold Ruskha and came out better for the wear. But it seemed as if Sun Zhong did not even hear him and continued to stare at Xue Bing. Suddenly he forcefully patted Lu Xiao Feng on his shoulder again.

    My friend, I gotta give it to you. If you let me have this girl for today, then you could always come to me if you ever get in trouble in the martial world.

    Lu Xiao Feng, incredibly, was able to keep his cool.

    I wont run into any problems, He replied matter of factly. But it looks like you are about to have some, my advice to you is....

    Im giving you face by asking you! Sun Zhong did not even let him finish before shouting back in his face. Are you going to yield?

    Why dont you ask her yourself? Lu Xiao Feng gave up and sighed.

    I dont need to ask, I know she likes me. Sun Zhong laughed loudly. What do you have that Im not better at?

    Xue Bings face turned even redder, her face bowed even lower, looking ever more beautiful and innocent.

    Little miss, how about you and I have a little drink over there? Sun Zhong was practically drooling. Blushing, all Xue Bing could do was shook her head.

    Well you have to whether you want to or not! Sun Zhong actually reached out and took Xue Bings hand in his own.

    Can you let go of my hand? Xue Bing lowered her head even more and quietly asked.

    No! Sun Zong laughed and replied.

    You absolutely wont? Xue Bing asked, her face suddenly turning pale.

    Even if you cut my hand off, I wont let go!

    Good! She suddenly grabbed the sabre attached to Sun Zhongs waist. As soon as he saw her face turn pale, Lu Xiao Feng knew something was not right. He was just about to say something, but by that time the sabre had already been unsheathed. With a sabre flying through his view, Sun Zhong seemed to sober up a bit as well as he tried to snatch the sabre back. With a flash, his hand had been cut off and flopped onto the ground, dripped with blood.

    His pupil suddenly dialated and his eyes bulged out as he stared at his own cut off hand and looked back up at Xue Bing, seemingly not able to believe what had just taken place. And at the moment when he finally began to believe it, he collapsed onto the ground accompanied by a blood curdling scream. An intoxicated man always reacted a bit slower. Only now were his friends, who had been happily crousing on the other side of the place, charging furiously over.

    Why did you cut off his hand? Lu Xiao Feng frowned, purposefully not paying any attention to the men charging at him.

    He told me to! Xue Bing answered with an angry face.

    But hes drunk!

    But hes still a person.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly snatched the sabre from out of her hand and, gently putting the blade between two of his fingers, lightly flicked.

    Beng! The steel sabre snapped in two. He followed it up by doing it again.

    Using only those two fingers and a couple of light flicks, a sabre that had been made from steel that had been smelt and refined 100 times over was reduced to 10 small pieces.

    Weird, how could trash like this cut off someones hand? He frowned. Those men who were charging at him had collectively came to stop, utterly shocked and not quite believing at the display that they just saw.

    Friend, whats your name? One of them finally asked.

    My surname is Lu!

    Lu as in road?

    Lu as in Lu Xiao Feng!

    You... you are Lu Xiao Feng? The dumbfounded faces had been replaced by sickly green faces. Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    Nobody spoke another word as they picked up their man on the ground, turned around, and began to file out.

    Not recognizing Lu Xiao Feng, you deserve to have both of your hand cut off!

    So it seems like the words Lu Xiao Feng could fend off evil as well, who knew? Xue Bing sweetly laughed.

    I knew you were trouble all along, Lu Xiao Feng was exasperated and sighed. I shouldnt have brought you along!

    Was that his fault or mine?

    But you shouldnt have cut his hand off.

    He told me to!

    He was drunk!

    And does being drunk give him the right to bully others around?

    Drunk people are still people, The waiter just happened to be coming with the food and wine and commented. This kind of people deserves to be cut at least 180 times.

    Thats right, at least you are reasonable! Xue Bing sweetly replied.

    Hmph! The waiter, once again, roughly placed the tray carrying the food and wine onto the table and walked off, not even looking in Lu Xiao Fengs direction at all.

    And a person like you deserves to be cut at least 360 times. Lu Xiao Feng coldly declared. His face darkened as he suddenly attacked. He picked up a section of the blade with two of his fingers and sent it howling towards the back of the waiter. The waiter did not even turn around but instead took off, as if he had suddenly grew a pair of wings. How could a waiter at a wine place like this have such great martial arts ability?

    I knew you didnt look like a good guy, turns out you are a flying criminal! Lu Xiao Feng snickered. He flicked his hand and another section of the blade flew like lightning towards the waiters waist. The waiter was in midair with nothing around him to avoid or deflect the attack. Lu Xiao Fengs attack was truly too fast, it looked as if there was no way he could get out of the way.

    Are you really going to kill him? Xue Bing asked despite of herself.

    Dont worry, he wont die. Lu Xiao Feng coldly replied. Before he even finished that reply, the waiter had already somersaulted three times in midair, caught the section of the sabre, and gently floated back down onto the ground.

    Xue Bing stared at him, then stared at Lu Xiao Feng, and then burst out with a bright smile.

    So you already knew who he is!

    I only know hes criminal! Lu Xiao Feng put up a serious face.

    If Im criminal, then what are you? The waiter suddenly laughed.

    A particular criminals daddy!

    This waiter did not even go and bring any more dishes, but instead sat down.

    Shame that you are not law breaking material, the most you could do was dig up a couple of earth worms!

    Digging worms? Xue Bing blinked.

    Oh you didnt know? The waiter laughed. Hes not very good at other things, but is an expert at earth worm excavation. In 10 days he actually dug up 680 worms for me!

    What did you need all those worms for? Xue Bing could not help but wonder.

    I did not need one single worm, I just liked watching him dig for worms. Xue Bing laughed.

    Have you seen him dig for worms?

    No!

    Oh had I known that earlier I would have invited you to have a look as well. The waiter sighed. When he dig for worms, that pose and style is just too perfect. Graceful and elegant you know, puts even the best opera singers to shame. Its really quite a shame you missed out on it.

    No worries, theres always next time. Xue Bing managed to stop laughing long enough to reply.

    Theres a next time? The waiter wondered.

    Of course! Xue Bing answered with a straight face. Earth worm excavation is like drinking wine: addictive! Once a person dig worms once, you cant stop him from digging more even if you want to!

    The next time I dig up some worms, Ill be sure to stuff all of them in your mouth! Lu Xiao Feng coldly interrupted.

    That waiter that was on something was, of course, none other than Si Kong Zhai Xing.

    The other customers had long been frightened away. So the three of them actually ended up with quite a peaceful little place for chat. The only one who was suffering was the boss that ran this little wine shop.

    You were having such a good time being a thief, why are you changing into the wine selling line of work? Xue Bing inquired while pouring a cup of wine for Si Kong Zhai Xing.

    Because hea addicted too! Lu Xiao Feng answered instead. He still had not forgotten the last time when Si Kong Zhai Xing disguised himself as Pot Face Zhao. That kind of thing was not something that one forgets.

    Last time I fooled you, but doesnt seem like I did this time. Si Kong Zhai Xing laughed.

    Doesnt seem like you were really trying to fool me this time either. Lu Xiao Feng stared directly into Si Kong Zhai Xings eyes. No waiter in the world could have such a huge attitude problem. If he was not purposefully trying to get Lu Xiao Fengs attention, then why would he act like that?

    Ever since last time when you charged into a raging inferno to save Pot Face Zhao, I suddenly discovered that you are quite a nice friend to have! Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly sighed.

    But yet you still made me go and dig worms for you.

    What are you? Afraid that others dont know about that? Si Kong Zhai Xing laughed again. Everywhere you go, everyone you meet, you have to bring that up!

    So you have already met Hua Man Lou and Jin Jiu Ling? Lu Xiao Fengs eyes lit up.

    Mm!

    And they told you that I would was going to look for Xue Bing?

    Si Kong Zhai Xing nodded.

    So you figured that we must past through this place and stop here for a drink?

    So I waited here!

    Waited here just to drink some wine?

    You know thats not it, and I dont want to lie to you! Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly sighed.

    I only know that we are friends.

    Weird thing is, there just happen to be alot of people who want me to steal something of yours! Si Kong Zhai Xing sighed.

    What is it now?

    Do you have a piece of red satin on you?

    You know I have it, and I dont want to lie to you. Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    And is there a black peony embroidered on that red piece of satin?

    Is this piece of cloth what you are here to steal?

    Correct.

    You have already admitted we are friends, and yet you are still going to rob me?

    Because I have already promised someone!

    Why did you make that promise?

    I had to!

    Why?

    Because I owed this person a favor!

    Who is this person?

    You know I wont tell you, why ask? Si Kong Zhai Xing let out a tired smile.

    You seem to owe me a favor too. Lu Xiao Feng laughed. Not only did I save you, I dug up 680 worms for you as well.

    And thats why Im being honest and telling you this right now!

    But even though you told me, you are still going to steal from me?

    A piece of red satin like that is not worth much of anything.

    And you never steal anything thats worth anything anyways!

    Since you havea already seen it, you dont have much use for it anymore do you?

    Do you actually want me to just hand it over to you?

    Thats exactly what Im trying to say!

    Lu Xiao Feng blinked.

    Why dont we make a deal?

    What kind of deal? Si Kong Zhai Xing asked.

    As long as you tell me who asked you to steal it from me, Ill let you steal it!

    No can do on that deal!

    Well, if we cant make a deal, then all thats left to do is to bet. Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    How do we bet?

    Do you know how many guest rooms there are in the back?

    Six.

    Ill stay the night here tonight and wait for you to come and steal it from me!

    If you know Im coming to steal it, how can I possibly succeed? Si Kong Zhai Xing frowned.

    You are the King of Thieves, remember? Lu Xiao Feng laughed. Never failed trying to steal anything. Im sure youll come up with something.

    And what if I really do have a plan to steal it away? Si Kong Zhai Xings eyes suddenly began to glow.

    The thing is with me right now, if you can steal it away, then Ill be perfectly willing to dig up another 680 worms for you!

    I can use whatever method I want?

    Of course. Whatever you want!

    Some methods I would rather not use on a friend!

    Well, for tonight only, you can stop considering me as your friend!

    Alright! The bet is one! Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly picked up a cup and finished its contents in one gulp. And if I lose, Ill be perfectly willing to dig up worms for you as well!

    I dont want you to dig worms!

    Do you still want me to kneel down and call you Uncle! everytime I see you?

    This time, the ante is upped to Daddy! Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    Alright! Its a deal!

    And whoever backs out is a son of a turtle!

    Well, looks like no matter who wins, Im in for a treat! Xue Bing laughed and happily observed.

    But its not night yet. Si Kong Zhai Xing observed.

    So we are still friends!

    So Im going to invite you to a drink!

    I only hope that you didnt put any poison in the drinks. Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    And I only hope that you dont get me smashed! Si Kong Zhai Xing smiled in return.

  17. #17
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 2 - Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 - You Cheat I Lie

    Night. But night not yet deep. Si Kong Zhai Xingg was not smashed, and already left. Lu Xiao Feng, of course, was not poisoned, Si Kong Zhai Xing was not the type to put poison in wine. Besides, even if he did use poison, Lu Xiao Feng would not have drank it.

    But there were the hints of a smile on Xue Bings face.

    He lost for sure this time! She suddenly sighed.

    He lost for sure?

    The object is on you, and you know that hes coming to steal it. How could he steal it?

    Hes the King of Thieves, and a King of Thieves would surely have all kinds of strange and bizarre ways to steal things!

    Are you really not sure that youll be able to beat him? Xue Bing asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng laughed a little and poured himself a drink. But he did not drink it, he only stared at it, as if fascinated by it.

    What are you thinking about? The person that wanted him to steal it from you? Xue Bing asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this.

    Could the person that wanted him to steal this be the same person that sewed it? Xue Bing asked.

    Very possible.

    If I was you, I would rack my brain to try and come up with ways to make him tell you!

    You are not me!

    Good thing too, Xue Bing sweetly smiled. I dont have all that worries and troubles that you have!

    And thats why are you very happy!

    Yes, very happy!

    Well, since you are happy, you are going to tell me right? Lu Xiao Feng suddenly smiled.

    Tell you what? Xue Bing seemed to have forgotten about it again.

    About red shoes, of course!

    Xue Bing blinked a couple of times, and figured that she could not put off this anymore.

    Do you know about GreenShirtMansion? She suddenly asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded. Of course he knew.

    Well Red Shoes is like GreenShirtMansion, a very secretive organization. The only place where its different from GreenShirtMansion is that there are no men in the organization. So its more vicious and more powerful than GreenShirtMansion!

    Why?

    Because woman are more powerful than man to begin with. Xue Bing laughed and cleverly answered.

    And?

    And nothing, thats it.

    Thats it? Lu Xiao Feng almost jumped out of his skin. What do you mean thats it?

    Thats it means thats all I know. Xue Bing casually replied. It means that even if you put a knife up to my neck, I cant tell you anymore.

    Lu Xiao Feng was speechless and just looked at her stupidly for a while.

    Women are more powerful than men, he sighed, they dont play fair!

    Since when have been playing unfair? Xue Bing glared at him. Did I not just tell you what all these people who wear red shoes are? Did I not also tell you that Red Shoes is a very secretive organization? Are you not satisfied?

    Turns out not only do they play unfair, they are self-righetous. Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

    Well, you know that this big bearded embroider is actually a woman in disguise right? Xue Bing seemed a bit embarrased about it as well and blinked a couple of times. And you also know that she wears red shoes. You know quite a bit actually!

    And thats why Im satisfied. Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Very satisfied!

    Well, since you are satisfied, why dont you pour me a drink? Xue Bing smiled.

    Your face is redder than those red shoes that they wear, Lu Xiao Feng coldly replied. And you still want more?

    I want to get drunk tonight anyways, Xue Bing bit her lip. Besides, theres a bed here, if I get smashed Ill just go and lie on the bed.

    Dont forget that Im in this room as well!

    So what if you are in the room? Xue Bing glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes. Am I suppose to be scared of you?

    Are you actually trying to get drunk so you can summon up enough courage to seduce me? Lu Xiao Feng glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes as well.

    Xue Bing blushed again, but this time she did not bow her head but instead stared straight into his eyes.

    Do you actually not want me to seduce you?

    Have you been planning to seduce me from the beginning?

    Who do you think you are? Fan An? Song Yu?

    {Note: Fan An and Song Yu are notorious ladys men and playboys in stories.}

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly stood up.

    What do you think you are doing? Xue Bing demanded.

    I stood up, so it naturally follows that Im going to leave!

    Do you really want to leave?

    Well since you arent going to seduce me, then whats the point of my staying here?

    Pch! Xue Bing let out a little laugh.

    You are such a dummy. Im not seducing you, but couldnt you seduce me?

    Too bad Im not use to seducing others, its always been others seducing me!

    Cant you make an exception for me? Xue Bing said barely above an whisper. Her face became even redder, redder even than the peach flowers in Spring, red just like honey peaches. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly sighed and slowly sat back down.

    What are you scared of? Xue Bing looked at him and teased. You havent even began enticing me yet and you are already sweating up a storm!

    Because I feel very hot!

    I seem to be feeling pretty hot too!

    But you are snow and ice, how could you be feeling hot? Lu Xiao Feng joked.

    {Note: Lu Xiao Feng makes a joke on Xue Bings name here. Xue is a homophone of snow and Bing means ice in English.}

    Im confused as well, why do I feel hot? She blinked a couple of times and suddenly clapped her hands in realization. I got it!

    What do you get?

    Si Kong Zhai Xing might not have put poison into the win, but did put in a type of drug that heats us up to try and make you feel as if you are baking!

    And if we feel hot, then we would have to take our clothes off.

    The object is on you, and if you take your cloth off, that would give him the chance that he needs!

    Im just wondering how in the world could the King of Thieves use such an idiotic method! Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    It might be idiotic, but its very effective!

    Too bad that the object was not on me at all, Lu Xiao Feng laughed and matter of factly said. So he couldnt steal it away anyways!

    Did you already hide that thing somewhere else? Xue Bing asked after being startled by the revelation.

    Hid it at a place that he would never think of in a million years. Lu Xiao Feng laughed. Even if he had 30 hands, all he could steal from me here is a couple piece of my crappy clothes.

    You are so bad! Xue Bing giggled.

    Always been.

    There was a person perched at the top of the roof across the way. Of course, he was none other than Si Kong Zhai Xing. At this moment, he was cursing Lu Xiao Feng in his mind.

    This little jerk really is a bastard! He had amazingly forgotten that he himself was a bastard as well, someone who was not a bastard would never hide on roof tops and eavedrop on other people.

    Where did this little bastard hide it? Si Kong Zhai Xing began going over the places where Lu Xiao Feng went today. They had began drinking outside and, when it got to be about time, they moved inside. Other than these 2 places, Lu Xiao Feng only went to relieve himself once!

    Could he have hid it in the out house? That was a very good possibility, this Lu Xiao Feng bastard was capable of anything.

    Or maybe he hid it in the wine jug, somewhere that he thinks I would never expect!

    By now Lu Xiao Feng had already taken off his outer robe and casually laid it on the back of the chair by the window. The window was not closed. The thing would obviously not be in that robe, or else he would never be so careless with it!

    Lu Xiao Feng was not a careless person, and digging out 680 worms was not exactly fun either. Si Kong Zhai Xing had decided to leave. He was just about to stand up but he stopped and his eyes lit up. If Lu Xiao Feng had actually hid the thing inside the robe, then is it not a place that he would expect even less? Did he purposefully say those words for Si Kong Zhai Xing to hear?

    This little bastard is a little fox! Si Kong Zhai Xing laughed to himself. But too bad that today you ran into an old fox!

    His smile was making him look quite a bit like an old fox.

    The robe was just hanging there on the back of the chair, he could see it, but not touch it. So what was he to do? Of course this old fox had his ways. King of Thieves was not a title that he stole. Sounds of laughter emnated from within the room, what are they feeling so giddy about?

    Are they laughing at an idiot outside tasting the wind, watching them drink wine?

    Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly jumped off of the roof, pushed open the door, and walked in. Xue Bings eyes were about to pop out of their sockets as she looked at him in surprise, as if she could not even imagine in her dreams that this person would suddenly appear. Lu Xiao Feng would not be able to either.

    But Si Kong Zhai Xing just ignored them, sat down, and helped himself to a cup of wine.

    Well, drinking wine definitely feels better than tasting the wind. He mumbled to himself.

    Who made you go out into the wind? Xue Bing smiled.

    Myself!

    Are you a big idiot just like him? Xue Bing blinked and laughed.

    Even if Im not an idiot, Im at least an air head.

    You admit that you are an air head? Xue Bing trying to contain her laughter.

    Well if Im not an air head, then why would I get into this bet with him? Si Kong Zhai Xing sighed.

    You dont think its worth it?

    Si Kong Zhai Xing nodded.

    And thats why the bet is off!

    The bet is off? Lu Xiao Feng almost screamed. What do you mean the bet is off?

    The bet is off means that the bet is off!

    But we had an agreement!

    Lots of agreement are went back upon later. And alot of spoken words could be treated like farts!

    I dont get it, Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled after staring at him dumbfounded for a while. Why are you suddenly calling the bet off?

    You dont think I know what kind of shit you are trying to pull? Si Kong Zhai Xing sneered.

    What kind of shit am I trying to pull?

    You are going to let me steal the thing and then follow me to see how I give this thing to. Si Kong Zhai Xing sneered. That way, even though I win, I still come out on the short end!

    How did you come up with that notion? Lu Xiao Feng looked like an innocent kid. I dont get it.

    You get it, you get it better than anyone!

    Why would I let you win on purpose? Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Do you actually think that I like digging for worms?

    Because you really want to find out who want me to steal the thing off of you. And to do that, this is the only way. To get what you want, youll resort to anything!

    Do you really think Im that kind of a person? Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

    I dont care what kind of person you are, Im not going through with this bet with you anymore. Because I have made up my mind that Im not going to fall for your ploy! He poured another cup and downed it in one gulp. Afterwards, he reared back and loudly laughed 3 times. Excellent wine! Taste much better than wind!

    He was not even finished speaking those words by the time he made his way out of the door.

    Lu Xiao Feng watched him leave, and sat dumbfounded for a while before suddenly breaking out into a smile.

    This guy really is an old fox!

    Were you really going to let him win? Xue Bing had to ask.

    The old fox was right, this really is the only way that I can find out who gave him this job! Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    And all those things you said earlier was to precisely tell him where the thing is?

    Exactamundo!

    But I still cant figure out exactly where you hid it! Xue Bing sighed.

    The thing was hid in my clothes!

    In this robe on the chair? Xue Bing was quite taken aback.

    Had been all along!

    But you just said earlier....

    I said that because I know that sooner or later he would figure out that I was hoping to distract his attention!

    I still dont get it.

    I purposefully just casually laid my robe there, of course others wont suspect that the thing was in there. But hes not just anybody, hes the King of Thieves!

    So you figured that he sooner or later he would figure out that the thing was in there!

    I put it there for him to steal to begin with!

    So it turns out that you had a trick inside of another trick. Xue Bing finally understood. After all of that, you were still trying to let him steal it!

    Yes, I wanted him to steal it, but I cant make it too easy for him because I cant allow him to get suspicious!

    But he still got suspicious and did not fall for it!

    Thats why I say hes really truly an old fox, Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Too bad though....

    Whats too bad?

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly let out a little laugh.

    Too bad he still fell for it in the end!

    Xue Bing was taken aback for a moment before smiling meekly.

    I dont get it again.

    He still stole the thing!

    When did he steal it?

    Just now!

    Xue Bing could not help but to take that robe in her hand and shook it a bit. A piece of red satin fell from within its folds, on it was sewn a black peony.

    Isnt it still here?

    But this piece of satin is not the original one anymore!

    You are telling me that he switched this piece of satin with that piece of yours?

    Look at it carefully, isnt there some differences between the 2?

    The differences were not obvious, but they were still there.

    He probably already found out from Jin Jiu Ling what the piece of satin and the embroidery looked like, then he found someone to make sew one just like it to switch it with me!

    He was so quick, no wonder hes the King of Thieves! Xue Bing sighed. I was watching him the entire time just now and did not see how he did it.

    He probably thinks I didnt see it either. Lu Xiao Feng smiled. He probably figures that I still dont know!

    You have already inspected this satin countless number of time. And now since it hasnt been stolen, you would surely hide it somewhere. Either way, you definitely would not be taking it out any time soon!

    Thats why he figures that I would not realize that this was a fake any time soon!

    And now, since hes gotten what he wanted, he would surely try and give it to his benefactor!

    He has to finish his job, after all!

    Then why arent you following him right now?

    Because I know that theres no way hell leave right now!

    Why not?

    Because hes afraid that I might get suspicious as well!

    Xue Bing thought about it for a bit.

    Its not like you are going to find out about the switch any time soon, so he might as well take this opportunity and relax some!

    The more relaxed he is, the less likely Im going to get suspicous!

    And once we leave tomorrow morning, he could actually send us out on our way and then gingerly go back and finish his job!

    Looks like if you hang around us anymore, youll end up being a little fox as well! Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    Xue Bings eyes rolled around for a bit and an expression that was sort of a smile but not really a smile appeared on her face.

    So what do you want to do now? She asked him in a voice barely above whisper.

    Well, naturally, Im going to keep him company! Lu Xiao Feng purposefully ignored her expression.

    You are going to leave me here to keep him company! Xue Bing looked as if she was about to jump up once again.

    He wont try to seduce me, I wont try to seduce him either. Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly replied. Im much safer in his company!

    Xue Bing bit her lip and bitterly glared at him. Suddenly, she broke out in a teasing smile.

    At last, I figured out what you are!

    Oh? What am I?

    You are a dog!

    How am I a dog? Lu Xiao Feng asked with an incredulous smile.

    If Si Kong Zhai Xing is an old fox, then doesnt that make you a fox-biting dog? Xue Bing teased.

    ***

    Si Kong Zhai Xing was lying in bed, using his own arms as a pillow. He was focused on the cup of wine that was on his chest. Lu Xiao Feng always liked to drink wine like this, not only that, when Lu Xiao Feng drinks like this, he does not spill a single drop of wine. If it was something that Lu Xiao Feng could do, then Si Kong Zhai Xing must learn it, not just learn it but master it better than Lu Xiao Feng.

    He suddenly heard someone laughing outside of his door.

    Thats my trick and mine alone. Youll never learn it! A man pushed open the door and walked in. Lu Xiao Feng, of course.

    Si Kong Zhai Xing did not turn at his comment but instead remained completely focused on that cup of wine on top of his chest.

    What are you up to now? He coldly demanded.

    Up to? No, Im only here to keep you company!

    You are leaving her alone to keep me company?

    Is the bet off now? Instead of answering his question, Lu Xiao Feng laughed and asked a question of his own.

    Uh huh!

    So we are still friends?

    Uh huh!

    Well, since we are friends, then why shouldnt I come and keep you company?

    Of course you could, but now I think Im going to go and keep her company! Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly inhaled deeply. The wine cup on his chest immediately flew onto his lips and the win inside of the cup flew into his mouth as well. Unfortunately, not all of the wine flew into his mouth, the other half of the wine spilled all over his entire body.

    I told you, Lu Xiao Feng laughed heartily at his friends misfortune. You wont master that move even if you tried a life time!

    Si Kong Zhai Xing gave Lu Xiao Feng a fierce glare before he started to get up. Suddenly, his complexion changed dramatically as his entire face tightened and began to twitch. His entire body was twitching, as if a thin blade had just been stabbed into his stomach.

    Whats the matter? Even Lu Xiao Feng was shocked by this turn of events. Si Kong Zhai Xing opened his mouth, trying to speak, but nothing came out. Lu Xiao Feng immediately ran to his side and helped him sit up. Suddenly, he caught a whiff of a strange scent.

    He picked up that wine cup and sniffed. His expression changed dramatically.

    Theres poison in this cup! By now Si Kong Zhai Xings face was deathily pale and huge beads of sweat were collecting on his forehead.

    Where did the wine come from? Was anybody here earlier? Lu Xiao Feng inquired.

    Si Kong Zhai Xing bearly managed to shook his head a little and stared at the wine flask sitting on the table. There was still some wine in the flask.

    Lu Xiao Feng grabbed the flask and sniffed it, the wine in the flask was not poisonous.

    The poison is on the cup! The cup had probably always been in this room. Just then when Si Kong Zhai Xing was eavedropping on the roof, somebody must have came here and put something on the cup.

    You were always such a careful guy! Lu Xiao Feng stumped his feet in frustration. Why are you so thoughtless now!

    Si Kong Zhai Xing gritted his teeth and finally squeezed three words out of his mouth.

    Still Dusk Convent!

    You know somebody there who can heal you? You want me to take you there?

    Quick... quickly.... Si Kong Zhai Xing struggled to nodded a little.

    Alright, Ill go find Xue Bing, well take you there together! Lu Xiao Feng picked Si Kong Zhai Xing up and charged out, looking for Xue Bing.

    But Xue Bing was no where to be found. That unfinished cup of wine that she was drinking earlier was still on the table, but she had disappeared into thin air. On the plate that used to have some chopped beef was now placed a pair of hands, a pair of severed hands! Lu Xiao Feng recognized that they were Sun Zhongs hands. Could he have organized some people and returned for revenge and actually took Xue Bing away with them? But how could they have not heard anything next door?

    Xue Bing was not an easy customer, how could she be taken away so easily? Lu Xiao Feng did not have time to think these things out in detail. At the moment, everything had to be put on hold, the most important thing was to save Si Kong Zhai Xing. Besides, this turn of events was too shocking, too unimaginable. No matter how much he tried, he would not be able to figure it out anyways. Fortunately, the carriage that they had rode in on was still here.

    Lu Xiao Feng woke up the driver and hopped onto the carriage with, by now, a seemingly completely immobile Si Kong Zhai Xing.

    You cant die, you are not a good man, how can your life be so short? He mumbled to him, and to himself.

    Miraculously, Si Kong Zhai Xing did not die and held on in this half dead state all the way to Still Dusk Convent.

    Still Dusk Convent was situated within a black bamboo forest, a black bamboo forest on the side of the mountain. The gate to the mountain was open, but human world was forever left behind, outside of the bamboo forest. It was impossible for the carriage to go up the mountain side, so Lu Xiao Feng, carrying the unconscious Si Kong Zhai Xing, made his way through the bamboo forest, stepping quietly over the fallen leaves. Along with the breeze came the last stroke of the night bell. But night had not fallen yet, the setting suns color filled the entire sky, it was dusk.

    You made it! It was hard but you made it! Lu Xiao Feng mumbled as he looked down at the Si Kong Zhai Xing in his arms, trying to catch his breath. Si Kong Zhai Xings body shuddered slightly and he gently groaned, as if he had heard Lu Xiao Fengs words.

    How are you feeling? Lu Xiao Feng immediately asked.

    Im starving! Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly flung open his eyes.

    You are starving? Lu Xiao Feng was startled.

    Yeah, these last two days you went off the carriage to eat and drink to your hearts content and all I could do was hide inside the carriage chewing through cold cookie dough. How could I not be starving? Si Kong Zhai Xing winked at Lu Xiao Feng. Lu Xiao Feng was speechless. He looked like he had just swallowed 600 live worms.

    Careful how you carry me, dont drop me ok? Si Kong Zhai Xing instructed.

    Oh Ill be careful, but Im just afraid that it wont kill you! Lu Xiao Feng winked. He suddenly lifted Si Kong Zhai Xing above his head and slammed his body down towards the ground. But before Si Kong Zhai Xing hit the ground, he suddenly flipped in mid air. In fact, he did 7 or 8 flips in a role and gently landed on the ground. He took one look at Lu Xiao Feng and began to laugh, laugh so hard that he doubled over.

    I should have let you die right there! Lu Xiao Feng bitterly declared.

    Only the good die young, how could a man like me die? Si Kong Zhai Xing was still laughing. He actually just admitted that he was not a good man.

    You were not poisoned were you?

    Of course not, who could poison an immortal old fox like me?

    That poison on the wine cup was something you put there yourself?

    That was not poison to begin with! Si Kong Zhai Xing laughed triumphantly. It was just some scented herbs that smells like poison. But nothing will happen even if you ingest 1 kilogram of it.

    You pretended to be poisoned so as to keep me busy and make me take you here.

    If I dont do that, then how else could I get the thing out of that place?

    How did you get the thing out of there? This entire time you pretended to be on the verge of death and did not move a hair!

    I have my ways. Dont forget, not only am I the King of Thieves, Im an clever old fox too!

    But if it wasnt for a little fox, this job probably would not be anywhere near this easy! Lu Xiao Feng suddenly snickered.

    Little fox? Si Kong Zhai Xing seemed to be surprised at the revalation. Other than you, is there another little fox?

    Maybe not a little fox, but certainly a female fox! Lu Xiao Feng sneered.

    I knew I couldnt keep you in the dark forever! Si Kong Zhai Xing burst out laughing again. You are not that stupid after all!

    When did you make this arrangement with Xue Bing?

    When you went off to relieve yourself!

    Why would she go along with your plan?

    Maybe because she fallen for me! Si Kong Zhai Xing matter of factly said.

    She would fall for an old fox like you?

    I see you dont understand, all women love old foxes! Si Kong Zhai Xing laughed at himself.

    Looks like she really has been hypnotized by one of your evil methods, so much so that she was actually capable of doing such a thing! Lu Xiao Feng sighed but then suddenly asked another question. If she went off to complete the job for you and give the thing to the owner, then what was that pair of severed hands doing there?

    Severed hands? Si Kong Zhai Xing seemed to be caught off guard. What severed hands?

    That hand that was cut off of Sun Zhong!

    Where was that hand?

    On the plate that had beef on it!

    I dont know anything about that! Si Kong Zhai Xing frowned and shook his head.

    You really dont know?

    When have I ever lied to you? Si Kong Zhai Xing sighed.

    You have always lied to me! Lu Xiao Feng bittered replied.

    A genius like you? How could I ever get you to believe in my lies? Si Kong Zhai Xing blinked.

    You shouldnt be able to, Lu Xiao Feng could not help himself and sighed again. Smiling meekly, he continued. But pity that I am just too nice of a guy.

    Is that nice man outside Lu Xiao Feng? A person suddenly asked from behind the gate.

    The gate was half closed, inside the door was a small little yard with a person sitting in a bamboo chair underneath the white poplar trees in the yard. The dusk sun shoned down upon lonely white poplar tree, and also shoned upon his pale face. His nose was straight and his forehead pertruded out, anybody could see in one glace that he must be a powerful and dignified person. But where those bright and shining eyes of his used to be, now there were only two black holes.

    Jiang Chong Wei! Lu Xiao Feng shouted in surprise as he entered the yard. How did you get here?

    If Im here, then were else can I be? Jiang Chong Wei smiled. His smile was melancholy and painful. Im nothing more than a blind man now, the RoyalPalace would never use a blind man as warden, even if they didnt force me to leave, I would have left myself anyways!

    As Lu Xiao Feng watched his face, his heart was filled with sadness as well. Jiang Chong Wei was a very talented man with a great future ahead of him. But a blind man....

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly turned his head back towards Si Kong Zhai Xing.

    Do you recognize him? He stared at Si Kong Zhai Xing. Si Kong Zhai Xing nodded.

    Do you know how he became like this? Si Kong Zhai Xing sighed. He did not feel all too well inside either.

    Since you know, you should tell me who that person is now.

    Who?

    The person who was sewed the thing, the same person who sent you to steal it from me!

    You think they are one and the same?

    Correct!

    Maybe that satin was that persons to begin with, why would that person want me to steal it back?

    Maybe there was some secret on it and the person was afraid of me finding them.

    Havent you already looked it over a lot of times?

    Not enough!

    Si Kong Zhai Xing did not responde. He also looked very conflicted, very pained for trying to make this decision.

    So you did owe this person, but if this person did do these things. If you still have a shred of humanity in you, then you shouldnt keep protecting this person!

    Must you make me say it?

    You have to tell me!

    Alright, Ill tell you. Si Kong Zhai Xing suddenly sighed. That person is her!

    He suddenly pointed in front of him. Lu Xiao Feng instinctively turned to the direction of that he pointed and saw a person slowly walking out from inside the convent, head bowed. It was a Taoist nun with a purple robe, white stockings, and a purple hairpin made out of jade in her ebony black hair. Her complexion was pale as well. Within those pure water-like bright eyes of hers was filled with worry and sadness which gave her an even more indescribable, plain but not of this world beauty that was like a purple rays that now resided at the edge of the sky. With her head bowed, she slowly approached with a bowl of steaming hot medicine in her hands.

    As soon as Lu Xiao Feng saw her, he knew that Si Kong Zhai Xing was lying again. That person could never be her. He turned around with the intention of inquiring further, the Si Kong Zhai Xing had disappeared. In that instant that Lu Xiao Feng saw this purple robed nun, this old fox had shot out through the door like a meteor. In that instant, Lu Xiao Feng seemed to be a little bit mesmerized. In truth, anybody would hard pressed not to be mesmerized when seeing this kind of otherworldly beauty. But even if he tried to chase after him now, it would be futile. Si Kong Zhai Xing might not be the fastest man in the world, but he was not that far off. Lu Xiao Feng sighed and swore that he would one day catch this old fox and force him to swallow 680 worms, worms that he dug out himself.

    The setting suns color faded, the breeze seemed colder. The cool breeze made the white poplar leaves rustle as it made its way through them. The purple robed nun slowly approached, still not picking her head up.

    Qing Xia, is that you? Jiang Chong Wei suddenly asked.

    Its me, its time for your medicine. Her voice was tender like the evening breeze.

    Lu Xiao Feng, are you still here? Jiang Chong Wei asked.

    Im here.

    This is my younger sister, Qing Xia, she is also the hostess here. Now you should finally understand why I would be here!

    Jin Jiu Ling and Hua Man Lou are looking for you! Lu Xiao Feng suddenly informed him.

    I know!

    Do they know you are here?

    They have already came here!

    What did Hua Man Lou say to you?

    A very strange expression suddenly appeared on Jiang Chong Weis face.

    He told me to not forget that he is blind as well; and furthermore, never forget that hes had a great life! He slowly said.

    Of course you didnt forget!

    And thats why Im still alive! A man like him, to be suddenly blinded was not an easy thing to have the courage to live with.

    He is truly a remarkable man! Lu Xiao Feng sighed in admiration.

    He is not like anybody else, Jiang Chong Wei nodded and sighed as well. Hes unique. Hes always looking for ways to let others live on!

    I should have known that his reason for finding you was to tell you those things!

    He asked me some other questions as well!

    What questions?

    About what happened that day in the Royal Treasure Vault!

    I wanted to ask you that too. Other than what you told Jin Jiu Ling, have you noticed anything else suspicious?

    No! Jiang Chong Weis face twitch as if out of horror once again.

    Even if I did, I would not tell you! He slowly declared.

    Why not?

    Because I dont want you to find this person!

    Why not? Lu Xiao Feng was quite confused.

    Because I have never seen anyone with such terrifying martial arts, even if you find this person, you would not be able to match up!

    His body was shaking now as well, as if he was thinking about that terrifying person again, and that even more terrifying needle. Blood was dripping off of the needle; fresh, red, blood....

    Lu Xiao Feng wanted to ask some more but Jiang Qing Xia suddenly and coldly interrupted him.

    You have already asked too much, his wounds are not completely healed yet. I dont want him thinking back to what happened that day.

    Its ok, Ill be completely healed very soon! Jiang Chong Wei managed a forced laugh.

    Youll completely heal very soon, Im sure of it! Lu Xiao Feng managed to force a little laugh as well. I know you have always been one tough nut!

    Well, since you are here, then why dont you stay a couple of days? Jiang Chong Weis laugh was a bit more joyous and genuine now. Maybe Ill be able to think of something in that time for you!

    How could he stay here? Jiang Qing Xia frowned. There has never been any man here!

    Arent I a man? Jiang Chong Wei laughed.

    But you....

    If I can stay here, then he could too! Jiang Chong Weis expression darkened.

    But I.... Lu Xiao Feng tried to cut in.

    No matter what, you are staying here, Jiang Chong Wei cut him off too. Hua Man Lou and Jin Jiu Ling might return in those couple of days, you never know. They are looking for you as well!

    But after you are going to bed after you take your medicine! Jiang Qing Xia said.

    Ill go to bed. Why dont you be a good host and lead him back and give him something to eat? You cant let a guest go hungry!

    Would this Alms Giver please follow me? Expressionless, Jiang Qing Xia turned around and coldly instructed Lu Xiao Feng.

    She did not even seem to look Lu Xiao Feng in his eyes. She was truly a cold woman, colder even than ice.

  18. #18
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 2 - Chapter 4

    Chapter 4 - A Pair of Red Shoes

    Dusk colors were darker, the laterns in the meditation room was not yet lit. The last burst of brilliance from the setting sun fell upon the walk way leading up to the guest room behind the meditation room. It fell upon those old and decaying wooden columns, making them shine like they did in the days long past. In the gentle July night breeze, there came with it a gentle fragrance from the far away mountains and trees that just fills ones heart with joy and comfort. Jiang Qing Xia was walking very slowly, Lu Xiao Feng was also walking very slowly. Jiang Qing Xia did not say a word, Lu Xiao Feng did not open his mouth either. He seemed to have realized that he was an unwelcomed guest. Unwelcomed guests should all be at least wise enough to keep their mouths shut. The yard next to them was deserted, not a person could be seen nor heard. This entire place was a lonely place to began with, lonely people are used to the quiet.

    Alm-giver, please enter! Jiang Qing Xia pushed open a door and turned to Lu Xiao Feng with a serious face.

    Many thanks! Lu Xiao Feng replied with a serious face. The lamps in the room was not lit either, even the light from the setting sun could not penetrate its walls. Lu Xiao Feng slowly walked into the room, as if he was somehow scared to enter the room. Could he possibly have been afraid that this ice cold woman would lock him insde of this ice cold room?

    The devil isnt in the room, what are you scared of? Jiang Qing Xia coldly said.

    The devil isnt in the room alright, Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled, but he is in the mind!

    Whos mind?

    Yours!

    You are the devil yourself! Jiang Qing Xia bit her lip. Instantly, this ice cold taoist nun had changed, changed almost to an entirely different person. She forcefully pushed Lu Xiao Feng inside, pushed him down onto a chair, placed both her hands on his shoulder to keep him down, and bit his ear.

    Now thats more like a female tiger, Lu Xiao Feng actually laughed. Just then, you were acting like....

    What was I acting like? Jiang Qing Xia glared at him.

    Like a dead tigeress! Jiang Qing Xia did not even wait until Lu Xiao Feng had finished before giving his ear another bite.

    Lu Xiao Feng almost yelped from the pain.

    Are you all trained by the same master or something? Whats with ear biting? He managed to force out a smile.

    You all? Who are you all? Jiang Qing Xia glared at him again. Lu Xiao Feng did not reply, suddenly realizing that he had made a mistake again.

    Do you often get your ear bitten? Jiang Qing Xia would not let it go.

    Its not like Im surrounded by dogs or anything, why would my ear get bitten?

    But Jiang Qing Xias eyes got even bigger as her glare became even angrier.

    So are you calling me a dog? Is that what you are saying? Lu Xiao Feng found himself in a corner again and was at a lost as to what to say.

    Tell me the truth, how many people have bit your ear? Jiang Qing Xia angrily demanded, still viciously glaring at Lu Xiao Feng.

    Just... just you.!

    Is that the truth?

    Who else would have the guts to bite me?

    What about Xue Bing? Does she have enough guts?

    Shes too scared to even touch me, shes lucky I dont bite her!

    Sure you talk a good one now, but when you face her in person, I bet you are too scared to say anything! Jiang Qing Xia pouted.

    Why would I be scared? Lu Xiao Feng laughed. Am I suppose to be scared of her?

    Jiang Qing Xia suddenly laughed as well, laughing somewhat like how a cunning little fox would.

    Alright, go ahead! Im here, lets see what you got! At this moment, someone outside of the door coldly declared.

    Lu Xiao Fengs heart sank. He did not even need to look to know that it was Xue Bing. Running into one female tiger was already bad enough.

    The only thing worse than running into one female tiger is running into two tigeresses at the same time. Lu Xiao Fengs head suddenly felt three time bigger. Jiang Qing Xia giggled as she lit the lamp. The light shone upon Xue Bings face. Her face was red again, red as a pepper, but this time it was from anger.

    Grabbing the initiative. Of course Lu Xiao Feng knew full well why this was important.

    I just happen to be looking for you! Didnt figure you would actually dare to come looking for me! He suddenly jumped up and coldly told Xue Bing, all the while giving her the meanest glare he could muster.

    Why... why wouldnt I come dare come looking for you? Seeing him so angry, Xue Bing went soft.

    What are you doing here?

    We have always been old friends, Jiang Qing Xia cut in and answered for Xue Bing. And we are also taught by the same master, specializing in ear biting, why wouldnt she be here?

    Im asking you, what are you doing here? Lu Xiao Feng held his glare at Xue Bing, completely ignoring Jiang Qing Xia.

    You know full well that Im here to deliever something! Amazingly, she casually admitted to all of this, there was not even the slightest hesitation on her face. Of course, it was that piece of red satin!

    You are not denying it? It was Lu Xiao Fengs turn to be a little taken aback.

    Its not like something shameful, why would I deny it?

    You helped someone else trick me! Lu Xiao Feng almost shouted. Is that suppose to be something to be proud of?

    Si Kong Zhai Xing isnt just someone else, hes your friend, you said that yourself! Even Lu Xiao Feng had to concede that point. Xue Bing let out a little laugh and continued rather smugly. I helped your friend, you should be grateful!

    You helped him sell me out, and yet I should be grateful? Lu Xiao Feng was taken aback again.

    That piece of satin was of no use to you anymore but was very useful for him. All I did was help him take it here, how is that selling you out? She seemed angrier than Lu Xiao Feng and ten times more righteous than Lu Xiao Feng. Besides, isnt he your friend? Did you not lie to him as well? And afterwards you were all proud and pleased with yourself. So why cant I lie to you?

    But you... you... you should be helping me!

    Well whose fault is it that you were so full of yourself? As if there was nobody in the world thats better than you. Well I cant stand that attitude of yours! Xue Bing smirked.

    Lu Xiao Feng had no reply. He suddenly discovered that when a man ran into a woman, it was like a scholar running into a group of soldiers: reasoning is just futile. Inside of a womans heart seemed completely devoid of the words right and wrong. Everything she does would inevitably be based on her whim and if you ever tried to argue reasons with her, she would always have 10 times as many reasons as you do.

    I havent even dealt with you talking about me behind my back and you try to pin this on me? The smirk disappeared from Xue Bings face.

    This is called capturing the initiative, all the men in the world does it! Jiang Qing Xia snickered.

    And what do you have to say for yourself now? Xue Bing teased.

    I only have one thing to say. Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

    Well? Spit it out! Xue Bing commanded.

    Who did you give the red satin to?

    Lu Dong Bin!

    Who the hell is Lu Dong Bin? Lu Xiao Feng was taken aback once again.

    You dont even know who Lu Dong Bin is? How did you ever live to be 30? Xue Bing wondered out loud.

    Lu Dong Bin is Lu Chun Yang, the very same Chun Yang Taoist master who sang and flew his way over the Lake Dong Ting. Dont you know? Jiang Qing Xia explained matter of factly.

    {Note: Lu Dong Bin is one of the most famous legendary Taoists in Chinese folk lore. The tales of his deeds are wide and varied. He is to some Taoists what Buddha is to some Buddhists.}

    I thought that Lu Dong Bin wanted white peonys, since when did he want black peonys embroidered on red satin? Lu Xiao Feng smiled weakly.

    Si Kong Zhai Xing did not tell me to give the satin to any person, Xue Bing finally explained. He only wanted me to place it in front of Lu Dong Bins altar.

    And where is the altar?

    In that little temple out back.

    How long have you been here?

    Not too long, but long enough to hear you talking badly about me! Xue Bing coldly answered.

    ***

    In the bamboo woods behind the convent there was a homely little temple. Inside the temple was lit up by an ever-lit lamp, whose light fell upon Chun Yang Taoist Masters ever smiling face. Even though he might not be able to enjoy the meat and incense offered up in the altar in the front of the convent, but he was still very satisfied. Lu Dong Bin was a smart deity, smart deities are like smart people, they all understand how to be satisfied and happy. Lu Xiao Feng did not wait for Xue Bing to finish before rushing out here to find that there really was a piece of red satin with a black peony sewn on it at the foot of the altar. By the time he picked up the satin, Jiang Qing Xia and Xue Bing had both arrived as well.

    Its still here! Lu Xiao Feng mumbled to himself as he flipped the satin over in his hand in deep thought.

    Si Kong Zhai Xing must not have thought that Xue Bing would tell you the truth so soon and so have not gotten around to picking it up. Jiang Qing Xia proposed.

    Maybe he wasnt suppose to pick it up! Lu Xiao Feng suddenly looked up and said, looking straight into her eyes.

    Well then who was suppose to if not him? Jiang Qing Xia asked.

    You!

    Are you crazy? Jiang Qing Xia laughed. What would I need this God forsaken piece of satin for?

    Im about to ask you that myself!

    Do you actually think that Im the one who told him to steal this from you? Jiang Qing Xias expression changed.

    Incredibly, Lu Xiao Feng silently conceded the point.

    Well if I did ask him to steal it, then why would he lead you here?

    Maybe he had to finish the deal in person but could not shake me off of his tail; or maybe he suddenly found his conscious and felt that he had wronged me; or maybe he led me here on purpose so that I would not suspect you!

    So what you are telling me is that you think that I am that Embroidery Bandit? Jiang Qing Xias face was red with rage.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this.

    Maybe you are not that stupid, Jiang Qing Xia suddenly laughed again. But you forgot one thing!

    Oh?

    You forgot that Jiang Chong Wei is my elder brother! Why would I blind my brother? As soon as she finished, she turned around to leave, as if she was done trying to reason with this kind of an idiot.

    Wait! But Lu Xiao Feng blocked her way.

    What are you going to say now? Jiang Qing Xia sneered.

    Only one thing!

    Ok, Ill listen to you say one more thing!

    Jiang Chong Wei dont have any sisters, and you dont have any brothers. Your surname was not originally Jiang!

    All of the colors disappeared from Jiang Qing Xias face as her face turned deathly pale.

    How... how... how did you know that?

    I didnt want to know either. Lu Xiao Feng sighed. But I cant help it if fate just want me to find out some things that I should not know!

    What else do you know? Jiang Qing Xia viciously stared at him with her piercing eyes.

    Do you really want me to say it?

    Say it!

    You are Jiang Chong Weis unwedded wife, but for some reason you became a nun instead. You pretended not to know me in front of him because you didnt want to disturb him, didnt want him to know....

    Shut up! Jiang Qing Xia suddenly yelled. Her whole body was shaking.

    I didnt want to say those things either! Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    Thats right, Jiang Chong Wei and I were arranged to marry each other when we were little. Jiang Qing Xias body was still shaking uncontrollably, but she still replied through her tightly clenched teeth. But when we grew up and met each other, we discovered that there was no way that we could be together so....

    So you became a nun? Lu Xiao Feng finished for her.

    Jiang Qing Xia nodded.

    Other than becoming a nun, what else could I do? Tears fell from her eyes.

    A girl like her, becoming a nun at such an age must have been coupled with a tragic and painful story.

    You shouldnt have forced her to say those things! Xue Bing bit her lips and reprimanded Lu Xiao Feng, those eyes that glared at Lu Xiao Feng were filled with tears as well.

    Its ok, I want to say it! Jiang Qing Xia suddenly shouted. She gently wiped her tears away with her sleeve and held her head high. Even though I was a nun, I was still young and cant stand this type of quiet and loneliness. So I wanted to go out and have an adventure or two in the world out there. So I came to know quite a number of men, and came to know you!

    Lu Xiao Feng quietly sighed -- even when a woman becomes a nun, it does not mean that she is dead, she still had the right to her own life and had the right to live how she sees fit.

    If you think that I did not want Jiang Chong Wei to know, then you are wrong. And if you think that I blinded him because I did not want to marry him, then you are even more wrong, he....

    She suddenly stopped as she stared out of the window in shock.

    Jiang Chong Wei had already walked in from the darkness outside, walking in with his hands feeling and leading the way. His face was also deathly pale.

    It wasnt because she did not want to marry me, it was because I cant take her as my wife! He quietly revealed.

    Why? Xue Bing had to ask.

    Because I....

    You dont have to tell them, Jiang Qing Xia shouted desperately once again. You dont have to tell anyone!

    Jiang Chong Wei smiled, it was a sad and lonely smile.

    Its ok, I want to say it too. His face was covered with pain. I cant take her as my wife, because I have long ago turned into a disabled person, I cant be someones husband, and can never be anyones father!

    Xue Bing finally understood, but now she regretted asking. Why did she have to know? Arent other peoples suffering painful for oneself as well?

    All of the things that Qing Xia did, I knew about all of them. Jiang Chong Wei continued. No matter what she did, I dont blame her one bit. Besides, I know that even though she dont look it on the outside, shes not a loose woman at all!

    Jiang Qing Xias head bowed down as tears rolled down her cheeks. For a young and vibrant woman like her, fighting off the feelings and emotions of youths was almost impossible, no matter what she did, it was all forgiveable by anyones standards. But she could not forgive herself one bit.

    No matter what you say, I can guarantee that she is absolutely not the person who blinded me! Jiang Chong Wei concluded.

    Are you sure? Did you get enough of a good look at the person to know its not her? Lu Xiao Feng suddenly asked. His heart was filled with empathy as well, but this matter was just too important, so he had little choice but to swallow his feelings and make sure.

    Of course I got a good look! Jiang Chong Wei immediately answered without the slightest hesitation.

    What did you see that made you so sure it was not her?

    I... I just know, dont forget that when we first met, she was still just a kid!

    But you two had not seen each other for many years, right?

    What are you trying to say? Jiang Chong Weis face dropped as he coldly demanded. Are you insinuating that Im lying for her?

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed. He had truly run out of ways to probe further.

    As long as we have no regrets and no doubts in our hearts, it doesnt matter what he thinks! Jiang Qing Xia coldly declared.

    Jiang Chong Wei nodded. Jiang Qing Xia had already walked up to his side and put his arm over her shoulers to support him.

    Lets go! He said.

    All Lu Xiao Feng could do was bow his head and let them walk by. The light from the lamp was faint, the floor was made from green stone slabs. Jiang Qing Xia was wearing a pear of green colored shoes which did not match with her purple robe at all. She had always been a very picky woman.

    Wait! Lu Xiao Feng suddenly said again.

    Are you not finished yet? Jiang Qing Xia was intent on ignoring him, but suddenly noticed that he was staring at her feet, so she sneered.

    Im only finding it a bit strange!

    Whats so strange?

    Lu Xiao Fengs eyes still had not left her feet.

    Why is there a red edge inside of your green colored shoes? He slowly asked.

    Jiang Qing Xias expressioned changed again as she instinctively tried to hide her feet below her robe.

    Your Taoist robe isnt long enough to hid your feet, Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly told her. Inside of those green shoes, you shouldnt have worn those red shoes!

    Red shoes! Jiang Chong Weis expression seemed to change was well.

    What eyes you have! Jiang Qing Xia suddenly coldly laughed. Before the sound of her laughter went away, she had already struck. She actually tried to used two of those beautiful and orchid like fingers of hers to dig out Lu Xiao Fengs eyes! Her moves were quick and accurate!

    You should only try to bite ears, you should not try to dig my eyes out! Lu Xiao Feng sighed. As he said those 16 words, Jiang Qing Xia had already attacked 11 times. Such quick moves! Such swift attacks! Jiang Qing Xia was one of the famouse four scariest women in all of the martial world. They were all incredible beauties, but they were all female tigers. Countless men had already been injured under their claws.

    When women attack, most of the time their moves would be faster and more vicious than mens attacks. Because they know that their strength could not match the mens, so they did not want to be boggled down in a prolonged fight with men! So most of the time, their moves were all aimed to take the mans life! But Lu Xiao Feng was not like any other men, incredibly, he was actually even faster than Jiang Qing Xia. He easily dodged Jiang Qing Xias 11 strikes without even fighting back. It looked as if he did not want to fight back, but if he had fought back, Jiang Qing Xia probably would not have been able to get out of the way.

    Projectiles! Jiang Qing Xia clenched her teeth and yelled. Lu Xiao Feng immediately backed up two meters or so, but Jiang Qing Xia did not let loose any projectiles. Instead her body flipped in midair and shot toward the outside. At this moment, Lu Xiao Feng suddenly reached out and, with lightning like quickness, grabbed her shoes. And only grabbed her shoes, not her. Inside those plain green colored cloth shoes, there was really a pair of red shoes - embroidered red satin shoes. But she was already enveloped by the darkness and disappeared instantly.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not chase after her. Xue Bing, of course, did not either, she was still shocked.

    Jiang Chong Wei stood there motionlessly, his complexion a deathly gray.

    Is she gone? He suddenly asked.

    Shes gone! Lu Xiao Feng answered.

    Jiang Chong Weis fists were clench tightly and the corner of his eyes twitched uncontrollably, making those dark and cave like eyes of his look even more indescribably terrifying.

    Did that Embroidery Bandit wore red shoes too? Lu Xiao Feng asked.

    Jiang Chong Weis expression became even more tortured. Finally, slowly, he nodded.

    Why didnt you say something earlier?

    I didnt really remember either, only when you just said something did I recall it! Only at that instant when the flash of the needle point arrived in front of his eyes did he see that pair of red shoes. Red like blood.

    What kind of eyes do you have? Xue Bing finally let out a sigh. I couldnt spot the red lining around her shoes at all.

    Neither could I!

    Xue Bing was startled.

    I only thought that the color of her shoes did not match her clothing at all, and it seemed a little too big too, as if it was something that was temporarily and hastily put on!

    So you tested her?

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    To be around a person like you is truly quite dangerous! Xue Bing sighed again, despite of herself.

    Sun Zhong would probably disagree adamantly, Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Hes probably certain that you are more dangerous than me!

    I should have chopped his two legs off too! Xue Bing joked.

    Did he come and trouble you again? Lu Xiao Feng wondered.

    He wouldnt dare!

    But then how did his severed hand end up on that plate on your table?

    What hand? Xue Bing was startled at that question as well.

    You didnt see that hand?

    No!

    No way that hand crawled onto the plate by itself could it? Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled. He could not figure that out for the life of him!

    Theres another thing that I cant figure out, said Xue Bing. Si Kong Zhai Xing wanted me to take this here, then why did he bring you here as well?

    Nobody can figure out why a person like him do what he does, sighed Lu Xiao Feng. So its best to not even think about it.

    I cant understand something either, why would Qing Xia do something like this? Jiang Chong Wei gloomily asked.

    You can stop thinking about it too! Lu Xiao Feng answered.

    Why?

    Because she didnt do it. Lu Xiao Feng smiled again.

    She didnt? Jiang Chong Wei was surprised at the revelation. Shes not the Embroidery Bandit?

    No way. Her kungfu is not bad, but is still quite a long way before she could even hope to blind masters like Chang Man Tian and Hua Yi Fan in one move!

    You can tell that she wasnt purposefully holding back?

    I can!

    And thats why you let her go! Jiang Chong Wei sighed deeply.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not deny this. If he could grab a persons shoes, then he could grab that persons feet. Once a persons feet have been captured, then there was no way that person could go anywhere.

    If she had nothing to do with this, then why did she run Jiang Chong Wei frowned after some deep thought.

    Because she has another secret that she does not want others to know about! Lu Xiao Feng concluded.

    What secret?

    The secret of the red shoes!

    The Embroidery Bandit was wearing red shoes too, Jiang Chong Wei nodded. Could they be in the same organization?

    Maybe, maybe not. Lu Xiao Feng replied, knowing full well that what he just said was completely useless, but he still had to say it. That Embroidery Bandit is an incredibly skilled and powerful, beard wearing, but red shoes wearing woman.

    That was the only thing they know, but they could not be sure of this, and was even further from proving it.

    She was such a simple, innocent, and kind girl, Jiang Chong Weis expression became even more melancholy. She could have been a perfect spouse for a man, could she have really changed?

    How long has it been since you seen her? Lu Xiao Feng suddenly asked.

    Not long, she would come to see me my birthday every year!

    When is your birthday?

    The 14th of May!

    On what day did the heist take place?

    The 11th of June.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not say another word. Jiang Chong Wei seemed to want to say something, but for some reason he held it back and instead just let out a long and exhausted sigh. Head bowed, he turned and felt his way out.

    Watching his lonesome shadow disappear in the darkness, Xue Bing could not help herself and sighed as well.

    He must feel terrible inside right now!

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    Jiang Qing Xia visited him on May 14th, and not even a month later, the heist took place!

    It could just be nothing more than a coincidence!

    But the security of the Royal Treasury Vault is so tight that even a fly couldnt get in, how could the Embroidery Bandit have gotten in?

    Any ideas?

    I think, maybe somebody had already went into the RoyalPalace and check out the lay out of the place for her as well as made an imprint of the key to the Vault with wax. Xue Bings eyes lit up as she explained her hypothesis.

    And you are saying that person is none other than Jiang Qing Xia!

    Xue Bing did not deny this claim and sighed. Only she could get close to Jiang Chong Wei, and only Jiang Chong Wei had the key to that Vault!

    You are saying that she secretly made a imprint of the key, made a copy from the imprint and gave it to that Embroidery Bandit?

    Correct!

    And that the Embroidery Bandit got in the Vault by using that key to open the Vault doors.

    I think that has to be what happened!

    Your scenario isnt too far fetched, but you forgot two things!

    What?

    The Vault doors are guarded all day and night by guards, how could someone with a huge beard just open the Vault doors and walk in without the guard noticing? He had to have been invisible. Xue Bing had no explanation for this.

    Not only that, when Jiang Chong Wei went into the Vault that day, he door was still locked from the outside. How could the Embroidery Bandit lock the door from the outside after he had entered the Vault?

    Well, if my idea is so wrong, then how do you think she did it? Xue Bing was blushing again.

    She must have used a very unique method, it might not even have anything to do with Jiang Qing Xia!

    Pity even you cant figure exactly what is that very unique method of hers. Xue Bing coldly replied.

    Thats why I have to give it a try!

    Give what a try?

    Try to see if I can find a way to get in!

    Xue Bings eyes were wide in amazement as she looked at him in shock.

    Are you drunk again?

    I havent drank one drop of wine today!

    Well if you are not drunk, then you must be insane! A normal and sober person would never even think of doing such a thing!

    Oh?

    Do you know how many guards there are inside the RoyalPalace?

    Over 800!

    And you know that every guard carries with him a very powerful Zhu Ge Bow? That as soon as anyone has been caught, they would instantly be turned into a hedgehog?

    I know!

    And you know how many other kungfu masters are in the RoyalPalace besides those guards?

    Like the number of stars in the sky!

    And you know that the Young Princes personal sword skills were taught to him by none other than the Master of White Cloud Castle?

    Rumors say that hes actually the best fighter in the RoyalPalace!

    And you know that the restricted areas of the RoyalPalace all carry with them a certain death for anybody caught within them, no questions asked?

    I know!

    But you are still going to try to break in?

    Yes!

    Do you want to die?

    No!

    What makes you think that you could try to break in and make it out alive?

    Nothing!

    Then why are you willing to take this risk? Xue Bing bit her lip. Just to prove Jiang Qing Xias innocence?

    I only want to find out whether or not she really had anything to do with this whole thing.

    Do you really care that much about her?

    Because I like her!

    Xue Bing suddenly jumped up and viciously glared at him.

    Alright, go ahead and die! She loudly declared.

    The wind was gentler, the lonely yard was even more lonesome. Lu Xiao Feng came walking out, and Xue Bing followed him.

    Are we heading to the Southeast now?

    We? Again? Lu Xiao Feng looked like someone had just stuffed his mouth full of sour tangerines.

    Of course us! said Xue Bing with a straight face. Did you think you could just leave me here by myself?

    Lu Xiao Feng really did, but even he knew that once this kind of women made up her mind to follow you, you cannot get rid of her no matter what you tried.

    What are you going with me for? Planning to keep me company when I die?

    No! Xue Bing was biting her lip again. I just want to see what you look like after you died!

    ***

    The streets were mostly paved with green stone slabs, red cotton trees that were redder than maple leaves lined the streets, the colors were bright and splendid like the dusk.

    This is WangPingCity?

    Mmhmm!

    I heard that the food here is the best!

    Have you had some?

    No, but I have heard a couple of things that are the best!

    Well tell me.

    Big Wings of Three Big Rings, Wen Yuans Hundred Colored Chicken, Xi Yuans Lake Vegetables, Nan Yuans Scorched Snail Shells....

    Xue Bing only listed these things before she had to stop, because she discovered that she was almost drooling.

    They are not that big of a deal, the best eats here you probably have never even heard of before! Lu Xiao Feng nonchalantly told her.

    Are you going to take me to eat it now? Xue Bings eyes lit up.

    As long as you behave like a good girl, I guarantee that youll have something good to eat!

    He had obviously been here before as he put on the look of an old horse that knew his way around. With Xue Bing following behind him, he twisted and turned through the street and made his way into a very narrow alley. The alley was very poorly lit, and its ground still had spots of mud from the rain a couple of days ago. There were all types of little vendors on both sides, but all of their doors were very narrow as well. The people making their way in and out of the doors all looked like the seedy types.

    There are good eats at a place like this? Xue Bing was mumbling to herself under her breath. But she did not dare to ask out loud. This place was like a foreign country to her, she did not understand a single word that the locals were saying. She was really a little afraid that Lu Xiao Feng might just leave her here all by herself.

    It was at this moment that she realized that there was an indescribably delicious smell that had floated over with the breeze. She had never smelled anything so sweet. Looks like Lu Xiao Feng did not lie to her at all, there really was something good to eat here.

    What is this smell? She had to ask.

    The smell of the most delicious thing in the world, youll agree after you had some too! Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly told her.

    At the very back of the alley was a very small little shop, by its front door was a huge stove. On the stove there stewed a huge pot of food, the smell had originated from this stove. But the inside of the shop was very dirty. The walls, chairs, tables, were all an oily blacked from the fumes, even the sign above the door was darkened so much that it was impossible to make out any words. But this smell was truly too alluring. They had just sat down when a waiter scouped up two big bowls of some kind of grinded meat for them.

    It seemed like this place served nothing else. The meat was still steaming, not only did it smell delicious, it looked good too.

    Lu Xiao Feng immediately picked up a spoon and handed it to Xue Bing.

    Eat it while its hot, its not nearly as good if it gets cold!

    Xue Bing tried a scoup, then helped herself to another. It tasted amazing.

    Whats in here anyways? She had to ask. Other than meat, there seemed to be alot of other stuff!

    Do you like it?

    Its delicious!

    If its delicious, then eat more and talk less!

    Lu Xiao Feng finished one bowl and added another. Suddenly, he made a strange gesture toward that waiter. That waiter had carried himself as if he could not careless about this type of out of towners.

    But as soon as he saw Lu Xiao Fengs gesture, his entire demeanor immediately changed.

    Whacha wang? He came running over with a wide smile.

    Ima ere ooin fo someun! Lu Xiao Feng replied.

    Who aria ooin fo?

    The Snake King.

    The waiters expression changed a little.

    Whacha wang im fo?

    Ma surnames Lu, ja tell im dat, ell know!

    The waiter hesitated a little before finally nodding a bit.

    ait ere!

    Xue Bing was in shock this entire time. Finally, after the waiter had exited through another narrow door in the back did she could not restrain herself anymore and asked.

    What were you two talking about just then?

    I asked him to help me find someone!

    Someone in this kind place? Who?

    The Snake King!

    The Snake King? And who might the Snake King be?

    On the street leading to here, what did you see? Lu Xiao Feng did not answer but asked her a question instead.

    Its not a street, its just a small and dirty alleyway.

    This is a street, and it could very well be the most famous street in this city!

    Oh?

    Do you know what this street has?

    Some terribly unkempted and downtrodden vendors, and a host of terribly seedy individuals!

    Cant you tell what those individuals do?

    I dont even want to look at them, much less think about them!

    Well you should!

    Why?

    Because within them, theres at least 10 fugitives with prices on their heads, at least 20 of the quickest thieves, at least 30 or so fighters for highers. If you get on their bad side, its almost impossible to accomplish anything in this city!

    I get it now, this is a gang street!

    The Snake King is the king of this street, hes also the leader of all of them. Just one word from him and all of them would be perfectly willing to do anything you ask of them!

    You are not planning on asking these people to fight for you are you?

    If I need help for a fight, I already have as an excellent helper as you, why would I need anyone else? Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    Then what are you asking the Snake King for?

    I want to ask him to help me....

    He had not finished when the waiter hurried came running back in. His demeanor towards Lu Xiao Feng changed once again, to something warmer and more respectful.

    Sa ya ara ld frinds, Sa ya shaldaold marlia!

    e till remamba ma? Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    orsa e does! Boss sa yar hada besgoongfun da wirl, anda grit frind. e tolma ta brn ya quigly!

    Behind that narrow door in the back was yet another, even smaller, alley. From the dark ditches there enmanated a terrible stench, flies were buzzing all around. At the end of the alley, there was another small door.

    Pushing open that door, they came upon a very large yard. About ten or so strong shirtless men were busy playing dice in the yard, so involved were they that they were all covered in sweat. At the corner was several scores of cages, some of the cages had poisonous snakes in them, others had in them wild cats and wild dogs. A person was just in the middle of grabbing a yellow dog out from a cage and, in one swift motion, pushed it down into a huge bath tub so that it was entirely submerged in the water and drowned the dog right then and there. Xue Bing almost puked when she saw that.

    But Lu Xiao Feng seemed unwavered.

    Now thats a real expert at killing dogs, He casually observed. That way not a single blood is lost. That kind of dog meat really taste good!

    Xue Bing did not reply, she was afraid that if she did then all that meat that she had just ate would be coming back up.

    Two big men who were occupied with watching others playing dice suddenly came walking up.

    Yar ere fo Snake King? They glared at Lu Xiao Feng.

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded. The two men shot each other a look before suddenly attacking, trying to grab ahold of Lu Xiao Feng.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not move, the two men had just touched him when they themselves was sent flying off.

    The waiter cheered in joy.

    I sad at yar goongfus grit, dem dint beliva ma an lesee f newon els wana tra?

    All of the men in the yard had turned and looked at Lu Xiao Feng in awe as they slowly backed up to make a path of him.

    The waiter led him into another little vendor place and up a very narrow staircase to a very narrow door. On the door hung a curtain made of black and prayer beads.

    Snake Kings nsi ples!

    How could the leader capable of controlling all of those city low lives live in such a downtrodden place? Xue Bing thought it was all very strange, until she walked through the door. Inside the door was like an entirely different world from the one outside. Even a spoilt girl like Xue Bing who had been brought up in the richest of rich families had never seen any room that was so immaculately and expensively decorated. Everything, every object in the room was a priceless masterpiece, from the tea cups made from the whole pieces of white jade to the fruit bowl made from crystals from Persia to even the paintings on the wall. Two of them she recognized were Wu Dao Zis portraits, another was a horse drawn by Han Gan, and another was incredibly the work of the Emperor himself.

    A person was leaning back onto a padded rocking chair. Smiling, he extended his hands towards Lu Xiao Feng. There was hardly any meat on those hands at all. Xue Bing had never seen anybody so thin in her entire life. Not only was there no meat on his hand, his pale face seemed nothing more than a piece of skin hanging off of bare bones.

    Despite it being a scorching day outside, the chair had on it a layer of tiger fur, and on top of that, he was wearing a huge coat. Xue Bing could not have dreamed that the leader of all those city dwellers would be like this. Lu Xiao Feng had already walked over and tightly took his hand into his own.

    I didnt think that you would actually remember a disabled person like me and would actually come to visit me! The Snake King smiled.

    Xue Bing sighed in relief, finally someone speaking words that she could actually understand.

    I had wanted to visit you for a long time, but this... this time Im not here just to see you! Lu Xiao Feng replied.

    It doesnt matter, what matters is that you are here, and Im already overjoyed about that!

    I have something to ask of you!

    You came here, of course its to ask me for something, the fact that you can think of coming to me is proof to me that you still think of me as a friend, thats more than enough! He laughed heartily and turned toward Xue Bing. Besides, you brought such a beautiful lady with you, its been forever since I have seen anything nearly as beautiful!

    Xue Bing blushed.

    My surname is Xue, full name Xue Bing! She shyly replied. She suddenly discovered that even though the Snake King was physically weak, he was still a very bold and straightforward person, and a great loyal friend as well. He suddenly discovered that her impression of him was a very good one.

    Xue Bing? Are you the Xue Bing from Divine Needle Xues family?

    Xue Bing blushingly nodded.

    Who knew that I would get to see the most famous beauty in all of the martial world? The Snake King laughed and declared loudly. Holding tightly onto Lu Xiao Fengs hands he said. Looks like not only are your taste top notch, your luck is pretty good too. If I were you, I would buy myself a huge drink right about now.

    This time Lu Xiao Feng seemed very obedient as he immediately poured himself a drink and rank it. There was a horn shaped golden cup on the table, and the wine was amber colored.

    The wine was about gone when the Snake King finally spoke up again.

    What do you want? If I have it, you can take it. If I dont have it, Ill find it for you!

    I want a map!

    What map?

    A map of the lay out of the RoyalPalace, with where the guards and the traps are located on them as well as their shift times!

    This was, of course, not an easy thing to accomplish. But the Snake King did not look troubled, nor did he bother to ask what a map like this was used for.

    His answer was very simple.

    Ok!

    Lu Xiao Feng did not thank him, their friendship was beyond that word.

    The Snake King looked into his eyes with satisfaction in his own eyes. He understood how Lu Xiao Feng felt. He only asked one question.

    Where are you planning to stay tonight?

    As You Wish Inn!

    Before sunset tomorrow, Ill send someone with the map to you.

    ***

    The breeze on the river shore is forever cool and refreshing. The night was cool like the water. There was the moon, there were the stars, and there were hundreds of star like fires on the fish boats. With joy in their hearts, they slowly strode on the shore of the rive. This was truly a beautiful city, they liked this city, and also liked the people of this city.

    I finally understood something! Xue Bing suddenly gently sighed.

    Whats that? Lu Xiao Feng inquired.

    You really do have alot of great friends!

    Especially a friend like the Snake King, Lu Xiao Feng concurred. Anybody who could have a friend like him is lucky!

    Xue Bing stopped and watched the light on the fishing bloats flicker on the river and the moonlit waves. Her heart was filled with joy and happiness.

    I like this place, in the future I might settle down here!

    Not only are the people here great, the weather is great, and theres alot of good stuff to eat here!

    Especially that grinded meat that you took me to eat, Xue Bing shyly declared. Ill never forget it!

    If you knew what it was made of, then you would really never forget it! Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    What was it made of?

    Snake and cat meat.

    ***

    Xue Bing was still puking. She had already puked 5 times, when she made it back to the inn, she found a washing bowl and hid over in the corner of the room, puking. She was puking out the excess water in her stomach by this point. Lu Xiao Feng just smiled as he stood watching on the side.

    Finally, Xue Bing finished puking and turned around. She gave him the meanest glare.

    There must be something wrong with you, you like seeing others suffer. She bitterly whined through her clenched teeth.

    I dont like seeing others suffer, Lu Xiao Feng was still smiling. I just like seeing you suffer a little!

    What did I ever do to you? Xue Bing jumped up. Why are you torturing me like this?

    Dont this type of person have a heart? Lu Xiao Feng shook his head and sighed. I took her to eat such delicious food, and yet shes accusing me of torturing her!

    So you are saying that I should be grateful to you?

    Exactly!

    Im very grateful, so grateful in fact that I want to bite you to death!

    She suddenly reached over and grabbed him. She bit his ear. It was not a hard bite....

    ***

    The breeze was so gentle, the night was so quiet. Two young and passionate people in a strange but beautiful city - if you are man, dont you wish you are Lu Xiao Feng? If you are a woman, dont you wish you are Xue Bing?

    ***

    Dusk, dusk again. Hand in hand, they returned from the city. There was a huge envelope resting on the table.

    There was only 4 words on the envelope.

    Fortunate to Not Disappoint!

    Underneath the star light, the street made of green stone slabs was glowing like a mirror.

    Must you go? Xue Bing held onto Lu Xiao Fengs hand as tightly as possible. Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    And you wont allow me to go with you? Lu Xiao Feng nodded again.

    She turned away, because there were tear in her eyes, tears that she did not want him to see.

    If the two of us go, then the chances of us surviving is cut in half! He explained.

    But... how do you expect to live waiting for you outside all by myself?

    You could always go find someone to chat or drink!

    Who do you expect me to go find?

    Whoever, as long as they have tongues that talk and mouths that drink! Lu Xiao Feng joked.

    Xue Bing snapped her head back around and glared at him. She gave him a rather hard kick in the shin.

    Ok fine! Ill go and find some other man, you just go ahead and die! She loudly proclaimed.

  19. #19
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
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    Default Book 2 - Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 - Risks of Clues

    The wind was still that gentle, the night was still that serene. But Lu Xiao Feng knew full well that this quiet night could hide within it countless traps, that his gentle wind could at any moment carry with it fatal arrows.

    Inside the RoyalPalace, there are actually only 620 guards, at night they are split up into three shifts.

    There are 200 men per shift, and every shift is split up even more into 6 teams.

    Of these 6 teams, some patrol throughout the Palace, some permanently stands guard outside the Princes quarters, and some are hide inside the yards and the halls waiting to ambush anyone.

    The one team that patrols outside of the Vault consists of 54 men in total. They are split up into groups of nine. Starting at 8pm, they start patrolling the area surrounding the Vault, at most 5 minutes of time window between the patrols.

    The Snake King had already found out a great deal about these things. Obviously, he had contacts inside the RoyalPalace. To enter the RoyalPalace, there is only one way - through a small little yard in the Northwest corner. That was where the quarters for the guards was situated, and was also the least guarded place in all of the RoyalPalace. The guards that was not on shift were probably all exhausted and was in deep sleep before they even land on their beds. Lu Xiao Feng had already scaled over the wall, but he still did not feel right inside. He had not wanted to say those things to Xue Bing, but he had to, he could never allow Xue Bing to take this risk with him.

    Even though all he wanted to do was finding out whether or not a person could get into that Vault all by himself, even though all he wanted to do was to find out how the Embroidery Bandit got into the Vault so he would have a clue to follow. But he also knew full well that entering the RoyalPalace was like putting one foot into deaths door. As soon as one was discovered, then one was doomed to die under a flurry for blades and arrows.

    The guards inside RoyalPalace would never bother to listen to his explanations. He could never allow Xue Bing to take this risk.

    But then why was he taking this risk? Even he himself was not too convinced that he knew the answer to that question. Maybe it was nothing more than the fact that he was a born risk taker. Maybe he was motivated not only by curiosity but competitiveness as well. No matter what, he had swore to himself that he would unmask that Embroidery Bandit.

    Inside the yard was a row of rather plain looking buildings, once in a while snoring could be heard coming from inside of them. Behind them the light in the huge kitchen facility was still on, obviously someone was busy preparing some night meals for those guards about to return from their shift. Right now was precisely the time that the first shift of guards come off their shift and the second shift goes on. The third shift of guards were still deep in their dreams.

    Lu Xiao Feng was not the King of Thieves, because he never steals. But stealing an uniform from a group of sleeping youths was far from difficult for someone like him.

    So now that he had a full set of guard uniform, he put it on over his tight thief outfit. The guards were all big and strong young men, so all of them had similiar height and built to him. But he still must be quick. During the change of shift, some small bit of confusion and chaos was unavoidable, and because of the confusion some lapses in awareness was also unavoidable. This was his best chance. He had already found the quickest and most direct route to the Vault on the map.

    On the way he ran into some guards that had just got off their shift, but he did not avoid them in anyway, and they did not pay him much attention either.

    Someone showing up late during shift changes was not unusual. Besides, of the 800 or so guards inside the RoyalPalace, there were some relatively new recruits anyways. The Vault premise actually covers a large area of land. To the left was a wood of peach trees, but their blossoms had already whithered away. Lu Xiao Feng hid in the wood until a group of patrols walked by before lightly and quietly jumping out and getting in line behind the last man.

    His movements was, of course, made in absolute silence. And those other patrols that they walked by obviously would not notice that his group had an extra man at the back. This particular groups job was to patrol around the outside of the Vault itself, so he followed them around the entire Vault one time. His heart was growing cold. The walls of the Vault were constructed out of giantic boulders with nary an opening anywhere, nevermind windows. It looked as if not even a fly could get in.

    After waiting for the man in front of him to turn the corner, Lu Xiao Feng suddenly flew up onto the roof of the Vault. Maybe there was an air hole up on the roof, even if the roof was covered in tiles, they would not be too hard to move out of the way. He knew that quite a number of people in the shadier side of the martial world liked to go this route. So now he made like a gecko and searched the roof thoroughly. He still could not find any way in.

    He removed a couple of roof tiles only to discover that underneath was 3 layers of steel wires that looked impossible to cut even with the sharpest of blades. This Vault was practically like one of those air tight steel chests, forget flies, even wind could not get in. So how did that Embroidery Bandit get in? Beside the Vault was a rather small structure, it was pitch black inside.

    Like a bird, he took off. By now he had completely given up and only wanted to find a way out as soon as possible. At the moment that he took off, he suddenly noticed a person stood up inside of that small building. It was a pale faced man with a light beard who was dressed completely in a snow white robe. Inside of the darkness, his eyes were like a pair of cold stars. Lu Xiao Fengs heart sank, and his body sank as well.

    With a sudden Thousand Ton Boulder, he landed on the ground. At this precise moment, he saw the flash of a sword speeding directly towards him from the opposite roof top. He had never in his life seen such a spectacular and fast sword flash.

    Suddenly, it was as if his entire body was enveloped inside of an aura, the aura of the sword, an aura that chills a man, any man, to the very center of his bones. The flash of the blade seemed, unbelievably, to be even scarier than Xi Men Chui Xues. Almost nobody in the world could defend against this strike. Lu Xiao Feng could not either, could not even if he tried. He tapped the ground with his foot and began backing up. The sword flash followed him, chased after him. No matter how fast he backed up, he could not get away for the strike, nevermind that he had just ran out of space to back up.

    His body was already flat against one of the walls of the Vault. The sword flash, like a bolt of lightning, hurled towards his chest. It was no use to try and dodge to either side, even if he could. Whatever move he could pull off now would be too slow, too late. He was staring at certain death!

    But at this moment, his chest suddenly caved in, caved in to the point where it looked glued to his spine. The sword strike had been precisely measured in terms of strength and position, but could not have, and did not, take into account that his body could suddenly become thinner. This change was something that was unimaginable for anyone. So when the sword flash reached him, it stopped where it was supposed to, because by now his chest should have been pierced and there was no point in putting in more energy and thrusting the sword any further.

    Real masters are very precise and miserly about every bit of energy they expend so as to not waste even a little. Not to mention that this man was a Master among masters! He could have never imagined that this strike would not hit its target. But Lu Xiao Feng still had no where to go, all he had to do was simply push his sword forward a little bit more and Lu Xiao Feng would still be dead.

    But, at this crucial instant, Lu Xiao Feng struck! He suddenly reached out with two fingers and caught the blade with them! Nobody could describe the quickness and dexterity of this move, for if you did not see it with your own eyes, you would have never believed it. The white robed man descended back onto the ground. He did not exert anymore force onto his sword but instead merely coldly stared at Lu Xiao Feng with those star like eyes of his.

    Lu Xiao Feng returned his stare.

    Master of WhiteCloudCastle? He suddenly asked.

    You can tell? The man coldly replied.

    Other than Master of White Cloud Castle, who else in the world could make a strike like that? Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    The man finally nodded.

    Lu Xiao Feng? He suddenly asked as well.

    You can tell?

    Other than Lu Xiao Feng, who else could with stand that strike from me? Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Anybody would be joyous after hearing Master of White Cloud Castle say that. It was said that he never complimented or praised anybody, but that sentence was undoubtly a praise.

    Four years ago, you used the same move and caught a sword strike from the Wooden Taoist. Ye Gu Cheng continued. To this day he still proclaims that move is absolutely peerless in this world.

    Hes my friend, a lot of people likes to exaggerate a little about their friends! Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    Four months ago, he saw me using that strike: Heavenly Angel. He also proclaimed that move to be without equal in the world.

    It truly is! Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    But he still thought that you could stop that move of mine!

    Oh?

    I didnt believe it, so I had to give it a try!

    You actually knew that I was going to come here?

    Ye Gu Cheng nodded.

    And you were waiting here for me?

    Ye Gu Cheng nodded again.

    What if I couldnt catch that strike?

    Then you are not Lu Xiao Feng! Ye Gu Cheng plainly answered.

    Even Lu Xiao Feng might not have caught that strike of yours! Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

    If Lu Xiao Feng did not catch that strike, then Lu Xiao Feng would not be Lu Xiao Feng now.

    If Lu Xiao Feng did not catch that strike, then Lu Xiao Feng would be dead by now!

    Correct! Ye Gu Cheng coldly agreed. A dead man is just that, a dead man. A corpse dont have any names!

    He suddenly pulled back and the sword returned to its sheath. He was also the first one to pull his sword out from between Lu Xiao Fengs fingers.

    Looks like you dont want to kill me after all! Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    Oh?

    Because if you want to, right now is another opportunity to do it.

    Ye Gu Cheng stared at Lu Xiao Fengs face.

    There arent that many foes like you in this world. For every one killed is another one less of you! He slowly said. Within those star like eyes of his there suddenly flashed a hint of loneliness. Im a very proud man, so I dont have any friends. I dont care about that. But to live in a world without any worthy opponent, now that is real loneliness.

    Lu Xiao Feng was staring at him as well.

    If you want a friend, you can always find one! He smiled.

    Oh?

    Well, at least you can find one right at this moment!

    Looks like they werent lying about you, you really are a person who likes to make friends! Ye Gu Chengs eyes seemed to show a little bit of joy in them.

    They? Who are they?

    Ye Gu Cheng did not answer, nor did he need too. Because Lu Xiao Feng had already noticed Jin Jiu Ling and Hua Man Lou.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly noticed that Ye Gu Cheng and Xi Men Chui Xue had a lot in common. They were both very lonely and very proud men. Neither of them held lives in great regards - be it their foes lives or their very own, it was the same to them. Their moves were always merciless, because their styles consists entirely of fatal moves and strikes. Both of them also liked to wear white clothes.

    And both of them were cold like those far away glaciers on those distant mountains. -Could it be that only this kind of man can master that kind of peerless, unmatched sword skills? When Lu Xiao Feng lifted up his wine cup, he noticed another thing. Ye Gu Cheng also did not touch alcohol, he did not even drink tea. The only thing he drinks was pure water. As soon as Lu Xiao Feng lifted his cup, the wine had entered his mouth.

    Ye Gu Cheng looked at him, as if he was very surprised.

    Do you drink quite a lot of wine? He asked.

    And I drink them quite fast as well! Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    Thats why Im puzzled!

    You find drinking to be a very puzzling thing?

    Wine can damage ones body and could distort ones mind. But yet you are still at your peak both physically and mentally!

    Actually, I dont often drink this much, Lu Xiao Feng smiled. Only when Im sad do I drink as viciously as this!

    You are sad?

    How can a guy not be when hes been betrayed by his friends?

    Hua Man Lou smiled, of course he knew what Lu Xiao Feng was saying.

    Do you think that we had betrayed you? Jin Jiu Ling was smiling as well.

    You guys knew I was going to come here, and you guys knew that there was peerless sword waiting for me here. And yet you two made like a pair of Cao Caos and watched the show on the sideline. Lu Xiao Feng put up a serious face.

    We knew that you were going to come here because we knew that you had to see for yourself if anybody could have gotten into the Vault! replied Jin Jiu Ling.

    So thats why you guys were waiting here for me, to see if I could get in!

    But only when you jumped onto the roof did we notice you! admitted Jin Jiu Ling.

    And then you waited to see if I would really be killed by Master Yie!

    You know very well that he did not really want to kill you! Jin Jiu Ling protested.

    But that strike was real!

    Lu Xiao Feng was real too! Jin Jiu Ling laughed. He was truly a man who has a way with words. It was impossible for anyone to get mad at him. Before you came, we had all arrived at a conclusion!

    Whats that?

    That if Lu Xiao Feng could not get in, then theres not a human in the world that could.

    Is that Embroidery Bandit not a human?

    Jin Jiu Ling did not reply.

    I really could not find a way inside; even if I had the keys to the Vault, I could not have opened the doors without the guards noticing; even if I did open the doors, theres no way that I could have lockd the doors from the outside.

    When Jiang Chong Wei entered the Vault that day, the door was locked from the outside! said Jin Jiu Ling.

    I know.

    So, logic dictates that there must be another way inside the Vault and thats the way that the Embroidery Bandit used!

    But in reality a way like that does not exist.

    It must exist, Hua Man Lou suddenly said. Its just that we cant find it.

    Ye Gu Cheng had been quietly and coldly sitting there watching them, seemingly completely uninterested in this matter. He was only interested in one thing.

    Xi Men Chui Xue is your friend?

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    Theres a person waiting for me outside, can you guys guess who this person is? He suddenly asked. He was afraid that Ye Gu Cheng would start asking about Xi Men Chui Xue, so as soon as he asked, he changed the subject.

    But Ye Gu Cheng did not want to change the subject.

    Have you ever exchanged moves with him?

    No! Lu Xiao Feng had to answer this time.

    How is his sword skills?

    Not bad. Lu Xiao Feng forced a smile.

    Did Du Gu Yi He die under his sword?

    Lu Xiao Feng had to nod.

    Then that means that his sword skills are already above that of the Wooden Taoists. A look of joy and excitement suddenly appeared on Ye Gu Chengs cold face as he slowly continued. If I could test myself against him, then that would truly a joy of my life!

    Wine, how come there arent any wine here! Lu Xiao Feng suddenly stood up and declared.

    Let me go fetch some for you. Jin Jiu Ling offered.

    Fetch some from where?

    Theres a wine cellar here.

    That you can get in?

    There probably isnt a place in this RoyalPalace that he couldnt get in now! Hua Man Lou laughed at Lu Xiao Fengs question.

    Really?

    You infiltrated the RoyalPalace and yet dont know whos the newly appointed Warden of the RoyalPalace? asked Hua Man Lou.

    Could Warden Jin please lead the way to the wine cellar? Lu Xiao Feng laughed and requested.

    The wine cellar was in that small little building beside the Vault. Jin Jiu Ling opened the door with his keys. A guard had already like the lantern for them.

    After entering the room, they had to lift up one of the stone slabs and walk down several flights of stairs before arriving at the wine cellar. And such a huge wine cellar it is!

    If I was a real alcoholic, then you couldnt force me to leave this place even if you had a knife up against my neck! Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    I know plenty of people who thinks that you have problems, but you certainly isnt an alcoholic! Jin Jiu Ling smiled.

    Really?

    You came here simply because you are afraid that Ye Gu Cheng might force you to take him to Xi Men Chui Xue!

    I really am afraid of those 2 meeting. Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Once either one of them unsheath his sword, almost nobody in the world coule make them put the sword back in!

    But they will meet sooner or later!

    And what would happen on that day is something that Im too scared to even think about! Lu Xiao Feng smiled a tired smile.

    You are afraid that he might kill Xi Men Chui Xue?

    Im also afraid that Xi Men Chui Xue might kill him! Lu Xiao Feng sighed. Both of them are one of a kind swordsmen. If either one of them died it would be an inreconcilable loss. The scariest thing is that both of them only know killing moves. Once the sword becomes unsheathed, then somebody has to die!

    Absolutely have to die?

    Mmhmm!

    But theres no such thing as an absolute in this world! Jin Jiu Ling smiled.

    Oh?

    That Vault was supposed to be absolutely inpenetrable, but yet somebody did get in it. He couldnt have very well fell out of the sky or popped up from the ground could he?

    Lu Xiao Fengs eyes suddenly lit up.

    Is this wine cellar underneath the Vault?

    Seems like it!

    If the two of us dig a hole in the ceiling of this place, could we not get into the Vault?

    Jin Jiu Lings eyes lit up as well.

    The outside of this wine cellar might not be tightly guarded, but one would still have to have a key to get in here! Jin Jiu Ling observed.

    Did Jiang Chong Wei have the key?

    Jin Jiu Ling nodded.

    But he would never give the key to the Embroidery Bandit!

    Of course he wouldnt, but somebody else would!

    Who?

    Someone that could get close to him, someone that could take the key off of him and make an imprint of it!

    Do you think it could be Jiang Qing Xia? Jin Jiu Lings eyes were glowing.

    Looks like you arent known as the smartest man inside of the Six Doors for nothing! Lu Xiao Feng heavily patted him on the shoulder.

    Carrying a huge jug of wine with him, Lu Xiao Feng made his way back. He had decided to have a real celebration. He was not sure if he had ever been this happy before.

    What are you two so happy about? Did you guys find some treasure in the middle of the wine cellar? Hua Man Lou asked upon hearing their laughter.

    Thats right! Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    What kind of treasure?

    A thread!

    A thread? What kind of thread? Hua Man Lou did not understand.

    The kind that you cant see, but all we have to do is to follow this thread and well be able to find that foxs tail!

    What fox? Hua Man Lou was still a bit confused.

    A fox that knows how to embroider, of course! Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    Now, finally, he could be sure of something. Jiang Qing Xia and that Embroidery Bandit was from the same organization. So all he had to do was find Jiang Qing Xia and he would be able to find the Emboirdery Bandit.

    Are you sure that you can find Jiang Qing Xia?

    A little bit.

    How are you planning on going about looking for her?

    Im planning on finding a pair of red shoes. A pair of red shoes that shouldnt be worn, but was for some reason was worn!

    Your ideas are getting less and less comprehensible! Hua Man Lou sighed and smiled.

    I guarantee that youll understand one of these days! Lu Xiao Feng laughed. He suddenly noticed that someone was missing in the room. Wheres Ye Gu Cheng?

    He doesnt like drinking, and doesnt like watching other people drink, and now it had gotten to the time for him to go to sleep! Hua Man Lou answered.

    Do you really think hes gone to sleep?

    I only know that if he really wants to go find Xi Men Chui Xue, then nobody can stop him! Hua Man Lou sighed again.

    ***

    Lu Xiao Feng did not get drunk often, but he often liked to pretend to be drunk. Because when he pretends to be drunk, he could make all the noise he wants without getting in trouble for it. Hua Man Lou did not mind him making all that noise, but this was the RoyalPalace, he did not want Lu Xiao Feng to smash Jin Jiu Lings meal ticket.

    Lu Xiao Feng banged his chopstick on the wine cup to keep beat.

    Yellow River travels among the white clouds,
    Lonely castle sits upon the blade like mountain.
    Why must the flute use the willows to say goodbye,
    The spring wind could never pass Yu Men Gate.

    Those were the famous words of the Tang poet Wang Zhi Huan, and also happened to be the Master of White Cloud Castle Ye Gu Chengs favorite poem. Obviously, he was still thinking about Ye Gu Cheng, obviously, he was still not drunk.

    {I apologize for the crude translation of this wonderful poem. For those who understand Chinese:

    Huang He yun shang bai yun bian,
    Yi pian gu cheng wan ren shan.
    Qiang di he xu chou yang liu,
    Chun feng bu du yu men guan.

    This poem is one of the greatest and most famous poems in China. It actually has quite a number of things to do with Ye Gu Cheng. The Gu Cheng in Ye Gu Chengs name means lonely castle/city and his nickname fits perfectly with this poem. Yu Men Gate itself is symbolic and is the gate most often alluded to in Chinese poetry. It is situated where the Great Wall meets the Yellow River. Also, it suggests something about the character of Ye Gu Cheng. When the last lines talks about how the spring winds never pass the Yu Men Gate, it means that the willow trees would never flourish, due to the lack of Spring.}

    He finished singing one poem and moved onto the next. Finished that one and moved onto another one. As if he was just itching to sing these poems out loud.

    You said someone was waiting for you outside, who is it? Hua Man Lou suddenly asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng stopped singing. Of course, he was not really drunk, but Xue Bing could very well be. When a person is anxious and mad, it is always very easy to get drunk. Lu Xiao Feng jumped up and charged out.

    So who do you think is waiting for him outside? Jin Jiu Ling asked.

    It has to be Xue Bing! Hua Man Lou did not even have to think about that one.

    It has to be!

    I know that Xue Bing has always liked him very much, and he has always liked Xue Bing a lot!

    But Xue Bing was not waiting for him at the inn. In fact, she had not even returned there since he left her. Lu Xiao Feng knew that, at this moment, there was only one way for him to find Xue Bing - the Snake King. This time he had no need for someone to lead the way.

    The night was deep, but the Snake King was still not asleep. He was not surprised at the sight of Lu Xiao Feng either.

    Ive been waiting for you!

    You were waiting for me? Did you know I was going to come here?

    The Snake King nodded.

    Have Xue Bing been here? He probed further.

    The Snake King nodded again.

    She had been here for a long time, drinking. Drinking a lot. And she said a lot as well!

    What did she say?

    She said that you were a jerk and a half, and that you were not a man at all. Even though he was smiling, a hint of worry could be discerned from his smile.

    She must have been drunk! Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

    But she insisted on leaving, insisted on going to find you. I couldnt stop her, but I couldnt just let her go like that. So all I could do was sent 2 men to tail her and protect her in case anything happened!

    Have those two men returned?

    They wont be coming back! The Snake King sighed.

    Why not? Lu Xiao Fengs expression changed.

    Someone has already found their bodies, but Lady Xue was no where to be seen! The Snake Kings expression was very serious.

    The bodies were found in a dark alley. The fatal blows were inflicted on their eyes. By the time they died, they were already blind.

    The Embroidery Bandit! Lu Xiao Fengs body went cold. Could Xue Bing have already fallen into that Bandits hands? Could she have possibly know that Lu Xiao Feng has already discovered her secret? At least this proved one thing - that clue that Lu Xiao Feng found was correct! To be able to find an unchallenged fact in these swirling clouds of doubt and conjectures was suppose to be a joyous thing. But Lu Xiao Feng felt as if his heart had sank to the bottom of his feet and was being stepped on by himself. He suddenly discovered that his feelings towards Xue Bing was much more intense than he had ever suspected. Upon his return to the little pavilion, he found the Snake King still waiting for him. Without a word, the Snake King poured a cup of wine and pushed it towards him. Lu Xiao Feng picked up the cup, but then placed it back down.

    Dont you want a drink?

    I just want to clear my head a little! Lu Xiao Feng forced a smile onto his face. His smile made him look as if he was crying. The Snake King had never seen him so sad before.

    I have over 3000 brothers working for me, as long as Lady Xue is still inside the city, I will find her! His words were not meant to console Lu Xiao Feng, he really did have that power. But, by the time he finds Xue Bing, her body might be cold as well.

    Have you ever heard of a bearded guy who sews? Lu Xiao Feng suddenly asked.

    Even though I nevered, I figured that you were here because of this matter! The Snake King nodded.

    Those two men died into that persons hands, so....

    So you are afraid that Lady Xue has also fallen into this persons hands?

    Lu Xiao Feng picked up the cup once again.

    But this time it was the Snake King that stopped him.

    If you really want to clear your head a little, then the best way to do that is to sleep for a bit!

    If you were me, could you sleep? Lu Xiao Feng smiled a tired smile.

    I havent slept a night in 10 years now, The Snake King smiled a tired smile as well. This is an illness too. But this illness had made me an authority on this, so I have some medicine specifically for this problem.

    It was a white powder and it came inside a green, transparent, jade flask. The Snake King poured out a little into the wine.

    You could sit here and stare out into space for the next 10 years and you would still not be able to save Lady Xue. But if you could sleep a little and clear your thoughts up, maybe you could figure out a way to save her.

    Lu Xiao Feng hesitated before finally gulping down the cup of wine.

    ***

    By the time he woke up, it was already day, the sunlight poured in through the green silk curtains. The Snake King was sitting underneath the curtains and, with a snow white piece of cloth, polishing a sword. A very thin and narrow sword that was made from top quality iron smelt over hundreds of times. Normally, this sword could be wrapped around ones waist like a belt. This was the Snake Kings famous weapon: Nimble Snake Sword.

    What are you doing? Lu Xiao Feng frowned as he sat up.

    Im polishing my sword.

    But you havent used that sword in at least 10 years.

    Im only polishing it, Im not preparing to use it.

    He did not look Lu Xiao Feng in the eye, as if he was afraid that Lu Xiao Feng might find a secret of some sort. Even bathed in sunlight, his complexion was scarily pale. Only those who truly suffers from insomnia can know how frightening and how painful it is. It is not a sickness or illness but a punishment and torture more frightening than any sickness or illness. This man had already been tortured for 10 years.

    Lu Xiao Feng stared at him.

    And I have never asked you about your past! He finally said slowly after a long time.

    You havent.

    I didnt ask, maybe only because I already knew!

    What do you know? The Snake Kings expression immediately changed.

    I know you did not start off being the Snake King. A person like you would never be a Snake King unless you were trying to get away from something very painful.

    Being the Snake King isnt exactly an unseemly thing, The Snake King coldly replied. Cant you tell that I live a much more comfortable life than most of the people in the world?

    But you are not this kind of a man. If not for escape, you would never hide yourself inside of the dark alleys of the city!

    What kind of a man am I then?

    I dont know, I only know that you are my friend. And between friends there should only be truths!

    The Snake Kings complexion turned even paler before he suddenly let out an exhausted sigh.

    You werent supposed to wake up so soon!

    But I am already awake now!

    What do you think Im running away from?

    Hatred and revenge! Theres not that many things in the world that can cause as much pain as that kind of hate!

    The Snake Kings expression was truly very painful.

    You came here in order to escape that hate and hid yourself within the dark alleys of the city. Because you know your enemy, your nemesis, could never imagine that you have turned into a Snake King.

    The Snake King wanted to refute this, but did not open his mouth.

    But you could never forget this hatred either. Thats why as soon as you get the chance, no matter what, you are going to finish this whole ordeal! He suddenly walked over, placed his hands on the Snake Kings shoulder, stared him straight in the eye, and said, emphasizing every word. Did you find your chance now? Did you find information on your nemesis whereabouts?

    The Snake Kings mouth remained closed, but his expression became even more painful!

    Who is your nemesis? Is that person inside the city?

    The Snake Kings mouth still remained closed.

    You dont have to tell me, but then I dont have to let you leave either.

    You have enough things to worry about by yourself, why are you meddling in other peoples business? The Snake King coldly demanded with a straight face.

    I know full well that you dont want other people to return your favors, thats the reason you are not telling me.

    The Snake King closed his mouth again.

    And I dont want to repay you any favors either, I just want to work out a trade with you!

    What trade? The Snake King could not help but ask.

    Let me go deal with that person for you, and you find Xue Bing for me!

    You are right, The Snake King tightly balled up his fists, but those thin and pale hands of his could not stop shaking. I do have a nemesis, and I do have unfinished business that I want to address with that person.

    So my guesses were right!

    Since this is entirely my own personal matter, why should I let you go in my place? The Snake King snickered.

    Because your hands are shaking, Lu Xiao Feng snickered back. Because you have been sick for 10 years, because you have been tortured to the point where you dont even look like a man anymore. Because if you go now, it would be just suicide!

    The Snake Kings stiff body suddenly went limp on his chair, as if his entire body had just collapsed.

    But Lu Xiao Feng still did not relent. Maybe thats what you wanted all along, to die. Because you feel that staying alive was much more painful than death. But I dont want to see you die in that persons hands, and do not want to see the person that condemned you to this state live on in this world. He grabbed those cold hands of Snake Kings tightly and continued, emphasizing every single word. Because we are friends!

    The Snake King looked into his eyes, suddenly, tears began to flow out as if from a fountain.

    Have you ever seen my wife? Of course you havent. So you will also never know how warm and gentle of a woman she was. He mumbled. Have you ever seen my 2 sons? They were both smart and cute kids, they were only 5 and 6....

    Have they all died in that persons hands? Lu Xiao Feng asked through his tightly clenched jaw.

    Shes not a person! The Snake King began sobbing even more, his voice croaked even more. Her heart is more poisonous than those of snakes or scorpions, her methods are crueler than those of monsters. Maybe shes just a demonese that had escaped from the depth of hell!

    Shes a woman?

    The Snake King nodded.

    Whats her name?

    First Madame Gong Sun.

    The Snake King explained some more. Her real name is Gong Sun Lan, Lan as in orchid. Rumor say that she is the descendent of that famed beauty First Madame Gong Sun of the Early Tang. So people who know her all call her First Madame Gong Sun as well.

    But I dont know her, I havent even heard of that name before.

    Shes not famous, nor does she want to be famouse. She thinks that fame would only bring with it trouble.

    At least she could be described as a very intelligent woman. sighed Lu Xiao Feng. Who else could know more about the troubles and worries that came along with being famous better than Lu Xiao Feng?

    But she had used many other names, those names you probably do know about!

    Oh?

    Female Butcher, Peach Flower Wasp, Lady Five Poison, Soul Robbing Granny.... You should have heard of all these names before!

    They are all her? Lu Xiao Fengs expression changed.

    Every last one of them.

    Looks like she truly is a very powerful and frightening woman. Lu Xiao Feng sighed and asked. If her movements are so secretive, then how did you find her?

    I didnt find her, she found me. The Snake King reached into his shirt and took out a wadded up but later flattened envelope.

    I know who you are, and I also know you must really want to see me. The dusk of the full moon, Ill be waiting for you in the WestGarden. It would be best if you bring some silver with you and invite me to some of those famed vegetable cookings there.

    The handwriting was very pretty, very elegant. Where one signs ones name was drawn a single orchid instead.

    She handed that to one of my men in the southern part of the city with instructions to give it to me personally!

    She didnt give this to you personally, maybe it was because she didnt know where you live! Lu Xiao Feng mused after thinking it over.

    There arent that many that could get in this little place of mine!

    WestGarden, is it that the WestGarden that has a row of plum trees in it?

    Yes.

    And today is the day of the full moon?

    Today is the 15th.

    She arranged the meeting to be at night, its still early and you are all ready to go?

    What time do you think this is? Morning?

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly noticed that the sunlight outside was fading, it was getting close to sunset.

    That dose was suppose to make you sleep until tomorrow morning, but it seems like no medicine is strong enough to be effective on you.

    Maybe its because Im about to go completely numb anyways. Lu Xiao Feng meekly smiled.

    I know Im absolutely not a match for her, The Snake King stared at Lu Xiao Feng. But you....

    You dont have to worry about me. I have ran into people 10 times deadlier than her and Im still here. He did not let the Snake King reply and continued. But, theres still one thing that worries me!

    What?

    Im worried that I might not find her. Since she has all kinds of different names, then she must have all kinds of different incarnations. Besides, all some women have to do is change their clothes and hair and they would look completely different.

    Her disguises are truly works of art and she very rarely shows her true face to anyone. But she has a flaw, as long as you know this flaw, then you would always recognize her!

    Seems like every woman has a flaw of some kind or another.

    Whats hers? Lu Xiao Feng giggled a little.

    Her flaw is very unusual. Seems like the smarter and prettier the woman is, the more unusual her flaw is. She has a habit. No matter what she wears, no matter who she pretends to be, the shoes she wear never changes!

    What kind of shoes does she wear? Lu Xiao Fengs eyes lit up.

    Red shoes!

    Lu Xiao Feng literally jumped.

    Blood red embroidered shoes, like those that brides wear on their wedding days. Except its not loons that are sewn on them, but owls!

  20. #20
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Book 2 - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6 - Clever Escape Plan

    The WestGarden was located in the western part of the city. It was a huge flower park as well as a garden. The sun had set already, under the tree shade, inside the gazebos and the pavilions were lit with a series of star like lanterns. Flowing through the air with the night breeze was the flower frangrances, and wine fragrances as well. The Moon was round like a mirror as it hung gingerly from one of the trees. Two all, cherry-colored, cotton trees linked together with interconnected roots, and leaned into each other, like two lovers tenderly embracing each other.

    Lu Xiao Feng was suddenly reminded of Xue Bing again. Whenever Xue Bing appeared in his thoughts, it was as if somebody pricked his heart with a needle. He was not a heartless man, but he also know that this was not the time to mope about. He had already walked around the park once. There were not that many female visitors tonight, but he has yet to spot any woman wearing red shoes. But he was not getting anxious.

    Because Gong Sun Lan did not know there was someone like Lu Xiao Feng looking for her in this park. This had undoubtly given him the edge. The cold dish shaped Moon hhad slowly risen higher and higher in the night sky. The dim and hazy moon light was beautiful enough to intoxicate ones heart. If Xue Bing was here by my side, she would surely be nagging to me about finding a seat and ordering a huge serving of that famed cooking that this place was known for.

    In front of others, she was always very shy, blushing before she would or could even utter a word. But just put her together with Lu Xiao Feng, then she suddenly seemed to turn into a spoiled little kid. Yapping about this thing one minute, nagging about something else the next, there was hardly a moment of peace to be had. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly discovered something - he liked her nagging, liked hearing her nag, watching her nag, liked watching her throwing a mischievous fit in front of him, liked her....

    He stopped himself from thinking any further. He was prepared to go take a walk somewhere else.

    Just as he was about to turn away, he suddenly noticed a granny come walking out from underneath the shadows of a tree. She was a very old granny and wore a green dress or robe that had been patched over hundreds of times over. There seemed to be a huge rock placed on her back that seemed to have snapped her spine in half.

    So when she walked, she was always bent over as if she was looking for something on the ground. The moon light hit her face and revealed it to be one full of wrinkles, like a piece of cotton paper that someone had already wadded up but then flattened out again.

    Sugar roasted chestnuts! She had hanging from her arm a very big bamboo basket that was covered over with a very thick cotton cloth. Fresh sugar roasted chestnuts, delicious and hot. Just ten farthings a catty!

    This poor and lonely old woman who had already entered the twilight still needed to come out and yell as loud as her already coarse voice would let her to sell sugar roasted chestnuts.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly felt very bad for her, after all, he was a very compassionate man.

    Gramps, over here, Ill buy two catties. The chestnuts really did smell delicious and hot, and fresh too, just as advertised.

    Did you say ten farthings for a catty?

    The granny nodded, she was still bent over as if she was fascinated by Lu Xiao Fengs shoes, but in reality it was because she could not stand upright anymore.

    No, ten farthings a catty cant possibly do! Lu Xiao Feng shook his head.

    Only ten farthings sire, do you still think its too much?

    Such good chestnuts are worth at least 10 taels of silver a catty and I would not buy it for a farthing less!

    The granny smiled. The smiled made the wrinkles on her face even more prominent. - Is this guy a dummy or is he somebody that had only experienced an incredibly priviledge and expensive existence?

    Ten taels of silver a catty, if you are willing to sell it for that price, then Ill buy two catties off of you.

    Of course the granny would be willing to sell.

    I would even be willing to sale for 20 taels of silver a catty! Why must people get a little more greedy when they get older?

    But I have something that I need your help with! Lu Xiao Feng smiled.

    Sire, what can an old bag of bones like myself possibly help you with? The granny tentatively smiled back.

    Only you could do this!

    Why?

    Because you are bent over like that so that it looks like you are looking for something on the ground to begin with. Lu Xiao Feng smiled. I need for you to find something for me!

    Find what?

    I want you to find a woman who is wearing a pair of red shoes for me. Not just any red shoes, a pair of red shoes with owls embroidered on them.

    The granny smiled as well. There was nothing more appropriate to ask of someone like her. Even if she dove underneath the dresses of others, nobody would ever get suspicious of her.

    She took the 20 taels of silver into her hands. Her smile was so wide that her eyes were like little slits.

    Just wait here sire, Ill tell you as soon as I find it.

    If you can find her, then Ill buy 5 more catties off of you when you get back.

    The granny happily went on her way. Lu Xiao Feng was happy too, not just happy, but proud too. Only someone as smart as himself could have thought of such an ingenius method to do this. He suddenly realized he was a genius. But he forgot something - genius lives are usually short lived!

    The chestnuts were still hot, hot and mouth-watering. Lu Xiao Feng decided to congratulate himself a bit for his hard work. He found a large and relatively clean rock to sit on. After sitting himself down, he peeled off the shell off of a chestnut and was just about to put it in his mouth when he suddenly thought of Xue Bing again. Xue Bing loved to eat chestnuts. On cold days, she would always first place the chestnuts in her lap and use them to warm her hands before slowly eating them one by one. One particular time when Lu Xiao Feng met her, she was just in the middle of eating chestnuts.

    That day was freezing. Lu Xiao Fengs hands felt as if they were about to fall off in the freezing cold. It was her who grabbed his hands and placed them in her lap. Even to this day, that sweet warmness seemed to be still residing at the very tip of Lu Xiao Fengs fingers. But where is she now? How could anyone expect Lu Xiao Feng to be able to eat this chestnut?

    From the distant flower bushes, a sad and lonely song came floating through the night air.

    Messy ebony hair, lost broken night, the hate carrying eye brow thinks of the distant hills, the frangrace carrying cheek tender budding bamboo shoot, for whom to the tears flow, for whom do the tears share?

    The beautiful songstress voice was filled with a kind of thick and unpenetrable memorance.

    Lu Xiao Feng gently sighed. Those chestnuts that were kept in place by the sash across his lap fell onto the ground and scattered. Even he himself did not realize that he was such an sentimental and worried man.

    He leaned up against a tree beside the rock he was sitting on and closed his eyes.

    What if I dont ever find her again?

    He suddenly felt terribly depressed and hopeless, not even wanting to move even a little. So motionless was he that he looked like a dead man. It was at this time that the chestnut selling granny reappeared from behind the shadows. Lu Xiao Fengs eyes were not completely closed, he left a little slit open.

    His initial reaction was to sit up and ask that granny if she had found that woman with the red shoes. But suddenly, he noticed that those old and hazy eyes of hers were beaming with a killer, knife-like glow. A granny like this should never have that look in her eyes.

    Lu Xiao Fengs heart suddenly seemed to be pierced by a streak of light, a light of inspiration. He even held his breath. The granny took a look at him, looked at the chestnuts scattered on the ground, at his dried dips, her lips curled into a hideous and sinister smile. Underneath the shade of the tree, Lu Xiao Fengs complexion was deathily pale.

    Such good chestnuts, the granny mumbled. Just one is enough to kill at least 3 men, it would be such a waste to just leave them here.

    So she slowly limped over. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly realized even though the way she walked was slow and cumbersome, her steps were very light. The dress that she was wearing was extremely long so that it dragged on the ground, covering her feet. What kind of shoes were on those feet? Lu Xiao Feng suddenly opened his eyes, staring at her. Incredibly, the granny was not surprised, at least, Lu Xiao Feng did not notice any signs of surprise on her.

    She was truly quite an unshakable woman to be able to hold her composure and actually smile like she did during their first meeting.

    There dont seem to be any woman with red shoes around here, but there were two with yellow and purple shoes!

    Lu Xiao Feng returned her smile.

    There is one woman with red shoes here too, I have already found her!

    You have already found her sire? Where did you find her?

    Right here. You!

    Me? The granny looked at him in shock. Why would an old granny like me where red shoes?

    My eyes can see through things. Lu Xiao Feng matter of factly claimed. And I can see right at this moment those red shoes that are on your feet, and that owl embroidered on the shoes!

    The granny suddenly laughed. Her laughter sounded like a series of silver bells, no, even more pleasing to the ear than silver bells.

    You didnt eat my sugar roasted chestnuts?

    No.

    Such delicious sugar roasted chestnuts, why didnt you eat any?

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    Because Im a romantic!

    Romantic people dont eat sugar roasted chestnuts? The granny blinked.

    Sometimes we do, but only those non-poisonous kind.

    The granny laughed, silver bell like laughter.

    Lu Xiao Feng really is Lu Xiao Feng after all!

    You knew that Im Lu Xiao Feng?

    How many people in the world have 4 eye brows on their face? She laughed.

    Lu Xiao Feng laughed. His laughter was, of course, not as moving as this grannys, this was because he was not really laughing anyways. He knew that this granny was about to strike, and also knew that this strike would not be easy to handle. He was right.

    At the precise moment that he began to laugh, this granny had taken out a pair of short swords, daggers, from her basket, swords with a bright red silk sash tied to them. At the precise moment that he saw those swords, the swords flashed as their blades have arrived at his throat. Such quick strike! Such quick swords!

    Lu Xiao Feng did not dare to catch those swords with his hands, he was afraid that the blades have poison coated on them. Normally he might be a very careless and casual guy, but at these crucial moments of life and death, there were not many more prudent and careful than him to be found in this world. Like a diving fish, he suddenly floated away. Not only was the reaction quick, the movement itself was quicker. But no matter where he went the bright and dancing flash of the swords would follow him.

    The sword flashes were colorful and flickering, under the relentless and freezing power of the sword aura, the leaves on the trees were torn off of their branches and gently floated down towards the ground only to be shreded into oblivion an instant later by the sword flashes. Lu Xiao Feng was already soaked in sweat. He had thought that Xi Men Chui Xue and Ye Gu Cheng were the more fearsome swordsmen in the world, but he did not imagine that there was someone like this in the world.

    Gong Sun Beauty of the past, a dance the swords move all directions, observers like mountains lose their color in sadness, world admits defeat and forever bows.

    Magnificent like Yi shooting down the 9 suns, proud like the Emperors bucking on the dragons back, arriving like the thunder loudly madly shaking, gone like the pureness of the rivers and the seas....

    There might not be any mountain like observes here, but the colors on Lu Xiao Fengs face had already been lost. Even the bright full moon had lost its brightness and colors under this freezing sword aura. Could this possibly be the very sword dance that the Madame Cui Gong Sun of yesteryears had taught to her disciples?

    Only now did Lu Xiao Feng fully realize that the silk and sword not only could be used for a dance for someones entertainment, but could also be used to kill. At any moment, he could die under these swords. Using and controlling those swords with the red silks made the swords much quicker and much more manuevreable than just simply using ones hands. And the quickness with which the swords changed their moves and their variances were absolutely mind boggling.

    Lu Xiao Fengs shirt had already been sliced open at several places as he was now forced with his back completely against the trunk of a tree.

    Pch! The sound reverberated as the swords flew through the air like a pair of red dragons towards him. This time there was no where for him to escape to.

    The corner of First Madame Gong Suns lips once again curled up into a sinister smile. But she did know that Lu Xiao Fengs best ability is to be able to find a way to live in situation of certain death. Suddenly, his body slid down on the tree trunk like a snake, and slid down all the way onto the ground.

    Dong! The blades of the swords had struck the trunk of the tree full on and penetrated deep into them. At that moment, Lu Xiao Feng sprung up from the ground and, with a backwards flick of his hands, snapped the two silk sashes tied to the sword handles in half! This was the equivalent of cutting off two sword holding hands. First Madame Gong Suns body sprung as well as she flipped in midair, sending her long dress flying. Finally, Lu Xiao Feng saw her shoes. Red shoes!

    The bright moon still hung in the middle of the sky, the red shoes could only be glimpsed for an instant in the moonlight before she was already more than 10 meters away. Of course, Lu Xiao Feng was not willing to let her get away like this. But by the time he began to chase, he was already a step behind. A step that he could not make up.

    No matter what he did, the distance between them kept a steady 10 meters. Lu Xiao Feng had met and seen quite a number of the best lightness kungfu masters in the martial world. Of course, Si Kong Zhai Xin was the best among them, but Yan Tie Shan, Huo Tian Qing, Xi Men Chui Xue, Honest Monk were not too shabby either.

    But if it had been these men running away from Lu Xiao Feng at this moment, he might have already have caught them. He suddenly discovered that not only was this grannys sword skills formidable, but also a lightness kungfu master of a level that he had never encountered before. Flowers, trees, gardens, woods, gazebos, platforms, pavilions, mansions, they all flew by underneath their feet and disappeared.

    What followed was one roof top after another, one street after another. First Madane Gong Sun still did not slow down, obviously, she was not a granny beset by her old age. But Lu Xiao Feng was a strong young man at the peak of his mental and physical abilities, so he did not slow down either.

    First Madame Gong Sun had already realized that getting rid of this guy behind her was not an easy thing at all.

    The street they were coming up upon was brightly lit. It was still not too late and this street just happened to be the most bustling and crowded street in the city. There were two or three different tea houses and wine shops one this street along with all kinds of vendors on their sides, several of them were selling household appliances and cooking ingredients while several others were busy selling food such as fish porridge and roasted goose.

    First Madame Gong Sun suddenly dove and landed in the middle of the street.

    Help! Help! She immediately began screaming.

    She ran into a tea house as she was screaming. Lu Xiao Feng followed her closely. But a granny screaming for help with a strong young man chasing after her did not look good to people, nor would they stand for such a thing. There were already several angry looking young men shouting and screaming at him, some had even pulled out their knives. Lu Xiao Feng knew he was in trouble. Of course he could easily take care of these brave and righteous young fellows who were just trying to do what they thought was right, but these guys looked like they all could not wait to beat him to a pulp!

    Seven or eight of them all of the sudden charged at him simultaneously, some waving sabres, others waving benches, as they surrounded Lu Xiao Feng.

    Mudafka, wahafa a yi chsin an od lade fo in da midlo ni? Ja wang ta raper? They were screaming at him.

    Lu Xiao Feng did not know whether to laugh or cry. He wanted to explain, but did not have the slightest clue as to how to even begin. He wanted to strike, but could not bring himself to do it. While he was hesitating, a bench came howling down from above. The thing he could do was reach up and block that it with his hand.

    Boom! His hand was fine, but the bench had shattered. Every one of them were shocked into silence for a moment. It was at that moment that somebody suddenly rushed up and gave each of them a huge slap across their face. But incredibly, none of these angry and righteous young replied to the strike nor did they try and get out the way.

    Lu Xiao Feng finally sighed in relief, he recognized this man as one of the two men in the yard outside of the Snake Kings pavilion that had tried to test him yesterday.

    Daya bastads noho thas as? The man pointed at Lu Xiao Feng and said loudly. Chasa Snake Kingsa best frind ansa da bas goongfu nda wirl Luk Siu Fung!

    To these young men, the name Lu Xiao Feng did not mean much of anything, but the Snake Kings friend was simply untouchable. So those with sabres in hand put up the sabres, those with a bench put them down as each and everyone of them walked up to Lu Xiao Feng and apologized! But Lu Xiao Feng had already taken the opportunity to charge out of that circle and through the back door. The back door led to a small alley. He had saw First Madame Gong Sun escape through this back door, but now there was only a homeless dog gnawing on a bone in the gutters. Not even a hint of a shadow of First Madame Gong Sun could be seen.

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed and turned around, knowing that it was pointless to keep chasing now.

    That big man had followed him here and walked up to him now.

    We werre juss goin ta go look for ya in ta Wess Gardn, with a smile, he told Lu Xiao Feng, trying very hard to not degenerate into his local dialect. But i turned ou dat ya turned up ere instead!

    Did something come up?

    The man nodded.

    We haf fund whirl dat lady is, she.... If there was one thing to be feared in the world it was Cantonese people trying to talk Mandarin. Having to stutter and stumble over and through his words, the man was already sweating bullets in frustration.

    But Lu Xiao Feng was even more frustrated.

    Where is she? He cut him off.

    Ill tak ya dare!

    The streets were still crowded, but upon seeing this big man come walking their way, the people all quietly and respectfully got out of the way.

    Ma saname is Luk too, Im Luk Guang. He seemed to feel that it was an honor to have the surname of Lu as well.

    But Lu Xiao Feng was only wishing that he would do less talking and more walking.

    I amire ya, your goongfus realy da best. But Lu Guang was trying his hardest to make an good impression.

    Deese are great, wan some? He said as he reached into his shirt and took out a couple of sugar roasted chestnuts, hot and delicious looking sugar roasted chestnuts!

    But Lu Xiao Feng looked as if he had just seen a poisonous snake.

    Where did you get these? He demanded as he grabbed Lu Guangs arm.

    I boot dem, ocourse! Lu Guang answered after getting over his momentary shock. I neva took otha peoples thins for no reasin!

    Where did you buy them? Wheres the person that sold them to you?

    Ova dare.

    Following the direction that Lu Guang pointed at, there really was a chestnut selling vendor. A person was busy roasting a huge pot of them. Chestnuts were not rare by any means, there were tons of people selling them everywhere. Lu Xiao Feng breezed a sigh of relief, but his palms were already covered in a cold sweat.

    Thinking back, he realized that the moment when he peeled off the shell of the chestnut back then could have very well been the most dangerous moment in his life. If he had put that chestnut in his mouth, he would not still be Lu Xiao Feng at this moment.

    A dead man is just that, a dead man. A corpse dont have any names. Even that moment when Ye Gu Chengs sword threatened his chest was not as dangerous as that moment. He suddenly discovered that there were some advantages to being a romantic after all. Besides, at least now he has found where Xue Bing was.

    Lu Xiao Feng suddenly felt very happy.

    So your name is Lu too huh? Thats great! He smiled and patted Lu Guangs shoulders. When we have time, Ill invite you to drink some tea with me.

    Drinking tea is the biggest hobby of Cantonese people, not eating is ok, but not drinking tea is unfathomable.

    But unexpectedly, Lu Guang shook his head.

    I dont drink tea, I only drink wine!

    Lu Xiao Feng laughed, laughed so loud and so hard that other people on the street turned and stared at him. But he did not care.

    When he was happy, he wanted everyone in the world to know and be happy with him. By now, Lu Guang had already turned into an alley. This alley was between a bakery and a tailor. The alleyway was very narrow and not possible for two men to walk shoulder to shoulder. There were no doors on either side. It looked like a little space that the 2 shop keepers intentionally put there when they built their shops.

    Maybe it was because the 2 shops did not get along, nobody wants have only a wall separating themselves from someone they do not like. But at the end of the alley, there was a small red door. The door was partially covered up. A man was standing in front of the door anxiously waiting. So anxious that he was incessantly rubbing his hands together.

    As soon as he saw Lu Guang, the man walked up and whispered something into his ear. Lu Guangs expression immediately changed dramatically. He turned around to face Lu Xiao Feng with a very guilty smile on his face.

    Its ere. A... I cant ga in wid ya.

    Why could he not go in? Could there be something frightening in this building as well?

    Lu Xiao Feng had already charged in. He did not care what he might run into as long as he could find Xue Bing.

    There was only two rooms in the yard, there were two people inside already. Neither one of them was Xue Bing. Both were men, one of them was Jin Jiu Ling. Lu Xiao Feng was quite surprised by this turn of events.

    What are you doing here? Wheres Xue Bing?

    Jin Jiu Ling did not answer, instead he held out his hand - in his hand was a dress, a light and soft white dress. Xue Bings dress. Of course Lu Xiao Feng recognized it, his expression had already changed. Xue Bings dress is here, but she is not. This dress could not have possibly have gotten up and walked here and she could not have possibly took her dress off and walked out naked. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly felt weak in his knees. He fell back two steps before collapsing onto a chair. His stomach began acting up again.

    Jin Jiu Lings expression was very grave as well.

    You recognize this as Xue Bings dress dont you? Finally, he slowly asked.

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded. When he had parted ways with Xue Bing, she was wearing this exact dress.

    If her dress is here, then she must have been here too!

    Did you see her? Lu Xiao Feng still held out a glimmer of hope.

    But Jin Jiu Ling shook his head.

    When we got here, this place was deserted.

    How did you find this place?

    We didnt find this place.

    The Snake King?

    This time Jin Jiu Ling nodded.

    He truly is a great friend, he truly gave it his all for this!

    Lu Xiao Feng did not reply. He was asking himself questions in his heart.

    Did I give it my all for him?

    Beginning this morning, all of the men under his command began searching for Xue Bing for you!

    They are very effective at finding someone, because they have already infiltrated every nook and crany of this city, especially the tea houses, wine shops, inns, small vendors, even those little food selling carts. These are always the places where with the most varied people, and therefore, the best places to gather information.

    They started combing through these places for information as to whether or not there have been any suspicious looking strangers recently. Everybody, no matter who, has to eat and drink. There were none in the hotels, so they inquire on whether or not there are empty rooms around that had been rented out to any suspcious strangers. With three thousand men in the citys underworld asking about the same thing, it was not long before something surfaced.

    Behind the Mai Family Bakery, theres a little small house. Three or four months ago, it was rented out to someone.

    When questioned, the landlord had this to say.

    The person who rented the house was a very handsome looking gentry, and very generous one too as he just paid a years worth of rent up front. But ever since then, he never showed up back here again, so that house had been kept empty this entire time. Seems like nobody has been in it at all.

    Nobody in this world would go through the trouble to rent a house and just leave it empty. Behind this there had to be a reason, a secret.

    When they found out about this at around dusk, someone was immediately dispatched to here. At that time there seemed to be some female groaning inside of here. The scout did not dare to do anything rash and went back for back up. However, when they got back there was nobody here.

    How do you know about this?

    Jin Jiu Ling smiled.

    Those brothers that worked with me back then are all famous and powerful now! He patted the shoulder of the man at his side and smiled. This here is the Head of the Bounty Hunters in this city, Lu Shao Hua.

    Only now did Lu Xiao Feng took notice that standing at his side was short but strong, not that old but white haired man wearing a green shirt. Even though his get up was that or any normal person, his eyes glittered with power, his nose was hooked like an eagles beak, and his waist was slightly pertruding, indicating that besides wearing a soft whip or bent spear or some other sort of flexible weapon, he might have some chains and cuffs hidden underneath the shirt as well. Anybody who had spent just a few days in the martial world would recognize in an instant that he could be none other than one of the top masters of Six Doors, Bald Eagle Lu Shao Hua. The very same man recognized by the underworld of the Southeast as the most effective and feared bounty hunter around.

    Even though I am a public servant and work for the government, I have always admired the Snake King. If possible, I would always be more than understanding with those under him! Lu Shao Hua smiled and said. But in reality he knew full well that if he wanted to keep this city peaceful, it was best not to mess with the Snake King and his people.

    But when at the break of dawn when all 3000 of the Snake Kings men began mobilized without any of us knowing what was going on, I could not just sit idly by and watch as if nothing was happening. So he also sent out the bounty hunters to gather information and find out what the fuss was all about. This city was the biggest city in the south, a place where the best and the worst of society meet and mingle. To be able to rise to the position as the Head of all bounty hunters at a place like this had to require someone quite special.

    Lu Shao Hua contined. When the information got back to me that this has something to do with the Great Hero Lu, then I immediately tried to find a way to get the information to Boss.

    Even though Jin Jiu Ling had long ago seized to be his boss, he still kept the habit of calling him that. Lu Xiao Feng now understood why Lu Guang did not want to enter this place earlier. With the Head of the bounty hunters in here, it would be best for them to avoid this place.

    Lady Xues dress is here, but yet she is not. Theres only one explanation! said Jin Jiu Ling.

    Lu Xiao Feng was listening. He trusted Jin Jiu Lings analysis, but his heart was a mess once again.

    The person that kidnapped her here discovered that they have been found, so that person immediately took her away. But because that snow white dress of hers was too conspicuous, that person changed her out of it!

    Are there clothes here to change into? Lu Shao Hua opened up the dresser in corner of the room, there were six or seven different sets of outfits still inside of it, some for men, others for women, some meant for old people, others meant for young people.

    There is only one bed here and space enough for one person to live. Yet there are 6 or 7 completely different types of outfits here, this proves one thing. Jin Jiu Ling concluded.

    It proves that this person must be a master of disguise and at any given moment could appear as a number of different types of people! Lu Xiao Feng finished his thought for him.

    But there are only clothes, no shoes. This also proves something! Jin Jiu Ling continued.

    It proves that no matter what kind of person she disguises as, she wears the same shoes! Lu Xiao Feng concluded.

    Red shoes? Jin Jiu Ling inquired.

    Correct, red shoes, red shoes made from red silk, like the kind that newly wed brides wear during their wedding!

    There are several clues that bears out that the handsome gentry that rented out this place was actually a female in disguise! Jin Jiu Ling declared.

    Really?

    This place is covered in dust, an obvious sign that nobody has lived here for a long time. The things that are needed for daily living is no where to be found either. But yet there is a mirror here! Women do like looking at themselves in mirrors, but -

    Men also like to look at themselves in mirrors, and when putting on a disguise using a mirror is a must! Lu Xiao Feng offered up a couple points of contention.

    Jin Jiu Ling walked over to the desk sitting under the window and picked up the mirror.

    There is a hand print left on here, he said. It was left there very recently too.

    A womans hand print? Lu Xiao Feng asked.

    Jin Jiu Ling nodded.

    But it could not be Xue Bings. She was locked up in here. Even if her hands werent tied, at least her pressure point would have been sealed. The blanket and the bed sheet were a mess, as if somebody had just slept in bed.

    If my guess is correct, then she could have been lying in this bed the entire time. Jin Jiu Ling concluded.

    The Snake Kings man reported that he heard female groanings so my guess is that Lady Xue must have also been injured as well! Lu Shao Huas comment earned him an angry glare from Jin Jiu Ling. He did not want Lu Xiao Feng to know that fact, he did not want Lu Xiao Feng to be too wracked with worry.

    Even if he didnt say it, I would have guessed at least as much! sighed Lu Xiao Feng.

    But theres not a trace of blood anywhere in this room. Jin Jiu Ling immediately followed up. So whatever her injuries might be, they are not serious!

    Those words were entirely to console Lu Xiao Feng. If the injuries that Xue Bing suffered were internal, then no matter how severe the injuries were, she would not leave any trace of blood either. But nevertheless, Lu Xiao Feng liked hearing those words, he needed to be consoled at this moment.

    Obviously, this person took Xue Bing and left in a hurry, thats why there are clues left here! Jin Jiu Ling continued.

    When did she leave?

    Before dark!

    At that time Lu Xiao Feng was on his way to the WestGarden for his appointment. That chestnut selling granny had yet to appear. She could have very well left with Xue Bing and then went to the WestGarden. She was quite likely to be the person who rented this place.

    This place was rented out 2 months ago, Jin Jiu Ling added. To be precise, the date was the 11th of May.

    May 11th? Lu Xiao Fengs expression changed at that fact.

    The robbery inside the RoyalPalace took place on the 11th of June. The day that she rented this place was exactly one month before then.

    And also just 3 days before Jiang Chong Weis birthday! Lu Xiao Feng added.

    What does Jiang Chong Weis birhtday have to do with this?

    On his birthday, Jiang Qing Xia had paid him a visit to wish him happy birthday.

    And it was on that day that she made an imprint of the key to the wine cellar. Jin Jiu Lings eyes were flickering.

    To avoid peoples suspicion that she might have something to do with this, they waited another 20 days or so before making their move!

    To pull off such a huge heist, a great amount of planning is required, not to mention somehow finding out the details about the security and the layout of the RoyalPalace. Only then could it be pulled off with any chance of success.

    Of course, she could not appear as a big bearded man all the time. So she must have planned to go to a remote place to get into her disguise that night. Lu Xiao Feng concluded.

    And this is the perfect place for it! Jin Jiu Ling agreed.

    Because this place is in the middle of the busiest and most chaotic section of the city, nobody would be suspicious!

    Looks like shes quite adept at taking advantages of other peoples mistaken assumptions! sighed Jin Jiu Ling.

    Lu Shao Hua had been quietly listening to this entire exchange. But now he could not keep quiet anymore.

    Could the person who came to rent this place be that Embroidery Bandit?

    Even though we cant be sure at the moment, I say that we are at least 60 or 70% sure of it! Lu Xiao Feng replied.

    More than 70% sure! Jin Jiu Ling suddenly refuted.

    Really?

    I would venture to say that we are at least 90%, if not more, sure of it at the moment!

    What makes you so certain of this?

    Because of this! Jin Jiu Ling took out a small red silk purse. I found this in the dresser over there earlier. Take a look whats inside!

    Inside the purse was none other than a brand new pack of sewing needles!

    ***

    From the Mai Family Bakery at the head of the alley, Lu Shao Hua bought several fresh out of the oven moon cakes. It was still a full month until the Mid-Autumns Festival, and yet moon cakes were already going on the market. Lu Xiao Feng forced himself to eat half of one. This particular street was very quiet. They walked as the ate - the Embroidery Banbit was obvious never going to return to that place again, so there was no point to them staying there a moment longer.

    These needles are all made of the finest iron and smoldered over 100 times, these are no ordinary needles! observed Jin Jiu Ling.

    Are the tips dipped in poison?

    No. answered Jin Jiu Ling. She left those men alive maybe for the sole purpose of proving that she was not a woman but a man with a huge beard and could embroider.

    And she did not need to kill them to begin with!

    Do you think that she could be Jiang Qing Xia?

    No, not possible! Lu Xiao Feng replied. Jiang Qing Xias martial arts is not weak, but compared to her, shes not even close!

    He continued. Jiang Qing Xias sole job was just to scout out the layout of the RoyalPalace and to make a copy of the key for her!

    You think that Jiang Qing Xia is under her command?

    Lu Xiao Feng nodded.

    Jiang Qing Xia is a quite famous person in the martial world, and notoriously proud, how could she willingly serve as someones underling? Jin Jiu Ling wonderd.

    Because shes much better than Jiang Qing Xia in everything. sighed Lu Xiao Feng. Never in my life have I seen a woman with that amazing level of martial arts and cunning!

    Youve seen her? Jin Jiu Ling was shocked at this news.

    Not only seen her, but almost got killed by her! Lu Xiao Feng smiled miserably.

    How did you meet her?

    I was going to fulfill an appointment for a friend in the WestGarden!

    Appointment? What kind of appointment?

    A life taking appointment! Lu Xiao Feng sighed tiredly.

    Who did your friend make an appointment with?

    First Madame Gong Sun, Gong Sun Lan.

    I dont think I have heard of that name before. Jin Jiu Ling frowned.

    Thats because shes not a famous person to begin with, and never want to either!

    What kind of person is she?

    Dont know.

    If you have already seen her, then how can you not know what kind of person she is? Jin Jiu Ling was getting more puzzled.

    I only saw a chestnut selling granny and bought two catties of sugar roasted chestnuts from her. If I had eaten one of them, then you would not be talking to me at this moment.

    Grandma Xiongs sugar roasted chestnuts! Jin Jiu Ling almost yelled.

    Grandma Xiongs sugar roasted chestnuts? Lu Xiao Feng did not undertand the meaning of the phrase!

    Two years ago, there were often people dying on the road. Jin Jiu Ling explained. They were all poisoned to death and by their bodies were always scattered some sugar roasted chestnuts.

    And all of the incidents took place during the night of the full moon. Lu Shao Hua knew about this as well.

    It was a full moon tonight, observed Lu Xiao Feng.

    I had been assigned to a couple of these cases previously, but I could never find any clues or leads, Lu Shao Hua explained some more. Those who died were not killed by some mortal enemies seeking revenge nor were they killed for money.

    But precisely because those who died were mostly unknown nobodies, these incidents did not make big waves in the martial world. Jin Jiu Ling added some more explanation. Only those who worked in the public service new about it.

    Two years ago, there was a Escort named Zhang Fang who had just gotten into the business, he died like this too. said Lu Shao Hua. But before he died he said two sentences.

    What did he say?

    His first sentence was: Grandma Xiongs sugar roasted chestnuts. We asked him who Grandma Xiong was? Why did she poison him? He answered: Because every full moon, she feels like killing

    Lu Xiao Feng sighed.

    So not only is she the Female Butcher, the Peach Flower Wasp, and Lady Five Poison, but Grandma Xiong as well!

    Do you think the Embroidery Bandit is also her?

    I was not sure originally, but several things taken together has pretty much proven that she is the Embroidery Bandit!

    What things?

    I had chased her all the way until the street of the Mai Family Bakery before I lost her, now I understand why she ran off in this direction.

    Because she had lived on that street before and was more familiar with its surroundings than you were!

    Besides, those outfits in the dresser matched her stature. From her voice, its safe to say that she was not old, so she could be very easily disguised as a handsome young gentry!

    But those were not the most important points!

    Lu Xiao Feng continued. Even though she was disguised as an old granny, she still wore a pair of red shoes - bright red silk shoes. Rumors say that on them are sewn an owl.

    Well, no matter what, at least we know now who that Embroidery Bandit is! Jin Jiu Ling sighed.

    Pity we cant find her though, we dont even have any clue on where to start! observed Lu Shao Hua.

    We do. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly said.

    We have a clue?

    Not only do we have a clue, we have more than one! Lu Xiao Feng continued. Number one, we know that Jiang Qing Xia know her. Number two, since theres a headquarter for her heist here, then there must also be headquarter for her other heists as well!

    Thats right! Jin Jiu Lings eyes lit up. No matter what, a master criminal would always have some special habit of his own. That is very hard for them to change out of.

    Thats why I think that she must have a headquarter in Nan Hai! Nan Hai was where Hua Yu Gan was.

    Lu Shao Huas eyes lit up as well. The Head of bounty hunters in Nan Hai is MengWei. Hes also served under Boss Jin back then. I can ask him to start searching for it right now. Maybe by the time you guys get there they would have already found it!

    You can ask him to start right now?

    We have always maintain some sort of communication all these years, Lu Shao Hua nodded. And we communicat using the fastest way too!

    Which way is that?

    Pigeons.

    Maybe shes planning to take Xue Bing there, if we hurry up, we might be able to catch here there! said Jin Jiu Ling.

    Ill specifically ask MengWei to be extra careful and quiet when conducting his search so as to avoid alarming her!

    Are you going to write that letter now? Jin Jiu Ling asked.

    Yes.

    He had just began to quicken his steps when Jin Jiu Ling suddenly called him back.

    One more thing!

    Lu Shao Hua stopped and waited for his instructions.

    How much kick back silver do you get every month from the Snake Kings men? Jin Jiu Ling asked, smiling.

    Lu Shao Hua blushed, but was still afraid to tell the truth.

    Eight hundred taels, but thats split for all of us!

    Do you know that the Snake King is Lu Xiao Fengs friend? Jin Jiu Lings face darkened. Do you know that Lu Xiao Fengs friend is also Jin Jiu Lings friend?

    I know, Lu Shao Huas head dipped even lower. Ill stop collecting those silvers tomorrow.

    Good, from tomorrow forth, Ill make up for that particular loss in your revenue! Jin Jiu Ling smiled.

    Lu Shao Hua looked at him with eyes overflowing with gratitude. With a deep bow, he left without saying another word, and without needing to say another word.

    Lu Xiao Feng watched him leave, then suddenly sighed.

    Now I know why other people say you are the Number One guy in the 300 year history of Six Doors!

    Why? Jin Jiu Ling smiled.

    Because not only are you good at buying other peoples hearts, you are good at selling out your friends!

    Who have I sold out? Jin Jiu Lings smiled looked a little forced now.

    Me! Lu Xiao Feng smiled tiredly. If it wasnt for you dragging me into this mess, I wouldnt nearly have this much worry and this much headache!

    But soon youll be able to give that headache of yours to somebody else!

    Who?

    The Embroidery Thief, Jin Jiu Ling smiled and slowly added. First Madame Gong Sun.

    Should we start on that right now? Lu Xiao Feng laughed.

    Of course right now, everything else will be have to be set aside at the moment.

    But theres still something I cant sit aside!

    What?

    Friendship.

    I knew you are going to have to go see the Snake King again, Jin Jiu Ling sighed. But I wonder if hes willing to find a friend in me?

    The Snake King was not willing. Because he could no longer make any more friends. How could a dead person make friends?

    The little building was absolutely silent, not a light was lit. The men stationed in the yard had all been sent out, only four men were left to stand guard. They were puzzled, but none of them dared to go in and take a look. Without permission from the Snake King, nobody dared to go upstairs. But of course, Lu Xiao Feng was an exception.

    He did not sleep last night, maybe he has finally slept now.

    The door was not fully closed. Lu Xiao Feng pushed it open. Jin Jiu Ling handed him his fire stick for light. The stick was just lit for an instant before it went out again and fell. Lu Xiao Fengs hands were frozen stiff, so stiff that he could not even hold the fire stick in his hand.

    In that brief instant, he had saw the Snake Kings eyes, eyes that were almost popping out of their sockets. He was choked to death on that soft chair of his, choked to death by a bright red silken sash. The kind of silk sash that First Madame Gong Sun had tied to her daggers.

    Lu Xiao Feng walked over and took the Snake Kings hand in his. His entire body began shaking. The Snake Kings hands were colder than his, rigis mortis had already set in on them. The room was covered in complete darkness. Jin Jiu Ling did not lit the light again either, he knew that Lu Xiao Feng could not bear to look at the Snake Kings face again. Nor could he find any words to console Lu Xiao Feng. Deathlike darkness, deathlike silence, deathlike loneliness, only under these circumstances can a person truly feel and understand how real and frightening death is.

    What seemed like forever went by.

    Lets go, lets leave right now. Lu Xiao Feng suddenly said.

    Yes!

    But Im not going to give my headache to her.

    He suddenly laughed, a laugh that was filled with a kind of indescribable pain and fury.

    Luckily for Jin Jiu Ling he did not light up lanterns because the expression on Lu Xiao Fengs face was one that he could possibly bear to see.

    All he heard was Lu Xiao Feng emphasizing every single one of his words as he spoke.

    Ill make sure that shell never have a headache again.

    Jin Jiu Ling understood what he meant. When a persons head have been cut off, only then would that person never have a headache again!

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